How to Make Beer From Scratch

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Making beer from all grain for the first time can be a bit daunting for the beginner but never fear the process is far more easy than you might suspect.  Below is a general guide to making beer from all grain which will point you in the right direction and be a reference guide where needed (we also have an all grain brewing dictionary which will help with terminology):

Recipe:

It depends on the quantity you would like to make but there are some great recipes on the following website:

http://beersmithrecipes.com/

It’s best to start off with a simple recipe to find your feet and then move on from there. There are also ready made all grain recipe kits available:

crafty fox ipaCrafty Fox 1 gallon batches – People often find that brewing smaller batches is helpful when it comes to trying different beer styles, you don’t have to drink your way through 40 pints before you can try another one. The volume also makes it easy to brew  and the results are stunning!

http://www.home-brew-online.com/search/brewolution – These are larger batches that produce 5 gallons/ 40 pints of beer from all grain and are designed to be used with the Brewolution Brewster all in one all grain micro brewery.

The Process: This applies to a 4.5 litre batch made in pans, there are different methods out there of making beer from scratch but I have used this one so that it can be a general introduction that doesn’t cost a lot in equipment.

Essential Equipment:

Two pans at least 6 litres capacity, 10 litres is better.
A sieve that is big enough to stretch across the pans you’re using.
1 gallon/4.5 litre fermenter
Hop straining bag
Hydrometer
Thermometer
Bottles

If you don’t have any of this equipment we would recommend starting with one of our Crafty Fox Starter Kits which has everything you need apart from the pans, sieve and bottles.

Step 1

Sterilise all your equipment this is a crucial step to make sure that your beer is as tasty as it should be at the end. Weigh any ingredients according to your recipe ready for the mash.

Step 2 – The mash

  • Mashing is the process which turns the starches in the grain to fermentable and non fermentable sugars and can be done in a pan. The grains are soaked with what IMG_3120brewers call strike water (nothing posh just plain water) which has been previously heated to 76 degrees and is then added to the grain, make sure both are combined thoroughly and that there are no dry parts or dough balls. The temperature of the mix should then drop to 66 degrees which needs to be maintained over a period of an hour. You can use old towels to wrap the pan with. However if it’s a little hot add some cold water or if it’s too cool heat gently until the 66 degrees temperature is achieved however do not boil or burn. Use a thermometer to take the temperature of the grain at different spots in the pan to make sure the heat is evenly distributed. Whilst your grains are mashing it’s a good idea to warm up your sparge water (see step 3) to 76 degrees.
  • The next step is the mash out this means gently warming your grain back up to 76 degrees for 10 minutes. This stops the enzyme activity which has been converting the starch to sugar so that the sugar profile is preserved. This step helps you to be more accurate in the type of beer you wish to produce.
  • As a beginner bear in mind the above point but don’t dwell too much on the accuracy when you first begin to brew from scratch as even beers that aren’t brewed perfectly can taste amazing.  This is something to experiment with as you become more experienced.  As a general rule a mash ratio of 3:1 water (litres) /grain kilograms at a temperature of 65-68 degrees for about an hour will produce a good quality wort.

Step 3 – Sparging (The temperature of your sparge water can vary depending on your recipe)

  • This refers to gently pouring hot water over your mash, this water should be at about 76 degrees and extracts the wort. The quality of wort you get depends on the type of grain used, for example the gluten content can effect it.  The wort once extracted will be a little hazy but this is nothing to worry about.

Step 4 – The Boil

  • Usually over a period of an hour it is best to aim for a gentle rolling boil rather than a vigorous one, just to let you know this process usually gives off a lot of steam. If using a pan put the lid on with a 1 inch gap so that it can vent. The boil is when you add your hops, bittering hops are added near the start of the boil and aroma hops 10 to 15 minutes before the end. Here is a list of more information as to what is going on in your boil:

Sanitisation:

Boiling kills off any bacteria that would otherwise contaminate the beer, some say this is the reason why medieval people drank beer instead of water.

Maintains Sugar Profile:

If a mash out has not been done then boiling stops any enzyme activity from converting anymore starch into sugars, therefore maintaining the desired sugar content of the beer. It does this by breaking up the structure of the enzyme (protein) which prevents any further activity.

Isomerisation of Hops :

Hops are added during the boil which are isomerised,  this means that one molecule is changed into another molecule but still contains the same atoms which are just arranged differently, this makes the hops or more specifically the alpha acids more bitter and soluble. The boil intensity effects the release of bitterness into the wort, along with boil time, generally if you boil hops for longer than 90 minutes they will impart a bad flavour to it, 60 minutes is usually the best boil time. When adding the first addition of hops it is best to let your initial boil calm down to a nice steady rolling one, then add your hops. You don’t have to worry about this as much with the later hop additions. The very last hop additions are to add aroma which is lost in the first hop addition because of the time spent boiling. Some brewers add three hop additions and others don’t because they find the third addition of hops to be superfluous to the final taste of the beer.  However this is entirely up to personal preference and experience.

Dimethyl sulphide (DMS):

This is a sulphur compound that is found in most beers and is created in the boil but can effect your beer negatively by giving off a strong cooked corn flavour and smell. It is mostly found in lagers but at low levels, with German lagers having the highest percentage, it’s presence in lagers is actually desirable sometimes.  British beers contain the lowest percentage found so if this is the kind of beer you wish to produce it is best to reduce the amount of DMS.  This can be done by achieving a gentle rolling boil and allowing steam to vent away from the kettle.  If the lid is fitted fully on the pan the DMS cannot escape and therefore goes back into the wort. At the end of the boil it also helps to cool your wort as quickly as possible.

Unpleasant Aromas:

If you are using dark malts then any burnt smells originating from these types of malt are expelled in the boil.

Irish Moss:

This is added during the boil and helps to clear your beer and prevent chill haze.  Irish moss is negatively charged which attracts the positively charged particles of protein forming large clumps which sink to the bottom of the wort. It is added with the last addition of hops to your boil.

Step 5: Cooling

Can be done either by immersing your pan of wort in a sink of cold water that is recirculated until the wort cools or add ice to the sink of water to reduce the need to circulate.  This is a good method for small batches but for larger ones (25 litre/5 gallon) a wort chiller is the best option and can cool your wort to fermentation temperature in 10 minutes.

wort chiller
Wort chiller with mixer tap connector

Fermentation temperature can vary but is generally between 20 and 24 degrees. Cooling the wort also causes solids to form which are called the cold break these then sink to the bottom. When the wort is transferred to the fermenter this is left behind. Once it is cooled it is a good idea to take a starting gravity reading with a hydrometer which can then be used with your final gravity reading to work out the alcohol content.

Step 6: Transfer to Fermentation Vessel and Pitch the Yeast

Exactly as it sounds transfer your wort to a fermenting vessel and pitch the yeast.

auto syphon
Large auto syphon for 23 litre vessel

Equipment is available that makes transferring the wort easy and hassle free for example the auto syphon available in two different sizes. The large seen in the picture which is ideal for 23 litre vessels and the small which is suitable for most 1 gallon demijohns or 10 litre vessels.

When pitching the yeast, just a posh term for adding, make sure the wort is cooled as directed above.  Usually a dried 5g sachet is enough to do 5 gallons/23 litres. However if you are making a high gravity wort containing lots of sugar or you are fermenting at a low temperature you’ll need to pitch more yeast. Click this link to WYeast for more information: https://wyeastlab.com/frequently-asked-questions#r24

 

Step 7: Fermentation

This is where the yeast turns the fermentable sugars into CO2 and alcohol once it is comfortable in it’s environment.  It can take a few hours for the yeast to become active, this is known as the lag phase while it becomes acclimatised to it’s surroundings. Oxygen and temperature are two important factors the yeast needs to be healthy so giving the wort a stir to get some oxygen into it before fermentation can do no harm, keeping the wort between 18 and 24 degrees C is also essential to keeping the yeast happy.  Try to keep the temperature as constant as possible.  Yeast can have a noticeable affect on the flavour of your beer so it is important to make sure you get the right one. See our article on yeast for more info at: https://homebrewonlinebrewblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/the-magic-of-yeast/

Fermentation can proceed at different rates depending on temperature, oxygen level and wort gravity. Getting a good yeast to ferment with means that you can produce great beer even if the ambient temperature fluctuates slightly.  A yeast from the Fermentis range will produce amazing results every time and we use them in our Crafty Fox all grain range. As you progress in your home brewing journey reasonably accurate temperature control plays a role in helping you to produce the same flavour beer each time.

When a wort is fermenting it will give off a few signs to show that everything is normal so look out for a cappuccino like froth on the surface or a bowed lid, you may also see small bubbles fizzing to the top as well.  Do not worry if your airlock is not bubbling this doesn’t always mean that your brew isn’t fermenting, looking out for the signs above and taking a hydrometer reading will give you an indication as to whether the wort is fermenting. Take two hydrometer readings 48 hours apart if they are stable it has stopped fermenting but if the second changes then leave it until both readings are the same.

Some people recommend syphoning your brew into a secondary vessel to help with clearing however this isn’t necessary.  It also reduces the amount of Oxygen the beer is exposed to as too much can cause oxidisation, this only applies after fermentation.

Step 8: Bottling

bottler and vessel
Little bottler with vessel makes bottling your brew hassle free.

It is best to use brown bottles so that the sunlight cannot get to your brew which over time would damage it. You can syphon from your fermenting vessel to your bottles using one of the auto syphons mentioned above but there are also other bottling devices that make the job easier for example the little bottler which is great for bottling 5 gallon/23 litre batches. Carbonation drops are ideal for priming your brew cutting down on mess and time.  We recommend 2 to 3 drops depending on how much fizz you like.

craft carb drops
Crafty Fox Carbonation Drops

 

Once bottling is complete keep them at room temperature, about 20 degrees, in order for them to carbonate, often called secondary fermentation, this usually takes a week. It is then best to leave your beer for a month to two months for the flavours to mature.

That’s it! Enjoy your beer! I hope you have found this guide useful and if there is anything you think we could add please let us know.

 

Sources used:

Little Black Dog Beer Brew School Handbook
http://byo.com/malt/item/1650-wort-boiling-homebrew-science
http://beersmith.com/blog/2012/04/10/dimethyl-sulfides-dms-in-home-brewed-beer/
https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/how-to-brew/take-the-luck-out-of-clear-beer-with-irish-moss/
http://www.home-brew-online.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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