How to brew beer in increasingly more interesting detail the deeper you dig.

1. Get yourself some sugar concentrate going.
2. Sterilise it. Keep it sterile from here on.
3. Add hops to taste. Other flavours maybe.
4. Cool raw beer down to 20
°C as quick as possible
5. Add yeast and close fermenter against infection
6. Wait a few days until all signs of life cease
7. Prepare for drinking by bottling or casking
8. Drink and enjoy a job well done
 

You want it to be more complex? Don't ask for trouble trying to make it complex, spend your energy and money on HYGIENE. Hygiene is your friend. Infections are your arch enemy. There are horrible things in the air we breathe, you certainly find out about them when you learn brewing! KEEP EVERYTHING CLEAN. This includes your equipment, your workspace, your tools and yourself. 

Of course there is some details to fill in above, for which I will provide cheap-to-load detailed articles. For now, here are the same steps in BREWERS' TERMINOLOGY:

 

Sparging is an art. For all the hype about imported grains, your sparging technique is what will extract the needed maltose solution from your grains. This is probably the second-hardest part of brewing, extracting the maximum sugars from the grain, without ending up with barley soup. Every brewer does it differently, with different equipment. The cheapest sparger you can build yourself, is a cooler box at least three times as big as the volume of grain after grinding. A sieve arrangement of some sort at the bottom, and of course some sort of valve. This can be a stainless-steel dairy-type ball valve with complete dismantling capabilities, or a hosepipe fitting (sterile) and a meter of hosepipe (STERILE) that you can lift above the liquid level inside the sparger…simple tap, costs almost nothing, easy to STERILISE. 

 

Your duty is now to warm water to 64 degrees Celsius. This is very important, and will seriously influence your ability to extract sugars. It will be necessary to measure the temperature of the mash constantly and keep circulating and heating your sparging water to obtain 64degrees in the mash. This is best done in a cooler box as it keeps the mash at temperature. Once you are certain your mash has reached 64°C, close the lid and leave for an hour. Rinse out the sparge liquor into a stainless steel pot.  You should now have a large pot of very sweet liquor. Take a long narrow glass or beaker, and cool some wort down to 20 degrees, check it with the hygrometer. It should bob high, much higher than the section marked as BEER START on the hygrometer scale. This first sparge is the best, but a lot more sugar can be rinsed from your mash Heat back up, without burning or boiling over, to 68 degrees, pour back onto mash. From here on it is your choice how hot you will take the sparge, but NEVER BEYOND 74 DEGREES. We do a leisurely three to four hours to complete our sparge. The entire sparging process revolves around ENZYMES. They are activated at 64 degrees, and die at 74 degrees. At every temperature in-between they act and react a bit differently, and by heating the mash in steps, a greater variety of sugars may be extracted.

 

 

 

 

Once you have extracted enough malt sugars, you need to boil it off. This is important for two reasons: STERILISATION is foremost. The second reason is to achieve PROTIEN BREAK. This is what makes beer different from, say, fermented barley soup. The two most basic tricks to make your boil successful, is NEVER LET IT BOIL OVER, and if you put a lid on it, IT WILL BOIL OVER.

 

 

 

 You will know when your liquor has finished boiling, by the fluffy algae-looking stuff floating in your precious beer. There are many ways to rid yourself of this gunk, but the most efficient seems to be the CYCLONE. I did not know about the CYCLONE until my bro’ Dirk showed me. Technology is a marvellous thing, especially when it is free. Once the liquor has stopped bubbling, you stir the pot, hard, like a cup of tea with too much sugar, you get that wort whirling, creating a fast circulating cyclone, and then you slip the spoon out. Put back the lid, and start getting your cooling stuff ready. Once you have yourself organised for cooling the wort, open the lid, and amaze yourself with the sight of all those oogly googlies that floated in your beer, all lying clumped up and easy to avoid, or to remove first, a heap of fluff in the centre of the pot’s bottom.

If you are brewing in the kitchen using many pots, add HOPS only to the main pot. Simmer the hops for a few minutes, usually less than thirty minutes, sometimes as little as five. Your own preferences will prevail over time, but initially be warned; hops is a rather pungent, bitter and calming herb. Do not be too brave, regret is not a desirable additive to real beer. Here is what you do:

 

After you have achieved protein break, bring the wort down to a fast simmer. The liquid should stay moving, stirring itself slowly. The rough first guide to hopping is about one gram per litre, dried compressed pellets. That said, the previous statement is utter bull. It depends on the flavour you are aiming at, the bitterness, the shelf life. Another spanner in the works is the exact type of hops you use. Once again, you can spend ten bucks a gram on some famously imported variety that is secretly used by the best-selling American brand. Riiight. In the end, you can get started with dead normal hops your supplier breaks into small 25g packets. Worry about speciality ingredients once you manage to brew three normal beers in a row. Simmer the hops for five to twenty minutes. It depends on sugar content, temperature, quality of hops. You will learn. Start with twenty minutes, it will allow maximum hops influence, to learn what hops does to beer. Later you can adjust to taste.

 

Now you have to cool that wort down! Quickly. This is what the gurus call hot-side working. Every action you take here has some detrimental effect on your beer. You must get oxygen in there, without allowing germs. You have to cool it to 20 degrees as soon as possible, because anything warmer, and your yeast will not survive. The most dangerous time for your wort is between 48 and 24 degrees, the growth temperature range preferred by our enemy: faulty hygiene.

Once the hops has been infused to tatse, it is time to take off the heat. Here starts the most difficult part of brewing. It is not impossible, but you will want to spend your first non-essential funds here. You need to construct yourself a cooler. There are many, many ways, including sterilised ice cubes. Tried it, it worked, sort of. Swozzling the wort in a steel pot inside a basin filled with icewater does work, takes half a night for ten litres, and will almost assuredly end up in an infected, sour beer. Once you have your sterile, cool wort in your fermenter tank, you are ready to PITCH THE YEAST.

Our logo, the crazy chicken, has forefathers in our history of wort cooling. Happily, that was all before we built THE COOLER. Follow this link to see an instructable. Once we had a cooler, brewing became a pastime of leisure. It was always a pleasure, but once we had a cooler, there was time on brewing day for other pleasures as well, free time for the brewery labourers, you might say. The trick is to get that wort from 70-something degrees to twenty degrees as soon as possible. Remember this one thing: Get the wort cooled down to twenty degrees as soon as possible. WITHOUT INFECTING IT. Then PITCH. You know about pitching? That’s what brewers call the seriously ritualistic act of adding yeast to the wort. Now we are making beer! Read on to see about yeast and other lively little critters.

 

In olden days, people thought beer happened because of many strange beliefs. It was only recently some clever guy with a microscope realised that those lively little microbes there are eating sugar, farting carbon dioxide gas and peeing alcohol. Not angels, demons or spirits, just plain microscopic little creatures eating and breeding and living their life, and then we enjoy their excrement. Nice, eh? Granted, it is the excrement of a very particular species of microbug. This is very important: The excrement of whatsisname cervensis tastes like beer, whereas just about every other form of yeast, fungus or microbe gives of waste that does not taste like beer. As a matter of fact, the excrement of just about every single organism other than C.Cervensis tastes like…poop?

 

This is why it is utterly, unforgivingly, important to be sterile in your dealings with your beer. Very many commercial brewers have difficulty getting this right, that’s why their beers give you hangovers and headaches before you even go to sleep. How many beer drinkers won’t swear high and low that Charley’s Palace Lager tastes better in cans than dumpies, whereas Red Sticker Beer is best enjoyed in quart bottles? Usually, the cans and the bottles are from different locations, each with its own set of infections, and therefor even a multibillion-dollar company cannot make the same brand taste the same every time. Imagine how difficult it is going to be for you in your kitchen. TAKE CARE.

 

The yeast does all the work, and boy, do they work! One of the fun things about your first brew is the gurgling and snorting from your air trap. If your beer does not gurgle, you probably have a problem. DO NOT OPEN TO LOOK. If you open the fermenter, it will surely attract germs. The only way to check on the progress of your beer, is to tap some and measure the SPECIFIC GRAVITY. Be sure to watch your air trap, you don’t want to suck that water into your beer! Once you can reliably pitch successfully, tapping a sample becomes optional. Just wait two days after the bubbling stops. Bubbling means fermentation, no bubbling is a fair indication that fermentation has slowed down enough not to matter anymore. This does not mena your beer has fermented completely. The yeast could have been stopped by many factors. Temperature shock, infection, too high an alcohol content for the yeast to operate…

Yes, you read right, if the alcohol level rises too high, the yeast die. Remember, alcohol is nothing but yeast pee. Imagine living in your own pee! This only really happens when your SPECIFIC GRAVITY was too high at the start. Or rather, too high for the strain of yeast you use. There are Belgian strains, for example, world famous for their ability to produce beer of 10 percent and stronger. Most yeast will stop breeding around 5 to 7 percent. If you dream of brewing forty percent beer, maybe this is the time to come back to earth. But maybe, just maybe, you will stick with brewing long enough to apply yourself to ten or twelve percent beer, which tastes almost like whiskey, so strong it is. Go buy a Duvel for example.

 

 

You have gone through the entire process now, and finally, after just about an entire week, you have beer. Actual beer, it will make you drunk just like Charley’s Palace brew, and if you worked cleanly and hygienically, it will actually taste cleaner, cause less hangover, and should not cause any health problems associated with infected beer such as Charley’s. It is, however, not exactly classy. If you were lucky and diligent, it should be more or less clear with minimal sediment. It will, however, be almost totally flat. Fear not, we fix that chop-chop.

 

First, we line up enough empty, clean and sterilised bottles for our beer. How many bottles? That depends on how much beer you have, divided by the LITRE capacity of your bottles. Eighteen litres and 330ml bottles means 18/0,33 = 55 dumpies. Because of sedimentation, we’d rather use 36 bottles of 500ml, or our favourite, 660ml bottles, and we usually fill around two crates and four spares. Two for the museum, and two for sampling when we lose patience waiting. That leaves one case for each of us two brewing buddies. As a final precaution, we use a small steam cleaner with a longer nozzle that fits right to the bottom of our bottles. This is how it goes:

 

Line up six empty bottles. Get the steamer (and everything else) lined up.

 

Put enough new crowns, plus a few spares for fumbling loss, into a bowl of boiling water.

 

Sterilise some honey. We gladly endorse Goldcrest, they are clean, pure, not irradiated. Mix 10ml per liter of beer, with equal amount boiling water in a sterilised cup. Prepare a clean, sterile syringe, the bigger the better. Mark it in 6ml steps for 660ml bottles, more or less, and just to confuse the issue, 10ml honey + 10ml water is not 20ml syrup. It’s a lot less! Stick to six mil, it is safe. Exploded beer tastes like failure and dust. Keep the marked syringe by the honey.

 

Put your fermenter where it is easy to work cleanly, like the kitchen table top. On the one side of the fermenter, must be space to work with the honey and six bottles. On the other side, place to work with one bottle, the bowl of crown caps, and the bottle capper. You want a sturdy table, that you can work on with some force in your arms. Capping the bottles can be difficult if you are too short, tall or uneven in your arrangements for this. Expect to waste some caps and bottles (with their contents) before you master this particular job. Save some money, and cap some water first. NOT ALL BOTTLES ARE REUSABLE. Not all bottles can be sealed using the normally available crimpers.

 

Right, now the dance starts:

Grab bottle, turn upside down, blast out with steam. Hand over.

Pump syringe 6ml honey syrup into bottle. Hand over

Open fermenter tap when drain pipe is at bottom of bottle to prevent splashing. Fill, hand over.

Take cap from hot tub, set on bottle, crimp. Put into crate.

 

Repeat above until the fermenter starts running yeast instead of beer.If it was a good brew, this yeast may be IMMEDIATELY REUSED. Look out for infections!

 

Honey dissolves water, so no stirring is needed for the beer once bottled. Age appropriately.

 

This is how to do the secondary fermentation and ageing and presentation al in one step. You end up with a clean, frothy, bubbly beer in a bottle, best enjoyed from a glass. Different beers actually taste different in differently shaped glasses. See this link for info on PROPER BEER GLASSES. The traditional German mug with the flare at the bottom is a very good compromise, especially if your beer is still a bit murky.