Learn How to Homebrew
Interested in homebrewing in Vermont? Below is a quick write up on the basics of extract homebrewing. For a more in depth read, pick up John Palmer "How to Brew".
The instructions are now posted to our resources tab on our website, that we will add with brewing techniques and recipes.
Extract brewing is probably the most common brewing method for home brewers, as it requires the least amount of material. Below we will address the basic steps and equipment needed for extract brewing.
Steeping grains: This step will allow you to add color and character to your beer.
Take a pot (at least 3 gallons in size, 5 gallons or above is preferred) and fill it with 1 – 2 gallons of water. Heat the water to roughly 150 degrees. Next, take crushed grains and place them in a grain-steeping bag. Place the grain-steeping bag in the pot and let them steep for 30-45 minutes. After 30-45 minutes, using the water in the pot, rinse the steeping bag several times back into the pot to get out all the great sugar, color and character from the grains.
Adding Extract: Extract comes in either liquid form (LME, Liquid Malt Extract) or dry form (DME, Dry Malt Extract). Extract is sugar already taken from grain and this will make up your wort (sugar water) for your beer.
Add water until you have 3.5 gallons of liquid in your pot and add the LME or DME and stir it well into the water until it is fully dissolved. **Warning** You want to ensure it is fully dissolved. If the LME or DME is not fully dissolved, the extract will fall to the bottom of the pot and when you turn on the heat it will burn the extract, leaving you with burned beer. Once your extract is fully dissolved, turn the heat back on and bring to a boil.
The Boil: You boil the wort for several reasons. The first is to add hops for bittering and aroma. Boiling will also help coagulate proteins in the wort to help clarify. When boiling, you can add spices and hops to give your beer character.
Raise the wort to a boil. Typically the wort is boiled for 60 minutes. Once the wort is boiling, add hops, which is called hop addition. Hops that are in the boil longer will have higher hop utilization, extracting more bitterness from the hops. Hops are measured in Alpha Acid Units (AAU). They range from 2% AAU – 20% AAU, the higher the AAU the more bitter the hops are, which increases the IBUs (International Bittering Unit). Each recipe will have a different hop addition schedule so refer to the recipe for this information. If you are making up a beer, hop additions are typically at 60 minutes, 30 minutes, 15 minutes and 0 minutes (a 60 minute hop addition would be adding the hops at the beginning of a 60 minute boil). Hops that are added closer to the end of the boil will have less IBU impact and have a bigger aroma impact. Typically if you are looking to add the aroma of a hop, add that hop 10 minutes or less to the end of the boil.
Cool your wort: Cooling the wort serves two purposes, the most important of which is to get the wort cold enough to pitch your yeast. If your wort is too hot and you pitch your yeast, your yeast will be killed. The second purpose has to do with what is called the ‘hot break’, which is not as important with extract brewing.
To cool your wort, add 2 gallons of water (or enough water so you will have an end result of 5 gallons of wort to ferment) and place the pot in a kitchen sink filled with ice and cold water. Stir the wort to ensure even cooling. There are other options to cool the wort, such as purchasing wort chillers. You will want to cool your wort to a pitchable temperature (i.e. the temperature needed to pitch your yeast). Each yeast will require a different fermentation temperature so please refer to the yeast manufacturer’s recommendations. Typically, for an ale, the fermentation temperature should be around 65 degrees and a lager should be around 50 degrees. Once your wort is cooled, you will now need to filter out the hops and hot break in the pot, as well as aerate the wort. Use a strainer and strain the wort several times to ensure to get as much trub (i.e. sendiment at the bottom of the pot) out of the wort. Straining will also help aerate the wort as yeast needs oxygen in order to ferment. This will be the only time you will aerate the wort. After fermentation, oxygen is no longer good for beer. Once you are done straining and aerating the wort, place it in a 6 gallon bucket with a seal top and an airlock. You will need 20% head space in your fermenter (i.e. the space between top of the bucket and the wort) because as it ferments it will bubble up and if you don’t have 20% headspace, you will have a mess.
Fermenting: Fermenting is the process of yeast turning your wort (sugar water) into alcohol. Fermenting is a time that can most affect your beer, for good or bad. Temperature fluctuations are bad for beer. You want to keep your beer at a constant temperature and out of direct sunlight.
Now that your beer is in your fermenting bucket, add your yeast. Your yeast and wort should be at similar temperatures. Keep your bucket in a cool place, out of direct sunlight. After about 24-48 hours you will see your airlock bubbling quite a bit. This is a sign your yeast is working and producing CO2. After about 7-10 days, you will see it start to slow or stop fermenting. If you are producing an Ale, fermentation will be around 7 – 10 days or shorter. If you are making a lager, fermentation can be 3-4 weeks, as the yeast isn’t moving as fast since it is cold. After your fermentation has stopped, transfer the beer into a secondary bucket, which allows you to get the yeast out of the beer. Beer stored in yeast for long periods of time can result in off flavors. When you transfer into another bucket, this is called racking into your secondary. In the secondary, your beer is doing a few things. If you want to dry hop (add hops to add aroma) you will do it at this stage. This stage also allows for aging for complexity (although aging not always good) and it is also clarifying (particles will eventually fall to the bottom of the bucket).
Bottling: This is where you will carbonate the beer. There are two types of carbonation, natural carbonation and forced carbonation. For the most part, home brewers will naturally carbonate in bottles.
To carbonate, you can either dissolve sugar in warm water and add it to the beer, then you will fill you bottles, or you can add sugar directly to the bottles in the form of dextrose or carbonation drops. Once you have filled all the bottles, keep the beer at room temperature for 7-14 days. Open one up after 7 days to see how they are. If they are good, cool them down and enjoy.
For a much more in depth read and understanding on the brew process please pick up the book we have in stock, “How to Brew” by john palmer.
5 or 8 gallon pot
Spoon for stirring
Grain steeping bags
Hop steeping bags (optional)
Work chiller (optional)
6 gallon fermenting bucket (1 or 2)
6 gallon lid (1 or 2)
Pbw – cleaner
Starsan – sanitizer