What's in the Works Now?
I want to keep my equipment active most of the time. I don't always have time to put in all the work that is involved in brewing, but it seems a shame to have all that equipment sitting idle. Plus, I like beer. Want to know what I'm working on now? Click on the links below and find out!
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Why Do I Brew?
I love craft beers. When I lived in West Texas, there weren't many options available, mainly the "standard" American lagers. The thing is, I graduated with a degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering, so how hard could it be to make my own? Turns out, it is not difficult at all. Can you make tea? You can make beer.
Home brewers are a really cool group of folks as well. Very helpful, and always willing to talk about beer and brewing. This page is up to date with my current understanding of things brewing related (admittedly not perfect) and my recent projects. Know more than me? Let's talk, I love to learn.
I'll try to chronicle as much of my home brewing journey as I can here. Check back for updates!
Brewing beer is as simple as making tea. Steep all your ingredients to extract flavor and fermentable sugars. Add yeast to ferment the sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Bottle or keg, and enjoy! For those unfamiliar with the process, here's a more extensive explanation.
- Clean & Sanitize EVERYTHING - The best way to ruin a batch of beer is to introduce bacteria to compete with the yeast. After gathering your ingredients, clean everything you need with soap and water, and then a sanitizing agent.
- Heat Water & Steep the Grains - Not only flavor is extracted from the grains. Also extracted during the steep is fermentable sugars.
- Boil the Wort & Add Hops/Flavoring - This is for the taste of the beer. You can add fresh/pelletized hops, liquid/solid malt extract, spices & fruit to make your beer into whatever you want.
- Cooling the Wort - Yeast can only survive at narrow temperature ranges, so before they can be added, you need to cool the wort. You want to do this quickly, and the temperature to which it is done depends on the yeast.
- Add the Yeast and Allow for Fermentation - Once your yeast will survive the wort, simply transfer everything to your (sanitized) primary fermenter and add your yeast.
Racking Day (About 7-15 Days Later)
- Clean & Sanitize EVERYTHING - Yes. Again. You really shouldn't be surprised at this point.
- Transfer to the Secondary Fermenter - As yeast dies, it sinks to the bottom. Best to get them out of the system.
Bottling/Kegging Day (About 7-15 days later)
- Clean & Sanitize EVERYTHING - Yes. Again. Your yeast are still active and need to be to carbonate the beer. You're almost done, so why ruin your hard work and patience now?
- Bottling - Bottles are surely the most convenient way to transport and store your beer. Best of all, bottles are reusuable! However, carbonating in the bottle can be inconsistent, resulting in some beers that are under-carbonated and others that are over-carbonated in the same batch. If you are starting out, start here!
- Add the Priming Sugar - It's another shot of sugar to give the surviving yeast something to eat so they can carbonate the beer. (As I understand it, not necessary if you plan to force carbonate in a keg)
- Transfer Your Beer - I suppose you could bottle straight from the secondary fermenter, but bottling buckets may be easier.
- Bottle - Put the beer in the bottle. You can either buy bottles from a home brew supply store, or you can save non-twist off cap bottles.
- Cap the Bottles - Just like it sounds.
- Let the Beer Age - The yeast need time to turn the new sugar you just gave them into carbonation.If you choose to go the kegging route, you don't need step 3, 5 or 6. Instead, you force carbonate the beer. It takes a bit of money to get all the equipment needed to keg, so for now, I'll bottle.
- Kegging - In my, and many homebrewer's opinions, kegging is WAY easier and provides much more consistent results. The major downside to kegging is that it is harder and significantly more expensive to get into. However, most of the expense is in the initial setup costs, so if you have the money to spend, it is well worth your while.
- Crash the Yeast - You don't want your yeast doing any more fermentation once you are in the keg, so you need to kill the yeast. Some people claim that this step isn't necessary, and others say it is essential. Do your research and decide for yourself! One of the easiest ways to do this is called thermal crashing, in which you turn down the temperature of your secondary fermentation to the point where the yeast all dies.
- Transfer the Finished Beer - Once you have your clean and sanitized keg, use your auto-siphon or pump to move the beer over to the keg.
- Cool the Keg and Force Carbonate - Since the yeast can't carbonate, you'll need to do it. I like the bottom-up force carbonation method. To do this, swap out the quick connect on one of your gas lines from a gas to liquid quick connect. Some people, like myself, like to keep an extra line on the manifold for just this purpose! You then hook up your gas line to the liquid out port and turn up the CO2 pressure to 25 - 35 psi and leave the keg for 48 - 72 hours.
- Swap Back the Lines and Pour Your First Pint - Once you think your carbonation is done, swap your lines back over to the right sides (gas in, liquid out) and set up everything in your kegerator. Remember to turn down your beer to serving pressures of 10 - 15 psi. Your first pour will likely be heavily over carbonated and mostly foam. Dump it, wait 30 minutes and then try again. Eventually, the CO2 levels will balance out and you'll get a well-carbonated pour.
Drinking Day! (About 14 - 21 days later for bottles, 3 days for kegging)
- Chill & Enjoy - You've worked hard, have a drink.
Measuring Alcohol Content
Alcohol by Volume (ABV) depends on the type of yeast you are using and the amount of sugar those yeast have to work with during primary fermentation. Brewers use a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity (or SG, a property of a fluid that translates into density) before and after fermentation. The equation that translates SG (starting gravity) and FG (final gravity) is:
(SG - FG) x 131.25 = %ABV