The First Home Brewed Beer

Posted: November 23, 2010 by Overclocked in Home Brewing
Tags: , , ,

Finally got a recipe right and what resulted was a decent American Pale Ale. Copper red in color with a decent head and a hoppy, floral aroma and bitterness from Cascade hops. I could have added some more caramel malt to add to the malt body but it wasn’t bad as it was.

Up until this delicious batch my home brewing trials had been disappointing to say the least. The first two attempts had me wondering if it was even worth all the time and trouble. I had an under-fermented, under-carbonated, stale tasting Oktoberfest and an overcomplicated and horrible looking/tasting cherry brown ale.

After setting aside the “kit-in-a-can” and creating a simple recipe, I was able to get close to the desired result. I was originally aiming for an amber ale, not too hoppy. I probably went a little over on the hops though so what resulted was a nice Pale Ale – about 28 IBUs.

A quick rundown on how making beer works:

1). Malted barley (barley which has been allowed to start to germinate and then stopped) is combined with water at a specific temperature (normally between 150 deg. F & 160 deg. F) for a specific amount of time in a process called “mashing”. The mashing of the grains allows the starches to be converted into fermentable sugars. The liquid, now called “wort” is drained from the grains.

2). The wort is boiled with hops and other ingredients added at specific times to add bitterness to balance the sweet flavor profile of the malt.

3) The wort is then cooled and yeast is “pitched” to start fermentation. The fermentation is done at a specific temperature to allow the yeast to work efficiently. After the beer has finished fermentation, it can either be bottled and allowed to carbonate in the bottles naturally or kegged and force-carbonated.

Now, there are three main ways to brew beer at home. You have your “kit-in-a-can” (which is the cheapest and least involved way) which unfortunately results pretty crappy beer. The basic idea with these kits is to combine the basic beer ingredients (Malt, Hops, Yeast, Water) with a very simple process to make it easier for the novice brewer. The malt (often called extract) is actually wort that has been condensed into a syrup and “pre-hopped” – meaning hops have been added to the extract (condensed wort). All you have to do is boil the extract with water, cool the wort, pitch the yeast and ferment.

The next step up is what is called partial extract. A higher quality extract called DME (dry malt extract) is often used. The extract is a dry powder, rather than a liquid syrup which allows for a more stable shelf life and less chance of “stale” flavors. This method is called partial extract because the wort is only partially made of extract. The other ingredient is often specialty grains (steeping grains) and other adjuncts.

The specialty grains (crystal barley, chocolate malt, black malt, etc.) and adjuncts (oats, corn flakes, etc.) are steeped at a certain temperature for about 30-45 minutes. This isn’t the same as mashing since no conversion of starches to sugars takes place. Steeping is done just to obtain color, body (unconverted starches and proteins), and flavor from the grains and add that to the wort. The wort is created by steeping the grains, then adding and dissolving the dry malt extract. The rest of the process then continues normally.

The last and most advanced way to brew beer at home is called all-grain brewing. Brewers will use nothing but malted grains to create the wort. The base grains are mashed, sometimes along with specialty grains and the brewing process continues with boiling, hops addition, cooling, pitching yeast and fermenting. All-grain brewing allows a brewer to have complete control over what goes into their recipe. It also requires a more precise recipe and more involved equipment.

I find the partial extract method works well because I don’t need a ton of equipment or space (I can brew in my apartment kitchen), its not as time consuming as all-grain but I can still get great results (much better than kit in a can).

The next phase of home brewing, bottling/kegging I feel deserves it’s own section because there are so many variables to take into account.

– Cheers


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