Our first brewing experience had quite the learning curve. The kit included instructions, but it seems that someone must have been semi-innebriated when they wrote them, because about halfway through, they skip a few steps and aren’t very specific. Thankfully our starter kit came with an instructional DVD, which we watched twice before we started. Unfortunately, we started at about 6:00 PM on a Sunday night, thinking it would only take a few hours. Little did we know…
It ended up taking over 4 hours the first night, but mostly because we couldn’t use our wort chiller with our faucet. The other steps were pretty quick, but the waiting time was the worst. Good thing we had an 11 day vacation after we bottled the beer; it was ready for us when we came home, and what a treat it was! It was a bit cloudy, but that was expected because we accidently boiled the grains instead of steeping them, presumably causing more sediment. We also siphoned the beer directly into the bottling bucket instead of the carboy for the second fermentation, so when it was time to bottle, we had more sediment on the bottom than we probably would have had we used the carboy. Now we know for next time. I’m not complaining about my delicous homemade beer. Just in time for St. Paddy’s Day!
Irish Red Ale
6 lbs Gold liquid malt extract
12 oz Carmel 40L
2 oz Special B
2 oz Roasted barley
1 oz Cascasde
1 oz Fuggle
1. Sanitation: Sanitize all equipment. Star San or One-Step is recommended to ensure a sanitary environment without the need of rinsing.
2. Steeping Grains: If you did not have the grains crushed use a rolling pin or beer bottle to lightly crush the grains. I spread them out on a baking sheet to do this. Fill your brew kettle with about 5 gallons of tap water. Place over high heat and bring to a temperature of 155 degrees. Add the grains into the muslin boiling bag and steep grains at 155 degrees for 20-30 minutes. (This is where we went wrong. The temperature of the water got up to about 180 degrees, and it’s very difficult to lower the temerature of 5 gallons of water quickly. We ended up having to turn off the heat completely for the entire 30 minutes, which is when the temperature finally came down to 160.) Remove the pot from the heat and let the grains steep for another 5-10 minutes, then discard the grain bag.
3. The Boil: While off the heat, add the malt extract. It is important that the heat is off so you do not burn your malt. Also, remember to stir as
you pour the extract so the malt does not scorch on the bottom of the pot. Return the pot to high heat and as soon as it begins to boil, add the Cascade hops (we used a nylon boiling bag which helps leave less sediment in your beer) for 60 minutes. Do not leave your pot unattended during this time; boilovers can be messy! Add the Fuggle hops for the last two minutes of boiling, and then remove from heat.
**Everything that comes in contact with your wort from here on out must be sanitized.
4.Cooling and Aerating your Wort: There are several ways to cool your wort (what your beer is referred to at this stage).
- Set your brew kettle in a sink full of ice, stirring every 15 minutes with a sanitized spoon
- Use ice as your top up water (8 lbs of ice is about 1 gallon of water)
- Use a wort chiller
The best method is a wort chiller because it will cool your wort quickly. The quicker you can cool your wort to 80 degrees, the less chance there is of any contamination. (Unfortunately, our wort chiller cannot hook up to our faucet, so we tried the first method with a twist. We put the kettle with the top on outside in the snow. However, this didn’t cool it very fast; it took over an hour to cool the wort to 80 degrees).
5. Pour wort into the primary fermenter and top up with water to just over the 5 gallon mark. Be absolutely sure your wort is cooled to 80 degrees or below, otherwise you will kill your yeast. Now is the time to take a hydrometer reading with your thief. This will help you determine your beer’s alcohol content. Do not return any samples back into the fermenter. You now need to aerate your wort. You can pour back and forth between two sanitized buckets or stir vigerously. You could also try an aeration system that injects oxygen into the wort. The yeast needs oxygen to do its job, so it is very important not to skip this step.
6. Fermentation: Sprinkle the yeast over the top of the beer. Cover your fermenter and seal with the airlock. You can fill your airlock with water or vodka to decrease the chance of contamination. After about 1-3 days, you should start to see a head of foam, called krausen, begin to form and CO2 should be bubbling out of the airlock.
7. After 5-7 days of fermentation, transfer beer into carboy. (By not following directions carefully, I blame Nate, we transfered to our bottling bucket instead of the carboy.) Ferment for another week in the carboy, using the airlock again to seal and prevent contamination. You can be sure your yeast is done by taking a hydrometer reading three days in a row and getting the same results. If the number is lowering, then your yeast is still fermenting. Use your hydrometer chart to help you determine the alcohol content of your beer.
8. Bottling: Once your yeast is done, it’s time to bottle. Heat one cup of water and add the priming sugar. Bring to a slow boil for 5 minutes, then cover with a sanitizedlid and let cool. Be sure to sanitize your bottling bucket, tubing, bottle filler, caps, and bottles. Add sugar mix to the bottling bucket and siphon beer from your carboy into your bottling bucket. (Of course our beer was already in the bottling bucket from our mistake in #7) Fill your
bottles with the bottle filler and cap your bottles. Store your beer in a cool (60-70 degrees), dark place for 2-4 weeks. You can check your beer to see ifthere is any carbonation. If there isn’t, get your beer to a warmer place and swirl each bottle to rouse any settled yeast. Test again in a couple weeks.