Brew Day Procedure
The Brew Day
This section encloses how a brew day is performed. Closely read the section before beginning, making sure you understand the series of processes.
This section will begin with a walkthrough for three different kit types: all extract, extract with steeping grains, and partial mash. These sections each lead into instructions for boiling, cooling, and beginning fermentation. If you are unsure which type of kit you have, refer to your recipe sheet; it will say on the top of the page.
Required equipment includes: a minimum 5 gallon brew kettle and heat source (either a kitchen stove if brewing inside, or a propane burner if brewing outside), large spoon, hydrometer and thermometer, fermenter and airlock, and a funnel (if using a carboy for fermenter). For extract with steeping grains and partial mash kits, a grain bag is also required.
Optional equipment includes: a wort chiller, hops bags, aeration or oxygenation system, spare buckets, and a thief and hydrometer jar (for ease of use when taking a hydrometer reading). For partial mash kits, using a small (~2 ½ gallon) side kettle is very helpful.
Before beginning, double check your recipe sheet and make sure all listed ingredients are on hand, as well as both cleaner and sanitizer. Also, collect the amount of water needed, as specified by your recipe sheet under Brew Steps item A.
Beginning the day with an all extract recipe
To start, collect the amount of water specified on your instruction sheet. This is listed as “boil volume”, and is under the Brew Steps section, item B. Typically, this amount will range between 2 ½ to 3 ½ gallons.
Begin heating the water until it boils, then turn off the heat. Add the extract, and stir vigorously to dissolve completely. Keep in mid dry extract tends to clump, while liquid extract tends to stick to the bottom of the kettle. Once fully dissolved, turn on the heat and bring to a boil. Continue to the boil section.
Beginning the day with an extract with steeping grains recipe
To start, collect the amount of water and heat to the temperature specified under Brew Steps item B on your recipe sheet. Typically, this will be 3 gallons of water heated to 165°F. While the water is being heated, gather your grains and add them to your grain bag. Keep in mind, while steeping the grains, keep the grains inside the bag at all times.
Once at the temperature, turn off the heat. Add the grain bag to the water, and steep the grains for 15 minutes, akin to steeping a tea bag. Stir the grains inside the bag to maximize water contact with the grains; this will help extract more color and flavor compounds from the grains.
After 15 minutes of steeping, remove the bag and let it drain completely. Squeezing the bag against the wall of your kettle will speed this up. If using a nylon, reusable grain bag, remove and dispose of the grains from the bag and rinse any residual grain bits from the bag to clean it.
Add the extract to the kettle, and stir vigorously to dissolve completely. Keep in mid dry extract tends to clump, while liquid extract tends to stick to the bottom of the kettle. Once fully dissolved, turn on the heat and bring to a boil. Continue to the boil section.
Beginning the day with a partial mash recipe
To start, collect the amount of water and heat to the specified temperature under Brew Steps item B on your recipe sheet. “Mash in” refers to the amount of water needed for the mash. For example, if your instructions say “mash in 4 quarts at 165°F”, you will heat 4 quarts of water to 165°F. Heat this water in your smaller side kettle, if available.
While the water is being heated, collect your grains and add to your grain bag. Keep in mind, while mashing the grains, keep all grains inside the bag.
When the water has come to temperature, add the grain bag to the water and stir the grains inside the bag. Be thorough here; water must be dispersed as evenly through the grains as possible in order to avoid dry-spots. Once stirred, check the temperature, and adjust if needed to set it to the “hold” temperature, specified by your recipe sheet. Adjustments can be made by stirring more (if the temperature is too high), or by turning the burner on to a low heat and thoroughly stirring (if the temperature is too low).
Once set at the temperature, put the lid on the kettle and insulate the kettle. This can be done by either wrapping the kettle in a couple extra blankets or towels, and old sleeping bag, or putting the kettle in a pre-heated oven on the lowest setting. Let the grains sit for the specified time, typically 30 minutes.
While the grains are steeping, collect and heat water, as specified by “sparge with” on your recipe sheet. Sparging is a brewer’s term for rinsing the grains in order to extract as much sugars as possible.
Once the mash has completed, remove the grain bag and let it drain as much as possible. Squeezing the bag against the side of the kettle with your spoon will help speed this up. Once drained, dunk the grain bag in the sparge water, and stir the grains inside. Let the bag steep in the sparge water for ~5 minutes. Stir the grains again, then remove the bag and let the grains drain, same as before. Combine both kettles of liquid into the larger brew kettle.
After draining, dispose of the grains. If using a nylon, reusable grain bag, remove and dispose of the grains from the bag and rinse any residual grain bits from the bag to clean it. Add the extract to the kettle, and stir vigorously to dissolve completely. Keep in mid dry extract tends to clump, while liquid extract tends to stick to the bottom of the kettle. Once fully dissolved, turn on the heat and bring to a boil. Continue to the boil section.
Once malt sugars have been collected in your brew kettle, turn on the heat and bring the wort to a boil. Be careful as it heats closer to boiling; the wort will begin to foam. If this foaming continues unchecked, it will boil over the sides of the kettle and make a big, sticky mess. This is easily avoided by either reducing the heat of the burner as the foam rises, or keeping a spray bottle of cold water on hand and spraying the foam to break it down.
Eventually, the foam will fall back down into the wort, and you will see it boil. Once the foam has fallen in, check your recipe sheet for how long to boil for, and start a timer. Ingredients added during the boil will refer to this timer. For example, a 15 minute addition of Cascade hops will be added at the 15 minute mark on your timer, or the last 15 minutes of the boil. A 60 minute addition of Warrior hops is added with 60 minutes left in the boil (which, usually, is the beginning of the boil).
Keep an even, rolling boil. Not too vigorous or you may end up boiling off too much water. Do your boil additions, as specified by your recipe sheet, and keep an eye on your timer. Make sure to boil with the lid off the kettle, otherwise you may develop an off-flavor in the finished beer reminiscent of cooked corn.
Hops can be added to hops bags, but this isn’t required. Hops bags will help remove hops sediment from the wort after the boil and keep it from going into the fermenter. However, this sediment will not affect flavor, it only increases the amount of loss you may have after fermentation. The choice is purely personal.
If you have an immersion wort chiller, put it in the boil with 15 minutes left in the boil. This will sanitize the coil and keep it in place until needed. If you don’t have an immersion wort chiller, don’t worry, you will use an alternate method for chiller the wort after the boil.
Once the boil has finished, turn off the heat. If your recipe calls for a whirlpool addition, cool the beer down to ~180°F, stop the chilling process, add the hops and let them sit for the designated time. After, continue chilling down to fermentation temperatures.
Without using a wort chiller, you will perform an ice bath to chill the wort down. To do this, fill a sink with cold water and ice and place the brew kettle in it. Stir the wort gently allowing constant, even contact with the cold sides of the kettle. You may need to replace the water and add more ice if the water gets too warm. Keep an eye on the temperature of the wort (make sure your thermometer is sanitized). Keep chilling the wort until it gets down to ~75°F, then stop chilling.
If using a wort chiller, keep a slow, even flow through the chiller. Constantly moving the coils through the wort will help prevent cold-spots developing right around the chiller, and increase efficiency. The goal is to maximize the heat coming out of the chiller. For this reason, keep a glove or cloth on hand, so you don’t burn your hand when moving the chiller.
While the wort is being cooled, start sanitizing your fermentation equipment. Fill your bucket or carboy with 5 gallons of water, and mix in 1 ounce of Star San (if not using Star San, refer to the directions on your sanitizer). Allow a minimum 1 minute of contact time. The solution can stay in the vessel until the vessel is needed; Star San does not need to be rinsed off nor let air-dry before use.
Sanitize a thermometer as well for checking the temperature of the wort as it cools, and a funnel if using a carboy for fermentation. Additionally, if you plan on using a couple vessels, or an aeration or oxygenation system, for aerating your wort, make sure these items are sanitized before use.
Once the wort has been cooled, it needs to be aerated. This will introduce oxygen into the wort, which yeast require during the first stage of fermentation. There are a couple ways to do this, the most basic way is to either stir the wort briskly for ~15-20 minutes with a sanitized spoon, or to toss the wort between a couple sanitized vessels. Common vessels for this method include a fermentation bucket and a bottling bucket, or a fermentation bucket and your brew kettle. Don’t worry about possible contamination from the air, as once the yeast get in the wort, they will completely dominate any other microbes that may be in there and render them inert.
Once aerated, transfer the wort into your fermentation vessel, and top up the fermented with clean, cool water to ~5 ¼ - 5 ½ gallons. Make sure the water is completely dissolved, then take a hydrometer reading of your wort. Check the hydrometer reading and compare it to the listed original gravity on your recipe sheet.
Once topped up, aerated, and in the fermenter, add your yeast. Dry yeast can be sprinkled right on top of the wort, liquid yeast can be added directly in. Seal the fermenter and install your airlock. Your airlock should be filled halfway, or up to the “fill line” with sanitizer solution. This will allow carbon dioxide from fermentation to escape, without letting airborne microbes into the beer.
Put the fermenter away somewhere away from light and with a consistent temperature. Yeast do not like wild temperature swings, so somewhere insulated in your house is a good bet. If the fermenter is somewhere where light can hit it, wrap the fermenter with a blanket or towel.
Refer to your recipe sheet for ideal temperature and time for fermentation. Typically, most ales will be fermented ~60-70°F for 2-3 weeks before bottling. If the beer ends up sitting in the fermenter for longer, it usually will be fine, but make sure it doesn’t get too excessive.