Intro to Homebrewing
Homebrewing is the process of turning malts, hops, and yeast into beer. There are various stages that must be performed to accomplish this end goal. First, sugars from malts are combined with water to create wort. Wort is then boiled and hopped. Hops balance sweetness from the malt and provide extra flavors. Wort is then cooled, aerated, and inoculated with a pure yeast culture. Fermentation then takes place, lasting typically 14 days. The beer is then bottled or kegged, carbonated, and aged for 1-2 weeks, then chilled and served. Most beers can be completed in a month or so. Some may require additional aging, and others may be completed earlier.
First, sugars are extracted from malted barley. This process involves converting starches in the grains into fermentable and unfermentable sugars, using enzymes that exist within the malt. The sugary liquid is separated from the grain husks, and collected in the boil kettle. Brewers wishing to simplify this process will dissolve malt extract (essentially a concentrated, un-hopped wort) in hot water.
The wort is typically boiled for 60 minutes. The main purpose is to drive off DMS pre-cursors (which will lead to a strong cooked-corn flavor in the finished beer), as well as to add hops. Hops are boiled to isomerize alpha acids into bittering compounds which balance out the sweetness of the malt. Hops added at different stages during the boil have different effects on the final beer. Put simply, the longer hops are boiled, the more bitterness is extracted, and the more flavors and aromatics are lost.
After the boil, wort is cooled down to fermentation temperatures, typically ~70°F. The wort is then aerated, wherein oxygen is dissolved into the beer to help the yeast during the first stage of fermentation. The cooled, aerated wort is then placed in a fermentation vessel, inoculated with a yeast culture, and sealed from outside air. An airlock is installed in the vessel, which allows carbon dioxide produced by fermentation to escape, without letting ambient air to go into the vessel. The beer is then allowed to ferment for 2 weeks.
After fermentation has completed, the beer is either bottled or kegged. When bottling, the beer is siphoned into bottles along with a small amount of sugar. The bottles are capped, and yeast are allowed to consume the sugar, creating carbon dioxide. The CO2 produced dissolves into the beer, and the beer carbonates. This usually takes about 2 weeks. After, the beer is chilled for a day or so, then served.
When kegging, the beer is siphoned into the keg, and carbon dioxide is forcibly pushed into suspension using a CO2 tank and regulator. The beer is carbonated over a about a week, and can then be served. Both bottling and kegging homebrew will yield similar, quality results.