Saturday, June 5, 2010

First Time Homebrewing - Fermenting (Part 1 of 4)

Firkin Around...The Kitchen.

So you wanna' home brew? Do you have what it takes?  It's easier than you think.  All you need to get started in the hobby is one of these kits shown at the right.  Fortunately for me, I received one from my daughter for a gift.  Home brewing was on the short list of my 2010 New Years resolutions, so now there was no excuse.

You won't need any expensive outlay of cash on coolers, pots, thermometers, bottles, grain, grain mills, caps, cap got the picture?  Trust me, it's all in there.  Everything you need for 2 batches (8 liters each batch) is in the box.

All you need is a couple hours total over 6 weeks and you too can make beer in your own home.  Now for you experienced home brewers, stop your snickering.  I have it on very good information that many of you started out this way, before becoming mad scientists in your back yard or garage.  Admit it; at the very least, it will bring you closer to the thing you love the most - beer!  I will grant you that it is the equivalent of the "Easy Bake Oven ®" for making beer, but beer nonetheless.

It's just like delivering a baby; boil some water and tear up some clean sheets!  You can skip the clean sheets part, unless you are particularly messy.  Let's get started.

Take half a packet of sanitizer and dump it in the keg.  Place all the utensils that will come in contact with your brew inside the keg.  The spoon, spatula, the hand can opener, measuring spoons and cup; put all of it in the keg.  Fill half way with water, cap it up and shake and swirl it all around the inside of the keg.  Let it sit for ten minutes. Spill some onto a plate so you will have a sterile place to rest your utensils.

Adding the booster
Select one of the two cans* of HME (hopped malt extract) that comes with the kit and place the entire unopened can in hot water while your tools are sanitizing.  The hot water will allow the HME to flow easily when you need to add to the your boil.  Speaking of the boil, time to get a half gallon of water boiling then slowly add the alcohol booster packet until fully dissolved.  Remove from the heat and add your can of  HME.

* - Because Dad deserves the best, go for the Premium Mr. Beer kit. It contains everything needed to make two complete two gallon batches of beer. Yeah, baby! 

While the malt hops extract and alcohol booster cool, go back to your fermentation keg and pour out the sanitizing water.  Don't worry about rinsing the keg; it is non-toxic and designed to be a no rinse formula.  It won't affect the taste of your beer.

 Let the fermentation begin !
Topping off the keg
Pour the other 1.5 gallons of water into the keg.   Check the temp of your boil to see if it is below 95 F and then pour into the keg.  Perform these steps in order so as not to 'shock' the plastic of the keg.  The cooler standing water in the keg will help to absorb and lower the temperature.  You will want to pitch the yeast once the temp is below 85 F otherwise you may kill the yeast components.

Pitching the yeast
Let the little yeasties float on top for about 15 minutes and then swirl them vigorously with a spoon so they incorporate into the water.  This will ad some oxygen to the beer, (now becoming the wort).  It is the last time you will want to introduce any oxygen into the beer.  Now it is time to find a quiet dark cool place for your fermentation keg to sit for 10 to 14 days.

You might want to add a strip style aquarium thermometer to the side of the keg.  Be sure it is at the level of the liquid so you get a good reading.  In a day or so, it should read between 75 and 78 degrees.  This is an ideal temp to let the yeast start fermenting the sugars of the malt extract.

Shhh! Be vewy vewy quiet! We're making beer!  Sit back and be patient.  Ideally, let it ferment for two weeks.

Firkin Making The Beer!

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