Brewing Description -- Extract with Partial Grain

This web page provides a quick overview of the process I use to brew beer.  I do a full boil (meaning I start by boiling the full 5 gallons of water for my batch).  I add some grain during the heating of the water but I brew using malt extract rather than using a "full grain" process.  I think my beer turns out great.  The first batch I tried did not make use of a starter or wort chiller and I don't think the process was nearly as easy nor did the beer turn out as good.

starter.jpg (12344 bytes)Making a starter is important.   When you pitch a starter you have a lot of yeast that quickly goes to work.   This makes fermentation start very quickly and the "good yeast" that you are pitching wins the war to begin fermenting your wort minimizing the chance that any "bad yeast" or other organisms floating around the air will have a chance to start growing in your beer.

Here is how to make the starter:  Boil two quarts of water and add 1/2 pound of Dried Malt Extract (DME).  Stir this as you add the extract and keep stirring until you feel confident that this will not boil over.  If you leave uncovered the chances of boil over are much less.  A boil over will make a mess!   Add a few hops flowers.  A rounded teaspoon of hops is enough.  The hops help to prevent an infection and also make this small batch of wort have the same characteristics as the large batch you will brew in a few days.  Let this boil for ten minutes. The last couple minutes of the boil I turn the heat down and cover -- checking frequently to make sure this doesn't boil over.  That helps to sterilize the lid of the pot.  Then I remove from heat and  sit in a sink of cold water.  You need to let the wort cool to about 70 degrees.  Putting the pot in some cold water will speed this up.  Once cool put the wort in a dark 1 gallon container, such as the wine bottle pictured here.  Pitch the yeast (I like Wyeast liquid yeast) at a temperature of around 70 degrees.  Too hot will kill the yeast so be careful!   Install an air lock and let the yeast grow for a couple of days.

In the photo I have made two batches of starter for two different beers.  Each starter uses a different yeast so I have labels on the bottles.

burner.jpg (17742 bytes)A large pot and big burner are important.   You want to boil the full 5 gallons of water in your batch.  The pot needs to be large enough that the batch doesn't boil over.

Caution:  Don't even consider using a propane burner like this in your house!  You will spill a little bit of beer in the process and that would make a mess.  A boil over is a possibility if you aren't careful and that would make a big mess in your house.  The type of burner shown lets some small carbon flakes float away and you really don't want those in your house.  (I've heard that some types of burners aren't quite as prone to this.)  And most important -- the propane burner consumes oxygen.  I brew in my garage with the door slightly open.  Don't use this burner in an enclosed space.   It will be running for a couple hours and it absolutely must have a good source of oxygen -- and so must you.

grain1.jpg (13305 bytes)Put your grain in a mesh bag and tie the bag closed.  Use a somewhat thick cotton string to make it easy to cut the string and re-use the bag.  I actually dump the grain in the mesh bag with the bag held over the kettle of water.  Anything smaller than the mesh size on the bag I allow to fall into the kettle.  Put the mesh bag full of grain in the kettle when the water is cool, before you begin to heat the water.   Stir occasionally.

grain2.jpg (20396 bytes)The water will take on some color due to the grain.  Begin heating the water. I typically allow about 45 minutes for the water to reach 180 degrees at which time I will remove the grain.  Tip: Don't leave the spoon in the water as it heats.  It will get hot!  Stir now and then as the water heats.

heating.jpg (24513 bytes)I log times and temperatures on a piece of paper as the water heats, recording the temperature about every 10 minutes.  This gives me a good idea of when the water will reach the desired temperature for grain removal.

hops1.jpg (32119 bytes)While the wort heats use the time to measure out your hops.  The recipe I am making here requires 4 ounces of hops total.  Each bag shown in the photo holds 2 ounces.  One bag is added at the beginning of the boil  The other bag of hops is added during the boil, in 1/2 ounce increments. The bag at the left is still full.   The center bag has been divided into two approximately equal sized piles.  I will divide each pile again, ending up with 4 aluminum foil pouches each with 1/2 ounce of hops.  This makes it easy to add at the appropriate time during the boil.

grain3.jpg (15800 bytes)At 180 degrees the grain comes out. I let it drain, and then place the bag in a plastic bucket or bowl to cool.  The mesh bag shown can be re-used a number of times.   Just dump the cool grain out and rinse the bag.

boil1.jpg (18412 bytes)Continue heating until the wort comes to a boil.  Once I remove the grain I typically turn up the heat some to speed the process.

extract.jpg (19673 bytes)Now add the extract.  You really need a helper here.  Have one person stir with a long spoon while the other person slowly adds the extract.  You must avoid scorching the extract on the bottom of the pot -- if you don't stir continuously or if you pour too quickly you will burn some of the malt extract.  I get my malt extract in bulk in the plastic bucket seen in this photo. Caution: These buckets have plastic handles which can be removed by pulling straight down on the handle.  When the bucket is tipped upside down the handle can come out.  Be very careful to hold the bucket with both hands.  If you simply hold by the handle and tip the bottom up the handle could come off causing the bucket to fall into the near boiling liquid.  This has not happed to me due to caution.  Don't let it happen to you!  Once the malt extract is added the wort will stop boiling.  Stir frequently and let it return to a boil. Once it returns to a boil you need to keep stirring for a while to prevent a boil over.  You may wish to turn the heat down a bit.   Don't cover or it will surely boil over!  After a few minutes of boiling while you stir it should be safe to sit back and watch it boil for 5 minutes to make sure this is not going to boil over.

hops2.jpg (21248 bytes)Now add the first of your hops. This marks the start of your "boil time".   Most of my recipes use a 60 minute boil meaning that once I add the first of the hops I boil for an additional 60 minutes.  During this boil I will add the remaining hops.  The hops that are added near the beginning of the boil will have the maximum acid and bitterness extracted from them.  The hops added near the end of the boil will give more aroma and less bitterness.

hops3.jpg (18819 bytes)Stir the hops in and enjoy the aroma!  I use a small digital timer to time the intervals between each hops addition.  Before I start brewing I write down a list of the times that I need to boil between each addition of hops.  As I add the hops I set the timer to the time remaining before the next addition of hops and I cross out the time just consumed.  This gives me one less thing to calculate in the middle of my brewing and less chance for a mistake.

boil2.jpg (19425 bytes)Let the wort boil gently for the time called for by the recipe (typically 60 minutes for my brewing).  Add hops at the correct times.  You can cover partly if you turn down the heat but don't cover completely or the mix is likely to boil over.

chil1.jpg (15637 bytes)With 10  to 15 minutes of boil time left place the wort chiller in the wort.   This will momentarily stop the boil but it will start again.  Empty out what water you can, but be aware that there will still be some water left in the wort chiller.   Make sure that the two ends of the chiller extend over the edge of the pot as some of the water in the chiller is going to boil and will come out of the ends.

chil2.jpg (15930 bytes)With about 1 minute of boil time left connect the a hose to each end of the wort chiller.  Caution: The wort chiller will now be very hot!  You will need pot holders to connect the hose.  Don't connect the hose at the start as I suspect that the heat might melt the hose connection.   When the end of the boil time arrives simply turn off the heat and turn on the water.  I have two hoses that are used for nothing but brewing which keeps them clean and prevents getting too much dirt around my brewing area.

strain.jpg (20018 bytes)Now pour the wort into the fermenting bucket straining the hops as you do this.   The fermenting bucket should have been sanitized prior to this.

gravity.jpg (13654 bytes)Top off the fermenting bucket, but remember you will be adding another 1/2 gallon when you pitch the yeast starter.  Check the temperature and once down to about 70 degrees pitch the yeast starter.  Swish the starter to pick up all the yeast sediment.   I check the gravity and record the starting gravity.

ferment1.jpg (15882 bytes)If the receipt is for a beer with a high starting specific gravity, such as a porter, I suggest starting the fermentation with a "blow off" tube rather than a standard air lock.  This will allow a  vigorous fermentation to take place without popping the lid off the bucket.  Allow to ferment in a place with even temperatures around 70 degrees.  (Cooler for a lager as called for in your recipe).

ferment2.jpg (10466 bytes)If you started with a blow off tube you can switch to a standard air lock after a few days once the fermentation has slowed.  Wait until the bubbles through the air lock have stopped before you rack the mixture to a carboy.  This will take a week or two.   If you wait too long the spent yeast will impart flavors to the beer that you don't want.

airlock.jpg (3088 bytes)Temperature changes in the room may cause a bubble every now and then but a rate of 1 bubble per minute means the fermentation is still underway.

carboy.jpg (7311 bytes)When fermentation has completed or at least slowed to no more than one bubble every two minutes rack the beer to a glass carboy.  Sanitize the carboy and siphon tube.   Note the label on the carboy handle.  The label helps you remember what you have brewed, and the carboy handle helps prevent dropping a carboy.  Both are a good idea!  Important:  Protect the carboy from light.  You want to keep the beer around room temperature for a couple weeks, perhaps a bit longer for a heavy stout or porter.  During this time protect it from light as the light can "skunk" the beer, giving it an unpleasant taste.

I keg my beer, meaning that I transfer from the carboy to a 5 gallon "soda" keg and carbonate with a CO2 tank.  If I want to bottle I use a counterpressure bottler so I don't ferment in the bottles.  This means less yeast in the bottle and a nicer beer I think. To bottle you would rack to a bucket, add the necessary sugar, and the bottle.  When you "rack" the beer from one container to another siphon carefully using sanitized equipment and don't introduce any more air than necessary.