Home Brewing, 10 Steps To Perfect Brews Part I
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As with any home project, preparation is half the key to success in homebrewing. The equipment.
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As with any DIY or home project, preparation is half the key to success in homebrewing. Everything should be clean and well organized so you can carry out the steps with confidence in the final result.
But what is "everything"?
Most of us wouldn't think water could vary too much, but, you may be surprised to learn that water well be the most varied chemical substance on earth. Of course, at its base, water is really nothing but H2O, but the elements to be dissolved in it for home brewing beer make a huge difference to the final product. Twenty-two to thirty liters (six-eight gallons) of clear spring water is a good start, but you'll need to experiment to make beer at home the way you want it.
It's quite surprising that this basic, unimpressive material gets transformed into beer. Usually it's going to be some kind of barley grain. It's easily purchased online, or, perhaps, from a local store in larger cities and towns.
Yeast is a live organism which is used to turn the sugars into carbon dioxide (the bubbles) and alcohol. Thank them for their fine efforts on your home brewing behalf.
This somewhat specialized container is used to store unfermented liquid (wort) to be boiled. Often a five-gallon glass carboy (like a large water bottle) is used. Hops and other ingredients can be added through the spout at the top.
This is a container with a lid, which is used to hold the cooled wort. Yeast will be added to help complete the fermenting process. Two fermenters may be required if a secondary fermentation step is part of the recipe.
You will need to siphon the fermented beer into a container for this purpose before bottling. Like all other home brewing equipment, it's essential that this always be completely clean.
You'll obviously need some clean beer bottles to store the final home brewing product (assuming you and your friends don't drink five gallons of beer right out of the tank). Dark brown bottles are going to be the best. They keep your homemade beer from being spoiled by light during storage.
There is a special spring-loaded device used to fill the bottle when the end is pressed. This is available, as is all the other equipment, from any of dozens of home brewing kit sales sites online.
This piece of home brewing equipment is optional, but extremely helpful, when it comes to putting caps onto your fresh bottles of beers. Corks or screw tops are alternatives, but each has its own drawbacks. Cork can splinter or allow mold to take hold in your beer. Screw tops need to be seated properly in order to ensure a tight seal to avoid oxygen spoilage and require a lot of hand work.
Miscellaneous Home Brewing Equipment:
You will find a thermometer essential to check the temperature at various stages.
A hydrometer is helpful, to measure something called "specific gravity". Specific Gravity is a measure of the density of a material relative to water. This is not a critical piece of brewing equipment, but extremely helpful.
You will also want to have various siphon tubes, made of copper and/or glass and/or hard plastic.
Also, a simple kitchen timer with a loud bell or buzzer will be important, so you don't forget time critical moments and actions.
Sometimes the copper tubing will need to be formed into a wort chiller. This is done by making a spiral around the tank, with cold water flowing through it to draw heat away from the boiled wort. Note that this is helpful, but not essential. This will be determined by the home brewing recipe you're using.
Of course, you'll need some sort of method for boiling and cooling. While you may need to come up with a sort of "chiller" as mentioned earlier, simple air movement will often take care of the cooling need. Heating can done with a dozen different methods, usually some kind of propane flame, Bunsen burner, or electric heating coil.
Like anything having to do with preparation of food or drink, beer brewing equipment should be cleaned, and many experts even go so far as to recommend sterilization with a dilute bleach followed by rinsing in boiling water. At least part of the brewing environment should be able to be kept cool, below 13º C (55º F) for part of the time.
Be prepared to spend a few hours on two different days, with activity off and on. It is often beneficial if there are two people to help and carry out the various steps.
We discuss that in Brewing Part II.
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