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 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"?
You wouldn't think water could vary so much, but this may well be the most
varied chemical substance on earth. Of course, water is nothing but
H2O, but the elements dissolved in it make a huge difference to the
final product. 22-30 liters (six-eight gallons) of spring water is a
good start, but you'll want to experiment.
This is the basic material that gets transformed into beer. Usually it's
some kind of barley grain. It can be obtained online or from a local store in larger towns and cities.
These live organisms turn the sugars into carbon dioxide (the bubbles) and alcohol. Thank them for their fine efforts.
This container will store unfermented liquid (wort) to be boiled. Often a five-gallon glass carboy
(like a large water bottle) is used.
Hops and other ingredients are added through the spout at the top.
A container with a lid, it will be used to hold the cooled wort. Yeast
will be added to carry-out the fermenting process. Two are required if
secondary fermentation is part of the recipe.
You'll siphon the fermented beer into a container before bottling. Like
all the equipment, it's essential that this be completely clean.
You'll need clean beer bottles for storing the final product (assuming
you and your friends don't drink five gallons of beer right out of the
tank). Dark brown bottles are best, to keep beer from being spoiled by
light during storage.
A spring-loaded device used to fill the bottle when the end is pressed.
Available, as is the other equipment, from any of dozens of homebrew
kit sales sites online.
Optional, but helpful, to put caps onto the bottles. Corks or screwtops
are alternatives, but each has drawbacks. Cork can splinter or
introduce mold into the brew. Screwtops need to be seated properly in
order to ensure a tight seal to avoid oxygen spoilage.
A thermometer is essential to check the temperature at various stages.
A hydrometer is helpful, to measure something called "specific
gravity". SG is a measure of the density of some material relative to
water. Not critical but extremely helpful. Various siphon tubes, copper
and/or glass and/or hard plastic. A timer with a loud bell or buzzer,
so you don't forget those time critical moments.
Sometimes the copper
tubing is formed into a wort chiller. Formed in a spiral around the
tank, cold water flows through to draw heat away from the boiled wort.
Helpful, not essential for many recipes.
You'll need a method for boiling and cooling. Air will often take care
of the cooling need. Heating can be carried out by a dozen different
methods, usually some kind of Bunsen burners or electric heating coils.
Beer brewing equipment should be
cleaned, and many recommend sterilization with a dilute bleach followed
by rinsing in boiling water. At least part of the environment should be
able to be kept cool, below 13ºC (55ºF) 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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