The Simple How-To of Homebrewing

50 bottle array

Basic Introduction

The art of brewing beer involves many studies including microbiology, physiology, and chemistry. The more you know the better brewer you can be. Fortunately, getting started doesn’t require in depth knowledge, and you can produce good beer with just the basic equiptment and understanding. Of course, the more that you learn about the various related studies, the better that you be able to refine your brewing process to produce remarkable beer.

I will provide an overview of the brewing process. To get in depth detail, I highly recommend that you purchase one of the books or visit one of the websites listed on the suggested reading page.
The business of beer

First off, it is important to note that brewing beer is a natural process that operates much like a business. Businesses succeed by taking raw resources and converting them through labor into somethingdesireable. In this analogy, yeast are the workers, the real brewers, and we has homebrewers act as labor management. To be effecive yeast managers, we must understand our labor force. And as managers, it is our responsibility to provide the resources, set the timetable, and provide a suitable working enviroment for our worker yeast to perform.

The labor force

To be effecive yeast managers, we must understand our labor force. Yeast come in many varieties and are found wild throughout nature. Wild yeasts are very regional; the yeast strains in one area will produce different flavors of beer than yeast in another region. Wild yeast can be unpredicable and if they get involved in your beer making process, they can produce some very off flavors. Due to this fact, brewers prefer to use yeast that have been cultured over many generations to produce predicable, consisant flavors. All styles of beer, with the expection of lambic beers made in Belgium, use one or more of these cultured yeast strains.

Yeast strains used by brewers fall into two main categories, top fermenting and bottom fermenting yeast. Each category of yeast produces a distinct flavor profile; members of the category produce sudtle variations of the main flavor. The two categories of yeast are so distinct that the two main categories of beer, lagers and ales, are defined based on which category of yeast they use. That is, for a beer to be called an Ale, it almost exclusively uses top fermenting yeast, and lagers almost exclusely use bottom-fermenting yeasts. (I say “almost exclusely” because I am sure that their are exceptions that I haven’t heard of; hate to be caught )

Ale yeast (top fermenting) prefer to operate at room temperature. Lager yeast (bottom-fermenting) do their best work at cold temperatures.
To produce beer, we need a sufficient labor force, and to ensure that we have enough yeast for the job, we need to understand yeast metaboloism and the life cycle of yeast.

Yeast varities used to make beer can survive with and without the presence of oxygen. In the presence of oxygen, metabolize sugars through resperation. Without oxygen, yeast metabolize sugar through fermentation (and produce alcohol as a byproduct). It is far easier for yeast to mebabolize sugars with oxygen, and, as a result, they can reproduce very rapidly in this enviroment. When the available oxygen has been used, the yeast will still reproduce, but at a far diminished rate.

To rapidy develop a yeast culture, you need to heavily aerate the wort. This will provide an ample oxygen supply that will allow yeast to reproduce at an astonishing pace. When I aerate the wort, I place my primary fermenter on the floor and top off the wort to 5 gals by pouring water into the bucket at about 3 to 4 feet. If you are using a glass carboy as your primary fermenter, you can sit down and bounce the the carboy in your lap. This can be dangerous especially if you got your carboy wet when topping it off; be SURE THAT YOU HAVE A GOOD GRIP ON YOUR CARBOY.

Haste makes waste.. and a mess.
Yeast are glutons; they will eat like pigs when sitting at a full table and are as clean as a one-year old. You have to exect a lot of food on the floor, on the wall, and, well, everywhere. After the pitching the yeast and while there is still a substancial oxgen and sugar supply, the yeast reproduce like mad. During this time, the yeast go after all of the sugars and compounds that are easy to metabolize; they pass over a lot of complex sugars and other byproducts that generated during this tumultous time. When when they have eatten everything on the table, the simple sugars and the like, it is not beneath yeast to eat what is leftover on the floor. When the food supply starts to diminish, the yeast will turn their attention to all of those byproducts, and, in a sence, clean up after themselves. The yeast will continue to clean up well after the beer has been bottled. When you let your beer age or mature, this is what is changing the flavor of the beer.

Happy workers are productive workers

Like in the real world, workers are better producers when they are happy. It is your job to ensure that your yeast are as happy as possible
The stages of the brewing process

  • Extracting the sugars
  • Boiling the wort
  • Fermentation
  • Bottling

All-Grain brewing

All-Grain brewing begins with stage 1.

Extract Brewing

Extract brewing begins with step 2, boiling the wort

Basic Equipment

  • Primary Fermenter
  • Secondary Fermenter
  • Bottling Bucket
  • 6-ft food-grade syphoning tube
  • 9-in screen strainer
  • 50 12-ounch pry-off top bottles, NO TWIST-OFFS
  • Hydrometer (optional )

1 Comment

  1. drezoi said,

    September 25, 2006 at 5:31 am

    I have a Make your own beer kit in my home is from Lakeview Valley Farm. After reading this i’m thinking in using it.

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