The "Jersey" Girls From Deerfield Farms

The "Jersey" Girls From Deerfield Farms
Snookie is in the background!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My First All-Grain Homebrew

Did you ever have something that you wanted to do for a long time but you kept putting it off. Then once you did finally do it, you were happy you did it, and wondered why you waited so long! Maybe you had a real reason or maybe were just simply too lazy to get started? What ever it was figure it out because its stopping you from getting things done!! Well I postponed making homebrew for quite some time for various reasons. I thought it might be too complicated to figure, I didn't have the proper equipment and I didn't know anyone who was making any all-grain beers already. So I decided to "get 'er done"!
Once I did the research on all the equipment I needed I knew it could take a lot of money to get all I needed to brew. I looked high and low for discounted items as well as put a few "wanted" ads on Craiglist to piece it all together. At the end of the day I still had to pay a fair amount of money just to get my first batch of beer. I did wonder if was worth all this time and effort since I don't drink beer everyday. But, I did the math on all things considered and figured if I make enough beer to supply myself, to drink on special occasions and bring to friends as gifts (if it's good) then the equipment will pay for itself and I'll be ahead financially.
So, with regards to anyone reading, I am just beginning this process of brewing without much help besides some hobby forums on the Internet and a recipe or two, so I won't be providing much advice on how to do it best, just an explanation of how I did it. Also the pictures I've taken will provide a visual guide to some of the steps involved.
Making beer involves four ingredients: barley, hops, yeast and water and that's it. The majority of home-brewers make beer from what's called a malt extract, which is a heavy syrup (of fermentable sugars) made from (malted)barley. It's made by extracting the fermentable sugars from the barley, in solution, and then reducing them to a thick syrup. With homebrewing an all-grain batch of beer you must do that step yourself (except you're not reducing it to a syrup). There is a tricky point to dealing with the barley, though. The majority of the starches in the barley have to be converted to fermentable sugars. The natural enzymes in the barley are capable of doing that, but you have to know what to do to make it happen. To explain it simply, you steep your cracked barley(grains)in 152F water until the enzymes work and convert the remaining starches into sugars. There is a test to see if this happens. Iodine purchased at the pharmacy is an indicator of the presence of starch. It is used by sampling a little of your mash (barley and water mixture) and mixing a few drop into it. If the iodine turns purple then further conversion needs to happen. Which is simply more time at the 152F. Keep testing your mash and once the iodine doesn't react with the starches then they have all converted to fermentable sugars. Next, you strain you liquid off of your barley, which could be a little tricky as well. You have a mixture a barley and water that looks a lots like oatmeal. It's very thick and dense with grains. You have to do what's called sparging, which is a fancy word for washing all the good sugary liquid off of the barley. It's kind of like squeezing your tea bag out to get all of the tea flavor out, except we don't have a bag, so we have to wash them over with hot water until all the flavor (sugar) is out. As you are draining off the liquid from the bottom of the grains, you are pouring the hot water over top and pushing all of the heavier liquid to the bottom. When the liquid is too diluted to be effective you are done. At this point the rest of the work is quite easy. You have to boil the liquid to reduce it a bit closer to the size of the batch of beer and to concentrate the sugars more. Once you have your wort (barley liquid) to the proper amount then you add your hops. They are added in at two different times. Bittering hops are added in the beginning and the aroma hops are added at the end. After the hops are cooked to the correct time intervals then you need to cool your wort down to the correct temperature to add your yeast. I used my bath tub filled with cold water. Cool the wort down to about 80F and then aerate it (by whisking or simply pour it high into your fermentor) and add the yeast. Pour your wort into your fermentor, which is typically a glass carboy with a tight neck) and cap it off with an airlock. This will keep air out while letting out the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast. I really am over simplifying things a bit right now because I don't have too much explanations to offer. : Here is one of the most informative websites I've seen about homebrewing yet. If you are interested to know a lot more of the science then check it out.
I am currently waiting for this batch of beer to turn out. After it's ready I'll report back to let you know what it turned out like. I hope it's good but I know as my first one it may very well turn out terrible with off flavors. But, again, the learning is the fun part and without that it's just not really worth doing so much work.

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