Home Brewing Beer: A Pictorial Overview

Recently, I blogged a guide to get started in making wine at home, with entries on the equipment you need to make your own wine, as well as the process of brewing wine at home.

Well, aside from making our own wine at home, my husband is an avid home beer brewer! We’ll be posting some of his recipes, but first… we tackle the basics! Beer making has a lot in common with homemade wine – including a lot of the same equipment and ideas – but also requires some different ingredients, techniques, and handling.

Beer brewing itself is a fairly simple process. While complexity of equipment and process can vary wildly between small home brewers to large commercial breweries, the concepts remain fairly similar across the spectrum. Here’s our quick guide to what goes on with making beer, as it first appeared in issue #10 of Drink Me Magazine:

1. Grains are covered completely with 147-153F water, and allowed to steep for 1hour. During this hour the enzymes that are present in the grain will break down the starches into simple sugars. Taste it! It will be sweet!
2. Once grains have completed steeping, the wort is strained off into the boiling pot, leaving the grains behind. Additional rinsing of the grains provides additional liquid to the boil, as well as increasing the yield of starch from the grain. This results in an optimal amount of sugars in the wort.
3. The wort is brought to a boil, commonly for around 1 hour. Hops are added at various increments, to make use of its various properties. Hops boiled for a long time – such as one hour – add bitterness to the beer, while hops brewed for a shorter time add more flavor and aroma. Most formulas plan for two or three hop additions to balance the bitterness, flavor, and aroma.

Once the boiling step is completed, the wort must be cooled to under 90 degrees. This must happen quickly, to prevent contamination. It is also believed that a quick cool results in a clearer finished beer. At this point, it is critical that no un-sanitized equipment comes in contact with the wort. Contamination can lead to undesirable flavors, and potentially ruining the batch of beer.

Once the beer has been cooled to under 90 degrees, it is transferred to a sanitized fermentation bucket. The wort is aerated, introducing oxygen and nitrogen to aid in the fermentation process.

Yeast is introduced to the wort, either in liquid or powder form. The yeast soon begins to consume the sugars in the wort, leaving behind alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts. The excess CO2 is expelled through an airlock fitted to the fermentation bucket lid.

The fermentation bucket is stored according to desired style of beer. Ale yeast is used to ferment a wort at room temperature, while lager yeast is used to ferment at cooler temperature.The yeast will settle out over several weeks, leaving behind a clear beer.

A small amount of priming sugar is added to the finished beer immediately prior to bottling to provide carbonation. The small amount of yeast that is left suspended in the clear beer will ferment the newly added sugar, producing carbon dioxide. The c02 is trapped in the sealed bottle, pressurizing and creating carbonization. Alternatively, the beer can be kegged and force carbonated with bottled carbon dioxide.

Glossary:

Boiling Pot: A large pot in which the wort is boiled. This sterilizes the liquid, and allows for the utilization of hops’ various properties.

Fermenting Bucket: A large vessel in which the wort is combined with yeast and allowed to ferment for several weeks.

Air Lock: A valve attached to fermenting bucket to allow the release of carbon dioxide – a by product of fermentation. Too much CO2 will not only impede the fermentation process, it could cause the lid to blow off. This could allow contamination to occur.

Mash: Grains in steeping in hot water to convert starches to sugars.

Mash Tun: Insulated container that holds the mash while it steeps.

Hops: Vine-grown seed cones which are dried and used for bittering, aroma, and flavor

Wort: The starchy “grain juice”, which is then fermented into beer.

Priming Sugar: Corn sugar, table sugar, or additional malt sugars added at the end of fermentation, to provide carbonation.

Fan of hops? You’ll LOVE my latest cookbook, Hedonistic Hops!

Hops are prized for their ability to impart varied, complex flavours to beer… but did you know they can also be used culinarily? While hops may seem like a bizarre or exotic item to cook with, it’s the same as using other herbs and spices in your kitchen… you just have to know what to do with them. Appetizers, main dishes, beverages.. even desserts can be uplifted with hops!

Even those who are not fans of beer will love the unique flavours that various types of hops can bring to their plate. Floral, earthy, peppery, citrusy… Cooking with hops is a great way to expand your seasoning arsenal!

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