How to Brew Beer

Home brewing beer has been said to be part science and part art. There is a precise and calculated aspect to the process but at the same time the “rules” and any possible confines can be hazy, presenting grounds for personal interpretation and the creation of a truly unique beer. Sounds like it could be difficult, right? Well, it’s not.

Brewing beer really comes down to a simple process that has roots as far back as 12,000 years. You essentially heat water and grain (and/or extract from grain), boil the mixture with hops, cool the mixture, ferment the mixture using yeast and then carbonate. Easy enough, right? Well, now we’ll go into a little bit more depth within each step.

The Main Steps of Homebrewing:

  1. Cleaning and Sanitizing
  2. The Brew
  3. After the Brew
  4. Fermentation
  5. Bottling and Kegging

[Read more...]

How to Use a Hydrometer in 4 Easy Steps

Hydrometer

What is a Hydrometer?

A hydrometer is a basic tool that is used to measure the ratio of a sample liquid’s density to the density of water. In home brewing, it is a necessary tool that will show you the degree to which the yeast is converting sugar into ethanol, ultimately helping you gauge the health and success of your beer’s fermentation.

Why do I need a Hydrometer to make beer?

Homebrewing isn’t a cakewalk. There is a lot of time and effort that goes into it and there are many opportunities for things to go wrong. Perhaps the most important (and delicate) stage within beer making is fermentation. That is exactly why a hydrometer is so important, as it is the device that will tell you how the fermentation process is going. A hydrometer can be the single tool that alerts you of issues during fermentation, allowing you to make adjustments as needed.
[Read more...]

From Smeg-to-Keg: How to Convert a Smeg Refrigerator into a Kegerator

Converting an old refrigerator into kegerator isn’t a new concept. But generally, when people undergo this DIY project, they choose an old and ugly fridge that has decommissioned for the dump. But, that’s not our style. And it may not be yours either. This is why we chose to convert a Smeg refrigerator into a kegerator… or as I like to call it, a “Smegerator”.

Before we get started, here’s a quick video reviewing the process. I also wrote out detailed, step-by-step instructions below.

This is how we did it.

Please note: These step-by-step instructions will loosely work with that old, ugly refrigerator you bought off of Craigslist or have sitting around in your garage.

But for this specific DIY project, however, we will be specifically referring to the Smeg refrigerator featured in this article.

The only difference that may pose a problem for you is the amount of insulation that your refrigerator has. And yes, that did cause a minor, and unexpected, headache for us.

Additionally, when you buy a refrigerator-to-kegerator conversion kit, similar instructions will be included.

Gathering Your Tools & Components

The first thing you need to do is buy a Smeg refrigerator, as well as collect all the components you need. You can go about this a couple of ways. Either order all of the pieces separately, or order our “Smegerator conversion kit.” I’d recommend the conversion kit, as everything you need is right there and you won’t have any surprises in store for you (like we did… but more on that later).
[Read more...]

How to Upgrade Your Blowoff System

The three-piece airlock features a very simple yet ingenious design. It was created as a one-way airflow system that allows CO2 to exit the fermentation vessel without allowing outside air to enter. It’s always done a more-than-satisfactory job at what it was designed to do but things have changed. You’re brewing more seriously now and the three-piece airlock is no longer suited for your needs.

Three Piece Airlock with a Floating Bubbler

Like many, you found this out the hard way. It all started when you realized the importance of yeast health and made the move to yeast starters. You did everything right, except what you weren’t prepared for was an extremely aggressive fermentation.

In fact, this was the most active fermentation you had ever witnessed. It wasn’t just CO2 gradually finding its way out of the fermenter. No, this was something different where the cradle within the airlock looked like it was about to explode.

Before you knew it kraeusen started to flow up into the airlock and because you didn’t want to risk contamination of your batch by removing the airlock you were left to sit back and watch it all unfold. The headspace within the fermenter simply did not provide enough room for the mass amount of kraeusen that was forming.

As the kraeusen worked its way out over the next day or so you noticed that it had not only completely filled the airlock but had also run out through the holes of the cap out onto the fermenter lid and even onto the floor. Then, you were left with a huge sticky mess that was rather difficult to clean up.

So, you reconsider your use of yeast starters altogether knowing that it may end up like this every time. Well, don’t do that because going back to life without a yeast starter is just plain silly. Instead, there’s a much better solution that happens to be very simple — changing your blowoff system.
[Read more...]

Hops & Homebrew: How to Use Them When Brewing

Hops add bitterness, flavor and aroma to your beer while acting as a natural preservative. They come in a wide variety of types that originate from regions all over the world. Some are used predominantly for bittering while others are prized for the flavors and aromas that they impart. Regardless of which type is used to make a particular beer, it wouldn’t be beer without the hops.

Hops

All styles of beer contain hops, however the type of hop and the amount used is a big part of what makes that beer. Additionally, the way in which the hops are used in the process of making the beer can vary widely and play an equally important role as the type and amount used.

The Chemistry of Hops

The hop plant contains three main components: alpha acids, beta acids and essential oils.

Alpha acids are important to the bittering capabilities that hops can have while beta acids and essential oils are integral in adding flavor to a beer. The essential oils can also play a big part in contributing to the aroma.
[Read more...]

How to Force Carbonate Your Beer

You’ve got your homebrew in the keg but there’s just one more step before you can pull the tap handle—carbonation. Though, unlike carbonating beer in bottles, you can carbonate beer that’s in a keg at a much faster rate. Instead of feeding the leftover yeast additional sugars to naturally create CO2 within the bottle, you can directly infuse CO2 into the beer from a gas cylinder. This is referred to as force carbonation or the act of “force-carbing”, and is an overall faster process than bottle carbonation with less room for error.

What You Will Need:
1. Gas cylinder filled with CO2
2. Gas regulator
3. Proper keg post liquid & gas line fittings
4. Unpressurized, homebrew-filled keg
5. Kegerator

There are two main methods for force carbonating a homebrew keg, both of which are very similar with the main difference being the amount of time it takes to carbonate. With both methods, we’ll assume that you are using a standard homebrewing-type Cornelius keg that is fitted with ball lock-style liquid and gas posts. This type of keg is by far the most common and recommended serving vessel for homebrewers when it comes to kegging their own beer.

Preparation

First, you must install a ball lock conversion kit to your existing kegerator lines. This is a simple procedure that allows you to connect the liquid and gas lines to your kegerators existing lines without sacrificing the ability to connect to standard ball bearing style kegs. Once you have installed the ball lock conversion kit, you’ll need to prepare the gas line for attachment to the keg.
[Read more...]

Wort Aeration & Oxygenation

In beermaking it is critical that you limit the beer’s exposure to oxygen. Oxygen can react with compounds in the beer to degrade the overall quality of the brew but perhaps most noticeably it can create undesirable flavors. However, exposing wort to oxygen is a whole different story. In fact, prior to pitching the yeast, you’ll actually want to make sure that there’s a certain amount of oxygen in the wort. Having oxygen in the wort will make for healthier yeast, better attenuation and an overall more complete fermentation.

It is important to note that you’ll only want to introduce oxygen to wort that has been properly cooled. Bringing oxygen into the mix with wort that is hot or warm will inhibit bacterial growth ultimately increasing the likelihood of infecting your beer. You should always make sure that you are cooling the wort to pitching temperature immediately after the boil is complete and before aeration.

There are a number of ways to introduce oxygen to wort but they all fall under two main approaches: aeration and oxygenation. Aeration is the process of adding air to the mix while oxygenation is the process of infusing pure oxygen.

The difference here is that air is only about 20% oxygen. Because of the difference in composition, using pure oxygen will be the quicker approach though aeration can get the job done just as effectively.
[Read more...]

How to Grow Your Own Hops

Growing Hops Right At Home Is Easier than You Think

Home brewing is becoming increasingly popular as more and more beer lovers discover just how easy it can be to a cook up a batch of your very own creation. An integral part of the home brewing process are hops, which infuse beer with its signature flavor. While some home brewers choose to purchase hops for the brewing process, many are choosing to grow hops on there own.

What Are Hops?

Hops are the female flowers of the plant known as humulus lupulus. Hops are used as a means of flavoring beer, as well playing a role in preserving the beverage. Hops offset the sweetness of malt to create a complex flavor profile that beer lovers crave. Depending on how much and what type of hops are used will determine how bitter a beer may be.

Hops were used as a method of flavoring beer as far back as the 11th century. Before then, many brewers imparted flavor to their beer by use of a variety of herbs and flowers. The resulting brews contained far less alcohol content, and were also more susceptible to spoilage. Today, hops are an integral part of the brewing process, with many growers taking a scientific approach to this age’s old traditional preparation.
[Read more...]

Why Healthy Yeast Makes for a Happy Homebrewer

While dogs are widely known as man’s best friend, brewer’s yeast should be just as widely known as the brewer’s best friend. What appears to be nothing more then a mere single-celled organism is in fact alive and fully capable of magic that’d make David Copperfield’s jaw drop. While pulling a rabbit out of a hat may impress the kiddos, yeast can perform a feat that serves a bigger purpose; turning sugar water into delicious beer through the wondrous process of fermentation!

Maintaining Yeast Health

While yeast is capable of such an impressive act, like any performer it puts on the best show when it’s healthy. Regardless of whether you’re using dry or liquid yeast, it’s important to ensure that your yeast is in its best possible condition to properly convert the sugars into alcohol during fermentation.
[Read more...]

Drying Made Easy: The FastRack and Carboy Dryer

When it comes to choosing a storage vessel for your homebrew, bottles are probably the most obvious option for homebrewers both new and old. Bottling homebrew is a great choice for those starting out because bottles are easily accessible and can be reused time and time again. They’re also great for their versatility in being able to store smaller individual servings in many settings and for ease of transportation.

Homebrew Bottles

Seasoned homebrewers also like using bottles for bottle conditioning which allows the beer to further mature and develop over time in a safe and secure package that can be easily stored for long periods of time. Regardless of why you may choose to use bottles to store your brew, one thing homebrewers can agree on is that a big disadvantage of bottles is the inconvenience they present when it comes to cleaning and drying them.

While most all-inclusive brewing kits come with a bottle brush and sanitizer to clean bottles they almost never include a tool for drying and storing them. To remedy this, many use dish racks, some even roll up paper towels and insert them into the bottle, and others may simply balance them upside down on a cloth or paper towel. However, these are all bad ideas for one reason or another, with the biggest issue being that some part of the bottle is coming in contact with another surface that is most likely unsanitary.
[Read more...]