Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Beer-Making, Part 1: Boiling, Brewing, and Boxers

James has brewed his own beer several times before. He has all of the equipment and only had to purchase the actual ingredients, which he did weeks and weeks ago at Austin Homebrew Supply.

Gotta give a shout-out to Austin Homebrew, by the way. We got our mozzarella cheese-making stuff there, and have recently purchased a kit to make hard cheese. Their staff is so helpful, and they love what they do, and they'll talk to you and help you decide what to do, then they'll make sure you have everything that you need. I'm definitely a fan!

Anyway, Sunday afternoon, "we" (this is mostly James, with my taking pictures and sometimes using a spare hand to hold something or to stir) started the process: cleaning and sterilizing equipment, and activating the brewer's yeast.

Some notes: 1) James had a spill on his bike Saturday afternoon, so that's what that's about. 2) The cool-down process languished into the wee hours of Tuesday morning, and clothes gradually came off as apparent bedtime approached. You know how it is. 3) Since James has done this before and had all of the equipment, the actual ingredients were fairly inexpensive. Less than $30 for 5 gallons of beer, including the water. 4) What you've heard is true: I don't particularly like beer (and that's being super generous). But I LOVE hanging out with my husband, I love making things in the kitchen, and I love science. So beer-brewing appeals to me. I've made German chocolate cakes for friends, too, and I'm not a huge fan of that, either. Can't we all just get along?

Yes. The man *will* clean stuff (that he finds important to clean).

He'll even use a flower-backed scrubber!

To activate the yeast, you have to smack the packet to open the nutrient pack inside.

To the left is what the yeast packet looked like immediately after we hit it.

Below is what it looked like 24 hours later.

Now I'm just going to follow this process with pictures, for the most part. If you need detailed instructions, you can find them here. Also, you can find recipe kits like the one we used here.

I'd say the yeast is good!

Thorough review of the instructions.

Barley, malt, and... one other thing; liquid malt extract (sugar), yeast, honey (sugar), and Galena (hops).

First, we needed 2 gallons of clean, filtered water.
In the water, you boil the grain the same way you'd brew tea. We realized, setting this up, that James hadn't gotten a grain bag (think tea bag, but bigger). So...

He ironically used a Halloween promotional Budweiser beer T-shirt!

After about half an hour of steeping, you pull out the grain bag and let it drip dry. No squeezing!

The beginnings of beer. It smells deceptively (according to me) good. Some might call it an accurate preview, but I felt about this smell the same way I feel about coffee. Glad it's filling up our house with the smell, but that's it.

After the initial brew, James added 5 pounds of liquid malt.

And a pound of honey.

Little known fact: Beer contains rabbit food. Okay, that's a joke. These are hops. They smell delightfully earthy and add a bitterness to beer. People seem to like that.

He added 1/4 of an ounce immediately after returning to the post-sugar boil, and then added another 1/4 of an ounce after 55 minutes, cooking only for 5 minutes after that.

The greenish yellow bits are the bottom of the picture are the disintegrating hops.

Here's where the laboratory science comes in!
You are supposed to lower the temperature of the beer as quickly as possible to 80 degrees. This coil drops into the brew, and you run cool water through the coil for... well, until you die, if our experience is any indication.

Cold water comes from the tap, then circles around in the copper coiling in the brew.

Extremely hot water comes out the other end.

147 degrees

117 degrees
The cool-down from boiling to 90 degrees took the better part of half an hour. An hour after THAT, the mixture was still hovering around 85. The ambient temperature in the house is 80, and we were getting nowhere fast. The water coming out of the end of the coils was cool, and we'd even dumped the contents of our ice-maker into the sink.

Eventually, we decided to dump the brew from one vat into another, and back and forth until it cooled off. This also served the dual purpose of aerating it, putting a nice foamy head on the stuff.

By this time, it was well after midnight and some of us were getting sleepy! But there was a light at the end of the tunnel!
Now, we fill up the 5 gallon container. In Daphne's room, since she's gone and it's the darkest/coolest room in the house.

Topping it off with water.

Adding the yeast. Check out that foaming action!
James checking the specific gravity of the mixture, and realizing that he needs glasses because when it's dark and the print is small, we have some issues.
So, that's it for a week or so. We're leaving the mixture to ferment in Daphne's room. This morning, when I got up and went to check on it, I found that Carol had deemed herself the guardian of the beer. We can all rest assured. Check back for Part 2 late next week, when we move the mixture to another fermenter!

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