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Want to start brewing but don’t know where to begin? We’ve put together a simple but detailed list of step-by-step instructions on how to get started. You can’t miss!
Brewers have a unique set of terms they use when talking about every phase of the brewing process. This informative list will quickly help you understand the terminology used while brewing. Highly recommended for all levels of brewers.
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A Word About Yeast
What is Yeast?
Yeast are very small, single cell organisms. Yeast are everywhere, on plants, in soil, and in the home. One species of yeast, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, has been “domesticated” over the centuries to produce good beer. Now there are hundreds of different strains of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae available to make beer.
What Makes Liquid Brewers Yeast Different?
Liquid yeast has many advantages over dried yeast. The variety of liquid strains is much greater, but most important is the flavor profile. Most brewers would agree that beer made with liquid yeast is superior in flavor, and consistently wins medals over dried yeast in national competitions. Most liquid yeast on the market is supplied in small quantities. To make homebrewing easier, White Labs produces vials of liquid yeast that are ready to pitch into 5 gallons of beer. Each container’s cell-count corresponds to a pint size starter, which saves the brewer 2-3 days and $1.50-3.00 in material cost. If more than a pint starter is desired for pitching (for beers over 1.070 Original Gravity, cold fermented lagers, or homebrewers wanting a faster fermentation), a 1-2 liter starter can be made in just one day.
How is Yeast Used?
Once wort is transferred into the fermentor, shake the fermentor vigorously to get plenty of oxygen into solution. This will help fermentation, and is the only time oxygen should be introduced into the brewing process. Brewers call adding the yeast “pitching”. Before pitching, make sure the wort temperature is between 62-72 degrees F. Too cold and the yeast will take too long to begin fermentation, too hot and the yeast can be killed. Allow the yeast to get to room temperature to prevent a temperature shock. Shake the vial to dislodge all the yeast, open cap and pitch! Shake fermentor well to mix up and aerate.
What Should the Fermentation Profile Look Like?
Normal fermentation will begin 5-15 hours after pitching the yeast. During this “lag phase”, yeast become acclimated to their environment and uptake sugars and oxygen they will need for the fermentation. The first sign of fermentation activity will be a raised airlock. This signals CO2 production. A fine layer of foam will then form on top of the liquid. Within a few hours the head will get rocky and the airlock will quickly expel CO2. Fermentation will usually be complete in 5-20 days. If there is not enough room for foam, the foam may get into the airlock and then blow the airlock off the container! So be careful and allow plenty of headspace, or use a blowoff tube for the first 3 days. The airlock will bubble very slowly, and the yeast will begin to drop to the bottom of the fermentor. Check the gravity, if fermentation is complete and yeast is still on top of the beer, either cool the fermentor to force the yeast down or transfer the beer into a different container. Now the beer is ready to keg or bottle!
Source: White Labs Website
HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR PITCH RATE
In order to get the most out of your fermentation, it is important to pitch the correct amount of healthy yeast. Not too little, and not too much. So how do we calculate the yeast pitching rate (cell count) to properly ferment your batch? The calculation will depend on two factors, which you already know even before brewing your batch.
1. Is it an ale or lager?
In general, lagers require twice as much yeast as ales. There are many reasons for this, but the primary reason is that lagers use a different strain of yeast… Saccharomyces Pastorianus…. which, although it is a close relative of ale yeast (Saccharomyces Cereviciae) it behaves much differently. Lager yeasts ferment much slower than ale yeasts, and they are deployed at significantly lower temperatures. Unlike ale yeast, lager yeast ferment from the bottom of the fermenting vessel instead of the top. It is because of these properties that we must pitch a higher cell count to meet the demands of the fermentation. The characteristics that lager yeasts impart into our beer make it well worth the effort!
2. What is the intended starting gravity of your beer?
This is the most important factor when determining pitch rates. The higher the gravity, the more yeast cells are needed to eat through the wort sugars.
Use this simple formula to calculate the pitch rate:
Ales: 750,000 cells – per milliliter – per degree plato.
Lager pitch rate (twice the ale rate): 1,500,000 cells – per milliliter – per degree plato.
DEFINITION – “Degree Plato” is another way to describe the sugar density of your wort. Homebrewers generally use “specific gravity” to describe wort density. Plato is just another way to describe it. It’s like inches vs centimeters. You just need to know the conversion, and converting from specific gravity to plato (and vice versa) is simple. For example, if you have a starting gravity of 1.040, the density in Plato would be 10 degrees. If you have a wort that measures 1.080 on your hydrometer, your density in Plato is 20 degrees. Starting to see a pattern? Just divide your gravity by 4… and it gives you Plato. 1.060 = 15 Plato. 1.010 = 2.5 Plato. You get the picture.
One last hint. There are approximately 21,000 milliliters in a typical fermenter with 5.5 gallons, pre-fermentation. (some start with 5.5 gallons to leave room for the trub)
Now you have all the tools to calculate your own pitch rates. Shall we give it a try?
Let’s say we’re doing a five-gallon batch of an American IPA, at 1.068 original gravity. Of course this is an ale. Here’s the formula:
750,000 (cells per milliliter) times 17 (degrees Plato) times 21,000 (milliliters in a 5.5 gallon fermenter) = 267,750,000,000 cells.
That’s right. 267.75 BILLION cells. We’ve found it’s best to start counting your yeast cells a few days before brewing, so you have enough time to count all of them.
We kid. We’re kidders.
Each liquid yeast vial or smack pack contains approximately 100 billion cells, as long as it is fresh. Therefore, our pitch rate calculation tells us we need to pitch a little over 2-1/2 smack packs or vials. This is fine if you are in a hurry and haven’t had time to build a yeast starter. However, this can get really expensive… especially in bigger beers. A little planning can help you save money, because you can grow one packet of yeast into multiple packets by making a starter. See our How to Make a Yeast Starter section for more info on starters and how to grow cell counts.
Now that you know how to calculate your pitch rate, we have created a spreadsheet which you can consult for every beer, so you won’t need to run the calculations yourself. Just scroll down to your starting gravity, then scroll across to your pitch rate. It’s easy!
How to Make a Yeast Starter
Making a Liquid Yeast Starter (from Palmer’s How To Brew)
Liquid yeast packets should be stored in the refrigerator to keep the yeast dormant and healthy until they are ready to be used. There are two types of liquid yeast package – Those with inner nutrient packets and those without. The packages that contain an inner bubble of yeast nutrient (i.e. a “smack pack”) are intended to function as a mini-starter, but are really not adequate. They still need to be pitched to a starter wort after activation. The package must be squeezed and warmed to 80°F at least two days before brewing. The packet will begin to swell as the yeast wake up and start consuming the nutrients. When the packet has fully swelled, it is time to pitch it to a starter to increase the total cell count to ensure a good fermentation. I prefer to prepare all my liquid yeast packages yeast four days before brewday.
1. If you are going to brew on Saturday, take the yeast packet out of the refrigerator on Tuesday . Let it warm up to room temperature. If it is a smack pack, place the packet on the countertop and feel for the inner bubble of yeast nutrient. Burst this inner bubble by pressing on it with the heel of your hand. Shake it well. If you are not using a smack pack, proceed directly to step 3. You will be making two successive starters to take the place of the mini-starter smack pack.
2. Put the packet in a warm place overnight to let it swell. On top of the refrigerator is good. Some brewers, who shall remain nameless, have been known to sleep with their yeast packets to keep them at the right temperature. However, their spouse assured them in no uncertain terms that the presence of the yeast packet did not entitle them to any more of the covers. So, just put the packet somewhere that’s about 80°F, like next to the water heater.
3. On Wednesday (or Tuesday for slants) you will make up a starter wort. Boil a pint (1/2 quart) of water and stir in 1/2 cup of DME. This will produce a starter of about 1.040 OG. Boil this for 10 minutes, adding a little bit of hops (a few pellets) if you want to. Put the lid on the pan for the last couple minutes, turn off the stove and let it sit while you prepare for the next step. Adding a quarter teaspoon of yeast nutrient (vitamins, biotin, and dead yeast cells) to the starter wort is always advisable to ensure good growth.
4. Fill the kitchen sink with a couple inches of cold water. Take the covered pot and set it in the water, moving it around to speed the cooling. When the pot feels cool, about 80°F or less, pour the wort into a sanitized glass mason jar or something similar. Pour all of the wort in, even the sediment. This sediment consists of proteins and lipids which are actually beneficial for yeast growth at this stage.
Ideally, the starter’s temperature should be the same as what you plan the fermentation temperature to be. This allows the yeast to get acclimated to working at that temperature. If the yeast is started warmer and then pitched to a cooler fermentation environment, it may be shocked or stunned by the change in temperature and may take a couple days to regain normal activity.
5. Sanitize the outside of the yeast packet before opening it by swabbing it with isopropyl alcohol. Using sanitized scissors, cut open a corner of the packet and pour the yeast into the jar. Two quart juice or cider bottles work well, and the opening is often the right size to accept an airlock and rubber stopper. Cover the top of the jar or bottle with plastic wrap and the lid.
Shake the starter vigorously to aerate it. Remove and discard the plastic wrap, insert an airlock and put it somewhere out of direct sunlight. (So it doesn’t get too hot in the sun.) If you don’t have an airlock that will fit, don’t worry. Instead, put a clean piece of plastic wrap over the jar or bottle and secure it loosely with a rubber band. This way the escaping carbon dioxide will be able to vent without exposing the starter to the air.
6. On Thursday (or Wednesday for slants) some foaming or an increase in the white yeast layer on the bottom should be evident. These small wort starters can ferment quickly so don’t be surprised if you missed the activity. When the starter has cleared and the yeast have settled to the bottom it is ready to pitch to the fermenter, although it will keep for 2-3 days without any problems. However, I recommend that you add another pint or quart of wort to the Starter to build up the yeast population even more.
The starter process may be repeated several times to provide more yeast to ensure an even stronger fermentation. In fact, a general rule is that the stronger the beer (more fermentable/higher gravity), the more yeast you should pitch. For strong beers and barleywines, at least 1 cup of yeast slurry or 1 gallon of yeast starter should be pitched to ensure that there will be enough active yeast to finish the fermentation before they are overwhelmed by the rising alcohol level. For more moderate strength beers (1.050 gravity) a 1-1.5 quart starter is sufficient. One consideration when pitching a large starter is to pour off some of the starter liquid and only pitch the yeast slurry. One recommendation when pitching a large starter is to chill the starter overnight in the refrigerator to flocculate all of the yeast. Then the unpleasant tasting starter beer can be poured off, so only the yeast slurry will be pitched.
When is My Starter Ready to Pitch?
A yeast starter is ready to pitch anytime after it has attained high krausen (full activity), and for about a day or two after it has settled out, depending on the temperature. Colder conditions allow the yeast to be stored longer before pitching to a new wort. Yeast starters that have settled out and sat at room temperature for more than a couple days should be fed fresh wort and allowed to attain high krausen before pitching.
A key condition to this recommendation is that the composition of the starter wort and the main wort must be very similar if the starter is pitched at or near peak activity. Why? Because the yeast in the starter wort have produced a specific set of enzymes for that wort’s sugar profile. If those yeast are then pitched to a different wort, with a different relative percentage of sugars, the yeast will be impaired and the fermentation may be affected. Kind of like trying to change boats in mid-stream. This is especially true for starter worts made from extract that includes refined sugars. Yeast that has been eating sucrose, glucose/dextrose, or fructose will quit making the enzyme that allows it to eat maltose – the main sugar of brewer’s wort.
If you make your starter using a malt extract that includes refined sugar, it is better to wait until the yeast have finished fermenting and settled out before pitching to the main wort. Why? Because towards the end of fermentation, yeast build up their glycogen and trehalose reserves; kind of like a bear storing fat for the winter. Glycogen and trehalose are two carbohydrates that act as food reserves for the yeast cell. Yeast slowly feed off these reserves when other food is not present, and use this food extensively to fuel the synthesis of essential lipids, sterols, and unsaturated fatty acids when pitched to an oxygenated wort. (Yeast will rapidly deplete their glycogen reserves when exposed to oxygen.) While glycogen can be likened to the fat that a bear stores for winter, the other component, trehalose, acts more like the bear’s heavy fur coat. Trehalose seems to get built up on both the inside and outside of the cell membrane, and is generally believed to make the membrane structure more robust and more resistant to environmental stresses. By allowing the yeast starter fermentation to go to completion, these reserves are built up, and upon pitching, the yeast starts out with a ready fuel supply and a clean slate to better adapt it to the new wort. As noted earlier, though, these same reserves are used by the yeast while in hibernation, so if the yeast are left too long before pitching, the reserves may be depleted and should be replenished with a fresh starter wort fermentation before use.
Sanitation is always important in the processing of food and drink. Rest assured, people have been safely making beer and wine for millennia… long before humans knew anything about pathogenic microrganisms. Don’t worry about making your friends and family sick from your beers and wines. The worst that can happen is you create a poor-tasting product. The fact that beers and wines have been safely made for 8,000 years, illustrates just how difficult it is to grow harmful pathogens in them. Pathogens simply can’t survive in the higher alcohol environment. Indeed, many believe yeast evolved the ability to produce alcohol as a way of eliminating microbial competition.
Nevertheless, there are some harmless microorganisms that we want to keep away from our brewing and winemaking.
Yeast is a microorganism which creates beer and wine. Yeast consumes fermentable sugars, coverting them to ethyl alcohol and co2. Unfortunately, the environment that we maintain to benefit the yeast is also enjoyed by other natural microorganisms… which include certain strains of bacteria and many strains of wild yeast.
Some of these bacteria are common… like the fruit-fly borne acetobacter… which (in the presence of oxygen) can turn ethyl alcohol into acetic acid… making vinegar. Wild yeast abound, and they too will look for any opportunity to ‘enjoy’ your brew. This is why it is important to develop sanitary habits.
Sanitation is how we isolate the brewing/winemaking environment so that our specialized yeasts are allowed to do their job free from competition.
Anything that might come into contact with your product needs to be sanitized. Before each item is used (a hydrometer for example) it should first be cleaned of soils and residues and then soaked in sanitizing solution for at least 5 minutes. Cleaning is best done with a normal dish cleaning towel or sponge and plenty of hot water. Don’t use scrubby pads! Then, when all of the items are clean, fill a bucket or washtub with lukewarm tap water and mix in the appropriate amount of sanitizer. There are many types of sanitizers… always follow the instructions for each. Complete immersion for 5 minutes is the best way to sanitize your equipment. Longer soaking periods are ok, within reason.
When you are ready to use an item, take it out of the sanitizing solution and let it drip dry on a sanitized surface. It’s ok if it isn’t completely dry… just make sure there’s no standing solution anywhere on, or in, the item. Again, follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Sanitation must become a habit. It becomes a habit by doing it correctly over and over again. Successful brewers have one thing in common… they all have a sanitation routine. From the start you must develop your own routine, and stick to it. The slightest deviation from your routine can increase the chance of an unintended infection spoiling the taste of a perfectly good batch. We want your brewing to be the best it can be. We’re open 7 days a week to answer any questions. We’re here to help!
HOW TO KEEP YOUR FERMENTER COOL
We all want to make good beer during the summer, but when temperatures are above 90 degrees outside, it’s just too hot to ferment anything other than Belgian farmhouse ales.
Ale-makers… don’t despair! Here are a few tips that actually WORK:
We all know most ale yeasts do their best work between 62º and 70ºF. Rest assured, they’ll ferment at 85º or 90º and be quite successful. But they won’t be very kind to your brew. Acceptable temperature ranges can often be difficult to achieve during the summer months, unless you are willing to have your air conditioner blasting 24/7. Since most of us can’t afford an electric bill which yields 300 dollar batches of beer, it’s nice to know there are easy and affordable means of keeping your fermenter cool during those hot summer months. There’s a simple method which works well in hot temps, even in the desert southwest.
What do you need? All you need is a common household wash tub, large enough to handle the size of your fermenter, and a little ice. Your existing kitchen refrigerator/freezer should be able to produce enough ice for the job. Wash tubs can be purchased at any household store where such items are found. We also carry them here at the shop during the summer months. They usually aren’t more than $10.00 in price. Plastic tubs are preferable, but any wash tub will work.
Here’s what to do:
While you are chilling your wort, fill your wash tub about 1/3 full with cold tap water, no higher up than the Fermometer will be once the fermenter is setting in the “bath”. You don’t want your Fermometer in contact with water for an extended time. Fill the water in the wash tub low enough to account for water displacement as the fermenter is set into the bath. Remember, keep the Fermometer dry. If it’s too low, purchase another, and place it horizontally halfway between the bottom of the fermenter and the five gallon-mark.
Next, make sure your washtub water is chilled to the same temp. If you want to pitch at 64º, get your water to 64º. If your tap water is warm (usually the case in the summer) use some ice in the wash tub to help get the water down to temperature.
Once you’re chilled and ready to pitch, your wort is already at the correct temperature. All you need to do, is keep it there! The water bath is the way you do it. Every day the temps of your house can rise and fall according to the daily temperature spikes. Eventually an uncontrolled fermenter will creep up to the household temperature average, which is likely higher than the ideal temperature range of your fermentation.
The secret to maintaining a constant temperature in the fermentor, is to allow the water bath to absorb those daily temperature spikes, rather than your fermenter.
The water acts as an insulator… like a refrigerator. The water not only absorbs the daily temperatuire spikes before the heat can reach your fermenter, it also helps to draw out considerable heat created by the fermentation process.
We have found that most styles of ale yeast make great beer when fermenting around 68F. Since the process of fermentation generates heat, the temperature of your beer can rise 4-6 degrees very quickly. Therefore, it is recommended to chill the wort around 4-6 degrees cooler than the target temp. The yeast manufacturers usually provide a target range for each strain…. follow their instructions.
Remember, it’s about control. If you allow the yeast to get too warm, they will produce esters and other compounds which will contribute flavors not necessarily desired in your beer. Keeping the water around 64F will allow room for the spike in temperature created during the vigorous attenuative phase, which will keep flavor production under control. During the vigorous stage (high krausen, rapid airlock activity) the water bath might be 64F, but inside your fermenter it will be warmer. Knowing this, and preparing for it, will improve the quality of your beer ten-fold.
Every home is different. Some are hotter than others. You will need to get a feel for how quickly heat is absorbed into your water bath. Some people will need to put a handful of ice into the water every morning to keep it at 64º. Others might have to do this once in the morning and once in the evening. Every house is different, so you may need to monitor your temps several times a day until you have a feel for your own household environment.
For example, we know some starving college students who live in a hot apartment near the brewshop. Their a/c doesn’t work well, and their freezer doesn’t have an ice-maker. Like all college students, their thirst for good beer kindled their ingenuity. They came up with a simple yet affordable way to regulate their fermentation temperature.
They picked up a twelve-pack of bottled water for a few bucks at the supermarket, and placed the bottles in their little freezer. Froze ’em solid. Every morning before class, they’ll put four of them into the water, spaced evenly around the fermenter. When they get home in the evening, they’ll swap them out with new frozen bottles, and rotate the old ones back into the freezer. Their apartment is much hotter than most, but it is working well for them.
Other people take it one step further. They make ‘swamp coolers’ out of their wash tubs. They take an old t-shirt and place it over the fermenter with the airlock sticking out the neck, and the bottom of the shirt soaking in the water. After a few minutes, water will begin ‘wicking’ up the sides of the t-shirt, and as it climbs it evaporates, which cools down the surface of the fermenter. Pretty handy!
Once you get the hang of it, you can make great beer during the summer no matter how hot it gets in your house. If your house stays above 90… maybe you should address that issue first! Or perhaps the Belgian styles are more appropriate.
One last (but important) note… temperature control is only critical for the first 4-5 days, as this is when most flavor production occurs. After that time, it is optimal to allow the wort temperature to rise… to around 72 degrees. This helps delay yeast flocculation, which encourages the yeast ‘finish’ the beer.
HOW TO GROW YOUR OWN HOPS
Advice fom the helpful folks at Willamette Valley Hops!
PREP AND PLANNING
It’s best to plant between March and May, but you can put your rhizomes in the ground any time of the year. If you’re planting early, mulch is a good idea but do not use too much. The hop rhizome should be planted 1″-2″ below the surface of the soil and it is very important to face the eyes of the rhizome in the up position. This is where the vine will actually break the surface.
When the vines break the surface, the vine will naturally tend to grow clockwise up the string or trellis. If it should happen to grow counter-clockwise, try to train it back around. Otherwise it’s unlikely that the vine will follow your string.
Hop plants love natural sunlight and need as much as they can get. However, do not use reflective devices to increase heat/light. It will kill them.
- DO NOT overwater. Overwatering is the most common mistake among growers.
CARE AND GROWTH
- Once your plants reach 7′-8′ feet tall, we recommend hilling them. By hilling, we mean to just pile some additional dirt around the base of the plant. This helps maintain both moisture and temperature, as well as preventing mildew.
- The vines will continue to grow with only moderate need for fertilizer. We like the pelletized, slow-release fertilizers, and we use 16-16-16. Now don’t over fertilize, but don’t let them starve. We occasionally increase the nitrogen content near the end of the growing season. By this point, your hop plant will have established feeder roots and will be well on its way to finding its own water and nutrients.
- Its very unlikely, but some regions may benefit from some additional soil amendments or conditioners. You can contact your local extension service, or e-mail us for our recommendations.
- In large scale production we use preventative spraying measures for pests and bugs. These are generally aphids and spider mites. The extension service is a fantastic resource for both organic and non-organic solutions. Horticultural oils are all-natural, very effective and pretty easy to find.
HARVEST YOUR HOPS
- The hop plant will flower around the first of August.
- The hops – or fruit of the hop plant – will start appearing around the third week of August. Of course all of this depends on variety.
- The Willamette Valley varieties are almost always ready by the second week in September. The home grower must make the decision on this. We pick around the tenth of September because the alpha acid percentage is at its peak in our region. These are your “goodies” that will help in creating your wonderful beer. Of course we also have harvesting and weather to consider because of the amount of acres.
- There are many ways to dry your hops. Obviously we all don’t have a hop dryer down the road from our house and it is likely you will have to improvise and build your own. The target moisture content is 8-10%, which is ideal for preserving the fruit acids and preventing mold. We use 150 degrees for 8-10 hours including an hour for cooling with fans on. This is with a height of 3-4 feet and a width of approximately 30′ x 30′ drying surface. Please do not attempt to build a dryer this big.
- When your hops are dried, seal and refrigerate. Some hops last longer than others in refrigeration. Please e-mail us with any questions you have about long-term storage.
- Your hop plant is a perennial and will provide many many years of enjoyment and yield. Over time you will be become an excellent hop grower and and your yield will increase dramatically. You will become a master of your beer!
LINKS TO OTHER BREWING RESOURCES AND ASSOCIATIONS
Local Homebrew Clubs:
- Dukes of Ale – Albuquerque
- Atom Mashers – Los Alamos
- Desert Quenchers – Las Cruces
- Burque Brew Crew
- Four Corners Celtic Homebrewers
- Sangre De Cristo Craft Brewers
Other Great Links:
From Palmer’s How to Brew.
Ale – A beer brewed from a top-fermenting yeast with a relatively short, warm fermentation.
Alpha Acid Units (AAU) – A homebrewing measurement of hops. Equal to the weight in ounces multiplied by the percent of alpha acids.
Attenuation – The degree of conversion of sugar to alcohol and CO2.
Beer – Any beverage made by fermenting a wort made from malted barley and seasoned with hops.
Cold Break – Proteins that coagulate and fall out of solution when the wort is rapidly cooled prior to pitching the yeast.
Conditioning – An aspect of secondary fermentation in which the yeast refine the flavors of the final beer. Conditioning continues in the bottle.
Fermentation – The total conversion of malt sugars to beer, defined here as three parts, adaptation, primary, and secondary.
Hops – Hop vines are grown in cool climates and brewers make use of the cone-like flowers. The dried cones are available in pellets, plugs, or whole.
Hot Break – Proteins that coagulate and fall out of solution during the wort boil.
Gravity – Like density, gravity describes the concentration of malt sugar in the wort. The specific gravity of water is 1.000 at 59F. Typical beer worts range from 1.035 – 1.055 before fermentation (Original Gravity).
International Bittering Units (IBU) – A more precise unit for measuring hops. Equal to the AAU multiplied by factors for percent utilization, wort volume and wort gravity.
Krausen (kroy-zen) – Used to refer to the foamy head that builds on top of the beer during fermentation. Also an advanced method of priming.
Lager – A beer brewed from a bottom-fermenting yeast and given a long cool fermentation.
Lag Phase – The period of adaptation and rapid aerobic growth of yeast upon pitching to the wort. The lag time typically lasts from 2-12 hours.
Pitching – Term for adding the yeast to the fermenter.
Primary Fermentation – The initial fermentation activity marked by the evolution of carbon dioxide and Krausen. Most of the total attenuation occurs during this phase.
Priming – The method of adding a small amount of fermentable sugar prior to bottling to give the beer carbonation.
Racking – The careful siphoning of the beer away from the trub.
Sanitize – To reduce microbial contaminants to insignificant levels.
Secondary Fermentation – A period of settling and conditioning of the beer after primary fermentation and before bottling.
Sterilize – To eliminate all forms of life, especially microorganisms, either by chemical or physical means.
Trub (trub or troob) – The sediment at the bottom of the fermenter consisting of hot and cold break material, hop bits, and dead yeast.
Wort (wart or wert) – The malt-sugar solution that is boiled prior to fermentation.
Zymurgy – The science of brewing and fermentation.
The following terms are more advanced and are more likely to come up as you progress in your home brewing skills and experience.
Amylase – An enzyme group that converts starches to sugars, consisting primarily of alpha and beta amylase. Also referred to as the diastatic enzymes.
Adjunct – Any non-enzymatic fermentable. Adjuncts include: unmalted cereals such as flaked barley or corn grits, syrups, and sugars.
Acrospire – The beginnings of the plant shoot in germinating barley.
Aerate – To mix air into solution to provide oxygen for the yeast.
Aerobic – A process that utilizes oxygen.
Anaerobic – A process that does not utilize oxygen or may require the absence of it.
Aldehyde – A chemical precursor to alcohol. In some cases, alcohol can be oxidized to aldehydes, creating off-flavors.
Alkalinity – The condition of pH between 7-14. The chief cause of alkalinity in brewing water is the bicarbonate ion (HCO3-1).
Aleurone Layer – The living sheath surrounding the endosperm of a barley corn, containing enzymes.
Amino Acids – An essential building block of protein, being comprised of an organic acid containing an amine group (NH2).
Amylopectin – A branched starch chain found in the endosperm of barley. It can be considered to be composed of amylose.
Amylose – A straight-chain starch molecule found in the endosperm of barley.
Autolysis – When yeast run out of nutrients and die, they release their innards into the beer, producing off-flavors.
°Balling, °Brix, or °Plato – These three nearly identical units are the standard for the professional brewing industry for describing the amount of available extract as a weight percentage of cane sugar in solution, as opposed to specific gravity. Eg. 10 °Plato is equivalent to a specific gravity of 1.040.
Beerstone – A hard organo-metallic scale that deposits on fermentation equipment; chiefly composed of calcium oxalate.
Biotin – A colorless crystalline vitamin of the B complex, found especially in yeast, liver, and egg yolk.
Blow-off – A type of airlock arrangement consisting of a tube exiting from the fermenter, submerging into a bucket of water, that allows the release of carbon dioxide and removal of excess fermentation material.
Buffer – A chemical species, such as a salt, that by disassociation or re-association stabilizes the pH of a solution.
Cellulose – Similar to a starch, but organized in a mirror aspect; cellulose cannot be broken down by starch enzymes, and vice versa.
Decoction – A method of mashing wherein temperature rests are achieved by boiling a part of the mash and returning it to the mash tun.
Dextrin – A complex sugar molecule, left over from diastatic enzyme action on starch.
Dextrose – Equivalent to Glucose, but with a mirror-image molecular structure.
Diacetyl – Fermentation by-product that may lend buttery or butterscotch notes to beer. This is considered an off-flavor in excessive amounts in any beer, however it is considered an off-flavor in most lagers in any amount. Can also be caused by contamination.
Diastatic Power – The amount of diastatic enzyme potential that a malt contains.
Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS) – A background flavor compound that is desirable in low amounts in lagers, but that at high concentrations tastes of cooked vegetables.
Enzymes – Protein-based catalysts that effect specific biochemical reactions.
Endosperm – The nutritive tissue of a seed, consisting of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids.
Esters – Aromatic compounds formed from alcohols by yeast action. Typically smell fruity.
Ethanol – The type of alcohol in beer formed by yeast from malt sugars.
Extraction – The soluble material derived from barley malt and adjuncts. Not necessarily fermentable.
Fatty Acid – Any of numerous saturated or unsaturated aliphatic monocarboxylic acids, including many that occur in the form of esters or glycerides, in fats, waxes, and essential oils.
Finings – Ingredients such as isinglass, bentonite, Irish moss, etc, that act to help the yeast to flocculate and settle out of finished beer.
Flocculation – To cause to group together. In the case of yeast, it is the clumping and settling of the yeast out of solution.
Fructose – Commonly known as fruit sugar, fructose differs from glucose by have a ketone group rather than an aldehydic carbonyl group attachment.
Fusel Alcohol – A group of higher molecular weight alcohols that esterify under normal conditions. When present after fermentation, fusels have sharp solvent-like flavors and are thought to be partly responsible for hangovers.
Gelatinization – The process of rendering starches soluble in water by heat, or by a combination of heat and enzyme action, is called gelatinization.
Germination – Part of the malting process where the acrospire grows and begins to erupt from the hull.
Glucose – The most basic unit of sugar. A single sugar molecule.
Glucanase – An enzyme that act on beta glucans, a type of gum found in the endosperm of unmalted barley, oatmeal, and wheat.
Grist – The term for crushed malt before mashing.
Hardness – The hardness of water is equal to the concentration of dissolved calcium and magnesium ions. Usually expressed as ppm of (CaCO3).
Hydrolysis – The process of dissolution or decomposition of a chemical structure in water by chemical or biochemical means.
Hopback – A vessel that is filled with hops to act as a filter for removing the break material from the finished wort.
Hot Water Extract – The international unit for the total soluble extract of a malt, based on specific gravity. HWE is measured as liter*degrees per kilogram, and is equivalent to points/pound/gallon (PPG) when you apply metric conversion factors for volume and weight. The combined conversion factor is 8.3454 X PPG = HWE.
Infusion – A mashing process where heating is accomplished via additions of boiling water.
Invert Sugar – A mixture of dextrose and fructose found in fruits or produced artificially by the inversion of sucrose (e.g. hydrolyzed cane sugar).
Isinglass – The clear swim bladders of a small fish, consisting mainly of the structural protein collagen, acts to absorb and precipitate yeast cells, via electrostatic binding.
Irish Moss – An emulsifying agent, Irish moss promotes break material formation and precipitation during the boil and upon cooling.
Lactose – A nonfermentable sugar, lactose comes from milk and has historically been added to Stout, hence Milk Stout.
Lauter – To strain or separate. Lautering acts to separate the wort from grain via filtering and sparging.
Lipid – Any of various substances that are soluble in nonpolar organic solvents, and that include fats, waxes, phosphatides, cerebrosides, and related and derived compounds. Lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates compose the principal structural components of living cells.
Liquefaction – As alpha amylase breaks up the branched amylopectin molecules in the mash, the mash becomes less viscous and more fluid; hence the term liquefaction of the mash and alpha amylase being referred to as the liquefying enzyme.
Lupulin Glands – Small bright yellow nodes at the base of each of the hop petals, which contain the resins utilized by brewers.
Maillard Reaction – A browning reaction caused by external heat wherein a sugar (glucose) and an amino acid form a complex, and this product has a role in various subsequent reactions that yield pigments and melanoidins.
Maltose – The preferred food of brewing yeast. Maltose consists of two glucose molecules joined by a 1-4 carbon bond.
Maltotriose – A sugar molecule made of three glucoses joined by 1-4 carbon bonds.
Melanoidins – Strong flavor compounds produced by browning (Maillard) reactions.
Methanol – Also known as wood alcohol, methanol is poisonous and cannot be produced in any significant quantity by the beer making process.
Mash – The hot water steeping process that promotes enzymatic breakdown of the grist into soluble, fermentable sugars.
Modification – An inclusive term for the degree of degradation and simplification of the endosperm and the carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids that comprise it.
pH – A negative logarithmic scale (1-14) that measures the degree of acidity or alkalinity of a solution for which a value of 7 represents neutrality. A value of 1 is most acidic, a value of 14 is most alkaline.
ppm – The abbreviation for parts per million and equivalent to milligrams per liter (mg/l). Most commonly used to express dissolved mineral concentrations in water.
Peptidase – A proteolytic enzyme which breaks up small proteins in the endosperm to form amino acids.
Points per Pound per Gallon (PPG) – The US homebrewers unit for total soluble extract of a malt, based on specific gravity. The unit describes the change in specific gravity (points) per pound of malt, when dissolved in a known volume of water (gallons). Can also be written as gallon*degrees per pound.
Protease – A proteolytic enzyme which breaks up large proteins in the endosperm that would cause haze in the beer.
Phenol, Polyphenol – A hydroxyl derivative of an aromatic hydrocarbon that causes medicinal flavors and is involved in staling reactions.
Proteolysis – The degradation of proteins by proteolytic enzymes e.g. protease and peptidase.
Saccharification – The conversion of soluble starches to sugars via enzymatic action.
Sparge – To sprinkle. To rinse the grainbed during lautering.
Sterols – Any of various solid steroid alcohols widely distributed in plant and animal lipids.
Sucrose – This disaccharide consists of a fructose molecule joined with a glucose molecule. It is most readily available as cane sugar.
Tannins – Astringent polyphenol compounds that can cause haze and/or join with large proteins to precipitate them from solution. Tannins are most commonly found in the grain husks and hop cone material.
BASIC EXTRACT BREWING INSTRUCTIONS
- Next time you’re at the supermarket, pick up three (3) 1-gallon jugs of spring or distilled water. They can be purchased just about anywhere, from 69 to 89 cents per gallon. We want water without chlorination. Immediately place into a refrigerator and allow at least 24 hours to chill. If this is not possible, bring three gallons of tap water to a boil, in order to drive out the chlorine and minimize bacteria if you’re on a well. Cover, and cool the water in the refrigerator, as listed above.
NOTE: It is important to get this water pre-chilled to below 40 degrees on brew day… as you will find out later in these instructions.
- Most recipe kits come with dry yeast for simplicity of use. If you are using a liquid yeast, remove from the refrigerator and gradually warm to room temperature. If you are using a smack pack, slap the package to break the interior capsule, and shake to disperse the nutrients. Within a few hours the pack will swell, indicating healthy, ready-to-pitch cells. This can also be done the morning of brewday.
- Fill your brew kettle with 2 gallons of water. Turn on the heat. If there are any specialty grains in the recipe, place inside a muslin grain bag. When the water is 150-160 °F, place the bag into the brew kettle and turn off the heat. Steep for 20 to 30 minutes, lifting up and down like a tea bag. Do not let your water go above 165°F. If the water gets too hot, it will cause the grains to impart undesirable flavors into the wort. After 20-30 minutes, remove the muslin bag and discard. Do not give in to the temptation to squeeze the bag, as squeezing will release tannins from the grain husks. This will make your beer astringent. Let it drip and then discard. Turn the heat back on and bring your wort to a boil.
- Once the water (or wort, if you steeped specialty grains) begins to boil, turn off the heat and add your liquid and/or dry malt extract to the brewpot while stirring. Do not allow the extracts to scorch on the bottom of the kettle. Use your brew paddle or a long spoon to stir it in. If adding other sugars (i.e. malto-dextrin, Belgian candi sugar, rice syrup, corn syrup, honey etc,) add them now. Do not add priming sugar or fruit extract yet, they are added later. NOTE: Some recipes may ask for extract or adjunct additions later on in the boil, to prevent caramelization of the wort sugars. Always follow the kit’s recipe instructions, and be sure to read them entirely before starting your boil.
- Return heat to the brew kettle & bring back to a boil. When the wort is boiling, add your first ‘bittering’ hop addition. You can add the hops directly to the boil, or you can fill a hop bag. If you use a hop bag, tie off the very end of the bag and insert into the brew kettle. Do not tie the bag such that the hops are compressed. Allow lots of room for hop pellet expansion and movement. If you choose to add directly to the wort, just pour them in… and watch for boilovers!. Record the time when you added the bittering hops. You will boil the wort for 60 minutes from when you added your bittering hops. Periodically stir your wort, and watch the boil to prevent messy boilovers.
- Follow the recipe instructions for your next hop additions. Some recipes call for multiple hop additions, for both flavor and aroma. Always follow the recipe instructions. Generally, hop insertion times indicate how long the hops should be in the boil. A recipe might say “1 oz. Warrior hops – 60 minutes”. This means 1 oz. of Warriors should be in the boil for 60 minutes. The recipe might also say “1 oz. Willamette hops – 20 minutes”. This means the Willamettes would be added at the 40 minute mark, with 20 minutes remaining in the 60-minute boil. Additional aroma hops might be added at 50 minutes, for a boil time of only 10 minutes. It is not unusual to add an aroma hop addition at ‘flameout’ which means the hop boil time would be ‘zero’ minutes. Some recipes might say “Add bittering hops, boil for 40 minutes and add flavor hops.” Make sure you understand the recipe instructions. If using Irish moss and/or yeast nutrient, add them when the recipe specifies… usually with 10 minutes remaining in the boil. If your recipe calls for any late extract or adjunct additions, add them now. When the boil is complete, turn off the heat, remove hop bags & discard. Remember, don’t squeeze the hop bags! Recipes will always vary on hop and extract additions, so pay close attention.
IMPORTANT – FROM THIS STEP FORWARD, EVERYTHING THAT TOUCHES YOUR WORT/BEER MUST BE SANITIZED!!!
- Now we need to chill the wort down to a healthy temperature for our yeast. Place your brew kettle in a cold tap water ‘bath’ in the kitchen sink. Do not allow water from the sink to splash into your brew kettle! (It is not sanitary) Gently stir the wort with a sanitized spoon to speed the cooling. Drain and replace the water outside the kettle as needed, whenever it gets too warm to draw heat from the kettle. Continue this procedure until the wort is around 120°F. At this temperature, you may now add ice to the water bath to speed the cooling. DO NOT ADD ICE TO YOUR WORT. Remember, your boiling hot kettle will not feel any difference between 70 degree tap water and 40 degree ice water. Do not waste your ice by adding right away. Let the cold tap water chill your wort at first, then you can get the most out of your ice. This process typically takes about 20 minutes. The quicker the better.
- Make sure you mark the 5-gallon level on your fermenter, if it isn’t already marked. Once the temp of the wort is around 95°F, pour it into a SANITIZED fermenter. Strain, if desired, with a sanitized strainer. This is the ONLY time straining is appropriate. Once yeast has been ‘pitched’ into your wort, straining becomes harmful to your beer for reasons which we will discuss later.
- Now add your refrigerated/sanitary cold water to your fermenter. Top it up to slightly over 5 gallons. Maybe 5.25 to 5.5 gallons. You may not need all 3 gallons to get to 5.5 total gallons, so be careful. If you add too much water, it will lower your OG and increase your volume. This would not be a disaster because you’ll get more beer… but it will be a little lower in ABV (alcohol by volume). If your top-off water has been properly chilled to refrigerator-temperature (about 36 – 38°F) and, if your wort has been chilled to 95°F, your topped-off batch will end up in the mid-60’s temperature range, which is the perfect yeast pitching temperature for most ales. If you are doing a lager, then chill to 85 degrees before topping up. This will get you down into the mid-50’s which is an appropriate temperature for lager yeast.
- Aerate your 5 gallons of wort. If you’re fermenting in a 6.5 gallon fermenting bucket, use a sanitized wire egg-beater to whip air into the wort. If you are fermenting in a carboy, carefully (but aggressively) shake the fermenter back and forth (covered with a sanitized stopper to prevent splashing) until it is foamy and frothy. Aeration is critical to the vitality of your yeast.
- Take a sanitized beer thief and grab a sample of wort. A sanitized turkey baster will also work. Pour into a sanitized test jar and insert your sanitized hydrometer. Have we stressed the term ‘sanitized’ enough? This is very important each and every step of the way, once the kettle is removed from the heat. Record the OG (Original Gravity) into your brewing log. This information is important. Comparing this gravity reading to your post-fermentation reading will tell you if your brew is fully attenuated and will also yield your beer’s ABV. Some people return the sample wort to the fermenter. Personally, I like to drink the sample to get a feel for my brew’s flavor. Plus, returning it to the fermenter increases the risk of introducing a contaminant into the wort.
- Check the temp of the wort. It should be 68 °F maximum. If not, set the fermenter in an ice bath to help get it there. Pitching temperature is important for the adaptive phase of your fermentation. Once you are in the 64 to 68 degree range, pitch your liquid or dry brewing yeast. No need to stir, if you’ve aerated well. Just rock the fermenter to swirl the yeast into the beer.
- Secure the sanitized lid or stopper to the fermenter. Now place the airlock, which has been sanitized & filled halfway with sanitizing solution (or cheap vodka) into the hole.
- Place the fermenter in a cool and dark place, and keep your beer cool while fermenting. Most ale yeasts do their best work between 64-70 °F. At first, you might not see any yeast activity, but nevertheless the yeast are working. This initial phase of fermentation is called the ‘Lag Phase.’ The yeast are busy taking up oxygen, budding new daughter cells, and preparing for primary fermentation. Even though there’s little visible activity, this is an important time, as a lot of the flavors in your final product are produced by the yeast in the lag phase. Once the yeast have depleted the oxygen that you aerated into the wort, they will begin primary (anaerobic) fermentation. This is when the yeast begin processing the wort sugars and producing most of the co2 and ethanol. It will typically begin 5-24 hours after pitching and continue for 3-5 days. Personally, I like fermenting in glass carboys… the yeast can really put on a show! You can see the activity in your beer which is advantageous over a bucket. Your actual fermentation time will vary according to temperature, yeast strain, yeast cell count, level of aeration, and wort sugar density. Not all fermentations behave the same… even similar batches can differ. We’ve experienced beers finishing with primary fermentation as quickly as three days… while others might take 3 days just to show airlock activity. Cooler temperatures mean slower fermentation.
IMPORTANT – FROM THIS STEP FORWARD, LIGHT AND OXYGEN ARE THE ENEMIES OF YOUR BEER!
- About 5-7 days after brewing, and primary fermentation shows signs of coming to a close (very little airlock activity) pull a sample of your beer, and get a hydrometer reading. If it is close to your recipe’s specified FG (Final Gravity), it is likely finished with primary fermentation. Record the FG in your log. If it isn’t close to the recipe’s final gravity, allow it more time to ferment. Generally, if your readings stay the same for 3 days, primary fermentation is complete. If you’re unsure, err on the side of caution. Most beers benefit from secondary fermentation. Secondary fermentation gives the yeast time to “clean up after themselves.” It also gives the beer time to age and mature… as many flavor compounds produced during primary fermentation will mellow out. If you are fermenting in a bucket, always rack into a 5 gallon glass or PET carboy for secondary fermentation. This is necessary because the plastic in the bucket can allow oxygen to ‘migrate’ into the beer. Which is bad! This will not occur during the initial stage of anaerobic fermentation, because positive co2 pressure is coming off the beer, blocking any migrating o2. However, once the beer settles into secondary fermentation and co2 output has slowed, o2 can potentially work its way into the beer. To avoid this, rack into a glass or PET secondary fermenter. If you are using a 6 or 6.5 gallon glass carboy for primary instead of a bucket, there is no need to move your beer into a second fermenter. Just leave it in the glass primary for two or three weeks and then bottle your beer. For more info on this, refer to John Palmer’s How To Brew. I recommend this book to all novice and experienced brewers.
- Once secondary fermentation is complete (usually about 2 or 3 weeks after primary) you’re ready to bottle. Take your final gravity (FG) reading and record it in your log. To determine the alcohol content, use this formula: (OG-FG)*131.25 = ABV. For example:
OG ………… 1.045
FG ………… – 1.011
Difference = 0.034
Times……. x 131.25
Equals……. = 4.46 % ABV
- Clean & sanitize all bottles; you’ll need about (54) 12 oz. bottles or (29) 22 oz. bottles. Use only non-twist bottles. Amber is optimal, but green & clear can be used in a pinch. Always remember to keep them out of direct sunlight. UV rays will interact with hop compounds in your beer and cause a ‘skunky’ flavor and aroma. Green and clear glass allows UV light to enter your beer. Swingtop bottles are great too; just replace the grommets as needed to hold carbonation.
- Boil about 2 cups (16 oz.) of water. Turn off the heat & add the priming sugar (5 oz corn sugar) to water & stir until dissolved. Add this hot solution to your sanitized bottling bucket. Be sure the spigot on the bottling bucket is closed. If you are adding flavor extracts (fruit, etc) gently add them to the priming solution.
- Siphon your beer from the fermenter to your bottling bucket. During this process it is best to avoid excessive splashing during the transfer. Splashes and bubbles indicate the insertion of o2, which is bad. Try to leave behind as much sediment as possible. Use an auto-siphon—they are well worth the investment. Place the fermenter on a table or counter, with the bottling bucket below it on the floor or a chair. Remove the fermenter lid or stopper. Place the sanitized racking cane or auto-siphon into the fermenter. Pump the auto-siphon to start the siphon. Once the beer is flowing, allow the beer to gently swirl into the bottling bucket, mixing with the priming solution. Again, avoid pouring, splashing or rough handling. As the beer level drops in the fermenter, you may notice the beer getting a little cloudier. Don’t let this bother you. It is yeast. Yeast is good. You need yeast to carbonate your beer. If you work too hard to avoid transferring cloudy beer, you could end up with an undercarbonated batch. Don’t worry about the yeast… it will flock out once refrigerated, making a nice clean-looking beer.
- Now you have your beer & priming solution in the bottling bucket. Make sure the priming solution is adequately mixed by doing gentle “figure-8’s” in the bucket with your sanitized brew paddle or spoon. This is to evenly disperse the priming solution so every bottle has an equal amount. Place the bucket on a table. Remove the hose from the auto-siphon and attach to the spigot. Attach your sanitized bottle filler on the other end. Open the spigot & allow the beer to fill the hose. Fill each bottle by pressing the bottle filler onto the bottom of each bottle. Let the bottles fill all the way to the top, and then lift the filler just as the beer reaches the very top of the bottle, to stop it from overflowing. Removing the filler from the bottle will lower the level of the beer, leaving the perfect amount of headspace. It takes a little practice, but it’s easy!
- Sanitize your bottle caps by soaking in your sanitizing solution several minutes before bottling. If you are using Oxygen-barrier caps, follow these instructions. To cap your bottles, place a sanitized cap onto the bottle and crimp with your capper. Don’t apply excessive pressure, let the capper do the work. Some cappers have a magnet under the crimping cup to hold the cap in place.
- Natural carbonation occurs as a result of the suspended yeast in your beer consuming the priming sugar. Allow the beer to carbonate at room temperature (70-75 degrees) 5-10 days before refrigerating. Additional aging will improve the clarity & flavor. Pour your homebrew into a room-temperature beautiful pint glass leaving the sediment behind. Unless it’s a Hefewiezen… that style calls for the yeast to be swirled and poured into the glass, to be enjoyed. Do not serve your wonderful creations in a frosted mug or chilled glass! This kills the aroma and flavor. A frosted mug is an insult to your beer! CHEERS!