Adam's Homebrew Beer Page

This gallery outlines my process for brewing beer. It is an all-grain process, so I don't use any malt extract. A batch takes about 6 hours as shown in the sample mash schedule below. I keep track of all of my recipes in a recipe book, which I hope to have up here to share someday.

Brewing Terms (my own definitions)

Term Definition
Air Lock Allows gas (carbon dioxide) to escape from the fermenter without letting other stuff in. Usually bubbles through a small reservoir of water.
Amylase Enzymes that convert starch to sugar. Found in malted barley, as well as saliva. Two main types found in brewing are Alpha amylase enzyme, which is most active at about 158 F and produces higher body beers (more complex sugars), and Beta amylase enzyme, active at about 148 F, which produces higher alcohol beer. Ideal mash temperature is in between.
Carboy A large glass jug.
Chiller A device for chilling the wort before pitching the yeast. Usually either an immersion chiller (coil of copper tubing with cold water running through it, immersed in the wort), or counter-flow (inner coil of tubing that the wort flows through inside an outer tubing that has cold water flowing the opposite direction).
Cleanser Cleaning agent used for removing particles and oils from equipment. Does not sanitize (see Sanitizer). I use PBW, or Powdered Brewers Wash.
Decoction Removing part of the mash, heating it up, and adding it back to the mash tun to raise the overall temperature. Typically used for lagers.
Dry Hops Hops added during secondary fermentation for strong hop aroma effect.
Extraction A relative measure of the amount of sugar that was obtained from the malt.
Flocculation The tendancy for a yeast to clump together. Highly flocculant yeast usually leads to clearer beer since it will drop to the bottom easier.
Hot Break When proteins fall out of the wort and flocculate while the temperature rises to boil. A good hot break reduces protein haze and is generally found with a quicker temperature rise.
Kettle The vessel that the boil takes place in, usually a big pot.
Lag The time between when you turn off the heat and when the yeast becomes active. This is the time when the beer is most susceptible to infection.
Liquor Hot water used for brewing. (water, not alcohol!)
Malt Barley that has been allowed to barely begin sprouting before it is quickly dried in a kiln.
Mash Letting the grain sit at a specific temperature so amylase enzymes can convert starch to sugar.
Pitch As in "pitching yeast" - putting the yeast into the wort after the yeast has been activated.
Racking The process of siphoning beer from one container to another, usually leaving behind the stuff that has sunk to the bottom.
Sanitizer used to sanitize, or kill any undesirable bacteria or yeast. Does not clean equipment (see Cleanser). I usually use Star SAN phosphoric acid sanitizer. (Phosphoric acid is used to keep CocaCola fresh.)
Siphon Using gravity to draw liquid through a hose.
Sparge Running hot water through the grain bed to remove as much sugar as possible.
Specific Gravity The ratio of the weight of a substance to the equivalent volume of water. Numbers greater than 1.000 are heavier than water and less than 1.000 are lighter than water. Typical wort starts at an original gravity of between 1.040 to 1.060. Can be used to get an idea of final alcohol content because it basically tells how much sugar is in the wort.
Stuck Mash When the grain filter gets impacted during recirculation. This can be due to recirculating too fast, too fine of a grind on the malt, or using lots of wheat. Rice husks can help reduce the chance of this happening.
Tun A pot or container.
Vorlauf The process of recirculating the wort through the grain in the lauder tun (or combined mash tun) after mashing. Brings the weak wort from the bottom and returns it to the top of the grain bed for consistency. Secondarily, sets up layers in the grain bed that provide progressively fine filters as it goes down, clarifying the beer. Vorlauffing should only take 15-20 minutes (way less time than the sparge), and is skipped entirely in some setups.
Wort The sweet malty liquid produced by mashing.
Yeast Common brewing yeast is Saccromyces Cerevisiae, a micro-organizm that metabolizes sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. There are many different strains of yeast used for brewing.

My Brewing Process

This is the process I use for brewing all-grain beer. It roughly describes the sequence in the photo gallery.

  1. Heat liquor (water) to the strike temperature, approximately 180 F.
  2. Add about 1/2 gallon of hot liquor to empty mash tun to preheat, then empty.
  3. Mix hot liquor with crushed grain as they go into the mash tun.
  4. Mix slightly to get rid of dry spots
  5. Insert thermometer and cover for 5 mins before checking. Should be around 153 F. (Called a "single infusion" mash.)
  6. Let mash sit for 1 hour. During this time the amylase enzymes in the grain are converting starch to sugars.
  7. Begin recirculation (vorlaufing) by slowly opening the valve at the bottom and running in to pitchers before gently pouring back on top of the grain bed. This gets rid of the big solids and forms a nice filter bed in the grain. Not too fast or you'll get a stuck mash!
  8. When it starts to run clear (it gets darker), slow down the flow and run the wort into the first kettle and begin sparging.
  9. Sparge by pouring hot water (~170 F) on top of the grain bed. This should be done very slowly (~45 minutes) to maximize the extraction.
  10. When full, bring pot(s) to a boil.
  11. Once boiling add Bittering hops (~1 hour), flavor hops (~15 minutes), and/or aroma hops (~5 minutes).
  12. Place cleaned wort chiller (if using an immersion chiller) into pot 15 minutes before the end to sterilize.
  13. Turn off stove and begin chilling by running cold water through the wort chiller.
  14. Clean and sanitize a glass carboy, airlock, and big spoon.
  15. Once chilled, remove the chiller and give the wort a quick stir to get it spinning. This will cause the hops to form a pile in the middle of the kettle so the wort can be siphoned off the sides.
  16. Siphon the chilled wort into the carboy
  17. AERATE WELL! Shake as much as possible to get oxygen into the wort. Yeast requires oxygen for initial (aerobic) reproductive stage. Aerate some more while you're at it.
  18. Pitch the prepared yeast. If dry, it must be rehydrated, preferably with some previously made wort. If liquid, take it out of the fridge a few hours before and shake well. I always use liquid yeast these days.
  19. Place air lock on carboy and move to where it can sit during primary fermentation. Out of direct light and a stable temperature around 75 F (for ale yeast) is ideal. Let sit for 5-10 days, or until the bubbling slows down dramatically.
  20. Rack to another carboy or other (sanitized!) secondary fermenter. Add dry hops to secondary fermenter if desired. If dry hopping, rack again in a week or so. Otherwise, let sit until fermentation stops completely and specific gravity is below about 1.010 (depending on how heavy your beer is).
  21. Bottle, keg, or otherwise find a way to drink your beer. If bottling, let condition in the bottle for a few weeks or longer to carbonate. Kegging takes less time and is force carbonated. Drinking it straight out of the carboy is discouraged unless absolutely necessary!


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Author: Adam Boggs