Brewing - IBADS Style

[NOTE: At the last brewing get together, m1 took a lot of pictures throughout the day. He blogged about it here, but since his site is pw protected, I decided to republish it (with permission). Enjoy!]

So making beer is a mysterious and complex process until you see it done once or twice. Then you realize its basically just cooking a giant pan of nasty soup with your friends while you get trashed. To show just how simple brewing can be, I took a bunch of pictures last time we brewed and present them here with narration for your edutainment.

The basic ingredient of beer is malted barley, that is, barley grains that have been allowed to start germinating and then quickly dried out. You can buy giant bags of dry malted barley grains, or you can buy smaller bags of powdered malt extract (the latter being the former, just processed at a factory to remove useless trach and retain the malty goodness). And thus we have the two basic methods of homebrewing: all-grain (using the actual malted barley grains) and malt extract (using the powdery goodness, which smells a lot like malted milkballs, by the way).

All-grain is a bit more work but it gives you more control and saves some money too.

We made one 10-gallon batch of extract beer two 10-gallon batches of all-grain beer the day I took these pictures. I'm going to try to present them in that order, even though we were overlapping quite a bit to speed up the total brewing tim, bigtim.

Here's what bags of malt extract look like:

Basically we need to mix 5 pounds of that powdered malt extract with water and then boil the whole mess for about an hour, adding much smaller amounts of various other things as we go for flavor and color, according to our recipe. Boiling 10 gallons of water requires a ginormous pot and a propane burner; we use a reclaimed 1/2 barrel keg with a hole in the top as our boil kettle:

Fancy people use fancy water, we use water from a hose.

After you get the water cooking, you stir in the malt extract powder. Keep stirring, cause it's gonna try to boil over, big tim.

The recipe we were doing called for steeping some grains in the kettle. You use a sock-like net thinger to keep the grains from getting lose in the kettle, because nobody likes chunky beer:

After an hour of waiting (mostly filled with drinking or, in our case, getting the first all-grain ready to go) you open the valve on the boil kettle and drain all the wort (that's what it's called at this stage) into giant glass jars called carboys. Each carboy gets 5 gallons, so 2 carboys per boil kettle.

This all has to be very sanitary or you end up with infected beer (tastes funky). We dunk everything in a tupperware container filled with a mixture of idophor and water:

Of course, the wort is still boiling hot and glass containers do not like to be shocked like that. We use a heat exchanger called a Chillzilla to cool the wort down to 70-ish degrees F between the boil kettle and the carboy. The heat exchanger is fed by a garden hose and does a remarkable job cooling the wort. A food-grade pump keeps the flow at a constant rate, allowing us to control the output temperature. That aluminum foil around the top has been sanitized and is in place to keep bugs and crud out of the beer, again infection is enemy #1.

The final step is to add yeast to the wort. The yeasties eat the sugars in the wort and convert them to alcohol and CO2. We like to use Nottingham dry yeast because it doesn't impart much distinctive flavor to the beer. Other yeasts do, and are intended for specific recipes; this is kindof a universal yeast.

OK I lied, one more step. A bubbler on top is filled with liquid (we like to use vodka because nothing lives in vodka). The bubbler allows the CO2 to escape and prevents bacteria and whatnot getting in. The rate of fermentation (yeast action) can be judged in the coming few weeks based on the rate of bubbling. Ordinarily, the bubbles start after a day, peak after another, then level out and begin to decline as the yeast run out of food.

I didn't get a picture of putting the vodka in, but here is Mike accidentally getting some out, while I curse, and strangely romantic music plays.

Whew! Posting blogs with this many pictures is a pain in my ass. OK let's press on. Here's how you make beer all-grain style.

There's no magical white powder. Instead, we extract the malty goodness from the barley grains first by cracking/lightly crushing them:

And next by circulating hot water over them. This oatmeal-like concoction is called the mash, and it is accomplished in the mash tun. Bean's mashtun is a blue square-ish tupperware cooler for which he has cleverly designed a copper piping-based circulator thingermabob. You'll see.

So here is the whole setup:

That giant white tank on top is the HLT. The sprayfoam-encrusted thing in the middle is a an electric heat exchanger through which the mash water (sparge) can be circulated and heated (or not) as controlled by a thermostat. Finally, the blue square-ish tupperware cooler is the aforementioned mash tun.

That's the setup, and here it is in action. First, mash-in. This refers to the initial addition of hot water to the grain, typically at 175 deg. F or so (the grain is cold, so it ends up around 150 F after added).

Now, the pump takes over, circulating the mash liquid over and through the grains at a precisely controlled temperature.

This goes on for a bit, again according to the recipe, but eventually you drain the mash, rinse it with more hot sparge waters, and take it out to the boil kettle for boiling.

From here out, the process is pretty much the same as extract brewing. Since we were making an IPA here, there were a lot of hops to add. Mike bundled them up with pantyhose beforehand:

So we'd be ready to add them at 5 minute intervals. Is it time yet? Wait for it . . .

Hey those look a lot like nutsacks. Wouldn't it be awesome if trees had balls?

And from this point, all-grain and extract really are the same (transferring to carboys, yeast, bubble bubble, etc.). Guard your wort closely lest someone steal it.

In 2 or 3 weeks, the beer will be ready to keg and after another week or so, ready to enjoy. We use old soda kegs for this purpose:

Oh I almost forgot the best part about brewing. Drinking!