Brew day!

brew day

As promised, here are some photos and thoughts on my first ever home-brew, click through if you dare. This isn’t intended to be a ‘How To Brew’ guide, I’m very much a beginner and, frankly, I wouldn’t take advice from myself. But some of you are into your beer so this could be slightly amusing… or horrifying!

So this is what happened:

1. Cleaning and sanitisig

First and foremost I sanitised all the equipment. I used a chlorine-based brewing bleach which isn't perfect but couldn't get hold of anything non-rinse. Cleaning and sanitising is absolutely crucial in brewing.

First and foremost I cleaned sanitised all the equipment. I mainly used a chlorine-based brewing bleach for the larger bits, which isn’t perfect but couldn’t get hold of anything non-rinse. For all the small parts I used sodium metabisulphite. Cleaning and sanitising is absolutely crucial in brewing, you basically treat your wort and then young beer like, however inappropriate it sounds, a man with leukaemia.

2. Ingredients

Brewing ingredients

For my first batch I decided to make a hefe-weizen, which is a German/Bavarian wheat beer (Paulaner, Erdinger…). I created a recipe using an excellent piece of software called BeerSmith – I honestly can’t imagine doing all of the calculations by hand. I paid a tenner ($16) and I consider this money well spent. My recipe is extract-based. It’s an intermediate step between kit-brewing and all-grain and apparently many home brewers do it this way. The drill is you steep some speciality grain, usually dark caramelised malt which already had its starches converted into sugars, and then you simply add malt extract. This way you don’t have to mash any grain. Why bother steeping anything at all? Apparently it adds to the complexity of the flavour, improves the body and enhances head retention. Mashing gives the best results but requires much more equipment and experience so maybe some day…

Back to the ingredients. What you can see in the photo is (clockwise from top left): dry wheat malt extract (55% wheat, 45% barley), two cans of liquid wheat malt extract (60% wheat, 40% barley), German Caramunich malt (90 EBC), Cara-Pils malt (5 EBC) and Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hops (4,3% alpha acid). What you can’t see is the yeast but there is a photo further down.

3. Steeping

Be precise!

The pictures say it all really. First weigh the desired amount of grains…

Bagged grain

…then put it in muslin bags.


Bring the steeping water (4 litres per 500g of grain) to 70°C and…

Dunking the grain

…dunk the grain.

Preliminary wort

After a few minutes it really started looking and smelling the part! If anything at least the process makes your place reek like a tun room in a malt distillery! Happy times. I steeped the grain for 30 minutes constantly monitoring the temperature.

Beer bollocks

What can I say. Yes, they do look like huge bollocks. But what’s inside the pot is now my preliminary wort.

4. Boiling

Adding liquid malt extract

I added some more water, one can of my liquid malt extract and 300g of the dry malt extract to the pot and quickly brought the whole thing to boil. Pardon the cap, I put it on so that the process of my hairline recession wouldn’t do to my beer what it’s done to my social life…

Hot break

Now, what you can see here is what is called a hot-break. Basically proteins that are naturally in your grain coagulate and eventually fall to the bottom of the brew pot. Proteins = bad. You want to do a thorough hot-break.

Hot-break clearing

Once the hot-break started clearing…


…I added all the hops I had prepared. Now, normally you would add hops in three stages at different times of the boil. First addition gives bitterness, and the two others impart flavour and aroma. With a weizen it’s a slightly different story, you don’t add any flavour/aroma hops because you don’t want hops to overpower the signature estery character of wheat beer. I should say the bittering addition is rather modest too.

I know, I should smile more.

Wort boil

I boiled my hopped wort for an hour constantly watching for boilovers and scorching and then added the second can of my liquid malt extract. Because I don’t have a pot that could boil the entire volume of my brew (20 liters) I had to boil only half of it and then top it up with water in the fermenter. the gravity of the boil should be as close as possible to the gravity of the wort (Maillard reactions, hop utility and other issues), therefore I only added the second can of extract at the end and pasteurised it for some 10 minutes. It’s a common practice.

5. Cooling the wort

Cooling the wort

For various reasons (let’s not venture into organic chemistry too much) wort MUST be cooled to below 27°C as quickly as possible (within 30 minutes preferably) and then further down to the yeast pitching temperature (in my case 18°C). I used a rather primitive but nevertheless effective method of ice-water bath and swirling water around the pot. Remember – a man with leukaemia so keep it covered.

6. Pitching the yeast

Pitching the yeast

Once the wort has cooled I poured it into the fermenter bucket and mixed with the right amount of water I had boiled and cooled the day before. It is recommended to pour from a height and splash to aerate the wort (oxygen makes it easier for yeast to multiply during the initial stages of fermentation). A quick temperature check and my wort was ready to pitch yeast. I used rather posh liquid yeast from Wyeast Labs. There are hundreds and thousands of different yeast strains. I used ‘Bavarian Wheat #3638′.

7. Fermentation

Fermenter with wort

In the picture above you can see what the wort looked like right after I pitched yeast. I kept it over night in a cool room (17°C) and the next day I turned the heating on a little bit and slowly raised the temperature to around 22-23°C which is my target for this fermentation. The particular yeast strain I used works between 18 and 24°C but I wanted to use the higher end of the scale once again to encourage ester production and get more of the banana/clove character in my beer. For the record the original gravity of my wort was one point lower than planned, the hydrometer reading was 1.049. Because my yeast strain isn’t very attenuative I’m anticipating a final gravity in the region of 1.013 which should give me roughly 4.7% ABV.

Day 1

Above you can see what it looked like 24h into the fermentation. There was a considerable amount of foaming going on and it started releasing CO2 through the airlock.

Day 2

And this is what it looked like this morning (36 hours). Looking good.

Right, so that’s it. If you have any suggestions fire away. I will keep you posted on the progress and will definitely blog the bottling day in two weeks and the big tasting in about 3-4 weeks.


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