This weekend Amy (one of the helper monkeys around here) and I bottled my third batch of homebrew. I guess I’m kind of working backwards since I’m starting with the bottling on the blog, but you’ll probably learn something, and in addition that means you could potentially taste the beer faster, since it should be fully carbonated in about 2 weeks.
I can’t remember when I decided that I should brew my own beer. I know it was during college since I started collecting empty beer bottles in college (only to throw them all away during a move). I also bought John Palmers book “How to Brew.” If you wanted to get into the craft, that would be the book to get. You could also get Charlie Papazians older book “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.”
So there I was several years after college at the Christmas of 2009 and I find myself with a shiny new homebrew kit. Unfortunately I’m largely at a field site for work and I won’t be permanently back home until June.
Lets get to the present times. I’ve got a few homebrews under my belt and a fancy new brew book “Radical Brewing” by Randy Mosher who seems to be a big fan of the so-called Belgium Reinheitsgebot “Experience, Creativity, and Knowledge,” as he always is pushing what you can do with a beer.
It’s time to step it up a notch, in that I’m not just brewing a pre-made brew kit, but I’m formulating a beer reciped based on radical recipes from the book.There is born, Kuyken’s Coffee Stout.
It starts with a solid American Style Stout recipe, and use some tasty Crystal Malts. Then, after primary fermentation you cold extract a few ounces of coffee and add it when you rack to secondary.
Ok, there was a lot of fancy spancy brewin’ terms in that last sentence. What the hell did I just say? I’ll go into more detail when I post about my next brew from the beginning, but here are some basics.
Crystal Malts: These are malts that are roasted in a rotating drum before kilning. They produce strong toffee-flavors. It will also add to the amount of residual sugars since some of the sugars from this malt are unfermentable.
Wort: This is basically the sugar solution you get from the malted barely and other ingredients, and contains the bitterness, flavor, and aroma of the hops. You then add yeast to this, which will ferment it, and you will get beer.
Primary Fermentation: After brewing your wort, you put it into some sort of fermentation vessel like a plastic bucket or carboy. Then you put in some beer yeast. After fermentation, you will sometimes siphon or “rack” the beer into another vessel that removes it from the yeast cake that developes. This is especially true if you want to mature the beer for a long time.
Cold extraction. To do this you take a bunch of coffee grounds and put it in a small amount of water for about a day in the fridge. Some people use cold extraction to make coffee which generally gives you a smoother less bitter coffee flavor than a brewed coffee. You can store this coffee for awhile and if you wanted to drink it you could mix it with hot water. The reason that this method is used for beer a lot of the time is so it doesn’t add any more bitterness.
To the Bottling!
The first think you need to do with clean and sanitize all of your equipment. I clean all my bottles as I used them, and then I generally put it into the dish washer which has a sani rinse feature, that will sanitize all the bottles.
Then I clean everything else using a low suds oxygenated cleanser called Powders-Brewery-Wash. This is similar to Oxyclean Free. You could really use any unscented detergent, but the oxygenated cleaners barely needs to be rinsed and really are some of the best cleansers out there. Then you have to sanitize your equipment. You can use heat (like I use for the bottles), or you can use a chemical sanitizer. The most common one would be a beach solution, just remember that if you use a bleach solution you have to rinse it really good. I used a non-rinse sanitizer made by Star San, which won’t affect the head on your beer, but there are other brands out there.
Sanitizing is very important for all your brewing activities. To make beer you generally want want one critter and one critter only, yeast. If you sanitize (kill 99.9% of critters), you will easily allow the yeast to kill off the remaining 0.1% of the critters. If you don’t, then other bacterias will start eating away at your beer and you’ll get all sorts of odd flavors. You won’t get sick, because the alcohol will eventually kill off most everything.
You then need to make a priming sugar solution. I completely forgot about this in the “excitement” of cleaning that I didn’t remember the priming sugar until after I started siphoning the beer into the bottling bucket and Amy asked when we put the priming sugar in. The answer of course is, before you start siphoning the beer into the bottling bucket so it mixes itself in good. We quickly stopped the siphon and ran up to the kitchen to make it.
Priming solution is basically a simple syrup. You just want to add some sugar into the beer so the remaining yeast can ferment it in the bottle and create C02, hence naturally carbonating the beer. This simple sugar won’t add any flavor or body like the wort does.
So we make some and cool it off as quick as possible. Then pour it into the secondary fermenter with as little splashing as possible. After fermentation you want to aerate the wort as little as possible. Adding air to the beer will give you oxidized flavors, which tastes like cardboard. Generally if you have a beer for a long time, you will get these flavors eventually because the bottle cap can only keep out so much air, but by aerating the beer you’re going to get them a lot faster.
So now the beer is in the bottling bucket with a spiget. The tube and the bottle filler have been placed on it. Then I fill each bottle up to the top which after you take out the bottle filler out will give you the perfect amount of head room. You want to leave about an inch on top, which after carbonation will fill with C02 and protect your beer from air.
Then you take the bottle capper and cap each bottle. It takes a little bit of time, and you have to wait 2 weeks for it to carbonate, but then you will have tasty tasty beer. Yes there were a few snafus, but you’ve got to relax, don’t worry, and have a homebrew.