We are now going to get to the real brewing of the wort. This is the second part of this series. Make sure you check out part 1 if you haven’t done so already.
Step Seven: Give me Some Heat!
Now its time to start the brewing. Fill up your pot. If your pot is only 3 gallons, I wouldn’t add more than 2 gallons of water, and you still need to watch very closely for boilovers. This is a 5 gallon pot, and I like to add about 3 gallons of water. I still occasionally have to watch for boilovers, but I’m not generally too worried about it.
Put the pot on your biggest burner, and turn it up as high as you can get it. It still seems like it takes forever to boil, but be patient, there is beer at the end.
Once your water got to about 150° F you could add your specialty grains, and hold them there for half an hour, but that’s another post.
You can add the extract when you start to heat the water or after the water heats up. Just remember, the longer the extract is over the fire, the more it will caramelize. This will result in a slightly darker beer. John Palmer’s book How to Brew suggests not to put all of your extract into the kettle right away. In addition to darkening the beer, all sorts of flavors that could potentially stick out in a lighter brew are created. This effect is reduced in a smaller gravity brew. If you are doing a lighter brew like this, you therefore, might want to save a portion of the extract until just a few minutes left. This allows you to still be able to sterilize the extract. Whatever you decide, you should take the pot off of the burner while adding the extract to cut the chance of burning it before it is completely mixed in. Once mixed, this is called the wort.
Step Eight: The forgotten Step
Sorry to say that this step was probably one of my earliest steps. It is really a parallel step to everything else. As long as you do it early enough so that the yeast has enough time to propagate (usually a few hours), you could do it any time. This is a Wyeast Weihenstephan Weizen 3068 smack pack. It is Wyeast’s most traditional German yeast strain. This yeast produces a “beautiful and delicate balance of banana esters and clove phenolics.” Next to the cloudy character, this is exactly what I think of when I think of a German weissbier. You could create a starter for your yeast, but the website for this strain warns that overpitching (or using too much yeasts) can results in the near complete loss in banana character, and a starter just multiplies the yeast. It is strain on the yeast that creates the esters and phenolics. Therefore, I just smacked the pack, and hoped I didn’t do too much. How do you smack one of these packs. Well first, you find the little nutrient pack inside, and hold it to the corner. Then simply follow the diagram below.
Step Nine: 60 Minute Countdown
As long as you have properly cleaned and sanitized everything, what you do during the next 60 minutes will greatly affect the final taste of your beer. It is time for your first hop addition. This hop addition will basically add only to the bitterness level of the beer. All of the volatile oils that you can smell and taste from hops are boiled away. The bitterness comes from alpha acids that have been isomerized into your beer. The most effective way to isomerize an alpha acid is to vigorously boil the hop. The longer you vigorously boil a hop, the more alpha acids will be isomerized. Different hop varieties have different alpha acids levels. A cascade might have an alpha acid level of about 4%, while Nugget might have an alpha acid level of about 13%. The Opals I was using had a pretty high alpha acid level of 8.4%. It also varies between years and farms, so double-check the package before you complete your recipe.
I had 3 hop additions for this beer. The later hope addition, the less volatile aromas can boil away, and the less alpha acids are isomerized. This means you get less bitterness, but more aroma and flavor from the hops. Having three additions increases the complexity.
These were my hop additions:
60 Minutes Remaining: 0.25 oz Opal, .10 oz Nugget (I didn’t have enough Opal to hit my target IBUs, so I added some of the Nugget I already had).
30 Minutes Remaining: 0.50 oz Opal
5 Minute Remaining: 0.25 oz Nugget
When adding hops, especially the first hop addition, your water is really going to want to boil over. Just keep on stirring and turn down the heat if needed. You might also want to keep a little spray bottle on hand. I have heard that spritzing with water helps keep the foaming in hand. Another trick is to put a few copper pennies in the pot. One thing you shouldn’t do is cover your pot completely to try to prevent boilover. There are sulfur compounds the wort develops while boiling, that you would prefer to not condensate on the lid and drop back into the pot.
Step Ten: The Lowdown on the Cooldown
It’s getting a little hot in here, so we’re going to bring the temperature down in Part 3.