Friday, May 25, 2012

Yeastie Beasties on the job

It's been over a decade but I'm back to brewing you all!  In my undergrad major we all had to learn how to make beer.  The funny thing with me was that I didn't drink alcohol.  BUT it turns out you can make a beer just fine without consuming an entire serving of the stuff. There's no alcohol in it until it ferments.  Yeast converts the sugars into alcohol.  For those of us in microbiology it's like making growth media where the object is to make the most delicious version possible of the media, that just so happens to support growth and fermentation (separate steps) of just the right number of bugs.

I should note The Lovely Spouse helped out with this A LOT. This is all his equipment and I'm benefiting from him learning from his mistakes over the years. I'm the student here.

Step one of brewing is to heat a bunch of water. We use the spring water from the grocery store because the local tap water has too much iron and other minerals to make a tasty, delicious beer. Yes, we recyled all that plastic. We also used Burton salts because "electrolytes are what yeast crave".

We'll be making 5 gallons of beer, because that's the size of fermenters we have.  So I heated about 4 gallons to 160 F. 

Next I turned off the heat, put a grain bag in the water and dumped in my malted barley.  This recipe uses a malt extract so there's a relatively small amount of grains compared to an all grain recipe.  We purchased everything from Homebrew Headquarters in Richardson, TX and they were nice enough to pull together the correct mix of grains and mill them for us so that all I had to do was dump them in, straight from the bag.

After steeping for 30 minutes I pulled the grain bag (also called mash) out and drained it.  Then I heated the entire tea (actually, it's called a wort at this point, but it reminds me of a giant pot of tea) to a rolling boil.  Then I turned off the heat, poured in the malt extracts (this is the sugar the yeast will "eat" and turn into alcohol), mixed thoroughly, and returned the entire pot to a rolling boil. 

While waiting for things to boil I put my first batch of hops into a hop sock. We use pellets for convenience.  A lot of breweries use them to keep things consistent batch to batch.  If you use the flowers there will be variability between batches of beer and batches of hops purchased.  It all depends on the recipe you're using.

So next I added my first batch of hops.

[Yes, I burned myself on the clip.  Note to self: use only clothespins next time.]

At 50 and 55 minutes I added the next two batches of hops, because this is an IPA.

At the end of the 60 minutes, total, boil I removed the hops and the entire thing was poured into an ale pail, which had already been sanitized.

The entire thing had to cool before I could add the yeast so I "smacked" a smack pack of yeast (a yeast suspension in a preservation medium that releases an activator when it's "smacked") and went off to do other stuff for a few hours. Then we set up a system to let gas escape while the yeast do their thing for a day or so and left them to the business of multiplying.

Go yeast go! Go yeast go!

After a bit more than a day we transfered the brewing beer from the primary fermenter (the ale pail) to a sanitized secondary fermenter.  Because this is an IPA more hops were added at this step, and that's called dry hopping.  We do this transfer to separate the brewing beer from the gunk that settles to the bottom.  That gunk could add all kinds of nasty unwanted flavors to the final product.

Next step is to cap the fermenter with one of those locks you see on the bucket on the right and leave it alone for a few weeks.  After that we'll add in corn sugar (a source of fructose, another thing yeast craves) and put the beer in bottles. This last step will give the beer carbonation. 

So right now we wait.  At this point all I know is that what remained in the ale pail smelled absolutely delicious as I was cleaning up.

On a related note, I found a lovely recipe for the left-over malted barley: 

This batch was made with wet grains ground in the food processor because I couldn't wait to dry them out.  Instructions for doing so are linked to the recipe. I found I had to bake the crackers for 20 minutes to get nice and crispy, instead of the 10-12 listed on the recipe. I made them the next day with dried grains.  The texture was much crispier then and there were no loose barley hulls to chew.  I still had to bake around 20 minutes to get them crispy. This might be due to our humid environment.

I froze the remaining dried spent grains so I can make these and other recipes any time.

No comments:

Post a Comment