Posts Tagged ‘homebrew’

Making beer at home: Part 3

March 23rd, 2010

This is a follow-up to part 1 and part 2 of my home-brewing series.

The final step, as you may have guessed, is bottling the beer. There’s not a whole lot too this: you put your bottles in the dishwasher, then bake ’em a little to sanitize them, fill them with beer via a siphon, and cap the bottles.

It’s a good thing this is simple too, because I didn’t get any photos during the bottling. It turns out that digital cameras require something called a “battery” which needs to be “charged.” Who knew?

To take a step back here, you might wonder “where do I get beer bottles?” Well it’s obvious — you drink beer and reuse those bottles. You’ll need about 50 or so dark pop-top bottles. The labels can be removed by soaking the bottles in your kitchen sink overnight in hot water. You can use a cap full of bleach for suborn labels. But the good news is you can keep your de-labeled bottles and use them again.

Here’s a pic of how the bottles get sanitized in the oven once they’re washed. You just place bottles on the racks of your oven, crank the heat to ~300 F, and wait for 20 minutes or so. This is actually more than enough to kill anything that survived the dishwasher.

Sanitizing the bottles

The siphoning part isn’t very interesting, you just need a hose or ideally a hose connected to a pump. That part makes a huge mess but there’s not much to it.

Everyone seems to be interested in capping the bottles. This crab-looking thing is the device that’s used for capping. You pull the handles and it pinches the caps on, and there’s a little magnet inside to hold the cap steady. It’s very easy, if you don’t mind a little hair in your beer you could probably train a monkey to do this part.


Important note to my Bay Area readers: don’t use Anchor Steam bottles! They seem ideal otherwise, but when attempting to cap Anchor bottles I’ve had nothing but issues. Usually the caps won’t snap on easily. One bottle actually broke while I was capping and I got glass all over. FAIL!

This concludes my brewing series. Perhaps I’ll have some other topics later if anyone’s interested.

Making beer at home: Part 2

March 4th, 2010

Today we’re going to follow up to Part 1 of my home-brewing series.

The next step takes place about 5 days after part 1. We’re going to begin “secondary fermentation,” aka putting our beer into a different container.

As always, the real first step is to sanitize everything. So my glass carboy (jug) gets sanitized with iodine and rinsed out. The same thing happens to a rubber stopper, a hose, and an airlock. This is about 10 minutes of work.


Next step: transferring the beer into a new container. All we do is plug in a hose and let gravity do the work.



Now that our beer is moved, we plug up the glass carboy and cram in an airlock.



That’s it, we’re done with setting up our secondary fermentation.

If you’re paying attention, you’re no doubt wondering why we changed containers. The end result of part 1 and part 2 look very similar. So why bother?

Well the answer is simple — we left behind a bunch of sludge in the original container. We tossed the sludge and cleaned out the plastic bucket for next time. It’s like moving your fish while you clean out their bowl. The absence of this gunk makes the resulting beer more clear and less gunky.

Next time in my home-brewing series, we’re going to bottle the beer.

Making beer at home: Part 1

February 24th, 2010

For a few months now I’ve been making beer at home. It’s surprisingly simple. If you can make tea, you can probably make beer.

I’m by no means an expert at this, but I’m chronicling my attempt at making a porter. This is my 6th batch of beer ever, and it will take around two months. Not to worry though, there’s maybe 4 hours of actual work involved. The rest is just waiting.

All the ingredients, recipes, and special equipment come from SF Brewcraft here in the city. (If you’re living somewhere else, you can probably find all this at a local brewing place or online.)

Important note:
brewing beer at home is legal here in California, but it may not be where you live.

Enough talk, let’s get started: here’s day 1 of making the porter.

First you get a big pot of water to a near boil. Three gallons of water (more or less.) Unless your stove is super fast this will take a while. I think it took me about an hour.

Your grains go in a cheesecloth bag and you tie that bag to the side of the pot. This has to soak for about 40 minutes give or take. The resulting water with grains is called “wort.”


Once that’s ready, you have some free time. You turn the stove off, cover the pot, and wait 45 minutes.

Then you spend a minute and 5 seconds fumbling with your camera trying to get the shot of you holding your iPhone timer to demonstrate this. It’s cool though, because you’ve got time to spare.


Beep beep, 45 minutes is up and it’s time to pull the grains out!


Now it’s back to a boil. The malt sugars and hops go in now. The malt I used here is thick and liquid, like maple syrup. Six pounds of malt sugar go in, so I hope you’re not on the Atkins diet.

Hops come in little pellets and look like rabbit turds. They smell like, well, marijuana. Hops are what add flavor to the beer. They go throughout the boil at prescribed periods. This takes another hour.


Okay, the hour is up, now it’s time to cool our batch down in ice water. So we fill up the sink and place the pot in. But unfortunately the pot isn’t heavy enough and it floats, so we put a bunch of heavy junk on top to weigh it down.


Meanwhile, we have a bucket of 2.5 gallons of room temperature water ready to go next to it in a sanitized bucket. The wort goes in here along with yeast, then it gets sealed.


Here’s the whole thing sealed up and ready. The hose acts as a one-way valve so the gasses from the fermentation can escape.


Where does the hose go? Into a bucket of water, of course! For you druggies out there, this is just like a hookah/water pipe.


And that’s it! Next time: secondary fermentation.