Planet Beer

This is a blog about making beer, primarily ME making beer. However, it will also teach you how to homebrew---either all grain or with little cans of goo. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Er, almost!

So I'm a bit late on the pineapple process. It's one of those impossible circular links, wherein: I just need a photo of the grain mill to finish the article, to take the picture I need to clean up the table it's on, the table doesn't get cleaned, the photo isn't taken, the article then is not posted. Harumph. The solution? Probably publish the article without the grain mill!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Forthcoming: Pineapple Surprise

The pineapple beer is done. It had a starting gravity of 1.053 and finished at 1.012. The bitterness is close to 30 IBU's, which I was worried would be too high---but the beer is still very malty. The pineapple flavor is quite mild, with a slight acidic zing. Today I'll publish a photographic step by step of the process.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Beerfest Review

Here's a review of the movie Beerfest on Beer Advocate.

Bottling and Carbonation

Once you've got a batch of brew in the carboy, you'll notice that the airlock happily bubbles away for a couple of days. Then, the bubbling slows. There are two ways to determine if your beer is done. The first is to take measurements with a hydrometer. If the specific gravity is the same for three days in a row, you can be pretty sure it's finished. If you don't have a hydrometer, no worries. Once the rate of bubbling has slowed to one every 90 seconds, you can feel confident that bottling time is nigh. If for any reason it isn't convenient to bottle that day, no problem. The beer can sit for a month in the carboy if necessary---though it would be best to bottle sooner. One other comment I think I missed---try to keep the temperature of your fermenting brew under 74 degrees F. Strange tastes can develop if the brew gets too warm! You'll need the following supplies to bottle five gallons of beer:

1. 60 twelve ounce bottles or equivalent in big bottles
2. 3/4 cup of corn sugar or 1.25 cups dry malt extract or 60 Cooper's carbonation drops. (you can use other things, but don't!) I've found that corn sugar is the best.
3. More than 60 caps. Buy a whole sack.
4. A capper, any design
5. A five gallon racking bucket, with a nozzle preferably.
6. Some hose to go on the nozzle
7. An autosiphon or hose for siphoning.
(Incidentally, I'll be posting photos of all this gear later in the blog.)

Hopefully, you have already secured some beer bottles, preferably the dark brown glass. You can use whatever size you like, of course---but when you've bottled as much as I have, you're going to like the large bottles better. (In fact, I've gotten down to ONE big bottle, but that's another story.) You need to make sure the bottles are thoroughly sanitized, and the labels removed. Bass Ale bottles are my favorite, the labels come right off. Eventually, you'll learn to rinse bottles after you're done drinking the beer three times. This will keep mold away so that cleaning becomes easier when it's time to bottle.

The way I do the cleaning is to fill a large wash tub with hot water, and add two ounces of bleach. Then submerge the bottles. Let them soak until the labels come off easily. You will need to rinse the bottles in hot tap water to get any nasty goop out, and also to eliminate any chlorine that may remain inside. Do that before filling the bottles.

There are a couple of different bottle rinsing devices on the market, one is a small brass piece that screws on the faucet, the other is a connector with a hose and long plastic wand. I use the latter because you can also clean the carboy with it.

The yeast will have dropped to the bottom of your carboy in large part, but some still remains suspended in the beer. You'll need to give it something else to eat, which we call priming, so that you'll get the beer properly carbonated. That's where the corn sugar comes in. First, sanitize the bucket with a chlorine mix and rinse with hot tap water. Make sure you work the valve when draining both, so that the valve is sanitized as well.

Take a small saucepan and bring to a boil one pint of water mixed with the corn sugar or dry malt extract, if you are not using carbonation drops. Let the mix boil for a couple of minutes and remove from heat.

Pour this mix into the bottom of the bucket. Place the carboy with the beer in it on the counter above the bucket. Place the siphon into the carboy and the tube end into the bucket and begin transferring the beer into the bucket, on top of the primer mix. Sanitize your plastic spoon and have it available. When the beer is finished transferring (now and forever after called "racking"!) place the carboy somewhere else, and put the bucket on the counter.

Now you're ready to bottle. You can either attach the hose to the bucket nozzle, or just use the same siphon as you used to rack the beer to the bucket. The nozzle/valve method is a bit easier at first, but after you get the hang of cutting off the flow of beer by bending the hose, that's easy too.

Stir the mix in the bucket with your sanitized plastic spoon, then put beer into bottles. Cap them. In 7 days, your beer should be ready for drinking. Easy, right?

If you want, you can sanitize a mason jar and pour the yeast at the bottom of your carboy into it. Don't screw the jar top on tightly, leave it loose. Put the jar in the refrigerator for your next batch of beer. It will stay good for about a week.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Making Beer: What Every Man, Woman, and Child Should Know*

Today I'd like to cover making beer at home with malt extract. Extract comes as a dried powder or in cans. Before we get to the benefits of each, let's look at the process of brewing. Brewing has four stages: Mash, Boil, Ferment, and Condition. It's easy to remember these steps with the simple saying: My Butt Feels Clammy. When you use an extract, the mashing has been done for you, so you'll skip this step.

Now, to make beer, you'll need a pot to boil it in. If you have a three gallon pot or bigger, that's best, but a smaller pot will do---not much smaller than two gallons, though. (This will help prevent boil overs, which are icky.)

You'll also need two other pieces of gear, a six gallon glass bottle (called a carboy)and an airlock. The big glass bottle will probably cost $15-$20, and the airlock (a small plastic object) costs around $2.50. You'll need a long handled plastic or steel spoon to stir with, but I'll bet you have one of those at home---otherwise add it to the list. You'll need a funnel and a sieve too. (I'll give you a place to get everything at the end.)

Back to the extract. Liquid extract comes in cans, in either hopped or unhopped varieties. The hopped varities are usually referred to as "kits". They come with a packet of dried yeast, and as their name implies, they also have hops included. Plus, they often have a style pictured on the label. For example, you can find Stout, Porter, Amber, and other flavors already formulated for you. Extracts such as these are a good place to start out. One thing I've noticed, and that is the mixture at five gallons tends to be a bit weak for my taste. So, to adjust the amount of alcohol, you can either add less water or get two cans of extract. I have had good luck with Munton's and Edme, which I believe are made by the same company.

Let's say you've bought the extract, carboy, and airlock and are ready to go. The night before brewing, take two 2.5 gallon containers of water and refridgerate them. You can use any water that's suitable for drinking to make beer. You can buy spring water if you like, especially if it comes with the 2.5 gallon container around it! You will be using 5 gallons of water, more or less, for your recipe. Any containers you use for the water need to be sanitized with a bleach and water mixture, then rinsed with hot tap water, unless they come from the store with water already in them. You will also need to sanitize and rinse the container in which you reconstitute your dried yeast, unless you buy liquid yeast apart from the "kit".

Next day, take your pot (now cunningly called the "brewpot") and put hot water from the tap into it. Place the can of extract in the water and let it sit for 30 minutes or so, to make the extract easier flowing. Now dump out the hot water from the pot, and put a gallon to a gallon and a half of cold water into the pot. Place the pot on the stove and turn it on high. As the water gets too hot to hold your finger in, open the can of extract and add it to the water slowly, while stirring with your steel or plastic spoon. (never use a wooden spoon as it may harbor bacteria)

Reconstitute your yeast, following the instructions on the package. The packet should have come with your "kit". If you bought a liquid yeast apart from the kit, follow the instructions on the yeast with regard to warming time.

Bring the mixture (now called "wort") to a boil and keep it there for 30 minutes. (Some extracts may say not to bother boiling, but ignore them.) Remove the brewpot from the heat.

Before you use the carboy (coming up!) you'll need to disinfect it, along with the airlock, using a solution of 2 ounces of bleach and 5 gallons of water. You can do the carboy first, then pour a few pints into a plastic container to rinse off the airlock, funnel, and sieve. Leave the airlock, funnel, and sieve in the container with the bleach for now. Pour the remaining bleach mixture down the drain. Take about a quart of hot water from the tap and rinse out the carboy, then dump that down the drain as well. Put the carboy onto some newspapers on the floor. Remove the funnel from the solution and rinse it in hot water from the tap.

Place the funnel in the carboy. Rinse the sieve in hot water from the tap and place the sieve in the funnel. Now, pour your 2.5 gallons of chilled water into the carboy. Next, pour the wort (hot stuff in the pot!) into the carboy through the sieve and funnel. Add any remaining water from your starting 5 gallons to the carboy at this time. Remove the sieve and add your yeast to the mix. Remove the funnel.

Remove the airlock from the bleach mix, rinse with hot water from the tap, and add about 3/4 of an inch of water inside the airlock. (If your airlock wasn't in pieces before, you'll need to take the top off to do this.) Put the airlock back together and insert the bung end (rubber part) into the carboy. Place the carboy in a dark space (or just out of the sun). You may shake the carboy up some to get better aeration (more about that later!) but you're done for now, congratulations! In 24 to 36 hours, your wort should begin to ferment. It will go on this way for up to 10 days, at which time you'll be ready to bottle it. We'll cover that in the next post. For now, here is one place to get everything you need to make beer:
Things Beer. Feel free to call them and ask any questions you might have. Or email me at:



*Not that a child, necessarily, has to know how to make beer. But you just never know, a situation COULD, in theory, arise.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Now you are here!

Welcome to my new blog, Planet Beer. In it, I'll be discussing how to make beer, how to start a brewery, and other beer related topics. Look for new stuff soonest!