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Brewing from Malt Extract

Introduction to Extract Brewing

Home brewing can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby. While it takes some time to get a finished product, there is nothing quite like downing a beer like no other - the one you created.

To get started in home brewing you need some equipment, some space, some time and some patience. First of all, you need the equipment. Be prepared to put down between 50 and 100 dollars to get started. You can obviously spend more, but I suggest starting with the basics until you get your feet wet. You should have the following items, which you can purchase from your local home brew shop or online. You can add on to this basic kit as you progress. There are hundreds of items you can get from carboy driers to wort chillers and kegging systems to yeast culturing apparatus. This can easily become an obsession and quite expensive, but to start out making great beer you don't need to shell out a ton of cash. These items can usually be purchased as part of a starter kit and may or may not contain an ingredient kit to make your first batch. I would suggest starting off with an all extract batch, just to learn the ropes, then you can progress to specialty grain and extract and then on to full grain brewing.

Brewing

First of all SANITIZE everything that comes in contact with the beer. Things cannot be too clean. There are commercial sanitizers and cleaners available, but I find it cheaper to use unscented household bleach. Soak all items in hot water and bleach for 30 minutes. For 5 gallons of water, use 3-4 ounces of bleach. Rinse well, until you can no longer smell the bleach on the equipment. Note: If you have sensitive hands, you may want to use gloves while working with bleach, as it can dry your hands out and make them split - not comfortable at all.

You should have an ingredient kit or recipe and all of its components including, the malt, grains, hops, and yeast. There may be instructions with the kit. If there are follow them. The below is provided as a guide to get an idea of what home brewing entails. Note: These are instructions for brewing ales, lagers are done at different temperatures, but it is the procedure that is the focus here. It is a good idea to keep notes as you brew, for future reference.

  1. Boil 2.5 to 3 gallons of water in the brew kettle. After it has boiled, pour it in the plastic bucket and cover it with the lid (never pour hot liquid in the glass carboys - they can crack). I use an ice bath to cool the bucket quickly. The ice bath is a large plastic container with ice and water in it and the plastic bucket is submerged about ¾ under the ice and water. You can use a wort chiller or just let it cool naturally. It is recommended to use a chiller or ice bath to cool it quickly, thus decreasing time for bacteria or other nasties to get in.
  2. Fill the kettle with 2.5 - 3 gallons of water and if you have specialty grains place them in the grain bag and let them steep 20 - 30 minutes.
  3. Turn on the stove or burner and let it heat for 20 - 30 minutes, but don't let it boil.
  4. Remove the grain bag.
  5. Add the malt extract.
  6. Bring the kettle to a boil. Be careful, as wort can boil over quickly and is not a nice mess to clean up.
  7. Using a hop bag, add the hops according to the hop schedule. Usually the bittering hops are boiled for 45 - 60 minutes. Flavoring hops are added with around 20 minutes left in the boil. Finishing hops are added with 5 - 10 minutes left.
  8. Remove the hop bag.
  9. Pour the hot wort into the bucket of water you boiled earlier.
  10. Bring the mixture to 75 degrees.
  11. Take a reading with the hydrometer. Record this number. This will be your Starting Gravity (SG).
  12. If you have an oxygenation system, add oxygen to the wort.
  13. At 75 degrees pitch the yeast. I recommend pitchable tubes, as you can get much more complex and specific flavors from liquid yeast than you can from dry packets.
  14. Put the lid on the bucket. Fill the airlock ½ way with warm water. Insert the airlock in a stopper and then in the hole in the bucket lid. I use a 6.5 gallon glass carboy instead of the plastic bucket for primary fermentation as I like to watch fermentation happen, but the plastic bucket will suffice.
  15. Keep the wort around 70 degrees until primary fermentation is complete. When the bubbles in the airlock are at intervals of greater than 1 bubble per minute, primary fermentation has completed. This will take a day or two to start then it will be bubbling rapidly and may even push foam out of the airlock. If this happens, rinse the airlock and reinsert it. Primary fermentation on normal gravity beers takes approximately 3 - 5 days.
  16. After primary fermentation is complete, rack the wort into the sterilized secondary fermentation vessel, leaving the yeast in the primary container. If you are making a fruit beer, I recommend adding the puree or fruit at this point.
  17. Insert the stopper and sterilized airlock in the carboy. Keep the temperature constant until secondary fermentation is complete. This can take 7 days to several weeks. Secondary fermentation is complete when the airlock bubbles in increments of greater that one bubble every 3 minutes.
  18. Rack the wort into the sterilized bucket, leaving the yeast and sediment in the secondary vessel.
  19. Take a reading with the hydrometer. Record this number. This is the Final Gravity (FG).
  20. To come up with the ABV, use this formula. (SG - FG) x 131.25

Bottling

  1. Sterilize the bottles in the bleach solution or using a commercial product. Rinse them well. If you are using recycled bottles, use a bottle brush to remove any particles before sterilizing. You will need approximately 50 or so 12 ounce bottles.
  2. Place the bottle caps in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes to sterilize them.
  3. In another pot, add 1 cup of water and ¾ to 1 cup of priming (corn) sugar and heat until it boils. Use more sugar for more carbonation and less for less carbonation, but no more than one cup or you risk exploding bottles. Note: You can add .47% to the ABV if you use 1 cup of sugar, slightly less if you use less sugar.
  4. Let this mixture cool to 75 degrees or so. Then add it to the wort.
  5. Attach the bottling stick to the racking cane and tubing and start a siphon from the bucket. There is a great device available to start siphons with a simple pull-push, check your local home brew store for this. The name varies from shop to shop.
  6. Fill the bottles to the top with the bottling stick inserted. When you remove the stick the level will be appropriate.
  7. Cap the bottles.
  8. Store the bottles in a cool, dark place for from 3 weeks to several months, depending on the brew. Do not store them in the refrigerator as this will prevent the yeast from eating the sugar and will not carbonate properly.
  9. The day before you are to enjoy your beer, place a few in the refrigerator and let them chill overnight.
  10. Enjoy your creation.
(Credits and Thanks to Chris Love and Brew-Monkey.com.)