This document is intended to be distributed freely and may be copied for personal use. Copyright © 1994 by John J. Palmer All Rights Reserved.
These instructions are designed for the first-time Brewer. What follows can be considered an annotated recipe for a fool-proof Ale beer. Why an Ale beer? Because Ales are the simplest to brew. Brewing Beer is simple and complicated, easy and hard. Compare it to fishing - Sit on the end of the dock with a can of worms and a cane pole and you will catch fish. Going after a specific kind of fish is when fishing gets complicated. Brewing the specific kind of beer you want is the same thing. There are many different styles of beer and many techniques to brew them.
Brewing a beer is a combination of several general processes. First is the mixing of ingredients and bringing the solution (wort) to a boil. Second is the cooling of the wort to the fermentation temperature. Next the wort is transferred to the fermenter and the yeast is added. After fermentation, the raw beer is siphoned off the yeast sediment and bottled with a little extra sugar to provide the carbonation. But there are three important things to keep in mind every time you brew: Cleanliness, Preparation and Good Record Keeping.
Using Unhopped means adding 1-2 ounces of Hops during the boil for bittering and flavor. Hops may also be added to the Hopped Extracts towards the end of the boil for more Hop character in the final beer. Unhopped extract is preferable for brewers making their own recipes.
A rule of thumb is 1 pound of malt extract (syrup) per gallon of water for a light bodied beer. One and a half pounds per gallon produces a richer, full bodied beer. One pound of malt extract syrup typically yields a gravity of 1.034 - 38 when dissolved in one gallon of water. Dry malt will yield about 1.040 - 43. Malt extract is commonly available in Pale, Amber and Dark varieties, and can be mixed depending on the style of beer desired. Wheat malt extract is also available and more new extracts are coming out each year. With the variety of extract now available, there is almost no beer style that cannot be brewed using extract alone.
The next step in complexity for the homebrewer is to learn how to extract the sugars from the malted grain himself. This process, called Mashing, allows the brewer to take more control of producing the wort. This type of homebrewing is referred to as All-Grain brewing.
Published beer recipes often include a Hops schedule, with amounts and boil times specified. Other recipes specify the Hops in terms of AAUs and IBUs. AAUs are a convenient unit for specifying Hops when discussing Hop additions because it allows for variation in the Alpha Acid percentages between Hop varieties. For the purposes of this recipe, 7 AAUs are recommended for the Boil (60 minutes) and 4 AAUs for Finishing (15 minutes). This is assuming the use of Unhopped malt extract; if using Hopped, then only add the 4 AAUs for finishing. In this recipe, these amounts correspond to 22 IBUs for the boil, and 1.25 IBU for the finish. IBUs allow for variation in brewing practices between brewers, yet provide for nearly identical final Hop bitterness levels in the beers. This recipe is not very bitter.
For more information, see the Recommended Reading section.
Ale yeast are referred to as top-fermenting because much of the fermentation action takes place at the top of the fermenter, while Lager yeasts would seem to prefer the bottom. While many of today's strains like to confound this generalization, there is one important difference, and that is temperature. Ale yeasts like warmer temperatures, going dormant below 55F (12C), while Lager yeasts will happily work at 40F. Using Lager yeast at Ale temperatures 65-70F (18-20C) produces Steam Beer, or what is now termed California Common Beer. Anchor Steam Beer (tm) was the founder of this unique style.
For more information, see the Recommended Reading section.
Liquid yeast is regarded as superior to Dry yeast because of the refinement of yeast strains present and little risk of bacterial contamination during manufacture. Liquid yeast allows for greater tailoring of the beer to a particular style. However, the amount of yeast in a liquid packet is much less than the amount in the dry. For best results, it needs a starter. The packet must be squeezed and warmed to 80F at least two days before brewing. One day before, it should be pitched to a wort starter made from 1/4 cup of DME and a pint of water that has been boiled and cooled to 75F (25C). Adding a quarter teaspoon of yeast nutrient is also advisable. Let this sit in the same warm place until brewing time the next day. Some foaming or an increase in the white yeast layer on the bottom should be evident. The Starter process may be repeated to provide even more yeast to the wort to insure a strong fermentation.
On the other hand, if oxygen is introduced while the wort is still hot, the oxygen will oxidize the wort and the yeast cannot utilize it. This will later cause oxidation of the beer which gives a wet cardboard taste. The key is temperature. The generally accepted temperature cutoff for preventing hot wort oxidation is 80F. In addition, if oxygen is introduced after the fermentation has started, it will not be utilized by the yeast and will later cause the wet cardboard or sherry-like flavors.
This is why it is important to cool the wort rapidly to below 80F, to prevent oxidation, and then aerate it by shaking or whatever to provide the dissolved oxygen that the yeast need. Cooling rapidly between 90 and 130F is important because this region is ideal for bacterial growth to establish itself in the wort.
Most homebrewers use cold water baths around the pot or copper tubing Wort Chillers to accomplish this cooling in about 20 minutes or less. A rapid chill also causes the Cold Break material to settle out, which decreases the amount of protein Chill Haze in the finished beer.
Aeration of the wort can be accomplished several ways: shaking the container, pouring the wort into the fermenter so it splashes, or even hooking up an airstone to an aquarium air pump and letting that bubble for an hour. For the latter method, (which is popular) everything must be sanitized! Otherwise, Infection City. These instructions recommend shaking the starter and pouring/shaking the wort. More on this later.
One note - Do Not Boil the Yeast! You need them to be alive.
The easiest sanitizing solution is made be adding 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water (4 ml per liter). This can be prepared in the Fermenting Bucket. Immerse all of equipment - airlock, hoses, paddles, rubber stopper, fermenter lid and anything else contacting the beer. Let it sit for 20 minutes. Rinsing is not really necessary at this concentration, but rinsing with boiled water may be done.
Clean all equipment as soon as possible. This means rinsing out the fermenter, tubing, etc. as soon as they are used. It is very easy to get distracted and come back to find the syrup or yeast has dried hard as a rock and the equipment is stained. Keep a large container with chlorine water handy and just toss things in, clean later.
Rinsing bottles after each use eliminates the need to scrub bottles. If your bottles are dirty, moldy or whatever, soaking and washing in a mild solution of chlorine bleach water for a day or two will soften most residue. Brushing with a bottle brush is a necessity to remove stuck residue. Dish washers are great for cleaning the outside of bottles and heat sterilizing, but will not clean the inside where the beer is going to go; that must be done beforehand. Trisodium Phosphate and B-Brite also work very well but must be rinsed carefully. Do not wash with soap. This leaves a residue which you will be able to taste. Never use any scented cleaning agents, these odors can be absorbed into the plastic buckets and manifest in the beer. Fresh-Lemon Scented Pinesol Beer is not very good. Also, dishwasher Rinse Agents will destroy the Head retention on your glassware. If you pour a beer with carbonation and no head, this is a common cause.
The following stage is critical. The pot needs to be watched continuously. Return the pot to the heat and bring to a rolling boil, stirring frequently. Start timing the hour.
If you are adding bittering hops, do so now.
A foam may start to rise and form a smooth surface. This is good. If the foam suddenly billows over the side, this is a boil over (Bad). By the way, adding hop pellets at this stage tends to trigger a boilover if the pot is really full. Murphy's Law... The liquid is very unstable at this point and remains so until it goes through the Hot Break (when the wort stops foaming). This may take 5-20 minutes. The foaming can be controlled by lowering the heat and/or spraying some water on the surface from a spray bottle. The heat control using an electric range is poor. Try to maintain a rolling boil. Boiling 2.5 - 3 gallons can be maintained fairly easily on an electric stove. Boiling the full 5 gallons of water on electric ranges is almost impossible (not enough heat) and dangerous to lift when the boil is over.
Continue the rolling boil for the remainder of the hour. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. There may be a change in color and aroma and there will be particles floating in the wort. This is not a concern, its the hot break material. If you are adding the finishing hops, do so during the last fifteen minutes. Add during the last five minutes if more hop aroma is desired. This provides less time for the volatile oils to boil away.
Place the pot in a sink or tub filled with cold/ice water that can be circulated around the hot pot. While the cold water is flowing around the pot, gently stir the wort in a circular pattern so the maximum amount of wort is moving against the sides of the pot. If the water gets warm, replace with cold water. The wort will cool to 80F in about 20 minutes. When the pot is still warm to the touch, the temperature is close enough.
Pour the reserved 2.5 gallons of water into the sanitized fermenter. Pour the warm wort into it, allowing vigorous churning and splashing. Oxidation of the wort is minimal at these temperatures and this provides the dissolved oxygen that the yeast need to reproduce. Combining the warm wort with the cool water should bring the mixture to fermentation temperature. It is best for the yeast if the pitching temperature is the same as the fermentation temperature. For Ale yeasts, the fermentation temperature range is 65-75F. (The temperatures mentioned are not absolutely critical and a thermometer is not absolutely necessary, but is nice to have.)
Note: Do not add commercial ice to the wort to cool. Commercial Ice harbors lots of dormant bacteria that would love a chance to work on the new beer. Bottled Drinking Water is usually pasteurized or otherwise sanitized to inhibit contamination.
With the fermenter tightly sealed, pick it up, sit in a chair, put the fermenter on your knees and shake it several minutes to churn it up. This mixes the yeast into the wort and provides more dissolved oxygen that the yeast need to grow. Wipe off any wort around the hole with a paper towel that is wet with bleach water and place the sanitized airlock and rubber stopper in the lid. The airlock should be filled to the line with the bleach water solution.
Active fermentation should start within 12 hours. It can be longer for liquid yeasts because of lower cell counts, about 24 hours.
The airlock should be bubbling in twelve hours. Maintain a consistent temperature if possible. Fluctuating temperature strains the yeast and could impair fermentation. On the other hand, if the temperature drops overnight and the bubbling stops, simply move it to a warmer room and it should pick up again. The yeast does not die, it merely goes dormant. It should not be heated too quickly as this can thermally shock the yeast. In summary, if the temperature deviates too much or goes above 80F the fermentation can be affected, which then affects the flavor. If it goes too low, the ale yeast will go into hibernation.
The fermentation process can be very vigorous or slow; either is fine. The secret is in providing enough active yeast. Fermentation time is a sum of several variables with the most significant probably being temperature. It is very common for an ale with an active ferment to be done in a short time. It could last a few days, a week, maybe longer. Any of the above is acceptable. Three days at 70F may be regarded as typical for the simple ale being described here.
If the fermentation is so vigorous that the foam pops the airlock out of the lid, just rinse it out with bleach water and wipe off the lid before replacing it. Contamination is not a big problem at this point. With so much coming out of the fermenter, not much gets in. Once the bubbling slows down however, do not open the lid to peek. The beer is still susceptible to infections, particularly anaerobic ones like Lacto Bacillus, found in your mouth. It will do just fine if left alone for a minimum of two weeks.
The fermentation of malt sugars into beer is a complicated biochemical process. It is more than just attenuation, which can be regarded as the primary activity. Total fermentation is better defined as two phases, the Primary or Attenuative phase and a Secondary or Conditioning phase. The yeast do not end Phase 1 before beginning Phase 2, the processes occur in parallel, but the conditioning processes occur more slowly. This is why beer (and wine) improves with age. Tasting the beer at bottling time will show rough edges that will disappear after a few weeks in the bottle. Because the conditioning process is a function of the yeast, it follows that the greater yeast mass in the fermenter is more effective at conditioning the beer than the smaller amount of suspended yeast in the bottle. Leaving the beer in the fermenter for a total of two or even three weeks will go a long way to improving the final beer. This will also allow time for more sediment to settle out before bottling, resulting in a clearer beer.
The reason for racking to a Secondary Fermenter is to prevent a yeast breakdown called autolysis, and the resulting bad taste imparted to the beer. This will not be a problem for these relatively short fermentation-time ale beers. Other beer types, like Lagers and some high-gravity beer styles, need to be racked to a secondary because these sit on the yeast for a longer period of time.
The following is a general schedule for a simple ale beer using a secondary fermenter. Allow the Primary Fermentation stage to wind down. This will be 3-4 days after pitching when the bubbling rate drops off dramatically to about 1-5 per minute. Using a sanitized siphon (no sucking!), rack the beer off the trub into a another clean fermenter and affix an airlock. The beer should still be fairly cloudy with suspended yeast. Racking from the primary may be done at any time after primary fermentation has more-or-less completed.(Although if it has been more than two weeks, you may as well bottle.) Most brewers will notice a brief increase in activity after racking, but then all activity may cease. This is very normal. Fermentation (Conditioning) is still taking place, so just leave it alone. A minimum useful time in the secondary fermenter is two weeks. Overly long times in the secondary (for ales- more than 6 weeks) may require the addition of fresh yeast at bottling time for good carbonation. This is usually not a concern.
See the Recommended Reading section for further information.
A hydrometer is a useful tool in the hands of an experienced brewer who knows what he wants to measure. Various books or recipes may give Original and/or Final Gravities (OG and FG) of a beer to assist the brewer in the evaluation of his success. For an average beer yeast, a rule of thumb is that the FG should be about one forth of the OG. For example, a common beer OG of 1.040 should finish about 1.010 (or lower). A couple points either way is typical scatter.
It needs to be emphasized that the stated FG of a recipe is not the goal. The goal is to make a good tasting beer. The hydrometer should be regarded as only one tool available to the brewer as a means to gauge the fermentation progress. The brewer should only be concerned about a high hydrometer reading when primary fermentation has apparently ended and the reading is about one half of the OG, instead of the nominal one forth. Incidentally, if this situation occurs, two remedies are possible. The first is to agitate or swirl the fermenter to rouse the yeastbed from the bottom. The fermenter should remain closed with no aeration. The goal is to re-suspend the yeast so they can get back to work. The alternative is to pitch some fresh yeast.
Hydrometers are necessary when making beer from scratch (all-grain brewing) or when designing recipes. But the first-time brewer using known quantities of extracts simply does not need one.
After the bottles have been cleaned with a brush, rinse them with sanitization solution or run in the dishwasher with the heat on to sanitize. If using bleach solution, allow to drain upside down in the six-pack holders or on a rack. Do not rinse out with tap water unless it has been boiled. (Rinsing should not be necessary.) Also sanitize priming container, siphon unit, stirring spoon and bottle caps. But do not heat the bottle caps, as this may ruin the gaskets or tarnish them.
Boil 3/4 cup of corn sugar or 1 and 1/4 cup Dry Malt Extract in some water and let it cool. Here are two methods of Priming:
1. Pour this into the sanitized Bottling Bucket. Using your sanitized siphon unit transfer the beer into the sanitized bottling bucket. Place the outlet beneath the surface of the priming solution. Do not allow the beer to splash as you don't want to add oxygen to your beer at this point. Keep the intake end of the racking tube an inch off the bottom of the fermenter to leave the yeast and sediment behind. See Note on Siphoning.
2. Opening the fermenter, gently pour the priming solution into the beer. Stir the beer gently with the sanitized paddle, trying to mix it in evenly while being careful not to stir up the sediment. Wait a half hour for the sediment to settle back down and to allow more diffusion of the priming solution to take place. Then siphon to your bottles.
Note on Siphoning: Do not suck on the hose to start the siphon. This will contaminate the hose with Lacto Bacillus bacteria from your mouth. Fill the hose with sanitizing solution prior to putting it into the beer. Keep the end pinched or otherwise closed to prevent the solution from draining out. Place the outlet into another container and release the flow; the draining solution will start the siphon. Once the siphon is started, transfer it to wherever.
Some books recommend 1 tsp. sugar per bottle for priming. This is not recommended because it is time consuming and not precise. Bottles may carbonate unevenly and explode.
Place the fill tube of the siphon unit or bottling bucket at the bottom of the bottle. Fill slowly at first to prevent gurgling and keep the fill tube below the waterline to prevent aeration. Fill to about 3/4 inch from the top of the bottles. Place a sanitized cap on the bottle and cap. Inspect every bottle to make sure the cap is secure. Age the capped bottles at room temperature for two weeks, out of direct sunlight. Aging up to two months will improve the flavor considerably, but one week will do the job of carbonation for the impatient.
It is not necessary to store the beer cool, room temperature is fine. It will keep for several months. When cooled prior to serving, some batches will exhibit chill haze. It is caused by proteins left over from the initial cold break. It is nothing to worry about.