Why Should I Learn to Home Brew?

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by Dunerunner, Jun 8, 2015.

  1. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    Originally, I got interested in home brewing because I couldn't find a beer I liked at the store. Not that there wasn't a great selection of craft brewed delicacies on the shelves, it was that they were not always available due to demand and they were expensive. I'll talk about "expensive" in a little bit.

    So, I set about collecting the gear required to start brewing.

    A 10 gallon Kettle - An 62 Quart Stainless Stock Pot is perfect and about $139 (Ya, that buys a lot of beer) Stainless Steel Stock Pots, 62 Quart Stainless Steel Pot 1060

    A Stainless Long Handled Spoon - about $21 at a commercial kitchen supply or home brew store.

    And a propane burner - This one is the best, and just under $100
    Single Propane Burners, Kick A Banjo Burner KAB4

    You will also need a fermenter, I used a fermentation bucket...$26

    Air locks are needed to prevent bacteria from getting into your sterile brew - about $8 for six.

    Wort chiller - Wort is the hot sugar water you make to feed the yeast. It is boiled for an hour and must be cooled to near 70 degrees before adding yeast. An Extra long (to fit the kettle above) wort chiller will run $180.

    You will need a bottling bucket, priming sugar (not table sugar) and some cleaning and sterilizing chemicals. I use PBW (Professional Brewers Wash) for cleaning and StarSan for sanitizing. clean equipment and sanitary brewing makes your beer taste like it was professionally brewed rather than soup you made with a pair of dirty socks. Add another $75 for these essentials.

    Oh, you will also need bottles and a capper - For a five gallon batch, you will need 26 22oz bottles. You can collect them, have friends save them for you, remove the labels if you wish (I always do) and you will have breakage so plan on having to store up to 64 22 oz bottles somewhere.
    A capper can be as simple as a butterfly type capper that runs $18, and a supply of oxygen absorbing caps. 120 usually run around $4-$5.

    So, we are nearing the $400 mark and we haven't bought brewing supplies yet....

    You will want to buy a beer kit for a 5 gallon batch. They run from $20 to $50 each, depending upon the ingredients which dictate the style of beer you are brewing and they include everything you need including the yeast. Nut Brown Ale Extract Kit w/ Specialty Grains : Northern Brewer

    There are several online home brew stores, Northern Brewer for you Eastern Folks, Williams Brewing For you Western Folks, More Beer, Midwest Supplies, And Amazon...

    With this basic set up, you will be an extract brewer. That is different from an
    "All Grain" brewer; I'll explain the difference in another post.

    Now, as you become more confident in your brewing and read some home brewing "How To Brew" books (recommended before you start) you can experiment building your own kits and producing your own signature beers to your taste.

    Recommended texts:

    "How To Brew", by John Palmer
    "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing", by Charlie Papazian
    "Designing Great Beers", by Ray Daniels
    "Brewing Classic Styles", by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer

    So, Why learn to brew. Beer is a sanitary product produced after boiling water for one hour and cooling rapidly under sanitary conditions. It can be made from filtered pond water if necessary (not recommended) but captured rain water is perfect.

    No ingredients to make beer, then you have bottled sterile water.....
  2. azrancher

    azrancher Monkey +++

    Brewing your own is fun... but $26.00 for a 5 gallon plastic bucket? Wow
    My favorite suppliers are in this order:
    Austin Home brew supply
    Northern Home brew supply
    Midwest home brew supply

    I went the cheap route and re-purposed my turkey deep fryer (remember that craze), so that was the burner and pot for free.
    There are basically 3 routes for home brewing.
    1. Buy the kit with the barley/wheat malt in jugs
    2. Buy the kit with the barley/wheat grains, already toasted
    3. Go to the feed store buy a 50# bag of wheat & 50# bag of barley (barley is special order item for me)
    Toast them, one of those hand crank popcorn poppers on the BBQ is great (I have not done #3 yet)

    I scored about 200 Grolsch bottles on craigs list, so I no longer have to cap my bottles
    I prefer darker beers, but not Stout, a couple of them go by names like Moose Drool, or Caribou Slobber
    One kit of 5 gallons will get you about 50 bottles of beer, for the cost of a 30 pack of Bud Light

    Drink responsibly and often.
    Dont, Cruisin Sloth, Ganado and 5 others like this.
  3. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    Craig's is an excellent resource for used equipment and you can score large with just a small investment. People invest tons of money into home brewing equipment. I'm into my all grain system for over $6K.....

    You can also make much smaller batches on your stove top. Some have done two gallon and even one gallon batches, although kits for that size are unavailable and you must "Build Your Own."
    Ganado likes this.
  4. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    All Grain Brewing -

    As an extract brewer, you either bought a kit, or purchased liquid or dry malt extract, hops, yeast and perhaps a muslin bag which you put some roast crushed grains into for added color and some roasty notes in the aroma and taste. As an all grain brewer, you buy the malted grains and build a malt bill. That combination of grains contains the weights of all the different malts you intend to use to make the Wort (I call it malt syrup), the base of your beer. The grains are crushed and placed into a vessel where they are mashed in water from 145 degrees to 152 degrees. The temperature they are mashed at determines the time allowed for enzymes in the malted grains to break down the long starch chains into sugars the yeast can then convert into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process is called conversion. Generally speaking, the darker the roast malts, the less they are able to convert. This is called Diastatic power and the lighter roast malts have not had the enzymes responsible for this destroyed in the roasting process and therefore have a higher Diastatic number.

    So, let's say you want to go all grain. You have played with your own grain bill brew in a bag extract beers and want to have more control over the fermentable sugars in your wort. Commercial malt extract companies are concerned with two things. One being getting as much malt extract out of the grains as possible without it being unusable for brewing and having enough fermentability in the extract produced wort to provide the home brewer with a good finished beer.

    If you are doing an double IPA, however; you might want a wort that has more fermentables and will finish dryer, thus giving you a higher ABV (alcohol by volume), yet retaining enough malt character to support the increased alcohol and the additional hop load of a double IPA. This is why many home brewers switch from extract brewing to all grain, more control over your process and individual expression in your beer creation.

    Good luck and have fun brewing....
    What you will need....

    A Brewing System -

    These can be as simple as a home built system (may home brewers build their own), or one of the many offered by the different home brew stores around the country. Prices vary with What you buy. A cooler system utilizes Igloo coolers fitted with valves and false bottoms. A false bottom can be as simple as an array of copper pipe with holes drilled into it and screen over it to allow liquid to pass leaving the grain mass behind when you lauter (rinse) the sugars from the grain bed to a manufactured stainless steel either perforated or slotted and sized to fit the bottom of a stainless kettle or round cooler.

    Expect to spend from $200 for a home built, to $3800 and up for a commercially made brewing sculpture. You may get good repeatability on the fermentables with your home built, and you may not. Brewing the same beer repeatedly is the goal and if your system is incapable of doing that then you are not going to be happy, or you will become satisfied that your beers are always different. Sometimes too dry, sometimes to much alcohol, sometimes too sweet, sometimes not enough alcohol are all issues around the mash. Producing a consistent wort is what makes you recipe work, the same way every time.
  5. The Duece

    The Duece Monkey

    Ive never home brewed but i did brew for a local brewpub for about 5 yrs,man i loved that job,all grain is the way i would go if you can afford it,there is a company in BC that sells commercial and home brewing systems,some of the systems they sell are amazing...expensive but amazing
  6. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    So, what is fermentable?

    Pretty much anything that contains starch, sugar. Potatoes and other starchy vegetables, Fruit, and Grains that have been Malted. Oh, I forgot... Honey!! Meads have been around for eons and although they take longer to ferment the wait is generally worth it.

    Malting - Grains are encouraged to sprout by soaking them in warm water, then they are floor dried thus halting the sprouting process. Theoretically, any field grain Wheat, Rye, Barley, Oats can be Malted. It would be expected that wild grains could then also be Malted, Crushed and Mashed to produce Maltose. Corn has always been a favorite fermentable as has rice.

    SHTF Applications - Come the apocalypse, after the stores of hoarded distilled spirits, wine and beer have been exhausted, knowledge of the brewing and distilling processes will be valuable. Even if you are just running a water purification plant with your brew system, it will have value. The Louis and Clark expedition boiled sea water collecting the distillate for drinking water. It is a process, like anything else in brewing. Wood can always be utilized as a fuel source just as it was for our ancestors. Stroh's Brewing used to advertise it's product as being fire brewed and Pizza Port Brewing of San Diego did a beer they boiled by heating rocks and placing them into the wort. The brewing class at U.C. Davis, under the guidance of Charlie Bamforth, brewed a beer using pond water. Alternatives for bittering include fresh sprouted spruce tips, yarrow, bitter orange peal, and you can go completely bitter free (so to speak) with coriander, juniper berries, or other herbs.

    Yeasts can be grown, cultivated, stored or fermentation can be allowed to occur naturally. Yeasts will collect on the skins of grapes as they approach peak sugar content and are generally responsible for the fermentation of most wines in production today. Sam Calagione, owner of Dog Fish Brewing in Delaware, collected wild yeasts on crushed figs in Egypt while attempting to recreate an ancient brew of the past. The possibilities for spontaneous fermentation are endless, although the final result may take some getting used to, it will contain alcohol. That's the goal, right?
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2015
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  7. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

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  8. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    What kind of hops do you use?
  9. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    Hop choice depends on the beer style you intend to brew, but if you are inventive or experimenting it could be any of the 123 current varieties.

    For IPA's, I like Cascade for bittering and Chinook for aroma
    For an English Brown like Newcastle Brown, I'll use Fuggle or East Kent Goldings
    In a Stout, you might choose Challenger, Willamette, Amarillo, Yakima Magnum or a combination of those and or others.

    It is not about the Alpha Acidity, each hop has a character that is imparted into the beer during the boil. The amount of character, flavor and aroma is controlled by the time the hops are added to the boiling wort (boiling malt sugar and water), the amount of each hop addition and of course the variety of the hops you have chosen for your beer.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2015
    kellory and Ganado like this.
  10. T. Riley

    T. Riley Monkey+++

    Did beer for a long time. Moonshine now. Got the equiptment, made a batch and squirreled it away for barter goods one day along with a lot of tobacco seeds and sugar beet seed. Actually got a warning letter from the ATF about it. They susopenaed the records of the company where I purchased the equipment. Guess they wrapped up that Fast and Furious thing and had time on their hands.
    Tully Mars likes this.
  11. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    What were they warning you about? Not selling or not making?
  12. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    I've found that a good high alcohol beer with some complexity and the proper grain bill produces a barter commodity as well. [winkthumb]
    Tully Mars, Ganado and Yard Dart like this.
  13. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    @Sloth dont you brew at home too? I seem to remember a pic with bottles set up to clean.
  14. T. Riley

    T. Riley Monkey+++

    Making it, in no uncertain terms. The unit I own would only make a gallon per batch but it was 95+ percent alcohol. You can get a permit to make it to use as fuel. That was my real interest in it. With the right modifications I could run a small generator I own with it.
    Ganado likes this.
  15. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Just a note. I'd you wish to call someone or alert someone to a response or thread, you need to use the whole name like this. @Cruisin Sloth
  16. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    I know @kellory. If you are going to assume the job of posting police could you use pm?
  17. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    If I had, it would not have called sloth for you. Just trying to help.
    Ganado likes this.
  18. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    Just came across 7 bottles of an IPA I made four years ago and boxed up to ship to a friend. It went through a secondary fermentation in the bottle and is a little over carbonated as a result. The bright note of the hops is gone, replaced with a dull bitterness and the brew itself has darkened to a deep golden light amber. The alcohol level seems to have increased some but, it was 7% to start with. Tasted one with dinner last night and it is now a fine example of an Old Ale.

    I also found a 750ml bottle of my NAM (Nightmare at Midnight). A wheat wine where the malt bill was mostly red and white wheat. I added some Maris Otter two row, de-bittered black patent, special B, chocolate, and crystal 60 as specialty malts. As memory serves, this was three years ago and post computer crash which took all of my brewing recipes, the originating gravity was 1.100 something and final gravity 1.000, producing around 13% ABV. I racked to a carboy for secondary fermentation on split Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans and coco nibs for a month, then into a freshly dumped whiskey barrel for two months. I got nearly 15 750ml bottles out of the batch and have one left. Saving it for a special occasion.....
    T. Riley, Ganado and kellory like this.
  19. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    Hold on to it we are all coming for dinner!
    Tully Mars and Dunerunner like this.
  20. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    I do need to drag the system out and brew. also need to get hot on that hard cider project. Guess that will be today! :D
    Ganado and kellory like this.
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