Monday, July 11, 2011

Batch #1 - Witbier (Extract)

For my inaugural homebrew post I thought what better way than to share my own experiences I encountered brewing my first batch of beer.  I can remember how excited I was to get started but also a little apprehensive and full of questions.

As with anything new, there is no replacement for experience.  The proprietor at my local home brew supply store said one of the best ways to learn the art of home brewing is to take copious amounts of notes as you progress through your brewing tasks.  This allows you to easily recall the questions that arose and what was learned so you repeat your successes and minimize your failures.  This is also a fun way to look back over time and see just how much you have learned throughout your brewing experiences.

Like most home brew virgins, I started with one of the ubiquitous kits that can be found at your local home brew supply store.  For purposes of this post, I am going list the equipment purchased, ingredients and recreate the steps below and add my "Lessons Learned" intermingled in RED.

Home Brew Kit: True Brew by Crosby and Baker, LTD
  1. True Brew Handbook
  2. Fermenting Bucket
  3. Bottling Bucket with hole for Spigot
  4. Spigot for bottom of Bottling Bucket
  5. Brush for cleaning inside of bottles
  6. Adhesive Thermometer for outside of Fermenting Bucket
  7. Glass Hydrometer
  8. 3-piece Airlock for top of Fermenting Bucket
  9. Bottle Capping Tool
  10. Siphon Equipment and Hose
  11. 8 Packets of C-Brite Sanitizing Cleanser
L.L. While I couldn't be more happy with my starter kit, it does lack a few things that are either required to get your first batch made of will at least make the process go a little smoother.
  1. Brew Kettle (Required) - You gotta cook the stuff!  Picking a pot to brew your beer in is actually an important decision.  First of all, DON'T use aluminium.  Off-tasting flavors can leech into the brew and that just isn't acceptable.  Go with a stainless steel kettle and opt for the largest one your budget/kitchen will accommodate (preferably 20 quarts or larger).
  2. Bottles (Required) - You gotta keep it somewhere!  Unless you are kegging it, which is usually beyond the comfort zone for a first time brewer, you have to bottle it after fermentation.  The bottling process also allows the beer to carbonate.
  3. Thermometer (Required) - I'm not sure why my kit didn't contain a kitchen-grade food thermometer because you will need to be relatively precise when you are brewing your beer.  I can only assume that it is expected that most households would already have this kitchen staple.  I'm proud to claim I have a can opener and one reasonable sharp knife in my kitchen drawer.
  4. Carboy (Optional) - A Carboy is a fancy name for a big glass bottle.  It serves the same purpose as the Fermenting Bucket (and can be used in place of if desired) but allows for a secondary fermentation if you choose to employ this option step in your beer making process.  If you decide to add the glass Carboy to your arsenal you will need to make sure you have a stopper with a hole drilled in the top to insert your Airlock.  Any home brew supply store will have these ready available.
  5. Funnel (Optional) - If you decide to do a secondary fermentation step a decent funnel will allow you to easily transfer the beer from the the Fermentation Bucket to the Carboy.  Alternatively (and preferred), you can simply siphon the beer from the Fermentation Bucket to Carboy.  This method will decrease the amount of air that is introduced and cut down on the chances of bacteria entering the brew and possibly spoiling it.
  6. Long Handle Brush (Optional) - Only needed if you use the glass Carboy.  Because the opening at the top is only about two inches or less you will need something to get down inside of the bottle after you are through using it to give it a good scrubbing and thorough cleaning.
Ingredients: Brewer's Best "Witbier" Kit
  1. Fermentables - 3.3 lbs Wheat Liquid Malt Extract (LME), 2 lbs Wheat Dry Malt Extract (DME)
  2. Specialty Grains - 1 lb Pale Malt, .5 lb Wheat, .5 lb Oats
  3. Hops - 1 oz Bittering, 1 oz. Flavoring
  4. Spice Pack - contains dried orange peel and corriander
  5. Yeast - Sachet of dried yeast powder
L.LFor starters, I would not suggest using this kit for your maiden voyage into home brewing.  Not that it didn't turn out well, in fact, it was surprisingly tasty but this is more of an intermediate kit requiring more steps than an "easy" or beginner's kit.  One of the great things about the Brewer's Best kits is that the degree of difficulty is listed on the outside of the box so you know what you are getting into.  The second thing I learned here is that occasionally the dry yeast packets can fail to activate.  Fortunately, I was warned of this at my home brew supply store and sprung for the additional $6 and purchased the liquid variety from White Labs.

Brewing Instructions:  An exact copy of the Brewer's Best Recommended Procedures can be found HERE.  Below I have recreated the steps in what I feel is a more linear process and added my own notes as Lessons Learned.
  1. Sterilize ALL items that will come in contact with your beer using C-brite.  Use one packet per 5 gallons of water.  This equates to 1/2 packet to 1/2 full fermenting container.
  2. Pour 1 gallon of drinking water into your 20 quart (5 gallon) boiling kettle.  You should maintain a 2-1 grain to water ratio.  So for 2 pounds of grain you will use 1 gallon of water.
  3. Bring water to 150 degrees.
  4. Steep-to-convert (this is the extra step I mentioned above that is beyond beginning basics) by pouring your 2 pounds of specialty grains (1 lb. Pale Malt, .5 lb. Wheat, .5 lb. Oats) into the grain bag and tying a knot at the top.  Raise the temperature to 155 degrees and place the grain bag into the pot.  This will cause the water temperature to drop so carefully raise the heat to maintain a constant temperature between 148 - 152 degrees.  Do not exceed 155 degrees.  L.L. - This task was very hard to regulate using an electric stove top.  Use a gas stove if you can or perhaps your gas grill if it has a gas eye.
  5. Steep the grains for 45 minutes.  Remove the bag and allow the excess water to drain back into the pot.  DO NOT SQUEEZE.
  6. Add enough water to bring to total volume to 2.5 gallons.  You now have your "wort" liquid.
  7. Bring the wort up to 180 degrees.
  8. SLOWLY dissolve in the liquid malt extract.  Each 5 gallon batch of beer should have 5-6 pounds of malt extract.  L.L. - Dissolving in slowly will prevent black flaking from occurring which means you have scorched the wort.  Try removing from heat as your stir in to prevent burning.  Yes, mine was slightly scorched but didn't seem to affect the taste.
  9. Bring to a boil and add bittering hops (1 oz. Willamette Bittering Hops)
  10. Boil for 1 full hour.  (After 30 minutes add Dry Malt Extract - DME & Spice Pack.  During the last 15 minutes of the hour add 1/2 of the flavoring/aroma hops - .5 oz Sterling Flavoring Hops.  You can also add the Irish Moss at this time as well for clarity but is optional and not really needed for a wheat beer.  Add remaining 1/2 flavoring/aroma hops - .5 oz Sterling Flavoring Hops in the last 7-10 minutes of the hour.)
  11. Turn off heat and cool wort by putting the boiling kettle in an ice bath.  L.L. - Try adding rock salt to the ice for faster cooling.
  12. Transfer wort to fermenting bucket and add cold water (enough to bring it to the 5 gallon mark on your container) to bring it to 78 degrees or below and stir thoroughly.  L.L. - Don't add all of the water before taking a hydrometer reading.  Add water to about 4 gallons and then slowly add the water while taking hydrometer readings until the desired original is reached.  Too much or too little water will affect the final gravity of your beer meaning the alcohol by volume (ABV) will be off.
  13. Take a hydrometer reading and record the original gravity (OG) and record it for future reference.
  14. Add (pitch) yeast to the wort but make sure it is 78 degrees or below – ideally 70 degrees and stir well.
  15. Ferment for 5 – 7 days.  Fermentation is complete when CO2 bubbling has ceased for 48 hours.  L.L. - I fermented for two weeks because CO2 was still being released in the airlock.
  16. If an OPTIONAL secondary fermentation is desired, transfer to secondary fermentation container (glass carboy) for a minimum of 7 -14 days. L.L. -  Make sure the transfer is completed BEFORE the initial fermentation is complete.
Bottling Process:
  1. Sterilize ALL items that will come in contact with your beer using C-brite.  Use one packet per 5 gallons of water.  This equates to 1/2 packet to 1/2 full fermenting container.
  2. In a small saucepan dissolve priming sugar (3/4 cup suggested) into 1 - 2cups of water.  Boil for 3-5 minutes.  L.L. - I simply used the entire packet that came in the Brewer's Best kit and dissolved into 2 cups of water.  Finished product was carbonated perfectly.
  3. Pour dissolved mixture into bottling bucket.
  4. Siphon beer from primary container (or secondary if employed) into bottling bucket.  Fill bottles to approximately 1” from top.
  5. Cap with sterilized caps using quality capping tool.  Transfer bottles to a dark temperature stable area (approximately 64 – 72 degrees).
  6. Allow beer to naturally carbonate for at least 2 weeks.  Carbonation may take up to 4 weeks.  L.L. - if you refrigerate then the natural carbonization process will cease so make sure your beer is finished carbonating before chilling.
Well, thats it.  My first home brew experience documented.  I sincerely hope you picked up a tip or two that will help ensure your home brew adventures are successful.  I'd like nothing more than to hear your feedback, questions or tips you would like to share.  Thanks for reading and HAPPY HOME BREWING!

Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment