Hygiene is vital in all types of brewing. The cleaner you keep everything, the less risk there is of flaws in the flavor. Additionally, you can store the beer for longer if you have taken care in relation to hygiene. There are two simple steps. First, wash away all dirt. Be very careful to wash away any leftover stew or anything else from saucepans, and any wort in your fermentation vessel. When all surfaces that come into contact with the brew are free of dirt, it’s time for the second step – disinfection.
Everything that comes into contact with the brew after boiling the wort needs to be free from bacteria. This sounds more difficult that it actually is. You pour a little disinfectant into a bucket with water and submerge the things you need bacteria-free for as long as the instructions on your disinfectant state. To disinfect anything that won’t fit in the bucket, such as saucepans and the fermentation vessel, you should pour some diluted disinfectant into them and shake the liquid around. One other tip is to disinfect the unopened yeast packet and your scissors.
Many people get unnecessarily stressed out by the cleaning. Stay calm. It’s all very easy. Once the wort has finished boiling, it’s important that everything it comes into contact with is clean and free from bacteria. Before it’s boiled, it doesn’t matter whether it’s bacteria-free as the heat kills all the bacteria. When everything is clean, it’s time for the next step – mashing.
Mashing might not sound all that pleasant, but it is! When you pour the malt into warm water, the kitchen is filled with more or less the same smell as when you bake bread. Turn on some music, because you’ve got a couple of hours of fun ahead of you.
Do the following: Heat 1.7 litres (4 pints) of water in one of the saucepans to between 68–78ºC (154–172ºF) (see each recipe). Pour in all of the crushed malt and stir. Take the saucepan off the heat, put the lid on and leave to stand for about 15 minutes. During this stage, it’s best if the temperature remains constant, which means it may be worth wrapping a towel around the saucepan to keep it warm. After 15 minutes, you have what is known as ‘mash’ in the saucepan.
The process of separating the crushed malt from the liquid in the mash through filtration is known as lautering. For the first time, you’ll have an idea of what your beer will be like. You can now see roughly what color the beer will be.
Do the following: Put a kitchen strainer on the empty saucepan. Pour the mash and all liquid through the strainer. This means the crushed malt is captured by the strainer, while the liquid ends up in the saucepan. Move the strainer with the malt to the now-empty saucepan and pour the filtered liquid over the malt bed and into the saucepan. Repeat this pouring between the saucepans three to four times. Between each filtration, you should rinse away the malt residue from the saucepan that has just been emptied. Eventually, you will have removed all the goodies the crushed malt has to offer to make the beer look and taste great. You should now have about 1 litre (2 pints/4 cups) of liquid (known as ‘wort’) in your large saucepan.
Now the beer is really beginning to take shape and it’s time to season the wort with hops, which give it bitterness, flavour and aroma. In our recipes, we use hop pellets. Our favourite moment is cutting open the aluminium bag of hops and getting a real hit in the nose from the smell. Enough about that. Let’s carry on.
Do the following: Dilute the wort with cold water to bring the total volume of liquid in your saucepan to 4.5–5 litres (10–10. pints) (see each recipe). Put the saucepan on the heat and turn it up as high as it will go. While the liquid is being heated to 100ºC (212ºF), you should pour in the spraymalt. Use an ordinary whisk to mix the spraymalt into the wort. Wait. Watch. Boiling this quantity of liquid takes a while. Once the brew is at the boil, it is usually time to add the first batch of hops. Be careful as there is a risk it may boil over as you add the hops. Depending on the recipe, you may have to add the hops in several batches.
We’re not going to lie: cooling is the new version of watching paint dry. But make the best of it and pour yourself a beer while you wait. Once the beer is at room temperature, you can finally add the yeast. The boiling is over and it’s important that everything that will be in contact with the beer from this point on, such as the thermometer, is bacteria-free.
Do the following: Put the cool packs in your sink followed by the saucepan, making sure it is stable. Fill the sink with cold water – almost enough to make the saucepan teeter. Monitor the temperature constantly until it is about 20ºC (68ºF). Now, it's time to ferment.
It’s often said that brewers make wort, yeast makes beer. That’s probably true, but nevertheless this is a pretty fun phase – the final stage of the brew. You have to shake the yeast around in your fermentation vessel and then put the stopper back in.
Do the following: Put the funnel and strainer in the mouth of your disinfected fermentation vessel, then pour the beer from the saucepan into the vessel as carefully as possible. The strainer will catch hop residue while the beer flows into the vessel.
Next, add the dry yeast. A half bag of dry yeast is sufficient for 4 litres (8. pints) of beer. Properly reseal the yeast packet and save for another brew. Disinfect your hands and tightly grip the bottom of the fermentation vessel with one hand while putting your other hand over the open mouth. Firmly shake the vessel up and down and side to side for around 1 minute. This oxygenates the yeast, which gets it to wake up and start working on the beer. Once you’re done shaking the vessel, attach the airlock to the silicone stopper and fill the lock with a little diluted disinfectant or just ordinary water. Put the stopper in the fermentation vessel.
You need to put the vessel somewhere dark, usually at room temperature (18–22ºC/64–72ºF). Some beers need to ferment at warmer or colder temperatures, so check each recipe. Then the 2-week wait begins. This is how long it takes for the yeast to form alcohol in your beer. As a rule, the most aggressive phase of the fermentation process takes places in the first 36 hours. Foam and bubbles will form in the airlock during this time. Then it may feel like everything has stopped, but if you look closely you’ll see that there is a bubble in the airlock every minute or so. When it has completely stopped bubbling in the airlock, the fermentation process is complete and it’s time to bottle.
Now it’ll really feel like you have your own mini-brewery. When you put the first cap on a bottle filled with your beer, it’s impossible not to feel a real sense of pride. It’s almost done! Just 2 weeks left to allow the carbonic acid to build up inside the bottle. Then your beers will be ready!
Make a primer
A primer is quite simply a layer of sugar. Thanks to this, carbonic acid forms in the beer. Pour 100 ml (3-1/2 fl oz/ scant 1/2 cup) water into the small saucepan and set over the highest heat. Add 2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar. Bring to the boil so that the sugar dissolves. Allow the sugar mixture to cool to room temperature.
You need to disinfect everything that comes into contact with the beer. Fill a 10-litre (21-pint) bucket with water and add the correct amount of disinfectant. Disinfect all equipment: the siphon, bottle caps, bottle capper and even the big saucepan and all the bottles that are to be used. It’s normally sufficient to dip the bottles one by one into the bucket, leave them there for a few seconds and then remove them. It’s fine to use bottles that you have already drunk from, just ensure that they have been cleaned before you disinfect them. Once everything is disinfected and the primer is ready, you can get on with bottling.
Put the fermentation vessel on a stable surface, such as your kitchen work surface (it’s worth putting a damp tea (dish) towel under the vessel to help keep it steady). Put the 5-litre (10-1/2 pint) saucepan on a stool in front of the kitchen counter to create a height difference between the vessel and saucepan. Remove the silicone stopper from the fermentation vessel. Put the siphon into the vessel just above the yeast cake that has formed at the bottom of the vessel. Blow air into the siphon to create pressure. When the beer begins to run through the siphon, fill the saucepan with beer. Avoid the yeast cake at the bottom of the fermentation vessel. If you added hops or flavouring straight into the vessel during fermentation, you will also need to filter the beer using a strainer, placed on top of the saucepan. Once the saucepan is filled with beer, remove the siphon and disinfect it again. Put the saucepan on the work surface, preferably with a damp tea towel underneath to keep it stable. Once the primer is at room temperature, stir it into the saucepan filled with beer. Put your bottles beneath the saucepan – for example, on the stool you were previously using for the saucepan. Put the siphon into the saucepan and create pressure using your mouth. Once the beer is running through the siphon, you should quickly put it into one of the bottles and fill it with beer, leaving 1–2 cm (1/2- 3/4 in) of air at the top of the bottle neck. Continue to fill the rest of the bottles. If you have a hose clip for your siphon, use this to stop the flow as you move from bottle to bottle; otherwise it’s fine to pinch the siphon using your fingers.
Capping and releasing carbonic acid
Once all the bottles are filled, you need to add bottle caps, ensuring that all the bottle caps are disinfected. Put a cap on a filled bottle and use your bottle capper to seal, then store the bottles in a dark place at room temperature. After 2 weeks, the beer will be ready to drink, once the small quantity of yeast still in it has consumed the sugar from the primer and transformed it into carbonic acid.
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Excerpt from Kitchen Brewing by Jakob Nielsen and Mikael Zetterberg, published by Hardie Grant Books © 2017 by Jakob Nielsen and Mikael Zetterberg. All rights reserved.