All Grain Brewing - first batch
I made my first batch of all grain beer this weekend - a hefeweizen. For those of you that aren't home brewers, home brewing is normally divided into two methods: extract and all-grain. Some of the process is similar, but the former involves less work and less equipment. And less fun. Any recipe is going to have a high amount of some kind of basic grains (barley, and maybe some adjunct grains), followed by smaller amounts of specialty malt grains. These are added to help accent your beer with certain colors (the color always comes from the type of malted grains used and has nothing to do alcohol content) and flavors. In extract brewing, you will take your small amount of specialty grains, mill them, and soak them in very hot water like a kind of barley tea. Then you will add either liquid or dry malt extract and boil it. The extract, as you can probably guess, is a concentrated form of sugars (maltose) derived from malted barley. The extract brewer will basically work with this concentrated wort up through the boil and then add water later. With all grain brewing, you have no extract, so you are working with big quantities and no concentrated form of anything, so you need some special equipment and processes. Oh by the way, brewing is filled with a ton of fun German terms like "wort". Pronounced like "word", wort is the liquid proto-beer you are working with before you add yeast and allow it to become beer.
My dad and I have been brewing extract beers for about a year and a half, both individually and together. He was able to come over for part of the brew day to witness me get all of the equipment to make all-grain before him! You'll notice that we are set up outside. Have you ever tried to heat up 6 gallons of water to a boil? I hadn't. I think the most I've worked with anything in the kitchen is maybe 2 and a half gallons. Anyway, it takes a long time, and my electric stove is not going to cut it. Not to mention I have no idea what the weight limit on its ceramic surface is, but 6 gallons of water is pretty damn heavy too. This means we are using a propane burner and that means we are outside because we have chosen not to die from carbon monoxide poisoning.
It's basically a rule that you have to drink home brew while making home brew, we've got a couple glasses of Scotch ale I bottled in march. The carbonation ended up too little for what I want, but I do think the color turned out nice. I have two of the big, 30qt pots on the left. Both have a thermometer and spigot with ball valve installed. Having the work-in-progress liquids drained through custom plumbing from one step to the next is so much more satisfying than pouring one pot into another pot! It also lets us filter out some things.
On the right here is our mash/lauter tun. More German terms. In homebrewing, the mash tun and the lauter tun are really the same thing, so it's always called a mash/lauter tun. This is a 10 gallon Rubbermaid cooler with the plastic spigot replaced with a stainless steel spigot/ball valve and a false bottom on the inside. This is all of the grain we are going to be using, plus rice hulls which are used as a natural filter).
Anything that touches our beer after the boil needs to be sanitized, and it helps having this bucket of sanitized water around to just keep things clean in general. We don't want our beer contaminated with wild yeast or bacteria.
I suppose I should mention what we are brewing - a traditional hefeweizen. Hefe means yeast and weizen means wheat. I bet you can guess what language. All beer has yeast as part of the process - it eats the sugars from the malted grains and converts it into ethanol and carbon dioxide - but in this context it means that it is not filtered out of the beer. Leaving the yeast unfiltered is actually typical in homebrew, and really only necessary if you want to have super clear beer or avoid a second fermentation while transporting the beer across the world in warm environments. A weizen (sans hefe) doesn't necessarily mean the yeast is filtered out to my knowledge either, as the naming convention is rather lax. Sometimes it will be called a weiß or weiss beer (ß is a German character representing a double 's'. It is not a B, idiot) which means "white" beer (still brewed with wheat). Similarly, in Belgium a common beer style (revived by Hoegaarden) is witbier, or Belgian white, which is normally spiced with coriander seeds and orange peel. "Wheat" is emphasized because the default cereal grain used to make beer is barley. Here I am using something like 5 pounds of wheat malt and 4.5 pounds of pilsner malt. Malting is an enzymatic process involving wet grain being dried, smoked, or roasted in a specific fashion. So pilsner malt here is one particular process that yields the flavor and color we want. Malted barley is really cheap (less than $2 a pound even when not buying in bulk) and I don't know of any home brewers that malt their own.
This is the false bottom inside the MLT. The grains will rest on top of this and then we'll fill it with water. When we're ready to drain, this is how we "lauter", which means to separate our wort from the spent grain.
The MLT is filled with the milled grains. The little apparatus on the top is really used for a type of sparging (I'll get to that later) that I'm not really using here, but it's not hurting anything. This is the start of our mash!
The mash tun is filled with liquid from our hot liquor tank. Liquor in this context just means water - we are adding 160F water to achieve a mash at 152F (some heat lost to the grains and cooler). At this temperature plastic tubing doesn't cut it, so we use silicone tubing. I should also note that ideally you would have a three tiered system here, so everything can flow from one stage to the next through gravity. Hot liquor tank -> mash/lauter tun -> boil pot. We had some concerns about putting the propane burner on top of that work table so we opted for manually moving some things, but I think it would have been fine.
The MLT will keep the grains at the desired temperature for an hour with virtually no heat loss. Very good insulation. This is a single-infusion mash - some brewers will gradually raise the heat at certain points in order to extract more sugar from the grains. This is a bit more complicated and really just allows you to get more efficiency out of less grains. As I mentioned, grains are cheap, so I would just as soon use more grains and do a single-infusion.
After an hour it will be time to transfer the sweet wort to the boil pot, and then sparge. Sparging involves adding more hot water to the grains to basically rinse more sugars off of them. We are doing batch sparging, which involves draining the mash, adding more water and letting sit for about 10 minutes, and then draining again. Fly sparging is also sometimes used, where water is added from the hot liquor tank at the same rate that it is being drained from your MLT. At a certain point, you stop adding water and let it all drain out. We reached our goal of just a bit over 5.5 gallons of sweet wort going into the brew pot.
There are four basic ingredients to any beer - water, grain (barley), yeast, and hops. Hops are by far the newest addition to the tradition of beer as we know it. They are a cone shaped plant added in dried leaf or pellet form (it really doesn't matter) to help preservation, and add bitterness, aroma, and flavor. They contain alpha acids which determine how bitter they are, and each variety has its own flavor and aroma characteristics. We are using Tettnang which is a type of Noble hop, meaning it has low alpha acid and thus low bitterness. You can add hops at any point during a typical 60 minute boil, but the general rule is that you put a certain amount of hops in for a full boil for bitterness, add your flavor hops with about 15 minutes left, and add your aroma hops for the last 5 minutes. You will get the most aroma if you add hops after the beer has been cooled and put in the fermenter or secondary - this is called dry hopping and is common in IPAs and other styles. For this hefeweizen we are just adding our one ounce of Tettnang for the full boil and that's it - German styles normally don't have too much going on with the hops. The hop blocker will prevent the hop solids and any bits of grain from transferring to our fermenter.
The mash is done, so its drained and the sparge water added to the MLT.
Adding the sparge water. It's basically a barley meal or barley tea at this point. It is interesting to think about the history of beer, and the types of gruel and proto-beers that came before it. It happened very early in the history of civilization - not too long after the dawn of civilization as dated by the farming of cereal grains. One theory is that malting could have been discovered by early farmer leaving harvested grain out in the rain and salvaging it by drying it. Obviously this early human wouldn't know anything about enzymes or the Maillard reaction, but they would know that it tasted better after this process. Wild yeast would sometimes cause their leftover gruel to ferment. Again, they surely didn't realize that a microscopic organism was responsible, but at some point they must have noticed that leaving it out would cause it to ferment. These early beers would probably be fairly low in alcohol and used more for sustenance than fun - the yeast would help fight off dangerous bacteria also trying to eat the sugars, leaving it safer to drink than stagnant water. Sometimes they would opt for a solid form, where the ground grains would be combined with water to make a dough, and then left in the open to be contaminated by wild yeast before baking. The yeast would produce carbon dioxide which would cause the product to puff up and the ethanol would be burned away when baking, leaving leavened bread. By the way, the tradition of European monks brewing beer is a long one, not just in Belgium where it's most famous. During Lent it was typical for the monks to fast but drink strong beers they had brewed for this purpose. They were basically drinking liquid bread, those cheaters.
Hey another finger pic. So, 6 gallons of sweet wort takes a long time to get to a boil. We add the hops (which makes it wort, instead of sweet wort), and a small amount of Irish moss, and let it go for an hour. After this boil it is chilled by means of a wort chiller - copper tubing which has cold water flow from a faucet travel through its coils and emerge a bit warmer, having extracted some of the heat. This is the most basic form of liquid cooling like you might have for air conditioning or refrigeration. We need to get it to about 80F before transferring it to a glass carboy and pitching our yeast.
This is one day after, and you can see it has been fermenting vigorously, producing a foamy krausen on top. We have to let carbon dioxide escape so the pressure doesn't build up until it explodes. It travels through the blow out tube and into a small pot filled with sanitized water. If you are wild yeast or bacteria on the outside, trying to get into the carboy, you'd have to pass through the sanitized water to get in - you wouldn't make it. The carbon dioxide has no problem getting out though, leaving us with an effective membrane. In a week or so I'll rack to secondary. The liquid will be pumped to another carboy, leaving behind the trub - the yeast sediment and any coagulated proteins. It will age in there for a couple weeks and then I'll bottle it, adding in priming sugar so that the yeast creates more carbon dioxide to replace what was lost. Hopefully it turns out well!