The following recipes are all ones I have done at home and any one capable of boiling water, reading a thermometer and use a timer can make most of these beers. You don’t need a lot of special equipment though a few items can make it a lot easier. In my post https://myadventuresinselfreliance.wordpress.com/my-adventures-in-brewing/ I give you some overall guidelines but here I’d like to add a few things I’ve picked up as well as my recipes.
- A super cheap food grade fermenter can be bought at any store that carries those five gallon water jugs for those stand alone water coolers. Then all you need is a stopper and an air lock. Locally I got an empty jug at Fred Meyers for $10.99 or you can get one full of water at Albertson’s (local grocery store) for $12.99. The stopper and air lock will cost about $1.00 each. These are often refer to as Carboys and some folks as well as some recipes call for using 2 of these as first and secondary fermenters.
- A Bottling bucket is just a 5-6 gallon food grade bucket with a small spigot about 2 inches above the bottom. A siphon hose with racking cane and a hose with a bottling wand can all be had for about $20.00. The racking cane keeps most of the yeast and grain leftovers from going into the bottling bucket and the bottling wand lets you fill your bottles quickly and leave the proper head space in your bottles.
- Bottles You can use any beer bottle that does not have a twist off bottle cap. For example Dos Equis or Corona I prefer the Dos Equis bottles as the are a dark amber bottle and light is bad for beer. But if you have friends that drink beer you could ask them to save any bottles they have on hand that are not twist off tops. That leaves out most American beer bottles like Bud or Coors. I really like the what’s called the fliptop cap bottles. These are reusable and make bottling go much faster but they do cost more than you basic bottles. But if you want to use the free bottles you will need a bottle capper ($19.00) and bottle caps about $2.00 per 50 caps. Not a bad deal because you can use the capper for other things like homemade Root Beer, Ginger Ale and sodas.
- Your brew kettle actually is just a big stock pot and can be any size from 2 gallons up to 5 gallons. Most of the recipes call for boiling the wort with about 1.5 gallons of water so for the total volume counting the Malt extract you will want at least a 3 gallon/12 quart stock pot a 5 gallon is even better as you will leave plenty of room for the boiling and some recipes foam up a bit. I have found these pots at Big Lots and Family Dollar for $10.00-$20.00 and they can be used as hot bath canners if you add a couple of parts as well as stock pots and you know how I love multi taskers. Heck you may already have a pot this size you can use!
- Most beginner’s kits include the items of the buckets/ fermenters, Racking cane and bottling wand, A long handled spoon, bottle brush, thermometer or hydrometer, air lock, stoppers. Pretty much everything you need but bottles and the stock pot. So it’s your choice to buy a kit or to make your own.
- One thing I use is a spray bottle for my sanitizer/cleaner. Very simple to give the bottles a quick little spritz before bottling( I wash the bottles in my dishwasher just like my dishes) and very easy to use for spraying down the buckets and tubing as well as my counter/work surface.
Now that covers most of the things that I do to make brewing easier for me and they have worked well as I have not had bottles explode or had a problem with bad flavors that can happen if your sanitation get’s screwed up. Home brewing contains a lot more sediment and it’s sticky so always clean your equipment tight away. If you can’t clean it quickly get it soaking and that includes your bottles after they are empty. If you have chickens, pigs or a compost pile give them your leftover grains from the fermenters. Not sure if it is good for cattle as they can bloat from to much rich grain. You can make your own yeast from this beer making for baking breads. Just like an old Dark ages serf or monk and it might be a good barter item as well as the beer, I’ll be trying that in the future. Remember it’s not rocket science, just simple chemistry that was used back into ancient times over 6000 years ago.
The Simple ALE or LAGER recipe for 5 gallons of beer or about 48-52 , 12 oz. bottles
I use Briess 7 pound LME (Liquid Malt Extract) These come in flavors Pale, Amber, Dark and Wheat and it’s your choice what you want to use for your recipes. Pale is used for IPAs and is a very light taste, Dark is kind of like Newcastle Brown ales, Wheat is a different animal but if you like Hefe-Weizen beers you might try the wheat and I think the Wheat makes a great summer beer. I tend to favor lighter colored beers in the summer and darker in the fall and winter. But over all I have always liked darker beer in taste. But Amber splits the difference and is a good place to start I think unless you have preference.
Hops is kind of the spice rack for beers. Your salt and pepper if you will and it’s really what makes beer taste like beer. But there are all kinds, but for the basic recipe 1 oz. of Cascade and 1/2 oz. Willamette are great tasting I have also used a blend called Falconer five C’s 1 oz. I really like. If you are doing a Wheat beer I recommend going with a German Hops called Hallertau to give you more distinct traditional German flavor.
Next is your yeast and Beer yeast is very different than a bread yeast! If you are making an Ale your yeast is darn forgiving on temps. Ales are called top fermenters and can handle 65-75 degrees easily though they do best around 68 degrees on average and tend to ferment relatively quickly. Lager yeast is a bottom fermenter is both slower and need cooler temps around 55-68 degrees and generally take longer to ferment compared to Ales. I have used Safale dry yeast in versions for Ales and Lagers and both have worked great.
If you have stuck around this long and you are ready to get going. Start about 1.5 gallons of water on high and get it boiling. While that is warming to a boil put you LME in a hot water bath to warm up. Trust me when this stuff is cold it makes molasses look like a speed demon to pour. Once you get a boil going turn down the heat between Med. and Med. hi. and add the LME stir constantly until the water and LME are one. The LME is high in sugars and you don’t want it to scorch or burn so keep stirring. It may take some time but you want to get to a slow boil. Once you reach a slow boil add the 1 oz. of Cascade Hops and set the timer for 59 minutes. No lid is needed just let the pot bubble away. At the end of the 59 minutes add the Willamette for 1 minute. If you are doing wheat beer or using the Falconer’s 5 just go a full 60 minutes after adding the hops.
Turn off the heat and now cool your “wort” as quickly as you can. I’ve found setting the stockpot a bathtub full of cold water will bring it down to about 80-90 degrees in 20-30 minutes tops. You are ready to start filling your fermenter. Have about a gallon or two in the fermenter and then add your “Wort” top off with cool water until you hit your 5-6 gallon mark and check the temp. You will want about 65-70 degrees before adding your yeast. Okay your temps. are good now you want to draw off a bit to record your OG or original gravity using a hydrometer and then record it. It should be about 1.04-1.05 this is your staring point and as it goes down your alcohol to water ratio changes.
Mix up the bucket or fermenter and create a bit of foam. This is aeration about about the only time adding air is a good thing. Now sprinkle the yeast on top of the foam and wait 10 minutes. After 10 minutes add the stopper and airlock and tip the bucket or carboy so the yeast is damp. Set in a cool dark spot, temps according to what you are making Ale or Lager and watch the air lock bubble away.
This post is getting a bit long so I will finish up the beer making process in the next post. Don’t worry we have plenty of time while your beer ferments and those little yeast beasties convert sugar to alcohol and expel gas. Next we will cover carbonation, bottling and conditioning.