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Avoid Costly Mistakes and Get Started Brewing

There are 3 aspects of making beer that we commonly undertake at home: Malting, Brewing, and Fermenting.

Malting (5-7 days)

  • Turning raw grains into malted grains. This is done through ‘tricking’ the grains into germinating, and then halting that germination process at specific points. These malted grains can now be turned into

    • Base malts by lightly drying out, or “kilning” at low temperatures

    • Crystal malts by kilning at higher temperatures to caramelize the sugars, or

    • Roasted malts by kilning at higher temperatures (known as roasting) to bring out chocolate / coffee flavours in the malts

Basic equipment needed: Containers, Scale, Oven, Oven safe thermometer

Brewing, the step which you make wort (3-8 hours). This step is split into two main categories: the Mash and the Boil:

  • Mashing takes milled, malted grains and extracts the water soluble components. Often it involves activating the enzymes present in the malt to convert the available starches into sugars. This is done by hydrating the milled malt (called grist) and holding it within a specific temperature and pH range.

  • The Boil is an important part of the process in which the wort is pasteurized. During this process hops are often added; the alpha acids within the hops are isomerized during the boil and lead to bitterness in the beer - this is often predicted and measured in IBUs (International Bitterness Units). Also, many undesirable compounds in the malts are boiled off (for example, in Pilsner type malts DMS (Dimethyl Sulphate). It should be noted that there are beer styles that don't employ a boil - we'll delve into that in another blog though!

Basic equipment needed:

  • Single Vessel Brewery (e.g. Brewzilla or Grainfather) OR

  • Brew in a Bag - Single pot plus a large mesh bag (like a tea bag, but bigger) for the grains OR

  • Simple Mash Infusion - insulated container for mash, pot for boiling the wort OR

  • Three vessel system - Hot liquor (water) tank, mash tun, brew kettle

*There are simpler options available where you use malt extract only, or malt extract with a mini BIAB set-up (known affectionately as a ‘partial mash’) which can reduce your equipment down to just a pot on a stove.

Fermenting (2-14 days)

- Brewers make Wort, Yeast make Beer! Many factors impact yeast behaviour, including temperature, dissolved CO₂, sugar concentration, pitch rate (amount of yeast cells per volume) - the list goes on.

This is complicated by trying to ensure that only the yeast culture that you want to ferment is able to do so (all other bacteria and yeast are wiped out through sanitization and pasteurization processes)

Basic equipment needed: It can be as simple as a bucket with a lid with an airlock in the lid to try and prevent microbes from getting in; and the best option is a ‘unitank’ which is a vessel that allows you to ferment and condition your beer, using pressure as desired. Unitanks come in a variety of options, from plastic to glass to stainless steel. If you’re pressure fermenting, a controlled pressure relief valve (known as a ‘spunding’ valve) is required in order to maintain the pressures at a desirable level. Depending on the temperature of the area you’re fermenting in, you may need a way to warm the beer or to cool the beer, whether that’s via a fermentation chamber (repurposed refrigerator) or a glycol system (chilling it internally using coils).

Cleaning and Sanitizing

The unofficial 4th aspect of brewing, this is an important part to prevent unwanted microbes from infecting your beer. It involves scrubbing and / or using detergents to remove any proteins and lipid build-ups on your kit, followed by a sanitization regime to reduce or eliminate harmful bacteria and wild yeasts that would be competing with your chosen culture.

So what should you do to get started?

Well, you could jump in whole-hog, but we'd caution against doing this on a whim - it's practically guaranteed that you'll learn something new each time you brew (read "something will, er, not go according to plan"), especially when you're starting out. Like starting any sport or hobby, it's worth taking time to build up your capabilities, techniques, and knowledge.

Practically, we’d recommend working backwards: Learn to ferment first, using pre-made kits

  • This option helps hone the most important part of brewing, the fermenting portion. Admittedly, the flavors will never be as fresh as malting, grinding, and brewing yourself but it will still be pretty damn good. Add this to the fact it will be a fraction of the price of the 20+ dollars you’ll pay at the grocery store for a 6 pack (and even more for a pint of brew at the pub) and you can't go wrong!

To do this you’ll need:

  • A fermenter:

Our recommendation is a pressure fermenter like the Fermenter King Junior or the Chubby. Between the two, we’d recommend the Chubby due to it’s ability to ferment 25-28L of wort at a time, which accommodates most pre-made wort kits and all grain recipe kits.

  • A spunding valve

Using a pressure fermenter, you’ll need a spunding valve, There are some great, affordable options of diaphragm spunding valves including the analogue Blowtie and the Digital Blowtie 2.

Temperature Control:

Without pressure fermenting, in order to make great beer it's very important to have precise temperature control. Yeast behave differently at different temperatures, producing more or less esters, fuselol, acetaldehyde, etc. Pressure fermenting is different as it causes an increase in dissolved CO₂ levels in the beer, which recent studies have shown reduce yeast's tendencies to produce these off flavours.

Now, we're not saying do away with temperature control, but we are saying that you can start brewing some really good beer without having to make that investment at the outset. Depending on what you’re fermenting with (e.g. ale yeast, lager yeast, kviek yeast) they will have different optimum fermentation temperatures. You may need consider a method to heat (for kviek yeast) or cool (for lager yeast) your beer. If you stick with ale yeasts, you’ll probably be fine without any temperature control and it will still be representative of the style you're trying to brew.

So, to sum up, you'll need:

  • A Chubby 30L fermenter with ball lock disconnects and a floating ball ($130)

  • A Spunding valve (either the analogue or digital version) ($47.50 for the digital version, $39.75 for the analogue version)

  • Some cleaning and sanitizing solution (e.g. the Mangrove Jacks or Clarks products we offer - starting at $12 for one of each)

  • A line cleaning cap ($4.99)

  • some 8mm OD beer / gas line (we can sell by the meter at $2.50/m or a roll of 12m for $25)

  • A concentrated wort kit or fresh wort pack to make that first beer. That's it!

Once you've made your beer, you'll want to drink it! For serving, grab either:

  • Ball Lock Disconnect with Integrated Tap Shank ($9.99) PLUS

  • Flow Control Stainless Steel Forward Sealing Beer Tap ($57.50) PLUS

  • A long slender type plastic tap handle ($1.15) or

  • Flow Control Liquid duotight disconnect ($19.99) PLUS

  • A length of 8mm OD tubing PLUS

  • 6.35mm x 8mm reducer ($4.75) PLUS

  • duotight picnic tap ($4.99)

Plus, for carbonating and consuming at the right temperature:

  • a SodaStream adapter (assuming you'll have access to a SodaStream bottle; if you have access to a full size CO₂ cylinder, skip this) ($13.99)

  • a Type 30 (CO₂) regulator ($59.99)

  • A fridge to put your fermenter in to keep your beer at your preferred serving temperature.

Before you know it, you'll be drinking and sharing your very own brew! Once you get this part done, it's time to move up to brewing (but we'll save that for another blog).


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