Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hard Apple Cider

This time around a friend and I decides to keep it simple. He is new to home brewing, and wanted to grasp the basics.

We used apple juice, that we purchased. Using bottled apple juice is tricky, because it must be preservative free, so nothing interferes with the yeast during fermentation. For the yeast we used champagne yeast, and brown sugar. We also added a cup of cinnamon, for a more distinct taste.

We boiled the juice for 60 minutes to kill any contaminants. During the boil, a cup of brown sugar was added to the juice. After the boil we placed the hot wort in a ice bath to bring the temperature under 80. The work was then poured into the fermentation bucket, two gallons of water added, and the packet of yeast.

The wort was left to ferment for two weeks. The bubbling stopped after 5 days. Afterwards we added more brown sugar for a sweeter taste, the we bottled our brew and put it in the fridge to chill it. It was easy and came out great!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Your Brew is Ready But Turned Out Flat? I am here for the rescue...

      A few month ago i was very excited brewing a dark chocolate stout, followed every direction possible and wait anxiously to try my beer. Well the day to pop the top and pour myself a glass, actually I was so excited I had a friend come and join me for the trial. My excitement came to a halt when carbonation was minimal.... First thought in my head was here goes 5 Gallons of beer down the drain, but I decided to leave my bottles alone for now, and try to see if they carbonate a little more. I also went to my local home-brew shop and explained my problem, and thats when I saw the light.
      Let's first talk about what carbonates the beer... I will keep it simple, since that is the goal of this whole blog! Carbonation happens because your beer still has some active yeast in it, it is not an excessive amount (that would just blow your caps right off, if not the glass also) but it is an amount that will cause carbonation (basically carbonation happens from fermentation). So if it did not carbonate you: 1) Did not give it enough time, 2)Left the beer in the fermentation bucket or carboy for too long, 3)The yeast just became "lazy", OR 4)Your bottles were not capped properly. WHATEVER it is, there is a way to fix the problem. As long as your beer is not contaminated, you can save it!

     The first "rescue" step would be shake the bottles a little bit to move the yeast around, and move them somewhere warmer, then wait a week and see, sounds simple and a makes little sense, but it has worked for me in the past.

     If all else fails, buy some yeast, activate it and pour your yeasty water solution into an eye dropper. Uncap all of your bottles, and place two to three drops in each bottle, that way you put a little bit of yeast to ferment and carbonate... cap everything and put your bottles away in a dark place for a week or two.

I hope this helped!!!!


Monday, April 29, 2013

All Grain Brewing

So I know a lot of people who do extract brewing but I have to say doing all grain brewing isn't much difficult or harder to do, so if you have the equipment and know how I highly suggest getting into all grain brewing. Here today I'm going to go over the very easy and simple steps on how to do a GREAT all grain brew.

Im going to be making a Raspberry Wheat Beer. Now normally I'm opposed to fruit beers but I thought "what the hay could be something good for the summer thats going to be quickly approaching". So first of all you need your ingredients I have here a 2 gallon mix of malt which contains

2lbs- Rahr 2-row
24 oz- Rahr wheat malt
8 oz- Caravienne

1 oz cascade hop pellets

half a tablet of whirl (they help clear the beer of sediment)

No for all grain brewing there is an extra step added, you got to steep the grain to extract the sugars from the grain and malt that will later become alcohol and if beer has no alcohol content to it then whats really the point of beer? So for this process you need a 5 gallon pot or larger if doing a 5 gallon batch of beer, a steeping bag, a thermometer and your grains. Temperature is extremely important in the steeping process. The highest extract is achieved between 149 and 155 degrees F. So I usually shoot for 150 F, so to start you need to add water to boil, Im adding in around 23 cups of water for a 2 gallon mix. Start heating your water till you reach around 150F once there, you can add your steeping bag and grain, if you can see from my picture my steeping bag wraps around the top of my pot so I can still stir inside the grain while its sitting in the water.

Its important to note that you need to keep the steep water at 150 F for one full hour! So most likely you will have to shut the heat off and turn it back on multiple times I believe I had to roughly 5-9 times throughout the whole hour just to make sure the temperature did not leave the area I wanted. At about 30 min start heating up another pot of around 1 gallon of water to 180F, this is what we call your sparge water, Its used to rinse the remaining sugars off the grains when you pull the steep sack out of your water carefully dump the sparge water through your sack of grains to let it drain into your now wort mix (be careful you can burn yourself easily doing this, I always get an extra pair of hands to help with this step). Now you should have something that looks similar to this.

Now your going to boil this for an hour while adding your hops, hop schedule and amounts are important since this is what adds that nice flavor and aroma to your beer, my hop schedule is

1/4oz 60min
1/4oz 30min
add whirlflock tablet 15min
1/2oz 1 min

When your hop additions are finished you must rapidly cool the wort so there's no infection or contamination, I place my large hot pot of wort in the sink filled with ice water because we need to get the temperature bellowe 140 degrees within the first 10 minutes, ultimately we want the beer to cool to around 70-80 degrees before we add the yeast, to hot or cold and we risk ruining the yeast. This is also a perfect time to start pitching the yeast.

In a small pot boil up about a cup of water then transfer the water to a cup and wait for the temperature to drop to about 90-100 degrees then add your dry yeast and cover with a hand towel (I use aluminum foil just because I think it's more sanitary) let the yeast sit for about 30 min to pitch and usually by the time your wort cools to the target temperature you can pitch your yeast into your now cooled wort inside the fermenter, give the wort a nice vigorous stir to get some air in the wort for the yeast and place airlock so that air can get out but not in as you don't want your fermenter to blow off and you don't want nasty air to get in and possibly ruin your batch.

Now the hard part waiting...
I typically wait around 3 weeks before I chose to bottle my beer  for a few reasons, I want to make sure the yeast is done doing its thing, even though there may not be any foam on the top of the wort the yeast is still active and working its magic in the wort, once most action has completed though I move the wort to a secondary fermenter this is a preference it typically makes the beer clearer and allowes some flavors to develop nicely in the beer also for you IPA folks a secondary is the prime time to do a dry hop addition. After about 3 weeks we're getting ready to bottle.

When bottling its important all your bottles and caps are sanitized this takes some time but don't let that small step ruin your brew. When everything is sanitized we need to prepare the process to carbonate the beer in the bottles now what I do is I go on, they have a sugar calculator you can use to figure out the perfect carbonation level you're looking for in your beer and how much sugar you'll need to add. When you figure out how much sugar you need heat the sugar with about a cup of water till all the sugar desolves then cool the mixture down to about 70 degrees (freezer works well) then add the sugar water to the beer mixture you have and let it sit for about 20 minutes to evenly distribute within the beer. Once the time is up start siphoning your beer into bottles and capping them up. Give them a slight turn upside down just to get everything working and place them in a dark place for another 3 weeks or so, it's tough to tell with glass bottles when the beer is ready to drink so I usually test one out right around 3 weeks if it's still flat let it sit about a week longer then try another one sometimes it just takes a little extra time.

The most important part of home brewing is never get discouraged, a messed up batch is never a reason to stop brewing, and always tweak a recipe when you can something you made once that was good could maybe even be better by just tweaking the recipe by a small amount. With that get out there and brew!!!!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Why not wine?

      I am a home brewer and most importantly a lover and supporter for DO IT YOURSELF projects, mine happen to be focused at what I can turn into alcohol! Beer brewing is great, but as we all know it can be costly. Wine making tends to be a bit cheaper depending on the fruits you are using.

     I decided to make APPLE WINE!!!! wine making is not centered on grapes, you can use almost any fruit (ex. cherries, berries, strawberries). Apple wine is really easy to do and also very cheap, with a great outcome.

      What do you need?

                  *Apples: 6 pounds of apples ~about $7 (I made about a gallon and a half of apple wine with
                   6 pounds)

                  *Clean water

                  *3 pounds of corn sugar ~roughly $4

                  *Yeast ~ 75cents for a pack

                  *Fermenter (primary, and secondary)

                  *Spoon for mixing

                  *A stove!

      Ready, Set, GO!!!

      The steps are basic, put water in the pot, boil it and keep on mashing the apples until you get pure apple juice, keep on adding sugar making sure it all dissolves, also DON'T forget sanitation. Cool your wort down to about 79 or so degrees, and pitch in your yeast. For the fermenter I first used my 5 gallon jug, but then poured it into a secondary 6 liter fermenter. I have racked the wine twice (moved it into different fermentation vessels) to get rid of sediment and trub, I have had it fermenting for about a month and a half now.
      Not all wine takes a long time to ferment, some take a couple of weeks and some take a very long time, it is very important to research the type of wine and the process for each type you want to do. I have not gotten to clearing the wine yet, and I will blog about it when fermentation is complete. I have read a lot about clearing wine, but I will wait till I have tried a method myself before blogging about it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How long should the wort stay in the fermentor?

      Especially when it's your first few brews, you will get anxious and at times bottling your beer before it is the right time. That simple mistake can ruin your brew, and it is actually an easy fix. Determining when it is the right time should not be a nightmare, all you need is some help from your hydrometer!
      Lets start by explaining what a hydrometer is; It's a tool made out of glass, with some mercury or led on the bottom that helps it float when you drop it in your brew that is in a test tube to test gravity, sugar levels, and have a good prediction on alcohol content that you will end up with. It is IMPORTANT to note that there are different types of hydrometers out there, the one you must use is designed for beer and wine.
           Above is my hydrometer, that I purchased from the local Home Brew Shop in Chico, Ca. It came with a set of instructions that are very straight forward. A little online research and a couple of videos and you will be able to take readings in no time! (Soon I will blog about the steps to take a hydrometer reading)

      By now you are asking yourself why is the hydrometer your best friend when it comes to figuring out if it is time to bottle. Different beers and yeast have different time frames as far as fermentation, once you notice that there is almost no activity in the airlock, start taking readings every 24 hours. After about 2 to 3 readings that are all the same you know that there is no more activity going on (at least not that will make a difference in your fermentor). Now you know it is time to bottle, and safe enough where the yeast activity will not be enough to create too much pressure and bust your bottles, or leave some odd tastes in the brew that you do not want.

For info on bottling check out the blog before this!!!

Saturday, January 26, 2013


I got to bottle my pale ale last night! Bottling is very exciting, because it is just one step closer to drink your brew! Unfortunately now I am very anxious yet I cannot touch my bottled beer for a few weeks, while it is conditioning.

I made this process easier by following my pre bottling checklist (look at previous blog), but just to be safe I sanitized the bottles again. My brew was in a carboy, bottling out of that can be tricky at first but it is actually very very easy, all you really need is a siphoning tube, with the pressure in the carboy and gravity both being used to my advantage; the process took roughly 30 minutes. My girlfriend helped me cap, which also helped my time. (I am going to make a video soon, because it is the easiest way to show peeps how to bottle)

I had a little problem: 5 gallons of beer and only 30 beer bottles. After bottling as you can imagine, I had some beer left over. It is not easy to dump beer, that I spent a great deal of time making. My fix was to use a 2 liter coke bottle, after some research although not recommended it does the job.... And I am using it as my guide for how carbonation is going. I will let you know how it worked out in a couple of weeks.

Before I forget, you need to mix a teaspoon of corn sugar in about a court of water, boil it while mixing and let it sit to cool down. Add this to your wort and mix well to blend it in. This will be the yeast food while carbonating, therefore it is a very important step!!!

Keep in mind that when it comes to bottling, bottles have to be designed to hold pressure build up. Beer bottles work best, and they are free because you can just take your friends empty bottles, clean them and cap them (caps are cheap). Stay away from mason jars, they vacuum seal but will not handle the pressure produced by the process of natural carbonation. Also stay away from hard alcohol bottles, such as; sky, jack etc... Unless you want a messy little explosion that will waist a LOT of your beer!


Thursday, January 24, 2013

A few pointers prior to bottling.

      You might still have a few more days before you are ready to bottle, but a head start is always helpful.  Go through a few checklist items:

                1. Bottles (unless you will be using a keg), make sure the bottles are ones that are
                    designed to handle pressure build up. Yeast is what will carbonate your beer    
                    during the conditioning process, so empty beer bottles will work best. Do not 
                    use twist offs because that will make capping a pain. Do you have enough bottles???

                2. Sanitize, there are many ways to sanitize your bottles such as boiling them, using
                    substances etc... You have gone too far to ruin your beer!

                3. Corn Sugar, you can purchase this at your local Home Brew Shop. This is needed in order to
                    dissolve and then add to your wort, must be used for conditioning and carbonating  A process 
                    that takes place when you bottle.

                4. Do you have everything you need for bottling? Tubes, spicket, caps, capper (I will post
                    pictures in my next blog).
                5. (Optional) Do you have an extra hand? A friend or significant other to help you? This will make
                    your life easier during bottling!!

      Having a few days to go through this checklist, and other items you might add to the list, will be helpful. Knowing what you need beforehand will eliminate having to make an emergence trip to the store.