Let's Get Started !
It is so refreshing to see so many people deciding to give Home Brewing a go for the first time or progressing from the Kits to whole grain, this is just some tips on how to get started and hopefully some basics to help you on your way.
There are so many You tube videos and google help pages around these days my advice would be to watch as many as you can but you cant beat somebody to ask in person, if i can help i will, but i would also suggest following a local homebrew club or facebook page, we have Hull Homebrew on Facebook, a great little group with regular meetups, no questions are stupid, and very friendly advice, it would be worth seeking one out in your area.
Firstly you will need a method of heating your LIQUOR (Water for brewing starts as Liquor, then wort, then Beer), You will need to decide on the batch size, 10L, 25L, 50L?
I would suggest 25L, a lot of kit and recipes are designed for this volume.
To achieve 25L of beer you will need to start with about 20% more liquor, this allows for grain soak up and boil off. You then need to allow for headroom in the kettle and fermenter, personally i would suggest a minimum volume of your vessels to be 40L.
Stainless steel is ideal but Plastic can be a good starting point, obviously just be careful with hot liquids. so.. electric or gas heating.. electric is easier to set up but gas is easier to clean .. your choice.
You will need 1 vessel as a Hot Liquor Tank which will heat
the initial 30L (25L + 20%) to approx 75'c, a second vessel
well insulated in which to mash your brew, with a perforated
false bottom to retain the grain but allow wort to pass through,
and a third vessel to boil your wort at a full on rolling boil for
at least 60 mins,there are some all in one systems on the market
such as the Grainfather that combine all three into one. I cant really
advise on these as i have never used one but those that have swear by them.
Water, this subject can be massively complicated. But basically the water around East Yorkshire is primarily underground sourced and filtered through chalk making it a little alkali, water on the west coast is generally reservoir water and a little acidic, the perfect brewing Liquor is slightly acidic, so in East Yorkshire we need to add a small amount of acid (i.e Lactic acid or AMS) acid to the Liquor whereas on the west coast you will need to add a some alkalinity. Underground water is also a little light in salts so we add them into the mash (as table salt or DWB). It is always a great idea to have your water tested, Murphy and sons are very helpful and will test your water and suggest what you need to add for the beer you are planning.
IF THE WATERS NOT RIGHT YOUR BEER WONT BE RIGHT!
So design your own recipe, find one on the net, or use one of ours, buy your ingredients and allow a full afternoon .. switch off your phone!
Put 2/3rds of your liquor into your mash tun and add your grains, make sure they are mixed in, no dough balls.. the temp should ideally be 66'c mash for 90 mins, for the last 30 mins recirculate the wort, drawing wort from under the perforated grain retention plate, and spraying back on top, this will create a filter, check clarity before the recirculation which will be cloudy, then once the wort runs clear start to transfer to the kettle, as the wort level drops to the surface of the grain sparge with the remainder of the liquor, effectively rinsing the grains of all the converted sugars.
Boil then for 60 mins, this has to be a full on rolling boil,
add the hops at different timings, e.g add at 10 mins means
10 mins before the end of the 60 min , 10 mins to go and
add the protafloc, or Irish moss, this will help all the proteins
clump together and help clear the beer, at the end of the
boil it is important to cool the wort down to 20'c as quickly
as possible, this will create a "cold Break" or "protein break",
a good way of checking all is ok is to fill your hydrometer jar
with the cooled wort, drop in the hydrometer and keep an
eye on the wort, you should see a snowing effect, this is a
good sign, leave the jar overnight and you should see a
clear wort with all the "snow" settled to the bottom of the jar,
without this "break" it will be difficult to achieve real clarity
to your beer.
Either fit an airlock to your fermenter or a tight fitting lid, it is important not to let air in but let out the CO2 created, do not seal a fermenter, it WILL blow !, keep the temp at 19'c for an ale or 13'c for a lager type, DO NOT LET THE TEMP RISE DURING FERMENTATION, IT WILL CREATE "OFF" FLAVOURS.
Check the gravity daily and once your terminal gravity is reached i tend to leave the beer for a couple of days as a rest, this is a process to eliminate a substance called "Diacetyl", , Diacetyl is a by product of the fermenting process and is produced by the yeast action, it has an intense buttery flavour and aroma, smell Butterkist popcorn you will get an idea.. in some malty beers a little diacetyl is sometimes encouraged but most beers are better without it, the good news is the yeast will reabsorb it if left for a couple of days after fermentation, even sometimes warming the beer a couple of degrees to reactivate the yeast a little. After the rest you can go one of a couple of ways, you can add finings to clear your beer sometimes in just a couple of hours, Isinglass being the most efficient, this is a fish derivative that contains collagen that binds particles and causes them to drop out of suspension.
After the rest i prefer to chill the beer down to less than 5'c and leave for a couple of days, this sends the yeast to sleep and the beer clears naturally.
Transfer to keg, cask or bottle, to get just a slight carbonation or condition i leave the beer in cask in the brewery for a couple of days before the fridge, kegs i put a head pressure of CO2 in the keg, and i bottle direct from the keg using a reverse pressure bottle filler, this prevents the sediment in the bottle a bottle conditioned beer would have...