Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Homebrewing: Ingredients

Two plastic 3.3lb containers of Wheat Liquid Malt Extract (LME)

A) Basic Ingredients
What all goes into a beer*? In the classical, "Reinheitsgebot" definition beer includes the following ingredients:
  1. Water: most beer is 85%-96% water by volume. Some styles of beer use harder water(British ales) while others use very soft water(Pilsners).
    I recommend the use of spring water.

  2. Malted grains: the "body" of beer. Often simply called "malt", these make up the base of the beer and account for alcohol, body, color, and flavor. The chief grain used in most beer is barley, followed by wheat.
    The grain must be crushed before it can be used in beer, ask your local homebrew shop and they will be glad to crush it for you (most online retailers will crush grain for you for free or a nominal charge).

  3. Hops: the "spice" of beer. Hops are used in very small amounts to give beer its characteristic bitterness, flavor, and aroma.
    These are available in whole, pellet, or plug form. I recommend using pellets as they are usually the most available, reliable, fresh, and potent.

  4. Yeast: the "spirit" of beer. Yeasts are small living organisms that consume the sugars in the malt and expend alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts. There are two species of yeast: top-fermenting ale yeast and bottom-fermenting lager yeast. Within each species there are various "strains" which give the beer different characteristics. A good analogy is to think of the strains as breeds of dog, all the same species but many different variations.
    Yeast is available to the homebrewer in liquid or dried form. Liquid yeast allow for a broader range of flavors, and I recommend there use. However, liquid yeast must be stored refrigerated, if you do not have a local homebrew supply store nearby I recommend using dried yeast rather than having liquid yeast shipped.
*It's this brewer's opinion that you should never limit yourself to these four ingredients. Brewing is all about trying new things and some beers (many Belgian styles in particular) are nearly impossible to make using only these four ingredients.

B) Basic Brewing Methods
There are also three basic ways to brew beer. This series will be covering the "extract and grain" method which I feel is only moderately more difficult than the "extract only" method and can yield much tastier brews. I have included a mildly-amusing analogy for each method of brewing.
  1. Extract only: this method of brewing involves simply boiling a malt syrup in water. This malt syrup (usually called "malt extract") is essentially concentrated sugar collected from grains. The syrup occasionally already contains dissolved hops ("hopped extract"), but usually you will add your own hops. This method is very simple, but the range of styles you can create using this method is limited.

    Length of your brew day: ~2.5-4 hours
    If you were making a pizza: You would go to the store, buy a frozen pizza, and throw it in the oven. Simple and sweet.

  2. Extract and grain: The bulk of your beer is still a malt syrup but you also use a small amount of grain (usually 1-3lbs for a 5 gallon batch) to add additional flavor, body, color, and aroma characteristics. As with the extract only method, you will most likely want to add your own hops. This method only extends your brewing day by 30-45 minutes and allows you to make a much wider range of styles. It will also result in "fresher" tasting brews.

    Length of your brew day: ~3-4.5 hours
    If you were making a pizza: You would go to the store and buy a frozen pizza. When you got home you'd chop up some of your own fresh toppings, add them to the pizza, and throw it in the oven. Relatively quick while still allowing a level of customization.

  3. All-grain: 100% of your fermentable sugars come from grains, no malt syrups are used. Rather than being simply steeped and removed, your grains will be "mashed" and subsequently "sparged". This method is cheaper and allows for a much greater level of creativity. So what are the downsides? All-grain brewing is more difficult, takes considerably more time (you may have to make a day of it), and requires much more equipment to get started. If you end getting into brewing as much as I have, it's very rewarding to eventually switch over to brewing this way. All commercial breweries make beer using this method (I'm sure there may be an incredibly small percentage that use extract, but that's another matter).

    Length of your brew day: ~5-8+ hours
    If you were making a pizza: You would kneed your out dough from scratch, add your own pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, toppings, etc. Complex but rewarding.
C) Your Recipe
I went through a great amount of debate as to what sort of recipe to use as an example. Everyone has their own preferences, and I did not want to make a beer that would leave a bad taste in the mouth of a first-time brewer. I am only using this recipe as an example for future entries in my homebrewing series. All of the steps used to make this recipe in subsequent articles will be more or less the same for every brew you make.

This recipe will yield a clean and smooth beer that is still relatively flavorful. The beer will be gold in color with a noticeable but not overpowering hop presence. Stylistically, it would probably be considered a cream ale or blonde ale. If you would like a recipe for a different style of beer, contact me and I will happily provide you with one.

PremiumBlonde Ale
Blonde Ale
IBU: ~20
Anticipated OG: 1.045-1.050
Anticipated FG: 1.010-1.014
Anticipated abv: ~4.6%-5.2%

  • Water:
    • 6 gallons of spring water (any water will do as long as it is labeled "spring water" and not "distilled water", the mild mineral content is good for your beer). You can use filtered tap water as well, but I recommend spring water for best results.
      cost: variable

  • Malts:
    • Malt extract: 2x3.3lb cans of the lightest liquid malt extract you can find (a brand I recommend is "Munton's Extra Light" liquid malt extract) for a total of 6.6lbs of liquid malt extract (LME)
      cost: ~$12/can for a total of ~$24
    • Malted Grain: 1lb *crushed* Munich Malt (for malty flavor)
      1/2lb *crushed* Cara-pils malt (for body and head retention)
      cost: ~$1.50-2.00/pound

  • Hops:
    • 1 ounce Hallertau hop pellets (bittering hops)
      cost: ~$2.00-3.00/ounce (there is currently a hop shortage, prices are high)
    • 1 ounce of Saaz hop pellets (1/2 ounce added during last 15 minutes of boil: flavor hop, 1/2 ounce added during last 5 minutes of boil: aroma hop)
      cost ~$2.00-3.00/ounce

  • Yeast:
    • Liquid option one (preferred)*: White Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast. This is a liquid yeast that will come in a small plastic vial, ask at your local homebrew supply shop. This must remain refrigerated until 5-6 hours before use.
      cost: ~$7.00
    • Liquid option two: Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast. This strain is very similar to the yeast above, use this if the White Labs brand is not available. This will come in a foil "smack pack". It too, must remain refrigerated. Take the packet out of the refrigerator 24 hours before use and follow the directions on the back to prep it for brewing.
      cost: ~$7.00
    • Dry option: use any dry ale-type yeast. These come in small paper/foil packets.
      cost: ~$2.00
That sums up this week's installment! Next week: Your First Brew Day

NOTE: I prefer this strain over the Wyeast strain only because I have more experience with it. It is my opinion that White Labs and Wyeast strains are equal in quality, just slightly different. Similar to a Coke & Pepsi relationship. Use whichever is more readily available to you.

1 comment:

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