How to Brew (or How I learned to stop hating Youtube and create the longest post in FBC blog history)

The question is often asked of me: “what are you talking about?” I take for granted that most who read this blog don’t spend hours scouring the internet learning about brewing or read several books on the subject of creating the perfect all grain recipe. So when I start spouting off on this blog about “sparging” or “mashing,” the readers, understandably, have no idea what I’m talking about.
This post is set to fix this problem. I will go over the general steps of brewing (with moving pictures!) and briefly explain the process.
Ingredients - FBC is an “All Grain” brewery. That means we don’t use malt extracts. We take pure, malted (or toasted) barley and water. On the poorly edited video below, you can see one large bag of grain with several small bags surrounding it. The large bag is “Two Row Pale Ale Malt” and is the base of most of our brews. Usually 60%-95% of the recipe. The smaller bags are the specialty grains which give the beer its distinct flavor and color. On the left side of the table is a packet of Yeast (labeled “Activator”) and several small packets of hops. More on these items later.

Milling – As I indicated above, we purchase all our grain unmilled. So we must mill it ourselves. The process of milling is merely sending the grain through a miller, to crack the grain. This allows water to enter the interior of the grain so we may extract it’s tasty goodness. I purchased a basic mill online, and had an Italian Artisan (Jeremy) create a base for it. We run the mill with a cordless drill. The grain is milled into a bucked an placed in a Mash Tun, which is a former Keg we use as a kettle. Here it is at work.
Mashing – Guess what takes place in the mash tun? Mashing!! In the kettle, hot water is added to the grains and allowed to sit for about an hour. Maintaining a consistent temperature is crucial at this stage. So our system will draw water from the bottom of the kettle, run it through a thermometer and a heat exchanger and back to the top of the kettle to make sure the proper temperature (usually around 152 F) is maintained for the entire hour. In the video below, you can see the Aaron starting the process, and the hot water returning to the top of the kettle.

Sparging – Once the hour of mashing is up, sparging takes place. When sparging, the water from the mash is slowly drained from the bottom of the kettle, while simultaneously, hot water (about 168 F) is added to the top of the bed of grains. This process “washes” additional nutrients from the grains. The liquid is drained into another kettle converted from a keg, equalling about 12 gallons. The entire process takes place very slowly, to make sure an equal amount of liquid is entering the top of the kettle as is leaving the bottom of the kettle. In the video below, you can hear Aaron discuss his “SRM rating.” This is a system for measuring the color of the beer.

Boiling – Once the liquid is in the boil kettle, it is boiled for up to 90 minutes. The reasons are many and can be found here. During this time, hops are added to the boil. The hops added early on give beer its bitterness. The later additions, near the end of the boil, give beer its floral aromas.

Cooling / Yeast Addition – Once the boiling is complete, yeast must be added to the wort. But before the yeast can be added, the wort must be cool enough that it won’t immediately kill the yeast. In the early days of FBC, we merely left the hot wort outside overnight to cool. Quickly, we learned this was a TERRIBLE IDEA. So we purchased a series of coolers. Currently we use Chill Wizard, which is the piece of equipment sitting on the floor in the video below. It will cool the wort from 200 F to 70 F in very short order while pumping it into the fermenter, which is the large plasitic white conical bucket Ben is pumping into. During this time, oxygen is added to the wort to feed the yeast. This was the first time using a new oxygen tank and some spillage occured. Once the wort is cooled in the yeast can be added.

Cleaning – Once the product is in the fermenter, the cleaning can begin! Ben is a trooper and often volunteers to scrub down the kettles.

Bottle Filling – The product will sit in the fermenter for about two weeks. After about a week, some the yeast is drawn off to stop some of the fermentation process. At the end of the two weeks we can bottle straight from our new conical fermentor. First, sugar is added. This will be eaten the residual yeast in the bottle and create carbon dioxide, which will carbonate the beer. Each FBC bottle is hand filled and hand capped.

Drinking – Finally, after a minimum of two weeks in the bottle to carbonate and condition, the beer is ready to drink. Here we are enjoying a nice FBC Porter out of a communal growler.

Any Questions?

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