Making Wort (231st new thing).
January 3, 2012 § 3 Comments
I bought a brewing kit from Midwest Brewing Supplies and pulled out all the pieces on Day Two Hundred Thirty-One. I was going to brew beer, or at least take the first step in the process. I would make wort (pronounced “wert”).
I began my brewing adventure by turning on the DVD included with my purchase. I watched about twenty minutes before deciding that I, armed with the photocopied instructions included in the kit, was ready to become a brewmaster.
The video instructor encouraged the brewer to pop open a homebrewed beer, but since this would be my first experience making booze, I opted for a Dale’s Pale Ale instead. Then I began seeping the bag of grains from my amber ale kit for half an hour at just under a boiling temperature. The liquid turned a pretty, light amber brown before I took the bag out of the hot water. Our house was filled with it’s earthy wheat scent.
Next I followed the precise directions and removed the pot from the heat and added a half gallon of thick, molasses-like barley malt. I stirred continuously as the malt oozed slowly from its jug. Once it had mostly dissolved, I poured in my first set of hops and returned the pot to the boil.
As the mixture heated up, a green foam appeared at the boil. This was the tricky part, as the video had told me. Boil overs are messy, difficult to clean up. The man had talked about them so much that I ended up doing extra internet searches on the phenomenon just to avoid it. I was really nervous, but for no reason. During the entire hour I sat watching it boil, none of the liquid tipped over the edge of my pot. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
Besides warning against boil overs, most homebrew sources also warn about contamination. EVERYTHING has to be sanitized, from your fermentation bucket to your siphoning tubes to your spoon. Fortunately my kit came with a tub of santitizing powder, but the entire time I was in constant fear of introducing some crazy new strain of bacteria into my beer and instantly killing or making sick anyone whose lips came in contact with the drink. I double sanitized all my tools. Better safe than sorry, right?
After the wort was done boiling (with my second ounce of hops added twenty minutes before the end of the hour process), I poured the contents of my pot into my five gallon bucket (another kit inclusion) and began to try to cool it down before adding yeast. I succeeded in dropping the temperature by adding all of the ice from the freezer, then topping off the bucket with cold water to the fill line. I took the wort’s temperature and found it to be below 80 degrees. Hooray. The next step is to stir like mad, pour the wort from one bucket to another, or use some crazy drill extension to add air to the mixture. The yeast need oxygen apparently. I chose option one since I lacked the materials for option three and option two seemed like a recipe for a giant mess. I had survived without a boil over, why test my luck?
I “pitched” the yeast (or sprinkled it on top of my wort) and sealed the bucket, being careful to slowly insert my (super sanitized) air lock. The air lock is a device brewers use to see the beer fermentation process. Bubbles are supposed to form after a couple days, and when the little air pockets cease to rise more than once a minute, it could be time to transfer your fermenting ale into a secondary fermentation bottle, usually a glass carboy (which looks like one of those Crystal water coolers turned upside down). I didn’t have a carboy (it wasn’t included in the kit), so I was just going to let everything sit in the bucket for a couple weeks before bottling.
I began to worry after a couple days when I didn’t see any bubbles rising in my airlock. I frantically googled what could be wrong before realizing I had neglected to add a little water to the device. I was expecting bubbles along the vein of spit bubbles, where the fermentation process took up so much space in my bucket that it literally bubbled out. So I missed that part of the process.
In addition, I would be unable to tell someone what the alcohol content of my amber ale would be. This thing called a hydrometer was included in my brewing kit, and it’s used to measure specific gravity of a liquid. So with some fancy mathematical equation taking the measurements before and after fermentation, you can calculate the alcohol content. But since the hydrometer looked like a wayward thermometer for an elephant to me and I was already a bit overwhelmed with limiting boil overs and sanitizing everything, I hadn’t the energy to figure out how to use the strange device. Maybe it can be another activity for another brew.
After I sealed my five gallon bucket I stuck it in the corner of the dining room to
fester ferment. I lit a candle to erase a little of the intense brewery odor lingering in the house and had another pale ale. I couldn’t wait until two weeks went by so I could take the next step and bottle my amber ale.