In honor of this world-wide “drink a beer day” today (September 28th 2015), I am documenting an extract kit that I brewed Sunday, September 27th, 2015. For those of you new to homebrewing, most home brewers brew using one of 2 methods; All Grain, where you start with a bag of milled grain and water, or an Extract Kit, where the grain has already been processed and you start with water and Dry Malt Extract (DME) and/or Liquid Malt Extract (LME). I have had an extract kit in my cabinet since April of this year, so it was finally time to pull it out and brew it.
This kit was the Brewer’s Best Summer Ale and looking at the malt bill, this is basically a Pilsner. This kind of kit is often called a partial mash, as there are some specialty grains that are steeped in the brew kettle before boiling in additon to the DME and LME. The specialty grains in this kit are on the small side at only 8 ounces and with the hops bill only 1 ounce of cascade for the entire boil, you hop heads will find this on the lighter side. However, this is a good “gateway beer” to introduce the Miller-Bud-Coors-McBeer crowd to some actual flavor and taste.
The first part of my brewday starts at my desk. I have created a document called “Aaron’s Brew Day Checklist” that I fill out and follow to keep me from making stupid mistakes, of which I have made plenty. This worksheet is more designed around my all-grain brewing, but it works for me here too and keeps me honest and gives me a place to take notes.
Once I have all of my ingredients, materials, and checklist in place, I fire up the burner. The Brewer’s Best instructions say to heat the water between 150° and 165°. Presumably this temperature range is to take into account the temperature of the grain and how it will cool the water slightly (With a larger grain bill). Since we have just a very small amount of grain, I fired the kettle until it was around 156° give or take a few degrees.
I steeped the grains for 20 minutes per instructions and then pulled the grain bag and let it drain by setting it on top of my stir-spoon. Remember, squeezing the grain bag isn’t the smartest thing to do A: beacuase it’s hot and B: because you will extract unwanted elements from the grain that can produce an off flavor, or, so I am told.[spacer height=”10px”] Once the grains are done steeping (The mini-mash portion of this brew), it’s time to bring the wört to a boil and add our extracts. I am using a turkey fryer type burner that I bought for $20 at Academy sports, but, especially with extract kits, this can be done on the stove in an apartment.
One trick that I use with liquid extract is to heat a pan of water and let the can of extract warm up a little before adding it to the boil. This let’s the syrup-like LME pour easier from the container and leaves less behind in the container. In some of the newer kits, like this one, they have switched from using cans to using plastic containers. Be sure that you do not melt the plastic or have the plastic container in the pan while heating. I heat up the water, pull it off the stove and then drop the container in the pan to avoid toxic chemicals and other icky things that one can extract from plastic.
Once the extracts have been added and the wört has come back to a nice rolling boil, I make the first of the two hops additions (@60 Min) and @15 minutes. During the hour for the boil, I am sanitizing my chiller plate in the over, sanitizing my hoses and fermentor and re-hydrating the dry yeast. Once I have made my @15 minute additions to the brew kettle including the aroma hops, spice pack from the kit, whirfloc tablet, and yeast nutrients and the clock has stopped @0 minutes, I stir a quick whirlpool and cover the kettle and let the wört settle for 20 minutes before chilling and draining into the sanitized fermentor.
I am including a few photos of my use of the chiller plate. It took me a few tries before I really understood how to use the plate. My assumption was that gravity would do all of the work. My first few attempts using the chiller plate were frustrating until I did a little research and found that even with gravity I still needed to prime a siphon with the plate. I do this by hooking everything up, opening the boil kettle ball valve, and then on the sanitized hose that drains to the fermentor, I pour about 1 quart of sanitized water into the hose. I then drop the hose and let the sanitizer run out which pulls a siphon and starts the wört flow.
I live in South Texas and the water, especially in Summer, tends to be too hot to cool the wört to pitching temperature right from the hose, even with the plate chiller. One of the strategies that I use is to run the hose to a pre-chiller (copper coil in ice water bath) before the cooling water reaches the chiller plate. Rather than waste the chiller water by pouring it down the drain or on the lawn (the water comes out hot,which may not be the best for plants) I run the chiller plate discharge water to my pool for future, refreshing use while drinking the homebrew that we are crafting!
The last step is to oxygenate the wört and pitch the yeast. And then it’s sit in my fermentation chamber, which is just a chest freezer with a special temperature controller on it, set to around 70°F for a week to 10 days and we are ready to bottle or keg! This beer is the lower one. The other carboy is a delicious smelling Rye Ale that is almost ready for the keg!