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Homebrewing began in the 1920s when, due to prohibition, the most practical way to obtain beer was to brew it at home (Baron 14). Beer is the product of fermentation of an infusion or a decoction of cereal malt (Baron 14). It is something less tangible and greater than its ingredients. Therefore brewing may be seen as a form of cooking. There are two reasons why home brewing is not as popular as it sounds: because of the difficulty in producing quality beer at home and because of the easy availability of commercially produced beer of various styles. However, homebrewing continues to survive today as a science, a fad, and a hobby. The home brewing process consists of three stages: initial brewing session, fermentation, and bottling. These three stages involve: combining the ingredients and initiating fermentation; transferring the fermented beer, first into a secondary fermenter and then into bottles; bottling, capping, and storing the beer for further maturation and clarification. Within each of these stages, following proper sanitizing, measuring, siphoning, and sealing procedures are essential to prevent bacteria and produce great-tasting beer.
The initial brewing session includes four processes: milling, mashing, sparging, and chilling. The grain is milled in a grain mill. Milling should be done as roughly as possible. The amount of mashing water is usually 3 liters of water per kilogram of grain. The burner under the Hot Liquid Tun (HLT) is lit and the container is filled with fresh water. It is heated to 57o Celsius. Milled grain is added and gently stirred. It is best to follow a temperature-time schedule during mashing. After the wort temperature has achieved 78° C, it is time to start sparging. The wort is put in the boil kettle and sparging water (of 78° C) is added to the wort. The sugars are sparged from the grain. The grain is used as a natural filter bed.
The sparging water is added through the grain bed 4-5 times over a period of two hours. Care is taken to ensure that the grain bed does not go dry. The amount of sparging water is determined by the recipe and the kind of beer that you want to produce. For strong beer 3-4 liters of sparging water is used per kilogram of grain. The burner is lit and the hops are added during sparging. After sparging, the boil kettle is full with about 65-70 liters of wort. The collected wort is now boiled vigorously for 1-2 hours. Chilling must be done as far as possible and everything must be kept well sanitized. Chilling is best done using a counter-flow chiller which chills all the wort in about 5-10 minutes and puts it in the fermentation bin at the same time (van de Logt 1).
After the initial brewing session, the next step is fermentation. The yeast is prepared while the wort is being chilled Add at least 6 ounces of lukewarm tap water to the sterilized measuring cup and then open and add dried yeast packets. This rehydration step gently wakes up the yeast. Cover and set aside. The active yeast is now added to induce fermentation. After approx. 12 hours a layer of foam is visible on your beer. The total fermentation time depends on the type of beer and the yeast used but is something between 2-6 weeks. Many brewers siphon the beer after a few days to another bin for lagering. To make sure that the beer does not develop any bacterial infection, an air-lock is used to seal off the fermentation bin. It only allows the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast while converting sugars into alcohol to escape (van de Logt 1).
Once fermentation is complete, the air-lock activity ceases. Now, the beer is siphoned into thoroughly sanitized bottles. The bottles are placed in a large tub filled with hot water. A Chloride solution is added the bottles are left there for about half an hour. They are then rinsed with clean water and a little bit of sugar is added to every bottle. The bottles are now filled with beer from the fermentation bin, topped with a crown cap, and sealed (van de Logt 1).
Homebrewing is a simple process made up of three steps: initial brewing session, fermentation, and bottling. The major challenge in this process lies in sanitizing every piece of equipment. Home-brewed beer tastes good if prepared properly and tasting beer can become a social event if family and friends are willing to be part of the homebrew tasting sessions. One of the best things about making homebrews is the fact that one can experiment with ingredients and brew unique styles of beer.. It is basically a fun activity and often brewers form loosely-knit home-brewing groups, exchanging brewing tips and secrets. The excitement of opening one of the bottles of home-brewed beer and hearing the ‘ppfffft’ sound, pouring the golden liquid into the glass, seeing the head rise, taking in the aroma, and feeling so proud of having made beer – makes home brewing a worthwhile activity.
van de Logt, Emile (2006). The Brewing Process. Web.
Baron, Stanley (1962). Brewed in America: A History of Beer and Ale in the United States. Little Brown Publishers. Boston. 1962.