Home brewing is one part chemistry, one part gastronomy and two parts cleanliness.
Because unwanted bacteria can lead to off flavors or even an entirely undrinkable mess of moldy sludge, the first step of homebrewing is always to clean the brewing area thoroughly and to sanitize all equipment.
The brewing process consists of two major phases. In the first stage, all the ingredients for the beer — water, grain, hops and yeast — are combined according to a recipe. Variations in the types and amounts of grain, hops and yeast yield flavor and style differences.
Most home-brewing supply stores sell kits with pre-measured ingredients and recipes for a variety of beer types. A typical kit includes malted grain, malt extract, two kinds of hops and yeast. These must be combined with great attention to temperature, timing, and — this can’t be stressed enough — sanitation.
The first step in brewing beer is to steep grain in hot water — a process rather like brewing tea. Next, syrupy malt extract is added. These grain products lend beers flavor and body.
Most recipes call for adding hops in two stages: the first provides bitterness and the second aroma. After the water, malt and hops have been boiled together, the second round of hops is added and the mixture — now called “wort” — is chilled as quickly as possible from the boiling point down to warm room temperature, around 75 degrees.
To Be Continued…
Finally, the wort is poured into a sanitized fermenting bucket, the water is topped up to the desired level (generally five gallons), and the yeast is added.
Over the next couple of weeks, the yeast do their work in the fermenting bucket. Once fermentation is complete, the next stage of the brewing process begins.
I will describe phase two of the homebrewing process next time.