Sunday, July 31, 2011

Beginner Brewing

Earlier this month a couple of students attended a beginner brewing class at my house to learn the fundamentals of beer making. This particular class is structured to be three to four hours long and so we needed to jump right in to get things going and accomplish a successful brew in the limited time. We started by going over the basic equipment needed to brew a first batch of beer and the ingredients that we would use that day, including hops, dry malt extract and steeping grains.

I teach a slightly modified version of a the full boil method with steeping grains. The modified part is that we placed our bag of steeping grains in the boil kettle just as we began heating the water. Thus allowing the grains to leach their flavors and colors into solution during the water temperature rise from 65f. (my tap water temp.) to 170f. At 170f. we pulled the grain bag and continued the temperature rise to boiling. I have not found a good reason to use the typical technique of bringing the water to a temperature of 150f. and then placing the grains in the hot water for a twenty to thirty minute rest. My purpose here is to steep the grains in order to extract color and flavor and I am not concerned with the sugar potential. Consequently,  I have found that I can accomplished the results I desire faster using this method.

I prefer dry malt extract when I brew extract type beers and in this batch it consisted of 6lbs. of the light version of DME. I find that it is easier to work with and provides a slightly lighter color wort than the light liquid extract. We also used a 20% addition of cane sugar. With malt extract beers, I have found that a 15% to 20% amount of very fermentable sugar is needed to ferment down to the preferred attenuation or dryness that I like in my beers. For those concerned about the supposed 'cider' flavors that are associated with the addition of cane, beet or corn sugar, don't worry. It doesn't have that flavor impact, in fact I did a test on this concern awhile back and you can read about it here.

For hopping, we used a couple of standards that I normally have in the freezer with the exception of the final or one minute hop additions which was a new one for me called Galaxy. This high alpha acid hop has a great flavor and aroma component that I suggest you try in any West coast style ale.

The brew went along well with only a minor boil over but we got that under control and took time to sample some homebrews from my kegerator. As the boil progressed we covered a number of homebrew subjects that are important to the beginner starting with the vocabulary and ending with some of the basics of malting.

The brew session ended successfully as we achieved our desired original gravity and pitched two packages of US05 yeast into the chilled wort. The students stated they got a lot out of the class and looked forward to tasting their beer in a few weeks.

I pulled a sample from the keg today and for an extract brew this is a pretty impressive beer. Nice fruity malt backbone with a great citrus and apricot hop character and balanced bitterness. It's difficult to tell this is brewed with extract and I think the students will be very happy with the results when they open their bottle conditioned samples that they took home.

The following is the recipe we brewed and I would encourage you to brew your own, with extract even!

Brew Class IPA

Attn: 82%
AbV 6.6%
IBU's 57
O.G. 1.062
F.G. 1.011

Full boil method -
In 7 gals. water steep:
8 oz. 2-row
8 oz. Munich #35
8 oz. Crystal #15

When water reaches 170f. turn off heat, remove steeping grains and stir in:
6 lbs. Dry Malt Extract (light)
1.5 lbs. cane sugar
Bring to boil for 60 minutes.

Bittering - 60min 1.25 oz Chinook @ 11aa
Finings - 15min. Irish Moss
Flavor   - 10min. 1 oz. Cascade @ 5.5 aa
Aroma  - 1 min. 2 oz. Galaxy @ 13 aa

Chill to 65f. , aerate and pitch 2 packages of US05 ale yeast.
Ferment to completion, keg and enjoy.


    drchains said...

    Hi Mark,
    been enjoying your blog for a while. Some great information! Great idea using sugar in extract brews to help lower the FG. I'll have to try that. I do AG, but haven't been able to brew lately due to time constraints. I could perhaps squeeze in an extract brew session, but I've always found extract to have a slight cooked flavor that's disagreeable. Maybe the sugar will help?

    Question: why do you prefer DME to LME? Is it a matter of freshness?


    Beer Diary... said...

    Hi Chris,
    Thanks for following Beer Diary... and I appreciate the feedback here in the comment section. Regarding malt extract, I personally prefer DME over the liquid because the liquid ages poorly and exhibits the staling flavors associated with oxidation. It also darkens as it ages and tends to darken in the boil more than the DME. Also, it is easier for me to work with. I pour the DME into a large boil and then stir it into the kettle. If you pour it from the bag that it comes in, it sticks to the bag because of the steamy brew water. In the past when I've used the LME, I end up getting it stuck everywhere. To sum this up:
    1. Better taste
    2. Stores longer
    3. Doesn't darken as much as the LME
    4. Easier to use
    I hope this is helpful and would encourage you to try brewing an extract batch if you're short on time. Don't forget the cane sugar.

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