First Brew – start to finish

Star Date: September 3, 2016…We have liftoff!  Choosing Prairie Oatmeal Stout, a recipe from my Beersmith brewing software, I gathered the ingredients from my local Home Brew shop.  Hearts Homebrew has been in town for 30 years and is 3.2 miles from my house!  There are 2 or 3 other such shops within a several mile radius, but none as close and none as longstanding.  Luke and Dave have been helpful as I visit frequently for more parts and supplies.  I told Luke a couple days ago I was just stopping in to drop off my credit card.  But I digress. Following is an abridged description of the process.

I cranked up my Brew-Boss system which consists of:img_7338

  • 15 gallon kettle with a 55oo watt stainless steel heating element
  • stainless mesh grain basket
  • pump
  • controller connected to heating element and pump
  • Android tablet running the software that communicates with the controller to regulate the heat and pump

The recipe is set up in the software and walks you through the brew day.  It heats the water in the kettle to the proper temperature (158 degrees F in this case) then a lady’s voice tells you to put the grain basket into the kettle along with a couple other tasks. I call her “Bossy”.  She is polite, yet firm, and makes sure you stay on task.  Yes, dear, I will grind the grains while the water heats up.

I followed Bossy’s directions and now waited an hour as the system img_7305basically made tea (in beer terms the process is called mashing and the tea is called wort).  At that temperature, sugar is extracted from the malted barley. (Yes, I know it’s called an oatmeal stout, but the small amount of flaked oats in the mash are to provide a drier beer (less sweet tasting), better head retention, and a creamy mouthfeel.) (((I know I use a lot of parentheses.)))  The video gives a peek inside as the wort is recirculated continuously though the grain bed in the basket.

After 60 minutes Bossy had me hoist the grain basket out of the kettle – I have an overhead electric winch to handle this part.  While I was doing this, Bossy turned up the heat to bring the wort to a boil.  During the one hour boil she had me add hops at various times.  Hops added at the beginning of the boil add bitterness, hops added toward the end of the boil are for flavor.  The video below shows the gentle boil Bossy maintained and you get a glimpse of the mesh hops bag.

At the end of the boil period, the wort is quickly chilled to 67 degrees and transferred to the sanitized fermentation tank.  Yeast is added and the tank is closed up in the fermentation chamber.  The chamber is a special refrigerator (or heater in the winter) to maintain a set temperature, in this case 67 degrees F.   img_7374Fermentation starts right away and continues vigorously for a few days, then calms down.  The process of fermentation is where the yeast eats the sugar and poops out carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol.

Speaking of the fermentation chamber, I custom built this to hold two of my FastFerment conical fermentation tanks. I will post the details on this build later.

After a couple weeks the beer was transferred img_3862-1to a keg and put in the kegerator, affectionately named The Testosterator by my son-in-law, Christopher. Here it was connected to CO2 and pressurized to carbonate and clear (let particles of yeast and hops settle out of the beer).

And now (drumroll)…I have attached the tap, cleared the line, and drawn my first glass!  Below is a video of this moment 🙂           (9/22/2016 @ 5:15 PM)