It’s finally here. My first day as a true home brewer.
I’ve gathered my equipment. The ingredients have arrived. My assistant is ready to help. Let’s cook!
For my first batch of home brew, I decided on a kit put together by Rebel Brewer called Malty Mississippi Red Ale. I like malty beers. I also like hoppy beers, but for me, malt is what beer is all about. I also like red ales (technically considered amber ales). Plus, the kit has a location in its name, (and the blog is called GeoBrewer :-) so Malty Mississippi Red Ale it is!
Here’s the recipe
|1 lbs (?)
||Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L
(60.0 SRM) (?)
||Extra Light Dry Extract
|0.50 oz (?)
|0.50 oz (?)
|0.50 oz (?)
|0.50 oz (?)
|Windsor Yeast (Lallemand)
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
Estimated OG: 1.057 SG
Estimated Color: 12 SRM
Estimated IBU: 24 IBU
Some notes on the kit
The hops and grain bag were not labeled with their contents or weights, so the ingredients list above is my best guess as to what’s in there. Website reviews identified the hops as Chinook. They’ve been pre-packaged into the four timed additions, but weights are not included. Both the weight and the type of the grains in the grain bag are still a mystery. I assume they are some kind of Caramel/Crystal Malt, but I have no idea what kind. I sent an email to Rebel Brewer asking for info on what’s in there and will post the answer if they reply.
This kit got all good reviews on the Rebel Brewer website.
We’re making a 5 gallon batch of beer. There is always some loss to evaporation during the boil, and the yeast needs some water for rehydrating. So,the first thing we wanted to do was put at least 6 gallons of water on the stove to boil. This proved more difficult than I expected. Our largest pot is 4 gallons, which means it’ll hold a little more than 3 during a rolling boil. I planned on filling two or three pots, but we still had trouble finding enough pot-volume. We wound up using the three biggest pots in the house, plus a tea kettle.
Clean and Sanitize
Since this is the first time the equipment’s been used in about 10 years, we spent some extra time making sure everything was clean. I scrubbed all of the equipment down with Five Star PBW, and sanitized with SaniClean.
Steep the Grain
We started the brewing process with 3 gallons of 165° water in the brew kettle. The grain bag was put into the hot water to steep. Essentially, we’re making a tea with the grain, so we kept swishing it around like a huge tea bag, attempting to get as much flavor out of the grain as possible. We kept the grain steeping for 30 minutes, and kept the water temperature between 150° and 170°. After 30 minutes, we pulled the grain bag out, let the excess water drain back into the brew pot, and tossed the remnants onto the compost pile.
Boil the Wort
After steeping the grains, we bought the wort (it is wort now) up to boiling, and added the dry malt extract. We made sure the extract was fully dissolved, then set the timer for 60 minutes. The first picture below shows the foam forming on the boiling wort before the hot-break. After the hot break, the foam dissipates, signaling that the proteins in the wort have begun coagulating. This happened with our batch about 10 minutes into the boil
Hydrate the Yeast
Since we’re using dry yeast, we rehydrated it with 4 oz. boiled and cooled water according to the directions on the package. We let it rehydrate for 15 minutes before stirring it up to dissolve it into the water.
Add the Hops
The hops were added at 4 different times according to the directions that came with the kit – 30, 20, 10, and 5 minutes before the end of the boil. The hops were pre-measured and packaged into vacuum sealed bags labeled with the boil times.
Cool the Wort
We don’t have a wort cooler, so an ice bath was prepared in the kitchen sink. As soon as the boil was over, we set the brew pot into the ice water, and cooled the wort as quickly as possible. This is something else I would change for next time. We could have used a lot more ice. We managed to get the wort cooled to below 70 degrees in about 30 minutes, but the fact that we had multiple pots of water to cool, it took longer than that to get a full 5 gallons of cooled wort into the fermenter. Another option would be to boil and cool some water ahead of time. The best option would be a larger brew pot and a wort chiller, but they’re both big money. The reason you want to cool the wort quickly is to facilitate the cold break. Just like the hot break, this helps the coagulated proteins to solidify and fall out of solution.
Aerate the Wort
Yeast needs oxygen to grow, so the wort needs to be aerated. We poured the wort back and forth between the brew kettle and the fermenting bucket, sloshing it as much as possible without making too much of a mess. This is the only time we want to encourage wort/air contact.
Measure Original Gravity
Now’s the time to take a gravity reading on the wort using a hydrometer. This tells us how much sugar is dissolved in the wort. A reading at the end of fermentation will tell us how much of that sugar has been turned into alcohol. Readings along the way can tell us how far along fermentation is, and when it’s complete. The kit instructions say we should get an original gravity (OG) of 1.057. We got a reading of 1.066. What this means is, we got a LOT more sugars out of our grains and extract than the kit expected. I’m not sure what this will mean for the finished product. My guess is, we will either get a maltier tasting, sweeter beer, or a stronger beer. Maybe a little bit of both. Time will tell.
Add the Yeast
After the wort is aerated and topped up to a full 5 gallons in the fermentation bucket, we stirred in the hydrated dry yeast. I did make a mistake during this step. Suffice it to say, I will be ordering an extra yeast packet with my next brew kit. I think I got enough yeast into the wort to get things going. As long as the airlock starts bubbling away in the next couple of days, I’ll feel OK about it.
Now it’s time to start treating the wort gently again. We snapped on the cover, rigged up the air lock, and carefully carried our future beer down to the cellar for fermentation. The cellar temperature is 72 degrees right now, and the wort has settled in at about 74 degrees. That’s a little warmer than the 68 degrees recommended, but there’s not much I can do about it. I have heard of brewers covering the fermenter with wet towels to keep things cooled down. If the temps get any higher than what they are, I might try it out.
That’s it. Now we wait to see what happens. Oh, by the way, I added three more empty clean bottles to my collection for bottling day during the brew, too :-)