Home Brew Recipe Bible
An Incredible Array of 101 Craft Beer Recipes, from Classic Styles to Experimental Wilds
By Chris Colby, Ted Axelrod
Page Street Publishing Co. Copyright © 2016 Chris Colby
All rights reserved.
MAKING THE MOST OF THESE RECIPES
If 100 random homebrewers all brewed the same recipe, there would be 100 different results. The best of the lot would be equal to — or better than — the best commercial beer of that type. The rest would vary from good to ... not so good. The differences would come from variations in the freshness of the ingredients, the water used, the brewers' equipment and differences in the skill levels of the brewers. These days, a lot of what separates good beer from bad is known, but it can get lost in the tidal wave of brewing information on the Internet. With that in mind, here are my tips regarding the major issues that you need to understand in order to make the best beer from these recipes.
First of all, if you are new to brewing, follow these recipes as closely as you can reasonably manage. Don't add, subtract or substitute ingredients. If your homebrew shop doesn't carry a particular ingredient, order it online. Measure everything — weights, volumes, temperatures, etc. — as carefully as you reasonably can. You don't need to be ludicrously precise, but resist the urge to just "wing" anything. Also, read the instructions and follow them when you brew. Make a checklist to help you remember the steps, if needed. Don't take the recipe list and brew following the instructions from the last beer kit you made or from another homebrew book. The ingredients and procedures work together to make the beer.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
The most important aspect of brewing is also the least glamorous — cleaning and sanitation. You can't brew quality beer unless your equipment is spotlessly clean and properly sanitized.
When you prepare for a brewing session, clean every surface of your brewing equipment, paying special attention to any surface that will contact chilled wort or beer. Inspect your equipment after cleaning it and reclean if everything is not spotless. Whatever you use to sanitize your equipment, follow the directions carefully. More concentrated sanitizing solutions may not be more effective and are harder to rinse. Some sanitizers do not need to be rinsed. If that's the case, don't. Know that if you (or any unsanitized object) touch a sanitized surface, it is no longer sanitary. Clean, if needed, and sanitize it again.
Also, don't think that you can sanitize your hands. Even though products called hand sanitizers are sold, they don't render your hands sanitary to the degree that you can touch chilled wort or surfaces that will contact chilled wort. Keep your hands clean while you brew, avoid touching surfaces that will contact wort and skip the hand sanitizer.
Avoiding contaminants in your beer involves more than just cleaning and sanitizing your equipment. Bacteria and wild yeast cells are very small. If you have ever been in a dark room with sunlight streaming in from one small hole, you have probably seen tiny motes of dust floating in the air — even in a room that appears clean when the lights are on. Those tiny bits floating on air are gigantic compared to bacteria and yeast cells. And, like the dust, they are suspended in the air all around you. As such, you should always minimize any time that chilled wort or fermented beer is exposed to the environment. If possible, cover the vessel and do whatever you need to do as quickly as possible. For example, if you are chilling your wort with an immersion chiller, cover your brew pot or kettle as best you can with a (sanitized) lid. Or, if you are bottling beer, cover your bottling bucket with aluminum foil, and work as quickly as possible to get the beer bottled. Act as if a steady stream of potential contaminants is raining on your brew day — because they are.
Also know that some environments have more potential brewery contaminants than others. For example, the dust produced by a grain mill is loaded with lactic acid bacteria. As such, mill your grain away from any area that will have exposed wort or beer.
Finally, any contaminant in your wort has to compete with the brewers yeast for resources. Pitching an adequate amount of the yeast, such that they quickly colonize the wort and start fermentation, will suppress the growth of many types of bacteria and wild yeast.
It is important to brew with only fresh ingredients. You cannot brew quality beer from stale malt or cheesy hops. Malted grains are like any food product made from grains, in that they will go stale in time. It is easy to tell if malt has gone stale — just chew a few kernels. If you can identify when bread, cereal or crackers have gone stale, you'll be able to tell in malt.
Malt extract also goes stale. When it does, it darkens and begins to taste stale. A quick check of the freshness is to dilute some in water and examine the color. Dilute a small amount of malt extract in a glass of water so the specific gravity (SG) is about SG 1.048. If the malt extract is supposed to be light — or extra light or Pilsner — it should be pale to golden in color. If it looks amber, it's stale. You can confirm this by tasting it.
Hops become brown as they age and start smelling cheesy. If you take hops — whether pellet or whole — and rub them in your hands, the aroma should be of fresh hops. If the aroma is lacking or has a cheesy quality, do not use those hops. Hops that are green are usually fresh. Hops are harvested once a year in each hemisphere. Advanced homebrewers might want to wait until the year's crop becomes available and buy their hops in bulk. Ideally, store the hops in a non-frost-free freezer. If not, a frost-free freezer will work. Barley can be harvested twice a year in each hemisphere, but it is stored in grain elevators; malt is produced continually throughout the year.
Yeast needs to be healthy and abundant to properly ferment wort. Liquid yeast comes with an expiration date and should be kept cool — refrigerated at your home — until used. Making a yeast starter is one way to ensure that you have a healthy pitch of yeast ready on brew day.
Most beer is over 90 percent water, so always check that your water is suitable for brewing. Municipal tap water will have chlorine compounds (chloramines) to keep the water fresh in the pipes. However, you don't want these in your brewing water. Either filter the water through a large carbon filter (like an under-the-sink model) or use one Campden tablet per 20 gallons (76 L) to chemically neutralize the chloramines. Just crush a tablet and stir it into the water; the chemical reaction occurs in less than a second.
Advanced brewers will eventually seek to add minerals (or acids) to their water to get the best brewing results. (See the section opener in Chapter 2 here for brewing water recommendations.) Once your brewing liquor (the water you will brew with) has been prepared, taste it. If it does not taste good, it won't make good beer.
For most homebrewers, conducting an ordered fermentation is what makes or breaks their beer. An ordered fermentation is one that starts quickly, proceeds steadily and finishes at a reasonable final gravity (FG). What "quickly," "steadily" and "reasonable" are depends on the yeast strain and the beer. For most ales, fermentation should start within 24 hours, and may do so much earlier. For an average strength ale, primary fermentation should take about a week, with the specific gravity of the fermenting beer changing every day. (You don't need to take a gravity reading every day, however.) And finally, in most cases, the final gravity should be roughly a quarter of the original gravity or lower.
Stronger beers take longer to ferment and finish at higher final gravities. Lagers take longer to start and to ferment, as they are fermented at lower temperatures. The three biggest keys to running an ordered fermentation are pitching an adequate amount of yeast, establishing the correct fermentation temperature and thoroughly aerating the wort prior to fermentation.
Each recipe in this book gives a recommended yeast starter size. This should raise the optimal number of yeast for each fermentation. The yeast starter volumes for the strongest ales and lagers get quite large. In the case of very strong lagers, you may want to raise the yeast by brewing a batch of low-gravity lager beer. You can almost always get away with making a starter smaller than prescribed.
In fact, beer made from a starter that is half the volume recommended will have a slower start than one with the correctly sized starter, but will otherwise likely be fine. (All the yeast need to do is replicate once in the fermenting beer to reach the density equivalent of pitching the larger starter.) Progressively smaller starters will yield beers with progressively more fermentation byproducts, especially in yeast strains known for them. Specifically, underpitching English ale strains known for their ester production will increase ester production, resulting in an overly fruity smelling beer.
If you aerate the starter once or twice a day, and swirl the contents to rouse the yeast, you can make a smaller starter than recommended. The starter sizes recommended here assume you aerated the starter wort well and let the fermentation proceed without intervention. With daily aeration and rousing the yeast, you can use half the recommended starter size.
The temperature at which beer ferments influences the character of the beer. Warmer fermentations lead to more fermentation byproducts while cooler fermentations (with a yeast strain's specified range) lead to "cleaner" beer. In ale fermentations — which are usually conducted between 65–72°F (18–22°C) — the pitching rate and fermentation temperature ensure a smooth fermentation with a pleasing level of esters (and other elements in some strains). In lagers — which are usually fermented at 50–55°F (10–13°C) — the pitching rate and fermentation ensure a "clean" beer.
The brewer needs to ensure that the fermentation temperature is within the yeast strain's preferred range. And, he or she should also strive to keep the fermentation temperature reasonably steady. In the case of strong beers, this may require some extra effort to control the temperature around high kräusen (the most vigorous stage of fermentation). To actively manage fermentation temperatures, many homebrewers use a refrigerator or chest freezer equipped with an external thermostat. Others simply restrict their brewing to the times of year when ales can be brewed at ambient temperature.
When monitoring fermentation temperature, remember that fermentation itself gives off heat and the fermenting beer will be warmer than the ambient temperature. As such, you need a way to measure the temperature of the beer, not the air in the room or chamber it is fermenting in. The simplest solution, which works well on buckets and glass carboys, is a strip thermometer that attaches to the bucket or carboy.
Yeast require oxygen to reproduce. They incorporate oxygen into molecules (sterols) used to build their cell walls. In brewing, chilled wort is aerated prior to fermentation and this helps the yeast population grow to a density that will rapidly ferment the wort.
Air or oxygen can be bubbled through wort by hooking either an aquarium pump or small oxygen tank (used for welding) to an aeration stone. A HEPA filter placed between the source of gas and the stone will filter out any contaminants. Bubbling air for 6 to 12 minutes through wort should be enough to aerate it. Bubbling oxygen through the wort for 1 to 2 minutes will also work. Most homebrewers cannot directly measure the oxygen content of their wort. (If you could, around 10 ppm would work well for most yeast strains.)
However, if you are using a 2-micron aeration stone, and adjust the stream of air (or oxygen) so that it produces tiny bubbles that rise all the way to the surface, you will almost assuredly be fine if you aerate for the times indicated. When fermenting a strong beer (over 8 percent ABV), you may want to aerate the wort more than once. After the initial aeration, wait a few hours, and then give the wort another shot of air or oxygen. Do not aerate once vigorous fermentation starts.
Most of the gas you bubble into wort will diffuse out of solution fairly rapidly. As such, be sure to pitch your yeast promptly after aerating your wort.
As yeast ferment, they give off the primary products of alcoholic fermentation — ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide (and heat). However, they also excrete other metabolic byproducts, some of which are not wanted at high concentrations in beer. The most important of these unwanted byproducts is diacetyl.
Diacetyl gives beer a buttery or butterscotch flavor and aroma and contribute a tongue-coating slickness that most beer drinkers do not find appealing. Yeast gives off the precursor to diacetyl (alpha acetolactate) during fermentation, and the precursor gets converted to diacetyl in the fermenting beer. (This happens most rapidly when oxygen is present.)
Healthy yeast, however, will absorb the diacetyl late in the fermentation, lowering its level in the finished beer. Most ale yeast strains will reduce the levels of diacetyl to below their sensory threshold by the end of fermentation. However, most lager strains will leave some residual diacetyl if something is not done to get rid of it.
Most commonly, lager brewers will employ a diacetyl rest to lower the amount below the threshold. This is done by letting the fermentation temperature rise — often to around 60°F (16°C) — at the tail end of fermentation. The increase in temperature causes the yeast to become more active and they take in the diacetyl.
Lager brewers may also kräusen a beer. Kräusening is the introduction of a small amount of vigorously fermenting beer into lager beer that has almost finished fermenting. The yeast in the kräusen beer scrub diacetyl from the wort and also help the primary yeast finish the fermentation.
Diacetyl can also occur if the beer is separated from the yeast near the end of fermentation. Even in ales, it's good to let the beer sit on the yeast at least a day after primary fermentation has ended. Diacetyl is also produced by some contaminating microorganisms.
Yeast requires oxygen at some point in its propagation cycle to remain healthy. However, once beer is fermented, oxygen has only negative effects. Exposure of beer to oxygen causes it to go stale faster than it would if shielded from oxygen. Stale beer can have a cardboard-like flavor or — in bigger beers — take on a Sherry-like quality. (The latter is actually desired in some aged ales.) In homebrewing, there are a number of steps when the beer is exposed to oxygen.
Any time beer is transferred from one vessel to another, the beer is exposed to air. When racking beer to a secondary fermenter, it is best to rack to a vessel with as little headspace as possible. When racking to a Corny keg, the brewer should purge the headspace after the beer has been transferred.
To do this, place the lid on the keg and turn on the CO. Adjust the regulator to apply a small amount of pressure. (Anything in the vicinity of serving pressure is fine.) Lift the safety release valve for a second or two then release and wait for the keg to come back up to pressure. This vents the air in the headspace and replaces it with CO2. Repeat this venting two or three times. A brewer can also fill a keg with water, push the water out with CO2 and then rack the beer into the keg — under a cloud of CO2.
Obviously, the beer is exposed to air when bottling. However, the renewed fermentation spurred by the priming sugar will mean that active yeast cells take up some of this oxygen. Still, have everything ready to go before racking the beer from your fermenter to the bottling bucket. Then bottle as quickly as you can reasonably manage and get the bottles capped. You don't need to rush, but don't waste any time at this stage.
You should also not store beer in containers that are permeable to oxygen. The PET bottles that soda comes in are slightly permeable to oxygen. They are fine for short-term storage — up to maybe a few months — but you should not put beer in them if you don't intend to drink it fairly soon. Glass bottles or stainless steel kegs are completely impermeable to oxygen (although tiny amounts of oxygen can get in through the lining in the bottle caps or gaskets sealing the keg). (Continues...)
Excerpted from Home Brew Recipe Bible by Chris Colby, Ted Axelrod. Copyright © 2016 Chris Colby. Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
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