Methods of Modern Homebrewing: The Comprehensive Guide to Contemporary Craft Beer Brewing

Methods of Modern Homebrewing: The Comprehensive Guide to Contemporary Craft Beer Brewing

by Chris Colby


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Hey homebrewers—make better beer! Returning for his second book, Chris Colby highlights the modern brewing methods homebrewers use to make beer. From the basic procedures for making beer from malt extract to advanced all-grain techniques and tests for quality . . . This book is a beer geek’s dream!

There is no book like this on the market and a brewer would have to pore through numerous brewing texts, magazine articles and website posts to find all this information. Methods of Modern Homebrewing gives step-by-step instructions, with helpful photos, for very major homebrewing method. The book also features useful charts for brewers to get information at a glance. Appropriate example recipes are given for most of the techniques. Learn to brew with malt extract, by partial mashing or go all-grain. Then move on to master decoction mashing, kräusening, high gravity brewing and more.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781624144615
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
Publication date: 12/12/2017
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 774,755
Product dimensions: 8.03(w) x 8.87(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

Chris Colby is the editor of Beer & Wine Journal. He holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in biology and chemistry, and a PhD in biology. He previously served as editor for Holt, Rinehart and Winston and as editor of Brew Your Own and WineMaker magazines. He lives in Bastrop, Texas.

Read an Excerpt



Brewing with malt extract is straightforward. The basics can be learned in a few hours while brewing your first batch. The primary benefit of brewing with malt extract is that it is convenient. With very little equipment — a collection of buckets and tubes, and a reasonably large pot — you can produce 5.0 gallons (19 L) of wort (unfermented beer) in a few hours in your kitchen. You can then add yeast to ferment this wort, and you will have beer in just a few weeks. If you can obtain fresh, brewery-grade malt extract, you can brew a wide variety of beers and their quality can be very high. If you incorporate a small amount of malted base grains into your beer formulations, you can improve the beer further.

For some, brewing with malt extract is their introduction to the world of brewing. After getting a good grasp of it, they move on to all-grain brewing. Other homebrewers will stay with extract brewing and enjoy the wide variety of beers that can be produced easily in their kitchen.

Brewing with malt extract involves dissolving malt extract to produce your wort. Malt extract is simply condensed wort. To produce it, maltsters send wort through a series of condensers. In the condensers, the wort is boiled — albeit under very low pressure and at lowered temperatures — to remove much of the water from the wort, without darkening it to an unacceptable degree. The final product comes in two forms — a thick syrup and a dried powder. Both forms come in hopped and unhopped versions.

If you are new to homebrewing, the biggest key to success is keeping your equipment scrupulously clean and sanitizing anything that will come in contact with wort or beer. The second most important key is to run a good fermentation. If you do that and you follow the recommendations here, you will be on your way to becoming a great brewer.


Brewing with malt extract is convenient, and it is the way most homebrewers start. This method is straightforward, and you can produce good beer with relatively little specialized equipment by simply following some basic instructions. In addition, extract beers can be produced in small spaces. Wort for 5.0 gallons (19 L) of beer can be made easily on a kitchen stovetop, and the beer can be fermented in a 6- to 7-gallon (23- to 27-L) bucket or carboy. On the stovetop, the brewer may boil as little as 2.0 gallons (7.8 L) of wort for a 5.0-gallon (19-L) batch. Countless recipes are available for beers using malt extract, with malted grains steeped for added flavor and color.

There are many variations on extract brewing. I will describe the modern version of producing hopped wort with malt extract, using the practices most likely to produce quality beer and the equipment that most extract brewers use. I will also mention the most common variations on this method, including the old-school way of extract wort production.

The basic idea behind extract brewing is that the brewer dissolves malt extract in a brew pot to produce wort. The wort may also be flavored by liquid extracted from steeped specialty grains. The volume of the wort is less than the batch size; it is boiled, typically on a kitchen stove. Boiling sanitizes the wort, coagulates proteins (which would contribute to haze) and extracts bitter compounds from the hops the brewer adds. At the end of the boil, the wort is chilled and brought to the full batch size by adding water. The brewer then adds yeast to the working-strength wort, and the yeast produce beer.


To use the extract with grains method of wort production to brew a 5.0 gallon (19 L) batch of beer, you will need a brew pot — preferably 4.0 gallons (15 L) or larger. Stainless steel is your best choice, but aluminum is fine. A large spoon for stirring is helpful. You will also need a nylon or muslin bag capable of holding the steeping grains with plenty of space left over. The grains should occupy half the volume of the bag at most. A ladle and a soup pot can be helpful for dissolving malt extract before it is added to the brew pot. Everything but the pot should be included in a beginner's brewing kit.



Begin by filling your brew pot with water to just short of the volume you plan on boiling. In general, boiling a larger volume of wort is going to result in a lighter colored beer. It may also help you extract more bitterness from your hops. However, larger volumes of wort also take longer to heat — and you must be able to boil the wort vigorously. Larger volumes also require more effort to cool after the boil.

Many stovetop brewers boil between 2.5 and 3.5 gallons (9.5 and 13 L) of wort when making a 5.0-gallon (19-L) batch of beer. This is a good compromise because it allows homebrewers to boil a good-size volume, while still being possible on a kitchen stovetop. You can boil less than 2.5 gallons (9.5 L) of wort if you are making a session beer or an average-strength ale that's meant to be dark. You can — and should — boil more than 3.5 gallons (13 L) if your stove can boil it vigorously and you have a wort chiller to quickly chill the wort.

If you use tap water, it should be filtered through a large carbon filter, such as those in under-the-sink water filters. This will remove chloramines — chemicals added to sanitize municipal water sources — from your brewing water. Chloramines can also be neutralized by treating your water with a Campden tablet. One Campden tablet will treat up to 20 gallons (76 L).

Advanced extract brewers may wish to alter their water chemistry, by adding minerals to their brewing water, to best suit different types of beers. For beginning brewers, the best practice is to use tap water — filtered or treated with a Campden tablet — to steep your grains. Later, when the chilled wort is diluted to working strength, use distilled or reverse osmosis (RO) water. In practice, many extract brewers use tap water for the entire batch with good results.


Place the crushed grain in your nylon or muslin bag. Some nylon bags have a drawstring to close the bag. If not, tie the bag off. You will need to untie this later, so make a knot that will be easy to undo. The bag should hold the grains and have plenty of excess room. This will allow liquid to contact all the grains when they are submerged.

Beginning brewers will need to have their grains crushed at the homebrew store. Once crushed, use the grains as soon as is feasible — within at least a few weeks. If you have a grain mill, wait until brew day — or the night before — to crush the grains.

Begin heating the water in your brew pot. Some recipes call for placing the grain bag in the water immediately and removing it when the temperature reaches a certain point (most often 170°F [77°C]). Other recipes call for heating the water to a certain temperature — most often 148 to 162°F (64 to 72°C) — and then steeping the grains for a given period of time at that temperature. The period of time is often 60 minutes, based on the amount of time the grains would be in a typical mash, but it can be much shorter.

Other variations include steeping the grains in your brew pot, but with less water than you will boil. The idea here is to have a water-to-grain (liquor-to-grist) ratio similar to that of a mash. An added bonus is that the pH of the steeping water will fall to around typical mash pH — below the level where excess tannins might be extracted. After the steep, water is added to bring the wort up to your intended boil volume.

A variation on this variation is to steep the grains in a smaller, separate pot, while heating the rest of the water in the brew pot. This saves time as the "grain tea" from steeping can be poured into the brew pot, which may already be boiling. For brewers concerned about their steeping pH, yet another variation is to add a small amount of malt extract to the water — just enough to turn it a light shade of yellow — before steeping the grains. The specific gravity of this wort due to the malt extract does not need to exceed SG 1.010 for this.

Any of these variations will work. However, when steeping grains that do not need to be mashed, all you are doing is dissolving compounds from the husks for flavor and color and from the interior for sugars and other carbohydrates. This can occur at any reasonable temperature as long as the grains steep long enough. Steeping while the water heats to 170°F (77°C) should be plenty of time to get all you want from the grains, especially if you swirl the bag around a few times as the water heats. The color of your brewing water should give you a solid indication of if you have steeped long enough.

Once you are done steeping the grains, lift the bag out of the water. Some brewers tie the top of the bag to the handle of the pot so it can be lifted out. Others use their brewing spoon to fish the bag out. In either case, know that the grains and liquid are hot enough to scald you. Use caution.

Once you've removed the grain bag, you have two options. The first is to let the bag drip into the brew pot until the flow of liquid slows to just drops. Then, set the bag aside and continue your brew day. Once it cools, you can dispose of the grains and clean the bag.

Another option is to lift the bag out and place it in a large colander. Rest the colander on top of your brew pot and rinse the grains with hot water. The amount of water you use to rinse the grains depends on the amount of grains. Any amount less than 1.25 quarts per pound (2.6 L/kg) of grain will be fine. If you use more water than this, you run the risk of extracting excess tannins from the grains. The temperature of the rinse water can be anything up to 170°F (77°C). If you exceed 170°F (77°C), you also run the risk of extracting excess tannins.


After the "grain tea" has been produced by steeping the specialty grains, it may need to be combined with water in the brew pot to make your full boil volume. When you have the full volume prepared, it is time to boil the wort. Heat the wort until it begins to boil.

The wort should be boiled vigorously throughout the boil period. If need be, place the lid loosely over the brew pot to allow steam to escape. Do not boil the wort fully covered. First-time stovetop brewers may wish to experiment with a pot of water to see how much volume they can boil vigorously before brewing their first beer. At some point — either immediately before the wort comes to a boil or immediately thereafter — malt extract is stirred into the brew pot.

In the 1980s and 1990s, brewers used to add all of the malt extract at the beginning of the boil. This was a straightforward approach, but it had some drawbacks. For example, a brewer might make 5.0 gallons (19 L) of an OG 1.048 pale ale by boiling 2.5 gallons (9.5 L) of wort. If all the malt extract was added at the beginning of the boil, the specific gravity of the boil would have been SG 1.096. At this density, the thick wort tended to pick up a lot of color during the boil. Also, hop utilization decreased in worts of increasing density, so brewing very bitter beers was not possible. This method worked best for dark beers that were low in gravity and bitterness. For lighter beers, or beers with more desired hop presence, boiling larger volumes of wort improved the situation. However, a simpler solution arrived in the early 2000s: boil only a portion of the malt extract for most of the boil period, and add the rest near the end.

Probably the most common version of late extract additions is to add roughly half of the malt extract at the beginning of the boil. If a brewer is boiling roughly half of the batch volume, this means the boiled wort is initially in the ballpark of working strength. For beers intended to be very light, add only a small fraction of the malt extract at the beginning of the boil.

Wort foams vigorously when it first comes to a boil. This can cause boilovers if a brewer is not careful. To prevent boilovers, watch the brew pot carefully when it approaches a boil. When you see the foam start to rise, stir the wort vigorously to collapse the foam. If the lid was partially on the brew pot, remove that first. The brewer may also want to turn off the heat or remove the pot from the burner when it first foams. Once the foam has subsided, resume heating if you've stopped, but keep stirring lightly until foam production stops.


Most malt extract–based homebrew recipes call for a 60-minute boil. And typically, the first hop addition occurs right at the beginning of the boil. This allows these hops to be boiled for 60 minutes, which gives plenty of time for the alpha acids to be extracted and converted to iso-alpha acids.

Hops — whether pellet hops or whole hops — can be added directly to the boil or they can be placed in a nylon or muslin bag first. Adding the hops directly may increase your hop utilization slightly, because they are free to float in the entire volume of wort. However, bagging the hops makes them easier to separate from the wort when the boil is over.

If you bag the hops, make sure that the bag is only about one-third full. This leaves room for the hops to expand when they take on liquid and allows room for wort to flow around them during the boil. The drawstring on the bag can be tied to one of the brew pot's handles, so it can removed by the string later. Alternately, the bag can float free in the wort and be fished out with a brewing spoon at the end of the boil. In most homebrew recipes, if the form of hops (whole or pellet) is not specified, pellet hops are intended.

The hops added early in the boil add bitterness to the wort, but the volatile oils that give beer its hop aroma are mostly boiled away from them by the end of the boil. As such, many recipes call for some hops to be added late in the boil. These hops are not boiled long enough to extract much bitterness, but their oils contribute to the hop aroma of the beer. As with the hops added early in the boil, these hops can be added directly to the boil or bagged.

When pellet hops are used, but not bagged, a ring of hop debris will collect on the inside of the pot, just above the liquid level. As long as this material is not being boiled, nothing is being extracted from it. As such, any hop debris clinging to the side of the kettle should be knocked back into the boiling wort with the brewer's spoon.


The rest of the malt extract is added near the end of the boil. Various homebrew recipes call for the final addition anywhere from 15 minutes from the end of the boil to right after knockout (the time the boil stops). All that really needs to be accomplished in the final extract addition is that it be dissolved completely and heated enough to sanitize the wort. If added properly and stirred, the extract should dissolve almost instantly. And, the wort can be adequately sanitized if it spends as little as 30 seconds above 170°F (77°C).

For most beers, the exact timing of the final addition will have little influence on the character of the final beer. When brewing an extremely light-colored beer, you are probably best waiting until right around knockout to perform the final extract addition. If you have a lot of extract to add, you may want to add it in shifts. Take a portion of the extract and place it in a soup pot (or something similar). Spoon or ladle hot wort from the brew pot onto the extract to dissolve it a bit. Stir the malt extract into the wort until it's completely dissolved. Take a second portion and repeat, and so on. Adding a bunch of extract all at once may cause some of it to sink to the bottom of the brew kettle and scorch. This would negate the reason for adding the extract late because it adds color and a caramelized, and perhaps burnt, flavor to the beer. To be safe, when boiling just 2.5 to 3.0 gallons (9 to 11 L) of wort, add only a maximum of 1.0 pound (450 g) of malt extract at a time. Stir in each addition thoroughly before starting the next.

Once the boil is over, proceed to wort chilling. Beginning brewers often put the lid on their brew pot and chill the wort by placing it in water in a sink or tub. Several water changes are usually required, with ice being added to the final water change. Or, the brewer may use a wort chiller. The wort should be chilled to your fermentation temperature or a few degrees lower. Next, the wort is transferred to your fermenter and topped up with cold water to make your full batch size.

There are a few different ways chilled wort can be transferred from the brew pot to the fermenter. If the brew pot is equipped with a spigot, a length of sanitized Tygon tubing can be attached to the spigot and lead to the fermenter situated below it. Transferring the wort is as simple as opening the spigot and letting the wort flow by gravity into the kettle. If the brewer uses a bucket fermenter, the chilled wort can be poured into the fermenter. In a like manner, a large, sanitized funnel can allow wort to be poured into a carboy. Some funnels also have a screen that will filter out some bits of trub.


Excerpted from "Methods of Modern Homebrewing"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Chris Colby.
Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 6

Overview of Brewing 6

Getting the Most from the Recipes 12

What's Important? 13

Section 1 Brewing With Malt Extract 15

The Modern Extract With Grains Method 16

American Extra Pale Ale 23

British Golden Ale 24

Winter Warmer 25

American Amber Ale 26

British Brown Ale 28

Best Bitter 29

Kola and Nutmeg Porter 31

Small Partial Mash Method 32

Vienna Lager 35

Sticke Altbier 36

Large Partial Mash Method 38

Smoked Wee Heavy 41

Saison 43

Texas Two-Step Method 44

American IPA 46

No Boil Method 48

Brown Ale 49

Section 2 All-Grain Brewing: Mashing 51

Crushing the Grains 52

Mashing in 55

Single Infusion Mash Method 57

U.S. WWI-era Pilsner 61

American Pale Ale 63

British IPA 64

Irish Extra Stout 67

Step Mash Method 68

Rye Pale Ale 73

Dry Vienna Lager 74

Decoction Mash Method 75

Bohemian Pilsner (Czech Pilsner) 77

Doppelbock 79

Cereal Mash Method 80

Cream Ale 83

Rice Lager 84

Mashing Out 85

Recirculation 86

Reiterated Mashing Method 87

High-Gravity Specialty Ale 89

Section 3 All-Grain Brewing: Lautering 91

Continuous Sparging 92

Copper Ale 99

American Porter 100

Batch Sparging 102

American Amber Ale 103

American Strong Ale 104

No-Sparge Wort Collection 107

Dark Mild Ale 109

Ordinary Bitter 111

Parti-Gyle and Similar Methods 112

Strong Bitter and Best Bitter 115

Old Ate and Dry Stout 117

Brew in a Bag (Biab) Method 120

100% Rye/Wheat Pale Ale 121

Section 4 Wort Boiling 123

First Wort Hopping 124

Wort Boiling 124

Black IPA 131

Kölsch-Style Ale 132

American IPA 133

Heather Ale 134

Session IPA 135

Whirlpool Hopping 136

Section 5 Wort Chilling 139

Sink (Or Bathtub) Chilling 140

Immersion Chilling 140

Counterflow Chilling 142

Section 6 Fermentation 145

Yeast Starters 146

Basic Yeast Starter 151

Rehydrating Dried Yeast 152

Repitching Yeast 153

Aeration 154

Ordinary Ale Fermentation 156

Ordinary Lager Fermentation 160

Octoberfest (Festbier) 163

High-Gravity Fermentations 164

Imperial Stout 167

Specialty Yeast Fermentations 168

Hefeweizen 171

Brettanomyces Saison 172

Witbier 174

Kräusening 175

Dry Hopping 176

Forced Fermentation Test 177

Wort Stability Test 178

Fining For Clarity 179

Section 7 Sour Beer Production 181

Sour Mashing 182

American Sour Ale 184

Sour Fruit Ale 185

Kettle Souring 186

American Sour Ale 189

Traditional Sour Beer Production Method 190

Berliner Weisse 195

Kriek (Cherry Lambic) 196

Flanders Red Ale 197

Section 8 Water Treatment 199

Removing Chlorine Compounds 200

Calcium Content 201

Reducing Alkalinity 201

Matching Mineral Content to Beer Color 203

Section 9 Packaging 207

Bottle Conditioning 208

Kegging 210

Cask Conditioning 213

High-Gravity Brewing 214

International Pale Lager 217

Beer Stability Test 218

Acknowledgments 219

About the Author 219

Index 220

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