Brace yourself for what could possibly be the simplest introduction to home brewing so you know where you stand and where you want to go… Three techniques are used to brew: All-Grain Brewing, Extract Brewing, and Kit Brewing…
- Extract Fermentable Sugars From Malt (Process called Mashing)
- Cook Fermentable Sugars (Called Wort From Now On) And Add Hops
- Cool And Aerate Wort
- Pitch Yeast
All grain brewing involves all 7 steps. It goes without saying that it is the most complicated, but here’s the basic scoop…
The first step, mashing, is just extracting sugars from malt (2-row or 6-row barley) by pouring hot water (around 170° F) over the grains, hence brewing beer. With extract brewing this step is skipped. You just buy Dry Malt Extract (DME) and then proceed as you normally would.
With extract brewing there is an advanced technique known as extract brewing with specialty grains. This is similar to all-grain brewing, but the difference is that you steep the grains (similar to brewing tea) and you can’t screw it up as easily as mashing.
Specialty grains have non-fermentable sugars which are primarily used to give beer your color and add body to the beer.
Once you have your malt extract whether from mashing or DME, then it’s time to add your hops. Since malt is sugar, and sugar is sweet, hops are added to balance the flavor by adding bitterness to the beer.
Hops need to be boiled for 40-45 minutes to release the bitterness. The trade off is that it also loses aroma. So hops are added at the beginning of the boil and towards the end of the boil. This is what’s known as adding bittering hops and aroma or finishing hops.
With Kit brewing all these steps are skipped. These kits have malt extract which has already been cooked and has had hops added to the mix. You literally just add water and you’re basically ready for the next step… pitching the yeast.
The yeast eats up the sugar from the malt and turns it into alcohol. In order for it to do so, your wort (your mix of malt sugar, water and hops) needs to be at the right temperature (around 70° F for ales and below 60° F for lagers) and needs to have enough oxygen. So you cool your wort and aerate it to achieve this.
Then you pitch the yeast and let the beer ferment for 10-14 days.
At this point other techniques come into play like moving your beer to a secondary fermenter to dry hop, lager, or just condition the beer. Not necessary, but just FYI.
Since this is not necessary you can just bottle your beer and once again leave it sitting for a couple of weeks and you are ready to drink.
These are the basic steps and differences in styles of brewing, but as you get involved with brewing you’ll start to learn all kinds of cool little tricks to improve the taste of your beer. Things like running your wort through a hopback, casket condition your beer, dry hopping, krausen hopping, using yeast starters, and much much more.
You could just start with Kit brewing and then move into extract brewing which gives you control over what hops to add and when to add them. Then move into extract brewing with specialty grains which allows you to create more complex and better tasting beer. In fact, many award winning beers are created just with extract brewing.
Then, if you really really like the hobby and want full control of your brew you can move into All-grain brewing and extract the sugars from the malt yourself as opposed to buying Dry Malt Extract…
Hope I kept this simple and gave you a better idea of home brewing…