Oct 21, 2009
This program features a beer making session with Sean Billings who set up the online home brew forum www.beoir.org
I first met Sean at a presentation which Irish Craft Brewer.com gave in the Phoenix Park, Dublin for SeptemberFest which was a festival of Irish craft brewers organised by Bord Bia.
I’ve tasted wine that people have made at home so I wasn’t expecting much but when I tasted the beers that were been passed around at the talk I was amazed at the quality of them. Several members of the forum had brought along some of their own home brewed beer and everyone got to try some.
Brewing at home might be considered an amateur activity but the quality of the beers I tasted were as good if not better than some of the micro-brewery beers and obviously head and shoulders above Guinness, Heineken and all those mass produced, pasturised “usual suspects” that pubs inflict upon us!
I should point out that home brewing is for your own consumption and if you are brewing to sell then you would need to seek legal advice and register for duty etc…
Our program starts in the morning with Sean talking about which barley, malts and hops he is going to use and follows each stage through the day as he makes up a brown ale, using software and hardware, in his back yard in Phibsboro.
Check out the photos below.
(Is this what that silly word multimedia means?)
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Below are photos taken as we went through the process so you can listen to the radio show and go down through the photos at the same time to give you an idea of what each step, ingredient and piece of equipment looks like…..
25 kilos of malted barley works out at about 45euro.
Just 3.5 kilos will be used in this brew to produce 23 litres of beer
You can buy software for homemade beer! It can predict some aspects of the beer in theory but it can never tell you how its going to taste or what good or bad accidents might happen along the way!
“Munich” – a great song by the band Editors, a place to go in Germany and a nice malt!
Weighing out a malt – Crystal or Munich?
Mixing up all the grains and malts
Mixing up all the grains and malts
The muslin cloth, attached via bungee cords, will help contain the grains and act as a filtre whilst all the time letting through the malty goodness, sugars and enzymes which will go into the boiler for the next stage
Muslin cloth can be purchased from Hickeys – notorious hangout of beer, curtain and dress makers…
Testing the temperature before adding ingredients
Still not hot enough! Given the style of beer being made, a brown ale, 70 degrees is what we are waiting for which will produce a less fermentable wort for a fuller bodied flavour than if the water was at 60 degrees.
The 60 to 70 degree range is when the enzymes in the barley are active so as to convert the starches into sugar. The yeast will be digesting some of those sugars and turning them into alcohol at a later stage.
Mashing is the process of combining a mix of milled grain, typically malted barley with supplementary grains and water, known as “liquor”, to allow the enzymes in the malt to break down the starch in the grain into sugars to create a malty liquid called wort.
Mashing takes place in a “mash tun” – an insulated brewing vessel with a false bottom.
The whole mix of grain and malt go into the hot water in the mash tun.
Before mixing with a spoon
The expert hand of Sean deploys the orange mixing spoon
All the goodness comes out into the water
All the time making sure to keep it at the right temperature for the enzymes
It was a little hot so we recirculated some out of the tap and back in the top
Pulling up the muslin cloth
Leaving the insulated top on the insulated mash tun for a bit while the enzymes work their magic
Decanting a finished beer from the fermentation tank to make room for the new one
This is some of the yeast that was left in the bottom which can be used again
Sean took some yeast out as there was too much for next brew
Quite a bit of yeast taken out!
Stainless fermentation tank
And back in it goes
Despite what’s written on the outside this container is the boiler
The kettle element to take it to the boil and the copper filter pipe for straining an hour later
At this stage you don’t want the mix waterfalling down into the boiler below as it would get oxygenated which would be a bad thing. So a plastic pipe is used.
“Stirring is important”, Michael Lemass, Stirring Media Ltd, stirringmedia.com
Just after adding another saucepan of boiling water
Some of the wort taken out of the mash tun via the little tap, now in the boiler
Homemade top to insulate the boiler with built in aperture feature to regulate boiling level, eh thats the curve in this object which is carefully covered in plastic bin bags. Hmmm, did Sean make this or buy it in the home brewing section of Woodies? Answers on a postcard ….
Large espresso for me please!
Note the kettle lead with blue “rain protection device” plugged into kettle element in the boiler
The great cycle of recirculation
Ye olde orange spoon
What’s it wort?
Yes it is.
Getting the last bits of malty goodness out of the mash tun into the boiler, tilt and pour ….
Taking the muslin bag which contains all the barley and malts out of the mash tun, now that its cool enough to handle. This muslin has seen better days and several brews so its all going in the bin …. unless ….
…. the Beer-Cat finds it and discovers its love for yet another 4 letter word beginning with “M”
Big malt lollipop for cats?
Hang on I only ordered a double espresso not 25 litres?
The boil begins…
Kettle element on…
Homemade insulated top with aperture curve device goes on…
And now for a little magic – the hops!!
These are the bittering ones added at the “Hot Break” stage of the boil which is after the foam on the surface has died down. These hops are added so the beer isn’t too sweet
These hops are added at 45 minutes into the 1 hour boil phase, that’s 15 minutes before the end so they add flavour and aroma to the beer. Like Ronseal they do exactly what it says on the tin – half the bitterness (at 6.2% Alpha Acid) compared to that of the bittering hops above that are 13.7%
This is what hops look like when they aren’t vacuum packed in foil
Pay attention Dougal, these are big, close up hops!
Making sure the wort is boiling vigourously with the help of the homemade insulated cover device thingy.
Could it be time to add bittering hops and set the timer for 60 minutes now that its boiling in the boiler at about 100 degrees?
Ah yes its time to put the bittering hops in
The wort, bittering hops and everything are going swimmingly
Now is the time to install the smell plug-in for your browser!
What do you mean noone’s invented one yet?
Well you are just going to have to watch the smell till someone does!
Hosing down the homemade copper pipe otherwise known as a wort cooler
It will be properly sanitised by leaving it in the boil bucket which contains the 100 degree wort
And in it goes
For about 10 minutes
You can see how the pipe can connect to a cold water tap and send cold water through highly conductive copper pipe to take heat out of the wort and send out hot water at the other end of the copper coil
Lids really do help keep in the heat. Everyone who has cooked pasta and watched it bubble up and over flow due to a lid on the saucepan knows this. It doesn’t need a scientific equation to be proven.
Common or garden hose from cold water tap connects to the copper wort cooler to cool down the wort mix as fast as possible.
Regardless of what software or how bleeched white your computer is its always wise to take notes of what really happened, not what the software implied should happen. This is because pen on paper in notebooks don’t crash or become corrupt!
And just when you think you have taken enough notes, stop and take some more.
Remember the software and computer are not master just a guide.
Anything can happen in the real world and improvisation and “mistakes” can turn out to be wonderful things.
Pen and ink is cheaper than 25 litres of brew as they say. And what if you made the most amazing beer ever and couldn’t remember how you made it!!!
Beer nightmares forever!!
We are now on “The Cold Side” of the process with the wort being cooled down from its 100 degree boil temperature towards its 22 degree destination temperature, so keeping everything that touches the wort sanitised is key. Spray everything that’s going to come in contact with the wort and equipment. And you’ll just have to listen to the program to find out what that no-rinse sanitiser is!
The wort as patient.
Take its temperature to see if its dropped enough to strain off into the fermentation container where the temperature sensitive yeast is awaiting lunch…
It takes a while for the temperature to drop and its probably better to transfer it to the fermentation tank before it drops too low bearing in mind that its going to ferment for a few weeks at 22 degrees
None were needed in the new brew that day as there was enough yeast, more than enough, left at the bottom of the fermentor when the finished beer was transferred out into the glass storage vessel.
Out comes the wort chiller as the required temperature is reached
Almost 26 litres but some of that is the hops and other gunk that wont be transferred into the fermentation tank, which is what happens now
Keep sanitising all the way …
The boiler, now cooled down, sits above the fermentation tank as we are going to use the power of gravity to transfer the wort. No pipe is needed as oxygenation at this stage will be beneficial to the yeast which is going to digest the wort now into something called BEER!!!
Yeah, I know it says FERMENTATION on the side but we used it as our boiler – call the cops!!
And that little black tap is how the wort gets out after being filtred by the slotted copper pipe inside the bucket.
Even if you didn’t ferment beer in it it would still be a nice piece of furniture/kitchen gadget
C’est bien l’acier inox!!
Houston, we have a fermentor!
Its pretty simple, the wort comes out of the boiler’s tap into the fermentation vessel which already contains enough yeast, but not too much, from the last beer.
Nice bit of recycling here.
Supposedly yeast needs some magnesium for it to be still potent enough to work from brew to brew. When brewers switched from copper containers to stainless steel ones they found their yeast not performing due to the lack of magnesium.
Not sure how Sean got around it here using all non copper vessels?
No!! It couldn’t have been the wort chiller, could it?
Coincidently in the last few weeks I have found that humans need magnesium too and that our food has been dropping in magnesium content in the last few decades due to modern chemical methods of farming.
Some would say that buying organic veggies would help solve this deficiency as the roots have to mine deeper into the soil to find nutrients and minerals ….
This is a hydrometer which is calibrated to work at 20 degrees so you must adjust your calculation to take into account temperatures that are above or below the required 20 degrees.
According to John Palmer on howtobrew.com ….
A hydrometer measures the difference in gravity (density) between pure water and water with sugar dissolved in it by flotation. The hydrometer is used to gauge the fermentation progress by measuring one aspect of it, attenuation. Attenuation is the conversion of sugar to ethanol by the yeast. Water has a specific gravity of 1.000. Beers typically have a final gravity between 1.015 and 1.005.
This is what remains in the boiler after the wort is cooled and drained into the fermentation tank.
Its for the compost heap now….
Emptied boiler with spent hops and the fermentation vessel below.
The wort sitting in the fermentor
There is a hole for a temperature probe which goes into the fermentor to relay the temperature to the thermostat so that it can turn on the fridge to cool down the mix if the fermenting yeast produces heat that brings it over 22 degrees
And there it is, finto!
The fermentor just has to be squeezed into the fridge where it will six for about 6 weeks?
Now in the fridge the only thing to do is put the temperature probe into the fermentor
Plugging the fridge into the thermostat
Setting the temperature above which the fridge will kick in to cool the wort
22 degrees is whats needed, so not much work for the fridge to do…