Techniques change depending on what equipment you're using, but here's how we brewed at UBREW - wittled down into 15 easy steps! NOTE: Clean absolutely everything as you go along!
Step 1 - Turn water into 'hot liquor'
Take water and sprinkle on some science to alter the hardness and pH if needed! Heat it up to around 7o°c. Now your lowly water has magically become 'hot liquor' and is instantly more sexy.
Step 2 - Add your malt
Once you've weighed and ground your malted grain, you need to add them to your mash tun bit by bit, and slowly stir in your hot liquor. Use around 2.5 litres of water for every 1kg of malt - consistency wise think 'northern porridge.' All that stirring is gonna take the temperature of your water down a bit, keep an eye on this so you mash in at your desired temperature. Put the lid on and leave your mash to do its thing.
Step 3 - Mashing
Set the timer for an hour, and leave it to mash. During this period the heat of the water tricks the grain into germinating, which releases the sugar that you need to make wondrous alcohol. While you wait... head to a nearby tap room and enjoy some tasty BEER.
Step 4 - Recirculation or 'Vorlauf'
45 mins into our one hour mash time, start 'recirculating.'
Recirculation means clarifying the wort being drawn from the mash tun. The idea is to get as much sugar as you can from your malt and achieve a consistent colour in your wort. Drain the wort out of the bottom of the mash tun into a jug and sprinkle it back over the top of the grain, recirculating it round and round again for the last 15 minutes of the mash.
We sprinkled our wort over the grain bed along the back of a spoon - this gave us even coverage and stopped us from getting any direct channels through the grain bed.
Step 5 - Sparging
Sparging is the process of diluting the wort and transferring it out of your mash tun and into your kettle. We used around half of our water during the mash, so here we're increasing the volume of liquid - follow your recipe! We used a 'sparge arm,' which looks like a little garden sprinkler - but there are many different techniques you can use.
Whatever method, the process remains the same. You add more hot water over the top of the grain bed, this then trickles all the way down cleaning the grain, releasing more sugars. This sparge water then comes out of the bottom of the mash tun via a hose and into the kettle.
Step 6 - Boil your wort
This doesn't need much of an explanation. Heat your wort up to 100°c and leave it on a rolling boil for an hour.
Step 7 - Add Hops!
While the wort is boiling, add your hops according to the hop schedule in your recipe.
Hops added close to the start of the boil are your 'bittering hops' - they add bitterness to balance the sugar, but not much flavour (imagine leaving a teabag to stew for an hour). Hops added towards the end of the boil retain their aromatic, floral aromas and flavours, adding hop character to your beer - IPAs often have a lot of hops added just a few minutes before the end.
Step 8 - Cool your wort
Yeast is very temperature sensitive - you can’t just chuck it into 100°c wort, because it’ll die. You need to chill the wort down to a much more yeast-friendly temperature, usually around 15-25°c depending on the style of beer you're making.
We used a counterflow chiller to cool our wort down. It works kinda like a car radiator - cold water goes into the chiller and runs quickly through some funky piping alongside our 100°c wort, which is running really slowly through the chiller. We can control the cooling temperature by playing with the speed of flow. Slower water + faster wort = hotter wort. Faster water + slower wort = cooler wort.
In short - hot wort leaves our kettle and enters the plate chiller. SCIENCE HAPPENS, and cool wort leaves the plate chiller and enters our fermentation vessel.
Here's a rather GCSE science looking diagram that hopefully illustrates the functionality a little better.
Step 9 - Check your gravity
Once your wort has cooled you can take your 'Original Gravity'. This is the most accurate way to test how efficient you've been with the brewing. Rescue a bit of cooled wort from the pipes and fill up your trial jar. Use a hydrometer to check your original gravity. The more sugar, the higher the gravity. Make a note of this as you'll need it later!
Step 10 - Pitch your yeast
Now that your wort is cool and in its fermentation tank, it's time to sprinkle in your yeast. Yeast loves oxygen at this point, so stir the shit out of your wort, making it all bubbly and full of air pockets. Stick the lid on and seal it tight (making sure you've used an airlock)
Step 11 - Fermentation
Leave your fermentation tank somewhere with a consistent temperature. UBREW has a room specially designed to hold out tanks at a consistent temperature.
Once pitched, a yeast orgy commences and it reproduces rapidly. As you'd imagine, it then gets super hungry, and sugar is its food of choice. Fermentation happens when yeast eats the sugars and kind of poops out alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. At this stage the CO2 will escape through the airlock*, and the wort becomes beer.
Most beers take around 10 days to ferment and settle, but lagers take a lot longer, around two months, and require much cooler conditions.
Step 12 - Bottling
Before you bottle, take another gravity reading. This is your final gravity. To work out your ABV you do a little bit of maths (original gravity - final gravity) x 131. Alternatively let BrewersFriend do it for you.
Before bottling, you need to add some extra sugar, which will re-ferment in the bottle and create CO2, which will dissolve into the beer and add the fizz.
There's various ways to bottle, ranging complex pressure systems to a simple lowly jug, and it can be messy! Seal your bottles tight with a crown cap and leave them somewhere cool to re-ferment and condition for at least 10 days. Read our how to bottle blog for more info.
Step 13 - Beer!
After 10 days of conditioning (or more depending on the style), your beer is ready to crack open and enjoy!