Happy Brew Year! Today I'm going to brew a simple Mexican-style dark Lager which traditionally were based on a Vienna dark lager but with US ingredients including flaked corn. In this thread I will document my brew day.
The first step is to heat up my mash water. I brew beer using a Grainfather brewing system, which automates a lot of the process for me and shaves a few hours off of my brew day. #brewing #happybrewyear #beer
While the mash water heats up, I grind my grain using a hand grinder. For some recipes I get my malted barley pre-ground, but I have started buying my base malt in bulk, and the barley comes whole.
Grinding the grain removes the kernel from the husk and exposes more of the starch to the water so the mashing process is much more efficient. Malted barley contains an enzyme that will convert starches in the barley to sugar when immersed in water. #brewing #happybrewyear #beer
After the water heats up I can "dough in" or add my ground grain to the mash water. I have a long metal mashing paddle that makes it easier to stir the grain as I add it to remove clumps, which helps improve mashing efficiency later. Basically you are making a barley porridge and the consistency at the end is pretty similar to oatmeal.
Once all the grain is added I add a mesh screen above the water level in the kettle, attach a recirculation arm to my Grainfather's pump and tell it to start the 90 min mashing process. It recirculates water throughout the process to improve efficiency and clarity in the beer.
During this 90 minute mashing process enzymes in the malted barley convert starches into simple sugars like alpha and beta amylase. The ideal temp to convert each of these sugars is different, so recipes pick temps somewhere in the middle based on which sugars they want the most of. This choice can affect the body and residual sweetness left in the beer after fermentation.
Even though I need to wait 90 minutes for the next step of the process, I'm not sitting here idle. A key part of having an enjoyable brew day, I've found, is to clean up incrementally during these down times, and prepare everything for the next step. For instance, after I started the mashing process, I put away all of the grain grinding equipment and my bag of bulk barley, swept loose grain from the floor, and now I'm preparing my lauter tun for the next step.
After mashing, the next step is the lautering process, where I remove the grain from the mash water and rinse it with hot water to extract more remaining sugars.
This is my lauter tun. It's an electric brewing kettle that I used to brew beer with before I got my Grainfather. I fill this kettle with the appropriate amount of water, heat it to the proper temp, and then connect a hose to a spout at the bottom and use gravity to move the water to my Grainfather.
After mashing, I lift the interior metal basket and rest it at the top of the Grainfather. There is a mesh at the bottom of this basket which allows the sticky, sweet brown liquid called wort to drain into the kettle while leaving the grain behind.
While the kettle heats up to boiling, I start rinsing the top of the grain with hot water from my lauter tun. This water trickles through the grain bed and extracts more sugars as it drips down into the kettle.
The lautering/sparging process is complete so I removed the top grain basket and now we are waiting for the wort to reach a boil. What do we do while we wait? We clean of course! I dumped the spent grain into the compost bin and cleaned the grain basket and lauter kettle and all mashing and lautering equipment. In a minute I will start stirring the foam at the top of the kettle back into the wort so it doesn't boil over when it hits boiling temps.
We are about 30 minutes into a 90 minute boil. If you look closely at this picture you can see light tan bits that aren't foam, that seem to be floating to the top. This is known as "hot break" and are proteins that are cooking out of the wort during the boil. This is something we want to happen and is one of the reasons for the boil.
@kyle this is a great thread and I would love to get to whole grain brewing eventually. Did you start with the premix/plastic barrel kits? Any books you like to learn?
@aeberbach Thanks! I started with a plastic bucket beginner brewing kit, a cheap 7 gallon aluminum boil kettle, and dry malt extract kits and that's what I recommend everyone else do to start.
How to Brew by Palmer is a classic and the best book to learn the process and science behind brewing. Brewing Classic Styles is a great book full of extract/all-grain recipes and it's still the main place I go for recipes (including the one today). Modern extract kits are really good.