First Time Beer Home Brewer

The time had come finally and I was going to home brew my first batch of beer. In hindsight I think I should have waited until a weekend or a Friday night due to how long it took but apparently the wait was killing me and I could not hold off any longer!

I pulled out the instructional DVD, re-watched the lesson on the beginning stages of brewing and thoroughly read the written instructions that came with the brewing kit – yes I am aware that I’m a nerd. I will admit that neither left me feeling confident that I knew what I was doing.

Checking that my kit was complete before starting to brew.

Checking that my kit was complete before starting to brew.

After I checked that all my ingredients were accounted for, my first step would be boiling the gallons of water needed. I got out my newly purchased 5 gallon stainless steel brew kettle and began filling it with water. My measurement tool, an empty growler. I felt it was only fitting (I later learned you don’t need an exact measurement for the water – just fill up the kettle with the water)

Brew Kettle full of fresh water

Brew Kettle full of fresh water

After I got around 3 gallons in the pot I lugged it over to the stove and turned the heat on high. I’m sure you’ve heard that a watched pot never boils? It will eventually boil but if you watch it, it does take FOREVER, especially if you keep peeking at the pot more often than necessary. The DVD had suggested reading a good beer brewing book while I waited in between steps but I chose to watch episodes of Kourtney and Kim Take Miami – go ahead judge me – I’m not afraid to admit that I keep up with the Kardashians on a regular basis.

After the huge pot of water started to boil (it took almost an hour and a ½ to get to a rolling boil – not that I was counting) I put my grains into a muslin bag and began to steep them. It reminded me of making tea as the process is similar. I steeped my grains for the full 30 minutes on the burner and followed up with 10 more minutes off the burner.

Steeping the grains in a muslin bag

Steeping the grains in a muslin bag

After removing the bag of grains I then added a liquid malt extract and stirred it around, preventing it from sticking and/or burning to the bottom of the pan. After the malt extract was fully dissolved I returned the pot back to the burner.  You can see from the photo below it would be helpful to have a long handled spoon… I obviously did not have one for this brew!

adding the liquid malt to the brew

adding the liquid malt to the brew

I figured it would not take long for the brew to return back to a boiling bubble as the water was still warm. Well it did take awhile and perhaps it was because I was standing there staring at it (again), but the instructional DVD and written instructions both had me so paranoid about a “boil over” I could not help but watch the pot. Apparently boil overs are messy and I was to do everything possible to prevent them.

The water began to boil again and it was now time to add the hops. This recipe was using Mt Hood bittering hops that were to soak in the water for another 60 minutes. Again I was warned about the prevention of the boil over in the written instructions.

Pellet Hops before they are added to the brew kettle

Pellet Hops before they are added to the brew kettle

Kourtney and Kim kept me company while I waited for the hops to do their thing. Luckily I had several episodes recorded.  After the timer went off I felt this was the most stressful part of the operation. It was now time to cool off the wort (this is what beer is called prior to the yeast being added) as fast as possible to prevent contamination. Note that this pan should have been covered with a sanitized lid while it was sitting in the ice bath!

my "ice bath" for the wort.  Not that I did not put a lid on the pan (mistake!) Also don't mind the dirty snow that is floating around in my ice bath.  It's amazing this beer turned out!

my “ice bath” for the wort. Note that I did not put a lid on the pan (mistake!) Also don’t mind the dirty snow that is floating around in my ice bath. It’s amazing this beer turned out!

I had filled up my sink with cold water, ice from the freezer and some snow from outside to create an ice bath for the pan. I thought to myself that one of those fancy wort chillers would have been nice right about now, but my sink with cold water in it would be fine for tonight.

After about 30 minutes of cooling down the wort it was time to transfer the wort into the first fermenter along with a priming sugar and water mixture needed to provide the “food” for the yeast to create fermentation. For people familiar with brewing you might use a glass carboy for fermentation but my kit came with a two bucket system. For the next two weeks my beer would be fermenting inside the fermenting bucket. You loose some visibility as to what is going on inside the bucket which is why the carboy is a common option for fermenting.

Yeast added after the aeration of the wort.

Yeast added after the aeration of the wort.

I sprinkled the yeast on top of the wort after I used a spoon to aerate the wort the best I could. You should aerate the wort first and then add the yeast – remember the yeast are alive! I could now officially call it beer since the yeast had been added. I placed the lid on tightly and stuck the airlock in it’s place, filled with water and crossed my fingers. In about 4 weeks I would be tasting my reward!

to the layman this may look like a shower/tub... it's really the "brewery room"

to the layman this may look like a shower/tub… it’s really the “brewery room”

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