This is where the fun begins, you can start experimenting a bit more and you'll have a it more control on how your beer will taste. There's a few different methods for extract brewing, you can do a full boil or partial boil where you top up with water in your fermenter after. Depending on the recipe, you might need to use speciality grains, additional crushed malt or other natural additives and for adding colour, flavour or body to your brew. For the benefit of this tutorial, I'll be looking mainly at partial boils.
Malt extract is the main ingredient in extract brewing (as luck would have it!). As you may know, malt sugars are extracted from crushed malted grain during the process of mashing/lautering. By using malt extract, you cut this process out of the brewday moving straight into the boil. There's two main types of malt extract, liquid malt extract (LME) & spray/dry malt extract (DME). There's different types of each usually made from different malt colours, main ones being pale, light, medium, amber & dark. You'll get familiar with the different uses of each type as you do a few brews.
In addition to the basic brewing equipment covered in the getting started page, to start extract brewing you're going to have invest in a decent sized boil pot, one that can at least accommodate 12-15 litres and leave room for any potential boil overs - in around the 18 litre mark would be plenty. These pots are handy as they'll fit into the sink where you can have an ice bath ready for chilling after the boil. If you plan on steeping grains, you might need a smaller pot, 3-5 litres should do. If you want to invest in a pot for full boils, you'll probably need something around the 25-30 litre mark, but you'll also need a wort chiller to chill your wort. When deciding where to start with this, keep your residential circumstances in mind. If you're living in an apartment then maybe small partial boils would be best, as there'll be a lot of steam to come from these boils, so unless you have a decent size balcony, stick to these for the time being. If you have the ability to brew outside, in a shed or garage with plenty of space, even on the patio on a sunny day would be ideal. If indoors, make sure you have a decent extractor fan and open windows to allow steam to get out or you might find yourself mopping the condensation off the walls!
For getting your pot to boil, you'll need a source of heat - Gas Cooker would be ideal for partial boils indoors, its easier to control the temperature. Electric stove tops will also do the job, although you might want to test this by trying to boil around 15 litres of water - some electric stoves might not have the power to bring that much liquid to a boil and you don't want to come to this conclusion on your brewday! Propane gas burners for external cooking can be used for brewing outside or somewhere similarly suitable, great for full boils. A good investment would be to get an electric brew kettle. These kettles, usually around 28 - 33 litres are good for internal & external brewing and very flexible for living situations. Basic kettles will have an electric heating element, usually fitted with a tap and an on/off switch to heat for a boil, the more high end kettles will have a decent temperature control feature too which will help in more complex recipe for steeping grains etc. These kettles can also be used for partial mashes/ Brew in a Bag brewing later on in your homebrewing career.
To get started with minimum investment, the partial boil pot will get you started and you'll make some excellent brews! My first extract brew I made with a 21 litre pot (14 litre boil) was a stout was one of my best beers I've made! Below I'll show you how I made this and other recipes at the Brew Log section (Coming Very Soon).
You'll also benefit in looking into some brewing software to help you make your own recipes but get a few brews under your belt.
Extract Brewday Plan (italics are optional steps, see recipe when needed)
- Steeping Grains (Mini Mash) - (Optional in some recipes)
- Sparge your steeped grains into the boil pot and add the steeped wort from the steep pot.
- Add water to boil pot to get desired capacity to boil
- Kill heat, add malt extract and stir in.
- Bring the pot back to boil and start hop schedule as per your recipe (usually 60-90 mins in total)
- While the boil is on - Sanitize your fermenting equipment
- Once boil has finished, kill heat and chill wort.
- Rehydrate dried yeast
- Transfer wort to fermenter, using sieve to strain hops etc.
- For partial boils, top up to desired batch volume & aerate the wort
- Take Hydrometer Reading, Pitch yeast, seal fermenter, fix airlock and ferment
If required, transfer to secondary, add dry hops if making a hoppy beer and condition for further time.
Firstly get all your equipment and ingredients together. You don't want to be running around your house trying to find your thermometer, hydrometer or that when its an awkward time! Make sure everything is clean, available and your workspace is clear so you don't lose anything.
Read through your recipe to give you an idea what way you'll structure your brewday, use the above plan as a guideline and write up a brief summary of what you need to do on your brewday that will suit your own setup. As you do more & more brews, this will become second nature but it’s still good to have a plan in mind Gather your ingredients required, weigh out your hop & grains into suitable containers (ie cups, glasses or bowls). It’s a good idea to label you hops with what type & time they need to be added to your boil and have them weighed into the right respective portions.
2. Steeping Grains (Mini Mash)
If your recipe does not involve grains, skip onto step 4. Depending on what crushed grains your using and how long this process will be done, you could argue if this is more like a mini mash than just steeping grains, but I'll leave that up to you to conclude. Few different ways of doing this, some recipes will specify how it should be done but the result is usually consistent regardless. Either way you'll need a grain/muslin bag for all your grain to go into first. Then you could heat about 2-3 litres of water in the boil pot to around 70°c, drop your bag of grain in which will leave your temperature at about 65°c, then you need to keep this temperature for 30-60 mins (depending on your recipe’s specification) main . What I’m doing starting off (as I’m using an electric stove), I use a smaller pot, heat about 2.5 litres of water to about 65-68°c and place the grain bag in. I then pop a small dial thermometer in, place the lid on top and pop the pot into a preheated oven at 60°c (lower so it doesn’t exceed the steeping temperatures as this will affect the taste). This basically makes the pot into a mini/micro insulated mash tun, where the grains can soak for the required time. The temp should hold out for most of the time for some time but if it drops, use an oven mitt to remove the pot and pop it on the hob again for a minute to get the heat back up. Then back into the oven. Whatever way you do this, once finished you’ll need to sparge.
3. Sparging the steeped grains
Sparging is basically rinsing the grains with hot water to get all the goodness from the grains. Use a colander, strainer or sieve to hold the grain bag above the boil pot and slowly pour heated water (usually around 70-80°c) through the grain bag. Imagine how a filter coffee machine works, water slowly passing through the filter. Your recipe will usually say how much water to use, what temp to heat it at etc. Once this is done, empty your spent grains into a paperbag and into the composter/brown bin / pig trough. (Think green people!) If you have used a second pot, add the steeped liquid or “grain tea” from that into the boil pot.
4. Add water to boil pot to get desired capacity to boil
Pretty straight forward, add the water you need for your boil into your pot/kettle and get the heat going. If you're steeping grains, get this started while waiting for your grains to steep. If you're using liquid malt extract, its a good idea heat this up in the container by immersing it in warm water while your water heats up.
5. Kill heat, add malt extract and stir in
Once your water reaches a rolling boil, take the boil pot off the heat and add in your malt extract, be sure to stir it in well. If using dry malt extract, be sure there's no clumps or lumps and that it's all mixed in well. The reason you keep the heat off is so the malt extract doesn't hit the bottom of the pot and scorch leaving a load of burnt malt stuck to the base of your pot.
6. Bring the pot back to boil and start hop schedule as per your recipe
Once you've added in your malt, get the pot back on the heat and bring it back up to a rolling boil. Watch out for foam from the malt extract, this could lead to boil over as heat will build up under it and lead to boil overs so keep an eye on the pot until you have the pot boiling away in a stable state. Have some ice cubes or a spray bottle of cold water nearby, If you a violent tidal wave of malt foam coming to the top of your pot, chuck in a couple of ice cubes or spray cold water on the foam away to the side of the pot, it should behave steadily after (you may even not have any trouble with this at all!). Once the boil is ready start your hop schedule. Hops to add flavour/bittering hops are added first, then aroma hops are added near the end. A typical hop schedule would look like this
EG 60 Min Boil
- 60 Mins - 14g / 0.5oz ABC Bittering hops
- 30 Mins - 14g / 0.5oz ABC Bittering hops
- 15 Mins - 28g / 1oz DEF Aroma hops
- 0 Mins - 14g / 1oz DEF Aroma hops
When you add in your hops be sure to again to watch for boil overs in the minutes following your addition. Some recipes will have less hop additions (maybe just even one) and some might call for more, all depends on what you're brewing. There's also a method called Dry Hopping which isn't done during the boil so we'll look at that later. If you're using an immersion wort chiller, good idea to put it in during the last 10-15 mins to sanitize.
7. While the boil is on - Sanitize your fermenting equipment
Presuming you've cleaned everything during your preparation, time to sanitize everything that will now come into contact with your yeast and soon to be chilled wort. While your boil's running, it gives you a good time to do this. (keep one eye on the pot just in case). Check list below:
For contact with your wort
- Fermentation vessel & lid (Cleaned & Sanitized)
- Airlock & bung (Cleaned & Sanitized)
- Beer Paddle (Cleaned & Sanitized)
- Thermometer (Cleaned & Sanitized)
- Beer thief/Turkey baster (Cleaned & Sanitized)
- Hydrometer with sampling tube(Cleaned & Sanitized)
For rehydrating yeast
- Pyrex Jug or equivalent (Cleaned & Sanitized)
- Scissors (Cleaned & Sanitized)
Some stuff might not need to be sanitized, like the beer paddle if you don't plan on using it after the boil is done, or the hydrometer and sampling tube if you plan throwing the sampled wort out. But provided you sanitize everything correctly, then you'll have less chance of contaminating your beer by accident. Better off over-sanitizing than under-sanitizing when it comes to brewing. Once you've sanitized everything, put them somewhere aside for use later
8. Once boil has finished, kill heat and chill wort.
So your boil has finally finished and now it's time to chill your wort. If you have a wort chiller you can use this to chill your wort quiet fast. If not, and you're using a brew pot, you can make an ice bath in the sink (or bath if necessary), pop the lid on your brew pot and immerse the pot into the ice bath, you may need to replace the water after some time with more ice as the pot will heat up the iced water. Chilling is mainly done to add to the beers clarity once it's brewed but also speeds up the time to wait before you pitch the yeast.
9. Rehydrate dried yeast
If using liquid yeast or happy to sprinkle the yeast from the packet, skip this step. While the wort is chilling you can get this done. Rehydrating dried yeast is a good habit to get started, not only does it wake up the yeast ahead of pitching but if you're not sure about the yeast's health (ie if it's gone off, dead, etc) it's a good way to see what shape it's in. Add 1 cup of warm sterilised water at about 30°c to a sterilized container. Best thing here is to boil the kettle once, when it stops automatically wait a few seconds and switch it on to boil again briefly then add the water to a sterilized Pyrex jug (the boiled water can sterilize this too), add a teaspoon of sugar and let it cool to 30°c, then add the yeast in on top and give it a gentle stir with a sterilized spoon, cover the jug with some cling film/ tin-foil. The teaspoon of sugar is to see will the yeast react. If the yeast is good after about 20 mins or so, the top of the yeast mix will look a bit foamy. If you don't see any foam but just a lot of sunken dormant yeast at the bottom of your jug, you might want to look into fresher yeast. You can always finish your wort and leave it in sealed fermenter for a day or two whilst you get more.
10. Transfer wort to fermenter, using a sieve to strain hops etc.
Once your wort has chilled to about 30 - 35°c, it's good to go. (if doing a partial boil, you'll get away with 40-45 °c as you'll be topping up with cold water anyway) If you have a tap/spigot fitted to your brew pot/kettle, line up your fermenter under the tap, throw a sieve/strainer in between and open the tap. If you have a built hop strainer in your kettle, even better! If using a standard pot then you'll need to set a sieve/strainer on top of your fermenter, making sure it won't slip off easily (get someone to hold it if needs be) & carefully tip the contents of the boil pot into the fermenter through the strainer -slowly. As you get closer to the bottom you might notice more solid materials, spent hops etc. Try keep as much of this away from the fermenter as you just spent all the time chilling your wort to get all this to the bottom of your pot. Once your wort is in, dispose your spent hops etc, in the same way you disposed your grains earlier (into a paper bag and into the composter/brown bin for those that skipped)
11. For partial boils, top up to desired batch volume & aerate the wort
If your wort is still a bit hot (or you want to use this to speed up the chilling process) having a 1-2 gallon/5 litre bottles of water in the fridge in advance will help bring that temp down. As per the Beerkit brewday, your water should be good drinkable quality, as a rule of thumb. If there's any chlorine issues you can get campden tablets for this or leave out the night before to allow the chlorine to evaporate. When adding the water, pour it from a height, shoulder height is best, with the fermenter on the floor. The water will churn and aerate the wort for you. Add the water a few litres shy of your target capacity - the reason for this is so you can check you're on course to get Original Gravity. If you're not using topping up water, when transferring the wort, try do so from a height- IE Put your pot/kettle on the table and there fermenter on the floor under a tap, and let it aerate. Use your beer paddle to give it a good stir, as your wort has chilled now so don't be afraid splash it around! If you're brewing some more complex recipes with high ABV%'s you might want to look into aeration equipment (eg Aeration stones) check with your local brew supply shop on these. Use your sterilized beer-thief or turkey baster to get a sample of your wort, put it into your hydrometer tube and drop in the hydrometer. Take your original gravity reading and note it somewhere. If it's too high, add water. If it's too low, you can add some LME/DME, steralize some by boiling in with water (about 2 parts water :1 Part Malt Extract), chill and add into your wort, -If you're not too bothered about it being a bit low - just move onto the next step and keep it in mind next time (maybe use less water). There's a few nifty calculators out there that will help you workout how much water/malt extract you'll need to add to get closer to your target original gravity, however if you're only starting off brewing - keep things simple and consider going with whatever reading you get first - it'll still make you a decent beer!!
12. Take Hydrometer Reading, Pitch yeast, seal fermenter, fix airlock and ferment
Once your wort is in the fermenter and you're happy with your original gravity, add your yeast to the wort and place the lid on right after that. If your fermenter is quite full and doesn't have a lot of space left on top, especially in carboys, you might want to consider using a "blow-off" tube - basically attach one end a long, wide food grade tube to the top of your fermenter (make sure it's sealed tight and the tube is sterilized) and the other end into a jug of water - effectively making a giant airlock. The initial fermentation stage can create a foamy head (krausen) which can clog up your usual airlock . Use this for the first 2-3 days then go to a normal airlock. On the other hand, if you have more room to play with in your fermenter, the usual airlock should be fine. Make sure your fermenter is sealed nice & tight otherwise your airlock might not bubble, which is what you'll want to see to make sure your beer is fermenting. Leave this to ferment for the time specified on your recipe (usually a week) and rack to a secondary if needs be.
Post Brew day
Some beer recipes will call for a dry hop addition as mentioned above, handy enough process. Probably best to rack the beer to a secondary for this or at least waiting a few days until the primary fermentation has run the majority of it's course. Measure up your hops up. You can use a muslin bag to put the hops into, just make sure you sanitize it in some boiling water for a few mins. You'll also need a decent weight to put in the bag - few large glass marbles or something along the lines should do the trick, they'll need to be sanitized also. Otherwise just put the hops into your secondary fermenter and rack your beer in on top of them.
A few more days in the Fermenter to condition and you'll be ready for bottling day! - Don't forget to tke another hydrometer reading before you bottle!