f you’re a beer enthusiast, have you ever considered home brewing? Our home brewing expert, Jared Kovacs, shares all the information you need to know to start producing your own great beer. This month Jared provides you with a glossary of essential home brewing terminology to help you through your first brew day.
Over the last few months, we’ve been going through the essentials of home brewing. We’ve discussed the essential equipment needed, proper sanitation procedures, and ingredients (malt, hops and yeast). This month I’m going to introduce you to some basic home brewing terms that you'll need to understand before you attempt your first brew day.
Listen, if you think that wort is a thing that grows on the end of your granddad's big toe, then this post is for you.
I’ve touched briefly on this step of your brew day in my previous posts. It’s a crucial step to get right because there are a lot of important things going on during the mash. During this process, the malt starches are converted to fermentable sugars and enzymes are activated, which you need for fermentation. If we get this wrong there’s a whole host of problems that can occur, from stalled fermentation to developing off-flavours.
So what do we need to get right about the mash? If you recall my last article about yeast, you'll remember how important temperature is to yeast. It's the same with your mash. Too hot or too cold, and you won't produce the enzymes needed for proper fermentation.
The mash is where you steep pre-milled grains in temperature-controlled water for a specific amount of time.
It sounds complicated, but it’s simple. All you need to do is collect the proper amount of water, heat it to your infusion temperature, which is just above your strike temperature. Your strike temperature is the temperature you want to hold your mash at for an hour. Typically I heat my water up to 173°F to hopefully get to my strike temperature of 152°F. Remember, you lose a lot of heat pouring the water on top of colder grains, and so you must account for that.
Give the water and grains a good mix in your mash tun (converted water cooler) until the consistency is that of a loose porridge. Put a lid on it, set a timer for an hour and forget about it. Once the hour is up, drain the liquid, which is now called wort, into your pot and move onto the next step in your brew day.
The sparge, also known as lautering, is the step where you rinse your grains after you've completed the mashing process. Once you begin collecting the wort, you must rinse the grains with hot water. There’s a lot of sugar left on the grains after draining the initial liquid from the mash, and so it’s essential to rinse all those residual sugars off the grain.
For this process, you need to collect more water and heat it to your infusion temperature. I typically heat it to 179°F to get a strike temperature of 165°F. You then slowly pour this hot water overtop the grains and allow the water to flow through them and into your pot freely. This is a bit of a slow process, but well worth it.
Once you’ve collected all your wort from the mash and sparging process, you can now begin the most self-explanatory stage of the brewing process: the boil. Besides being the easiest to understand what you’re to do — you know, boil the liquid — the boil is also where you add your hop additions and other ingredients like Irish moss (it helps to clarify your beer). This process lasts for typically an hour.
Flameout (Cool Down)
The flameout step of the brew day maybe the easiest of them all: you turn off the heat. Yeah, I know, it sounds way cooler than that, but honestly, that’s it. Once you do that difficult task, you then try to cool the wort as fast as humanly possible.
When I first began to homebrew, I would fill my bathtub up with cold water and put my brew pot in to try to cool it. This would take hours to do, which was incredibly frustrating. I’ve since bought a wort chiller, and it’s cut my cooling time to 20 minutes. It isn't easy to cool five gallons of boiling liquid, so having anything that can help that process is indeed the best thing in the world.
This isn’t a big step of your brew day, but it’s a brewing term that, unless you know what it is, would leave you scratching your head. Racking simply means that you move your wort/beer from one vessel (brew pot) to another (fermenter). This best way to do this is to use an auto syphon and hose.
This ain’t baseball, it’s beer. To pitch yeast means merely to pour the yeast into the fermenter on top of your properly cooled beer (65 °F). Once this step is complete, it’s time to put the airlock on and hope the yeast does its job. Your brew day is officially done … well, unless you haven't cleaned as you go, in which case now you have to clean up everything!
Understanding these terms is essential to having a great brew day. Oh, and of course having a couple cold ones wouldn't hurt either.
- Home Brewing Essentials: Understanding Yeast
- Home Brewing Essentials: Cleaning and Sanitization
- Home Brewing: Make What You Love – Irish Red Ale
Home Brewing is written by Jared Kovacs. Jared comes from a long line of food and drink connoisseurs. His father was a chef, his grandparents owned a diner, his grandfather is a home brewer, and his great-great-great-grandfather was a brewmaster in Germany. He loves sharing good food, beer (especially home brews), and cider with friends and family. You can follow him at The Hesitant Chef or on social media at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.