David Carter

My First Brew Day

A recollection and notes of my first time brewing beer.

My First Brew Day

July 3, 2017

There’s a little place in hell for people like those who run mega corporations like AB-InBev. I like my American underdog story so I choose to only drink fully independent craft beer. I’ve been doing this for a few years now so I decided it was time to try this myself. I rounded up all the supplies I needed from a local homebrew store and went to work this holiday weekend. I went with a recipe aimed at duplicating Bell’s Two-Hearted IPA since it’s readily available here, I drink it a lot (mainly because it’s one of the cheapest beers when it’s on sale), and I have something to compare my results with. I don’t expect it to taste similar, but hopefully it turns out to be drinkable. What follows is my next-day recollection of the process.

Cleaning and Sanitization

I got my carboy for free some years ago, but I didn’t know the purpose of it until recently so it just sat in storage outside. Figuring out what the hell it was actually sparked my interest in homebrewing. I cleaned it the best I could and then let some B-Brite mixture soak inside for about half an hour. All of my other supplies were brand new so I just rinsed them off with that B-Brite solution. This concluded my cleaning process. To sanitize everything, I filled up my bottling bucket with a Star-San solution and dunked all the supplies inside. Once all the small stuff was sanitized, I opened up the spigot and let that flow right into the carboy to sanitize that. I ended up with about an inch of bubbles at the bottom afterwards, but I read to not fear the foam. I also made a Star-San solution for a spray bottle, and that came in handy later!

Making Wort

The first thing the recipe called for was soaking 4.5 lbs of grains in 4.5 L of water at 152 degrees (Farenheit, of course, because America). I filled my brew kettle with 19 cups of water and brought it up to temp. I know 19 cups isn’t the exact equivalent but I wasn’t fretting over the missing 3 tablespoons of water. I added my grains bag, and the water level was just enough to submerge it once I stretched out the grain bag to lay a little flatter. The hardest part was maintaining the steeping temperature. I spaced out at one point and let it get way too hot (well, at least I think it may have been too hot). It got up to around 170 before I noticed so I turned the burner off and took the kettle off the burner and placed it on the concrete patio. This was about after 15 minutes of steeping so the last half hour was just on the patio cooling back down.

While the grains were steeping, the recipe called for 6 cups of water to be heated to 170. Once the grains were done steeping, I untied the bag (that was a bitch) and poured the heated water through the bag to sparge the grains. Then I let the bag drain and drip for a minute or two. Then, per the recipe, I topped off the brew kettle to 2.5 gallons before starting the boil.

Boiling the Wort

To get it to a boil, I turned the heat up significantly on the burner and reached the boiling point pretty quickly. I think it was less than 20 minutes. Right before it hit boiling, I got a layer of foam on top which dissipated as soon as hit boiling. At this point, I added my first bag of hops and started my 60 minute countdown. This immediately caused a boil-over so I turned the burner down very low and was fine for the rest of the boil.

Chilling the Wort

I don’t have access to a hose and my kitchen sink is pretty small so I opted for an ice bath to chill my wort. The recipe called to top off to 5.5 gallons after chilling, but I decided that pouring in the water would help cool it down so I did that while it chilled instead of after. I picked up one of those big Rubbermaid tubs from Target and started to fill it with cool water from the bathtub. While that was filling up, I placed my brew kettle in the water to get it to start chilling. There’s a Marsh grocery store just down the street from me going out of business, so I got three big bags of ice on the cheap and filled the tub with that too. It didn’t take long to cool the kettle after that so I ended up pulling it out at about 60 degrees. The recipe called for 70 so let’s see how that goes :/

Transferring to the Carboy

I probably didn’t areate the water enough, but I figured that roughly pouring 3 gallons of cool water mixed with pouring hardly into the carboy would be sufficient. At about 3 gallons of water, all the foam reached the top of the carboy so that gave me some pause. My carboy only holds 5 gallons, if that, so I poured until I the hit the roughly 4 gallon mark. I know I had to dump the remaining gallon, but I wanted to stick to the recipe as closely as possible.

Pitching the Yeast

So I totally forgot about the important step of chilling the wort and I ended up rehydrating the yeast too early. It was ready to pour when I finished my boil so it had to wait a half hour for me to chill the wort. I also probably didn’t stir gently enough when I mixed the yeast and cup of water. Go figure, I would fuck up probably the most important part. Any way, I pitched the yeast and plugged up the carboy with an airlock. Now I get to watch it for the next two weeks.

What I Would Do Differently

Next time, I’m going to buy a big, huge jug of water to use instead of endlessy filling my Brita jug. That got annoying real fuckin’ quick and slowed down my process just waiting for all the water to filter. I plan to use my 10 qt pot on the stove instead of my brew kettle on the outdoor propane burner to steep the grains. I’m just going to leave that for the boil. I’ll also just use a regular small pot to heat the 6 cups of water. I think the smaller pot for the grains will help submerge it better and I’ll hopefully be able to better maintain the temperature during steeping. Once I get the wort to a boil, I need to turn the heat down drastically. I’ll give it a few seconds to confirm it’s still at boiling and then start my countdown. This should help prevent any boilover from happening again. I couldn’t see my kettle’s thermometer when it was submerged in the ice bath so I’ll have to use a second thermometer from the top to better watch the temp. This should help my pull out game ;) Most importantly, I’ll wait until I start chilling before I even think about rehyrdating the yeast. Other than that, I think it went well, but we’ll see in a few weeks!