Homebrewing - Home Brewers Blog

West Coast Brewer Home Brewing Blog

Category: Home Brewing Methods

A collection of methods and techniques relating to home brewing.

What is Hot Break and Cold Break in Homebrewing?

Homebrewing Hot Break and Cold Break

Homebrewing Hot Break and Cold Break

 

Homebrewing Hot Break and Cold Break

In the process of home beer brewing, hot break & cold break are two important phases of the brewing process that can have a significant impact on your beer in a couple of different ways. For that reason it is important to understand and control the cold break and hot break properly if we want to brew the best homebrew that we can.

 

So what is hot break and why is it important for the hot break to occur? Hot break is basically the coagulation of proteins, oils and other solids during the wort boil. The proteins and solids that join together during the hot break phase of a boil can be partially responsible for chill haze in a finished beer if they are not properly cleared during the hot break, cold break or beer fining processes. During a boil the hot break occurs as soon as the boil begins. At that point the proteins begin to form foam at the top of your brew kettle. A few minutes after a rolling boil is achieved, these proteins begin to merge together and eventually their mass helps drags them towards the bottom of your kettle at flame out. I personally will use whirlfloc or Irish moss at the end of my boil to help drop out as much protein, excess hop matter and fine particles as possible, which helps reduce the likelihood and quantity of chill haze in my finished beer.

 

Home Brewing Cold Break

Home Brewing Cold Break

 

So now that we have hot break squared away, what is cold break? The two are actually very similar, the may different is that where hot break occurs as the wort is heated to a boil, the cold break process occurs as wort is rapidly chilled. Cold break is the precipitation of proteins, solids, oils and hop matter as the wort rapidly cooled. Much like the hot break, as the cold break occurs, these dense solids join together and begin to fall to the bottom of the kettle, leaving the wort clearer than it would be if a proper cold break does not take place. A cold break helps improve a beers clarity, head retention and even has an impact on the flavor of your beer. Having an efficient and effective wort chiller helps make it easy to achieve an effective cold break. If you use a plate chiller or counter flow wort chiller, you may want to consider pumping the wort back into your kettle with a whirlpool valve as opposed to directly into your fermenter so that you do not transfer the cold break solids and proteins into your fermenter where they will impact the outcome of your beer.

 

Whirlfloc is an inexpensive addition to your brewing process that can make a significant impact on your beer.  If you have not tried it, I highly recommend it.

Whirlfloc can be purchased here

 

If you are looking to improve your cold break process, I highly recommend a convoluted counterflow chiller which can be found here:

Counterflow Homebrewing Wort Chiller

 

If you have any questions or comments on hot break or cold break, just drop me a line. I will be adding a whirlpooling arm to my brew kettle here in a few days and will do my best to post some information on that process as well.

 

All Grain Home Brewing

All Grain Home Brewing

All Grain Home Brewing and Beer Making

 

I figured that I would give a simple break down on all grain home brewing for those of you who have been doing extract brewing for a while and are considering making the change but want some basic information on what you are in for before you do.

 

So what is the difference between extract brewing and all grain brewing?   With extract brewing, the home brewer bypasses the mashing process and instead uses either concentrated dried malt extract (DME) or liquid malt extract (LME) to brew his or her beer. This greatly lowers the complexity of the home brewing process since the brewer does not need to worry about water pH levels, mash conversion temperatures, water profile composition, sparging, lautering or things like tannin extraction problems.  Also, the extract home brewing takes far less time and equipment than all grain home brewing.  With all grain brewing, you do not utilize any forms of malt extracts and instead convert all of the sugars yourself from grain starches and adjuncts.  With all grain home brewing it is important to check your gravity readings throughout the brewing process to make sure that you are not extracting too much or two little sugar.  You are also in charge of the type of sugars that are created during the mashing process.  If your mash temperature is a few degrees to high your beer may come out very sweet, if it is a few degrees to low you may end up with a very dry beer.  Mastering all grain brewing is all about understanding the process, tailoring the process to the style of beer you are brewing and being as exact as possible.

 

So what equipment will you need to do all grain home brewing that you do not need for extract brewing?  Unless you are going to go the brew in a bag route, you are probably going to want 3 kettles and or combinations of 3 kettles \ coolers.  One will be your Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) which will allow you to quickly modify the temperature of your mash during the different steps of the starch conversion process.  The second is your Mash Tun which is where you will place your grains and convert the starches to sugars.  A mash tun typically uses a false bottom which allows the wort to pass through it during the lautering and mash out process but restricts the grain husks from being transferred to the boil kettle.  If you will be conducting a fly sparging process, which many home brewers do in order to boost your efficiency of extracting the sugars from your grains, you will also need to purchase a sparge arm.  Lastly you will need a boil kettle that has a sufficient volume for the quantity of wort that you will be boiling.  Aside from that, the equipment is very similar to what you would use during the extract home brewing process.

 

If you are looking for a ready-made all grain home brewing stand, brewing sculpture or home brewery; there are several options available here that range from cooler based setups to stainless steel home brewing racks!

Home Brewing Stands, Brewing Racks, Brew Sculptures and All Grain Starter Kits

Reusing beer yeast and how to harvest and clean your beer yeast.

Reusing and harvesting beer yeast

Reusing and harvesting beer yeast

While cleaning out your fermenter have you ever wondered if you could reuse the yeast that has collected on the bottom?  The answer is yes, you certainly can!  You can actually often reuses your yeast 4 or 5 times with out the likelihood of having any ill effects from mutations or high quantities of alternate yeast strains impacting the flavor of your beer.  Yeast isn’t cheap at around $7-$10 for a vial of the good stuff, so you might as well get your moneys worth!

 

Here are some basic things to consider when reusing your home brewing yeast.  

It is best to reuse the yeast as soon as possible.  You will probably want to consider discarding it after approximately 6 months.  If you are pitching the yeast more than 30 days after harvesting it from your fermenter, I would recommend creating a starter with it to help insure viability.

 

Only reuse your yeast 4-5 times.  Each time you reuse the yeast, mutations will occur and the probability of alternate yeast strains impacting the flavor of your beer will increase.

 

Do not reuse the yeast if the ABV of the beer that you harvested it from exceeds 6.5%.  High alcohol levels weaken and destroy your yeast.

 

Do not reuse yeast from a heavily hopped beer.  Like with alcohol, an over abundance of hops (from a dry hopped IPA for instance) will diminish the longevity and potency of your yeast.

 

Do your best to avoid harvesting the trub along with your yeast.  This is most easy accomplished via a conical fermenter. It is also possible transfer the yeast slurry and then rinse and decant your yeast with sanitized water to separate it from the trub.

 

Harvesting Beer Yeast

Harvesting Beer Yeast

 

Yeast should be stored at approximately 36 F in a sanitized vessel.  Keep in mind that even at that temperature the yeast may still be active and can create CO2.  So beware as your container may explode if too much fermentable sugar remained behind in your harvested yeast solution and the vessel is unable to vent the pressure.

 

If you are interested in purchasing a conical fermenter or yeast harvesting cylinder; many options can be found here:

Conical Fermenters and Yeast Harvesting

Bottling Your Home Brewed Beer

Bottling your home brew is one of those processes that most brewers dread because of the cleaning, sanitization, and boring repetition involved with it. I personally try to avoid it and instead keg my beer when ever possible or practical, but it is not always an option. When bottling beer, I do my best to make it as easy as possible.

 

I used to recycle old beer bottles, which involved several rounds of soaking and scrubbing to get the labels off. Since then, I have opted for large format 1 liter, ez cap/latch top bottles. What I like best about these bottles is that they hold approximately 32 oz of beer, so that means fewer bottles to clean, sanitize, and fill. Since they are latch top, it also means that I do not need to deal with the process of capping my bottles. If I give a bottle to a friend, I just make them promise to return the bottle clean to make my life a little easier when it comes to refilling.

 

If you are interested in these bottles, you can find them by clicking on the image located below:
EZ Cap bottles

 

As far as carbonating bottled beer goes, you have a couple of different options. I typically first carbonate my beer in the keg, and allow it to clear before bottling. This process allows for a cleaner tasting and clearer beer since the yeast has already dropped out and fermentation is not active in the bottle. Your other option is to create the CO2 for the carbonation process by allowing the beer to continue or complete the fermentation process while capped in the bottle.

The safest and most dependable method is to allow your beer to complete the fermentation process in the fermenter and then adding a calculated amount of sugar to the beer just prior to bottling so that the proper amount of carbonation can be achieved. It is critical that you do not add too much sugar, as it will produce excessive CO2 and that can cause the bottles to shatter.

I add the sugar directly to the bottle, but many people prefer premixing the sugar into the beer and then bottling. If you are going to premix the sugar with the beer, just be careful to mix the sugar in thoroughly without oxidizing your beer so that each bottle receives the same quantity of sugar. To make things easier, you can also purchase Fizz Drops, or pre-measured quantities of priming sugar to add directly to the bottle. Northern Brewer has them available here:

 

Northern Brewer Fizz Drops – Click the image for a link

 

Here are some general priming sugar amounts to use when bottling a typical American ale. Keep in mind that different styles of beer can call for different carbonation levels. Always make sure that your fermentation process has completed before adding additional sugar for carbonation or else you may risk over pressurizing the bottles:

 

5 gallons of beer =  4 oz of sugar

3 gallons of beer = 2.4 oz of sugar

1 gallon of beer = .8 oz of sugar

22 oz bottle = 1.5 tsp of sugar

12 oz bottle = 3/4 tsp of sugar

 

One last note: For great tasting beer, it is critical to clean the bottles and then sanitize them first. If any bacteria or residue remains in the bottle prior to filling them, you can ruin your beer with other flavors and funk!  Happy brewing.

 

Click here for general beer bottling supplies, including bottle fillers.

 

Home Made Beer Bottling:

Bottling Your Home Brew

Bottling Beer

 

 

 

 

 

Home Brewing Cleaners

Cleaning and sanitizing your home brewing equipment is perhaps the single most important step in the home brewing process. Without proper cleanliness, your home brew is almost certainly going to suffer off flavors caused by organic compounds, residues, bacteria or fungus. In today’s blog entry, I am going to review some of the popular home brewing cleaners that are available on the market.

 

There are two typical types of cleaners available to home brewers, oxygen based and alkali based. Perhaps the most popular alkali cleaner is PBW or Powdered Brewery Wash. PBW was originally developed for Coors Brewing Company, but is now widely used in many large commercial breweries. PBW should be diluted to 1 to 2 ounces per gallon of warm water for cleaning kettles and chillers, and approximately 3/4 ounces per gallon of warm water for all other equipment. If time permits, it is best to soak equipment for approximately 12 hours in PBW solution and then rinse. PBW is capable of dissolving most organic brewing compounds without the need for scrubbing and is safe to use on all standard brewing equipment, including stainless steel. Powdered Brewery Wash is my cleaner of choice.

 

The most widely used oxygen based home brewery cleaners are Easy Clean and One Step. The main advantage to these cleaners is that no rinsing is required, but they are not typically as effective as PBW at removing tough stains or cleaning hard to reach areas.

 

It is important to keep in mind that cleaning is only the first step in preparing your fermentation, racking, and bottling equipment. You must also sanitize your equipment to insure that it is free of bacteria or fungus that could compromise the taste of your beer.

 

The above mentioned cleaners can be purchased here.

 

Home Brewing Cleaners

Home Brewing Cleaners

 

 

How to Clean a Keg for Home Brewing

The following is a quick video on how to clean a 5 gallon Corny keg.

 

 

To clean a keg you will need the following items:

1) PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) or similar food grade cleaning agent

2) A scrubbing sponge or brush

3) A socket wrench or crescent wrench to move the body connects

4) Warm or hot water

5) A sanitizing agent such as Star San if you wish to sanitize the keg at the same time

 

Food grade cleaning and sanitization chemicals can be purchased here:

Home Brewing Cleaning and Sanitization Chemicals

 

10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Home Brewed Beer

10 Easy Ways To Improve Your Home Brewed Beer

West Coast Brewer Top 10 Easy Ways To Improve Your Home Brewed Beer

 

Top 10 Tips For Improving Home Brewed Beer

Home brewing is an fun but complex hobby, and home brewers are always on the lookout for ways to make their next batch of beer better than the last. The following is a list of the 10 easiest tips and methods for improving your home brewed beer.

 

1) Proper Cleaning And Sanitization
Probably the easiest way of improving the quality of your beer is to simply clean and sanitize your home brewing equipment properly. Cooled wort is extremely susceptible to contamination from bacteria and wild yeast strains. Anything that comes in contact with the wort once it has been cooled must be sanitized. Even small amounts of bacteria can quickly ruin the taste of your home brewed beer.

 

 

2) Use a Yeast Starter (or at Least Rehydrate Dried Yeast)
Many home brewers fall prey to under fermented home brewed beer, stalled fermentations, or off flavors caused by under pitching yeast or pitching nonviable yeast. A yeast starter is a great way of boosting your yeast cell count and of verifying the viability of a liquid yeast. If you are unable to create a yeast starter and are using dry yeast, at the very least you should rehydrate your dried yeast.

 

3) Aerate/Oxygenate Your Wort
Aerating and oxygenating your cooled wort is a fantastic method for improving the quality of your beer. Yeast requires oxygen to replicate quickly and once the airlock has been placed onto your fermenter, little to no new oxygen will be available for the yeast to consume.

 

4) Temperature Controlled Fermentation
Many home brewers who are first starting out take the importance of fermentation process for granted. During fermentation, billions of yeast cells are digesting malt sugars and converting them to nearly equal portions of carbon dioxide and alcohol. If the temperature of the fermentation is too high for your yeast strain, the fermentation may occur too rapidly and foul off flavors may be produced in your beer. If the temperature is too low, the yeast may not reproduce quickly enough and your beer may stall, be under fermented, or increase the possibility of a bacterial infection. So always pay attention to the temperature requirements of your yeast strain, and ferment your beer in a temperature controlled environment if possible.

 

 

5) Dechlorinate and Filter Your Water
Water is the primary ingredient in beer, and its importance should not be underestimated. Chlorine and contaminants can create significant off flavors in your finished beer. Carbon water filters are relatively inexpensive, and I highly advise that you pass your brewing water through one before using it during any part of the home brewing process.

 

 

6) Use Fresh Ingredients, Especially Hops
Home brewing ingredients, just like all other food ingredients, go bad and diminish in flavor and effectiveness over time. Whenever possible, always use the freshest available extracts, grains, yeasts, adjuncts, and hops when making your home brew. If you have spare ingredients, make sure that you store them properly for future use. Hops and yeasts should always be stored in the refrigerator.

 

 

7) Dry Hop Your Beer
Dry hopping is a simple and effective way of improving the aroma of a beer. Approximately 7 days prior to kegging or bottling your beer, simply add an appropriate amount of aroma hops to your fermenting beer to impart some fresh hopped aroma to it. Dry hopping is not acceptable for all beer styles, but can be a fantastic addition to IPAs and pale ales.

 

 

8) Do Not Rush Your Beer
It is easy to get excited about a beer and cut corners so that you can enjoy the beer more quickly. Unfortunately, cutting corners typically comes with a price. Beer takes time to brew, ferment, and condition. Do your best not to cut your boil short of 60 to 90 minutes, rush your fermentation by allowing the temperature to get too high, end fermentation early, or take shortcuts in bottle or keg conditioning.

 

 

9) Use Finings When Appropriate
A lot of things go into making a great home brewed beer. It is more then just taste. When appropriate, fining agents such as whirlfloc should be used to improve the clarity of your beer. Whirlfloc and other finings, such as Irish Moss, are very simple to use; you just drop a tablet in 15 minutes prior to the completion of your boil, and it will help precipitate excess proteins and tannins out of your wort, leaving you with a clearer and cleaner finished beer.

 

 

10) Do Not Oxidize Your Beer
Oxygen can quickly skunk the flavor of your home brew, and the only time when oxygen is a good thing is when you are aerating your wort prior to pitching your yeast. Even then you must be cautious not to aerate your wort if it has not been cooled to 80F or less, as you may risk causing hot side aeration. When racking or transferring your home brew, always be cautious not to splash or let the beer bubble up, introducing oxygen into it. If you keg your beer, it is a good idea to purge the head space of the keg with CO2 after filling the keg.

 

Those are the West Coast Brewer 10 Easy Ways of Improving Your Home Brewed Beer.

 

Many of the items mentioned above such as whirlfloc and Irish moss can be purchased here:

Home Brewing Equipment and Ingredients

 

You can also view home brewing deals here: HomeBrewingDeal.com

 

 

How to Rehydrate Yeast

Rehydrating dried yeast is a quick and easy way of improving your beer if you are not already making a yeast starter. In fact, most dried yeast manufactures recommend that you re-hydrate yeast before pitching it. The primary benefit of re-hydrating your yeast as opposed to just sprinkling it on to your cooled wort is that, in their dried state, yeast cells are dormant; re-hydration awakens the yeast cells and prepares them so that they can begin fermenting the wort more quickly.

Additionally, re-hydration has an optimal temperature range to produce the highest number of viable healthy yeast cells. This temperature range is approximately 95F – 100F. If the temperature is much lower then that, which wort typically is in order to diminish the potential of hot side aeration and oxidization, yeast viability is greatly diminished. That means that if you do not re-hydrate, you are pitching far fewer active yeast cells and opening the possibility of a slower fermentation, a stalled fermentation, and potentially, an under fermented finished beer. In my mind, such an easy process should not be bypassed when you consider all of the effort that goes into making a quality home brewed beer.

 

Here are the quick and easy steps involved in rehydrating yeast:

 

1) Bring one cup of chlorine free tap water to a boil.

 

2) Cool the sanitized water and container to 95F – 100F. Make sure that it is not hotter than that or you may risk killing the yeast.

 

3) Gently sprinkle the yeast on top of the water, doing your best to avoid the sides of the container. Place tin foil over the top of the container to prevent anything from entering and contaminating the yeast; you will want to keep the yeast solution as sanitary as possible. Do not stir or swirl the yeast at this point; instead let the yeast become saturated by the water for 20 minutes. Wrap the container in a towel to keep the container warm and shield it from sunlight.

 

4) After 20 minutes, thoroughly stir and swirl the solution until the yeast has properly mixed with the water. Let the mixture stand for another 15 minutes or so, mixing it occasionally.

 

That is it; at this point you are ready to add your rehydrated yeast into your cooled wort. That easy process is how to re-hydrate yeast! Good luck and happy brewing.

 

How to Rehydrate Yeast

How to Rehydrate Yeast

How to Rehydrate Yeast

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