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Shopping Online for The Top Christmas Toys 2011

Tue, 13 Dec 2011 16:11:56 GMT

If you are searching for the top Christmas toys 2011, then you know that just like most years, there is quite an array of toys to choose from. There are some classics toys, popular toys, and some high-tech ones as well. If you have kids, chances are you know some of the toys they want. But you still might have difficulty shopping for the top Christmas toys 2011. If you are buying for somebody else's kids, then the task might be very difficult.

You can search all over the net trying to hunt down the "Top Toys", "Most Popular", and award-winning toys, but then you would spend a lot of time just trying to figure out which toys make the best gifts. It also depends of you are shopping for boys, girls, toddlers or older kids.

There are many old favorites available this year. One toy that has been popular for many years are Legos. They are on several top Christmas toys 2011 lists this year for several different sets. Fisher Price is another well-known, respected name, and they have introduced several ride-on cars that look to be popular this holiday season.

Then you have some recognizable names such as the Let's Rock Elmo and Rock Star Mickey Mouse. These are just a couple examples of a type of toy that seems to be very popular this year--interactive. From dancing dolls, to lifelike puppies and something called Fijit Friends, up to the Leap pad Explorer, a learning tablet for kids. That's right, a computer designed for the younger crowd. And there are others just like it available. However, one thing parents can appreciate is the fact that many of these toys can be used for learning as well as fun. In many cases, they can do both at the same time.

Probably one of the coolest toys I have seen is something called Fortamajig. It is simple in design, a big square with loops attached so you can build a fort anywhere you want (indoors or out) that won't collapse. It's just like playing fort when you were a kid, only a little better.

There are several games, ranging from board games to video games to interactive electronic games. There are toy cars you can ride on, remote-controlled cars, battery-powered ride-ons, scooters, tricycles and even a bike that can have 2,3, or 4 wheels so that it grows with your child.

The list of the top Christmas toys 2011 is almost endless, and there are many possibilities to excite your kids on Christmas morning. It can be hard enough to find the top Christmas toys 2011, let alone research them and compare them. That's why I set up a website to help parents.

Research across the web uncovered many different resources for the top Christmas toys 2011, including one of the most important ones: parents. Find pictures, descriptions and links to actual reviews, as well as the ability to purchase without leaving the house. Plus, a free downloadable Shopping Guide of some of the top Christmas toys 2011.

You Can Make Decent Beer With A Mr Beer

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 02:16:45 GMT

For many of the people that enjoy beer brewing, this hobby has become an obsession. They have elaborate beer brewing equipment set ups and regularly brew either partial mash or all grain recipes. However, they had to start somewhere, and for many, it was a Mr. Beer brewing machine. Unfortunately, many beer brewing snobs look down on the Mr. Beer brewing machine. However, you have to start somewhere, and Mr. Beer is a great way to get into this hobby. You can make better beer using beer brewing equipment and more elaborate brewing methods. However, you can also make some good beers with a Mr. Beer, and many brewers continue beer brewing using it. These beer brewing machines offer convenience and simplicity, and for people that are short on time or space, it allows them to enjoy a hobby that they may not otherwise get to try.  Mr. Beer is also a great introduction to the world of beer brewing. It allows someone to get in cheap and see if this is a hobby that they will enjoy and stick with. If not, then you are not out too much money, and you don't have a lot of beer brewing equipment that you won't use lying around. If you get hooked into beer brewing, then you can take the plunge and buy more elaborate set ups. Either way, you can pass along your Mr. Beer to someone else and see if they enjoy beer brewing.  While Mr. Beer has its limitations, you can actually make some very good brews with it. Here are some suggestions on ways to improve your results using a Mr. Beer brewing machine. The first recommendation is using better ingredients than what first come with the kit. The starter ingredients aren't the best quality, and aren't designed to make great beer. Rather, the point is to make something drinkable and teach you the very basics of beer brewing. The website has refill mixes available at reasonable prices, and these are better products than the initial ingredients. However, to make even better beer, skip these refills and look for recipes for Mr. Beer. These are available at the website, as well as at many beer brewing forums. As opposed to using the booster that comes with the ingredient kits, try substituting un hopped extract. Using all extract (and no booster) for a batch of beer will produce better results. Additionally, one of the knocks on Mr. Beer is that many of the beers made result in a cidery taste. The booster has a lot to do with this result. Ignore the instructions to use table sugar. DO NOT use table sugar! You can make good beer, but not with table sugar. Instead, substitute corn sugar, also known as dextrose. You can find this at the LHBS or online. You could also get more malt extract, or use two cans of extract and skip the sugar altogether. Generally speaking, more malt makes better beer.  It seems much of the blame for negative reviews has more to do with the ingredients used as opposed to the Mr. Beer brewing machine itself. Remember the saying, quality in, quality out! Remember not to judge the Mr. Beer on the ingredients you get with it when you first purchase it. The first ingredient kit that comes with it will have pre hopped extract and the booster. Your first beer will hopefully be drinkable, but won't be a very good beer. Just keep in mind that you are first and foremost learning the process, so the first batch is the test run.  After that, purchase some un hopped extract to replace the booster. This combined with another can of malt (hopped or un hopped) can make some very tasty beers. Another tip is to join their club onthe website, this will allow you to order ingredients and avoid the costs of shipping. Other suggestions for improving your beers is to find a dark place to ferment your beer, such as a closet. A great place is to use a cooler, and this can help to maintain the proper temperature as well. The instructions included should also be taken with a grain of salt. Rather than following them to a t, it is better to follow good beer brewing advice. For instance, when it comes time to carbonate the beer, instead of adding s[...]

What To Do About A Stuck Fermentation

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 02:14:44 GMT

In the home brewing process, it is possible that during fermentation you might experience what is known as a stuck fermentation. This is when the fermentation stalls, and all of the available sugars have not yet been fully converted to CO2 and alcohol. You do not want to drink your beer at this point, as it is not yet ready. It is also dangerous to ignore this and continue on with the home brewing process, and attempt to bottle your beer. This can lead to a dangerous mess of bottle bombs. However, this happens from time to time, so there is no need to panic either. There are many reasons that stuck fermentations occur, so here is a look at what causes them, as well as what ways you can remedy a stuck fermentation. First, you have to make sure that you have a stuck fermentation. Do not rely only on visual cues, such as lack of activity in the airlock. The only sure fire way to know is to take a hydrometer reading. If your SG reading doesn't change over three consecutive days, and you are more than 5 points off of your target FG, then you have a stuck fermentation. One of the most important factors during fermentation is keeping your beer at a constant, proper temperature. The yeast you use will tell you what the optimum temperature range is for your beer. It is important that you keep your beer within this range at a steady temperature without fluctuations. If you fail to do that, then you have a different issue to remedy besides the stuck fermentation. In other words, if the temperature caused you to get stuck, then you need to fix that issue first before attempting to fix the stuck fermentation. One of the most important lessons for those new to home brewing is to remember to have patience. The fact that your beer is stuck does not mean that it is ruined. In fact, your beer can remain stuck until you figure out how to fix it, and your beer will not suffer any ill effects in the meantime. It is worse to panic and try to fix it without knowing the cause. You could end up doing something unnecessary or detrimental to your beer.  Keep in mind that you have many great resources available to help you solve this, or any other home brewing issue. You can ask local home brewers, visit the LHBS or go online to home brewing forums. Fortunately, there are several ways you can fix this issue. The first thing to try is to agitate the fermenter--shake or roll it some. You can also try stirring the wort, but use caution not to splash the beer and aerate it. However, a little stirring can rouse the yeast, suspend it and this might be sufficient to get the yeast to restart fermentation. It can also help to raise the temperature a few degrees, and agitate the beer as well over the course of a few days. Another idea is to add some yeast nutrient to the beer. Take 3 oz of corn or table sugar and add to some boilng water, as well as some yeast nutrient. Cool this mixture down to fermentation temperature and then add to your beer. Take care when pouring this in the beer so that you do not splash it. Hopefully this will be sufficient to jump start your beer. You can also pitch more yeast. You can simply add dry yeast to the beer, although it might be more effective to first rehydrate the yeast before pitching. An even better method is to use liquid yeast with a starter.  If none of these work, then there are more desperate measures, but these aren't the best options and should only be used if all else fails. Try adding champagne yeast. There is also something called amylase enzyme. Finally, you can try alpha galactosidase, also known by the brand name "Beano", but this will dry out your beer and could affect the final flavor.  If none of these work, then you might be better suited to simply let the beer age and see if time helps. Try to avoid at all costs dumping your beer--that should be the last resort. Often, the mistake new home brewers make is taking action. Sometimes nothing is the best thing you can do. Make sure to take care in how you store your[...]

When You Need To Give Your Wort Oxygen During Beer Brewing

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 02:12:48 GMT

As you research and learn about beer brewing, one of the most important lessons you will see repeated is to keep oxygen away from your beer. You do not want to expose your beer to possible contamination from airborne germs, bacteria and wild yeasts. However, at one point in the beer brewing process, not only do you want to introduce oxygen to your beer, but it is an important part of the process to do so.

After the boil, once your wort has cooled, you will need to oxygenate your beer just before pitching the yeast. Once you have completed the boil, it is critical to quickly cool your wort down to 80F degrees. Between 80F and 165F degrees is the "danger zone" that bacteria live and thrive in, so it is best that you do not stay in this temperature range for too long. Once you have the wort cooled to the proper temperature, then you need to re-introduce oxygen to it. Oxygen was boiled off, however, the yeast you will pitch needs oxygen in order to feed and start the process of fermentation. This is the only time in the beer brewing process that you will want to expose your beer to oxygen.

There are several ways you can do this, and it does not require you to purchase any additional or specialized equipment. There are some specialized pieces of equipment you can buy, but there are plenty of manual methods that work just as well, ones that many experienced home brewers use themselves. If you are extract brewing and are doing partial boils, then the top off water you add will take care of oxygenating your wort. The water will have oxygen in it, but you could also take a few of the steps described below and use them as well.

 For one, you could simply spray water from the hose on your kitchen sink for additional aerating (assuming your tap water doesn't have too much chlorine). You can use a large whisk or spoon. Just make sure that they are sanitized first. You can also use a paddle. Be sure to stir for several minutes, stir like crazy until your arm hurts.

When you pour your wort into the fermenter, pour from a high angle so that the wort splashes on the sides and gets agitated and aerated--do not pour like this at any other time by the way. You can also seal the fermenter and shake it vigorously, which has the added bonus of giving you a good workout.

Another method is pouring the wort through a sanitized strainer to aerate. If you have two plastic buckets for fermenters (or one plastic bucket fermenter and a bottling bucket) then you can pour the wort back and forth between the two. Some home brewers even attach long stirring rods to their power drill and use that to stir to save time and effort.

 If you want to make this task easier, some home brewers will attach vinyl tubing to an aquarium pump and pump air in this way to save trouble. You can also purchase aerating stones. However, chances are one of the manual methods will work just fine for aerating purposes. No matter how you aerate in your beer brewing, it is important to get oxygen in your beer so the yeast can do their job--make your wort into delicious home brew!

Initial Mistakes Made By New All Grain Brewers

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 02:11:07 GMT

Two common issues that new all grain brewers come across are low efficiency and missing (or failing to maintain) the proper mash temperature. These are certainly two key components, so here is quick look at common causes of these issues and what you can do to prevent them from happening for better home brewing. Efficiency can be tricky for someone just getting started in all grain home brewing, but it is important in order to produce better beer, as well as to get your money's worth from the grains you purchased. One common cause of poor efficiency is not using enough water in the mashing or sparging processes.   For mashing, you need to figure that you will need 1 to 1.25 quarts of water per pound of grain, and about 1/2 gallon of water per pound of grain for sparging. This may seem like a lot of water, and this will produce a lot of wort. However, in order to maximize efficiency, you will need to use the proper amount of water and boil down the wort until you reach the desired volume. It may mean that you have to boil over 10 gallons of wort down to 6 or 7 gallons or less. Needless to say, this will take time. Obviously, if you do not have a brew kettle capable of holding this volume, then you will have to compensate by using more grain. You still want to keep the mash volume of water the same ratio, but you must adjust the sparge to complete the desired volume. Your efficiency will be lower as a result. It is a dilemma for all grain brewers. You can try to produce the target kettle volume (less water) and spend a couple extra bucks on grains, or you can try to maximize your efficiency and spend extra hours of boil time (as well as extra propane). It is a choice that comes down to your preference, as there really isn't one right or wrong answer. If you are serious about making the jump into all grain home brewing, it wouldn't be a bad idea to invest an extra large brew kettle, one 12 gallons or larger, and a propane burner with extra BTUs. These will help you cut down on boil time and maximize efficiency. Another factor that gets overlooked in efficiency is the crush of the grains. Sometimes the grains you get online or at the home brewing supply store aren't crushed well enough. Many home brewers see a big jump in efficiency with a finer crush from their own mill at home. you can also ask the supplier to crush the grains finer. You can also buy a mill, or make your own adjustable two roller mill. This is one of many home brewing do it yourself projects out there, and by searching online at home brewing forums, you can find step by step instructions.  Or, simply use a rolling pin or meat mallet. It is another common mistake when it comes to proper mashing temperature. The right temperature will extract as much sugar as possible while leaving behind the tannins. Different types of beers require different temperatures for mashing. New brewers often experience trouble with maintaining the proper temperature during mashing as opposed to simply hitting it at the start. This can often be attributed to using a converted cooler as a mash tun. The coolers can actually lose heat over the course of a 60 or 90 minute mash, and drop the temperature below the desired mashing temperature.  You should not trust your cooler the first time you mash. It is a good idea to test it out first to see how it will perform. There are a couple ways you can remedy losing mash temperature. First, pre heat the mash tun by rinsing it out with hot or boiling water. This will pre heat the cooler, and drain this water just prior to adding your strike water. This will help prevent the cooler from pulling too much temperature from the strike water and mash. You could also adjust the temperature of the strike water by a few degrees and heat it to a higher strike temperature than your actual target. Pour it into the cooler and let the temperature drop until you hit the desired mashing temperature. This might take a little pr[...]

Home Brewing Process Of Sparging

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 02:09:10 GMT

In home brewing, sparging is a process of rinsing the grain bed to extract as much of the fermentable sugars from the grains as possible, while taking care not to extract the bittering tannins from the grain husks. Sparging is done to extract the maximum amount of colors and flavors from the grains, and to maximize efficiency. Sparging takes place after mashing has been completed, and the wort has been drained from the tun.

There are two primary methods of sparging, batch sparging and fly sparging. Both are done in the mash tun. The basic method of sparging involves heating up a separate pot of water, which is known as the sparge water, which is used to pour over the grains. The sparge water can be poured directly over the grain bag or over the grains themselves in a colander, or into the mash tun. In batch sparging, the water is added to the tun and the grains are allowed to settle before being drained. In fly sparging, the wort is drained slowly and sparge water is added to the tun at the same rate as runoff, so that the grain bed is constantly under water. 

Typically, 1.5 times as much water is used for sparging as for mashing. Temperature of the sparge water is very important. Sugars are more soluble at higher temperatures,  which means that at higher temperatures you can more easily extract more sugars. However, you do not want to exceed 170F, because tannins from the husks become more soluble. You do not want tannins in your beer, they impart a bitter, astringent flavor to your beer.

There are many other ways brewers accomplish flavor and sugar extraction. For instance, you can rest the grain bag in a pot after use and allow gravity to pull out the remaining liquids over the course of 10 to 30 minutes. There is also what is called a dunk sparge in which the grain bag gets dunked into a separate pot of water and allowed to soak for 10 to 30 minutes. Then, this water is added to your wort.

There is a debate amongst home brewers whether or not it is a good idea to squeeze your grain bag in order to get out all of the liquid and sugars. Some fear that doing so will extract tannins. For the most part, this is a myth, and you should be ok to squeeze out every last drop of goodness to maximize efficiency. This is just another aspect of home brewing that you can read up online and experiment with on your own to see what works best for you.


Partial Mash Beer Brewing Method

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 02:07:09 GMT

Partial mash beer brewing, also called mini mash, is the bridge between extract brewing and all grain brewing. Partial mash beer brewing is the next step beyond steeping grains. What makes partial mashing the next step past steeping and just short of full mashing are two things.

 It goes beyond steeping because you are adding mashable grains to the steep. If you add base malts and specialty grains together, you must mash them, you cannot (or don't want to at least) steep them together. Keep in mind, specialty grains are perfect for steeping because they have been mashed (the fermentable sugars have already been extracted). Base malts have not had their sugars extracted yet, and mashing is the process to accomplish this.

Partial mash is not all grain simply because you are still using malt extract. When you introduce base malts to steeping, you will need to make sure you adjust your process so that you will be mashing and not steeping. If not, the starches will not be converted to sugars, and this will affect your beer's clarity. You will also have wasted the fermentable sugars in your base malts, and that will lower your efficiency. Assuming that you adjust the process accordingly, and you mash instead of steep, you will have added fermentable sugars to your brew in addition to the added flavor and colors of the specialty malt(s).

 This will also give you a taste of all grain brewing, and the only difference is that with all grain, all of the fermentable sugars are obtained from the grains, none come from extract. With partial mash, you will get your fermentable sugars partially from the grains and the rest comes from the malt extract. Partial mashes are preferable to steeping simply because they open up more options as far as ingredients you can use, as well as recipes.

There are a wider variety of malts (and adjuncts) available which gives the home brewer more flexibility as far as types of beers one can brew, and also allows the brewer to have more control over the flavor profile of the final beer. Partial mash can also be more cost efficient by replacing some of the malt extract required.

 One other thing that makes partial mashing attractive to extract brewers is that it does not require any additional equipment to buy. You get more choices as far as available ingredients that can be used, and this opens up much more possibilities as far as recipes you can try, and styles of beer you can produce. Also, because you are using less malt extract, you can also reduce the costs of beer brewing. Although you still have to buy grains, you can purchase them in bulk to save money. Partial mash/mini mash also allows you to further explore the world of beer brewing, and it can help progress you towards the world of all grain beer brewing.

Sparging Water Considerations

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 02:05:41 GMT

In the world of home brewing, the next step in the progression from kit brewing is steeping with specialty grains. Many home brewing ingredient kits are available that include some specialty grains and bags, so making the step to steeping isn't that difficult. If you can brew tea, you can steep. Steeping grains allows you to introduce new flavors that might not be available with extract. The process of steeping is basically adding some grains in a bag to your brew kettle. You do not want to boil the grains, you just want to submerge them in warm water and let them steep. The exact same way that you would make tea.  This is done in home brewing because it will make better beer. It also gives the brewer more options when making beer. The proper water temperature for steeping is between 145F and 165F. You do not want to exceed 170F because anything higher and you run the risk of extracting the tannins from the grains, and these undesirable elements will add a bitterness and astringency to your beer. While tannins are good in wines, they are a major flaw in beer. If you accidently exceed 170F, there is no need to panic. Many experienced brewers have made this mistake and their beers still turned out ok. But do try to avoid this if you can. Just like many mistakes you will make, remember DWHAHB--Don't Worry, Have A Home Brew! There is some debate in home brewing circles as to whether the amount of water used for steeping matters. One thing to note is that we are talking about the water amount for steeping, and not mashing. In mashing, water temperature, water chemistry and time are all important factors. For steeping, these factors aren't quite as important (other than water temperature). You have to make sure that the grains you are steeping are specialty grains and not base malts. You can steep specialty grains and base malts together, but then that is mashing. If you do these together you must make sure you take the proper steps to ensure you are mashing.   Steeping specialty grains is done simply to add flavor and color to your beer. These grains have already been mashed, so they add no fermentable sugars to your wort. Mashing is done to base malts because they have not been mashed, they still contain fermentable sugars you want to extract. Mashing will extract them, steeping will not.  If you steep base malts, you will extract starches, not sugars, and this will negatively affect the flavor of your beer. Because steeping does not extract fermentable sugars, it is not mashing. Because of this, some brewers do not think that the amount of water used for steeping matters. Others swear that their beer tastes better by being careful as to how much water they use to steep. This is something, like so much in home brewing, in which you can experiment with to see what works best for you. Remember, always take careful notes when home brewing! For the brewers that feel less water is best when steeping, the rule of thumb is to use less than a gallon of water per pound of grain. According to John Palmer, author of "How To Brew": "Water chemistry also plays a role in tannin extraction. Steeping the heavily roasted malts in a low alkalinity water (i.e. low bicarbonate levels) will produce conditions that are too acidic, and harsh flavors will result. Likewise, steeping the lightest crystal malts in highly alkaline water could produce conditions that are too alkaline, and tannin extraction would be a problem again. For best results, the ratio of steeping water to grain should be less than one gallon per pound."[...]

Efficiency Important Factor Of All Grain Beer Brewing

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 02:03:59 GMT

Efficiency is a term you will see in beer brewing, especially when you start to get into all grain beer brewing. Efficiency is the measurement of how much sugar you got out of the grain. As someone new to beer brewing, you probably do not need to worry about efficiency just yet. This is something that is concerned in the world of all grain beer brewing. However, you will see it come up on beer brewing forums, and as you may one day decide to give all grain a try, here is a quick overview to help you better understand.

The efficiency expresses the ratio of the amount of sugars you actually obtain from the grains versus the theoretical maximum amount of sugars available. With extract brewing, you will get a consistent amount of sugars per pound of malt extract. A pound of Liquid Malt Extract in a gallon of water will produce 37 points of specific gravity, while a pound of Dry Malt Extract yields 45 points of specific gravity. Extract brewers are therefore not typically concerned with efficiency. This is more the concern for all grain beer brewing.

For mashing, there are many variables that affect the efficiency. Different types of malt yield various amounts of sugars. The brewers processes of mashing and sparging will also have an affect on efficiency. With some practice you can hone in your mashing and sparging processes and become more consistent and efficient. Over time, you will be able to predict how much sugar you can extract from the malt, provided that you know what your efficiency is.

Most home brewers will fall into the 60% to 80% range, some can actually exceed 80%. To determine efficiency requires some math, and a hydrometer. First, you have to determine what the theoretical maximum yield of your malt is. This is expressed in points per pound of malt per gallon of wort. Then divide that amount by the amount of wort you are brewing, which is expressed in specific gravity. Compare that number by the actual specific gravity to see the efficiency. Make sense?

Probably not at first reading, so here is an example to better illustrate it. Let's say the theoretical yield for a malt is 37 points per pound of malt, per gallon of wort. So, with perfect efficiency (100%), mashing 8 lbs of malt to produce 5 gallons of wort would give you (8 X 37)/5 which equals 59.2 points, which on a hydrometer is expressed as 1.059 (1.059 specific gravity). If the actual specific gravity of your wort is 1.041, then 41/59 gives you an efficiency of .69, or 69%.

This is a simple example using only one type of malt. In the real world of all grain beer brewing, recipes usually involve using multiple types of grains in differing amounts. But this formula remains the same, but you will have to adjust for the types of malts you are using and if you are not using full pounds of them. This will require conversions to decimals, such as a half pound of 38 point malt would be 38 X .5 = 19. You then add the total points of all the malts and still divide by the amount of wort you are brewing. Don't worry, there are online calculators to help you with this.

The Importance of Gravity Readings

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 02:01:56 GMT

Specific Gravity is an important measure for how to make beer. This measurement lets you know when your beer has completed fermentation, as well as how efficient fermentation was. You will be able to know how much of the available sugars were converted to alcohol. Gravity readings are taken using a hydrometer, which measures the density of liquids. A hydrometer floats higher the more dense a liquid is, and the reading of a liquid's density is expressed by the metric measurement called Specific Gravity.

Specific Gravity (SG) is the ratio of the density of a particular liquid in comparison to the density of water. Hydrometer readings taken just prior to fermentation are called Original Gravity (OG), and the targeted Specific Gravity of the beer is called the Final Gravity (FG).  These numbers vary and depend upon what strain of yeast was used, as well as the type of beer that is being brewed. From all of these numbers the home brewer can determine alcohol percentage as well as the efficiency of the brewing process.

You should take hydrometer readings towards the end of fermentation, as this is the only certain way to determine when fermentation has completed. Do not rely only on visual cues. If you have a few consecutive days of the same Specific Gravity, then fermentation has completed. Make sure that your SG readings are within 5 points of your targeted Final Gravity. If your Specific Gravity is off by more than that, this indicates you have a stuck fermentation, and there are certain steps you must take to get the fermentation going again so that it will complete the process.

When you take hydrometer readings, it is important to make sure that oxygen does not get into your beer. You want to be careful that you do not splash or agitate the beer. All equipment that you use to take the hydrometer reading must first be sanitized, and sanitizing your hands is a good idea as well.

 You can purchase a Wine Thief for taking samples for readings, or you could use a siphon that comes with most kits. Or, just use something that most people have lying around the house already--a turkey baster. Once you have drawn the sample, quickly reseal the fermenter to keep air out. Do not return the sample to the fermenter. You can either dump it, or taste it.

However, keep in mind that this is beer that is nowhere near ready yet, so do not panic if it doesn't taste too good. A quick way to determine what your final gravity should be is to take the Original Gravity before pitching the yeast. Take the number to the right of the decimal point and divide by 4.

For example, an OG of 1.060. Take 60 and divide by 4 = 15. Therefore, the Final Gravity should be 1.015.

In order to determine Alcohol By Volume (ABV), simply subtract the Final Gravity from the Original Gravity, and multiply by 131.

So, using the prior example, 1.060 - 1.015 = .045 X 131 = 5.9% ABV.

More information of how to make beer

The Basic Process Of Extract Beer Brewing, Pt 2

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:59:02 GMT

Read your kit instructions for adding yeast. More than likely it will be a dry yeast that needs to be rehydrated in warm water before pitching. Make sure that you take a hydrometer reading to determine your Original Gravity (OG). This is important to help you determine later in the process when the fermentation has completed. Make sure you seal the fermenter and insert the airlock or blow off tube.

At this point you sit back and wait, and let the yeast go to work turning your wort into beer. Your package of yeast should tell you what the ideal temperature range is for fermentation. It is critical that you keep the beer within this range at a steady, constant temperature.

The fermentation process takes about 10 days to complete, but the only definite way to know it is done is to check with your hydrometer. If you take readings on consecutive days and get the same reading, and that number is within 5 points of your target Final Gravity, then fermentation is complete. The instructions in your kit should give you your target FG.

You can then decide if you want to transfer your beer to a secondary fermenter, or just leave it in the primary for a couple more weeks. Fermentation does not actually happen in secondary fermentation. You only rack to a secondary once the process of fermentation has completed.

The secondary fermentation is done to clarify and condition your beer. Not all brewers secondary ferment, and for many types of beers, it isn't necessary. You can research online into this a little further to see why you would and would not want to secondary ferment. From there, you can decide what way works best for you. It doesn't hurt the beer to leave it in the primary for a few more weeks as opposed to racking to the secondary after fermentation is complete. In fact, it will actually make your beer better.

Many kit instructions will tell you that your beer only needs to ferment for a week, and then soon after it will be ready to drink. Ignore these instructions. Leaving your beer in the fermenter for 3-4 weeks, whether you secondary ferment or just leave it in the primary, will make much better beer. It may be tough to wait that long, but it will be worth it.

Once you have completed fermentation, you are now ready to bottle.

First, make sure that the bottles have been sanitized, as well as all the beer brewing equipment you will use for the bottling process--siphon, tubing, bottling wand, caps, and bottling bucket. Your kit may tell you to add sugar to each bottle, but a better way to do it is to take the total amount of sugar called for and thoroughly dissolve it in some boiling water. Let that mixture cool to 70F, and then add that to your bottling bucket. Then, rack your beer into the bottling bucket and take care not to let the beer splash. You can use a siphon to transfer the beer. Here is where it helps to have an auto siphon. If you do not have one, do not use your mouth to start a siphon because your mouth has bacteria and germs that can get into your beer.

Let your beer age in the bottles for a few weeks. You need to allow it time to carbonate fully. You could drink it sooner, but allowing your beer to fully prime and bottle condition a couple extra weeks will pay off with better beer. While you are waiting for your first batch of brew, make sure to clean and sanitize all of your beer brewing equipment and go ahead and start your next batch.

The Basic Process Of Extract Beer Brewing, Pt 1

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:56:37 GMT

Here is a two part look at the basic process of extract beer brewing. The most important thing in all beer brewing is making sure all of the equipment that will come into contact with your beer is sanitized first. It is not a bad idea to keep a spray bottle of sanitizer and water nearby, as often in the beer brewing process it is necessary to re-sanitize something. Alternatively, you could keep a bucket with sanitizer nearby as well. You could use a bottling bucket, or a secondary bucket that comes with many starter kits.


Next, you need to have your water ready. You can use tap water, or bottled water. If you use tap water, you want to make sure to boil it for 15 minutes to boil off the chlorine before using it for your beer.


Next, you will want to make sure you have all of your beer ingredients in place. If you are brewing with an ingredient kit, then you will only have a few items. Some more advanced kits will include specialty grains that come with mesh bags. If the grains haven't been crushed, you will need to crush them yourself before placing them in the bag and steeping them. You can use a rolling pin for this. Then, simply follow the kit instructions.

Bring your water to a boil, and remove from the stove. Stir in the malt extract and stir thoroughly so that the extract doesn't sink to the bottom and become scorched. Then put the pot back onto the heat for however long the instructions call for. Keep a watch on the pot to avoid messy boilovers. You may want to keep a spray bottle of water nearby to help prevent a boilover. Simply spray down the foam. One note--this spray bottle should only contain water, do not mix it up with the spray bottle of sanitized water!) During the boil, you can add hops accordingly. Bittering hops are added early in the boil and boiled the longest, while aromatic and flavoring hops are added closer to the end.

After you have completed the boil, you need to quickly cool your wort to below 80 degrees. This is easily done with an ice bath in the kitchen sink or bathtub. You can also buy an immersion chiller to speed up the process. Once the wort has cooled, you are ready to transfer it to the fermenter.

If you splash your wort during the transfer, this is ok to do. You do not want to splash or agitate your beer at any other time during the beer brewing process because this will allow air into your beer, and air contains germs, bacteria and wild yeasts, all of which will infect your beer.

However, at this point in the beer brewing process it is ok to allow in oxygen because your wort now needs oxygen for the yeast that you are about to add. Again, this is the only time you want to aerate your beer. Otherwise, keep air out!

Since you are extract brewing, then you will likely be doing what is called a partial boil. You will not be actually brewing 5 gallons of wort. This means you will be using top off water--adding water to the wort in the fermenter to make a full 5 gallon batch. The fact that you are using top off water means you do not have to take any additional steps to aerate the wort. The top off water will provide plenty of oxygen for the yeast.

Getting Fermentation Started

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:54:43 GMT

In beer brewing, the process of fermentation begins with the pitching of the yeast. Pitching is a fancy brew term that basically means adding the yeast to the cooled wort. Depending on what type of yeast you use, there may be some preliminary steps necessary to have the yeast ready to pitch. It is important that the wort has cooled to below 80F and has also been aerated before pitching. If it is too hot, it will kill the yeast, and the yeast need oxygen for feeding.

It is also highly recommended that you take a specific gravity reading prior to pitching the yeast. Those new to beer brewing will usually start with the dry yeast that is included with most kits. This can be added directly to the wort. There is also liquid yeast available; if you use this you must first make a starter for the yeast before pitching. For partial mash and all grain full boils, pitching requires a couple additional steps to happen before you can add the yeast.

First, you must strain off the boil of hot break materials, spent grains and hops. There are a couple ways to do this, and a mash/lauter tun helps to cool and strain the wort. 5 gallons or more of wort takes some time to cool, and this leaves the wort at risk of oxygen and contaminates. You need to cool your wort quickly, as you do not want to leave it in the danger temperature range (about 80F to 165F) for infection and bacteria.

Once you have your wort cooled and in the fermenter, you will need to aerate the wort. This may sound contradictory. Up until now you have been told that oxygen is bad for your beer. Now, you are being told to add oxygen. However, at this point it is not only ok to let oxygen into your wort, it is necessary. Introduce oxygen too early to your wort and you risk contamination. But after the boil, it is necessary that you re-introduce oxygen because your yaest will need it. During the boil, oxygen was boiled off.

Once you have aerated, then pitch the yeast and then seal up the fermenter. So, what are effective ways to aerate? There are many options. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this that does not require any specialized equipment. You may decide to buy something for this, and there are many do it yourself options as well, but there are plenty of manual methods that work just fine.

 If you are doing a partial boil, you will aerate the wort simply by the addition of top off water. This water will already have oxygen in it. When you pour the wort in the fermenter, allow it to splash, this will agitate it and oxidize it. After racking the wort and sealing it, you can shake the fermenter vigorously for a few minutes. You can also use a large spoon or paddle to stir the wort continuously. Each of these methods may not be enough, so you can try them together to make sure.

Your LHBS will have aeration kits for sale, or you can find them online. Some brewers will connect some tubing to an aquarium pump and use that to blow air into the wort. Search You Tube and you can find videos of people that added a sanitized stirring rod to an electric drill for and easy and quick aerator.

Beyond Extract Home Brewing: Steeping, Partial Mash and Full Mashing

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:53:08 GMT

So, what exactly are steeping, partial mash and mashing? All are steps in the process of home brewing that lead up to all grain home brewing. It is important to note that although each style is a progressive step leading to all grain, all grain home brewing isn't the ultimate goal for all home brewers. While many brewers get deep into this hobby and work towards eventually brew the all grain way, many brewers are happy to stop at some point along the way and continue to brew in that way.

 Some never make it to all grain home brewing, and have no interest in trying it. This is completely fine, and that is what home brewing is all about. Find what way to make beer works best for you and stick with it. You may decide at some point to try something new, or you may just be happy to continue doing what works for you. Each progressive step allows the home brewer to have more control over the final flavor of their beer.

Steeping grains allows you to add flavors that you won't get with extract. Partial mashing, also known as mini mashing, allows you to introduce base malt from grains, and mashing is all grain home brewing. Each step offers more ingredients to choose from, and new variables to your beer recipe. It is very similar to cooking. In cooking you can learn about new ingredients and spices which will allow you to create a wider variety of dishes.

 Here is a simplistic look at the home brewing spectrum. Most brewers start out with a kit, which is extract brewing. They get hooked, but want to expand their options in order to have more control over the final product. The next step would be to add steeped specialty grains to the mix. After that, the next step would be to partial mash, in which you replace some of the malt extract with the base grain. Finally, there is all grain home brewing in which you brew completely from grains and use no malt extract.

Again, it is a personal decision if you want to try all of these methods, a couple of them, or just stick with one. You don't necessarily have to start with extract brewing, but it is a good idea to get a few batches under your belt so you better understand the basic process of home brewing before trying all grain. Plus, all grain requires additional equipment and steps. No matter what way you want to go, don't be afraid to experiment and try new methods of home brewing. The best part is that along your journay you will get to enjoy some great beer!

A Look At Hops In Beer Brewing

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:51:19 GMT

Hops are used in beer brewing for a variety of reasons. Hops are dried flowers that flavor beer and are also utilized for their ability to act as a preservative. Prior to hops, brewers used a variety of flowers and herbs, but once it was discovered that beer made with hops were less prone to spoiling, the herbs and flowers were abandoned in favor of hops. In addition to the preservative nature of hops, hops are used in beer brewing because they add bitterness, flavor and aroma. The bitterness of hops helps balance the sweetness of the malt. As is the case with grapes, where hops are grown affects the characteristics of the hops. How much of each quality hops contribute to the beer depends on how long the hop is in the boil, as well as which variety of hops is used.  Hops are classified as either bittering hops or aroma hops. The contributing ingredients in hops are the oils and resins. The oils are what contribute aroma and flavor, and the resins contribute bitterness. The resins contain alpha and or beta acids, which impart the bitterness. The oils boil off faster, the resins take longer. The more time the hops spend in the brewing kettle, the more bitterness they will contribute. But, they will give less aroma and flavor. In general terms, bittering hops will need to be boiled for at least 15 minutes, and usually longer--up to an hour and even longer than that. On the other hand, flavoring hops are boiled for no more than 15 minutes, and aromatic hops for no more than 5 minutes. You can also opt to add aromatic hops after the boil in the fermenter, a common practice that is known as "dry hopping". The amount of bitterness within a hop is measured in IBUs (International Bitterness Units) which basically measures the amount of alpha acid in a hop variety. The preservative quality in hops also affected the development of certain beer styles. For instance, India Pale Ale as well as many other styles of beer that was intended for export had higher hop bitterness to help preserve the beer during transport. These beer styles often had higher alcohol levels to balance the beers flavor.  For the longest time hops have been produced in Europe. However, today hops are grown worldwide. The variety of hops are named for the specific city or region in which they were first grown. Some well known varieties include Hallertau from Germany, Williamette Valley and Yakima Valley form Washington State and Oregon, and Kent and Worcestershire from England. Germany still has more hop growing area than any other country. Four varieties of hops are classified as The Noble Hops: Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt and Saaz. These varieties contain a large amount of hop oil, and very little alpha or beta acids. This means that they are aromatic hops that impart little bitterness. These hops provide the characterisitic aroma and flavor of classic European lager beer styles that include Pilsener, Dunkel, and Oktoberfest. Hops for home brewing come in a variety of different styles. You can buy them in 3 different kinds of forms. First, there are whole, dried hops, which is the preferred type for dry hopping. Second, there are hops pellets, which are compressed into pellet shape. These have a better shelf life and also absorb less wort than whole hops. Finally, there are hop plugs, which are also compressed hops into standard sizes and weights. Hops are native to most parts of the world and are easy to grow. Many home brewers decide to grow their own hops for their beer brewing. It is important to remember that hops are perishable, so any extra hops you do not use immediately for beer brewing should be refrigerated.[...]

After Fermentation: Carbonation and Bottling

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:49:37 GMT

One of the most exciting moments in the beer brewing process is when your beer has completed fermentation. At this point, it's ready to drink right? Actually, at this point you still have a ways to go, so you need to resist temptation to drink it. Besides, it isn't ready yet and probably won't taste good anyway. At this point, your beer is flat. You must first carbonate and bottle it, then let it bottle age and fully carbonate. Once you have done this, then you can enjoy some of your hard work.

The carbonation part of the beer brewing process is rather easy. Bottling can be a little tricky, but here is a quick run through the after fermentation part of the beer brewing process. If you are brewing with a kit, it probably came with some priming sugar. If not, you will need to purchase some separately. Do not substitute table sugar for this.

The instructions that came with the kit may instruct you to add sugar to each bottle individually, but there is a better way to do this. Instead, calculate the total amount of sugar required in the entire recipe, and dissolve that into a quart of water and boil. Make sure the sugar gets completely dissolved. Then, let the mixture cool to 70F, and add it to your bottling bucket before you rack your beer into it. This is known as Bulk Priming.

It is important to also remember that before you add anything to the bottling bucket that all equipment, including the bucket be sanitized first. When it comes to the actual bottling, you will need a bottling bucket, siphon tubing, a racking cane, a bottling wand, bottles (at least 50 12 oz bottles), bottle caps and a capper. You don't necessarily need all of these items to bottle, such as the auto siphon or the wand, but these additional items make the process much easier.

Once you add the sugar water to the bottling bucket, then carefully add your beer from the fermenter. Be careful that you do not splash or agitate the beer, this will introduce oxygen and possibly contaminate your beer. Attach some tubing to the spigot, and attach the bottling wand to the end of the tubing. Then, simply press down on the wand onto the bottom of the bottle and fill.

 As an advantage, the bottle wand will leave the perfect amount of headspace in your beer due to displacement. By pressing the tip to the bottom of the bottle you also avoid splashing and aeration. The wand makes the process easier because you control the flow of beer--you can turn the flow on and off simply by pressing and releasing the wand.

If you are filling bottles without a wand, you will still want to make sure you are leaving enough headspace in the bottle. Failing to do so can lead to bottle bombs. You are creating CO2 (carbonation) and that pressure has to have somewhere to go if you do not leave some space. Then, simply cap each bottle and store in a cool dark place. Ideally, you will want to store your beer at temperatures between 65F and 75F degrees.

It will take about 3 weeks for your beer to become fully carbonated. Make sure to keep your beer away from light, and keep the temperature at a constant. Once it is fully carbonated, the beer is finally ready to put in the fridge and enjoy.

Just How Long Should You Leave Your Beer In The Primary?

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:47:44 GMT

When you are first learning how to make beer, you will see information about primary fermentation and secondary fermentation. It is common for new brewers to wonder just how long it takes to ferment beer. The answer can vary, and there really isn't one right answer. Many factors influence this, and it comes down to whether you will secondary ferment or not. First of all, secondary fermentation is actually not fermentation. You do not rack your beer to secondary until after it has completed the fermentation process in the primary. The secondary fermentation is done to clarify and condition the beer, and no actual fermentation takes place. The clarification and conditioning can also be done in the primary fermenter as well. Sound a little confusing? One reason those just starting to learn how to make beer get confused is because of experiences with kit brewing. Often, these instructions will tell you that your beer will be done fermenting in a week. Although this is possible, this isn't always true. It is also possible that fermentation is not complete, which can lead to bottle bombs. Or worse, you can experience what is known as a stuck fermentation, in which fermentation stops mid way through and does not complete. This will lead to bad tasting beer. The key to remember when learning how to make beer is that allowing your beer time to age makes for better beer. It is important to let your beer completely ferment before moving on to the next stage. The simple answer for how long fermentation takes is about 10 days.  The time it takes depends on the lag time--how long it takes fermentation to start after the yeast has been pitched. This varies and depends on the type of yeast used, and the condition and age of the yeast. Lag times can be as short as an hour or two, and on up to 72 hours. As you are learning how to make beer, you will likely read many varying opinions on how long to ferment in the primary. Just because fermentation completes in 7-10 days does not mean your beer is ready to drink. Chances are, it isn't ready to do anything with just yet. Remember, beer likes time. Another common mistake among new brewers is not allowing the beer enough time to age in the bottle.  You don't want to drink a beer right after bottling it, or within the first couple weeks of bottling because it is not yet carbonated. Some kits may tell you that your beer is ready to drink after a week in the bottle, but you are better off waiting a couple weeks, as your beer will taste much better. Then there is the issue of whether or not to secondary ferment. Many home brewers skip this altogether, and instead keep the beer in the primary for a few additional weeks. The secondary clarifies and conditions the beer, but you can also accomplish this in the primary by leaving it in there for a couple additional weeks. This keeps you from having to rack the beer to the secondary and exposing it to the air, which increases the risk potential for contamination. So why then would you secondary ferment? If you are brewing a lighter colored beer, then the secondary might be better to help with the clarity. If you were to add fruit to your beer, then you will want to do this in the secondary, not the primary. Also, if all you have is a bucket and a carboy, then racking to the second will free up the bucket to brew another batch. This way you will constantly have home brew on hand. On the flip side, you could just purchase an additional fermenter to make this happen.  As far as how long to leave the beer in the primary of you do not secondary, opinions differ. The easy answer is not to bottle right afte[...]

Choosing A Filter For Your Mash Tun

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:45:13 GMT

A common do it yourself project in home brewing is converting a cooler into a mash tun. When building a mash tun, there are several options available to use for the filtration system. It will likely come down to personal preference, but it will also depend upon what type of sparging you use. The basic options are a mesh filter, also known as a bazooka filter, a manifold, or a false bottom.

If you will fly sparge, then you will want to use a false bottom. The bazooka filter is simply a piece of water supply line, such as a toilet supply line hose that comes with a stainless steel mesh cover. Carefully remove the outer mesh cover from the inner vinyl hose, and discard the hose. You then connect the mesh cover to the spigot with clamps, and this acts as a filter for the wort. The wort passes through the mesh, but the debris from the grain gets left behind.

This is probably the most popular design for home made mash tuns in the home brewing world. Alternatively, some brewers choose to build a manifold using pipes made from copper or CVPC. The pipes are connected in a square or rectangle, or as arms branching off. This manifold attaches to the spigot. Tiny holes or slits are drilled or cut into the pipes to act as filters. If you choose to use a manifold system, be sure you don't glue the pieces together. You will want to be able to take the apparatus apart after each use to clean and sanitize.

False bottoms are another option, and are usually the choice if you will fly sparge. With fly sparging, you are constantly pouring water back over the grain bed. You want to avoid channeling, in which the water pours too heavily in certain parts of the grain bed, creating channels. This only rinses parts of the grain bed, while leaving other parts unrinsed. A false bottom prevents this, and allows the wort to flow evenly through the grain bed to ensure all the grains get thoroughly rinsed and the sugars are fully extracted.

Another option is one that is closely tied into the BIAB home brewing method in which no filter system is used. Instead, you use a standard cooler that hasn't been converted. You place a grain bag into the cooler, strecthing the bag over the sides of the cooler. Then, pour the water over the grains just like you would for a batch sparge.

This accomplishes the same result as a batch sparge, but doesn't require a converted cooler. This may be an option if you are new to the world of all grain home brewing, but converting a cooler will probably be worth the effort as it would increase the efficiency. Plus, this step is more for sparging. You wouldn't be able to mash in an unconverted cooler, but if you want to try the BIAB method before jumping in and converting a cooler, you could try this.

Choosing The Right Mash Tun For Home Brewing

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:43:29 GMT

The mash tun is a vessel in which hot water is mixed with the grains in order to extract the sugars from the grains. This process is called mashing in home brewing. The grains then get lautered, or rinsed, with additional water to maximize the amount of sugars extracted. All of this is done to increase the efficiency and make better beer.  In commercial breweries, the mash tun and lauter tun are two separate pieces of equipment. For home brewing purposes, they are combined into one piece of equipment. The mash tun is typically a converted cooler. You can buy a mash/lauter tun, but this is one of the most common do it yourself projects in home brewing. Check out the home brewing forums on the net, and you can also Google and You Tube to find step by step instructions and videos showing you how to convert a cooler into a mash tun. This project isn't that hard, and it is also cheap. There are many options as far as what cooler you want to use, as well as how to set it up. Chances are, you have an old cooler around the house already. Make sure to some research on recommendations of other home brewers to ensure you choose the right cooler. The debates are endless as far as what is the best cooler to use for a tun. Different factors apply such as size, shape, and what type of strainer/filter you will use. What type of sparging you will do is also important. Cooler isn't so important to batch sparging, but for fly sparging you will probably want a round cooler. For folks just getting started with all grain home brewing. the common question is how big does the mash tun have to be? This will depend on your batch size, efficiency and desired OG. These all work in conjunction to determine how much grain will be needed for the batch, as well as the amount of water to be used for mashing and sparging. The cooler will need to be big enough to hold all of this. A basic way to calculate for mash tun size needed in quarts is (at 80% efficiency): (Desired OG X Batch Size)/17 = mash tun size. For example, 1.085 X 15 gallons is (85 X 15)/17=75 quart tun. You may want to think ahead when purchasing a cooler to convert. Chances are you will start with 5 gallon batches, but at some point you may decide to try brewing a 10 gallon batch. In order to do this, your mash tun must be big enough to hold all that water and grains. You can start with a cooler big enough to handle the larger batches now, and still use it for the smaller batches until you are ready to make the jump to the bigger batches. This way, you won't outgrow your tun. Plus, it will also allow you to make higher gravity beers, which require larger grain bills. Don't bother with a 5 gallon cooler because it is too small and will limit the beers you can make. If you never plan on making anything larger than a 5 gallon batch, or making higher gravity beers, then you can opt for one, but then you will limit yourself. The design of the tun is dependent upon the type of sparging you will do. For batch sparging, tun design doesn't really factor in. It is more important in fly sparging. Most brewers new to all grain home brewing will try batch sparging because it is quicker and easier. Plus, many people convert coolers they already have, which typically will be a rectangular cooler. Be sure to research both methods first, to see which one might be your preferred method.  For most brewers, they simply modify a rectangular cooler and batch sparge. With just a few items from your local hardware store, you can make your own mash tun for dirt cheap. Some parts needed include a ball valve, wat[...]

Sparging Techniques In Home Brewing

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:41:32 GMT

Sparging is a process within home brewing of heating separate water to pour over the grains (after mashing is complete) in order to rinse additional sugars from them. This water is known as sparge water, and this process is done to increase efficiency.                                                                                            There are two basic types of sparging done in home brewing: batch sparging and fly sparging. Batch sparging involves repeated rinses of the grains in the mash tun. Traditional batch sparging consisted of adding sparge water to the drained tun, and allowing the grains to settle. Then, the water was drained off. This drain was known as the First Running. This process of soaking the grains and draining was repeated a few more times. The first running was used to make a batch of barley wine. The Second Running was used to brew the batch of beer. The remaining runnings were used to make smaller beers. In today's home brewing, all of  the runnings are combined to make one batch of beer. The sparge water is used for the rinse, using half of it for the first running and the rest for the last running. Fly sparging differs in the fact that as the wort is drained from the tun, water is added back to the tun at the same rate as the runoff. You want to continuously keep the grain bed submerged in water. It is important in fly sparging to drain the wort as slowly as possible. This will help extract as much sugars from the grains as possible and prevent the grain bed from becoming compacted, which will prevent the runoff and is known as a stuck sparge. You must also be careful to prevent channeling, which happens when the water hits only a couple places in the grain bed  and drills down to create channels. This results in only some of the grains getting thoroughly rinsed, while other parts of the grain bed do not get rinsed. Because the grains are getting diluted with the sparge water, it is important to keep an eye on the pH of the runoff. If the pH is too high, you risk of extracting tannins from the grains, and that wull result in an undesireable bitterness in your beer. It may be necessary in fly sparging to acidify the sparge water to counteract the high pH. The fly sparging runoff can take an hour or more to complete. For batch sparging, the runoff is done as quickly as possible. It isn't required, but it is better to do it that way. Because you are continuously diluting the grains in batch sparging, you do not have to be concerned with the pH. With batch sparging, the design of your lautering system does not matter as much as it does for fly sparging because you do not have concerns with channeling.  Either way you sparge, the sparge takes place after a process known as vorlauf. This is a process to clarify the wort. A portion of the wort (1 to 2 liters) is drawn out of the tun after mashing and then gently poured back into the tun, making sure that the grain bed does not get disturbed. Basically, the grain bed acts as a filter to help clarity. Once the wort runs mostly clear, vorlauf is complete and you can then[...]

Improving Your Beer Brewing Efficiency

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:39:44 GMT

The obvious point of beer brewing is to make good beer. A key component of that goal is to get good efficiency when you brew. The better your efficiency, the better the beer you make. Efficiency is the amount of sugars you extract from the grains. It is important to note that you will not get 100% efficiency because this would mean that you not only extracted all of the sugars, but that you will have also extracted undesirable tannins. In home beer brewing, anything over 75% efficiency is good, and most home brewers shoot for efficiencies in the 75% to 90% range. Not only does better efficiency improve the quality of your beer, but you will also maximize the money spent on the grains. There are several factors that influence efficiency, here is a quick look at them. First, the crush of the grain is important. You can buy the grains crushed, by having your LHBS crush them when you purchase them, or, if bought online, having them crushed prior to shipping. Some brewers opt to purchase or make their own grain mill in order to crush at home an additional time before using, You can ask your grain provider to crush them an additional time, or at a finer crush, although they could charge for this. If the grains aren't crushed enough, then you won't get the full conversion of starch to sugar in the mash or the sparge, which will leave behind valuable sugars and hurt your efficiency. You can lose efficiency when mashing as well, and this is often attributed to the crush. Keep in mind you do not want to crush the grains too fine, as this can lead to a stuck sparge. Speaking of sparging, you can lose efficiency in this step as well. Generally speaking, batch sparging is not as efficient as fly sparging. Home brewers choose to batch sparge because it is quicker, easier and doesn't depend upon the mash/lauter tun design. With a little practice and research, you can still get great efficiency using batch sparging, so do not outright dismiss it as being inferior to fly sparging. Whichever process you choose, if you perfect your technique, you can accomplish good efficiencies. The design of your tun also affects efficiency. The design is more important to fly sparging, so it is possible that you use the wrong equipment for the chosen technique. It is important to avoid dead space in your tun, places where the wort can become trapped. The design factors that can impact efficiency are the shape of the tun, the size, the thermal capacity, as well as whether you use a false bottom, mesh screen or manifold. The temperature you sparge at also is key. Sugars are more soluble at higher temperatures. Think of honey--if you heat it up, it becomes easier to pour. That's because you are making the sugars more soluble. Temperatures of 165F to 170F are ideal to maximize the extraction of sugars. However, you do not want to exceed 170F because then you will start to extract tannins. The amount of water used for sparging is also important. More water will extract more sugars, but then you could dilute the wort too much, which will decrease your efficiency. Finally, target gravity of the beer also plays a factor. As the target gravity increases, so does the ratio of sparge water needed. This will result in a drop of efficiency. However, as you gain experience and get better at the process of beer brewing, you will be able to better predict this and account for it.[...]

Enhancing The BIAB Beer Brewing Process

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:36:33 GMT

Now that you know more about the basic Brew In A Bag beer brewing process, there are many ways you can enhance the process in an effort to increase efficiency. If you have tried the BIAB brewing process and managed to hit pretty good efficiency, then these suggestions may not be worth trying, which is the whole point of BIAB beer brewing: simplicity. However, it can be fun to experiment in beer brewing, so here are a couple ways that might just improve your beer.  One of the first things you can try is to get a better crush on your grains. You can ask your home brew shop or online supplier to double crush the grains when you purchase them. You could also purchase or make your own grain mill and take care of this at home. Making a grain mill is yet another beer brewing do it yourself project, and you can find many detailed examples online at beer brewing forums. A finer crush of the grains means you will get better efficiency. Plus, since you aren't sparging, you needn't worry about the finer grains clogging up your filter or manifold and causing a stuck sparge. The grain bag you use should be a fine mesh to ensure the grains don't slip through into your wort. If this happens, you can always use the bag as a filter by covering your drain tube with it and passing the wort through the bag. You can also add the step of sparging back into the equation. You can do a full batch or fly sparge if you want to, but you can also do a simplified sparge known as dunk sparging that is common to BIAB brewing. Simply place the bag into a pot of sparge water (heated to no more than 170F) and let the grains soak for 10 minutes. Then, add the sparge water to the kettle. You could also place the grain bag in your bottling bucket and pour the sparge water over the grains to rinse. This makes pouring the water back into the kettle a little easier via the pour spout. Some who BIAB decide to mash in a tun. They use a converted cooler that they already had, but you may decide to go ahead and convert a cooler for this purpose. If you decide to try traditional all grain home brewing at some point, you will need a tun anyway. This allows you to mash a larger grain bill, and can provide a better mash that results in higher efficeincy. This isn't too big of an additional step, plus it won't take up too much additional space, so it just might be worth trying.  Of course, if you add this step, you aren't too far off from traditional all grain beer brewing, especially if you add in the sparge step. You are getting a little further away from true BIAB brewing, but that's what makes beer brewing so much fun. You can add many different variables to the equation in an attempt to make better beer. One other thing some BIAB brewers do is build a pulley with a hook so that they can suspend their grain bag over the brew kettle after mashing to make sure they get every last drop of goodness from the grains. This makes draining a 10, 15, 20 pound or heavier grain bag much easier, especially considering that they will suspend it for 10 minutes or more. Of course, this is more so for larger grain bills that come with bigger beers and bigger batches, and is more likely to be needed by someone who has the capability of brewing outside.[...]

BIAB Brewing Advantages

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:31:29 GMT

After you have done some research about how to make beer using the BIAB brewing method, the advantages should be pretty clear. Here is a quick look at the pros and cons of BIAB brewing. First, it is a great way of how to make beer with the all grain brewing method. It is especially advantageous if you live in an apartment and have limited space. It doesn't require you to buy any additional equipment, unlike all grain brewing. Of course, you do have to purchase a grain bag, but that is a minimal expense. You can make the bag yourself, or look for one online or at a local hardware store (paint strainer bag). The only other requirement is a brew kettle, but chances are if you are learning how to make beer at home you will already have one. This method of how to make beer was designed for simplicity, and only requires one pot for the entire process. After you get a few BIAB batches under your belt, you may decide to add a couple steps to the process, as well as some additional equipment. Or, you may feel you are happy with results you get from the simplified process and bypass these extras. You can add a second pot for sparging, but you could also add a mash tun for mashing and sparging. If you think you may want to give traditional all grain home brewing a shot down the road, you will need a mash tun anyway.  A converted cooler for a mash tun is an easy do it yourself project, and it doesn't cost too muich to make. Even if you decide not to make the leap into full on alll grain brewing, you may find that you prefer using a mash tun to mash as opposed to mashing in the kettle. You may find that it produces better results. The BIAB brewing method offers a simpler and cheaper way of how to make beer using the all grain method without having to purchase additional equipment and take all the necessary steps. It's kind of like a "try it before you buy it" test run at all grain home brewing.  You can use the exact same equipment you use for extract and partial mash brewing, so there are no additional cost or space concerns. BIAB allows you to brew with a little bit more flexibility than traditional all grain brewing. It also saves you some steps in the process by only using one pot. It eliminates the step of sparging. You not only shorten your brew day, but there is less equipment to clean when it is all over. BIAB brewing can be limiting, especially if you live in an apartment, because you will be limited by the size of your kettle and the fact that you will be using an indoor stove. The stove simply won't have the power to boil larger volumes of liquid. It isn't very practical to try and brew a 10 gallon batch on the stove. Larger batches of beer, as well as higher gravity beers are not options simply because of the larger grain bills. These require more water, and keep in mind that you have to fit all of the necessary water (typically 1.25 quarts per pound of grain), as well all of the grain, into your brew kettle. If you can brew on an outdoor propane tank, then you are only limited by the size of your brew kettle. If you have a large enough brew pot, then you can brew larger batches and higher gravity beers without any worries. You just might want to make sure that you have a powerful enough burner, this will shorten the brew day. If you are limited to inside home brewing, then you will likely need to stick to 5 gallon batches. You can work around this in a couple ways, but despite the limitations, you can s[...]

BIAB Home Brewing Method, Pt 2

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:28:55 GMT

Next, bring your strike water to the proper temperature for mashing. You will want to mash somewhere between 148F to 158F. However, keep in mind that you need to hold steady at that temperature for 60 to 90 minutes.   You will see a drop in temperature when you add your grains, and you can also lose temperature over the course of the mash. How much varies depending upon your equipment, as well as the climate. This is something you will have to pay attention to on your first few batches. You will want to see exactly how much temperature loss you have during mashing, so you will know how to compensate for it in future batches by heating your strike water to a higher temperature than you want to mash at.  This may be a little frustrating at the beginning, but there are ways to make it easier while you are figuring out how your set up works. You can keep hot and cold water nearby to add to the mash to adjust the temperature on the fly. You can also use your burner to heat up the mash if you lose too much temperature. Once you have the strike water at the right temperature, place your grain bag into the pot and pull the bag over the sides of the pot, so that the bag is open. You can use clips to help hold the bag in place. Add your grains slowly, and be sure that you constantly stir so that the grains become saturated and do not clump. Stirring also ensures you extract as much sugar from the grains as possible. You also need to take a temperature reading to ensure you have hit your desired mash temperature. If you are within a degree, you should be fine. If not, then try one of the methods described earlier so that you hit the right temperature for mashing. At this point, you are mashed in, put the lid on the pot and wait. You can wrap the pot with a towel or blanket to help it maintain temperature. If your pot is pretty full with little headspace, it will likely hold temperature for the entire mash. One advantage to the BIAB method of home brewing is that is doesn't require any sparging. You can add this step if you like, and some brewers choose to do some sort of sparge to increase efficiency. Many BIAB brewers find that they do not see a big enough increase in efficiency to justify the added step of a sparg..maybe a few points. However, this is something you can experiment with to see how it works for you. If you choose to sparge, then about 30 minutes before the end of the mash start to heat up your sparge water. Of course, this requires another pot, which isn't true BIAB home brewing, but you can add this step if you like. One reason you may decide to try a sparge is if you have limited space in your brew kettle (and/or you are brewing indoors). This will allow you to do a bigger batch than your kettle size will allow. You simply sparge with the additional batch volume you can't fit in your kettle and then combine the sparge and boil in the fermenter to complete the batch volume. Be careful with this, as this could also hurt your efficiency. You can check with the online calculators to ensure you do not kill your efficiency doing this. What many BIAB brewers do isn't a true sparge in the sense of batch or fly sparging methods. Rather, they do a modified sparge by allowing the grain bag to drain by hanging the bag over the pot after mashing. You can try this by hand, and some brewers rig up a pulley system to hold the bag in place while it drains. This is actually a pretty smart ide[...]

BIAB Home Brewing Method, Pt 1

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 01:26:13 GMT

After you have some home brewing experience behind you, you may start looking to get into all grain home brewing. Going all grain adds many new additions to the basic home brewing process and set up. There is additional equipment that you need to purchase, and water volume and temperature play an important role as well. There are also additional steps to take in the process. However, all grain home brewing offers you a wider variety of ingredients you can utilize, and it allows you to have more control over the final product. Brewing from grains (as opposed to extracts) will produce better, more flavorful beer. The process involves some math, and it is very important to make sure that you use the proper amount of water for mashing and sparging, and that the temperatures of the water used for both processes are correct and accurate. All of this is done to ensure you maximize the efficiency, getting the maximum amount of sugars from the grains. The better your efficiency, the better your beer. Plus, the better efficiency you have, the better value you get from the money you spend on the grains. Many all grain brewers have elaborate home brewing equipment set ups, building brewing stands and buying higher powered propane burners to speed up the brewing day. All grain requires additional equipment such as a mash tun, hot liquor tank, which along with the brew kettle are known as a three vessel set up. There are also additional pieces of equipment needed for all grain home brewing. All of this can be intimidating to the new brewer, and often poses to great an expense in order to make the leap. Many home brewers live in an apartment and simply do not have the space for additional equipment. In addition, indoor stoves do not have the power to boil the larger volumes of liquid common to all grain brewing. However, as often is the case in home brewing, there is another way. There is a version of all grain home brewing called BIAB: Brew In A Bag. This is still all grain brewing, but it is a simplified version that offers many advantages to traditional all grain brewing. The main difference is that all of the water for the brew (known as the liquor) is added all at once as opposed to in stages, and the entire brewing process happens in one pot. With the BIAB method, you do not need any additional equipment to all grain brew, other than the grain bag. You can purchase a material called voile, and make an extremely durable bag. Alternatively, you can purchase one online. Or, go to the local hardware or home supply store and purchase paint strainer bags. You can also purchase the larger winemaking bags. Whichever way you choose, you are looking at a minimal expense to usher you into the world of all grain home brewing. The BIAB home brewing method was created in Australia some years ago, and it has just started to recently catch on in the United States. There are some home brewing snobs that look down on BIAB as an inferior method to traditional all grain home brewing, but there are also many former traditional all grain brewers that have made the switch. I will explain the pros and cons of the BIAB method in greater detail in another article, but for this one I am focusing on the basic process. There are many ways you can add on to the process, but for now, let's focus on the basic BIAB process. The basic idea behind the BIAB method is to be able to brew an entire all grain [...]