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Recommended Home Beer Making Procedures

Brewing Procedures

Keeping Good Records! - Make it a practice to keep good notes on everything you do with each batch of beer you make. This will allow you to reproduce the batch with the similar results, or make refinements to the recipe to suit your tastes. Our Brewmaster’s Select recipe packages, have a "beer log" printed on the reverse side of the recipe instruction sheet.

What Water Should be Used? - If you are on a water system, you can consider this rule of thumb, "If your water tastes good, you should be able to make good tasting beer."If your water does not meet that criteria, we recommend using spring water, or boiling all the water to be used a day ahead of time. Boiling will precipitate out the undesirable impurities and eliminate most off-flavors. The use of distilled water will help in making real light colored beers. If your water source is non-chlorinated water (i.e. well water), you will face two problems:

the water will contain bacteria that may not have an adverse effect on your health but could impact on the flavor of beer;

sanitizing should be accomplished by use of a no-rinse sanitizer (i.e. Iodophor) or by making a chlorinated water solution for the purpose of rinsing.

What size and type of stock pot should be used? - All Brewmaster’s Select recipe packages are geared toward a two gallon boil plus ingredients. This puts the boiling volume around 10-12 quarts. We suggest at least a sixteen quart stock pot made of stainless steel, copper, or a porcelain enamel. Polished aluminum will probably work OK while dull aluminum will impart a metallic flavor to finished beer.

How to Dissolve the Malt Extract - After filling the stock pot with the with 2 gallons of warm water (not too hot for human touch), pour in the dried malt extract (DME) and/or the contents of the malt syrup can. I normally do this 15 minutes to an hour before I intend to turn up the heat. Stir it well initially and once or twice more.

Want to make sure the malt is dissolved, try this: Having washed your hands and forearms, roll up those sleeves and dive in, feel for any syrupy malt on the bottom of the stock pot. If the malt was to remain undissolved, it would surely scorch, making the resulting beer much darker than intended and potentially develop some interesting flavors.

To Prevent a Messy Boil Over? Have a glass of cold water handy. A mere splash of cold water will kill the boil over allowing you to adjust the heat, achieving the boil to prevent a boil over. During the boiling process, you will not be able to use the lid on the stock pot.

Determining What Temperature to Cool the Wort (a brewing term for unfermented beer) - Subtract the temperature of the water to be used for topping up the batch to five gallons from 160°.

Example: subtract 70° tap water from 160° suggest that wort in the stock pot should be cooled to 90°

Suggestion: Refrigerate the water to be used to top up the batch to 5 gallons and you’ll only have to cool the boiled wort down to 115° or so.

Cooling the Hot Wort - The quickest & simplest way to cool the wort to an appropriate pitching (a brewing term for adding the yeast) temperature of 75°-80° is to cool the 2+ gallons of boiled wort in your brew pot by placing it into a sink of ice water. This will take about 30-40 minutes.

Eliminating Wild Yeast and Bacteria - The air is full of wild yeast & bacteria; therefore, we need to sanitize everything that comes into contact with the wort and couple our efforts with a equal amount of prevention. These are a few steps you can take to prevent unfortunate off-flavors and avoid gushers:

Never use a wooden spoon, as it is likely to harbor bacteria.

Keeping a vented cover on the stock pot will allow the wort to cool safely, free of surface contamination.

Using sanitized aluminum foil over the beer is also a good practice when making transfers, or when bottling.

Sanitizing the spigot on the primary/bottling bucket independently of sanitizing the bucket with spigot attached.

Sanitize the lid, condensation forms on the lid during fermentation.

An household bleach solution may be a good sanitizer, but it requires a twenty-minute contact to be effective.

Cool the Batch Prior to Proofing the Yeast - Make certain that the 5 gallons of wort has been cooled to 75°-80° before proofing dry yeast for pitching.

Warm wort temperatures, above 85°, will encourage the growth of bacteria, may damage the yeast and could affect its ability to work off the fermentable sugars.

Aerate and Strain the Wort - Aeration of the wort is a good way to insure that the fermentation begins quickly. Straining the wort is great way to aerate while removing solids from the boiling process from having an impact on the fermentation process.

Proofing Dry Yeast - Into a sanitized glass, add 3-4 ounces of 95°-100° water. Slowly pour the contents of the dry yeast pack into the glass, but DO NOT STIR IT YET. Cover the glass with sanitized tinfoil to prevent airborne contamination. After 5 minutes, then stir the mixture to eliminate clumping. Allow the yeast to proof for 20-25 minutes (not to exceed 30 minutes). Points to remember:

Delay proofing the yeast until your 5 gallons is ready to be pitched with yeast.

Proofing in excess of 30 minutes could cause the yeast to be sluggish.

Proofing at 105°or above could kill the yeast.

Use your thermometer to determine the proofing temperature.

Temperatures for Fermentation - We want to avoid temperatures in excess of 75° and try to stay below 72°.

Liquid & dry yeast ales yeast ferments best in the range of 65° - 68° during the primary fermentation stage. The secondary stage can be maintained at the same temperatures.

Dry lager yeast is best fermented under the same conditions as the ales even though they will benefit from a lagering (secondary) stage in the low 60°’s.

Liquid lager yeast are best fermented at temperatures in the 50° - 58° range for the primary stage. Some can tolerate temperature of up to 63° while still retaining many lager characteristics. Secondary stage (i.e. the lagering stage) should be dropped down into the mid 40°’s, at the rate of 3°s per day to avoid shocking the yeast. This stage usually last 2-3 weeks or longer.

Once the yeast has been pitched, fermentation should be evident within 4-24 hours normally. You may open the lid of your fermenter, provided you do not leave it open for an extended period of time. Surface foam in the primary will be evidence that fermentation has begun. After two to five days, the foam should dissipate and the surface will clear. Liquid yeast lagers may take up to three weeks to reach this point due to the cooler fermentation temperatures and are not recommended for Single Stage systems.

Determining When to Bottle - Although fermentation is normally complete after 3-5 days it is best to leave the beer in the fermenter for an extra 5-7 days so that it may achieve better clarity. The only way to be absolutely sure is to take specific gravity readings using a hydrometer.

The day before you want to bottle, elevate the fermenter to facilitate the transfer. Remove enough beer with a turkey baster to float the hydrometer in a test jar or its plastic storage case. Once you determine the exact reading, write it down for reference the next day. On the following day, take another reading. If it is the same as the previous day, the beer is stable and you may proceed with bottling. If the reading is lower, delay bottling until you have the same gravity reading for two consecutive days. Points to remember:

The final gravity of each batch will vary depending on the style you are brewing.

Even lifting the fermenter will disturb the sediment.

Always throw out (or drink) the beer in the test jar. Throwing it back into the fermenter could contaminate your batch.

for ales and dry yeast lagers fermented at normal temperatures (i.e. 66°-72°).

bottling should normal occur in the 8-10 days range

in a Single-Stage System you should bottle in a maximum of 12 days.

after 7 days, you can transfer the beer to a 5-gallon glass carboy if you have a Two-Stage System, where the beer will stay for 7 additional days before bottling - it can actually stay in the carboy for 2-3 weeks if desired.

Selecting and Sanitizing Bottles - brown or amber glass are the best bottles to use.

You will need 44-52 12-ounce bottles - 22-28 22-ounce bottles.

Green and clear glass bottles are an acceptable substitute, but provide no protection from the harms of UV light - even the UV light emitted by a light bulb in a refrigerator. These bottles, if used, should be keep in a dark area or in a closed cardboard case.

The bottles should be non-twist-off.

Even plastic soft drink bottles will work.

Sanitizing the Bottles - Sanitation of beer bottles is very important, especially when storing for long periods of time. B-Brite is one of the most cost efficient and effective means for removing unwanted microbes. Rinse with it and rinse after it with chlorinated water. One tub is sufficient for making 20 gallons. I seldom make more than 1 gallon at a time; therefore, it is enough for 7-10 batches of beer.   Iodophor, an iodine-based sanitizers, is most popular among microbreweries and brewpubs, but requires a two minute contact to be effective. However, rinsing is not required. Never sanitize your bottles ahead of time. It is best to do this right before you bottle.

Individual Bottle Priming (Single Stage Method) - If you do not have an additional bottling bucket to transfer the beer into, you must prime the bottles individually. You will be need to add a level teaspoon of priming sugar to each bottle (regardless of the size). If you run out of priming sugar before finishing the batch, you may substitute household cane sugar for the remaining few bottles. A small funnel is useful in this endeavor, perhaps a makeshift paper funnel. The carbonation of your beers will be dictated by the amount of priming sugar you use in each bottle coupled with the fill level of the bottles.

Bottle Fill Level - One of the most important factors in determining the carbonation level of your beer is the level to which you fill the bottles themselves. Overfilled bottle are likely to be under-carbonated. Under filled bottle may be over-carbonated. The fill level is preferably 1 to 1 2 inches from the rim of the bottle, and will hold true for all bottle sizes. The bottle filler in our systems is designed to achieve a perfect fill level. This may take some practice, but the skill comes quickly. You may wish to place the bottles to be filled in a sauce pan to catch any overflow you will probably generate.

Aging Bottled Beer - Store the bottled beer in an area with an ambient temperature in the range of 66°-72° for a period of 1-2 weeks for proper conditioning. A room temperature environment is required to develop carbonation in a reasonable amount of time. After conditioning, it may then be moved to an area with a slightly lower temperature (about 55°-65°) for extended aging . This cooler environment is not absolutely necessary for making good beer, but it is best for beers that require extended aging. Do not refrigerate the beer until you are ready to consume it, or until you feel the flavor is at its best. Aging the beer for a period of 4-6 weeks will allow it to smooth out - marry the hops with the malt. However, everyone wants to enjoy the fruits of their labors, and few of us can wait long enough. When you sample your first beer, after two or three weeks, keep in mind that it will be much hoppier (more bitter) when it is young. It will continue to improve for several months and possibly years. We suggest hiding a six-pack from yourself, in order to sample the beer again at two months, four months, and six months. In this way, you may decide for yourself when that batch is best consumed for future reference. 

Two Stage Fermentation - With this system you will start the fermentation in the plastic fermenter just as you would in the Single-Stage System. After 7 days you can transfer the beer to a secondary fermenter (5-gallon glass carboy) to achieve further clarity before bottling. The exact time to transfer could depend on the activity of the yeast. Once the surface foam has dissipated, wait 24-48 hours before making the transfer. You want to eliminate as much of the yeast sediment as possible.

Transferring from Plastic Primary to Glass Secondary - This transfer is simple. Attach a 3’ or 5’ section of tubing to the spigot. Extend the tubing through the mouth of the carboy, to the bottom. Open the spigot slowly and let it flow. A few points to remember:

remove the airlock or break the seal of the lid so that the water from the airlock is not drawn into the fermenter.

a slight amount of sediment may be transferred.

don’t splash (aerate) the beer during the transfer.

tilting the back side of the fermenter will allow you to transfer as much of the beer as possible.

store the carboy in a dark place or cover it to protect the beer from light, both artificial and natural.

affix the airlock and stopper to the carboy when the transfer is complete.

leave the beer in the carboy for 7 days, though it could be bottled after 3-5 days or left in the carboy for 2-3 weeks.

Transferring the Beer from the Carboy to the Bottling Bucket (i.e. Starting a Siphon) - The means to start a siphon requires the use of a turkey baster. Attach the racking tube to the 5’ section of siphoning tubing. Hold the racking tube at the curve, with the end sticking up in the air. In same hand hold the free end of siphoning tubing, allow the rest of the tubing to hang in a teardrop shape. With the other hand, fill the turkey baster with beer that you remove from the carboy. Transfer the beer from the turkey baster to the tubing by means of free end of the tubing in your other hand. This may take a couple of transfers. Once the tear drop portion of the tubing is filled, crimp the free end of the tubing - this will give you some freedom of movement without creating a mess. Lower the racking tube into the carboy. Now lower the crimped end of the tubing into the destination vessel (secondary fermenter, bottling bucket, or keg) and release the crimp. Once the beer starts to flow, you will notice that the siphon is fighting the air in the tubing. To remove the air, pinch the flexible tubing 3-4 inched below the connection between the racking tube and the tubing for a 2 or 3 count. This pinch will momentarily stop the flow, allowing the air to rise to the top of the curve. The release of the pinch forces out the unwanted air that would eventually stop the siphon. You may have to perform the pinch a couple of times to purge the tubing of air. The loose end of the tubing should extend to the bottom of the receiving vessel so that there is as little splashing as possible.  Elevate the carboy the day before you transfer the beer. The worst way to start a siphon in beer making is with your mouth, such as in the method of borrowing gasoline. Your mouth contains bacteria that could contaminate your batch.

Bulk Priming (Two-Stage Method) - Bulk priming always lends a more consistent carbonation than individual priming, as long as you remember to stir. 

When you are ready to bottle (SEE: Determining When to Bottle), transfer the beer from the carboy back to the sanitized primary fermenter - preferably one that is attached with a bottling spigot. 

While the transfer is taking place, dissolve the desirable amount of priming sugar in a cup of boiling water.  During the transfer, use the lid to cover as much as of the exposed surface area as possible to prevent airborne contamination. 

With the completion of the transfer and the sugar dissolved, pour the sugar solution into the bucket and stir well. 

Attach the 3’ section of tubing to the bottling spigot, and to other end attach the bottle filler. 

Open the bottle spigot allowing the flow of beer to be controlled by the valve on the bottle filler.  Hold the valve end of the bottle filler above the level of beer inside the bottling bucket. Depress the valve allowing the beer to fill the tubing to level of beer in the bucket. Lower the bottle filler tip to a level that is lower than the beer in the fermenter, while depressing the valve. This will purge the all the air from the system. 

Rinse the exterior of the bottle filler with sanitizer and rinse solution where physical contact was made while purging the air from the bottling line.

Stir the beer well, and start bottling.  The 3’ section of tubing and bottle filler combination, which are in turn attached to the bottling spigot, are long enough to be used as stirring rod.

Stir at regular intervals to guarantee even carbonation (every 6-10 bottles).  


Liquid Yeast Activation Process - Activation should be achieved by the means indicated on the packet. If you are using a liquid yeast culture, you highly recommend making a starter to insure a healthy fermentation. Refrigerate the foil pouch upon arrival, after noting the packaging date. This date allows for an estimation of the anticipated incubation period before the yeast can be added to a starter. A date two months old will indicate a two day incubation period. On the day that you activate the pouch, refrigerate a pint of water in a sanitary container. Once the pouch is properly swollen you may proceed with the making of the starter. Refrigerate the foil pouch upon arrival, after noting the packaging date. This date allows for an estimation of the anticipated incubation period before the yeast can be added to a starter. A date two months old will indicate a two day incubation period. On the day that you activate the pouch, refrigerate a pint of water in a sanitary container. Once the pouch is properly swollen you may proceed with the making of the starter.

Liquid Yeast Starter Procedures - Dissolve one cup of DME in one pints of boiling water. Add the refrigerated pint of water to a bottle your starter bottle. Once the pint of boiled wort has cooled to 115°, add it the starter bottle also. A gallon jug or 2-liter bottle will work nicely as a starter bottle. Sanitize the activated yeast pouch and scissors, open and pour into the cooled wort. Agitate well. Affix a stopper and airlock to the bottle or cover with a piece of sanitized tin foil or a loose-fitting cap. Fermentation should be active in 12-24 hours.



Once the yeast is active in your starter bottle, you're ready to make your batch.

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