My first five brews were made using modified kits where I either changed the yeast, changed the sugar for malt extract or even combined two different kit styles as well as add in flavour enhancing grains and hops but these were kit enhancing packs and I do not know what grains/hops were in them. There are three agreed upon levels of homebrew. Kit was the first. The next level is extract brewing and lastly is All Grain. Bank holiday Monday was the day I picked, It was a lot of fun and both thebeernut and Laura from aranbrew were brewing at the same time and we were updating Twitter (I signed up that morning) as we went along.
Extract brewing involves the use of grains and hops to create the wort. The sugar still comes from malt extract and is usually of the dry kind as opposed to the liquid kind you get in kits. There is a little extra equipment needed for Extract, the main one being a boiler or at least a very big pot. You can get away with using a smaller pot and adding water later but that is not advised as you really want to boil the full amount of wort you will be fermenting. In the picture above you can see my 5 gallon boiler which is an inexpensive plastic bucket with a kettle element in it, It also contains a hop strainer connected to the tap on the front.
The first thing you do once you have your recipe and have measured out your ingredients it to steep your grains. I used a large pot, put them in a large nylon muslin bag which I put in 3 litres of boiling water and put on the lid for 30 minutes. In the meantime I started about 15 litres of water heating away in my boiler. I was aiming for 18.93 litres of Wort so 15 litres in the boiler and 3 litres in the grain pot as well as an addition of about two litres of sparge water.
Once the 30 minutes were up I simply filled the kettle and boiled some water to sparge with. Sparging is simple pouring hot water through the grain bag to wash out as much of the good stuff as you can. More advanced home brewers and commercial brewers use a rotating sparging arm that does this but small scale like this, a kettle is fine. I filled the kettle twice for this. The grain bag is held in place in the pot by a pasta drainer.
Once I have as much grain liquer as I think I will get I add this into my boiler and bring it up to a boil. I then stir in my Dry malt extract and once the boul starts to break (foam has broken and moved to the sides) I start my timer for a standard 60 minute boil and start my first hop addition. The hop additions at different times during the 60 minutes will be part of your recipe. In my case I put together the recipe myself based on the ingredients I had and what I thought would make a good stout. See the recipe from a few days ago. At 15 minutes to go put in your Wort chiller if you have one to sterilise it in the boiling wort.
After the 60 minutes are up and the boiler is switched off, start your wort chiller which should bring the temperuature of the wort down to 25c in about 20 minutes. You want this to happen as quickly as possible to avoid infection.
Once you are ready, transfer your wort into your fermenting bucket or carboy. In my case I used the tap on the front and had the bucket beneath it. Now here is were my only problem came during this brew. The boiler is designed to put the hops in loose as there is a hop strainer inside it. What you are supposed to do is create a whirlpool in the boiler and then let it settle for 15 minutes and the hops should settle on the bottom. Of course I was a little impatient and only gave it a few minutes but its also possible that I had so many hops that it covered my hop strainer. In the end I had to sanitise a bug brewing padel and keep pushing the hops out of the way. I had not accounted for the ammount of wastage at the bottom so I only ended up with about 16 litres of Wort, maybe a little more. It was just under 4 UK gallons. It took about 45 minutes to transfer the wort. Next time I think I will use a muslin bag for my largest hop addition at the beginning and leave the smaller ammounts free.
Anyway once transferred I shook my yeast vial and poured it in, I used liquid yeast which is usually better and easier to use but a lot more expensive. After putting on my lid and airlock I shook the bucket a little but not too much as it got plenty of oxygen in the transfer. 24 hours later I had a nice bubbling airlock.
So lets hope no nasty infections get in and that it will ferment down to the final gravity I want. This will be a strong stout, about 7% if it does.
For more detailed instructions on extract brewing then go to the Irish Craft Brewers website and look at these instructions.