First Attempt at Homebrewing: everything is too small

June 10, 2016
I bought my husband a one gallon brew kit by Brooklyn Brew Company (Everyday IPA) for Christmas, but we hadn't got around to brewing until the end of February. The kit included trickier supplies to find like the glass gallon fermenter, thermometer, tubing and airlock. It did not come with pots, sieves or funnels since those are pretty common in kitchens.

We bought a few missing things on Amazon, and thought we were all set. After all, it only made a gallon of beer, came with all the ingredients and step by step instructions. Even so, I posted on facebook to see what kind of advice my beer-brewing friend would have to a first time brewer:

+ "Go get a cooling coil. Cooling the trub takes a really long time without it."

+ "Your county should provide water tests online so you can see the mineral content of your local tap water and adjust accordingly. Get your process down and learn your equipment before you start doing ph tests and other technical nonsense."

+ "For the love of gods use Campden tablets to eliminate chloramine if you use local water."

+ "What is your equipment like? What size kettle? Are you guys doing a full or partial boil? It can be harder to do IPAs in a partial boil, the smaller volume alludes to lesser hop retention. High alpha acid hops are harder to fully utilize in a partial boil. Not that it will come out bad, just maybe not hit your target IBU, maybe add 20% more than your recipe calls for...can I see you recipe? And some equipment photos?"

That got intense quickly!

A lot of the advice was way over our heads, (some is from a chemical engineer) maybe someday if we made more than a gallon of beer we'll be able to worry about it's ph level and target IBUs (besides, I don't like bitter beer), but first we wanted to get comfortable with the process.

So we mixed up some sanitizer and dove right in!

This is an account of what went wrong.

+ Our Spatula was too flimsy. Not a big deal, we just sanitized this thing instead:

+ The boiling water wouldn't cool down. I think we may have turned up the burner too high because we were impatient, but since water takes longer than air to change temperature it took longer than we anticipated for it to cool off.

+ We needed a bigger pot. A much, much bigger pot. At some point, we were juggling one large pot and two medium saucepans.

+ We needed a bigger sieve. We'd bought a set of three off of amazon and used the biggest, but we had way too much grain for that sieve.

+ We needed a bigger funnel for getting all the liquid into the fermenter (basically a big glass jug). We ended up having to slowly pour in a few cupfuls at a time using one of those Pyrex measuring cups as a ladle. We used the smallest sieve we had for the final straining because our funnel was so small.

After muddling through with our too small equipment, we weren't 100% sure what we'd end up with would be beer. But we continued hopefully, and safely nestled the fermenter in my husband's closet:

I was teaching when my husband bottled it, so no photos of that step. The recipe called for honey, but since my sister-in-law is vegan he substituted sugar. I'm not sure if this changed the recipe, but once it had finished fermenting and we opened a bottle it was very fizzy, my husband opened it in the kitchen while I was in another room and called out "we have a gusher!"

When he finally took the cap off I was standing next to him with a glass and got sprayed. I wouldn't be surprised if everything within a 3ft/1m radius is covered with a light spritzing of beer.

I think we lost most of it to foam, but what was left definitely tasted like beer. Not particularly hoppy, but definitely beer.

A few weeks later we opened another one, which sounded like a gunshot when the cork came out. This one tasted very toasty, and the hops had faded dramatically.

But it was still beer!


What we could change for next time:

+ Get a bigger pot. And sieve and funnel, but definitely a bigger pot.
+ Be more patient. Now that we have a better idea of how long it will take
+ Have a plan with what to do with those 10 bottles of beer we made.


1 comment:

  1. You had me at Brooklyn Brew Company; IPA was just garnish. ;-) Better results next time!


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