Extract brewing steps for Novice home brewers

Written by George on February 12, 2016
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In this article I’m going to talk about a typical extract brewing brewday using un-hopped malt extract, hops, and yeast. It is the simplest form of home brewing, and can be done with minimal equipment and experience.

Get all your equipment and ingredients together. Use a brewing software like BeerSmith to keep a track of your recipe and the required temperatures, quantities, etc. If you do not want to invest in a software at the moment, just use the checklists available at Brewer’s Friend

The recipe we are discussing today is for a Witbier, one of the first beers I made when I started out in this hobby. You will need:

Wheat Liquid Extract – 2.86 kg
Hallertau Hersbrucker Hops – 56.70 gm
Coriander Seed – 28.35 gm
Bitter Orange peel – 28.35 gm
Belgian Witbier yeast (Wyeast Labs #3944, or Danstar Munich Wheat Yeast, or Mangrove Jack’s Bavarian Wheat M20)

Contact me via the comments below or email if you need help in sourcing the ingredients or equipment.

Step 1 – Cleaning & Sanitising

Using an unscented soap, thoroughly clean all your equipment. Any leftover residue on your equipment is a potential harbour for nasties to spoil your beer. Once cleaned, you need to sanitise. I use regular household unscented bleach. Add a cap full to your ferment and fill with hot water. Soak all your equipment in this, rinse thoroughly and then use. Always remember to rinse thoroughly with hot water when using bleach.

The boil pot doesn’t really need to be sanitised because the wort in the pot pasteurises due to heat.

Step 2 – Boil the wort

In your pot, add approximately 15L of water, and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat source and slowly mix in the liquid Wheat Malt, stirring continuously to ensure that the malt doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pot. Scorched malt tastes horrible!

Once the malt has dissolved, return the pot to the stove and bring it back up to a boil. Keep an eye out for what is known as hot break. This happens when proteins in the wort start to clump together and form a thick foam on top of the wort.

Always keep an eye on boiling wort because it has a tendency to boil over. Sticky wort is hell to clean up.

Hot break forming
Hot break forming

Step 3 – Hops & adjuncts addition

Hops are added at various stages during the boil to achieve different effects on the beer. At the beginning of the boil they add bitterness, in the middle of the boil they add flavour and aroma, and late additions at the end of the boil add aroma.

Once the wort has reached a rolling boil, add the entire 56.7 gm of hops. Remember to start your timer for 60 minutes once the hops are added. Typically, hop additions are monitored based on time left till end of boil.

Add the crushed Coriander seed in the last 10 minutes of the boil, followed by the Orange peel for the last 1 minute of the boil.

Hop addition
Hop addition

Step 4 – Chill the wort

Once your 60 minute boil is complete, you need to drop the wort down to pitching temperature, which is the temperature at which you will add the yeast. I find that 30°C is adequate. This can be done using an ice bath – fill your sink with ice, put the pot into the sink and let it drop the temperature. Another option is to invest in a wort chiller, though I will be talking about this further in the intermediate section of home brewing.

An important thing to remember while cooling is that you should not cover the pot until the temperature is below 65°C. Above this temperature is where DMS is still evaporating, and so covering the pot will cause the condensation/ DMS to fall back into the wort.

While the wort is cooling, it is a good time to hydrate your yeast. If using dry yeast, open the sachet, and pour the contents into a sanitised container that is filled with boiled and cooled water. Let the yeast sit for about 30 minutes, and you will find a thick cream forming. This is good!

Copper wort chiller
Copper wort chiller

Step 5 – Add to fermenter and pitch yeast

Once the wort is cooled it is very susceptible to infections from wild yeast and bacteria, so all the following steps have to be with sanitised equipment.

Add the wort to your fermenter, and top up with water to bring the total volume to 19L. This will further cool the wort down. At this stage, open the fermenter tap, and draw out a sample for your hydrometer reading. Keep this sample aside.

Now is the time to pitch the yeast. Ideally, you would have rehydrated the yeast as I mentioned above. If not, sprinkle the contents of the sachet directly over the wort. Now the wort needs to be aerated to ensure that the yeast have enough oxygen to get to work. This can be done by shaking the fermenter around for a bit. Or, just create a lot of froth when initially transferring the wort to the fermenter. I prefer the latter method.

Now immediately seal the fermenter with it’s cover, or cling film (I use cling film) and place it in a cool dark place. If you have a refrigerator dedicated for your brewing, that’s best, but again this will be discussed in the intermediate articles.

Plastic carboy in my brew fridge
Plastic carboy in my brew fridge

Step 6 – Hydrometer reading

Remember the sample you pulled before adding the yeast? Pour this in the hydrometer test jar, and take a reading.

The increments marked on the hydrometer are Specific Gravity (SG) points. The level at which the hydrometer sits in the liquid is the gravity reading. The SG for your wort should be around 1.040 to 1.045. This initial SG reading is known as the Original Gravity or OG.

Hydrometer
Hydrometer

Depending on the temperature of the wort during the hydrometer measurement, you may need to make some corrections. The hydrometer will be factory calibrated at 15°C so if your temperature is different, look it up on the various hydrometer corrections tools like this one.

Step 7 – Fermentation

After a few hours of pitching the yeast, you will start to see activity in the fermenter. There will be a thick layer of foam (called Krausen) on top, and you will see particles floating in the liquid through the sides of the fermenter.

Once the Krasuen starts to fall back into the beer the primary fermentation is complete. Leave it for a few more days though. Typically, I leave my beers to ferment for a minimum of 2 weeks.

Krausen
Krausen

Step 8 – Bottling

After 2 weeks, take Specific Gravity readings over two consecutive days. If the readings are constant, it is time to bottle the beer. These final SG readings are known as the Final Gravity or FG. Use the Alcohol calculator at Brewer’s Friend to calculate the ABV of your finished beer.

In order to carbonate the beer, it needs to be bottled with a little bit of sugar. The remaining yeast in the beer will consume this sugar, and produce CO2 which carbonates the beer.

Measure out 107 gms of Dextrose into a liter of water and bring it to a boil. A good rule of thumb to follow is using 28 grams of dextrose to every 3.8L of beer that will be bottled.

While preparing the sugar solution, a lot brewers like adding a teaspoon of Gelatin which helps precipitate the suspended yeast and any other particles in the solution, resulting in a clearer beer. I leave this to you. Try a brew with, and another without, to see if you want to add this.

At this time, you can either invest in a second fermenter that can be used as a bottling bucket, or just add the sugar solution to the fermenter containing the beer. Use a sanitised spoon to mix the two together taking care not to disturb the layer of yeast/ trub at the bottom.

Let it sit for an hour or so, and then using the tap, just fill your bottles. Leave an inch or so of head space from the mouth of the bottle. I hope you remembered to clean and sanitise these bottles!

Bottling day
Bottling day

Carefully cap the bottles using crown caps and a bottle capper, and place them in a cool, dark location to age. In about 2 to 3 weeks the bottles will have carbonated up well and can be drunk.

Congratulations! Your first batch of beer is done and you can proudly call yourself a brewer. Don’t forget to make notes on the amount of carbonation, the aroma, and the flavours that you experience.

Things to remember – Cleanliness & Sanitation are of the utmost importance. And take detailed notes of every brew you make so that you can identify issues if there are any in the finished beer.

If you haven’t already, please read the following articles as well:

What is home brewing

Brewing terms

How to brew

Equipment for Novice home brewers

Basic Ingredients for Novice home brewers

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