Preparation of Ingredients.
The majority of grains used in brewing require crushing through a grain mill to open up the grains. This process is greatly eased thanks to the readily available pre crushed grains available from your Home Brew Shop. In other words this process has been done for you saving you time.
The grains then need to be weighed out according to your chosen recipe.
Mashing involves adding hot water to your crushed grains in order to extract the sugars from the ingredients. The usual process for mashing is to slowly add hot water, usually at a temperature of around 66° C, and leave standing in an insulated container (Mash Tun) to retain the heat for about 90 minutes. After 90 minutes the water (liquor) is drained off into a separate container ready for boiling.
Sparging (Rinsing the remainder grains)
The grains in the now empty Mash Tun will still have valuable sugars and flavours left in them. Sparging is a process of slowly rinsing these remainder grains in order to extract these sugars. The sparging process requires sprinkling hot (66° C) water over the grains while drawing off the water simultaneously.
Once the correct quantity of the sugary water has been extracted from the mash process this liquor then needs to be boiled for at least 90 minutes. During various points in the boil hops are added to add bitterness and aroma. This lengthy boil sterilises the liquor and gets rid of the unwanted proteins. This remaining liquid is usually reffered to as wort in brewing circles.
The wort needs to be cooled before the next stages of brewing can commence. There are various devices for cooling the wort available to home brewers, the most common and possibly cheapest being a large coil of copper piping attached to two lengths of hose pipe. Cold water from the tap is passed through this coil for about half an hour to quickly cool the wort. (The cleaned copper tubing is placed in the boiler several minutes before the end of the boil to sterilise it). The hot wort can however be left overnight to cool naturally but I would advise cooling as quickly as possible to prevent airborne bacteria entering the liquid.
The now cooled wort is transferred into a fermentation vessel (most commonly a large lidded bucket). Here the yeast is added and the fermentation process begins. A hydrometer reading is usually taken at this point to attain the original gravity of the wort. This is where the majority of sugars are turned into alcohol. The fermentation process usually takes between 5 and 10 days. I usually start taking hydrometer readings after four days. When the readings are similar over a couple of days and the airlock has stopped bubbling it is time to either bottle or barrel the beer.
Bottling and Barreling.
Once you have determined that the fermentation has stopped we can now bottle or barrel the beer. The choice is yours and both methods have their own benefits.
When barreling a solution of sugar is made by dissolving 2-3oz of sugar in a pan heated on the stove. This is then allowed to cool and poured into your pressure barrel. You then syphon your beer from your fermenter vessel using your racking cane into the barrel, making sure that the end of the tubing is submerged beneath the surface of the syphoned contents and taking care not to disturb the settled sediment in the bottom of your fermenter. Once full, the barrel should be moved to a warm place to allow secondary fermentation to take place. After about four days the barrel should be left in a cool place to allow the barrel to clear and condition.
After 3 to 4 weeks, sometimes earlier, the beer should have cleared and is ready to drink.
Bottling is a similar process except that 1/2 teaspoon of sugar is added per 500ml bottle instead of the sugar solution. Home brew shops now sell tablets that are correctly measured for this process. The beer is syphoned into the bottles and the bottles are capped. Secondary fermentation is allowed to take place in a warm environment before moving the bottles to a cool place to clear and condition.