As I mentioned earlier, I thought I would take you through my brew day when it came time to use the hops I've harvested. I'm sure there are many and better homebrewing blogs out there but I thought I should see the whole process through, from planting a rhizome to making the brew. As a consequence I'm not going to be extra careful to include every single little detail but I'm open to questions. I've also discovered the length limits for a blog post, so I've had to split it into two parts. If you're only interested in seeing pics of fresh hops being dumped into boiling wort skip straight to part 2.
My brew day starts with setting up a starter culture for the yeast. I use a procedure for recovering yeast from previous brews, which can be found here. First thing involves preparing the actual media. I use honey (about 1cm deep at the bottom of a pint glass) and yeast nutrient. To this I add boiling water (to discourage other things from growing in it) and cover with foil. I also add a small magnet and put it on top of a magnetic stir plate:
This helps to mix the ingredients to start with but also helps with yeast growth once it has cooled enough for them to be added. Adding the yeast is done by pouring off the liquid above the cells and pouring in the prepared starter media, then back again and repeat until all of the yeast have been transferred into the pint glass. This is what the collected yeast look like before they're removed from the fridge:
Next step is to collect the water I'm going to use. I have discovered the hard way that the water used for mashing is very important. The first time I tried to do a partial mash, I got no conversion of starch to sugar and only succeeded in making porridge (didn't improve the flavour of the beer). After a little reading I discovered that the enzymes responsible for this conversion will not work above pH 6 and the water coming out of my tap was well over pH 7. When I found this out I immediately tried the water from our Brita filter which turned out to be below pH 6. As a consequence, all of the water I use for mashing and lautering goes through the filter:
I've relatively recently graduated to all grain brewing, which means that I have to collect a fair bit before starting. Once I've collected the volume I need for mashing it goes in straight in my largest pot to heat it to mash temperature:
The other two pots are for the water I'll use for lautering (what I always think of as washing the grain to get as much of the sugar out as possible). I was inspired to switch to all grain when I saw my neighbour throwing out this cooler:
It may not be pretty but it's clean on the inside and I've been able to fit it out with a false bottom and new plumbing (all from Austin Homebrew):
After mashing for at least an hour it's time to collect the sugary goodness inside (or wort as it's technically called):
You may or may not be able to see my bodged together setup for capturing some of the grain husks that try and sneak their way into the wort. These will apparently give the beer a somewhat astringent flavour if left in the wort during the boil, which is started once enough has been collected:
As I don't have a 10 gallon boil pot I am restricted to having to boil two pots. I suspect a pot big enough for the job would be too big for our cooker to actually boil which would then mean having to brew outside with a propane burner (I much prefer brewing in the kitchen, especially when it's not very nice outside). The one on the right is filled first, with the rest draining into the one on the left. While both of them are boiled for an hour, all of the hops will be added to the one on the right with the other one being used to top up the final fermenting volume to just over 5 gallons.