Craig had already purchased all the ingredients and equipment necessary from Annapolis Home Brew. We started by measuring out the crystal malt and the black malt. The grains were mixed with 1.5 gallons of purified water and put on the stove to heat to 160 degrees F. Once it reaches the desired temperature, the mixture must be kept between 150 to 160 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Craig attached a candy thermometer to the pot to watch the temperature. After the 30 minutes was up, we transferred the wort to a separate pot for boiling. During this process, all the equipment must be kept clean to prevent bacteria from getting into the brew. Craig kept a bucket of water mixed with PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) on hand to clean everything as we went along.
|Weighing the ingredients|
At this point, the wort needed to be brought down to room temperature, the faster the better so as to avoid bacteria development. Some people do this by putting the pot in a tub of ice, but Craig purchased a nifty device called a wort chiller. Basically, it's a coil of copper tubing with plastic tubing running off each end. One end of the plastic tubing is attached to the water tab, and the other end is placed in the sink. The cooper coil is plunged into the pot and the cold water tap is turned on. As the water flows through the copper coil, it makes the copper quite cold, thus cooling the wort quickly. Of course, the water flows back through the plastic tube and dumps into the sink. It was amazing to watch the temperature drop on the candy thermometer. We had the wort cooled from boiling to room temperature in 20 minutes.
|Cooling the wort with a wort chiller.|
|Aerating the wort with a bubble making thingee for an aquarium.|
In order to ascertain the alcohol percentage by volume of your brew, you must measure the original gravity* when the wort is first made and then measure the fermented gravity after the wort has fermented. You run these two numbers through a special formula to reach the alcohol percentage. The two measurements are taken with a hydrometer. Simply drop the long stick-like device in the bucket and read off the number at the surface of the liquid.
The final step is to pitch the yeast in water and add that to the wort. Then we put the lid on and added the airstop. The airstop is filled partway with water. After 24 hours, one should see bubbles in the water, an indication that fermentation has begun. The bucket needs to be stored in a cool, dark place for six days. We used one of Craig's closets for that.
After six days, the wort is transferred to a clear jug known as a carboy. They come in plastic or glass, but glass is better because it can be more thoroughly cleaned between uses. The airstop is placed in the carboy and the fermentation continues for two more weeks.
The final step is to add sugar to start carbonation and pour into bottles. Once the beer is in the bottles and capped, it should sit for at least another two weeks to develop full flavor. Although we started this process in September, we decided to wait until Thanksgiving to drink the beer. I was disappointed that the cinnamon flavor was not more prominent, but it had an interesting flavor all its own. The Minx described it as a cross between Coca-Cola and beer. We used it to make shandies for our Thanksgiving dinner and they were quite tasty.
* Gravity refers to the relative density of the wort compared to water at various stages in the fermentation. It largely depends on the amount of sugar in the wort.
Posted on Minxeats.com.