Award-Winning Munich Dunkel Lager Recipe (All-Grain)

Beer Made From Munich Dunkel Lager RecipeWe recently explored some famous German beer styles. The next one on my “to brew” list is a Munich Dunkel Lager. Here’s some of the basic characteristics of this German style beer.

A Munich Dunkel is a dark lager (dunkel = dark in German). But just because it’s a dark beer doesn’t mean that it’s heavy, bitter, and roasty. Munich Dunkels use little (if any) heavily roasted malt. That means no black malt and no roasted barley. Most of the color and flavor in this beer comes from mid-range malt, particularly Munich malt. (Extract and partial mash brewers may use Munich malt extract.) The Munich malt provides the somewhat sweet, bready, malty flavors that characterize this beer.

In terms of hops, only enough hops are used to provide balance to the beer. You don’t want to cover up the malt flavor. The BJCP Guidelines for the style call for 18-28 IBUs. In a five-gallon Munch Dunkel lager recipe this may only be an ounce or two of hops. For an accurate representation of the style, only German varieties of noble hops should be used.

When brewing a Munich Dunkel Lager recipe, fermentation temperature control will be imperative. The German lager yeast used in this beer prefers temperatures of about 50˚F or below. Before attempting to brew this beer (or any lager for that matter), read Controlling Homebrew Fermentation Temperatures.

The all-grain Munich Dunkel Lager recipe below comes from the American Homebrewers Association. It’s an award-winning beer recipe created by Shekhar and Paula Nimkar of Swampscott, MA. The beer won the Dark Lager category at the 2010 AHA National Homebrew Competition. Shop Liquid Malt Extract

 

Tara’s Slam Dunkel
(five-gallon batch, all-grain recipe)

*Note: This beer recipe assumes a mash efficiency of ~86%. You may wish to have some DME on hand in case you undershoot your OG.

Specs
OG: 1.060
FG. 1.020
ABV: 5.25%
IBUs: 13
SRM: 17

Ingredients
8 lbs. Munich malt
2 lbs. Wheat malt Shop Steam Freak Kits
4 oz. Chocolate malt
.66 oz. Hallertau hops at :45
.33 oz. Hallertau hops at :15
2 packets Wyeast 2206: Bavarian lager yeast
1 tbsp. Irish moss at :20
.5 tsp. calcium carbonate (added to sparge water)

 

Directions: The day before brewing, prepare a 4L yeast starter. Mash grains in about 3.25 gallons of clean water at 122˚F for 30 minutes. Remove 1/3 of the mash and raise to 158˚F for 20 minutes. Bring it to a boil for 20 minutes. Return the decoction to the main mash vessel and raise temperature to 149˚F. Remove 1/3 of the mash and bring to a boil. Return it to the main mash and sparge with 167˚F water to collect seven gallons of wort. Do a 90-minute boil, adding hops according to schedule. Remove kettle from heat and cool wort to 65˚F. Aerate wort and pitch yeast. When fermentation activity begins, reduce temperature to 55˚F. Ferment for 14 days, then transfer to secondary and ferment at 41˚F for three weeks. Bottle or keg for 2.4 volumes CO2.Shop Grain Mills

Do you have a solid Munich Dunkel Lager recipe you’d like to share with us? Share in the comments below!
—————
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Calibrating a pH Meter for Brewing Beer

A pH Meter For Brewing BeerMeasuring pH is an important part of all-grain brewing for a number of reasons. pH influences starch conversion during the mash, the quality of fermentation, resistance to infection, and flavor. While it’s possible to make good beer without paying any attention to pH, being able to measure the acidity or alkalinity at different points in the brewing process gives you one more tool in your homebrewing toolbox to gain full control over the end result – the beer!

With that in mind here is some basic information on calibrating a pH meter for brewing beer. Some first-time pH meter owners are a bit intimidated by the process, but as you will see, there is not all that much to it.

 

Is measuring pH just for all-grain brewers?

pH is most relevant when mashing, or mixing crushed malt with water. The enzymes that convert the complex sugars found in malt into fermentable sugar work best within a certain pH range (5.2-5.5). While it may be helpful for extract brewers to measure the pH of their wort or finished beer, it’s usually not a priority.

 

Calibrating a pH Meter for Brewing

To calibrate your digital pH meter, you will need:

  • your pH meter
  • 500mL distilled water
  • one or two beakers or glass jars (depending on how many buffer solutions you have) Shop Temp Probe
  • pH buffer solution
  • a thermometer

*Note: pH meters and testing procedures may vary. Follow the instructions that came with your pH meter.

 

To calibrate your digital pH meter:

  1. Prepare buffer solution: If using a buffer powder, mix 250 mL water with buffer powder, and fully dissolve buffer powder in water. If using a solution, pour buffer solution into testing jar.
  1. Turn on pH meter.
  1. Submerge the electrode end of the pH meter into the buffer solution.
  1. Wait until reading stabilizes.
  1. Adjust pH meter as needed. Most entry-level pH meters can be calibrated with a small screwdriver. Turn the small screw on the pH meter until the reading matches the pH of the buffer solution.
  1. If using a second buffer solution, rinse the electrode on the pH meter with distilled water and repeat the steps above for the second solution.Shop Digital pH Meter

 

pH Meter FAQs:

  • What is pH? pH stands for potential hydrogen and it measures the acidity or alkalinity of a liquid on a scale of 0-14. A pH of 7.0 is neutral. Measurements below 7.0 are acidic; above 7.0 are alkaline.
  • How often should I calibrate my pH meter for brewing? pH meters should not need to be calibrated for every brew, but will fall out of calibration over time. Calibrate before the first time you use it, and again every 3-6 months. When you recalibrate, make a note of the date and how far off the reading was. This will help you determine how often to recalibrate your particular pH meter when brewing.
  • Do I need to make adjustments for temperature? Some pH meters come with automatic temperature control (ATC), in which case you do not need to adjust for temperature. However, you will still need to make sure you’re using the meter within its operating temperature range. Check the manual before using the pH meter in very hot wort.

 

Do you use a pH meter in your home brewery? How often do you calibrate your pH meter for brewing?Shop Accurate Scales

—————
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

The Essentials Of Adding Fruit To Beer

Results of adding fruit to beerWith the spring and summer seasons come the harvest of strawberries, peaches, blueberries, and more. Why not experiment a bit and make something a little different – your own seasonal brew? These warmer months are ideal for adding fruit to beer.

Before you start throwing apples and oranges in the brew kettle through, it’s a good idea to think about how much fruit to use and where to add it in the brewing process.

Here are some suggestions for adding fruit to beer:

First, try a few commercial fruit beers and think about how much fruit flavor you want in yours. Several craft beers on the market are made with fruit, with flavors intensities ranging from barely noticeable to a full-frontal assault. Some examples include: Pyramid Apricot Ale, Sweetwater Blue, and 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon. New Belgium has released a sour beer called Pluot, made with a hybrid of the plum and the apricot.

So do you want just a hint of fruit flavor, or something more dominating? Think about where you want to be on that range for your batch of fruit beer. Depending on the fruit in question, you may want to start with half a pound or so of fruit per gallon and work your way up from there.

Next, pick your beer recipe as your base style. Fruit beers work well with pale ales and wheat beers, but also dark beers in some cases. Raspberry works well in stouts, especially when combined with chocolate. Pick out a recipe kit that you think might fit with your fruit of choice, or develop your own recipe.

 

Shop Steam Freak KitsPeel, puree, or juice?

Next, think about how you want to add fruit to beer. In some cases, such as when brewing a Belgian Wit, a little citrus peel is enough to impact the flavor of the brew. Orange is the most common, but why not experiment with lemon, lime, or grapefruit? Adding peel will likely contribute more bitterness than fruit flavor.

In my experience, adding fruit to beer in secondary fermentation is an effective way to get fruit flavor into a beer. The exact method for preparing the fruit will vary depending on the fruit in question and whether it’s fresh or frozen fruit you are adding to the beer. Fresh fruit should be peeled, frozen, and thawed, while frozen fruit should just be thawed to avoid shocking the yeast in the fermenter.

You could also add fruit juice or puree to the secondary fermenter. I suggest using 100% juice without preservatives or artificial colors and flavorings. Start with a cup or so of fruit juice or puree in a 5 gallon batch for a subtle flavor, or more for something more intense.

Shop FerMonsterWhether you add whole fruit, pureed fruit, or fruit juice to your beer, keep in mind that some of the sugars in the fruit will ferment, raising the alcohol content of your homebrew and possibly adding fermentation time to the process.

 

Fruit Extract

Another way of adding fruit to beer is to use fruit extract and add a few drops to each beer bottle on bottling day. You may want to take a sample of beer and play with ratios to figure out how many drops each bottle should get.

 

Fruit Liqueurs

Fruit liqueur can be used as both a flavoring and a priming agent. Instead of priming with corn sugar, the sugar found in liqueurs is enough to carbonate your beer. Marty Nachel points out that “One 750ml bottle contains just about enough sugar to prime a 5-gallon batch of beer. Because the actual sugar contents of any liqueur depends on the company that made it (although it more likely has too little sugar than too much), you may want to add another ounce or two of dextrose to be sure.”

Shop Liqueur FlavoringsHave you every tried adding fruit to beer? How did it turn out? Share in the comments below!

—————
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Bell’s Two Hearted IPA Clone Recipe

Bells Two Hearted IPA BeerOne of the most popular IPAs on the market is Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, brewed by Bell’s Brewery of Comstock, MI. The beer scores a 95 on Beer Advocate, and if you’ve had it, you know the score is well deserved. In 2011, the American Homebrewers Association ranked Bell’s Two-Hearted IPA the second best beer in the country, second only to Pliny the Elder. All this makes this Bell’s Two Hearted IPA clone recipe a must-brew.

Two-Hearted is hopped with exclusively Centennial hops, an American hop variety that provides a piney, citrusy, and floral character, and is often called a “Super Cascade”. The Centennial hops are added both to the boil kettle and to the fermenter. Bell’s uses a house ale yeast, but California Ale Yeast will work just fine.

The extract beer recipe below comes from the American Homebrewers Association, originally publishing the AHA’s magazine, Zymurgy. I always enjoy seeing proof that simple clone recipes can make beautiful beer.

To brew this Bell’s Two Hearted IPA Clone recipe, you’ll need to review dry hopping techniques (don’t worry – it’s easy!). A full 3.5 oz. of Centennial hops are added to the fermenter for about a week, giving this Two-Hearted clone that spicy, citrusy, super-addictive hop aroma that makes the beer so popular. Give this partial mash clone recipe a try, or see the all-grain recipe below it.

Good luck!

 

Bell’s Two Hearted IPA Clone Recipe Shop Steam Freak Kits
(five-gallon batch, partial mash)

Specs
OG: 1.063
FG: 1.012
ABV: 6.7%
IBUs: 55
SRM: 10

Ingredients
6.6 lbs. Steam Freak Light Malt
2.5 lbs. Light DME
8 oz. Briess Caramel 40L malt
2 grams gypsum
1.2 oz. Centennial hops at :45
1.2 oz. Centennial hops at :30
3.5 oz. Centennial hops dry-hopped Shop Grain Mills
Wyeast 1056: American Ale Yeast

 

Directions:
Steep the crushed caramel malt in one gallon of water at 150˚F. After 20 minutes, strain grains from the wort, pouring the wort into a boil kettle. Add enough filtered water to make 6.6 gallons. Mix in malt extracts and gypsum and bring wort to a boil. Boil for 75 minutes, adding hops according to schedule above. At the end of the boil, cool wort, transfer to a clean and sanitized fermenter, and pitch yeast.

Ferment at 66-70˚F. until fermentation slows. Dry hop the beer for one week, then rack to another fermenter and cold age for one week. Bottle or keg as you would normally.


All-Grain Version:

Replace the malt extracts with 10 lbs. two-row brewers malt and 2.83 lbs. pale ale malt. Increase the gypsum addition to 4 grams. Use a step mash procedure, starting with 4.5 gallons and holding at 150˚F for 45 minutes, then increasing to 170˚F by adding 2.5 gallons boiling water. Hold for 25 minutes, then mash out and sparge to collect 6.6 gallons of wort. Proceed with recipe as above.

If you’re in love with IPA’s, then this Bell’s Two Hearted IPA clone recipe should be your next brew. It’s an inviting brew with a judicial balance of malt and hops that make it pleasing to the palate. Shop Home Brew Starter Kit
—————
David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Best Beer Styles for Spring Homebrewing

Spring Homebrewing Season Beer StyleAfter a long, dreary winter, I for one as a homebrewers can’t wait to get out of the house in the spring time and fire up the brew kettle. What do homebrewers brew in the spring? Generally some lighter-bodied beers that exemplify the qualities of the spring season. As if to salute the growing season, these beers tend to showcase the lively flavors of floral hops and fruity yeast varieties.

 

Below are some of the best beer styles for brewing this spring:

  • SaisonSaison is a dry, Belgian-style farmhouse ale typically characterized by fruity and spicy flavors from the use of estery Belgian ale yeast and spices like coriander. Many versions use specialty grains, like oats, wheat, and rye, and can range from a sessionable 4.5% ABV up to 7% or higher. Sometimes honey or sugar are added to help achieve a dry finish. High carbonation and sprightly acidity make saison a supremely refreshing beer to brew in the spring.
  • Bière de Mars – It’s not too late to pull off this high-gravity cousin of the saison this spring. Bière de Mars is a malt-forward Franco-Belgian ale with notes of toffee, dry, fruity flavors, and minimal hop aroma. Like saison, Bière de Mars may utilize adjunct grains, sugar, and spices to achieve the appropriate style characteristics. It’s a no-brainer for spring time brewing.
  • Maibock – Maibock, or “May bock”, is Germany’s answer to spring weather. It’s a higher-gravity lager just like traditional bock, but paler and a little more bitter. Check out Growler Magazine for a wonderfully simple maibock recipe.Shop Beer Recipe Kits
  • Rye Pale Ale – Like barley, rye is a cereal grain that can be used in making beer. It’s often added in smaller doses to contribute a subtle spicy notes to pale ales, IPAs, and sometimes Beglian-style beers. Try this clone of Terrapin Brewing Company’s Rye Pale Ale.
  • Tripel – Belgian Tripels are the true champagne of beer. Bright, golden, effervescent, with notes of fruit and spice, triples are high-gravity Trappist-style beers that showcase the complexity of Belgian ale yeast. Try a Belgian Tripel recipe kit or try this Westmalle Tripel clone when brewing this spring.
  • Belgian Witbier – Belgian wit, or white beer, is the perfect beer for drinking the spring sunshine. Brewed in the style of Hoegaarden or Allagash White, witbier is a sessionable beer at just 4-5% ABV. The color is very pale, often cloudy and creamy due to the use of oats and wheat. Citrus peel and coriander make the beer bright, fragrant, and refreshing. Try the Brewer’s Best Witbier kit or Blue Noon, a clone of the ever-popular Blue Moon.

 

These are some of my favorite beers for brewing in the spring – what’s your favorite spring time brews?Shop Homebrew Starter Kit

—————
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

How Long Does It Take to Make Beer?

He Knows How Long It Takes To Make BeerWhen discussing how long it takes to make beer at home or the brewing timeline, we can separate the question into two parts: how much time is spent actively working on the beer vs. the time the beer is sitting in the fermenter or the beer bottles. While the beer will need weeks or months before it’s at it’s best to drink, the number of active hours actually spent brewing is relatively low.

 

Hands-on vs. Hands-off Time

My all-grain brew days usually take about six hours from start to finish, including cleaning, but a lot of that time is spent waiting for water to heat, for the mash to convert, and for the wort to boil. (During this time I’m able to multitask and do some chores around the house.) Add to that an hour or so for transferring to secondary and an hour or so for bottling, and the active time for making a batch of beer is about 8-10 hours, spread out over two or three days. You can shave off an hour or so if you’re brewing with malt extract or doing a partial mash. Here’s more information on these brewing methods.

The bulk of the time that it takes to make beer actually involves very little work on the part of the homebrewer. During fermentation and conditioning, it’s the yeast that does all the work of converting sugar into alcohol and developing flavor.Shop Homebrew Starter Kit

The question of how long it takes beer to ferment and condition is largely dependent on beer style. On the short end, a low-gravity ale can take as little as 2-3 weeks if you have a way to force carbonate the beer. However, homebrew almost always improves with some aging, and some beer styles simply take longer to ferment and condition than others.

 

Ales vs. Lagers

When we ask: how long does it take to make beer?, we can’t ignore the difference between ales and lagers. In general, ales are ready to drink sooner that lagers. It’s not unusual to open the first beer after 4-6 weeks of fermentation and conditioning. Lagers, on the other hand, ferment more slowly at cooler fermentation temperatures, and then go through a cold lagering phase, which may last 6-8 weeks or longer. A standard lager may take 2-3 months or longer from brew day to bottling.

 

Amount of Fermentable Sugars Shop Winemaking For Dummies

In general, the higher the gravity, or the amount of fermentable sugar in the wort, the longer it takes to ferment. High-gravity ales and lagers both benefit from extended conditioning, during which time the yeast cleans up some undesirable fermentation byproducts, harsh alcohols mellow out, and the different flavors in the beer meld together. Many brewers age barleywines and Russian imperial stouts for a year or longer.

One theory states that for every gravity point in the final gravity, age the beer for one week. This is a technical way of saying the more body your beer has, the more aging it will benefit from. In general, this theory would support aging your average beer for 2-3 months before drinking. Of course there are no absolute rules in brewing. Determining when a beer is ready to drink will come from experience and your ability to taste when a beer has reached its peak flavor.

 

Conclusion

So, how long does it take to make beer at home? Though the amount of time from start to finish can be as little as a month, most of that time is spent allowing the beer to ferment and condition. In general, expect to spend 6-10 hours of hands-on time brewing, and 2-4 months between brew day and drinking. That said, you will often be rewarded for being patient and allowing your homebrew the time it needs to develop the best flavor. Shop Steam Freak Kits

—————
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Belgian Saison Beer Recipe (All-Grain & Extract)

Made With Saison Beer RecipeAround this time last year, we shared some tips and guidelines for brewing a saison. Well it’s that time of year again; I actually just enjoyed my second-to-last bottle of saison homebrew from last year, and it’s time to brew another one.

A few techniques and characteristics can help make your homebrewed saison a good one when using this saison beer recipe:

 

  • Hard water – Mineral rich water can help your saison have a dry finish that’s typical of the style. Consider adding gypsum to your mash water.
  • Simple sugar – Another way to achieve a dry finish is through the use of simple sugar adjuncts. Since the sugar will ferment almost completely your overall attenuation will be higher. Use about 1-1.5 pounds of adjunct sugar in your saison beer recipe.
  • Adjunct grains – A small amount of adjunct grains like wheat or oats can help give your saison some body and head retention. These adjunct grains can be used in raw, rolled, or flaked form. I’ve had good results with as little as 1/4-lb. of oats or wheat.Shop Gypsum
  • Get creative with herbs and spicesOrange peel and coriander are two of the most common flavor additives used when making a saison, but you can try anything from ginger to lavender to rose hips to chamomile. I find that the floral additions really work well in this kind of seasonal beer.
  • Belgian yeast strain – There is a particular yeast character in saisons that can only be achieved by using a Belgian yeast strain. There are several saison-specific yeast strains, including the Danstar Belle Saison Yeast. Other Belgian ale yeasts such as Wyeast 3942: Belgian Wheat Beer Yeast may also be used. Don’t be afraid to let fermentation temperatures push the upper limits when making this saison beer recipe, as the aromatic esters and phenolics are desirable in saisons.

 

Ready to try a saison of your own? Try this all-grain recipe! (See bottom for an extract / partial mash option!)

 

Belgian Saison Beer Recipe
(all-grain, five-gallon batch)

Specs Shop Beer Flavorings
OG: 1.059
FG: 1.013
ABV: 6.1%
IBUs: 29
SRM: 7

Ingredients 
9 lbs. Two-row malt
1 lb. Caramel 20L malt
4 oz. Flaked oats
1 lb. Brown sugar
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :60
.5 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :30
.25 oz. fresh crushed coriander seed at :20
.5 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :10 Shop Grain Mills
.25 oz. fresh crushed coriander seed at :10
1.5 tsp. yeast nutrient at :10
1.5 tsp. Irish moss at :10
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops dry hopped for 7 days
Lallemand’s Danstar Yeast: Belle Saison Ale (2L yeast starter recommended)

 

Directions: Mash crushed grains in moderately hard water at 148-150˚F for 60 minutes. Sparge to collect 7 gallons of wort. Mix in brown sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops and additives according to recipe. Remove from heat, whirlpool, and cool wort. Pitch yeast at about 70˚F. Ferment at 70-75˚F. Add dry hops to the secondary fermenter. Bottle or keg for 2.5 vols CO2.

EXTRACT / PARTIAL-MASH OPTION: Replace the two-row malt with 6.6 lbs. of Extra Light liquid malt extract. Steep the caramel malt and flaked oats for 30 minutes in 2 qts. water at 150˚F. Strain wort into brew kettle and add the light liquid malt extract and enough water to make a 3.5-gallon boil. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops and additives according to beer recipe. At the end of the boil, remove the kettle from heat and mix in the brown sugar. Whirlpool, chill wort, and adding enough cool, clean bottled water to make 5.5 gallons. Pitch yeast at about 70˚F. Ferment at 70-75˚F. Add dry hops to the secondary fermenter. Bottle or keg for 2.5 vols CO2.

Shop Steam Freak KitsDo you have a favorite saison beer recipe from either extract or all-grain? What makes yours unique?

—————
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

7 Home Brewing Tips For Beginners

Beginning Home BrewerWith over a million homebrewers in the US, making beer at home is more popular than ever. Who wouldn’t want to make their own beer?

If you are considering getting started in this incredible hobby, check out these seven home brewing tips for beginners to help you get the most out of your new hobby:

 

  1. Start easy – Don’t make your first batch a barrel-aged, dry-hopped, sour triple bock. There are plenty of extra steps that can be incorporated into your home brewing process once you have a few batches under your belt. But, when you’re just starting out, I recommend you focus on the basics: cleaning and sanitation, avoiding a boil-over, chilling the wort, and regulating fermentation temperatures. It will probably take 2-3 batches just to get the fundamental procedures down and figure out the best way to home brew within your environment. Once the basics are ironed-out, then you can start experimenting with more adventurous beers.
  1. Brew the classics – As a novice homebrewer, you should start by brewing some of the classic beer styles that you know well. This will give you an easy frame of reference for evaluating your beer. Some good beers for your early batches are stouts, porters, and brown ales.Shop Steam Freak Kits
  1. Brew beers YOU like – This is my favorite of the home brewing tips for beginners, and I tell it to all the first time brewers I meet. Remember, homebrewing is supposed to be fun. Brew a beer that you will enjoy drinking, not something just because it sounds wild and crazy. Love Sierra Nevada Pale Ale? Try our Sahara Nevada Pale Ale kit and you’ll have a supply that will last for weeks.
  1. Be extra clean – I can’t stress enough how important it is to be clean with your homebrewing, but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. Before brewing, clean all of your equipment with a brewing cleaner, then sanitize everything that will touch the wort after the boil, especially the fermenter and any transfer tubing. To make cleaning for your next batch even easier, clean your equipment again as soon as you’re done with it.
  1. Read a homebrew book – Books are a great investment for someone who’s a beginning homebrewer. While there is a ton of information about homebrewing on the Internet, I find it’s easier to find what you’re looking for in a good homebrewing book. Homebrewing for Dummies is a great book for beginners. Also check out our free ebook, the Ultimate Jumpstart Guide to Homebrewing. Shop Homebrew Books
  1. Take notes – You might be surprised how easy it is to forget details from brew day. Just to be safe, write everything down. This will make it easy to repeat successful batches, and in the event that something goes wrong, will help you identify where you need to improve. I like to keep my notes in a spreadsheet, but a good old-fashioned notebook can be just as valuable. Taking notes is one of the easiest ways to make yourself a better home brewer more quickly.
  1. Brew with a friend – There’s a lot to juggle around on brew day, so it can really help to have an extra pair of hands available. Even better, brewing with friends makes it more fun! Crack open a beer and learn about homebrewing together!

 

Shop Home Brew Starter KitsAre you a seasoned homebrewer? What home brewing tips for beginners would you add to the list?

————–
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

What’s The Best Mash Tun Design For Homebrewing?

Grains Into Coller Mash TunMaking the switch to all-grain homebrewing involves making some important decisions around equipment. In particular, what kind of mash tun should you get? Which mash tun design is the best? In this blog post, I’ll walk you through the options, but first, what is a mash tun?

A mash tun is simply a vessel where crushed grains are mixed with hot water. During the mashing process, sugars are extracted from the grains and into the liquid, which is called wort. At the end of the mash, the wort is drawn out of the mash tun and into a boiling kettle. A perforated false bottom holds behind all of the spent grain.

Now let’s cover the options when deciding what kind of mash tun design to buy.

 

3 Basic Mash Tun Designs from Which to Choose: 

 

1. Brew in a Bag (BIAB)Brew in a Bag
OK, the first option isn’t exactly a mash tun, but for many homebrewers, it’s the easiest and most economical way to get into all-grain brewing.

The way it works is that a mesh straining bag (grain bag) is fitted into a brew kettle filled with water, then the crushed grains are added to the bag. After the mash (usually 60 minutes), just pull out the bag of grains.

For best results, the water in the brew kettle should be pre-heated before setting up the bag. You want to avoid the possibility of the grain bag coming in direct contact with the heat source, so some bungee cords might come in handy.

The bottom line: Brew in a Bag is an economical mash tun design for hombrewing, but requires some effort to keep the grain bag away from the kettle.

 

2. The Mash Tun CoolerMash Tun
The mash tun cooler is a great option for all-grain home brewers. Mash tun design is still affordable, yet offers a setup that closely mimics the multi-vessel system used by professional brewers.

The ability to lauter, or shower the grain bed with hot water as you draw off the wort, can help improve mash efficiency over the BIAB method. The mash tun cooler setup also tends to be very efficient at holding heat.

There are just a couple drawbacks with the mash tun cooler system. For one, they’re easily scratched. As a result, they can be hard to clean. These issues can be remedied by being mindful of what you use to clean the mash tun (something non-abrasive – a cloth or rag is best.The other issue with this mash tun design is that you can’t apply direct heat to the plastic mash tun, making it a challenge to do step mashes. To raise the temperature of the mash, you have to add hot water. Dialing this in can be a challenge, but luckily there are online calculators and brewing software available to help you through the process.

The bottom line: A mash tun cooler system is a great middle-of-the-road option for all-grain homebrewing.

 

2. Stainless Steel Mash TunStainless Steel Mash Tun
Not only does the stainless steel mash tun look cool, it’s also extremely durable and easy to clean. Most come with a build in thermometer.

The main advantage of the stainless steel mash tun is that you can apply heat directly to the kettle, making it easier to dial in your mash temperature to the degree.

The main drawback of a stainless steel mash tun is the price. But with that price tag you get quality construction that will last a lifetime. A stainless steel mash tun is an investment for the long term, and if you ever want to sell it, you can probably get back most of what you paid for it.

The bottom line: A stainless steel mash tun design is the best option for serious brewers – if you can afford it. 

 

So what kind of mash tun design do you use? Is it working for you, or do you plan to upgrade?

—————————————————————–
David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Irish Red Ale Beer Recipe (Extract & All-Grain)

Made from an Irish red ale beer recipeWhy not try something a little different? How about brewing an Irish red ale beer recipe? It’s a great option for those who prefer some malty sweetness over a dry, roasty flavor in their homebrews.

Almost every American beer drinker knows of Killian’s Irish Red, but some might dispute the authenticity of that beer, now made by Coors. Dig a little deeper at your favorite beer store to find other examples of Irish red ales. Believe or not, they make more than just stouts in Ireland! See if you can get your hands on a Smithwick’s or Murhpy’s Irish Red for a true Irish red ale. Countless microbreweries also have their own version of an Irish red ale.

The Irish red ale beer recipe below yields a sessionable brew at just 4.8% ABV and about 17 IBUs. Looking for something your Irish drinking buddies would really be proud of? Feel free to increase the malt extract or base malt by as much as 50% for a higher gravity beer, and/or increase the hop additions to manipulate bitterness, flavor, and aroma as you see fit.

Happy brewing!

 

Irish Red Ale Beer Recipe (via Homebrewing for Dummies)
(5-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)Shop Winemaking For Dummies

 

Specs

OG: 1.049
FG: 1.012
ABV: 4.8%
IBUs: 17-18
SRM: 15

 

Ingredients

6.6 lbs. golden light malt extract syrup Shop Temp Probe
1 lb. crystal 60L malt
2 oz. black malt
0.5 oz. Fuggles hops at :60
0.5 oz. Fuggles hops at :40
0.5 oz. Fuggles hops at :20
0.5 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :5
1 pack Wyeast 1084: Irish Ale Yeast

 

Directions
The day before brewing, prepare a 2L yeast starter. On brew day, heat three gallons of clean, chlorine-free water to about 150˚F. Place the specialty grains in a muslin grain bag and steep for 20-30 minutes. Remove specialty grains and mix in liquid malt Shop Fermenterextract. Bring wort to a boil and boil for 60 minutes. Add hops according to schedule above. At end of boil, cool wort to 65˚F and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Mix in enough clean, chlorine-free water to make five gallons and pitch yeast starter. Ferment at 65˚F until complete.

 

All-Grain Directions
Replace the LME with 8.8 lbs. Maris Otter malt. Combine with the specialty grains and mash for 60 minutes at 150˚F. Lauter and sparge to collect about 6.5 gallons of wort in the brew kettle. Proceed with recipe above, but reduce the 60-minute hop addition to .25 oz.

Brewing the Irish red ale beer recipe above is a lot of fun, but if you’re looking for a recipe kit, instead? Try the Steam Freak Dublin Docks Red Ale! It’s a partial mash kit that comes with all the ingredients (pre-measured) and specific instructions to take you through the process.

———————————– Shop Steam Freak Kits
David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.