Yesterday I took the wife and baby to the airport so they could spend a few days out east with Jamie’s parents. Perfect opportunity to do some brewing!I decided to take some pictures as I went. Obviously, there were a few things I wasn’t able to photograph while I was doing them, but here’s a general idea of how a brew session goes down.

Heating up water. This was heated to 160 degrees to mash in at around 150. I use a turkey fryer burner and propane tank. Much easier to deal with than stove top brewing!

While the water was heating, I ran downstairs and assembled the grain bill. 12 pounds total, so I grabbed the electric drill and my Barley Crusher and crushed the grains.

This particular beer is an English-style pale ale with added orange peel and coriander. I took one ounce of coriander seed and crushed it coarsely. Then I zested three large oranges. Smelled good! Then I measured out the four ounces of Cascade hops. The first ounce goes in while I collect the first runnings (called ‘first wort hopping’). The next three ounces will be added with 10, 5, and 1 minute left in the boil, respectively.

Once the strike water was heated, I mashed in. I poured the water into the mash tun (a fancy term for a vessel where you mash your grains), then added the grain. After some good stirring to make sure there’s no clumps of dry grain, I checked my temperatures and closed the lid. It usually takes around an hour for the conversion from starches to sugar. Once that was done, I collected the wort (unfermented beer). I had a few more gallons of water heating, which I used to rinse the grain and increase my boil volume. They call it sparging. Here’s what the pot looked like shortly before the boil.

After the 60 minute boil, it’s time to cool the wort. I use a copper coil immersion chiller, which hooks up to a garden hose. Usually, I can chill it down to yeast pitching temperature (less than 70 degrees) in around 15-20 minutes using around 25 gallons of water. I thought I’d try something different this time: take a small electric pump and put the input and output into a bucket filled with ice and a small amount of water. I wanted to see if I could chill it down to 70 without using a ton of water. It worked, but I needed to raid all the ice cube trays in the house!

Once that was done, it was time to pour the wort into the awaiting sanitized glass carboy for yeast pitching. As it is, the wort looks very dark and cloudy. As the fermentation does its thing, the beer will clear up as particles settle into the bottom, giving the beer a nice golden hue.

The target gravity for this beer (which tells us the amount of fermentables in the wort and can be used in conjunction with the final gravity taken after fermentation to determine alcohol content) was 1.060. Here’s a shot of the hydrometer, which not only gives us a view of the nice color of the brew, but if you look through that foam you’ll see that the target gravity was hit dead on! Almost done! Time to celebrate by pouring a homebrew.

After this, it’s time to pitch the yeast. Then I put the airlock on, put it down in the basement and wait. All in all, it was about a 4 1/2 hour brew day. Not bad! Primary fermentation on this beer should take about 10-14 days. From there, I’ll siphon it into a secondary fermentation tank where I will add another ounce of Cascade hops (called dry-hopping) to give it a nice aroma boost. From there, I’ll siphon it into an empty keg (which I don’t have right now!) and it’ll be ready to drink in a week. I’ll keep you updated! :)