Before we attempted to brew our first beer we read a lot of stuff on the subject. We probably read too much. Every website and book had slightly different procedures to brew. One says proof the yeast; one says just sprinkle it on top; they almost all referred to equipment we didn’t have. Once we finally got to the intructions, there were so many different ideas and methods out there that it got confusing and inconsistent. For our second beer, we read completely through the instructions, planned out what we needed to do, and then simply went through the steps. It was amazingly simple.
Another aspect that made it simple was knowingi the hang-ups from the first time. Our kit came with a glass carboy which works fine for fermenting, but is a pain in the ass to mix with given its weight and the narrowness of the opening. We spent $15 on a bottling bucket and it made the whole process a ton easier. Being able to pour the boil into the bucket and mix it with water to get up to the 5 gallon mark really cut down on the stress. It also allowed us to take an original gravity reading and spread the yeast evenly while mixing it in.
Finally, buying three gallons of distilled water made life much less frantic. On our first brewday, we had to boil all the water that was going in, and to make matters worse, we didn’t have a microwave on site. Boiling the water made it even more difficult to try to get the wort down to temp quickly enough. We actually put the yeast in when the wort was probably over 100ºF, it’s amazing it fermented at all. This time, we got the boil down to about 80ºF, and added 2 gallons of cold water and 1 gallon of room temperature water which got it right to 70ºF.
We’re still having some problems getting the hard break with the boil. We tried an ice bath in the sink and it still took about 20-30 minutes. We have a keg cooler that we can get our hands on for next time, so hopefully that will help. We’re still using a cut open handle of gin as our funnel, mainly because it’s awesome, and funnels are like $12. We much prefer not spending the money and keeeping the hilarity of our improvised funnel.
We still have to bottle, and we’re not quite set up perfectly for that. The bucket with a spiget will certainly help, but we don’t have a bottling wand or a short piece of tubing to fill the bottle with. Last time we bottled with a siphon, and that was a royal pain in the ass. It should be much better this time.
Hopefully we can continue this upward trend. The first beer will most likely be drinkable, and it was a fun experience making it, but it did get frustrating and stressful when it looked like the beer might not work. Now that we get the basic process pretty well, we can expand into some more complicated stuff.