I've been reading John Palmer's, How To Brew and it's given me the confidence to try making my own wort. This recipe is based on John's Cincinnati Pale Ale. If you try this yourself, be sure to read the Lessons Learnt section at the end first as it will save you lots of time.

Equipment

  1. Sanitiser in spray bottle
  2. 1 litre stein glass
  3. 30 litre fermenting bin incl. lid + airlock
  4. 15 litre stockpot ($16 from Kmart)
  5. Optional: Kettle and additional 4 litre stockpot for extra boiling
  6. Long handle spoon
  7. Measuring jug
  8. Glass jar
  9. Tablespoon
  10. Teaspoon
  11. Strainer

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg pale malt extract
  • 1.4kg amber dry malt extract
  • 30g Chinook 11.8% bittering hops
  • 22g Cascade 6.2% finishing hops
  • 1tbsp amber dry malt extract for yeast priming
  • 2 x 11.5g US-05 Safale yeast (ideal temp. 15-22C)

Method

  1. Clean and sanitise everything before use
  2. Using whatever means available (because it takes a looooong time), boil 13 litres of water and add to the fermenting bin - I used both stockpots and the kettle
  3. Bring another 8 litres of water to the boil in the stockpot - this will be used to create the wort
  4. Whilst waiting for the boil, place the liquid malt extract tin (unopened) into a bowl of hot water to soften
  5. Once the stockpot water is boiling, turn off the heat
  6. Add the dry malt extract, stirring continuously - if you're pouring from a plastic bag, make sure you've got a wide enough opening as the steam from the water causes the extract to crystallise and stick together
  7. Open the liquid malt extract tin and add to the stockpot, stirring continuously
  8. Turn on the heat again and bring back to the boil, stirring occasionally
  9. You want a vigorous, rolling boil, but...DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL OVER
  10. I put a lid on the stockpot, turned away for 30 seconds to take a photograph and BAM! Boil over! If you're going to add a lid, keep constant watch.
  11. Look for white stringy bits or lumpy egg whites - the Hot Break (occurs after 10-20mins). I didn't get this, which may be because I removed the lid following the boil over and then didn't achieve enough "rolling" boil.
  12. Normally, you'd add the bittering hops following the hot break, but I didn't get a hot break so I added after 40mins, stirring to ensure no boil over
  13. I started priming the yeast at this point, which is fine if you don't have boiling water in the fermenting bin, but if I do I will wait until I'm cooling the wort (step # 20) before doing this in future
  14. Following this, I played with the lid positioning so it was not quite fully on (left 1-2cm gap). This achieved a nice rolling boil without boil over.
  15. After another 30mins I added half of the finishing hops
  16. After 15min, I added the remainder of finishing hops
  17. During this last stage I started to prepare the ice bath for the wort - you need to bring the temperature down as quickly as possible. I emptied two bags of ice into the bath and started running cold water.
    NOTE: You might need some assistance at this stage to keep an eye on the wort to make sure it doesn't boil over.
  18. Stop running bath when the level of the water is roughly half the height of the stockpot (you can't get any of this water into the wort)
  19. Took lid off for last 5 mins of boil to dispel nasty stuff (sulphur?)
  20. Put the stockpot into the ice bath
  21. Stirring carefully will speed up the cooling process - you want to avoid splashing whilst the wort is hot (I probably did this a bit too energetically to start)
  22. Whilst the wort is chilling, put the lid on the fermenting bin and plug the airlock hole (I used the airlock) and shake to aerate the water
  23. I tested the temperature of the wort by gently stirring, then allowing the wort that was on the spoon to drip onto my hand - you must avoid getting any water from the bath or your hand in the wort
  24. Once the wort has cooled to the right temperature it is ready to pour into the fermenter - the "right" temperature will depend on the temperature and volume of the water in the fermenting bin and the volume of wort. You're aiming to hit the yeast pitching zone of 18-23C when the two are combined.
    NOTE: The temperatures will stabilise at the average of the two. If you have 12 litres (L) of water at 30C and 8 litres at 10C, the combined temperature will be 22C. ((12L x 30C) + (8L x 10C)) /(12 + 8)L  = 22C
  25. Pour the wort through a strainer to catch as much trub as possible - be careful...it's easy to spill some if you go too fast (like I did), but you also want to try to aerate the wort whilst you're doing this (like pouring tea)
  26. Check the temperature of the final mixture. I had 20litres @ ~34C, which is too warm, but that gave me 3 litres of space to add more cold water.
    NOTE: This means I lost ~1 litre whilst boiling
  27. Using a re-cleaned and sanitised stockpot, I chilled 3 more litres of boiled water in the ice bath
  28. After ~30 minutes, once this was as cold as I thought it could get, I added to the wort in the fermenting bin. This dropped the temperature a couple of degrees, but it was still too warm for yeast pitching, so I had to wait a bit for the temp to come down. In the meantime, the yeast was still priming.
  29. I moved the fermenting bin to the smaller/deeper laundry sink and transferred what was left of the ice water (still very cold). After ~1.5hours, the temperature had dropped to around 22C according to the stick-on strip thermometer on the side of the fermenting bin. After all this effort, I hope this is close to accurate, but suspect the actual temperature of the wort is a bit lower.
  30. I (finally!) pitched 2/3 of a cup of my yeast starter
  31. Added sanitiser mix to air lock and waited for signs of fermentation ("galump")

Total time: 8 hours 15 minutes

Yeast priming

  1. Pour 1 cup of boiling water into a glass jar and allow to cool til warm (~35C) (I put mine in the fridge, then the freezer to speed up cooling)
  2. Add 1tsp of malt extract to a small amount of the extra boiling water and also allow to cool
  3. Pitch the yeast to the glass jar, cover with glad wrap, and place out of sunlight
  4. Wait 15 mins and watch for signs of activity
  5. Add a tablespoon of the malt solution to the yeast
  6. After 30 mins (or when the wort is in the temperature range 18-23C), pitch the yeast

Lessons learnt

Don't boil all the water

Buying bottled water, or using straight tap water, will save you a lot of time. I've used unfiltered tap water in the past and things have worked out, so I think this is low risk. Only boil if you really think it's necessary.

If you do boil all the water, place the fermenting bin in the ice bath earlier to bring the temperature down. I transferred the fermenting bin from the bath to the laundry sink to get the level of the ice water higher up the wort.

I think I could easily have completed everything in less than three hours if I didn't need to wait for everything to cool.

Hold off on the yeast

The time spent waiting for the wort to cool meant I had plenty of time to rehydrate and prime the yeast prior to pitching. By the time I pitched the yeast it had been priming for about 5 hours, which might be too long.

Learn how your equipment behaves

The boil over was due to inexperience. I didn't realise how quickly the wort could go from simmer to boil over with the lid on the stockpot. Now I know, and I've worked out where to place the lid to get a solid rolling boil without boil over, I'd be confident leaving the boiling wort for a bit longer.

Success?

After starting at 12:15, I ended up pitching the yeast at just after 20:30. That's a long time to spending making beer for fun.

Nevertheless, by the time I turned in for the night, around 22:40, I saw the first "galump" as the primary fermentation had started.

Sadly, when I returned to check in the morning, there was no "galumping" and the airlock level had dropped back, suggesting the yeast had stalled. This could also be due to the further cooling of the wort. The ambient temperature is around 17C.

Anyway...fingers crossed that fermentation begins again today!