MonkeysBrew beer brewing

It would be impossible for me not to devote 1 page on my website to MonkeyBrew. MonkeyBrew is what I have called my beer brewing activities. I love a good natural beer, and what better way to have a 100% pure natural beer than brewing it yourself.

So there my adventure started. I started brewing my own beers from 2018, with the help of my partner who had been brewing in his younger years. I read some books, and did a lot of research, and off I went to order my first malts and hops. My first brew was a classic ‘bitter’ pale ale. Since then I have been brewing stouts, and amber beers as well. Up till now I have always been brewing English style beers. But this winter I will try my first pilserner, German style. I promise to keep you posted on that one.

So, for any of you who are interested in home-brewing. I will briefly take you through the steps of making your own first brew.


Which equipment do I need for home brewing?

I will give you a list of the equipment that I use, which is pretty basic.

  • Boiler, or a large pot (20-25 litre), for boiling the hops
  • 1 plastic bucket (25 litre) with lid and 1 drilled hole for a tap.
  • 1 plastic bucket (25 litre) with small holes (sieve) drilled in the bottom
  • 1 plastic bucket (25 litre) with 1 drilled hole for tap, and another drilled hole to fit a heating element.
  • A hop bag.
  • Immersion worth chiller ( a copper coil )
  • hydrometer
  • iodine
  • thermometer
  • plastic jug (3 litre)
  • two tubes that fit your taps.
  • PH- measuring papers

What does a brewing day look like?

Pre-brewing day…

Make sure you have all the ingredients for brewing ready to go

  • Steriliser
  • Malts
  • Hops
  • Yeast
  • Gypsum (calcium sulfate)
  • Irish moss
  • If necessary some water treatment

So, we will start our brewing day, the day before actual brewing day, by sterilising all equipment which we will be using. Everything what we will use must be sterilised. Beer can easily get infected. And we want to take this risk to the minimum. I use VWP cleaner steriliser.

In the evening I pre-boil 40 litre of water. So the water can settle throughout the night, and will release most of it’s calcium. So the water will be softer. This process will of course depend on your local water quality.

beer brewing equipment in bath for sterilising
sterilising equipment

Brewing day!

Watch a short video of my brewing day ; https://youtu.be/MygO43rlFj8

Prepare the malts

Measure all your malts according your recipe. I always like to pre-heat my malts to 30-35 C. So the temperature of the mash doesn’t go drastically down after striking.

Bring your striking volume (approx.16-18 litre) of water up to strike heat (70C)

The mash

Poor the hot water into the mash tun *which in my case is the bucket with the heat element with the bucket with the holes (sieve) tightly fitted in there. And let the water settle for 1 – 2 minutes. Poor carefully the malts in, while stirring, to prevent air pockets.

Once all malts are nicely stirred into the water, do a temperature check. This is your first temperature measurement. During the whole period of 90 minutes the temperature of the mash should be maintained between 62-68C. This is to ensure that all enzymes stay active during the mashing process. Check every 15 minutes, when needed turn the heating element on to give the mash a short heating boost. I always end up having to mix the lower worth with the upper worth, by draining 2 litre from the tap, and putting it back in at the top. This keeps the temperature everywhere within range.

Meanwhile keep you sparging water at a temperature of 77 – 80C. when you get to 90 minutes of mashing, do a PH-check of your wort (with your PH papers) and do the starch check to see if there is any starch left in the malt. You can do this with a drop of iodine. If the iodine colour does not change after putting it on a little bit of malt, then all starch is gone. (If the colour goes bright black/blue than you still have a lot of starch in your malt).

Now, you can very briefly heat your mash to 80C to make sure all enzymes stop working, and then it’s time to run off the wort. If the first jug comes out very cloudy, put it back into the mash. Do this until the wort comes out clear. Now run your wort into your other plastic bucket. Once all wort has run off , you will be left with the mash grain bed.

iodine test with malt on white plate
PH, and starch check

Sparging

With sparging we rinse the mash grain bed to get all the last sugars out, without extracting the tannins. My sparging volume is normally around 16 litre. There are ways with a gravity check to check when you should stop sparging, I just use my own taste buds. When the wort that still runs off looses it’s sweetness, than it is time to stop. You do not want to end up with too much of the tannins in your beer.

A mash tub with grain bed being sparged
Sparging the mash grain bed

Time for the lovely hops, The Boil.

Once you transferred all the wort to your boiler, it is time to get your hops and Irish moss ready and measured.

Bring your wort in the boiler to 100C. Add the hops with a hop bag into your wort, and vigorously boil for 90 minutes. ENJOY the smells while doing so 🙂 Some recipes call for a 2nd batch of hops just before finishing. This normally is added 15 minutes before the end of the boil.

After 90 minutes, turn off the boiler , and let the wort cool down. This is best done with an immersion wort cooler, a copper coil (which you can easy make yourself).

When the wort is cooled down, transfer is to your fermentation vessel. From this moment onwards, you will have to be very careful for infection. So make sure your equipment is sterilised. And don’t do any unnecessary things with your wort.

Fermentation

hydrometers on table

Before pitching the yeast, do you original gravity test, and adjust by adding water if necessary. Sometimes you will have to add water because of too much evaporation during the boil.

When your wort is between 20-23C it is time to pitch your yeast. I use a yeast which I can stir directly into the liquid, but make sure to read the package of your yeast for exact temperatures and instructions.

fermentation of home brew beer

Once the process of fermentation starts we just keep an eye on the temperature, check the gravity after 48 and 96 hours, and leave the yeast to do it’s own work… Turning the sugars into alcohol 🙂

During fermentation we ought to be careful not to disturb it too much. Keep the lid on when the liquid is unprotected to air-born bacteria, so when the foam is not visible yet. But when it clearly starts fermenting keep the lid off because the yeast will need oxygen.

Fermentations lasts in general 5 – 7 days, depending on yeast, temperature and many other things. If you get to your final gravity, or the gravity hasn’t changed for 24 hours. It is time to transfer your Beer (Yes, we can call it BEER now!) to the cask. Depending on the strength of your beer, it will need at least 2 – 3 weeks in the cask. If you do decide to bottle your beer after casking, than it will need after bottling another 2 weeks minimal before it is at it best to drink. I always tend to bottle my beers, and before bottling I add an extra amount of sugar to it, to keep the fizz.

Final note…

This is a very brief introduction to beer brewing. As you can imagine there is a lot to learn and experiment with. Beer brewing is like magic to me, you start with malts and water, and end up with a delicious cold natural beer. But during these magic beer brewing processes, there is a lot of chemistry going on. Think of the enzymes that turn starch into simple sugars during mashing. Followed by the boiling to terminate the enzymatic process, and to concentrate and sterilise the wort. And not to mention the fermentation process, where the sugars will be turned into alcohol.

During all these brewing processes we need to keep the most ideal situation for the enzymes, yeasts, or sugars to do their magic. So I would definitely recommend to learn about the chemistry of beer brewing before your first brewing day. It helps to understand the process, and to be able to make adjustments as you go along. I have learned a lot from the books from Graham Wheeler.

Enjoy the magic! Cheers Nicole

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