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Common Brewing Beer FAQ

What is extract brewing?
Extract brewing is also known as Partial Mash brewing. When beer is made using grains only, it is called All Grain Brewing. This type of brewing takes 6 hours or so and requires more sophisticated equipment. To make the hobby easier and less time consuming, extracts are made available. These extracts come in a liquid form (LME) and dry (DME). When making the wort, extracts are complimented with a variety of grains, hops, adjuncts and sugars, thus making the various styles of beer.

What is the "Wort"?
The wort is unfermented beer. It is made up of all the ingredients added during the brewing process, primarily the malt sugars. It is the  malt sugares that the yeast digest  and convert into alcohol (ROH).

What is pitching the yeast mean?
Adding the yeast to the wort when it is finished and is cooled is called pitching. 

How do I know the beer is fermenting?
Bubbles will be become visible in the airlock within 24 hours of pitching the yeast. The airlock has water in it and the fermenter is otherwise sealed. When the yeast begins to digest the malt sugars, ROH and carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced. It is the CO2 that you will see bubbling through the airlock.

What is a single-stage fermentation?
Fermentation that is allowed to take place in one container only. After the yeast is pitched and fermentation begins, it will continue for 5-10 days. When complete, the new beer is siphoned to another container and bottled or kegged. Single stage fermentation is appropriate for beginners and certain styles of beer.

What is a two-stage fermentation?
Fermentation that is allowed to take place in two containers. After the yeast is pitched and fermentation begins, it is allowed to continue for 3-5 days in the first or primary container. Fermentation has not finished yet, and the partially fermented beer is siphoned to the next or secondary container, leaving most of the "sediment" behind. This process is appropriate for advanced brewers and most styles of beer. Two-stage fermentations produce better tasting beer by removing the sediment which can produce off flavors in the beer.

Why does the secondary fermenter need to be topped up?
Topping up the fermenter minimizes the amount of air that comes in contact with the beer. Air oxidizes the beer giving it an off flavor. Topping up means to fill the carboy within an inch of the stopper.

How do I carbonate the beer?
By adding Priming Sugar at the time of bottling. Even though fermentation has ended in the new beer, there is still yeast in it. Adding sugar to the beer at the time of bottling regenerates the yeast. Now when the yeast digest the sugar and produces CO2 in the sealed bottle it cannot escape, goes into solution, therefore carbonating the beer. It is important to note that carbonating the beer is an extension of the fermentation process, and must be carried out at the proper temperature.

How long does it take to carbonate the beer?
Naturally carbonated beer takes 1-3 weeks to become fully carbonated. Once carbonated, the beer can be consumed, stored in the refrigerator or stored in a cool place. Note: storing beer at high temperatures could dis-flavor or cause the beer to over carbonate and blow the caps off.

What is the sediment in the bottom of my bottle?
Mostly the yeast that carbonated the beer, it also can be some of the ingredients added in making the wort. Sediment is typical in homemade beer, it will not harm you. It is best dealt with by carefully pouring the beer into a glass leaving the sediment behind. Filtering the beer is not recommended for homebrewers.

What is a yeast starter?
It is a method of pitching where the yeast culture is greatly increased in volume. The larger starting yeast colony is more effective and provides a more efficient fermentation.

How is a yeast starter made?
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add 4 tablespoons of dry malt extract (DME) stir well and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Sanitize in an appropriate container, add the malt/water mixture and yeast. Put a stopper and airlock on the container and allow to activate. The yeast starter should be ready in 12-14 hours.

What is mashing?
Mashing/steeping is the process whereby grains are placed in water of a specific temperature for a specific amount of time to release the flavor and sugar they contain. The steeping causes the enzymes contained in the grains to convert their starches into fermentable sugars, as well release the flavor.

Can I grow my own hops?
Hops grow as a vine and are initiated from a root cutting called a rhizome. Hops need well drained soil and plenty of sunshine and water. They grow best and are most prolific when trained to climb 20' to 25' feet high. Hops grow very well in our area, as they sprout in early spring, produce their cones in the late summer and die back to ground level for over-wintering. The Home Brew Barn offers rhizomes for sale during February of each year, and they arrive in late April-early May.

What grains are available for home brewers?
There are two different types of grains available 2-row and 6-row. The difference is more apparent before they are harvested and deals with how they grow in the field. 2-row grains yield a higher extract and produce less husk material. They are the more widely used grain, offering a wider selection of varieties and the favorite of European breweries. 6-row grains contain more enzymes necessary for starch to simple sugar conversion, are used more frequently by American breweries who use adjuncts such as corn and rice.

What is Dry Hopping?
Dry Hopping is when hops (usually plugs) are added to the new beer, usually during the end of the fermentation process. The important distinction between Dry Hopping and Finish Hopping is that finish hops are added during the late stages of the boil and dry hops are not boiled. Dry hopping lends superior flavor and aroma to the beer, as the hop's volatile oils are not lost to the boiling process.

Why would my beer become over-carbonated?
There are a few reason for apparent over-carbonation in beer. Over-carbonation is usually seen when the beer is opened and it gushes all over the place. Actual over carbonation is the result of adding too much priming sugar to the beer at the time of bottling, or adding the priming sugar to a beer that has not yet finished fermenting. More frequently, however, the gushing is apparent over-carbonation is caused by a contamination which has been introduced to the beer.

What alternatives are there to bottling my beer?
In addition to bottling in 12 and 22 ounce crown cap bottles, it can be put in a 500 ml, 1 liter and 2 liter flipper (grolsch style) bottles. These eliminated the need for crown caps and cappers. Belgian-style beers can be put in 750 mls cork finished bottles with wire hoods and foil tops. 5 & 6 liter mini kegs are available and can be connected to a mini tap-draft system. FInally, Cornelius (soda) keg systems are popular, with the entire batch of beer being placed in a single container.