Well, time to graduate. Serious home brewers don’t bother with liquid or dry malt extract kits to make beer; just like good cooks who make everything from scratch, so do they.  If you’ve ever wondered about beer all grain brewing, read on! I took the plunge, bought a few bags of malted barley, a grain crusher, and some other odds and ends so as to make my own scratch beer!

The method I use is called BIAB – or “brew in a bag”. It’s a simple and cheap way to get into all-grain. An advantage of brewing from scratch is the flexibility of creating and modifying the recipe. Add more hops, use various grains, whatever yeast you want… all these affect flavour, head retention, mouth feel, etc. So – first l ground up 11 pounds of Canadian 2-row. This is the base flavour. Then I ground up a pound of Crystal 40 to add some character, and additionally, I toasted  8 ounces of 2-row in the oven, and ground that up as well.

A little explanation here: what brewers call “2-row” has to do with the physical and chemical make-up of the malt. Physically, the grains are lined up in 2 rows on the stock. There is also one called “6-row”.  Chemically, the difference between 2 and 6-row is the amount of protein they contain: 6-row has slightly more than 2-row.

So, the pictures pretty well explain themselves; I’ve added some captions so the uninitiated can get some context…

That's about 13 pounds of malted barley grain about to be passed through the crusher.

That’s about 13 pounds of malted barley grain about to be passed through the crusher.

My hand drill makes grinding the grain an easy job.

My hand drill makes grinding the grain an easy job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Called "mashing", the grain is added to water at a temperature of about 150 degrees. I use a paint stirrer on a drill to avoid any clumping that may happen.

Called “mashing”, the grain is added to water at a temperature of about 150 degrees. I use a paint stirrer on a drill to avoid any clumping that may happen.

Brew-in-a-bag is not much different than steeping a tea bag! It sits for an hour while the grains release their sugars and enzymes.

Brew-in-a-bag is not much different than steeping a tea bag! It sits for an hour, allowing the enzymes in the grain to convert the starches into sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After an hour, I hoisted the spent grain using a pulley and rope. What's left behind in the pot is called "wort".

After an hour, I hoisted the spent grain using a pulley and rope. What’s left behind in the pot is called “wort”.

Then the boil happens - for 90 minutes. This is when adding hops for bitterness, flavour, and aroma happens. - at very specific times.

Then the boil happens – for 90 minutes. This is when adding hops for bitterness, flavour, and aroma happens. – at very specific times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pelletized hops get added at 60, 30, 15, and 0 minutes during the boil.

Pelletized hops get added at 60, 30, and 0 minutes during the boil. The one labelled “15” is Irish moss… it’s a fining agent that help clear the beer.

The wort needs a quick cool-down to avoid infection from stray yeasts, bacteria, etc.

The wort needs a quick cool-down to avoid infection from stray yeasts, bacteria, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s it!  Once the wort is cooled to 70 degrees F. it gets transferred to a fermenting bucket where the yeast is added. It takes longer brewing from scratch, but the rewards are worth it!

 

Cheers!

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