the Process

Making beer is this simple. It really is.

the brewing process

The rest is just details.

I use one vessel – yes, just one – for all 4 steps listed above. Here’s how it works:

SOAK the BARLEY

I fill a large pot with roughly 8 gallons of hot water (aiming for about 5 gallons of beer):

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in the summer I use a garden hose or outside spigot

As I’m waiting for it to fill, I hook up propane tank to burner and get all my stuff out:

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this is pretty much all my stuff for brewday

Once the pot is full of 8 gallons of water, I put it on the burner, crank up the heat, and put the lid on:

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lid = faster heating

While waiting for this to heat up to 155F (takes around 7 minutes or so), I crush my barley:

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if you can buy your barley pre-crushed, even better

You might be able to tell from the picture, but the barley is being crushed into a mesh nylon bag (a.k.a. the “brewbag”), which is inside of the bucket. It will make its appearance soon.

In the meantime, the water has reached about 155F, perfect for soaking the barley:

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Time for the barley to be soaked in our hot water (this is called ‘mashing’). Grab the bag of barley and simply dunk:

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And stir:

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And put the lid on.

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And have a beer. I set the timer for about 30 minutes, stirring a few times in between for better efficiency.

Time’s up. I put my gloves on, take the bag out, and squeeze:

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And set aside for now:

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BOIL with HOPS

It’s time to boil. After discarding the sack of grains, I crank up the heat, put the lid on, and wait for the boil. It happens faster than you think (5-10 minutes with the lid on). While I’m waiting for the boil, I throw in my first hop addition (this is called ‘first wort’ hopping, it’s for bitterness).

The boil comes fast and furious:

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When I see this, I crank the heat down significantly, until it reaches a nice, steady, rolling boil.

During the boil, I add hops according to my recipe (this was a Brown recipe that had .5 oz Magnum at the beginning and 1 oz Fuggle at the end).

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During the boil is a good time to clean up. Remember that mesh bag full of barley? Now’s a good time to throw away the barley, clean the bag, and clean the thermometer. Did you just notice how little cleaning is involved? Me too.

30 minutes are up! The boil is over, cut the heat.

ADD the YEAST

Yeast likes to ferment around room temperature, so it’s not a good idea to add right after the boil (in fact, don’t do that, it will die). So, after the 30 minute boil is complete, I cut the heat, put the lid on the pot, and put in a cold fridge and forget about it for about 18 hours:

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the  slow chill method; other methods are cool too

My fridge, I should mention, has a temperature controller. So I set it for 70F. The next day, when it reaches around 70F, I add the yeast:

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yes, that’s me. I’m a 2 year old child. Normally I leave it in the fridge, no need to move it.

I put the lid on and forget about it for 5-7 days, which is about how long it takes for beer to ferment (use a hydrometer to be sure). After that, I like to lower the temperature for day or so (called ‘cold crashing’) and then add gelatin to the beer. This makes the beer nice and clear. However, it’s not necessary.

BOTTLE

Bottling is very simple: put the beer in bottles, with a little sugar, and let them carbonate in the bottles for a week or so. Then drink.

First, I sanitize the bottles. I put 26 22 ounce bottles in my dishwasher, push the sanitize setting and let them go. Sometimes I do this days in advance, sometimes the day of bottling. Then, I gather up the bottles, the caps, the capper, some sugar cubes, I attach the bottling wand to the fermenter, and fill each empty bottle with 2 sugar cubes. Here’s the scene:

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my bottling set up

Then I start filling bottles. I fill up one box, then cap.

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one more box to go

Repeat for the second box, cap, then put the bottles in a room temperature environment (which for me is a closet in my living room). Clean the pot, and you’re done. Congrats. Wait a week (or two), crack open your first beer, and drink it.

Making beer is not easy – it does take work – but at least I made it a lot easier.

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17 thoughts on “the Process

  1. Glenn says:

    This is awesome! Had I watched this 15 years ago when I started, my brew day would look a lot different now, and I wouldn’t have collected all the crap I have. I may simplify one day in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris says:

    I’m so glad I found this blog. I’m a new brewer with an imperial stout (extract, of course) fermenting right now that I’m sure I botched because it’s bubbling so SLOW. Wish I had found this first!
    I have a few noob questions, if you’d be so kind:

    1. From what I can tell from the videos above, you bring water to 150 with a muslin bag inside and pour your grains in and “mash” for an hour. Then you add hops for another hour and then pull everything out…correct?
    2. Do you mill your own grain?
    3. How would you adjust for 1 to 1.5 gallon boils? I don’t have the space on my oven for anything bigger (dang overhanging microwave) and don’t have the current funds for the outside propane setup.

    THANKS FOR ALL THE WORK YOU PUT INTO THIS SITE.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Chris. Bubbling slow is not a problem, it’s probably not botched at all. You will notice that it’s hard to botch beer when you stick to the fundamentals like temperature and cleaning. Just make sure the temperature doesn’t get too cold (beer likes to ferment around 65-70 F).

      1. I was able to place the bag in the pot while heating only because the bag didn’t touch the bottom of the pot. If the bag touches the bottom with the flame on, it will burn. Currently my system is slightly bigger than what the video shows, and I do NOT put the bag in the pot while heating up for that reason – because my new bag does touch the bottom.

      I highly recommend all-grain even for beginners. Mashing is just a fancy word for soaking barley in hot water. Most homebrewers do it for an hour, but I currently do it for only 30 minutes and never had any issues. If you are brewing small batches, I would do 30 minutes and not waste your time. After you soak the barley for 30 minutes, that’s when you take the bag out (squeeze it to get the juices out first). Do not leave the bag in for the boil. Then, get to a boil, add hops, and boil. I only boil for 30 minutes. I use brewtoad.com to get an idea of how bitter the beer will be. Then ferment for about a week, and bottle.

      2. I just started milling. It’s just for convenience. If you can mill at the homebrew shop, I would do that. But yes – the barley does have to be milled before using it. It’s too expensive for equipment you don’t really need.

      3. All grain Brew in a Bag works great on the stove top in small batches. My system would work pretty much the same exact way for any size batch. A paint strainer bag from Lowes would probably work with your small pot, or maybe try a muslin bag from the home brew shop? Anything that will hold grains. To bottle, you have a couple options. If you attach a spigot to your pot, you could ferment in the pot and bottle directly from it. Or, perhaps you want to use the pot for cooking…you could buy the Brew Demon 2 gal plastic conical fermenter for 35 bucks, which comes with a spigot for bottling. That would work just fine with your set up: after the boil, you could cool the beer down to 70ish, put in the Brew Demon fermenter, add yeast, wait about a week, and bottle. I would use sugar cubes to bottle with.

      Cheers Chris!

      Like

      • Chris says:

        Matt,
        I’m definitely going to try the sugar cube thing. That’s actually how I found your site to begin with, by googling the whole sugar cube bottling technique. All of this is really increasing my already hyped excitement for brewing…your site is becoming my supportive crutch.
        On my next batch I’m going to try your perfect IPA recipe. I’m going to use 1.5 gallons and do the all grain technique. I actually have a siphon and carboy, so I won’t need to keep everything in the brew pot (funnel it to the carboy after it’s cold enough in my kitchen freezer).
        I’m guessing I could just multiply all your measurements by 1/5 to downsize for my small brew pot?

        Like

  3. Carl says:

    Does CO2 leak out around your foil lid during fermentation so an airlock isn’t needed?

    I consider myself a minimalist brewer but you have taken it to another level. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t even use foil anymore. My large pot came with a lid (not the pot shown in the video above), I simply put the lid on and let it ferment. It’s not airtight, doesn’t require an airlock, yet doesn’t let air in either. Fermenting beer has a protective layer of CO2 that stays on top. So far, no fermentation problems. Dry hopping is a breeze. Open lid, throw hops in, put lid back on.

      Like

    • I didn’t really answer your question. CO2 might leak, I’m not sure actually. I also have a really big pot, which allows for a ton of head space – picture 5.5 gallons of beer in a 13 gallon pot – so there’s not a ton of pressure in the pot to be released. All I know is that it works, and that some breweries ferment without a lid at all – open fermentation, like arcadia.

      Like

  4. aaron says:

    You are not alone, i make three now. Wilsbrewer i think on homebrewtalk ferments in his kettle dont know why i haven’t tried. I never believed much in myths and always stand by what goes in the pot is what comes out. Second the lhbs guys and others called biab not a “valid” method or “step into” brewing i was skeptical. What a rocky road from there i gave up discussing it, well sort of 😉 I dont own a hydrometer or much gear and now go 45 min. mash and 45 min boil but am not opposed to 30 minutes on either. Everybody thinks i am a hack, i dont care, i would rather be like you. Ill email you my homebrewtalk threads to check out. My email is my screen name on there. Had to go electric to get off of stove and did it really slickly and fairly cheap considering i didnt build anything. Thanks a lot for your blog im grateful. What goes in the pot is what comes out. I’m surprised some of these guys dont dance with there kettle in the moonlight because someone said it was necessary.

    Please help me join you!

    Is aluminum cool to ferment in?
    Hot break and hops gunk on side matter? I guess i could get sides while stirring?
    My lid was tight fitting but a little bend now a little less think it matters?like you i have plenty of head space. Wondering about weight on lid

    As i sit here thinking i will still have to use bucket likely as i cant picture myself carrying pot from outside through house and down steps!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, aluminum is cool to ferment in.
      Hot break, hop gunk on side doesn’t matter to me. But I try to get it while I stir.
      If the environment that I fermented in was dirty (like a closet), then I would worry a little about the lid. However, I’ve read that fermentation creates a protective layer of CO2 on top of the beer. Still, I ferment in a clean environment (fridge).
      So your pot must be heavier than you bucket, then? Yeah, that’s a consideration. That was one of the reasons I got a fermentation chamber – no more moving the beer everywhere…although that’s a big thing to consider.

      Like

  5. Grant Richard says:

    Thank you for your blog, Matt. I’m glad I came across it. I’m fairly new to brewing and am still figuring things out. I don’t know that I’m going to do everything in one pot, but maybe eventually. I plan on using the pot for primary, then I’ll transfer it to a five gallon water jug for secondary.

    I made my first all-grain batch a few days ago and was wondering about something. Whenever you soak the barley, do you have to keep the burner on a low setting, or does it hold it’s temperature pretty well? I was making a one and a quarter gallon batch, and I only had about two gallons of water. I’m assuming that it’ll be less of a problem when I start making five gallon batches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thanks Grant!

      Why use a secondary fermenter? Is there a specific reason for that? just curious.

      You do not have to keep the burner on. In fact, if you’re using a bag, don’t turn the burner on (it will scorch). Even for 5 gallon batches it’s not a problem – you might lose a couple of degrees during the mash but who cares.

      keep me posted!

      Like

    • That makes sense, especially if you want to ‘free up’ your primary vessel.

      But have you considered using Gelatin? It’s cheap, easy to use, doesn’t require racking, and will give you very clear beer.

      Something else to consider: when you “rack” beer to another vessel, you introduce oxygen, which theoretically is bad and could case ‘staling’ – however I don’t know how bad, it’s probably totally fine since a lot of people do it.

      Like

      • Grant Richard says:

        No, I haven’t really considered it. I saw where you said you use it, but it looked like I would have to cold crash my beer too. Can you use it without cold crashing? My pot is too big to fit in my freezer or refrigerator.

        Like

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