Homebrewing is something I do but it’s never been my intention to blog about it here – this blog is aimed at celebrating the professional breweries, beers and pubs of Wales rather than my own bumbling efforts. However, I wanted to throw out a few pictures to show the REBEL Homebrew Club. They have a forum but I’ve never been much good with forums, so here it is: my Brew In a Bag (BIAB) homebrew kit.
It was purchased from Massive Brewery for the very reasonable price of £100. It came as a complete set with the kettle, cooling coil, fermenting vessel, electric thermometer, hydrometre… basically everything needed, along with enough grain and hops to make the first all-grain brew. I already owned a few bits and pieces, having done extract brewing in the past, so they’ve augmented my home brewery.
It brews 10 litre / 2 gallon batches each time, which is ideal for both my small flat and my preference for making lots of different brews. I can turn a standard brew round in about 4 hours, whereas a 5 gallon batch can take 7 or 8 hours. That means more time for drinking afterwards. The flipside is that it’s very manual, hands-on and is less efficient than most homebrew set ups, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make right now as it means I can comfortably brew every Sunday without getting worn out by constant cleaning and bottling.
So, here’s how it looks:
Excuse the blurry photography, all of these pictures were taken on my phone. That small box contains all of my small equipment pieces. Those beige tea-towel looking things are the two cotton bags which contain the grain and are suspended in the kettle. Alongside the cereal you can see the grain I used for this brew (I usually keep the grain in my ‘grain silo’, which is a large crate in my office).
Here I am measuring grain into the bags. On average I brew using 2.5 kilos of grain. That usually produces a beer of strength 4 – 4.5% ABV. Later this month I’ll be testing 3 kilo and 1 kilo batches to see how it plays out.
The pot at the front of the cooker is the 10 litre stockpot which came with the homebrew kit from Massive Brewery. This is the ‘kettle’, where the grain is initially mashed in and later where the wort is boiled. The pan at the back is my old brewpot, which is 20+ litres, I forget exactly how big it is. I don’t brew with it any more. Instead I use it to insulate the smaller brewpot when I’m steeping the grains, since the brewpot loses heat at a quick pace. I hear many people use towels to insulate their pots. It’s something I intend to trial later down the line, but for now the ‘bain marie’ approach works just fine.
Once the water is heated up to the necessary strike temperature, I take the pot off the heat and submerge the grain. It’s then left for an hour and I ensure the temperature stays within the 64 – 67C range (see above).
This is the sparging stage of the BIAB. The cotton sacks of grain are drained in a sieve suspended over the Fermentation Vessel, then immersed in the sparge water which I prepared during the mashing stage, and then drained again. This gives me the wort I need for the boil. To the right of the picture you can see my prepared muslin hop sacks.
Apparently I neglected to take a photo of the kettle boiling away on the hob with the hop sacks bobbing around. That’s the sexiest part of brewing. Never mind. Here we are at the cooling stage. The copper coil is suspended in the boiling wort five minutes before the end of the brew in order to sterilise it. At flame out, the stock pot is moved to the sink where the water tubes can be connected up to the tap. This part I jury rigged myself in a rather clumsy fashion, since the standard fitting that came with the kit wasn’t compatible with my kitchen tap. The end result is the same – cold water goes in, picks up heat from the wort as it travels through the copper coil, and flows away down the sink hole.
Cooling takes between 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how much wort I have to cool down, but the average time is 20 mins from 100C to 20C for about 8 to 9 litres of liquid. Then I pour it into my sterilised FV, bang in the yeast, slam down the lid and sit back with another brew. Job done.