Category Archives: how to

How To: IPA (bottling)

As with nearly all things brewing, the first step is to sanitize everything. All the bottles, all the wands, the bottle caps, the siphon, everything.

This takes time and has to be done in batches so I use an iodophor solution so I can get it all done with the same amount of water.

Next up, I transfer the beer into the bottling bucket. This is mostly done to give me greater access to the beer so I can add bottling sugar, and to take it off the final bit of debris at the bottom. It also makes it easier to get a final gravity reading, which is always nice.

While that’s being done, I’m making a simple syrup of sugar (and it’s just plain white sugar, I don’t get fancy about it) and add it to the beer. It’s important to mix this up a few times as I bottle so that the sugar gets distributed evenly through the beer.

The other advantage to siphoning to a bucket this is that it’s another filter for the beer. As you can see, I’ve dry hopped this batch so this helps separate the liquid from the hops used, meaning less hops will end up in the beer that I drink.

Some hops will still be there. I’ll pick out the occasional leaf but that’s not so bad, really.

Next up, bottling the beer. I’ve got my bottling wand in there to make bottling easier and help prevent overfilling and spilling…which I eventually am going to do anyway because I am trying to take photographs of this for the blog.

Such is life.

As I go, I try to place bottle caps on the bottles. This is to keep other things from falling in but it’s also to create a small barrier, so that if the yeast is starting to eat the sugar, the CO2 can start pushing the oxygen out now. Oxygen is bad for beer (but it’s great for yeast, which is why some brewers oxygenate their wort). Even if it’s not much oxygen being pushed out–or none at all, I’d probably still do it, to prevent anything else from getting in the beer.

And here we have the filled and capped bottles. The two gold caps (seen in the upper left box, bottom middle) are there so I can make some kind of clear notation as to what this beer is. That way I don’t have to check my spreadsheet every time I want to know what beer is coming up next.

Now that the beer is capped, I put it aside to carbonate, and clean everything up.

How To: IPA (Waiting)

This is the part where we wait.

I’m afraid it doesn’t get too much more interesting than that. Brewing requires some patience and over the years, I’ve learned not to rush through the fermentation process.

Now, because this is an amateur blog, I failed to take a photo of step two in the waiting process but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

What you can see is the beer a few days after the yeast has been pitched. That white stuff on the top? That means that it’s fermenting and all is going according to plan. Always a good sign!

Step two of this process comes after all that white stuff has settled out–between that and a lack of activity in the airlock, I can be pretty sure the yeast is tuckered out. This is when I transfer it to another carboy, so I can add in more hops in order to provide the kind of nose that is expected from an IPA. Usually, it’s desirable to leave those hops in for at least three days, and for this beer I think I left it in for a week.

How To: Making an IPA

This is a picture of everything I’m using to make this IPA in the partial-mash style. There’s a bucket of light malt extract, hops, gypsum salts (the white stuff in the packet), and all the steeping malts. The blue pitcher is there so I can pour warm water over the grains once they’ve finished steeping and the spoon is to help me stir everything. I guess that’s kind of obvious but sometimes it helps to state that.

First thing to do is to heat the water to about 165 degrees F, because when I put the grains in, that will lower the temperature of the water about five degrees or so. Then I added a bit under 1/4 teaspoon of gypsum salts (in order to better replicate the water used in original IPA recipes) and added the bag of malt. Then I put the pot into an insulated box and let it sit for at least and hour, which will cause the temperature to drop a bit more, but not go below 150 degrees, which is what I want. Too warm and the chance for off flavors goes up, to low and sugars aren’t leeched from the grains. This batch, I believe I left steeping for 90 minutes.

I was instructed once before and I’ve just held to it ever since: adding just a little bit of hops as the wort is being brought to a boil helps keep the bitterness from being too sharp. I have no reason to disbelieve it and since I still have to wash the steeped grains at temperatures of about 150 degrees F, and the rest of the wort needs to be brought up to about 205, there’s some time to kill. I may as well let some hops soak while I’m doing everything else.

At this point, it’s all about adding in more hops, which you can see the result of that from the post a few weeks ago.  My boils tend to go for about 70 minutes because when I add the light malt extract, that can drop the temperature of the word by about 10 degrees and it takes a little time to bring it back up. I still try and list my hop additions at 60 minutes and keep it as close to that as I can but there is a little fudging. When the boil is all done,  the only things left to do are cool the wort and put it into a carboy.

The carboy has been sanitized, of course, along with all the other equipment. The odd looking bucket on the left side of the last picture is a place for me to dump the hops into, as they get strained out of the wort as it goes into the carboy.

It isn’t the most majestic picture, I know but I was trying to take it with my iPad, which is pretty unwieldy under the circumstances. (This post actually told me I had to spring for a new camera).

After that, the yeast is added and I top the carboy off with cold water until it hits the five gallon mark (usually requiring 1-2 gallons).

And now we wait.

Making a Dunkel pt 3


You can catch up from part 2, here.

After a week or so, I transfer the beer into another carboy; this part is called ‘secondary fermentation’. This is done mostly to increase clarity in a beer but it also removes a beer from any dead yeast or other detritus, usually hops, that precipitates out of a beer while it’s fermenting. For most homebrewers I’m told that secondary fermentation isn’t necessary but what I can tell you is that it works for me.

After a few days in secondary, I prepare to bottle everything. This starts with sanitizing bottles and bottlecaps, along with other equipment, like siphons and buckets, in a solution of iodophor and water for 20 minutes.  Then I have to let it dry for a little bit-again, 20 minutes but I’ve shortened or lengthened that time  a little and everything has worked out so far.


With that done, the beer is transferred into a bottling bucket. While this is being transferred, I also add in a simple syrup to provide food for what remains of the yeast, so the beer can become carbonated.

Making the syrup is easy enough; just boil water and add in sugar. I use plain white sugar but I’d imagine that if someone used brown sugar or honey or something else, that might have interesting effects on the way the beer tastes.I also take this opportunity to get a final gravity reading, in order to measure the beer’s alcohol by volume (ABV). It’s easier to do this now, rather then when I bottle because bottling involves the use of a bottling wand and that tool makes getting measurements difficult.


Finally, with everything sanitized and given time to dry, I can bottle. With the bottling wand attached to the end of my siphon, I simply insert the wand down to the bottom of the bottle, fill it and remove the wand. There’s a valve at the bottom that stops the flow of beer when I don’t press down on it, so for the most part, I don’t spill much beer.

I also put bottlecaps on the bottles as I go, and I do this for two reasons: First, I want to prevent anything else from falling into the bottle.  Second: I have been told that putting the cap on like this before sealing it, allows the beer to start pushing out oxygen right away. Oxygen is really good for yeast when fermenting, but really bad for beer flavors once the yeast is done, so any chance I can provide to make this beer better, I will take.


As the penultimate step, I cap the beer. This involves me taking the bottle capper and clamping down on each bottlecap, so a seal is formed. Once that’s all done, I put the beer aside so it can carbonate until I’m ready to drink it.

The final step is merely to clean it all up. Buckets, carboys and siphons all need to be cleaned for the next use and it’s a heck of a lot easier to clean them right away than it is to wait and clean it later.

Making a Dunkel Pt 2

Part 1 is here, just in case.

Concurrent to the events in Part 1, I have also been making a yeast starter. It’s not a very good photo so I’ve collapsed it down but essentially what you have is a jug I’ve sanitized, put a simple syrup in (boiling water and sugar) and then added the yeast I’m going to use for this beer. This is to give the yeast time to grow before being thrown into a solution that’s got so much sugar that the yeast goes into shock. This shock can produce off flavors, which I don’t want. Plus, it’s one of the cardinal rules of homebrewing: use enough yeast. You do that, you’ll be OK. (The other rule: Sanitize everything.)

But while the yeast is propagating, I still have the wort on the stove, boiling away. You can make out some of the hops that I’ve started to add over the hour.

This part isn’t super exciting. I boil water and add hops; there isn’t much to it. Over the course of the hour there are various hop additions: I started off with more Hallertau at 60 and worked my way up to Willamette, until there was just a little Willamette that I added at flameout (when I stop boiling the wort.)

I also added three pounds of light malt extract (LME) with about 15 minutes to go. This way I can ensure that there’s at least some malt sugar to work with, because my method of steeping sugar from grain isn’t very efficient, and 15 minutes means that the malt has enough time in the boil to kill any bugs that might be hanging around.

When 60 minutes are up, I take the wort to the basement and begin cooling it down.

The tubes going in and out of the wort in this photo are what you can see of the wort chiller or heat exchanger. Cold water comes in, runs through copper coils and then comes out hot. After about 20-30 minutes, I have wort that was at about 205 degrees F, to 78 degrees (or less, if the recipe calls for that.) The hot water coming out I put into my washing machine, so I can use that water respectfully, instead of just dumping it on the ground.

You have to do what you can and this is what I can do. Brewing uses a TON of water and anytime I can take advantage of a recycling effort, I feel like it’s my duty to do it.

When the water has cooled down, I take a hydrometer reading to get the original gravity, which in this case is about 1.046. That doesn’t seem right: it feels a little low, given the grains and the malt but the numbers don’t lie. It is what it is.



After that, I put the wort into a carboy to ferment. The pan is there to dump the wort into the carboy by hand, through a strainer, until the pot is light enough for me to lift and pour directly into the carboy. Periodically, I dump the hops that get caught in the strainer into another container, which will eventually be taken to the compost pile.

When that’s done, I add in cold water until I get to about 5 gallons in the carboy.

This is…probably not what should be done. It is likely that I get away with this because Portland’s water is some of the best in the country. Certainly, if I had the means, I would have a larger kettle to boil in, so I could get closer to 5 gallons of pure wort. But I don’t: I probably get 3.5 to 4 gallons and that’s just the way of it.

All that disclaimed; It’s working, so to heck with it.

My last act (before cleanup) is to add in the yeast that’s been munching on syrup for the past three or so hours. At first sight, it looks pretty wild. Check out that line! You can totally see where the yeast is floating on top.

Pretty neat!

And now we wait.

Making a Dunkel pt 1

I’d like to apologize for the formatting in advance. I’ll try to improve it next time.

In all the years I’ve been writing for this blog, I’ve talked a lot about how a beer has turned out but I haven’t done much talking about what my process is for brewing. I don’t know that I’ll do this too often but occasionally I think it will be fun to demonstrate the A-Z of how I make beer.

The first beer I’m making this month is a dunkelweissen which I’m doing because I had an American wheat ale yeast in the fridge to re-use. That’s really the only reason: I’m going a darker beer with the idea that by the time it’s ready to drink, fall will be fast approaching and seasonally, it will fit. I could be way off base but the up side to that is that if I make a good beer, it won’t matter what time of year it is.

This process is using what’s called a ‘partial mash’, meaning I try to get some of my fermentable sugars from the grains I’m using, but I’ll  also be adding some malt extract.

I start with the malt, pictured to the right.

There are 5 pounds of wheat malt, with 6 ounces of Carafa II and 6 ounces of C120 malt. It’s in a grain bag, which I then put into water that’s about 165 degrees F.

Now, generally you want to steep grain in water that’s about 150-155 degrees but I’ve cranked it up because for the next hour, this is going to be in this box:

This is a box I got at an OBC meeting and it’s traditionally packed with dry ice and used to transport medical stuff. I think human organs. So there’s that. However, it’s just a bunch of foam that’s been sprayed and formed into a box. With the lid on it keeps the heat pretty well but I can expect to lose about ten degrees of heat.

Despite there being only 12 ounces of dark malt in there, it really is all I need. After about an hour I pull the wort out to get liquid that looks more like this:

Once I’ve done that, I take the bag out the wort and put it in another pot. While heating the wort up, I also heat water up in a kettle to about 150-155 and pour it over the grains I just took out. I do this to get any extra sugars and flavors from the grain. Liquid malt extract isn’t very flavorful and doesn’t add much in the way of color so I want to get as much out of these grains as I can. It takes a little while but I probably run close to 1.5 gallons over the grains and add them into the pot.

With the grains rinsed off, it’s time to crank up the heat to a bit over 200 degrees but less than 210, and add hops. The German versions of wheat beer use Hallertau and the American versions add Willamette so I figured I’d just do both and see what happens. There will only be 2 ounces of hops added to this beer and with these varieties, I shouldn’t have any issues with getting a flavor that’s too bitter for the style.

That’s how it starts; next time, hop additions, yeast prep time warp and transferring!