Every culture across the world, even ancient civilizations, had their own method of fermenting something to make an alcoholic beverage.
I'm going to make this OP as broad as possible, and throw out a few terms right away:
Beer: Fermented grain, of any sort. Recipes are endless.
Wine: Fermented fruit, primarily grapes.
Mead: Fermented honey. Many variations.
National Homebrew Day is May 5th of every year, where thousands of people across the country get together to brew beer. Keeping the OP broad, as I
want to learn how to brew mead, I welcome any input, and if any winemakers out there that want to share tips, please do.
The focus, however, falls primarily on beer brewing. There are more variations of beer brewing than the other categories combined.
That said, there are three primary methods for brewing (beer):
Extract: You acquire a kit, $23-45 USD, and it has complete instructions and ingredients. Beginner.
Mini-mash: You buy half-extract and use half-grain. More forgiving. Intermediate.
Mash: You buy 10-13 US lbs of grain, crush it, figure out your decoction schedule, sparg, and create your own wort. Advanced, as you are working off
a recipe you've created.
All three methods provide a "wort", which is a sweetened base that the yeast can feed upon. Here's where the "all-natural" part comes in. Yeast
makes bread and beer. Without yeast, we wouldn't have either. Could you imagine a world without bread? Without beer?
Well, the basic function of a yeast, in the crudest of terms, is that a yeast cell will eat something sweet, and poop out Co2, and pee out alcohol.
Those air bubbles you find in your bread? That is the yeast creating a bubble of Co2, but it was cooked in the process. That is why you must bake
bread AS SOON AS it rises. To let it set over a few days, without killing the yeast, the bread would grow to unfathomable proportions.
With homebrewing, we don't want to kill the yeast. We give them 5 gallon buckets of sweetness to devour. We get 5 gallons of alcohol. Two weeks of
fermentation, and the yeast have devoured all the sweetness and have gone mostly dormant by then. It's time to bottle.
Now, there is a lot of technical stuff, but I want to touch on ABV for a quick bit. I hope other members will add their knowledge, so I am keeping
this a general as possible.
After you have a "wort", and you have boiled your "hops schedule", usually 60 minutes, and you have chilled your wort to "pitching" temperature, you
MUST get a "specific gravity" reading. This occurs before you "pitch" your yeast.
That reading is called your "original gravity". I use a simple hydrometer I paid $4.95 USD for, it was designed for canning, but it has served me
faithfully for years. Ok, new term, OG.
I like to take a "gravity" reading after one week, when I "re-rack", just to see the progress. There's a formula for calculating ABV from your OG,
and long as you have a FG (final gravity) reading to plug in. At one week, I have a different number than when I started, so I can calculate ABV mid
I'll plug the formula in later in this thread.
The one aspect of this thread that I haven't addressed yet is recipe sharing. Brewing recipes are worked on by individuals, changed, modified, and
clarified. You can find "clone" recipes online for any given brand, and try to duplicate it. Most find a slight variation yields better results, and
they re-brew the same recipe.
Myself, I constantly modify recipes. I think about the flavors I want, and having tasted variations of brew, it becomes a challenge to match the
Any thoughts, comments, or questions?
edit on 4/16/12 by Druid42 because: hit enter before posting....facepalm!