Improving your homebrew with better equipment.

beer mug and glass

Every first-time brewer will find their thoughts quickly turning to bigger brew pots. While using a pot large enough to boil all five gallons of wort will improve your beer, there are two major drawbacks that must be addressed before you invest your money. How will you heat it and how will you cool it?

Unless you have a restaurant grade stove in your kitchen or one of those propane burners used at clam bakes, you probably don't have a heat source that can efficiently bring five gallons of water to a boil in less than a few hours. It is even possible to damage your conventional stove while trying.

The outdoor propane burner is your best option, but it also poses some problems. You should never use propane in your house. Propane gas is heavier than air and if you have a leak in the gas line you may not know it until it is too late. This means that you will be brewing in the garage or outdoors. If your garage is like mine, it is not the most sanitary place on earth. You will need to take exceptional measures to prevent contamination. Outdoor brewing can be fun and will always attract curious neighbors, but it has certain problems too. The brew pot will be open or partially covered most of the time. A canopy or porch roof is a must, especially in areas populated by birds. Keeping the pot hot on very cold or windy days will be difficult so a wind break may also be needed.

Regardless of where or how you brew, always make safety your first concern. Boiling wort is nothing to take chances with. If you have ever had a boil over, you know the wort has a mind of its own and will stick like super glue. A five gallon batch can weigh as much as 60 pounds. Make sure that your stove or burner can support the weight. Be sure that there are no fire hazards in your brewing area and make sure that everyone around you knows that you are the only one who should approach the brew kettle.

If you have brewed a batch of beer you can appreciate the time it takes to cool the wort down to pitching temperature. In partial boil brewing you have the benefit of adding chilled water to the primary fermenter to aid in cooling. Full wort boils still need to be cooled as quickly as possible to reduce the chances of contamination. This requires a wort chiller. The most practical wort chiller for the home brewer is an immersion type. This is a 25 to 50 foot copper coil which is boiled along with the wort and then attached to a cold water supply which travels through the coil and extracts the heat. The discharge from the chiller coil is boiling hot water so safety must come first. Commercial breweries actually use the heated discharge water to start the next batch of beer or for cleaning the brewery.

You can reclaim its energy too. I've even heard of homebrewers using the discharge to fill the washing machine. Where ever you direct the boiling discharge, be sure that the outlet hose is secured and will not spray. My first experience with a wort chiller killed most of the grass around my patio.

Now that I've taken all the steam out of your brewing enthusiasm, how do I get you back? I know you want to make better beer, so here's the next logical upgrade to your brewing system. If you are using single stage fermentation, the best investment you can make is to add a secondary fermenter. All you will need is a five gallon glass or better bottle (PET) carboy, airlock stopper and airlock. The investment will greatly improve your beer. Secondary fermentation provides many advantages, not the least of which is flexibility in bottling. Single stage fermentation requires that you bottle your beer within 7 days of brewing to avoid yeast bite. By transferring (racking) the beer to a secondary fermenter you can hold off the bottling for as long as two weeks. The time your beer spends in the secondary fermenter allows it to mellow and clear. Hops can be added to the secondary fermenter (dry hopping) to enhance the aroma and flavor of the finished beer. The advantages and options go on and on. You don't have to buy the brewery to make better beer.

homebrewed beer with malted grains and hop flowers

Home Beer Brewing

Brewing beer is an American Tradition.