Our First Homebrew – the process

LOCATION: the brew cellar @ Christianshavns Beboerhus, Copenhagen

DATE:  Friday, January 27, 2012

TIME: 2pm-midnight

the brew cellar @ Christianshavn Beboerhus

The good folks at Christianshavn Beboerhus have generously opened an underground brewing site, open to everybody who pays a general membership fee to the Beboerhus, for no additional cost. It’s a bare-bones operation with a no-frills kind of hobo brewing charm. The 29L mash ton w/ spigot is capable of convection-style heating of your wort to about 96°F (we discovered), although the tap is tricky and requires a bit of tinkering with a screwdriver. The range hood above the mash ton has been carved out of a plastic garbage can and looks like an enlarged Darth Vader helmet. A transportable electric double stove allows for additional heating, with the 25L metal pot coming in handy. It was also a relief to see the bottle of Iodophor beer sanitizer still had enough left for several brews. The tri-section sink with one hot and two cold water taps was more than spacious enough for rookie brewers like ourselves. A small table with a few chairs allows for beer-tasting while you sit and wait. Which I learned homebrewers do a lot of.

Arriving with our big bag of baseball bat beaten barley malts and granola oats, a brand-new plastic fermentor, three vacuum-packed bags of Simcoe hop leaves, a vile of Edinburgh Ale yeast, and the necessary tools to begin brewing in the small cellar, we were promptly told that the recently used mash ton still had a thick and stubbornly sticky layer of burned sugars on the bottom. Damn. Time to clean. One hour of diligent scraping and scrubbing later, we were ready to brew.  I jotted down some notes as we went along and scrunched them into a 12-step process, for posterity and for provocation.

•                   •                  •


Step 1: Boiled 11 L (3+ gallons) of water to 77 °C (170° F) in 25 L pot

Step 2: Dumped big bag of grains into the Mash Ton

grains go into the mash ton

Step 3: Dumped boiled water into mash ton, steeped for one hour @ 66-70°C (we kept it a bit lower, as we had oats in our mash) – 3:36pm

Boiling H2O ready to go

¡Anne arrives with Beers!

First up: Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch – Weasel

Step 4: Poured the wort (beer tea) through the tap on the mash ton into the plastic carboy bucket (fermentor) until the spigot stopped working. Using a screwdriver, we fidgeted with the tap and continued pouring until nothing was coming out.

Wort flow

Step 5: Started sparging – adding hot water, about 1L at a time, to get the wort flowing again. We tipped the mash ton to get the last of the good stuff into the fermentor, yielding about 27L.

Step 6: Cleaned out the mash ton, saving the used mash in a giant plastic bag for making bread later (can also be used as compost).

Step 7: Poured the wort from the fermentor back into the cleaned mash ton and tried to bring it to a boil.*

* Not seeing any bubbles on the surface after nearly two hours, we didn’t think there’d be a problem with bacteria, but we weren’t sure the hops would be extracted properly unless the wort was brought to a proper boil. So we gradually transferred most of the wort into the 25L metal pot, sacrificing 3L of what was probably perfectly good wort.

Beer Break:  Amager Rated XxX – 9.0% – with 30 different hop varieties

Step 8: Added the hops. We decided on Simcoe as it’s a) delicious, and b) good as both a bittering hop and an aroma hop.

a) Added 100 g. of Simcoe hop leaves @ 8:23pm. Wort finally came to a proper boil @ 8:32pm

b) Added 100 g. of Simcoe hop leaves @ 9:08pm

c) Added 100 g. of Simcoe hop leaves @ 9:32pm

Step 9: While the hops were boiling, we filled the fermentor up with 20L of water and 10ml of Iodophor sanitizer. After turning off the stove (9:35pm), we removed all the mushy hops using a sieve we borrowed from the kitchen upstairs, and had sanitized in the fermentor. We finished at 10:05pm – meaning the aroma hops sat in there for 30min, quite long, so a hoppy aroma might not be as noticeable. The fermentor was emptied, and we transferred the brew back into its plastic loving care.

Step 10: We immediately put the fermentor outside in the icy Nordic night, to cool down. After one hour (11:10pm) it was still too warm, so we went for a pint at Cafe Langebro and returned at midnight to bring it inside.

Step 11: We pitched the yeast at midnight. With the brew still hovering around 80-85° F, it seemed a bit on the warm side for adding the yeast (it says 70-75°F on the vile), but the Beboerhus was closing and we’d already taken enough of their time. The vile of Edinburgh Ale yeast was dumped in the fermentor.

Step 12: We sealed the lid tightly. With a bit of water added to the sterilized fermentor lock, we placed the rubber stopper into the hole in the lid, but left the plastic cap off. It was now time to wait for the yeast to take hold and start the fermentation process. All we could do now was head to the bar and hope for the best.*

*Fermentation check: Saturday, 1pm — NOTHING

*Fermentation check: Sunday, 5pm — IT’S ALIVE!!! — A thin layer of brown, head-like foam was visible on the surface and it was bubbling away.

The plastic cap had been placed on top of the fermentation lock, but there was very little water left in there, so I topped it off, put the cap back on, and cycled home in the snow.

And that, dear friends, is how our first homebrew — Summersalt Stout: granola simcoe edition — was born.

Click here to see the bottling process…

And the final product!




2 responses to “Our First Homebrew – the process

  1. Slim

    When the brew is ready it’ll be mid spring – The 3rd Annual Chili Cook-off could be a beer fest. As a matter of fact it needs to be…


  2. Well, looks like it’s gonna happen: Chili and Homebrew Event @ Christianshavns Beboerhus, Saturday March 24th. It’s not a cook-off, but we’ll have different types of chili foodstuffs, chili workshops, homebrewing info, and perhaps even a country bluegrass band. More to come after this weekend…

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