I Made Science My Bitch

You may not find the upcoming words interesting if you’ve never had any interest in homebrewing.  Or beer.  Or science.  Or cooking.  Or making things in general.  And if all that is the case, then perhaps YOU are the one that isn’t interesting.  Ever think about that?  You probably didn’t.  You’re not interested in thinking.

If you didn’t just say “Fine then, I don’t have to take that from you!  I’m going to go sit in an empty bathtub and lick the back of my hands!” and close your browser, then hello!  I’ve got some words for you.  And apparently sitting in a dry bathtub licking one’s own hands is what my brain thinks is the epitome of disinterest and having nothing to do.  I’ll admit, it does sound pretty bad.  Good job brain.  I also like how I examine my own thoughts from a third-person perspective as if the brain that came up with the bathtub scenario is separate from the one writing the rest of this.

SO…  Beermaking.  Homebrewing.  Good times.

I finally got my sack of dry malt and couldn’t help myself but get started on my first batch the evening it arrived.  I generally have one night per week that I choose to deem my “short night,” for the sake of maintaining sanity, and only work 11 or 12 hours that day instead of the regular 12-14.  On Wednesday my malt arrived, so I decided it would be short night, and brewing would commence.  (Note: I’m not sure the sanity thing is working, but stick with me.)

A watched pot never boils. Literally. Never.

After cleaning and sanitizing all my brand-spanking new equipment with Star San, I put the starting water on to boil.  This took much longer than I expected it to, so during this period I ate some tilapia and watched the “Transfigurations” episode of TNG, which is the one with the seemingly immortal guy in the white unitard that gives Beverly a boner, accidentally kills Worf, revives him by touching his arm, and goes on to be a regular on “All My Children” before moving to Asia to abuse drugs.

When the water finally started boiling, I added a little over 3 lbs. of liquid extract and then the dry malt.  Immediately after that went in .75 oz. of Northern Brewer hops.  I won’t get too technical with my details from here out, because you probably don’t care, and I don’t want to type them.

I purchased most of my brewing equipment from a store called Northern Brewer (just like my hops!)  They are a large volume chain of stores in the MN, WI area and have flat rate shipping of $7.99, which was nice for my large initial order that would be heavy and horrible to pay for normally.  I spent weeks searching the internet for different starter kits to the point where I was questioning the quality of many of them and everything was getting very confusing.  There are a lot of commercial kits out there, like Mr. Beer, which just seemed lame and too suited for certain specific types of beer.  I went with Northern Brewer because they have a big inventory with quick turnover and sell brewshop-designed starter kits, not commercial packages, which I’m pretty sure is the way to go.  If you have local homebrew stores in your area, they may have their own kits designed based on their stock that will likely be better than a lot of other options.  Otherwise you can find some online like I did.

The gear. I love my enormous spoon.

My pot boiled for 45 minutes and I added 1 oz. of Cascade hops to finish.  That’s how you make the wort.  I don’t like that word, but hey, I can’t change what it’s called.

I chilled the whole thing in an ice bath in the kitchen sink to get it down to room temperature.  This required about 12 ice cube trays worth of the delightful firm H2O, and I cycled out about half the water in the sink every 5 minutes or so as it warmed, replacing it with cooler stuff.  After maybe 20-25 minutes, it was chilled to where I needed it to be.  Next time I’m hoping there is snow outside so I can just go chuck the pot in the lawn.  During the chill I also rehydrated my yeast for 15 minutes in 100 degree water, which looked great.

All that’s left is the combination. I picked up my massively heavy pot of fluid and dumped the wort into my nice sanitized bucket with vigor, and did not filter out the hops.  I let out a roar of accomplishment and poured it back and forth between the bucket and the pot a few times to aerate.   The bucket was carried to the spare bedroom, the yeast was pitched in, the lid was placed and the airlock inserted.  That’s going to be beer, kids.

Even though I had no mishaps with the brew, I was worried that something had gone wrong, as people tend to do when trying something for the first time.  While this process isn’t overly complicated, it requires a fair amount of detail and meticulousness in sanitizing everything.

Not 24 hours later, I came home from work to find my airlock bubbling steadily.  Now another 24 hours later, it is bubbling with even more fervor.  I must have done it right, and as the title says, made science my bitch.  There’s all sorts of fermentation going on in there.  And in two very long weeks I’ll be able to bottle it and start the second half of the waiting game.  Then I’ll have made something new, had fun, been nerdy, and pwned science to the max.  All while that other guy went to sit in his bathtub and lick his hands.

Check out this video of my bubbling airlock – sideways, because I forgot to rotate it and don’t really care.

Here is the quick list of things I learned while making my first batch:

  • A 5-gallon stainless steel stock pot with 2 gallons of water in it, on an electric range, takes an entire hour to boil.  This was very boring.
  • Turn on the kitchen fan or else the entire house will reek of hops for 12 hours, an aroma similarly found in the places Lindsay Lohan wakes up on Saturday mornings.
  • My wife hates that smell.
  • Don’t rehydrate yeast too early.  I left out the part where I ruined the first packet rehydrating it waaaay too early because I didn’t realize my pot of water would take 9 years to boil.
  • Liquid malt extract comes out of the jug slower than a one-legged man runs through a swimming pool.  Warm it slightly to encourage pouring.
  • Homebrewing can be done without making a mess.  I experienced no boilovers, no water on the floor, no spilled ingredients.  Told you.
  • I end up with a giant gurgling bucket that scares the poodle, allowing me to take naps in the spare bedroom without interruption from her.
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4 thoughts on “I Made Science My Bitch”

  1. Couple tips:

    0) Congrats on becoming a home brewer!
    1) You don’t need to rehydrate dry yeast, just pitch it in there!
    2) Buy one of these: http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/low-profile-banjo-burner-burner-and-stand.html hehe

    Of course, I know it’s your first brew, but a good burner will save you tons of time. Also, don’t buy that burner… it’s way too big for the pot you’re using

    If you ever need brewing questions answered, I’ve been brewing for almost 5 years now, so feel free to ask (or you could ask Wil as well).

    Tom

    1. I did debate whether or not to rehydrate. I know I don’t “need” to. I also know it’s one of those things homebrewers will argue about back and forth and never agree on. I figured I’d go ahead and rehydrate this one, and maybe not rehydrate the next. See what sort of difference it makes, if any. It certainly would be easier to not rehydrate.

      I’ll probably get a burner, and eventually build a wort chiller because the sink was sort of a pain. Hopefully for the next few months I can just use some snow outside so I won’t have to worry about that until the spring.

      Thanks for the tips 🙂 Feel free to leave them anytime. I also got quite a chuckle out of your “buy one of these, but don’t buy that one” suggestion. As well as starting with tip #0.

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