"Making tasteless beer is not easy but the big guys have the experience, skill, and technical knowledge to do it." - Michael Jackson (beer writer - not the gloved wonder)

The flavor of beer is based on the ingredients. However, the key to brewing is timing the addition of the ingredients to the brew pot. Typically a brewer boils 1 1/2 to 2 gallons of water for one to one and a half hours.

The first step in brewing is to steep the grains, like you would a cup of tea. From the time the water is added to the brew pot until it boils the grains will soak and release their flavor. Using a muslin bag or cheese cloth is an excellent way to keep the grains together.

The spent grains are usually thrown away, but many micro and macro brewers donate their grains to farms for animal feed.

Steeping the grains
Steeping the Grains

When the water and grain remnants (or wort) come to a boil the extracts and some of the hops are added. It is a good idea to stir the wort as the malts are poured in. This way they won't scorch the bottom of the pot. You should continue to stir while the hops are added. They tend to foam up and may spill over the top. Once the wort comes to a rolling boil you no longer need to stir. 

Adding the malt
Adding the Malt 

Additional hops and other ingredients are added at certain time intervals while the wort is boiling. Once finished (about an hour of boil time) you will need to cool the wort as quickly as possible so it is not contaminated by any wild yeasts or other organisms that may be in the air. One way to cool the wort is to fill a sink with cold water and place the brew pot inside. Occasionally spinning the pot can help the cooling process. You will also need to change the water in the sink a couple of times to keep it cool. When the wort cools to under 100 F it is time to add it to the carboy. 

Cooling the wort
Cooling the wort

Before adding the wort to the carboy pour in two gallons of water and have an air-lock ready for when you are finished. Pour the wort through a strainer stirring occasionally to help the wort pass through the spent hops and grain and into the carboy. It is best to pour some clean water through the strainer before you discard the hop remnants so you can capture as much flavor as possible.

Once all the wort is poured into the carboy, add the yeast and give the carboy a good shake. The shaking helps activate the yeast and is best done with a clean cloth or paper towel over the opening. Immediately place an air lock on top of the carboy and store in a cool dark place for the fermentation to begin.

Pouring the wort
Pouring the wort into the carboy

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