Brewing Day

Last summer , in pursuit of my dreams, I took a Brewing Basics: Going Beyond the Kit course at UC Davis and have been learning brewing lessons  ever since including 3 great resources for drinking beer better. Recently, I tried my hand at brewing an American Stout.

Jay at You Brew helped translate the flavor profile that I wanted for my stout into a recipe by pairing his expertise with the Beer Smith calculator. When I showed Jay my list of favorite stouts and porters from my Untapped checkins he was familiar with Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Porter and Crux Fermentation Project Stout so we went from there.  A 15 minute consultation later and I had a custom recipe and soon thereafter, the ingredients.

I added minerals to the hot water before mashing in (adding the grains) to imitate the famous brewing waters of Burton on Trent (in England). This pre-mixed additive contains calcium, carbonate, chlorine, magnesium, sodium chloride and sulfate.


  • .5 oz Burton Water Salts

Next I added the grains. Before this I had to weigh the grains out, then thoroughly mix them together, then mill them to break them open but only slightly.

Grains (40 lbs)

  • 35 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (Thomas Fawcett) for enzyme content, adds little color and flavor, very fermentable
  • 3 lbs Roasted Barley (UK) (550 SRM) for color
  • 1 lb 8 oz Crystal 40, 2 row, Great Western for color and for malt and caramel flavors
  • 1 lb Chocolate Malt (350 SRM) imparts a nutty cocoa-like flavor

I stirred the mash into the hot water (I chose 155 F). It’s more like folding a heavy cake batter from a long distance at first and then it got easier as all the grains got wet. I used a single temperature infusion and held the temperature for an hour.

After mash in (adding the grains to the water) I opened the valve at the bottom of the mash tun and began pumping the water out through the hose on the right to the boil tank. This separated the mash from the grains. Moving the liquid to another vessel is called lautering.

Of course that lowered the water level and I had to sparge (add water from the top) to keep water flowing through the grain and out the bottom. I added water in small quantities at a time so that I didn’t slam the mash bed. Crushing the mash is like squeezing a tea bag after a 3 minute steep. All the tannins come out.

When the water flows through the grain it’s pulled out of the bottom of the mash tun and pumped into a boil tank. That’s where I boiled the wort and added the hops.

You can see my wort had a lot of foam rich dark color.


Next I added the hops during the hour long boil. The hops were in pellet form and while they have a higher utilization rate (35%) than whole hops (10% – 20%), they have a lot of dust. I put them in giant tea bags to keep the hop solids out of the beer. I added:

  • 1.75 oz Herkules (17.3% alpha) 60 mins (added early for bittering rather than aroma, from Germany.) Specific aroma descriptors include robust hoppy with some citrus and melon.)
  • 3.00 oz East Kent Goldings (5.7%) 30 mins. Specific aroma descriptors include smooth and delicate with floral, lavender, spice, honey, earth, lemon and thyme overtones.

Before I cooled the wort I needed to get as much of the finings out of it as possible. To do this I added a floculant or fining agent. I added a Whirlfloc tablet 15 minutes before the end of the boil. Whirlfloc is made of seaweed and purified carrageenan.

Next, I cooled the wort. The slow way is to immerse the wort container in ice. It takes forever! And it’s hard to hit the right temperature for the yeast. A faster way is to use an immersion chiller but this risks contamination because you are putting something in your wort. The fastest way is to run the boiling wort past essentially a radiator through counter current heat exchange. Instant precision cool. And when you add the yeast, they will be happy.

Then I pumped the cooled wort into a container after completely sanitizing it inside and outside including the caps, gaskets and threads. The process is a bit like pumping gas into your car. Except you pump wort into a 15 gallon plastic drum fermenter sometimes called a carboy.

Then I added the yeast.


  • 4 packages Safale American US-05.

This is an American ale yeast producing well balanced beers with low diacetyl and a very clean, crisp end palate. Forms a firm foam head and presents a very good ability to stay in suspension during fermentation.

And that started fermentation!