Was going to put this further back in the 101 series as it’s more beer focused. Then realised it needed to be put in a lot earlier.
As we covered in 102, beer brewing is basically a wort (sugary liquid) that yeast concerts to alcohol. Because this is so basic there are a range of ways to make beer. It ranges from “just add water and stir” all the way to growing own ingredients and grinding grains.
The four categories are Kit and Kilo, Extract, Partial Mash, and Full Grain. Each have their positives and negatives. Some brewers progress from the most basic method to most complex, others swap and change as the feel is right. Knowing which method is right for you is best answered after trying a couple.
Kit and Kilo (K&K)
The simplest and quickest way to make lots of home brew. Put three litres of boiled water into a 30L fermenter. Stir in one 1.7 kg can of pre hopped malt extract. Add about one Kilogram of sugar (hence K&K). Fill with water to 23L. Throw in the yeast. Done!
Clearly this is very easy. For lots of people this is their first brew. For some it’s also their last brew. Reason for that is generally two folds. One, they use the cheapest kit they can which is usually the lowest quality. Two, something infects the beer because it wasn’t sanitised. To be fair, reason two can effect any brewer at any time regardless of the way the beer is brewed. Will cover this off more in another 101.
This type of brewing is vary similar to K&K brews. This uses liquid malt extract as a key ingredient, which is just a kit can without the hop bitterness/aromas/flavours. As a result this type requires adding hops some way. Sometimes as a tea, where you add hops to water to get the bitterness/aromas/flavours then add that to your wort. The other way is to boil up your malt, both liquid and any dry malt that’s being used, then adding in hops at different times.
A lot of extract brews also ask for grain. As covered in the earlier 101 on brew ingredients, grain can be used for mashing our steeping. The use here is for steeping which provides flavour and colour. If we start using grain to get sugars, or converting sugars that’s mashing which leads nicely into…
After brewers have started experimenting with hops and steeping grains the next step is to move towards mashing. Mashing can be quite complex. We haven’t got around to doing a mash yet. It involves a lot of temperature control and calculations. Reason for this comes down to the need to (1) get enzymes to activate from the grain and (2) get those enzymes to convert the complex sugars into something the yeast can convert into alcohol. Eventually there will be a 101 on mashing, expect it to be long and linking to a lot of tools.
As the name suggests partial mash means that you can, and will, use other sources for sugars. This might include liquid and or dry malt extract. It can also include a separate lot of grains for steeping. At this stage you’re opening the door to a lot of possibilities.
As the name suggests, this involves using all grain for the malt and sugars. All grain brewing usually means a big mash with lots of grain and (typically) specialised equipment. This is very hands on and can give you full control of your brew. Because of that it is very time consuming.
Apart from full control, full grain brewing is meant to be the best home brew you can make. Your ingredients are fresher and the whole thing is (usually) done over the period one day. Some critics say that you can get very similar outcomes from Partial Mash brews or even Extract brews which use steeped grains. It’s an old argument and ultimately comes down to personal preference and tastes.
The four types of brewing varies a lot. From something that can be done in under an hour to something that can take all day. Then quality ranging just as wide. We recommend trying at least two styles before you settle on one method for brewing, or give up after your first brew.
Next 101 will be about equipment. Will cover what you need as a minimum and what you might want if you start making things more complex.