Thursday, June 3, 2010

Me And The Homebrews: Hops, Ice, and Wort

On this edition of Me and the Homebrews, WBN chronicles bits and pieces of wisdom we acquired about home brewing.

One of the strangest pieces of advice we got was about adding hops to the boil. Hops are used to add bitterness and as a preservative in beer (malt adds sweetness). The instructions on our extract kit says to add all the hops if boiling 2.5 gallons of water, but to only add 3/4 hops if boiling a full 5 gallons.

Sounds backwards. If hops add bitterness, then with more water I should add more hops or otherwise it will be diluted, right? Wrong.

It's not the hops ingredient itself that is important, it's the amount of alpha acid isomerization we can get out of it. It's all about chemistry: temperature, specific gravity, and timing. Perfect hops "utilization" comes at a 5 gallon boil with a SG of 1.050; if you add half the water at the end, you cut your hops utilization in half.

The other homebrewing tip is regarding ice. Once you're done boiling this concoction called wort, you have to cool it as rapidly as possible to avoid contamination by bacteria, oxidation damage, and evolving sulfur compounds that make your beer taste bad.

[HTB] People often wonder about adding ice directly to the cooling wort. This idea works well if you remember a couple key points.
  • Never use commercial ice. It can harbor dormant bacteria that could spoil your beer.
  • Always boil the water before freezing it in an airtight container. It must be airtight because most freezers also harbor dormant bacteria.
  • If the ice will not directly contact the wort, (i.e. you are using a frozen plastic soda bottle or other container in the wort) make sure you sanitize the outside of the bottle first before you put it in the wort.
And lastly, don't let your dog eat the hops. It could develop hyperthermia (too hot) and die. I don't have a dog, so that's not my concern, but it might be for you.

1 comment:

kkollwitz said...

If you ever go to England, make sure to visit Kent.


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