Brewing My Own Beer + Some Thoughts On Automatizing Home Brewing

For the past few days I have been working on putting together my own brewing equipment, mostly commercially available off the shelf "components" and modifying them to suit the needs for making beer. The issue with me was that since I was going for a 1 gallon brew unlike most home brewers who go for a standard 5 gallon brew. The folks at the Seoul HomeBrew had never seen a customer come for a single gallon worth of malts and hops (waitt...but why?) but were happy to help me build my recipe for all grain American Pale Ale.

Putting Things Together:
Both boil pot and the fermenter were bought at local stores at Inha Market in Nakseongde. I drilled the top portion of a 5L jar, placed the rubber thingi that anyone can get off the Seoul HomeBrew (SHB) shop, placed the airlock (also from SHB) and Wallah! the fermenter was ready. Hopefully it's airtight enough...

The sanitizer, malts and the two variety of hops (centennial and elle), thermometer, hydrometer, the malt bag, tablets, dry yeast were all from the SHB. Hyunmin's weighing machine was the last thing in the mix.

Getting Really, Really Confused:
When I sat down for the actual brewing though, things started getting a little lackadaisical as I kept getting confused as to what the next process would be.

A standard brew process would look like..
Raise the water to specific temperature, mash the grains, boil the wort, place the hops while on boil, cool down the liquid and place it inside the fermenter making sure to add the yeast and air tighten the lead. What I didn't exactly know was the specifics, the core of making a really good brew.

Normally on a 5 gallon brew, one would go for a 60 min mash and 60 minute boil while placing the prime hops on the 60 min letting out the alpha acids and then placing the flavoring hops before 15 minutes of finishing the boil. The issue I was having was since the whole brewing was a slimmed down version, I didn't exactly know if that same thing applied to the small batch brewing process.

In the end, I had to make another trip back to the SHB only to run into Jason, co-owner of Magpie's Brewing Company and who I happened to take a brewing class from ages ago. While he didn't recognize who this indian looking beer loving dude was, he recommended a 30min 63 degree mash and 30min boil doubling the amount of prime hops (centennial). Eventually, however, on the actual brew day, I decided to go for the standard 60min mash while opting to boil for 30min just to make sure I have something left to ferment.

The Actual Brewing:

Photo documenting each process will required me to have four hands so it was physically impossible to cook and take pictures at the same time. However, I do remember what I did in my head here and will list it down.

1. Placed 1.5 Gallons of water on the brew pot and raised the temperature up to 63 degree centigrade.
2. Placed the 1.2 Kilos of Pale Malt (plus two other malts I can't seem to remember...wrote it down somewhere..) on the nylon? bag and then placed them for a 60 min mash
3. Removed the now totally screwed bag, what's left is called a wort; a sweet horlicks smelling liquid full of goodies for yeast.
4. Put the wort on full boil. Took a timer (smartphone obviously) and at 60min to finish the boil, placed the centennial hops. Waited for 45 minutes and then went on to add the elle hops. 5 minutes before turning the heat off, placed seeds of two Nepali Elaichi, also called in a language understood worldwide as cardamom.
5. Made an ice bath, placed the brewpot on top and left it like a sinking looking but not sunk titanic ship. Let the ice do it's thing and brought down to room temperature.
6.Placed it inside the fermenter making sure to splash it as much as possible. Much like how Newars pour drinks from toe to head. This helps to oxidize the liquid providing much needed life support for the yeast.
7. Placed the dry Safale Dry Yeast (S-04) and tightening up the lead while placing the airlock. Put some soju on top to sterilize.
8. Realized how strenuous making a batch really is; especially if it's your first solo brew.
9. Realized that nothing was actually happening with the beer. Are the yeast dead?
10. Realized how archaic the whole process was; will it possible to use an arduino perhaps?
11. Decided to go take a shower and sleep on it.

Thoughts on Automatizing Brewing:

What hit me strange was all this brewing was simply very old fashioned and that I could quite easily use a smarter technology to help me out with my brewing.

I knew there should have been people working on the Arduino format and as I put out the keywords on google, a number of websites appeared which had worked on automatizing brewing COMPLETELY.

Now this is what I don't understand. I get that people want to become really lazy and push a button and let the MCU do all the cooking but hey, come onnn, what's the whole point? Better just go buy a pint instead. To be fair, some of the designs were really impressive, even going on to use  PID controls, custom pcb boards and ton of sensors to help brew the perfect beer but what I simply wanted was a device that measured the temperature and gravity and notified me when I had to put the heat on or to cool it down or whether I hit the specific temperature I wanted. After that, I could simply use that information to plot a graph and see what I could improve on. Simple. 

I don't want the robot to brew my beer, no thank you. 


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