Brewcraft: Partial Mash Brewing

Here at Ann Arbor Abbey, we often subscribe to the partial mash method, because we are, in essence, lazy. Here's our basic method for brewing from malt extract and partial mash in 35 easy steps.

Step 0: Drink some beer and sanitize everything...

Drink beer while cleaning your brewing equipment. It is impossible to overstress the importance of sanitized equipment and unheard of to clean anything too well. It means all the difference between having really great beer and having 55 pounds of fetid crap in a big, heavy bottle. Clean everything. Twice. And drink beer. Twice.

Step 1: Put water in a big effing pot...

In a 30 liter stainless steel brew pot, bring 20 liters cold water to a boil.

Step 2: Put more water in a somewhat smaller pot...

While the big effing pot is heating up, add 5 liters cold water to a 20 liter stainless steel sparge pot.

Step 3: Boss... the grain! the grain! (Here's the "partial mash" part...)

Place your choice of specialty grains in a muslin or nylon sparging bag and add to the smaller pot of water. Slowly begin heating the water. When temperature reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit, turn off the heat and sparge grains for an additional 20 minutes. Then, remove the bag and gently squeeze a bit of the remaining tasty goodness from bag using a collander and the bottom of a large bowl. Discard grains, or eat them.

Step 4: The extract... the extract...

When the big effing brew pot reaches the boiling point, begin stirring all of that steaming hot water and add the malt extract. Do this slowly. Stirring will prevent the malt extract settling to the bottom of the pot and burning. That's bad, ok?

Step 5: Going with the grain...

Next, add the liquid from the partial mash. Stir a few more times for good measure. Inhale. It's legal.

Step 6: Drink some beer...

Do it.

Step 7: The great big foaming boil...

Turn on the heat and bring the mixture in the big effing pot to a boil again. When boiling, the mixture forms a foam layer which can rise out of the pot and skunk up your stove. Be careful to avoid this. It is messy and difficult to clean. Like, really.

Step 8: Drink some beer...

Drink it. Drink it again.

Steps 9-12: Hoppy hoppy... joy joy...

Boil the wort for 60 minutes, adding ingredients at the following intervals: 

  • At the start of the boil, add the bittering hops.
  • 45 minutes into the boil, add the flavoring hops, Irish Moss (for clarity), and yeast nutrient (to promote vigorous booze).
  • 55 minutes into the boil, add the aroma or finishing hops
  • After 60 minutes, stop boiling the mess (or "wort").

Step 13: Drink some beer...

Woohoo! Lucky 13! 13th time is a charm! Come one 13! 13 skidoo! Papa needs a new pair of 13s! If I've told ya once, I've told ya 13 times! A bird in the hand is worth 13 in the bush!

Whatever. Drink.

Steps 14-30: Cool out...

Cool the wort to 85 degrees Farenheit or lower before placing it in the primary fermenter. Cool the wort as quickly as possible to prevent yeast infections (really). I do this with a "wort chiller" which is really a long coil of copper (or stainless steel) tubing attached to a garden hose.

When cool, pour the wort into the primary fermenter which, around here, means a seven gallon glass carboy with an airlock on top.

Step 31: Hey batta batta... suwing batta... pitching the yeast...

Without yeast, you can't have beer, so this is the big moment. Be certain that the temperature of the wort is below 85 degrees Farenheit and add --or "pitch"-- the yeast. You can use either dry (inactive) or liquid (active) yeast. If you really want to start things off with a bang, you can grow a "starter culture" from the yeast several days ahead of time. We're usually too lazy around here, but directions on how to do this should be on the yeast packet.

Step 32: Primary fermentation...

Leave wort in primary fermenter until fermentation subsides (usually about a week, depending on temperature). Make certain that your one-way airlock is firmly in place, so that gasses can escape the carboy, but can't enter it. It's also really important to keep the wort in the dark, either by putting the carboy in a dark closet or by covering the carboy with a crisply pressed shirt and tuxedo jacket... or a black plastic bag for those of you that don't know how to show your style.

Step 33: Secondary fermentation...

When fermentation has completely subsided, clean the hell out of a five gallon carboy using your sanitizing solution. Using a sanitized siphon, transfer the wort into the secondary fermenter. Leave it in there for at least two or three weeks. Don't leave it too long... the longer you wait to bottle it, the longer you have to wait to brew your next beer.

Step 34: More cleaning... wouldn't your mamma be proud...

Clean your bottles well. Around here, we dip them in santizer and then run them through the dishwasher *without detergent*. Then, when everything is sanitized, and I mean everything, you are ready to bottle.

Step 35: Bottling and aging...

Bottling is an individual taste thing. Here we use 20 ounce import bottles made from heavy brown glass that we have dutifully emptied. They should all be brown, or UV rays will kill the yeast and make your beer skunky. We also use regular bottle caps and, surprise, a bottle capper. Then we drink some beer and label the bottles.

Finally, let the bottled beer age in a cool, dark place. We recommend an absolute minimum of two months regardless of the style of beer, but more for higher gravity and highly hopped concoctions. Ordinarily, we age even pale ales for four months or more, but again, this is a matter of patience. However, keep in mind that beer can get old and flaccid, and that flavors reach a peak, then fall off. So, don't hoard your beer. Drink it and give it away... like, to us.

Amen.


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Copyright © 1997-2011 Kirk R. Humphries and Sandy Marshall. All rights reserved. Weasel Breweries, Monks of Ann Arbor Abbey, and Olde Pyehole are trademarks of Kirk Humphries and Sandy Marshall. And so is a lot of other stuff. So there.

Last update: 29 August 2011