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Why do we treat 50 litres of water to brew 25 litres of beer?

There is ‘water loss’ at various stages of brewing. For instance, in the mash the grain soaks up and retains quite a lot, you also lose a few litres during the boil, and that’s before we take spillage into account. You could get away with treating less than 50 litres; but why not err on the safe side? It’s two full fermentation bins.


Why do we mash at a rate of 2.8 litres of water for every kilogram of grain?

Mashing can be made into a complicated subject if you wish and is not one that all brewers agree upon. Dave Miller, in one of his books, recommended mashing at a rate of 1.33 quarts for every pound (lb) of grain, which converts to 2.78 litres per kilogram. Other successful brewers I’ve spoken to tell me they mash at a rate of "just less than" 3 litres per kilogram. 2.8 litres per kilogram works mightily fine for me which is why I recommend it - I’m not so anal that I’m going to measure 2.78 litres - but it’s up to you. I’ve seen people recommend 1.2 litres per kilogram which is way off our figures, but that‘s not to say their recommendations are ‘wrong‘ - they‘re just very different! There’s a whole raft of reading to be had on mash theory on the internet and in books - none of it exciting, a lot of it nonsensical, and much of it indecipherable. But mash at whatever rate you fancy - the choice is yours. Why not experiment by brewing the same recipe twice, identical in every way, but mashing at vastly different rates and seeing how that affects the beer? Don’t forget those tasting notes now!!! Alternatively go the tried and tested route - two point eight is nothing less than great...

it's essential to get the mash as spot on as you can...

Why do we mash at 67°C?

Again, through experience, and the knowledge that a mash at this temperature produces fine results. Graham Wheeler, in his book ‘Brew Your Own British Real Ale At Home’, puts forward his ideas that the ‘limits’ of the mash extend from 62° to 69°C although I have certainly mashed at higher temperatures than 69°C with good results in the past. Personally, I don’t believe it’s an exact science anyway, in the sense that no brewer worth his salt would risk losing heat at a fatal rate halfway through the mash purely to take a temperature reading to assure himself that the temperature has remained constant. Experiment if you wish by all means, but don’t get too hung up about it; aim for a given temperature at the start of the mash and trust in a good mash tun surrounded by sound and thick insulation!


Why do we use crushed Campden tablets at various stages of brewing?

Basically it’s to avoid Hot Side Aeration (HSA) which, if you read on down, you’ll see I don’t really believe exists anyway! The theory says that oxidation can be caused by splashing around hot or warm beer, but good brewing practices will mean it’s difficult if not downright impossible to oxidise so much that you will ruin your finished beer. It’s a peace of mind thing. Campden tablets are cheap as chips, so why not use them? Very experienced brewers can taste the difference between beers made with Campden tablets and beers made without, and the beers made ’with’ are almost always superior. So I figure that fact alone makes them an essential ingredient...


When sparging, why do we take so much care to sprinkle the wort and sparge water over the grain in the mash tun? Wouldn’t it be quicker to just pour it in?

As the liquid from the mash tun is initially released, the grain in the tun ’packs down’ and forms a tight filter bed; and by gentle sprinkling we can use that filter bed to remove all the ‘twigs’ and little pieces of debris from the beer and at the same time, wash out into our beer all the sugars remaining in the grain. If we simply poured in the wort and water the filter bed would be destroyed and we would probably put more debris into our beer, thus ruining any chance of turning out a fine brew.


Why do we sparge at 62°C?

Many brewers will think this controversial and will go for a much higher sparge temperature - I’ve seen 75°C and even higher recommended. A ’mature’ brewer once pointed out to me that high sparge temperatures reduce the thickness/viscosity/body of a beer, and also brings in unwanted tastes from husk compounds. He suggested 62°C, I’ve tried it, it works. Experiment with higher temperatures if you wish though!


When boiling, why do we have to achieve a "vigorous rolling" boil?

Two reasons. One, it helps to coagulate proteins - stuff that could otherwise cloud up your beer, the vigour of the boil helps them to ‘bang together’, stick together, and their combined weight means they quickly sink to the bottom, leaving crystal clear beer. Two, a vigorous rolling boil means maximum extraction of the bitterness of your hops. Don’t go mad though, you don’t want your boil so vigorous that half your ale disappears in steam!

lots of heat gets the job done properly


After the boil has finished, why do we have to mess about with cooling the wort as quickly as possible? Can’t we just let it stand overnight and pitch the yeast in the morning?

You probably already know that, in brewing, keeping things sterile is the key to success. Hot and warm wort, being full of sugars, is an absolute germ magnet and all kinds of airborne bacteria and nasties are drawn to it. The period from the end of the boil until the wort is cool enough to pitch the yeast is a dangerous time in terms of contamination and infection, so it follows that the shorter that period is, the happier we are. My wort chiller is not the best but it can do the job in about half an hour - so having gone to all that trouble to brew the beer, why not go the extra yard and actually look after it? I know of no one who lets the wort cool overnight BUT to this day there are some older brewers who let their wort stand in their bath full of cold water for about four hours. They are asking for trouble - not only from risk of infection but from spillage of very very hot wort while carrying 25 litres of the stuff up a flight of stairs to get to the bathroom. Safety first guys - it‘s heavy and none of us are getting any younger or stronger!



Why does dried yeast need rehydrating before use?

It doesn’t, but it’s better if it is! As in the answer to the above question, the aim is to avoid infection of the wort and to this end, the sooner the yeast gets to work, the better. The time from the moment the yeast is pitched until the moment the yeast gets to work is known as the ‘lag time’. A short lag time is good, a long lag time is in no one’s interests. Using a sterilised mug, half a mugful of pre-boiled and cooled water, pour in the yeast, add a teaspoon of sugar (food for the yeast cells) and give it a good whisk and leave it 15 minutes. This means that at the moment you pitch your yeast, the yeast cells are already active and multiplying like crazy. Good tactics!



Before bottling, why do we add brewing sugar to the wort?

If you don’t do this then little or no carbonation will take place; this is what gives bottled beer its ‘zing’! You know, the "shpshh" sound as you take off the cap, followed by the bubbles, the little wisp of ’mist’ and the slight fizz. When you bottle beer, you are creating a micro environment the moment you put the cap on. There are some yeast cells in there, comparatively very few yes, but they are still there, and the small amount of brewing sugar gives them something to nosh on. As they eat the sugar they fart out carbon dioxide, this creates pressure inside the bottle and ‘bottle conditions’ the beer. If you didn’t do this your beer would be as flat as a wet pancake... and some brewers prefer their beer this way. The choice is yours...



You advocate jugging the beer about quite a bit, most notably at the end of the boil and when filling your Cornie Keg. But I read that splashing beer about can give it an ‘off’ taste and this is known as Hot Side Aeration. Isn’t jugging beer about asking for trouble?

I’ve read about Hot Side Aeration (HSA) too. I’ve also read about the Loch Ness Monster. There are some people who don’t believe Nessie exists and some brewers who believe HSA exists in theory and textbooks only. ... this scene is as likely to be witnessed as HSA... I agree with them. All I can say is jugging beer suits my methods of brewing and I can honestly say I’ve not been troubled by this condition ONCE, despite many years of splashing beer about with gay abandon. HOWEVER, see the question above about the use of Campden tablets!!!





Now you've almost finished wading through this web site, the next page gives lots of invaluable links and reading material. There's a small army of people out there dedicated to telling you more than you need ever know about brewing, so it would be criminal not to make use of them!

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