You’ve got everything ready, and now it’s time to start brewing! The first thing we’re going to do after weighing out our grains is to mill them. This will be called our grist. Keep in mind crushed grains are like cereal, as soon as you crack them open, they will stale quickly. If you’re milling your grains at the homebrew shop, be sure to mill it tightly into a paper bag and seal it up as best as possible. Use as soon after crush as possible!
Next, we’ll need to heat up our strike water. One typically heats their strike water to ~10ºF above your desired mash temp (assuming 2lb. of grain to 1 gallon water). For example, if you’d like to target a 150ºF mash, you’d heat your strike water to 160ºF before adding your grains. In our case, we’ll be doing a ‘step infusion‘, since we have the ability to heat our Mash Tun while recirculating.
Once we’re got our strike temperature set, it’s time to mash in. As soon as the grain hits the strike water, depending on your temperature and pH – there will be an enzymatic reaction that will release all the sugar you’ll need for your wort!
Add all of your grains, stirring so that you don’t get dough balls – these will seal up and leave dry pockets of inaccessible grains! We don’t want that. One your grains are in, let them steep for typically an hour. John Palmer has a detailed explanation of how this process works here.
Once you’re finished with the mash, it’s time to drain the grain bed and collect your wort. It’s best to vorlauf your grains (recycling water back through a top a few times) and ‘sparge’ your grains to collect the most amount of sugar you just created as possible.
Once we’ve got our wort, it’s time to boil! Crank up the heat and get your pot boiling! This can take longer than expect, so I start the heat as soon as I start collecting to save time.
Once the boil has settled down after the protein break, it’s time to add hops! I like to use pellets for the boil, since I seem to have an easier time hitting my bittering targets with pellets, they hold their alpha (and to a lesser degree beta) acid content for longer than the loose flowers do. It’s a good idea to always store your hops cold, near freezing, for maximum longevity.
Following your hop addition time schedule, boil your wort until it’s ready to be cooled. This is everyone’s favorite part – where all the hops flavors mingle with the smell of the boiling wort to produce a delicious, wafting vapor to make your neighbors jealous!
Wort is boiled and ready to be cooled down! Many people like to use a copper coil, but I prefer a plate heat exchanger. Why? I believe it’s easier to clean, and more efficient on water use.
Before I finish cooling and transferring, I’ll make sure to take a hydrometer reading from my hot wort (use gloves and don’t burn yourself). After cooling my wort down in the freezer to room temperature, I check the reading – just above 1.080 – very close to my target!