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From: [email protected] (Kurt Swanson)
Date: 2 Jan 93 13:10:29 GMT
Newsgroups: rec.crafts.brewing,news.answers
Subject: rec.crafts.brewing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Archive-name: brewing-faq
Last-modified: 1993/01/02
Version: 2.2
Frequency: monthly

[V2M1: send comments/corrections to [email protected]]

Frequently Asked Questions in Rec.Crafts.Brewing:

1. How is beer made?
2. How do I start? What equipment do I need?
3. What is the HomeBrewDigest (HBD)?
4. Where can I access the archives?
5. Where can I get a copy of "The Cat's Meow" (recipe book)?
6. What is a good text on brewing?
7. Where can I get mail order supplies?
8. What are the "lambic-list", "beerjudge-list", "cider-list", and
"mead-lovers" lists?
9. What is the A.H.A./Zymurgy?
10. I'm going to (city), what brewpubs are there?
11. My terminal gravity seems high, should I worry?
12. Why hasn't my yeast done anything yet?
13. Are there any homebrew clubs in (city)?
14. What's the word on Bottle Fillers?
15. What is CAMRA?
16. What is a hydrometer? How is it used? What is "specific gravity"?
17. What is a wort chiller? How/why is it used?
18. What is hot break? What is cold break?
19. How are all-grain recipes converted to extract?
20. Regarding hops, what are alpha acids? What is HBU? What is IBU?
21. What is "dry hopping"? How should I dry hop?
22. What are 20L, 40L, etc. crystal malts? What is Lovibond?
23. What is "Wyeast" (liquid yeast)? How is "Wyeast" pronounced?
24. How do I make a yeast starter?
25. How do I convert from PPM to mg/l and vice-versa?

[Special thanks to Steve Russell and Tony Babinec]
[Extra-special thanks to Brian Smithey]

1. How is beer made?

Beer is made from extracting sugar from the starch in malted grain. This is
boiled with sufficient water & hops to make a "wort." When this has cooled,
brewer's yeast is added to ferment the wort to create this finished product,
which is suitable for bottling or kegging, and maturation. Some people mash
their own grain, while others buy canned malt extract. Either method is
suitable for creating an award-winning brew, though mashing does allow
greater control over the finished product, and "mash'ers" claim better beer
is made. For more complete information get the compressed file beginners.Z
from the Stanford server (see #4).

2. How do I start? What equipment do I need?

There are specialty shops all over the country that sell ingredients
and equipment for making beer and wine at home. Check your yellow
pages under "Beer" or "Wine" for homebrewing or home winemaking
shops. If you can't find a shop locally, many shops do mail order
(more on mail order later). Basic equipment includes a kettle for
boiling the wort, a fermentation vessel of some kind -- glass
carboys (5 gallon bottled water bottles) and food-grade plastic
buckets are popular -- siphon hose for bottling, bottles, and a bottle
capper and caps. Most shops sell "starter kits", which include
essential equipment (and sometimes some not-so-essential equipment),
ingredients for your first batch, and a book. Prices vary, $60-70
U.S. is common.

3. What is the HomeBrewDigest (HBD)?

The Digest is an alternate forum for discussing homebrewing. It is not
associated in any manner with this newsgroup, or Usenet in general, except
that a high percentage of people contribute to both forums. The digest is a
list-group which is sent out daily, containing all postings from the
previous 24-hours. The HBD generally handles a more advanced discussion of
brewing issues. Flames are not permitted. Currently the HBD is being
posted to this newsgroup as a courtesy. Beware that some newsreaders will
split the digest into its component articles, and that follow-up posts will
not be seen by the original poster, nor other HBD subscribers. Direct
replies should work - but make sure the address is correct. To subscribe to
the digest, send a message containing "subscribe" to
[email protected].

4. Where can I access the archives?

Currently no one that I know of archives rec.crafts.brewing, but the
archives to the HBD are available. They can be obtained via anonymous ftp
from in the pub/homebrew directory. Get the file called
index for a complete description of what is available. Many other "goodies"
reside in this directory. Please limit access to non-business hours.
If you do not have ftp access, you can send a mail message containing the
word "help" in it, to [email protected], and you will receive

Another server does exist for those who do not have ftp access, send a mail
message containing only the word "HELP" to [email protected] for more

5. Where can I get a copy of "The Cat's Meow" (recipe book)?

This is available on the archives, in the recipe-book subdirectory. See #4
for information on accessing the archives.

6. What is a good text on brewing?

It is generally agreed that "The Complete Joy of Home Brewing," by Charlie
Papazian is an excellent beginners text. Other find David Miller's "The
Complete Handbook of Homebrewing" just as good for the beginner, as well as
containing more information suited for intermediate/advanced brewers. I use
both. Other texts include "The Big Book of Brewing," by Dave Line, which is
a British text (with British & metric measurements), and "Brewing Lager
Beer" by Greg Noonan. Mr. Line has also written a recipe book which does
contain basic instructions, called "Brewing Beer Like Those You Buy." Also
you might try "Brewing Quality Beers," by Byron Burch, which has been
described as "short enough to read for the extremely impatient, yet has lots
of good information." Lastly, CAMRA (see below), publishes "Home
Brewing: The CAMRA Guide," by Graham Wheeler, 1990. Write to CAMRA
directly, at the address given below.

7. Where can I get mail order supplies?

The wang archive server contains the file "suppliers" which is a good place
to start, or try the classifieds in any copy of Zymurgy. Also, try the
yellow pages under "Beer making supplies" and "Wine Making."
Lastly, the original copy of "the Cat's Meow" (see #5), contains a list
of mail order shops.

8. What are the "lambic-list", "beerjudge-list", "cider-list", and
"mead-lovers" lists?

These are three special topic mailing lists, unassociated with Usenet.
Subscribers send mail to the list and then copies are immediately mailed out
to every other subscriber. The lambic-list covers information on brewing a
special type of Belgian brew called lambic (ask for it at your liquor
store). The beerjudge-list covers topics related to judging beer in
competitions, as well as administration of the judge test. The
cider-list involves the brewing of cider. The mead-lovers list
involves the making of mead (honey-wine). To subscribe, send mail
to [email protected], [email protected],
[email protected], and [email protected]
Include your name, email address, and in the case of the
judge-list, your judging rank ("apprentice" for non-judges).

9. What is the A.H.A./Zymurgy?

Zymurgy is a quarterly publication, plus one special topics issue, put out
by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). Zymurgy contains many
article on brewing as well as information & ads regarding clubs and
supplies. Contact the AHA by phone or US mail to:

American Homebrewers Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 1679
Boulder, CO 80306-1679
(303) 447-0816

10. I'm going to (city), what brewpubs are there?

The Wang archive server contains a file listing brewpubs. The file is call
brewpub-list. See question #4 on how to access the server.

11. My terminal gravity seems high, should I worry?

Worry? No. There are several possibilities. First, depending on your
recipe, an acceptable terminal gravity may be high. For example, a Barley
Wine with an initial gravity of 1.120, might completely ferment out at
1.040. On the other hand, a lite lager, with an initial gravity of 1.025
might ferment all the way down to 1.002. Thus you should check with your
recipe, or a similar recipe of that style, to determine what might be
proper. If you still believe it is high, and this is a frequent occurrence,
you may have a "stuck fermentation." This occurs for a variety of reasons.
The wort might not have been sufficiently aerated to start with, you might
slosh it around in the fermenter. Or, fermentation temperature might have
dropped to the point where the yeast may go dormant. Also, the yeast might
not have enough nutrients in the wort to work with. This often occurs in
extract brewing. In these latter two cases, you might try adding a yeast
nutrient, according to the instruction that come with it. Lastly, give it
time, as fermentation may slow, then suddenly accelerate at a later date.

12. Why hasn't my yeast done anything yet?

Some yeasts take longer to start than others. Make sure your fermentation
temperature is in the right range (lower temps slow yeast activity). Also,
high temperatures are bad for yeast. Besides problems of mutation, yeast
may be killed if pitched before the wort has sufficiently cooled. You might
try aerating the wort by sloshing it around in the fermenter. Lastly, the
pitching rate affects startup time. If you pitch too little yeast, not only
will the lag time be greater, but you also risk infection. Many people
either use 2 packets of dry yeast (Whitbread excepted), or make a starter
culture from one packet, or from liquid yeast.

13. Are there any homebrew clubs in (city)?

Steve Russell has compiled an on-line list of homebrew clubs. You can
contact him by sending mail to: [email protected] or
[email protected].

14. What's the word on Bottle Fillers?

The following was graciously submitted by Paul Chisholm regarding a recent
discussion on bottle fillers in this newsgroup... Thanks, Paul...

Some people Worry (for shame!-) that a bottle filler causes more
oxidation (because of spraying through the smaller opening, rather than
through the whole opening at the end of the siphon tube, I guess). The
solution is to tilt the bottle at the beginning, and stick the end of
the bottling wand into the bottom "corner" of the bottle. The wand's
end is soon covered with beer, and no amount of spraying will cause any
extra air to be mixed in with the beer. Also, if the end of the wand
(or siphon tube, or whatever) isn't much lower than the end of the
siphon tube in the priming carboy (or whatever), the beer will be
siphoned slowly, at low pressure, reducing spraying. (This works for
any bottle filling procedure.)

Another problem is the bottle filler has beer in it. When you lift the
filler from the bottle, that beer doesn't go into the bottle, and the
headspace is greatly increased. Even if you fill the bottle almost
full, the resulting headspace is larger than some people consider
optimal. You can fill the bottle, move the filler to the top of the
bottle, and press the tip of the filler to drizzle enough beer down the
side of the bottle to reduce the head space.

There are two kinds of fillers. One kind has a spring. The other has
a stopper that's held down by the weight of the beer. The latter is
slower. Does that mean oxidation is less of a problem? I expect it's
easier to finish filling (using the side-of-the-bottle trick) with a
springless filler.

(There's also something called Phil's Philler, which has a hole at the
top as well as at the bottom. You can remove the filler without
removing the beer in it, thus eliminating the headspace problem.)

My take on all this is that there are ways to use a bottle filler to
reduce problems (and reduce Worry). I didn't find enough evidence of
problems to bottle my beer without a bottle filler.

15. What is CAMRA?

CAMRA stands for "the CAMpaign for Real Ale," a British consumers'
group that is concerned with changes, primarily in the quality of
British beers. For membership details write:
Campaign for Real Ale, Ltd
34 Alma Road
St. Albans
Herts AL1 3BR
United Kingdom

16. What is a hydrometer? How is it used? What is "specific gravity"?

A hydrometer measures the weight of a liquid relative to the same
volume of water (i.e., relative densities). In brewing, much of
this excess weight is expected to be from fermentable and unfermentable
malt sugars. Most hydrometers measure Specific Gravity (SG), which
tells how many times heavier than water the liquid of interest is;
for example, a 1.050 SG wort is 1.05 times heavier than an equal volume
of water at 60 F. SG measurements are temperature dependent, and SG
should be measured at 60 F., as water is SG 1.0 at 60 F.

Hydrometers often come with a temperature conversion chart, but
hydrometers often are not accurately calibrated, so that water at
60F will not read 1.0. An easy way to take SG readings with a
hydrometer is to measure at room temperature, and then measure water
at room temperature and take the difference.

Some abbreviations commonly used in homebrewing relating to specific
gravity: OG, Original (wort specific) Gravity; FG or TG, Final or
Terminal Gravity (when the beer is finished fermenting).

17. What is a wort chiller? How/why is it used?

A wort chiller is a device used to quickly cool boiling wort to
yeast pitching temperatures. Two common constructions are the
immersion chiller and the counterflow chiller. The immersion
chiller consists of a coil of copper tubing that is immersed in
the wort, and cold water is run through the tubing. Counterflow
designs usually consist of copper tubing inside of a larger diameter
plastic tubing; cold water runs through the plastic tubing in one
direction, cooling wort runs through the copper tubing in the other

Using a chiller to quickly cool wort has several advantages over
slow air cooling. You get your yeast pitched quickly, reducing
the risk of infection; the time the wort spends at DMS* producing
temperatures is reduced; and a quick chill promotes good cold break.

* DMS is Dimethyl Sulfide, a malt by-product with an aroma
described as similar to cooked corn.

18. What is hot break? What is cold break?

Hot and cold break are terms used by homebrewers to describe the
flocculation of proteins and other materials during the boil (the
hot break) and cooling (the cold break). This material tends to
settle to the bottom of your kettle or fermenter, where it becomes
part of the "trub". Sometimes the terms "hot break" and "cold break"
will be used to refer to the activity ("I had a great cold break
when I pumped ice water through my wort chiller"), while at other
times the brewer may be referring to the actual matter ("The cold
break settled to the bottom of my carboy"); if you're worried that
you may not be understood, you can always specify whether you're
talking about the occurrence or the stuff. Usually it is understood
from context.

19. How are all-grain recipes converted to extract?

All fermentables (malt extract syrup, dry malt extract, grain malt,
sugar, honey, etc.) cause an increase in the specific gravity of the
solution when added to water. A common way to measure how much the
specific gravity increases is the number of SG points of increase
when a pound of the ingredient is added to one gallon of water.
Most fermentables used for beer are in the range of 25-45 points
per pound per gallon. Values for many of these ingredients may be
found in the references mentioned in the Bibliography section. When
substituting one fermentable for another, use the ratio of the
specific gravity contributions of each ingredient to scale the one
you will use to the amount that will provide the desired SG contribution.

Example: You have an all-grain recipe that calls for 8# of Malted
Barley, and you want to replace it with extract syrup. One of my
references lists the SG contributions of these ingredients as
approximately 30 points for the grain and 36 points for the syrup
per pound of ingredient per gallon of water. You multiply the
8# of grain in the recipe by 30/36 to get 6 2/3 pounds of malt
extract syrup.

20. Regarding hops, what are alpha acids? What is HBU? What is IBU?

Alpha acids are bittering compounds found in hops that are extracted
when hops are boiled with wort. The alpha acid "rating" on hops
describes how much of the weight of the hop is made up of alpha acids.
Hops with a higher alpha acid content will contribute more bitterness
than a low alpha hop when using the same amount of hop.

HBU stands for "Homebrew Bitterness Unit", which is a recipe unit
for hops. It takes into account the alpha acid content of the hop,
so that a recipe will call for a certain amount of HBU's rather than
an amount specified in ounces. HBU is computed by multiplying the
weight of hops in oz. by the alpha acid percentage of the hops; sum
for all hop additions. For example, 1 oz of 7% alpha hops will have
a HBU of 7. Note that volume is ignored in the HBU, therefore it
is important to include the volume of the recipe, or express the
hop additions in HBU per gallon (or HBU per 5 gallons) rather than
just strictly HBU.

IBU stands for "International Bittering Unit", and is a measure of
the amount of bittering compounds in a particular volume of beer,
rather than a recipe unit. However, the "Hops and Beer" special
issue of Zymurgy (see Bibliography) presents a formula for estimating
IBU, considering several variables -- alpha acid content, wort volume,
wort gravity, and time in the boil.

Another way to think of this is that HBU represents the "potential"
for bittering beer (the bittering strength of the hops), while IBU
represents "actual" bittering, and is a measure of the beer, not
the hops.

21. What is "dry hopping"? How should I dry hop?

Dry hopping is the practice of adding dry hops to beer at some
time after the boil. The technique is used to increase hop aroma
in the finished beer, as aromatic hop compounds are quickly lost
when hops are boiled. Common practice is to add the hops to a
secondary fermenter, or if kegging, to the keg from which the
beer will be served. Dry hops added to a fermenter should be
left in contact with the beer for at least a week or two. The
consensus seems to be that the amount of alcohol present by the
time fermenting beer is in secondary fermentation is sufficient
to prevent bacteria and/or wild yeasts from "riding in" on the
hops and contaminating the beer, so sanitizing of the dry hops
is not deemed necessary. Either whole hops, plugs, or pellets
may be used for dry hopping.

22. What are 20L, 40L, etc. crystal malts? What is Lovibond?

For brewers, the Lovibond degree is a unit used to measure the color
of malted barley and beer. Darker grains have a higher Lovibond measure,
and contribute more color to brewed beer. Darker crystal malts (such
as 60L, 80L, 120L, etc.) will provide more sweet flavor and more color
than similar amounts of lighter (20L, 40L) crystal malt. Dave Miller's
book (see Bibliography) provides a formula for very roughly predicting
the color of finished beer in degrees L based on the grain that goes
into making the beer.

23. What is "Wyeast" (liquid yeast)? How is "Wyeast" pronounced?

"Wyeast" is a nickname for the Brewer's Choice line of liquid brewing
yeasts from Logsdon's Wyeast Laboratories. There are more than a dozen
varieties of ale and lager yeasts available from Wyeast. Many brewers
that use Wyeast consider it to be of high quality, uncontaminated by
bacteria. For a report on contaminants in liquid and dry yeasts
available to homebrewers, see the "Yeast" special issue of Zymurgy.
Good results can be obtained from either dry or liquid yeasts,
especially for brewers that are willing to carefully home culture
yeasts that they know to be pure and provide good results.

The name Wyeast is pronounced like "Why-yeast", not "double-u yeast",
and is the name that the local Native Americans had given to Mt. Hood
in Oregon, which stands near the site of the Wyeast lab.

24. How do I make a yeast starter?

The Wyeast package recommends making a 1.020 SG wort and pitching
the active contents of the package into a sanitized bottle with
an airlock to allow the quantity of active yeast cells to build
up before pitching into a typical 5 gallon batch of wort. This
"starter" wort is usually made from dry malt extract boiled with
water at the rate of 2 tablespoons per 8 oz. cup of water. Some
brewers like to throw in a couple of hop cones or pellets for their
antiseptic qualities. When the starter is at high krauesen (the
term is used loosely here, you often won't get a foamy head on your
starter, look for visible, strong fermentation) it's ready to pitch.
Typical time for a starter is 24 hours. This technique is recommended
for both dry and liquid yeasts.

25. How do I convert from PPM to mg/l and vice-versa?

You multiply (or divide) by 1. PPM (parts per million) is
*defined* as mg/l (milligrams per liter).

Kurt Swanson, Dept. of Computer Science,
Lunds universitet. [email protected]
Kurt Swanson, Dept. of Computer Science,
Lunds universitet. [email protected]

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