It’s the Yeast I Can Do: A Primer on Brewing

I have recently taken a foray into brewing my own libations, and have learned a lot about chemistry and biology during all three adventures, all of which have taken their respective placed in my home as they brew.  Here’s what I’m working on.

Kombucha

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Kombucha is fermented tea.  You have to use really caffeinated tea and a lot sugar.  That’s what the yeast feeds on.  There is very little alcohol content in kombucha, only a trace amount.  The yeast comes in the form of a SCOBY, which is short for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast.  That’s the big goopy thing at the top.  You can get multiple brews out of your SCOBY if you take care of it properly.  I have been brewing kombucha for a little less than a year now.  If you want to get started into brewing, kombucha is fairly easy.  Take care with temperature control and pH levels while learning.  Want to start brewing kombucha?  Take a look at The Kombucha Shop to get started.  Brews usually take seven to 21 days to ferment, along with a second fermentation in the bottle of a couple of days.

Hard Cider

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Hard cider is a new endeavor for me. Basically, you ferment a bottle of unpasteurized preservative-free apple cider with dry wine yeast.  You’ve got to be careful with carbon dioxide and your brew!  That’s what the tube is for, as it is allowing the CO2 out of the brew.  If not, you will get an explosion, and that would be bad, very bad.  In four weeks, I’ll have hard cider!

Beer

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Ah, the home brewmeister’s  holy grail:  beer!  Some kits give you syrup, or wort, that is already made, and you just add water and yeast.  Not so with my kit!  I made my own mash with the grains included, strained my own wort, the liquid that becomes your beer, and strained it through my sparge, the fancy word for the act of straining.  All in all, the entire process took about four and half hours.  Reserve an afternoon if you want to make beer, and you’ll be in the kitchen for most of it.  Beer making requires exact temperature control at regular intervals.  When you have your boil of your wort done, cool it, add your yeast, shake, and watch it go!  Again, CO2 has to be released or you’ll have a beer explosion.

For both the hard cider and the beer kit, hop on over to the Brooklyn Brew Shop.  They are super nice.  The kit I made is the Chestnut Brown Ale, which is a good one to make as chestnuts are in season here, and you will need for roasted and peeled ones make this beer.

A note for hard cider and beer:  SANITIZE EVERYTHING YOU ARE GOING TO USE.  Clean equipment means no cross-contamination.  Luckily, most kit include sanitizer powder.

Use vinegar to clean your kombucha equipment, though.  Harsh soaps and cleansers will leave residues that will kill your SCOBY.

That’s my primer on brewing different liquids.  It’s by no means complete, but I hope you learned something and are interested in perhaps brewing something yourself.

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