Open source Beer: Take 2

After posting the article about Open Source Beer, Jennifer of Brewerburns left a comment that said:

I would be leery of any beer recipe that calls for 4 kg of sugar to be added.

Now I admit to a tremendous lack of knowledge when it comes to brewing beer. In an e-mail, I asked Jennifer to elaborate. This is her response:

well, my husband and I brew beer regularly. The adding of actual cane sugar to the wort (that’s what the beer is called before it’s fermented) is never a part of the process. The idea is that you are supposed to get all or almost all of your fermentable sugars from the mash: that’s the part of the process where you steep the grains in hot water; or from using malt extract, which you can buy at your local homebrew store. Any recipe that calls for adding cane sugar in the actual brewing process is therefore suspect. The only time that you use sugar, other than malt extract, when you brew is to prime the beer immediately prior to bottling to stimulate the yeast so that it will properly bottle carbonate. And then you only use 3/4 of a cup of corn sugar for 5 gallons of beer. If your primary source of fermentable sugars is cane sugar then you’re not really making beer. You’re making
something that will probably ferment and produce alcohol but it’s not beer. The primary characteristic of beer is, after all, a beverage produced by mashing grains to get fermentable sugars to make alcohol.

Another thing. I am not an all grain brewer. In other words, we buy malt extract instead of mashing grains to create enough fermentable sugars to brew a batch of beer with. That being said, the recipe that you posted only calls for a “one step” mash and then only calls for the grains to be heated to 55-60 C and held at that temperature for 1 to 2 hours. I suspect that the reason the recipe calls for a large amount of sugar in the wort is that this mash doesn’t produce enough fermentable sugars to make beer. Most all grain recipes recommend using at least a two step, or even a three step mash. I have seen some recipes that use a one step mash though. I also suspect that 55-60 C isn’t hot enough to really extract the fermentable sugars from the grains.

Additionally, if you were to transfer the wort (the liquid concoction you’ve
got on the stove) to a container and simply let it cool there before pitching the yeast (which could take up to eight hours if you actually put it in a sealed container) you are only inviting bacterial infection. In order to make good homebrew you need to cool the wort quickly after it’s done “worting” on the stove . That is why they make wort chillers: basically a copper coil with fittings on both ends. You attach a hose to one fitting and the other end of the hose to your sink faucet and run cold water through the coils while they are submerged in the wort. This cools the wort in about 10-15 minutes, thereby minimizing the amount of time the wort has to catch a bacterial infection. Then you transfer the wort to a glass carboy,
preferably, although you can use a plastic bucket with a well fitting lid (this is a bad idea but some people do brew this way) and you pitch the yeast. There are other things to do after that but I think this adequately covers why that beer recipe is simply an invitation to disaster. So, if you really would like some good beer recipes I might recommend either: buying the Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian or: you can go to It’s a homebrewer’s forum and there are lots of free recipes posted by people on the forum. Not all of the recipes are good but a lot of them are. Other places on the internet with free homebrew recipes are: the Wyeast home page and the White Labs Yeast home page. Since there are so many places on the web where you can get free homebrew recipes why use one that probably will only produce a beer tasting like syrup or
possibly infected with bacteria anyway?

So it seems that the open source angle is simply… *gasp*… a marketing ploy to further an iffy beer recipe.

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