Northern Brewer’s General
Before Brew Day:
1. Prepare ice.
If you do not have a wort
chiller and you will be cooling your brew pot in an ice bath, make trays of ice
ahead of time. I find that 12 trays is sufficient. If you get a
couple extra ice trays to use, this goes pretty quick (I do 4 trays
3 times = 12 trays).
Here are my 12 trays worth of ice that I use to cool my wort.
2. Get 3 gallons of water cooled to fridge temps.
Sanitize three 1-gallon plastic jugs. Previously used water jugs (from Cub or Rainbow) work well. Sanitize a container, then dump the gallon of sanitizer into the next one, and so on Remove the aerator from your faucet as it could contain bacteria, etc. Fill the jugs with cold tap water and put in fridge. You will use this water to help bring the temperature down quickly so you can safely pitch your yeast.
Cool 3 gallons of water in a fridge or a cold-winter room before brewing.
NOTE on buying water: I used to buy water from Cub and use that for brewing. Over time I learned that this water lacked some essential minerals for ideal brewing. It was too clean and pure, if you will. Now I am back to where I started -- using good old St. Paul tap water. Works just fine and is less of a hassle then buying it each time.
You will need a good funnel. My first one was the one on the left. My current and better one is the white one at right. If you look on the down spout part, you can see a ridge. This lets the funnel sit tightly in the jug or fermenter while allowing air to escape out. If you don't have the ridge, you have to stick something between the funnel and the object you are filling, and that's a pain.
3. Make gallon measuring marks on your plastic or glass primary fermenter.
If your fermenting bucket
does not have gallon marks on it, you might want to make them. Add 1 gallon of
water at a time and use a permanent marker to indicate where each level is. Your main goal is to know
where the 5 gallon level is, but it’s nice to have them all.
I've marked my bucket and my glass primary fermenters with gallon marks so I can always get 5 gallons of beer.
4. Activate your yeast.
Northern Brewer ingredient kits come with Wyeast Activator Smack Packs. They are sufficient to ferment 5 gallons of average-strength beer. When you have brewed for a while, or when you are making stronger beer, you will want to make a yeast starter (see section below). The Activator yeast packs work great, but you need to smack them before brewing. The new ones swell up pretty fast, so even 8 hours should be enough. You could do it the night before too. Keep this in mind as you might want to buy the ingredients the day before you plan on brewing. If buying ingredients on brew day, I suggest getting the White Labs pitchable yeast that comes in a tube.
Wyeast's Activator pack at left, and White Labs pitchable tubes at right.
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