Hollyhill Hummingbird Farm brews beer on site. This method is just one of the many ways to take malted barley/wheat and turn it into beer. This method is called Brew-in-Bag and is very popular in Australia where water is hard to come by. Most of our research came from internet pioneers down under! This is our smaller 5 gallon setup, it is a great way to try new brews without having a huge grain bill.
It starts to smell like oatmeal at this point (Sometimes we use oats!). There is a bit of stirring involved to ensure an even distribution of heat. We also have a false bottom to ensure the grain never reaches the very bottom of the pot, where the temperature reaches over 180 and has the potential to destroy enzymes and sugars we want.
Each batch cooks for a different amount of time. One could simply go off a prescribed time; however, we prefer to check starch conversion as an extra step to ensure a quality product.
We are cooking it at this temperature to drive the enzymes from the hull of the barley to convert starch to sugar. When all the starch is used up and converted to sugar iodine drops will not turn black.
They are then placed into a second pot of water already heated to the “sparge temperature” (Usually 180 degrees F). This is slightly different than a normal sparge, but the idea is to get all the sugars we can off of our grains.
After a bit of cooking (10-15 min) in the second pot, the grains are drained and the two batches are merged into the main brew pot. At this point the liquid made of water and sugars is called wort. This will be called wort until the yeast have fermented the sugars into alcohol. The wort is boiled for around an hour, adding things like hops, coriander, orange peels, vanilla beans… at the appropriate times. We like to measure them out and have them ready.
After the boil it is time to chill out! The goal is to get the wort from a sanitary boiling temperature down to a yeast loving 70 degrees as quick as possible. We prefer the reverse flow chiller over the standard immersion chiller for two reasons: One, it does two jobs at the same time, it fills the fermenter as it chills it (faster = less chance another bacteria gets in the mix and starts fouling it up). Two, it produces a consistent product, each bit of wort is cooled just as much as the first bit.
The chiller is the copper colored thing on the stand. The white hose is a garden hose bringing in the cooling water. The cooling water exits through the green garden hose and is used for irrigation outside. Cooling water runs from bottom to top, while wort uses gravity and travels from top to bottom. The wort leaves the pot from the right side when the blue handle opens a ball valve. It flows inside a copper tube surrounded by counter flowing cooling water. The wort exits in the clear hose, goes through an agitator to add oxygen and into the glass fermentation tank. The oxygen helps the yeast have their party bigger and better than any bacteria!
We toss in a bit of yeast and send it to the back of the closet, where you would find a tacky Hawaiian shirt. Yeast doesn’t like the light, and other things that create “off flavors” do like like the light. Our apologies about the photo quality, but no flash photography is allowed after the yeast joins the party!
It takes another 4 weeks before you have a quality product. Some beers require months! Here is the quickest way possible: One week in the primary fermenter, one week in the secondary, one week in the bottle/keg stored in the closet, one week in the fridge…Cheers!