The science of alcohol
The science of alcohol

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The science of alcohol

4.1 Setting up your homebrew experiment

If you would like to set up your own homebrewing experiment, you should now watch the following video of Danny Allwood explaining what equipment you will require to brew your own beer. Even if you do not want to do the experiment yourself, you will still find it useful to see how it is done by Danny.

Download this video clip.Video player: soa_1_w1_s4_vid_homebrew.mp4
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So if you're looking to get started in homebrewing, you'll need a few things to begin with. First of all, you'll need some raw brewing ingredients. You can start from what we call all-grain brewing, which is direct from the grain. So you can buy base malts, like this, or specialty malts. They're available at online retailers or you can buy them from home brew supply shops. You might need some hops, as well-- again, available from the same sort of places. Alternatively, you can start with an extract kit, which is either a homebrewing kit or you can brew directly from malt extract in which case you won't need the grain because the malt extract already has all of the sugars in and they've done the mash for you. You'll need a little bit of equipment. So you'll need one of these food-grade fermenting buckets. You'll need a boiling pot which is capable of holding about twice the volume of the beer that you're hoping to produce. So this is, I think, a 16-litre brewing pot, which will brew an 8-litre batch of beer. You'll also need some brewing yeast-- again, available through homebrewing retailers. You'll need one of these, which is a hydrometer. This is for measuring the specific gravity of your wort and of your finished beer. That will allow you to work out the alcohol by volume content. You'll need a thermometer, preferably a digital thermometer like this. You'll need a syphon, which is for transferring liquids, and you can transfer them in a sterile manner. This is a very helpful bit of kit called a bottling wand, and if you're planning to bottle your beer, then it will be helpful to have one of these. This is an airlock, and that basically keeps your beer in sterile conditions whilst it's fermenting. And finally, you'll need a method of packaging your beer. Usually for beginning home brewers, I recommend bottling. So you can either get-- you can buy brown glass bottles or you can use old brown glass bottles. Just rinse them out and sanitise them. And then you'll need some caps. And you apply these with a capper like that. Alternatively, you can buy these swing top type bottles, and these are obviously reusable because you can pop them on and off again. So that's basically it. That's all the kit that you'll need to get started, and then it's just a case of going through the process and brewing your own beer at home.
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You should note that Danny make references to an instrument called a hydrometer. This is a simple instrument that will allow you to calculate the final alcoholic strength (referred to as % alcohol by volume, ABV) of your home brew. If you are planning to take part in the home experiment, you should try to buy a kit which includes one of these, or buy one separately.

A hydrometer is an instrument used to measure the specific gravity or relative density of liquids, i.e. the ratio of the density of the liquid to the density of water. Hydrometers are usually made of glass and consist of a cylindrical stem and a bulb weighted with a heavy material to make it float upright. Examples of a hydrometer you can readily purchase are illustrated in Figure 8.

Described image
Figure 8 Examples of commercially available hydrometers

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