Ingredients for All Grain Brewing
Make sure all your ingredients are fresh. This may seem obvious, but if you use old malt, tired hops that have been
badly stored, or dodgy yeast, you will never make a decent brew.
Pale Malt: This makes up the bulk of the 'grist' (dry grains which are
mixed together before mashing). Pale malt provides the starch which will turn
first into sugar in the mash tun and then into alcohol during fermentation.
Generally speaking you will use about 3 - 4 kg per 5 gallons of beer. I buy mine
ready-crushed; it only costs a few pence more and doing it yourself requires an
expensive malt-mill, as the degree of crushing is critical to the subsequent
Crystal Malt: Provides flavour and sweetness; this will make up around
10% of the grist in a typical recipe. Again, buy it ready crushed to save
yourself the trouble.
Other Malts & 'grits': Provide a variety of flavours and desirable
properties (e.g. head retention). Typical ones are:
- Wheat Malt (provides a pleasant and unusual flavour
- Wheat Flour (good for head retention in small amounts)
- Torrified Wheat (aids head retention)
- Flaked maize (has a characteristic flavour - use it for a bit of variety)
- Flaked rice (gives cheap strength, but little flavour - more at home in
- Dark Roasted Malts (moving the brew in the direction of dark stouts!)
These provide bitterness to balance the sweetness of the malt and also act as
a preservative. There are many varieties and availability varies from year to
year, as new varieties are developed and old ones become uneconomical due to
disease problems (the hop industry being driven by commercial brewers, of
Some good ones for real ales are:
Goldings: Excellent flavour, but lower bittering power than some of
the modern varieties.
Fuggles: Flavour to rival the golding, but again low in bittering
Challenger: A relatively modern hop, this has good flavour and quite a
high bitterness level
Here's a good link to keep you up to date with what's what in the world of
hops: Charles Faram.
Hop bitterness varies between varieties, and also varies seasonally,
depending on growing conditions, so to get a consistent flavour you must allow
for this when brewing. Hops from good home brew suppliers will have the % Alpha
Acid (a measure of the bittering power of the hops) stated on the pack; I would
not recommend using hops which don't!
I'm planning a whole page on bitterness calculations, but meanwhile, here's a
simple formula that I use to work out the amount of hops needed:-
Hops (g) = (Bittering Units Required x 25) / (% Alpha Acid x 2)
I work on between 20 and 25 bittering units for my stock bitter.
This little beast is what turns our sugar into alcohol. Yeast exists in many
strains, only some of which are suitable for brewing.
It surprises many people to learn that the strain of yeast used is one of the
key factors which determines the flavour of the finished beer. The reason is
that the by-products of the yeast as it converts sugar to alcohol provide the
majority of the flavour in the beer! This is why it is so important to pamper
the yeast while it is working by keeping the brew at the correct temperature;
too hot, and too many flavour compounds are produced; too cold and the beer can
There are dozens of dried types available (see some of the online shops on
the links page). I always used Gervin English Ale Yeast in the past, but more
recently I've started to use liquid yeast cultures, such as Wyeast
and Whitelabs products. Although they are much more expensive (around £5) and involve
more work, they can be reused and the quality of
beer that can be produced makes them well worth it!