So I posted how I dispense my home brew with pics and a description of my DIY kegerator so now I figure I can post a little bit of the brewing process. Keep in mind, if you were ever thinking of brewing your own beer, what I am showing you is a more advanced method and there are simpler, faster methods.
It all starts with some grains (malted barley)!
The grains you use depend on the style of beer you are making so they vary from recipe to recipe.
To begin, we must first mill the grain. Basically crushing it up, cracking the outer shell and exsposing the insides. We do this in a malt mill or barley crusher, which crushes the grains out of a hopper with two rolling grinding wheels.
While milling the grain we are heating up about 6 gallons of water to about 165 degrees. Once the water is heated we add it and the milled grains together in a Mash Tun. With correct calculations we should get the mixture to settle at about 154 degrees. The grain will mash or "steep" in the mash tun for one hour. Below the mash tun is uncovered to show the mash but we would keep it covered for the hour to keep the heat inside. The water inside the mash tun is working to break down enzymes and convert sugars to use during fermentation.
While we are mashing, we are again heating about 6 gallons of water. This time we are heating to about 170 degrees. The water is then transferred to a Hot Liquor Tank and slowly dripped through the grain in the mash to rinse it thoroughly. This process is called Sparging.
The hot water runs through the grain bed and rinses it while the extract is drained from the bottom of the mash tun and collected in the brew kettle. This process takes about 45 minutes and the finished product is called wort or young beer.
Once all of the wort is collected (about 5-6 gallons), it's time to boil it. The boiling time can vary depending on beer style but is generally 60 or 90 minutes. During the boiling process we are adding hops at different times to add bitterness and aroma to the wort. Generally there are about 3 hop additions during the boil. This also varies by style.
After the boil we must cool the wort down to about 70 degrees very rapidly. Once the wort is cooled it's transferred into a carboy which serves as a fermentation vessel.
Once transferred, it's time to add the yeast. We pitch the yeast right into the fermenter and cap it with an airlock which allows carbon dioxide to escape but will not let any contaminants back into the wort. In the picture below (a bucket was used for fermentation instead of a carboy) the fermentation was too volatile and the wort escaped through any hole it could find.
As this is sometimes the case a blow-off tube could be used instead of an airlock. The blow-off tube will allow more pressure to escape and avoid problems like exploding beer.
Over the course of a few weeks the yeast will eat the sugars in the wort and create both carbon dioxide and alcohol. When fermentation has seemed to stop we are ready to transfer the beer again and get ready for bottling or kegging.
When bottling, we have to add sugar just before capping the bottles. This sugar will be eaten by the left-over yeast and create carbon dioxide, carbonating the beer. Depending on style it will take from about 3 weeks up until about 2 months to carbonate and age.
Based on this 5 gallon setup there is about 50 bottles of beer ready to drink at the end of the process.