Easy Ale Recipe

This is the second part in a 3-part series on how to make your first beer. Part one provides the background and explanation for the “what” and “why” questions you might have before starting. Part 2 (this recipe) is the step-by-step Easy Ale recipe that contains everything you need to know for brew day. 

Easy ale introduction

As introduced in part one of the series, the Easy Ale recipe is based on simplicity of ingredients and laser focus on good brewing practice. Keeping the ingredients simple will allow you to confidently learn what your ingredients taste like, and is the best approach to long term growth as a brewer. Easy Ale is also a crowd pleaser, which in 2020 means a medium body, moderate bitterness, and assertive hop flavour. Let’s call it a pale ale.

The base malt is Maris Otter, a classic British variety that is fantastically complex all on it’s own. Maris Otter lends a subtle nutty character, and a honey-caramel sweetness that makes this beer taste like a pale ale without any specialty malts. Generous whirlpool hopping with Centennial lends the classic citrus-floral hop character that sets up a marriage of the best of old and new world ingredients.

London ESB yeast from Wyeast rounds out the flavour profile with a subtle fruitiness that pairs well with hops. Easy Ale is a balanced beer, full of subtle character, and represents what I wish I had brewed for my first batch! Here are the brewing targets we’re aiming for:

Batch size19 L (5 gal.)
Original gravity 1.053
Final gravity1.013
Alcohol 5.3% ABV

Of course getting started involves more than just buying ingredients. You’ll need some equipment, ranging from a large pot to an autosiphon. Depending on where you are and where you shop, you can expect to pay in the range of $250 – $350 for everything you need.

The following sections include lists of equipment and ingredients for the recipe.

Equipment list

The following equipment list represents one of the simpler ways to make high quality all-grain beer. Your local homebrew shop should have these items, but Amazon also carries a lot of what’s here.

EquipmentNotes
Brew pot Should be at least 30 quarts/litres for 19 L/5 gal.
Large (5 L) measuring cupFor measuring out brewing water and holding sanitizer.
Brewing spoonEssential tool for all-grain mashing.
Digital thermometerEssential tool for all-grain mashing.
Kitchen stoveFor making stuff hot!
Nylon mesh bagFor brew-in-a-bag. Should be big enough to fully line the pot top to bottom.
Metal binder clips (optional but helpful)For securing the nylon bag to the pot while mashing.
Silicone oven mittsEssential for working with hot liquids and spent grain/hops.
Copper immersion chillerFor quickly chilling wort. Should be at least 20 – 25 feet of 3/8″ copper tubing.
Faucet-to-garden hose adapter Used to hook up cooling water supply to the chiller.
Star San sanitizerTo sanitize anything that touches cold wort.
Small spray bottle for sanitizerHandy for sanitizing things too big or awkward to dip.
Auto siphon w/ 5-6 feet of tubingTo transfer the chilled wort into a fermenter.
23 L (6 gal) fermenterFor turning wort into beer! Adding volume markings before brewing can be helpful. PET is recommended over glass for safety.
Hydrometer and sample jarTo measure the gravity of the wort before and after fermentation
Airlock and pre-drilled bungFor keeping air our of the fermenter
Stick-on temperature strip for fermenterFor monitoring fermentation temperature
Turkey basterFor taking samples of fermenting beer

Ingredients list

Next, here are the ingredients you’ll need to brew. Your local homebrew shop should have everything here.

Ingredients for the Easy Ale recipe
IngredientNotes
22 L (5.8 gal.) waterShould be very soft tap water or distilled water.
5.0 g (1-1/4 tsp.) gypsumFor augmenting brewing water. Sold in small 2 ounce packages.
3.0 g (1/2 tsp.) calcium chlorideFor augmenting brewing water. Sold in small 1 ounce packages.
Ice cubes (1/2 tray)For making small adjustments to mash temperature
4 kg (8.8 lbs) Maris Otter malt, crushedClassic British base malt. Bairds Malt and Crisp Malt are commonly available and have subtle differences. Bairds has more honey sweetness to my palate.
1 ounce Warrior hopsA high alpha bittering hop sold by the ounce or pound.
3 ounces Centennial hopsA classic American aroma hop sold by the ounce or pound.
Wyeast 1968 London ESB yeastA traditional British cask ale yeast strain

The brewing process

Brewing consists of 5 main steps that are shown in the diagram below. Each will each be covered in detail in the following sections.

Brewing process for the Easy Ale recipe

STEP 1: PREPARE BREWING WATER

Using the right brewing water is crucial to beer flavour! Please note these instructions assume you are using very soft tap water or distilled water. The gypsum goes into the brewing water before the mash, and the calcium chloride goes in after the mash.

Brewing water preparation for the Easy Ale recipe

Brewing water instructions: 

  1. Add 22 L (5.8 gal.) of water to the brew pot using the large measuring cup.
  2. Start heating the water on a large stove top burner set to max. 
  3. While the water is heating, measure out the gypsum and add to the brew pot. Stir with the brewing spoon until dissolved. 
  4. Continue to heat brewing water to 66.3 C (151.3 F). Monitor water temperature by stirring and using the digital thermometer.
  5. Once the water reaches 66.3 C (151.3 F), reduce the burner setting to ~20% of max.
    • 20% is an initial guess. You’ll have to find a setting that works for your setup.
  6. Line the brew pot with the nylon mesh bag, securing the top of the bag to the brew pot with binder clips. 
Measuring strike temperature of the brewing water
Water prep step 4: Heat water to strike temperature
Mesh bag in the brew pot for brew-in-a-bag mashing
Water prep step 5: Line your brew pot for BIAB

STEP 2: MAKE WORT (AKA MASH)

Mashing is one of the most sensitive steps. We’ll pay special attention to the temperature during the first 20 minutes, as this is when most of the starch is converted to sugar!

Mashing process flow for the Easy Ale recipe

Mashing instructions:

  1. With the water at 66.3 C (151.3 F), stir in the malt. Quickly break up any clumps to get an even consistency as quickly as possible. 
  2. Measure and record temperature.
    • If the temperature is above 64.0 C/147.2 F add a couple ice cubes. Stir everything together and remeasure temperature.
    • If the temperature is below 64.0 C/147.2 F turn up the burner setting. Continue to stir and monitor temperature.
  3. Continually stir and monitor the temperature for the first 20 minutes, adjusting the burner setting as necessary. Try to dial in a setting you can use for next time.
Measuring the mash temperature after mash-in
Mashing step 4: Measuring mash temperature after stirring in malt.
The mash after 20 minutes noting how the foaming has stopped
Mashing step 5: The mash at 20 minutes is much less foamy and active
  1. After 20 minutes of stirring and monitoring temperature, put the lid on the pot and cover everything with a towel. Lower the burner setting to prevent overheating the insulated mash.
    • Safety note: Be extremely cautious about insulating the pot with a gas stove. If in doubt, turn the burner completely off OR continue to use the stirring/monitoring procedure without insulation.
  2. After 20 minutes (40 minutes total mash time) uncover the pot and stir up the mash. Record the temperature and adjust the burner setting as necessary to maintain ~64.0 C/147.2 F.
    • An early temperature check at 5 or 10 minutes will prevent overheating and help you find a good stove setting.
  3. After another 20 minutes (60 minutes total), uncover the pot and stir up the mash. Record the temperature.
  4. Carefully lower the pot onto a stool/chair/table so that the top of the pot is at about waist height. You may need help for this step.
  5. Remove the binder clips from the top of the pot.
Insulated brew pot during the mash
Mashing step 4: Setting up insulated brew pot for 20 minute rest. My brew pot is covered with stick-on insulation, but you can use towels.
Brew pot after completing mash
Mashing step 7: Ready to remove grain bag from the pot
  1. Wearing silicone oven mitts, slowly lift the bag/grain out of the wort. Allow it to drain as you go, gently pressing and squeezing the bag to speed things up.
  2. Once the bag is light enough to lift, squeeze the grain to get as much liquid out as possible. This step is a work out!
  3. Discard the grain and clean the nylon mesh bag for the next step. 
  4. Carefully lift the pot back onto the stove.
  5. Turn the burner on high to begin heating wort to a boil.
  6. As the wort is heating, measure out the calcium chloride and add to the brew pot.
Grain bag used for brew-in-a-bag with spent grin inside
Mashing step 10: Fully squeezed out grain bag.

STEP 3: BOIL AND FLAVOUR WITH HOPS

Wort is boiled for more reasons than just hop flavour, but these days it seems to be the main focus. All that hoppy goodness comes from a large hop addition at “flameout.” This is the time after the boil when the wort is hot enough to extract essential oils without losing them to the steam of a boil.

Boiling and hopping process flow for the Easy Ale recipe

Boil instructions:

  1. When the wort reaches a boil, start a timer for 30 minutes. Leave burner on max.
  2. With 20 minutes left in the boil open the package of Warrior hops and add directly to the boiling wort.
  3. With 10 minutes left in the boil place copper immersion chiller in the boiling wort to sanitize.
Wort beginning to boil
Boil step 1: The boil begins!
Immersion chiller being placed into the wort
Boil step 3: Place chiller in the boiling wort
  1. Open the packages of Centennial hops and add to the nylon mesh bag. Loosely tie off the bag at the top.
  2. Turn off the burner at the end of the boil.
  3. Stir in the Centennial hops to ensure good contact with the boiling wort.
  4. Allow the hops to steep in the wort for 10 minutes.
  5. Wearing silicone oven mitts, remove the nylon mesh bag from the hot wort. Carefully squeeze the hops to remove as much liquid as possible.
Hops contained in a mesh bag
Boil step 6: Hops going in at flameout
Hops added to the hot wort
Boil step 7: Hops mixed in to the wort. It’s getting busy in there!

STEP 4: CHILL THE WORT

Time to cool that wort and get it into the fermenter. Sanitation becomes important as the temperature drops to “the cold side.” Take care to minimize exposure of the cool wort to open air.

Wort chilling process flow for the Easy Ale recipe

Chilling instructions:

  1. With the hops removed from the wort, connect cooling water in/out for the immersion chiller.
    • You need a garden hose adapter for your kitchen sink if using a chiller with a garden hose connection.
  2. If possible, put the lid back on the pot and cover any opening with a tea towel.
  3. Turn on cooling water to the immersion chiller and begin chilling to ~68 F. Adjust cooling water flow until it comes out slightly warm.
    • Measure temperature from the outside by pressing the probe against the pot with a towel. This will help prevent contamination that may occur with a direct measurement of the cold wort.
    • Temperature will drop quickly to start, but slow down as cooling progresses. Gently swirl the pot to mix up the hot/cold wort and speed things up.
  4. While the wort is chilling, prepare ~2 L (1/2 gal.) Star San solution in the large measuring cup. Fill the spray bottle with sanitizer.
  5. Cut a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the fermenter opening and spray it with sanitizer.
  6. Pour some sanitizer into the fermenter and swirl for ~2 minutes, making sure to wet every surface. Cover the opening with the sanitized aluminum foil.
  7. Stand the auto siphon in the sanitizer and connect tubing. Fill siphon and tubing with sanitizer with a couple pumps of the auto siphon. Make sure the tubing outlet is in the sanitizer or you’ll shoot sanitizer across your kitchen!
Cooling water supply connected to an immersion chiller
Wort chilling step 1: Connect cooling water to the immersion chiller.
A fermenter sanitizer with Star San
Wort chilling step 6: The sanitized and covered fermenter.
Sanitizing an auto siphon
Wort chilling step 7: Sanitizing the auto siphon
  1. When the wort temperature reaches ~68 F stop cooling water flow.
  2. Uncover the pot and remove the chiller from the cold wort carefully but quickly. Place chiller in the sink for later cleaning.
  3. Put the lid back on the pot and let stand for 5 minutes to let solids settle to the bottom.
  4. Empty the auto siphon and tubing of sanitizer. Spray the bottom half of the auto siphon inlet with sanitizer and stand in the brew pot. Ensure the inlet of the auto siphon is at the bottom of the pot. Fully cover the pot with the lid and a clean dish towel.
  5. Spray the outlet-end of the auto siphon tubing with sanitizer. Place the end of the tubing into the top of the fermenter and cover with the aluminum foil.
  6. Prime the auto siphon and transfer the wort into the fermenter.
  7. During the transfer, fill the hydrometer sample jar by quickly pulling the tubing out of the fermenter and placing it over the sample jar. Place the sample in the fridge to cool to 60 F (15.5 C).
Using an auto siphon to transfer wort from a brew pot to a fermenter
Wort chilling step 13: Transferring the wort into the fermenter
  1. Install the airlock into the bung and sanitize the assembly with Star San.
  2. When the transfer is complete, remove the tubing from the fermenter and place the airlock on the fermenter. Fill the airlock with Star San.
  3. Measure original gravity (OG) of the cool wort sample when it reaches 60 F (15.5 C). Record the value.
Wort transferred into a fermenter with an air lock
Wort chilling step 16: Wort safely contained in the fermenter.
Wort chilling step 17: Measure original gravity (OG) of the wort.

Step 5: Ferment

Let’s put that yeast to work! This step is where beer is really made. Sanitation continues to be important, so sanitize anything that touches the wort and minimize exposure to open air.

Fermenting process for the Easy Ale recipe

Fermentation instructions:

  1. Shake up the package of Wyeast 1968 London ESB. Cut it open with sanitized scissors and pour the contents into the fermenter.
  2. Swirl the fermenter for 5 minutes to aerate the wort.
  3. Set the fermenter in a cool place. Try to maintain temperature in the 68 – 72 F range until fermentation is complete.
    • A cold water bath in a sink/tub can help control temperature.
Fermentation step 3: Using a cold water bath to keep the temperature in the 68 – 72 F range
  1. After 7 days in the fermenter take another gravity sample. Sanitize the turkey baster and fill the hydrometer sample jar.
  2. Place the sample in the fridge to cool to 60 F (15.5 C).
  3. Measure the final gravity (FG) of the cool wort sample when it reaches 60 F (15.5 C). Record the value.
  4. Calculate the ABV using an online calculator with the original and final gravity values.

Packaging

Congratulations, that’s it for the brewing process! Packaging is the next step, but it’s outside the scope of this recipe. There are lots of great resources for bottling (How to Brew for example), and I don’t feel I can add much to the discussion. Here are a couple tips I can pass along for bottling:

  • Use swing-top bottles or growlers to eliminate capping. Much easier in my opinion.
  • Sugar cubes or carbonation drops can be used to directly prime each bottle, as opposed to making a sugar solution and mixing it into the beer. This will allow you to bottle directly from the fermenter and skip the bottling bucket.
  • A dishwasher can be used to sanitize your bottles. Load them up and run a short cycle to take advantage of the sanitizing steam.

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