So you’ve mashed, you’ve sparged and you’ve ended up with the right amount of liquid in your kettle as per your recipe. So what comes next? The Boil.
Boiling your wort will provide enough heat to kill any bacterial contamination (specifically lactobacillus). In addition, boiling your wort serves to cease any further enzyme activity which has likely been completed after your mash.
There are also a number of other benefits of boiling your wort which include, allowing proteins to bind and precipitate out, colour development and concentrating the wort following the sparge.
The one of most interest to homebrewers though is to obtain bitterness from your hops. The longer your hops are boiled the more bitterness that can be achieved from them. It is generally recommended that if you are trying to achieve bitterness you boil your hops early in the boil and if you want a combination of aroma and bitterness, you do it later in the boil.
When it comes to hop combinations, the options are endless and can range from a ‘traditional’ hop bittering profile involving a 60min hop addition and later aroma hops, to all aroma hops to hopping every minute throughout the boil! (thanks Dogfish Head).
When it comes to your first bittering hops, the usual suspects are either a 60 min addition or a ‘first wort hop addition’ or ‘FWH’ for short. A 60 min addition is just that, allowing it to boil for 60 mins. A FWH is where you add your hops whilst sparging. The theory is that because the hops are being added whilst the temperature is less than boiling, you will get a smoother bitterness. I have not done enough experiments to establish my position on this.
You may have your kettle lid on whilst getting your kettle up to boil but it is recommended that you boil without a lid as you will want the volatile compounds to disperse from the wort.
Another question that comes up often is about 0 min hop additions. It is unclear when these are added, and how long you allow them to sit in near boiling wort for before cooling your wort. Unfortunately, every brewer does this differently and you’ll need to experiment to find the right way for you. I’ll talk about this in the next ‘How to Homebrew Series’.
Until next time…