If you’ve read any brewing books in the last century you know that the process of making beer always requires boiling of the wort. Boiling sterilizes the wort (kills off Lactobacillus and other bacteria present on grain), stops the remaining enzyme activity after mashing (locks in the carbohydrate levels), helps proteins come together (forms hot break) with the assistance of kettle finings like Irish moss, starts isomerization of alpha acids (responsible for hop bitterness), removes Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS) via the exiting steam (a compound that adds a sweet corn flavor), and aids in color development of beer (caramelization of wort sugars).
Lucky for us, modern malt extracts are already boiled, which can save us some serious time without sacrificing much in the realm of flavor. Modern dried malt extracts (DME) are made with encapsulation technology that granulates concentrated wort so it can be rehydrated later without any need for boiling at home. Liquid malt extracts (LME) are manufactured by concentrating finished wort into a syrup, but the shelf life and messy factor give DME a leg up in my opinion. Freshness is key for LME. Some extracts are already hopped and others are not, so make note of that when designing a recipe. When brewing beer without a boil, getting bitterness from hops isn’t an option as they require a boil to isomerize. In this case, you can get bitterness from either using hopped malt extracts, or through using isomerized hop extracts (also called ISO-extract). These ISO-extacts add bitterness to your beer no matter when they are added — no boil required.
My past experience with extract brewing involved a small plastic barrel and some bags of powdered malt. The results left little to cheer about. The problem wasn’t with the ingredients, but with the fermentation process. The extract kits were made for beginners and tried not to confuse the brewer with too many complicated steps. Unfortunately the fermenting temperature and clarification processes weren’t stressed as important in the instructions and the beer suffered.
I wanted to try no-boil brewing with extracts again, but this time pay close attention to my cleaning, hop bitterness levels, fermentation temperatures, and clarification. For this experiment I chose to utilize a system designed by WilliamsWarn called the BrewKeg (however there are numerous similar products on the market as well). It comes in 10-, 25-, and 50- liter sizes (approximately 2.5-, 6.5-, and 13-gallons) and they also manufacture their own line of high quality DME and LME.
Electric tea kettle
Ingredients (malt extract, yeast, hops, water)
Can opener, scissors, spatula
Process for Fast No-Boil Brewing
In under 7 days I fermented, cleared, carbonated, and began to dispense 13 gallons (50 L) of American pale ale, which came in a kit with both liquid and dried malt extracts, hops, and yeast.
Step 1: CLEAN
Whatever vessel you choose to ferment in, you must take extra care in removing all previous yeast rings and protein buildup on the walls. I started by rinsing the walls of the vessel with water and scrubbing off any sediment left behind by the previous batch. If your vessel has a lined interior, make sure you use a no-scratch sponge when scrubbing. I heated 2 quarts (2 L) of water in an electric tea kettle, poured it into the vessel and added a teaspoon of PBW cleaner. I tipped the vessel over and swirled the cleaning solution all around to dissolve any residue left on the inner walls.
The target here was to get all internal surfaces to at least 176 °F (80 °C) for 2 seconds, which is enough to pasteurize them. I then dumped out the cleaning solution and rinsed the entire vessel one last time with clean water using a rinse bottle before adding the ingredients.
Step 2: MIX
Time to add my water, extracts, specialty grains, and hop teas. I popped open my cans of hopped LME with a sanitized can opener and poured them into the vessel. I fired up the electric tea kettle again and heated 2 qts. (2 L) of water to pour into the cans. I stirred the cans with the spatula, getting all the remaining syrups, and then poured them into the vessel. (Use same method if using LME from a jug.) I added the remaining water from the tea kettle into the fermenter and stirred everything until completely dissolved. To get everything dissolved I added 2 more qts. (2 L) of cold water and stirred.
Next I added in my DME and stirred to combine. Since I was not boiling, I could see that not all the DME was going to dissolve immediately. Not to worry, over the next few hours those lumps broke down and dissolved.
Now I could add my additions to the vessel like hop teas or steeped specialty grains (see sidebars at right for instructions on how to make both of these) before topping the vessel off with 64–82 °F (18–28 °C) water to the fill line. Hitting the temperature range was important, as it would determine how the yeast would get started during fermentation.
Step 3: FERMENT
The BrewKeg system includes a sediment/yeast bottle that can be used to rehydrate the yeast and then attach to the butterfly valve at the bottom of the vessel. I added the water and yeast to the sediment bottle and swirled until incorporated, purged the sediment bottle with CO2 and then attached to the system. With the pressure relief valve open, I opened the butterfly valve to mix all contents together.
I closed the pressure valve all the way and then rotated the knob open 2 1⁄2 times for fermentation. After four days of fermenting at 70 °F (21 °C) the beer was finished fermenting and it was ready to clear.
Step 4: CLARIFY
At this point the beer had been naturally carbonated and it was time to crash cool for clarification. I fully closed the pressure relief valve and put the vessel in a refrigerator at 38 °F (3 °C) for 12 hours. I added a clarification agent and watched the yeast and other particulate settle out of the beer over a 24-hour period.
I repeated the steps using twice as much clarification agent and let the beer sit another 24 hours. After this second round of clarifying the beer was perfectly clear and carbonated. After another 24 hours the beer was ready to be dispensed.
The resulting beer was well received by a panel of my homebrewer friends and the level of clarity was impressive. The addition of the hop tea made a big improvement in hop aroma and flavor from other techniques I have tried (hop bursting, Randall infusions, hop backs). This project proved that with proper methods and care, good beer can be brewed without the boil, and be ready in just a week.
How to Make a Grain Tea
Specialty grains can be steeped just like hops to amplify beer flavor and add color. If the quantity is small enough you could even use the same French press method. If you need to steep a larger amount of grain, you need to use a pot. Specialty malts do not have to be mashed like base malts, so you can steep them as if you were making tea and add the infused water to your beer.
Here is a simple process to make grain tea to add specialty grains to your no-boil brew. Use a water to grain ration of 1 quart/liter of water per 4 oz. (113 g) of grain.
1. Heat your water to 155–158 °F (68–70 °F) and add your grains. This temperature partially pasteurizes the grain and doesn’t allow DMS to form.
2. Steep 30 minutes and stir every 10 minutes.
3. Strain into a new pot and rinse the grains with cold water.
4. Add the grain tea to the brew after you have dissolved all of the malt extracts.
How to Make a Hop Tea with a French Press
If you are steeping 2 oz. (57 g) of hops or less, a French press can help extract big hop flavors and aromas. Steep the hops for 10 minutes in
167 °F (75 °C) water, plunge, and add that to your vessel. Fill with cold water, stir, and plunge twice more to maximize hop oils extracted. Add the hop tea to the brew after you have dissolved the LME and DME additions.
The French press method is quick and easy, but the water-to-hop ratio is limited. If you have more than 2 oz. (57 g) of hops, you can repeat the above instructions multiple times, or you can steep, strain, and rinse (sparge) the hop residue for a more efficient flavor and aroma extraction.