We finally got our stuff together and actually brewed beer yesterday! We hauled all the stuff in, arranged it around the kitchen and started mixing together the ingredients. We started by boiling 2 gallons of water in the 5-gallon brew kettle, then adding the grains to steep. This is probably the best smelling part of this whole process. It had a very hearty, grainy, earthy smell. Smelled awesome.
The grains came pre-smashed, else we would have had to roll them with a rolling pin or beer bottle (an actual suggestion from the directions from the folks at Midwest.) We found out only after the water came to a boil that the kit did not come with a thermometer (wtf?) and also that we were supposed to keep it at a temperature no hotter than 155.
So, after a quick trip to the store for specifically calibrated equipment, we took some measurements and had to let it cool down and hope we didn’t burn our grains. After removing the grain bag and bringing it to a boil (again) on the stove, we removed it from the heat and added our liquid malt. Once the malt was all stirred in and dissolved, it was back to the heat to boil again, this time for a whole hour. This changed the smell a bit from a grainy, earthy smell to a slightly sweeter grainy, earthy smell. The only thing to break up this hour of waiting was adding the hops part way through, as directed by the instructions. We then had to cool it down to about 80 degrees as quickly as possible, so we used the chiller ring and ran hose water through it in the back yard (totally sanitary).
This done, we then transferred the whole mess to one of the buckets provided in the kit, called the primary fermenter, and placed it in our custom-built beer resting vestibule (read: closet) to sit and ferment for the next 2 weeks. I just hope the temperature stays constant and cool enough, as it gets pretty hot in this house. This closet, though, is pretty much in the dead center of the house, so I don’t think we could have gotten it in a better insulated spot.
This will probably be the longest two weeks of my life. Then, we transfer it to a glass carboy (think Sparkletts container) to siphon it into the bottling bucket to mix it with the priming sugar and carbonate. More on that in the next step!