“Takes the intimidation out of homebrewing”

Greg Krehbiel's beginner's guide to home brewing

If you’re just getting started with homebrewing, or curious about it, please check out my introductory guide, available on the kindle for just $0.99, or in a (very short) paperback edition.

Reviewers say it teaches the lingo and the basics without getting bogged down in details.

If you’re interested in advanced brewing, please try my recently published Beginner’s Guide to All-Grain Brewing, also $0.99 on the Kindle.

Calculating the volume of first runnings

“First runnings” are the first liquids to drain out of your mash tun when you’re doing an all-grain batch. The first runnings have the most sugar. Subsequent sparging extracts less and less sugar from the grain. I suppose it’s analogous to using a tea bag a second time.

The first runnings are tempting because they are so thick and rich. Sometimes you want to make a really strong beer just out of the first runnings! But that’s not the only temptation. A buddy of mine and I have tried “hot scotchies” on brew day. You mix some of your first runnings with scotch. It’s a particularly nice treat on a cold brew day because the first runnings are pleasantly warm.

My buddy decided to make a batch exclusively for hot scotchies. He wrote as follows.

I am making a batch of wort just for drinking on brew day. I am shooting for 1 gallon of first runnings. How’s this look? 4.5 lbs of grain, 6.75 quarts of water.

That means he’s going to mash 4.5 lbs of grain with 6.75 quarts of water. The question is how much of that 6.75 quarts will come out with the first runnings — because the grain will absorb some of the water.

His ratios assume a grain absorption of about 0.15 gallons per pound. I.e., 4.5 lbs x 0.15 gallons per pound = 0.675 gallons, which is 2.7 quarts. So he should get just a touch over a gallon of first runnings.

This page says “Average grain absorption is 0.15 gallons per pound. It can vary between 0.1 to 0.2.”

But this page says you should assume 0.2.

This page has a more complicated equation that includes liquid remaining in the bottom of the mash tun and in the lines or pump. My friend doesn’t use a pump, but there’s always the chance of some liquid will stay in the mash tun — below the level of the spigot.

I suspect that absorption also varies by the type of grain and by how well it’s milled, so I don’t think it’s possible to get the figure exactly right without some experimentation. Everybody’s system will differ a little.

My recommendation was to go with a little more water.

Also, it’s a shame to leave that extra sugar on the grains. He could sparge a couple times and use that for a mild.

Trying kombucha — and what the heck is a scoby?

Kombucha is a kind of fizzy, slightly fermented, sour tea. It’s supposed to have “probiotics” and all that other healthy stuff, but I don’t pay much attention to that. When I’m sick I go to the doctor.

I like making stuff and I wanted to try my hand at kombucha. First, because it’s crazy expensive in the store, second, because I don’t drink soda (and shouldn’t be drinking beer all the time), and third because … I just like doing that sort of thing. At least once.


My daughter bought me a copy of Emma Christensen’s True Brews, which is a good book to have around the house in case you want to try making anything weird like sake or kephir or … kombucha.

To make kombucha you need a scoby, which is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. That thing on the plate is the scoby I grew. Essentially it’s a big, gross, slippery fungusy thing that grows in your tea. If that’s over the top for you, don’t try kombucha.

You can buy a scoby from a store, or online, but of course I wanted to grow my own, so I bought a bottle of kombucha from the health food store and used that as a starter. It worked, but it took way longer than I expected. More than two months.

My plan is to make a couple batches of kombucha, but then I’m going to experiment. What would happen, for example, if you used a scoby to ferment a wort?

If you want to learn more about making kombucha at home, here’s a good page.

One thing for you homebrewers to note. The instructions say to use paper towels or cheese cloth to cover the fermenter. “Ah, so primitive,” I thought. I figured I’d improve things by using a fermentation lock.

That was a mistake. You actually need the air flow to make this work. The paper towels (or cheese cloth) are there to keep bugs and dust and cats and things out of your kombucha, but you need the wild bacteria and yeast that’s floating around your house.

Free advice on home brewing

beginners guide to home brewing

My Beginner’s Guide to Home Brewing is free today through Tuesday.

This short kindle book is not meant to compete with Papazian or rival any of the really good books out there on home brewing. This is a short, simple introduction. It’s for the people I meet all the time who are curious, but not curious enough to read a long book.

It’s also for the people who have been given a home brewing kit and don’t know what to do with it.

There are a lot of details in brewing and sometimes they can get overwhelming. Beginning brewers often say they worry they’re not worrying about the right things. That’s why they need this book. There are a few things you need to pay attention to, but it’s probably easier than you think. Home brewing ingredients are so good these days that if you’re moderately careful you can make really good beer at home. Without worrying.

If you’re ready to be chill and try your hand at home brewing — without sweating all the little details — then this little book should help.

And …. Right now this book is #1 in two categories on Amazon! Woo hoo.

number one on Amazon