Adapting to BEERMKR From Traditional Beer Brewing
If you are an experienced homebrewer, you are quite familiar with the brewing process. To start a traditional brew, pots are gathered, water is heated, grains get mashed, wort gets transferred and boiled, hops are added, wort gets chilled, and fermenters and transfer lines get sanitized. This process takes a lot of time, energy, planning, and equipment, with brew days often taking 8 hours or more to complete. BEERMKR does everything you would expect out of an all-grain brew, but makes a few changes to the process. This articles will overview these differences and explain how to make the jump from traditional homebrewing to BEERMKR brewing.
App-Based, Wifi-Connected Brewing
The BEERMKR app guides you through the process of setting up your brew whether it’s a MKR KIT or a completely custom beer designed by you. Setting up the brew takes 5 minutes, then you can go about your day. The BEERMKR is in constant communication with the BEERMKR Cloud and the app will show you what’s happening inside your brew at any moment. So you can get real time updates on your beer whether you’re at work, at a kid’s swim meet, or simply watching TV.
The first major difference is all of the wort creation and fermenting happens in the same vessel, which is a bag. By using solid state heat exchange technology, the main heater in the BEERMKR is also a chiller. This allows the system to go from room temperatures up to mashing and pasteurization temperatures, then down to laser accurate fermentation temperatures.
A squeeze bar is installed during the hot side and pushes brewing water up into the brewtub where the mash occurs. When the mash is complete, the squeeze bar is released and the mashed wort falls back down into the bag for fermentation. Using a bag and a squeeze bar allows us to eliminate the need for pumps in the system, reducing the system’s cost, complexity, and almost entirely eliminating the need to perform any special cleaning cycles on the machine. In fact, the only moving parts on the system are a cooling fan inside the case by the electronics, and a vibratory motor to shake the bag (more on that later).
After brewing, yeast are pitched and a pressure system monitors the CO2 being produced by the yeast during fermentation. Used in conjunction with the solid state heat exchanger, BEERMKR is able to match the yeast phase of fermentation to the ideal temperature for the strain based on the activity level of the yeast in real time. This not only means you’ll have defect-free fermentations, but you will also be able to target specific temperatures to maximize a yeast’s flavor production. For example, fermenting the Safale WB-06 Wit strain at 62º will produce a clean profile with a hint of clove. However holding this strain at 73º will produce a more classic banana ester that may be more appropriate for the beer you set out to brew.
The CO2 monitoring system will sense when primary fermentation is complete and can change the temperature to optimize rest temperature which is often 5º to 10º warmer than the ideal primary fermentation temperature. This gives you the ability to push the yeast into absorbing their byproducts more quickly which reduces the overall fermentation time while preserving the yeast character you set out to create.
The 3-tier system of BEERMKR allows yeast to settle out in three chambers of the device – in the brew tub, in the bag, and in the waste chamber on the bottom. A vibratory motor is mounted near the base of the bag which assists in dislodging yeast that have settled on the bottom of the bag. It gently moves them out of the bag and into the waste container. This allows the bag to be generally free of sediment for serving.
Most infections and oxidation in traditional brewing come when the beer is transferred between primary and secondary fermenters, or during the bottling and kegging process. It is inherently dangerous to move the beer from it’s sanitized, CO2 saturated environment inside the fermenter to another vessel. That vessel needs to be equally sanitized and purged of oxygen, as do the lines that transport the beer from the fermenter to the second fermenter, kegs, or bottles.
BEERMKR doesn’t transfer. At no point will a BEERMKR beer get exposed to the outside world. The brewing bag is connected to the brewing chamber and the waste chamber with quick disconnect valves.
Pressing the buttons releases the bag from the brewing chamber and the waste chamber leaving you with a safe environment to transport your beer.
The included BEERTAP allows you to skip the kegging and bottling process altogether. Just open up the BEERTAP, drop your bag of finished beer inside, connect the two valves, close it up, screw in a CO2 cartridge, and place it in your fridge. 24-48 hours later you have force carbonated beer on tap.
We set out to make the easiest to use, most hands off, consistently high quality, and affordable beer brewing appliance on the planet. To do that, we had to approach the beer brewing process differently than it is traditionally executed. From a chemical perspective, the beers produced by BEERMKR are indistinguishable from beers that have been brewed traditionally. In the following sections, we’ll highlight exactly what these differences are.
BEERMKR does not boil. A boil is traditionally used to perform 4 primary functions in a beer:
- Sanitizes: Boiling sanitizes the wort, preventing bugs from ruining your batch. The transfer of liquid and the non-sealed nature of traditional mashing and transferring requires a boil to kill off any germs that could have taken root if the mash temp falls during transfer.
- Hop bitterness: Boiling isomerizes alpha acids in hops and volatizes their essential oils creating bitter beer.
- Protein: Boiling reduces protein levels with the hot break giving the beer a consistent level of clarity and mouth feel.
- Caramelization: Boiling caramelizes sugars giving beer a rounder mouth feel.
BEERMKR achieves these items in different ways:
- Sanitizes: A pasteurization is achieved when the wort is at 145º for 30 minutes, 155º for 5 minutes, or 165º for 5 seconds. The mashing process in BEERMKR slowly heats the wort to 165º and holds for 90 minutes, ensuring a complete kill of any bacteria that could ruin your batch. BEERMKR’s completely sealed environment ensures that no germs will get into your batch during this sensitive time.
- Hop bitterness: Steam Hops (steamhops.com) are used to achieve isomerized alpha acids and adjusted essential oils in hops. They normal hops that have undergone a steam process for 10, 20, 30, and even 60 minutes before they are dried and pelletized. The result is hops that can be added at any point in the process, including during the fermentation and dry hop time frame, that will give the identical iso-alpha acid and essential oil profile as wort that has undergone a boil.
- Protein: an extended step mash is performed on the grain which hits every protein-chopping enzyme activation temperature in the process, reducing the overall protein content. During the hot side hold at 165º, a look inside the bag will show substantial hot break forming, further coagulating proteins. The result is a protein content level that is comparable to boiled beer.
- Caramelization: the lower maximum temperature of BEERMKR produces lighter beers because it does not caramelize the sugars as readily as a traditional boil. However adjusting your grain bill can account for this. Adding a little additional Carapils/Dextrin malt or a touch more Caramel malt will make up for this difference.
There are tremendous benefits for not going through a boil.
- Flavor preservation: boiling changes the flavor of many ingredients used in the brewing process. Adding honey to the boil will strip honey of its natural flavor complexities. A temperature of just 165º will keep these flavors in tact.
- No astringency: boiling will pull tannins out of organic matter, which causes astringency. This opens up new ways of handling traditionally difficult to manage ingredients like oak. In BEERMKR, you can add oak chips directly to your mash and the non-boiling-but-still-hot temperatures will simultaneously sanitize the ingredients used and optimally extract their flavors without the astringency normally experienced in boils.
- Convenience: Steam Hops allows you to add every timed addition at the same moment instead of waiting for specific times to add them. Likewise, other flavors that are traditionally added at the very end of the boil to preserve their special characters like dried orange peel, honey, spices, etc, can all be added at the very beginning with the mash ingredients. The end result is crock-pot convenience that doesn’t sacrifice the flavor profile.