At first glance, you might think the hot liquor tank (sometimes abbreviated HLT) has nothing to do with beer and we’re venturing into the world of distilling spirits. Well not quite; in the beer world liquor just refers to hot water that is going to be transformed into beer. A hot liquor tank may sound like a really fancy and expensive piece of equipment, but a 5 gallon drink cooler will work just fine (or smaller, depending on your batch size). I found mine at a garage sale for $2! Another option is just a brew kettle with a spigot.
There are two different main categories of water: strike water and sparge water. Strike water is just the name given to the water that is heated for the purpose of soaking your brewing grains (also known as mashing). The exact temperature of this water depends on the temperature at which you need your grains to soak. This temperature can vary, but a standard mash temperature is around 155 degrees Fahrenheit. A little more information on this is given under the “Malted Grain” section under the “Basic Ingredients” tab and soon I will add an article called “Mashing/Lautering” under “The Process” tab.
A general rule for your strike water is to heat it up 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit above the mash temperature you are shooting for. The amount of water you use is also important, and a typical ratio of strike water to grain is about 1.5 quarts of water per pound of grain. You’ll find that more complex brews require various temperatures (for example 125 DegF for 20 minutes, 145 DegF for 20 minutes, then 155 DegF for 20 minutes), but holding a single temperature for an hour is a good way to start learning.
The second form of “liquor” is your sparge water. This is the name for the hot water that you use to rinse the sugars from your grain once they have soaked for around an hour. This “rinsing” step is referred to as lautering, and you will soon find more information about this in the “Mashing/Lautering” section as well. There are a few different methods for rinsing your grains, but you’ll want to use water around 165 degrees Fahrenheit or just a few degrees warmer. The amount of sparge water you will want to use is similar to the amount of strike water you used, or maybe just a little bit more.
Well there you have it, folks! Today we’ve learned that hot liquor can mean more than just spiked apple cider. I would love to hear from you if you have a cool DIY HLT, you have any suggestions to share, or if you have any questions for me! Cheers!