Getting started with wort canning
There are a couple of ways to can wort. Using the pressure cooker is the safest method. If done correctly it will produce wort for starters that can sit on your shelf for at least a year if not longer.
Get started by buying Ball or Kerr brand canning jars.
If you already have a supply, great! The jars and the rings can be used over and over.
The lids will need to be replaced each time you seal or re-seal a jar. Make sure the jars are in good condition with no chips or cracks. Make sure they are clean, but you don’t need to sanitize them before starting… we will be taking care of that with the pressure cooker.
As for the sizes, the quart is the ideal size for doing a 2000 mL starter. There are two approaches here. You could fill with 1.030-40 wort. If you do that you will need to open 2 quarts. This will leave you with just enough room to add the entire contents of your Wyeast smack pack. The other option is using a concentrated or high gravity wort, and then using spring or distilled water to top up your flask. With the quart size look to double the gravity you want in your starter. So if you want 1.040 in your starter, make 1.080 wort. You can also do an assortment of different strengths and sizes. The half or quarter pints are great for making dreg catchers: small volume containers with low gravity wort for dumping bottle dregs. These can be stored cold for future growth or grown up directly in the container with some sort of air lock.
Making your starter wort.
You have 4 options here:
- The easiest, but most costly is to use DME. You can measure out the DME, place in a jar and fill the jar with water and go. These will boil in the cooker so no need to do anything more than that.
- Mash grain just for the purpose of making starter wort. You will probably still want to boil unless you don’t care about DMS. If you decant your starters it shouldn’t matter much.
- Doing a big beer? Make starter wort from second runnings.
- The last option would be to adjust the amount of wort your producing on a brew day. If you have the capacity, turn your 5-gallon batch into a 7-gallon batch. The extra 2 gallons will fill 14-quart jars.
The Canning process
DO NOT try to use this on a glass top or electric stove. For one you’ll probably never get it to boil, but it could also break your glass-stove top! You’re really going to need to use an outdoor propane or natural gas burner.
Step 1 – Wash the cooker with some hot soapy water, rinse to remove it all.
Step 2 – Fill your jars with wort. Depending on the method of wort production this just involves filling them with wort, or measuring out DME and filling with water. You MUST leave ¾ inch of head space (this is important).
Step 3 – Place the lids on the jars. Tighten the rings on. They should not be super tight at this point so a quick hand-tighten will be fine.
Step 4 – Time to fill the cooker. Make sure that a jar is never actually touching the bottom of the cooker. Place one of the two wire racks on the bottom of the cooker, legs down.
I was able to fit 7 quart jars while making sure none were touching the sides, or each other. Once the bottom is full, place the second wire rack on top of the first jars. You can fit the same number of quarts on the top level. It might look like the lid is not going to fit, but it should.
Step 5 – Before you close the lid, take some type of cooking oil, and with your finger apply it to the inside rim of the cooker.
As this is a gasket-less pressure cooker we don’t want the lid to become stuck when we try to open it later.
Step 6 – Add 2-3 inches of water to the cooker.
Step 7 – Next you must close the lid. Line up the notch in the pot with the arrow on the lid. Set the lid down so the arrow is slightly offset to the right side of the notch. Once seated, rotate the list to line up the arrow to the notch.
Step 8 – Now it is time to seal the cooker. Gradually and evenly tighten two opposite wing nuts at the same time, maintaining the same size gap around the entire unit where the cover meets the bottom. Never tighten just one wing nut at a time.
Step 9 – Apply heat to the cooker, but DO NOT place the pressure control weight on the cooker at this time. You need to remove all O2 from the cooker. Once you see steam coming out of the vent, set your timer for 10 minutes.
Step 10 – After 10 minutes is up, grab a towel or oven mitt and place the weight on the cooker. Use the 15-pound setting.
Step 11 – Lower your heat. The pressure will start to build. Once it hits 15 PSI the weight will start to sputter and hiss. If you can, dial back the heat so that the sputtering only happens a few times a minute. It can be difficult to dial that in. If it is constantly sputtering it is okay, just dial it down so it is not violently shaking.
Step 12 –Once you hit 15 PSI, start a timer for 20 minutes.
Step 13 – After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and wait until the pressure drops to zero. DO NOT remove the pressure weight until the PSI is at zero. If you remove it, you could cause a boil over in your jars!
Step 14 –When the pressure gauge hits 0, remove the weight and go ahead and take the lid off. Open at an angle with the far side going up first. You do not want steam to hit your arm or face.
Step 15 – Use the jar lifter and take the jars out and place them on a towel. Make sure there is space between all the jars. Let the jars cool naturally. You will start to hear pops as they cool. This indicates the lids are sealing.
After the jars have cooled completely, inspect the lids. They should be in a down position, and will not go up or down if you apply pressure to the center of the lid. If you see a jar that has not set into this position, or if you push it down and it says in place either refrigerate those jars and use them quickly, or discard the contents.