Looking to brew beer eh? Good plan in my books my friend… Brewing beer is a heck of an adventure, a skill that you can easily learn and a hobby that is far supersedes any other hobby you could pick up… I mean what is your alternative? Collecting stamps? Come on!
And the cool part is that you will find that it is easy to get started brewing beer. Because in the end there is not that much to brewing when you get right down to it.
I will admit that from the outside looking in and when you are first getting started, the beer brewing process can appear daunting…
So my advice is to take it slow… do not try to become a beer brewing master right from the start. Focus on the basics and gradually improve your brewing skills as you go.
My goal in this post is to give you enough information to get you started making beer… I will review the equipment you will need as well as the ingredients… and than help you put it all together to brew up your very first batch of beer.
So enough of that… lets get to it!
The Different Methods of Brewing Beer
You will find as you get started in your beer brewing journey that there are different degrees of difficulty so to speak when it comes to how you brew beer… I guess you could call them Novice, Intermediate and Advanced levels. (although “advanced” is not really that advanced… this is make beer easy after all)
My advise is that when you are just starting you should focus on the Novice level of brewing… This is done with a ready-made beer kit and the basic equipment used by all brewers of all levels of experience.
What I mean by that is, the equipment you purchase for novice brewing will also be the equipment you use for intermediate and advanced beer brewing. You will simply just add more pieces of equipment to the base equipment you picked up to start.
These kits come with liquid malt extract, that you simply put in your fermenter, add water and some yeast to and than let it sit for a while and voila you have beer.
Intermediate level brewing is the next step up (obviously)… at this stage you will start incorporating grains and hops into the brewing process. You will be using a recipe, where you source the ingredients yourself, such as malt extract (liquid or dry), specialty grains for steeping (this adds flavor, color, etc) and hops for taste, smell and aroma which you will be adding to the boil at different stages of making this type of beer, etc.
There are actually ready-made Beer kits for intermediate brewing also. These kits do provide you with everything you need, which I found helpful. This way you buy everything, ingredients, and recipe together which saves you from trying to figure all of that out on your own.
What is great at this level of the beer making process is that you will find that it will help you to better understand how the All Grain beer brewers make their beer. And the beer you make will be a better beer than the beer made at the Novice level.
The Advanced level of brewing beer is where you make beer from scratch; using grains, hops, etc. You do it all and control the whole process… you can mill your own grains, you learn how to mash and a whole host of other fun brewing stuff.
There are also All Grain kits available, that also provide you with all the ingredients and recipes required. Those kits are a great way to start into All Grain brewing. I made my first 5-6 all grain beers using these types beer kits. And still use some of the recipes they came with.
So in the end even Intermediate and Advanced brewing is not difficult, and some people do start there… but I have found starting at the Novice level of brewing and working your way through to Advanced makes you a better overall brewer; this is because you will learn and perfect all the little techniques involved in each level, and the skills you develop and perfect will be helpful for each level you move up to.
So one step at a time grasshopper… and let’s start your journey.
Equipment Needed to Start Making Beer
What is cool with starting at the Novice level is that the equipment you require at this point is very basic and minimal and as such the cost is low!
Here is a list of the Beer making Equipment You Will Need:
– a plastic fermenter capable of brewing 5-6 gallons of beer
– beer bottles to put your finished beer in. Thirty 750 ml plastic bottles will work great
– a hydrometer to test the beer to know when it is done brewing
– a large mixing spoon. AKA a mash paddle.
– a thermometer.
– a bottling wand to transfer the beer from the fermenter to the beer bottles.
And that is it for equipment…
In my opinion (and the way I went when I was starting out); the best way for a newbie to begin is to order up the Coopers DIY Home Brewing Kit… (here is a review I did on it: Coopers Homebrew Kit Review)
…to this day when I am brewing at home this is still my go to fermenter. It has some very cool features, such as a built in spigot at the bottom and a kruasen ring at the top that allows you to remove the “junk” that forms at the top of the fermenter during the beginning stages of fermentation.
The Coopers kit also has all of the equipment I just listed above that you will need. Spoon, hydrometer, thermometer, all the bottles and caps…
… it also comes with all the ingredients to brew up and carbonate your first 2 batches of beer.
So speaking of ingredients…
Ingredients to Make Your First Batch of Beer
When you first get started brewing beer all you need to do is pick up a can of craft brewing extract.
This can comes with the instructions to make the beer, it is filled with liquid malt extract that has already had the hops added to it for you, and it comes with the packet of yeast to ferment the beer.
There are many companies that make these craft beer extracts… Coopers who I mentioned above makes them and if you pick up the Coopers DIY kit it comes with 2 cans of extract so you can make two batches of beer.
Some other companies I have had luck with are Muntons and Mr Beer. There are others also and I am sure they will work just fine as it is really hard to mess things up at this stage.
The only other ingredient you need to brew with is priming sugar. Priming sugar is used after you are done brewing and are ready to ferment your beer. Sugar creates the carbonation in your beer. Nothing worse than flat beer.
The easiest way to carbonate your beer at this stage is to use carbonation drops. They look like little sugar candies. You simply place the drop in the bottle and fill it with beer, put the cover on and let the beer condition for a couple of weeks (at least).
Coopers and muntons both make carbonation drops. I prefer the coopers drops. And again if you pick up the Coopers DIY kit, the carbonation drops come with it.
And that my friend is all the ingredients you need to make your first batch of beer…
A Quick Word on Sanitation
One of the main secrets to making sure you make good beer every time is cleanliness and sanitation.
Beer in the brewing stage is very susceptible to bacteria… meaning it cam spoil very easily if you are not careful.
Now do not let this scare you off… its very simple to keep everything clean and sanitized.
You will want to make sure all pieces of equipment are spotless after a brewing session and before you start a new one. Use a good cleaning agent such as PBW (powder brewing wash) or even OxyClean you get at the grocery store does a good job.
Give everything a good scrub using one of these agents and than a good rinse. Do not leave any of the cleaning agent behind in the equipment. And when scrubbing make sure you use a sponge or a cloth, do not use a wire brush etc as it will scratch the plastic and allow bacteria to build up in the scratches… this is bad!
After cleaning everything and before brewing your beer… make sure that everything that will touch the beer is sanitized. The best and only sanitizer that I use and recommend is starsan… you will come to love starsan. I still use it at my Brew Pub.
Be sure to follow the mixing guidelines because a little dab will do you… meaning you do not have to use much of this stuff to get the job done!
Stay clean and sanitized and you will ensure you make good beer every time!
Here is a detailed post on how to sanitize your beer making equipment => How to Sanitize Beer Making Equipment
Putting It All Together
OK you have your equipment to make your first beer… and you have all the ingredients to make the beer… so now lets make the beer.
With these beer kits making the beer is a snap!
The kits come with detailed instructions as well… but the basics are as follows:
Step 1: – Clean and sanitize everything! (sensing a trend here!!)
Step 2: – Dissolve the contents of the can with 2 liters of boiling water.
Step 3: – Put 2 liters of cold water in the fermenter.
Step 4: – Dump the now dissolved can of malt into the fermenter.
Step 5: – Top up the fermenter to the 20 liter mark.
Step 6: – Check the temperature of the wort (liquid in fermenter). It should be between 21 – 27 degrees Celsius or 70 – 80 degrees fahrenheit.
Step 7: – Fill up the fermenter to the 23 liter mark with either hot or cold water in order to bring the temperature within the correct range. 21 – 27 degrees Celsius or 70 -80 degrees fahrenheit.
Step 8: Sprinkle the yeast on top of the liquid.
Step 9: Put the cover or airlock on fermenter.
Step 10: Put the fermenter in a dark location in your home, at a temperature around 7 – 21 degrees celsius or 62 – 69 fahrenheit. I prefer the lower end of the scale.
Step 11: Let the beer sit for at least 7 days, 10 is preferable. After 10 it will definitly be done fermenting.
Step 12: Clean and sanitize your beer bottles.
Step 13: Add the carbonation drops to the bottles.
Step 14: Fill the beer from the fermenter into the bottles using the bottling wand.
Step 15: Put the cover on the bottles and put them away to carbonate and condition. At least 2 weeks. However if you can wait even longer the better this beer will turn out.
And that my friend is how you get started brewing beer! Congrats you have now made your first beer.
Enjoy it with some friends… nothing better than sharing your homebrew with friends.
If I can help you with anything please ask me in the comments below, I will be sure to do what I can for you!
Note: You can get all of the equipment, ingredients and sanitizer I mentioned above at Adventures in Homebrewing
And again you can check out my review on The Coopers DIY Kit if you want more info on it!
Cheers my friend…
Big Robb is out!