So you want to learn how to brew beer from home? You’ve come to the right place. Make Beer Easy is devoted to helping you learn how to make the best beer you can as easily as possible.
In this post we are going to get into the details of how to brew your own homebrew to include taking a look at what goes into making a beer, 3 different methods to get started making beer, the equipment and ingredients you will need and then to wrap it up I am going to provide you with resources to show you exactly how to brew your first beer using the method you choose.
As you will see making your own beer is not hard once you get the basics down. So let’s get you going. The first thing we are going to do is look at are the ingredients that make up a beer.
What Goes into Making a Homebrew?
Sure people are adding all kinds of crazy things to beer these days, but when it comes right down to it there are 4 main ingredients that you will use to make a brew.
They are Water, Grains, Hops and Yeast! Add those 4 things together in the right combination and you have Beer!
Let’s take a closer look at each one:
=> Water is obviously the major ingredient in beer. Without water there is no beer. It makes up at least 90% of your final brew. So it goes without saying that the quality of your water is important. So much so that I could do a whole post if not many just on water chemistry alone. But don’t fret, that is advanced level stuff and as long as you have clean, none chlorinated water you are going to be just fine. Start out making batches with what you have and then move into learning how to improve your water down the road.
=> Grains come next. Grains are where we get the sweet sugary mixture that the yeast feeds on and creates alcohol. Barley is the main grain you will using to brew with, however there are others such as wheat, corn and even rice that you can and will use. There are base grains that make up the majority of your grain bill and create the alcohol and there are specialty grains that you will use to add flavor, body, head retention, etc.
=> Hops do a few things for your beer. First off they counter the sweetness of the malt (grains) by providing bitterness to the mixture. They also provide a lot of the flavoring and aroma. An added benefit of hops are they also act as a preservative and help to prevent infection in your beer. It is actually the main reason hops were first used in the brewing process in fact. This preservative effect helped create the style known as IPA or India Pale Ale. The British would add extra hops to the beers they shipped to their troops in India in order to preserve the brew on the long ocean voyage.
=> Yeast, oh you gotta love that little create. Those little yeasties have been responsible for most of the fun times humanity has ever had. These little guys go to work on our behalf, eating up all of the sugar we create in the beer making process and turning it into alcohol and C02 during fermentation. Without yeast there is no alcohol.
OK so those 4 items are the basics of what goes into your brew… Let’s now shift gears and take a look into the 3 main ways you can start homebrewing…
The 3 Brewing Methods
Extract, Partial Mash and All Grain
Basically I like to refer to these 3 as beginner, intermediate and advanced. With extract being the beginner, partial mash the intermediate level and all grain the advanced.
So before you actually learn how to make beer at home, you will need to decide at which level you wish to start at.
Method #1) Most people do start at the beginner level and whip up a few batches of beer using the standard beer kits you see at most homebrew stores. This is the quickest, easiest and least expensive way to make beer. The problem with it is that out of the 3 it makes the least tasty brews. Now if you do let it age in the beer bottles for at least 1 – 3 months the taste does improve drastically. The problem is that most people find it hard to wait that long. (I known I do)
The good thing about starting at this level is that you get experience with the basics of brewing. Such as fermenting and bottling, etc. So when you do decide to move up to all grain brewing you will have a great understanding of the basics already.
Method #2) Partial Mash brewing is basically a hybrid of extract brewing and all grain brewing. You still use malt extract, but you will also start using some grains primarily specialty grains as well you will start to experiment with using hops. This intermediate brewing level is a great step towards all grain brewing. I found after only brewing a few batches using this method that I had a much greater understanding of how all grain home-brewing worked and I quickly moved onto it.
Method #3) And then there is all grain home-brewing. This is where the big boys play and is exactly what the craft breweries also play but at a much larger level. With all grain you are making beer from scratch.
When I say the big boys, do not mistake me and think all grain brewing is difficult. Once you get the basics down it is actually quite straight forward and simple, although time intensive.
At this state you are extracting sugars from the grain such as barley by engaging in a process known as mashing. Mashing is like making tea. When you make tea you are putting a tea bag in hot water in order to extract the teas from the bag. Same kind of idea applies with mashing. You are adding the grains to hot water to extract the fermentable sugars.
When you are done with mashing you will rinse the grains, which is called sparging. The resulting liquid is then boiled and hops are added at different intervals as per what the recipe calls for.
From there the process is the same as extract and partial mash brewing, you proceed to ferment the liquid which in all cases is now called Wort. Once fermentation has completed you will then carbonate the beer either in a bottle with priming sugar or in a keg with C02.
So basically with extract brewing you are able to skip everything I have just explained about all grain brewing because someone else has done it all of you and packed it in a kit.
Let’s now take a quick look at the equipment you will need…
Brewing Equipment You Need
OK so here is a list of all of the equipment you will need. Next to each Item I have indicated which method of brewing you will need it for.
1) A Fermenter: The liquid you create before it is beer is known as wort. You place the wort into a fermenter and add the yeast which turns into beer. (Extract, Partial Mash & All Grain need one)
2) An Airlock or Blow off Hose/Tube: To go along with the fermenter, you require an airlock or a blow of hose/tube. After you have put the wort into the fermenter, you seal it with either one of these. This keeps bacteria and bugs etc from getting into the fermenter while allowing the C02 that is created to be released. An airlock is good for most beers, but a blow off hose is recommended for big beers. (Extract, Partial Mash & All Grain need one)
3) A Brew Kettle: This is where you heat the water to mash and also boil the wort after the mash is done. Extract and Partial Mash brewers can get away with a smaller kettle 1.5 – 2 gallons will work. Some extract kits don’t even require a kettle. All grain brewers are going to need a bigger kettle and I would recommend no smaller than 7 gallons and preferably 10 – 15 gallons. (some Extract kits will require, all Partial Mash & All Grain need one)
4) An HLT (Hot Liquor Tank): This is just for all grain brewing. This will be used for heating the water for your mash. As I just indicated above, for some styles of all grain brewing your brew kettle you use for boiling can also be used as an HLT.
5) A Mash Tun: This is again just for all grain brewing. This is where you combine the hot water and the grains in order to create the wort. Remember my example of making tea. This is where the beer version of tea is made. You extract the sugars from the grains and create the liquid called wort. Again only used for all grain brewing.
NOTE: If you decide to start all grain brewing I recommend you look into my favorite way of doing so. It is called BIAB or Brew in a Bag and with it you will only need 1 of the vessels I just discussed and not all 3 (brew kettle, hlt and mash tun), it makes brewing much easier, quicker and less expensive to get started.
Again you can learn more here:
6) A Burner: You obviously need a heat source to get your kettle to heat up and reach boil. Extract and partial mash homebrewers can get away with using their kitchen stove. All grain brewers will require an additional heat source to heat the volume of liquid required to make all grain brews.
7) An Auto Siphon and Tubing: You will need to move your wort and beer from one container to another throughout the process and a siphon is the easiest way to do so. Auto Siphons work the best because they create the suction/vacuum for you, making things much easier. (all methods require this)
8) A Wort Chiller: After you have finished boiling you will need to cool the wort down to the correct temperature before adding the yeast or you will kill the yeast… never a good thing. (all all 3 methods will require a wort chiller)
9) Beer Bottles or Keg: Obviously once your beer is ready you need to either bottle it or keg it.
10) A Cleaning Agent & Sanitizer: When it comes to making beer the one area where people go wrong and end up with a spoiled batch is with their cleaning and sanitizing procedures or lack of. Beer is highly susceptible to bacteria. You need to keep it out of your beer and you do this by cleaning all of your equipment thoroughly and then sanitizing it. Anything that will come in contact with your homebrew must be clean and sanitized. The following are two posts to help you with both of these, take this very seriously:
11) A Hydrometer: This is a handy little tool to do a few things for you First it will allow you to determine if you have been successful in following your recipe. Did you hit what is called your OG (original gravity) before you ferment the beer? If you did not hit the OG then you can fine tune your brewing processes to make sure you do next time. It will also let you known when fermentation is over when you have reached your FG (final gravity). And by having both of these gravity numbers you will be able to confirm/determine your ABV (Alcohol by Volume).
12) A basic kitchen/cooking Thermometer: It is important to be able to measure the temperature throughout the brewing process.
And that is pretty much all you require my friend. Read through all of the other posts I have provided and you will have a great handle on everything you require.
Now Get Brewing!
Looking at this article you might think that homebrewing beer is difficult. Trust me it is not. If I can do it then you can as well. The key is to just get started.
Pick which method you are going to start with and get rolling. Yes you will not make the best beer to start with but it will surprise you how decent that first batch actually will taste and it will equally surprise you how soon it will be that you are making much better beer.
If you have any questions at all on how to brew beer from home reach out to me. Either put a comment in below or hit me up on my Facebook page, I always respond and am always willing to help fellow homebrewers!
Big Robb is out!