Making beer from home is a fun and rewarding experience. Not only do you get to drink your own beer, but you also get the satisfaction of knowing that you made it yourself. In this blog post, we will teach you the basics of how to make beer from home. We will go over the ingredients and equipment you need, as well as some tips for brewing your very first batch of beer.
The Basics of Home Brewing
Humans have been making beer for thousands of years, and in that time period, the basic premise of how to make beer has not changed much at all. It is a relatively easy alcohol to make and anyone can learn how to make good-tasting beer in a short period of time.
To begin with, it is important to understand that homebrewing as a hobby can be divided into two categories. There is malt extract brewing and there is all-grain brewing.
Malt extract comes in a can and is a syrup-like liquid similar in appearance to molasses. When using malt extract you do not have to extract any of the sugars from the grains yourself as it is already done for you. To make beer this way you simply mix the syrup in a fermenter with water, pitch the yeast and let it ferment for 7 – 10 days, then bottle it.
Whereas when making all-grain beer you are basically making beer from scratch by extracting the sugars from the grains yourself.
Malt extract brewing is ideal for beginners and is what we are going to cover in this article. It is much simpler than all-grain, it requires less equipment, it costs less and it still produces very nice-tasting beer. Another reason it is a great way to start making beer is because it teaches you the basics of brewing, and provides you with a good understanding of what is involved in the process.
Equipment Needed to Make Beer From Home
The best way to get started making beer from home is with a beer-making kit. Kits come with all of the ingredients and the basic equipment you need to get started, as your beer-making skills improve you can upgrade your equipment as you go.
Beer-making kits include:
– A primary fermenter with a lid and spigot
– A no-rinse sanitizer
– An airlock
– A bottling wand or auto-siphon with tubing
– A hydrometer
– A thermometer
– Beer bottles, caps, and priming sugar.
Ingredients to Make Beer From Home
There a 4 main ingredients in beer…
– Grains (or in this case malt extract)
Considering that beer is made up of at least 90% water it is arguably the most important ingredient in beer and goes without saying that the quality of your brew water plays a very important role in the quality of the finished product.
Having said that when you are just getting started don’t spend too much time learning water chemistry as it is quite an in-depth subject. For now, just make sure that your water does not have any chlorine in it and that it is good quality. If you have concerns over the quality of your tap water you can use spring water from your grocery store.
Humans brewed beer for over a thousand years before they understood that yeast played a role in the beer-making process. They would simply brew the beer and place the wort outdoors overnight, typically near flowers or trees, and airborne wild yeast would inoculate it.
Yeast is what is responsible for the alcohol in the beer. Yeasts are live organisms that consume sugar and in the process convert it into alcohol and CO2. You can purchase yeast in either dry or liquid forms. Most beer kits come with dry yeast.
Hops used in making beer are actually the flower of the female Humulus Lupulus plant. They contain alpha acids which determine how bitter the hop is. The more alpha acids the more bitter that hop will be and the more bitterness it will impart to your beer. There are many types of hops, some are used to add bitterness to a beer to balance out the sweetness from the malt while others are used to add flavor and aroma.
Bittering hops are added toward the start of the boil and aroma and flavor hops are added closer to the end of the boil and during dry hopping.
There are two types of grains used in making beer. Both types need to be milled or crushed before using them in order to access the sugars that the yeast uses during fermentation.
The two types of grains are called base grains and specialty grains. Base grains make up the majority of the grains in a beer, typically about 70-85%. They provide the sugars the yeast will turn into alcohol. Specialty grains make up the rest of the grains in a beer. They provide the beer with its body, aroma, color, and flavor.
When brewing with malt extract you can still add some specialty grains to modify the recipe to your liking.
Making beer with malt extract is a great place to start. It is simple, easy, and takes a whole lot less time and effort than all-grain brewing. In recent years the quality of these kits has improved significantly resulting in some very good beers.
Malt extract kits come in two forms, either pre-hopped kits like Mr. Beer and Coopers Homebrew kits; or kits that are straight malt extract without any hops added to them; they come in either a dry or liquid form. Dry Malt Extract is referred to as DME and Liquid Malt Extract is referred to as LME.
In this article, we are going to look at how to make a batch of beer using malt extra but where you add specialty grains and hops. You can either buy these additional ingredients yourself or purchase what is referred to as a partial mash kit. The best partial mash kits are made by a company called Brewer’s Best. They are easy-to-follow kits that make delicious beer.
How to Make Beer From Home
There are 9 steps involved in making beer from home using a partial mash kit…
Step #1 – Clean & Sanitize Your Equipment
If a beer does not turn out well there are usually two reasons why; either it was exposed to oxygen after fermentation had started or bacteria infiltrated the beer as a result of poor cleaning and sanitizing procedures.
Beer is highly susceptible to bacteria and even the smallest of amounts can ruin a batch of beer.
Cleaning and sanitizing your equipment and brew space is a simple but important process, we have outlined in the following article the step-by-step process on how to clean & sanitize your equipment the right way.
Step #2 – Steep Your Grains
Using a pot or kettle, that is large enough to hold about 4 – 5 gallons of water, add 2.5 gallons of water to it and heat it to 150 – 160 degrees F.
Take the specialty grains and the grain bag that came with the kit, pour the grains into the bag and tie a knot at the very end of the bag. Make sure the grains are spread out in the bag and not all bunched together, do not tie the knot right up next to the grains.
Now place the bag of grains into the pot and leave it there for 20 minutes. This is called steeping your grains. After 20 minutes take the bag out, and let the liquid from the bag drain into the pot. Using a kitchen strainer will make draining the liquid easier.
Step #3 – Boil Your Wort
What you now have in your pot or kettle is referred to as wort, which is simply unfermented beer. Bring the wort to a slow rolling boil, being sure that it does not boil over, and make a mess on your stove, you can prevent this by stirring it as it comes to a boil.
Once it has reached a boil, remove the pot from the stove and slowly pour the malt extract into the pot, stirring it as you do. Keep stirring until it has dissolved.
It is important to make sure the malt extract is dissolved before you put it back on the stove as it will burn on the bottom of the kettle resulting in a burnt taste in your beer. Once the malt extract has dissolved place the pot back on the stove and bring it back to a rolling boil.
Step #4 – Add Your Hops
The recipe you use will tell you exactly when to add the hops to the pot. A simple way of adding the hops is to use the grain bag you used to steep the grains with, simply clean it out and put the hops in the bag instead of directly into the pot.
This will make for a much clearer beer. If you prefer a cloudy or hazy brew do not do this, instead, add the hops directly to the pot.
Step #5 – Chill Your Wort
Once the boil has finished, typically 60 minutes (see recipe for exact time). It is time to cool the wort. This means chilling it down to the correct temperature to add the yeast to it. Adding the yeast to the beer is called pitching the yeast. Before adding the yeast the wort needs to be under 70 degrees F.
Step #6 – Transfer Your Wort to Your Fermenter
After you have cooled your wort, it is time to transfer it to your fermenter. You can either carefully pour it into the fermenter or use an auto-siphon to transfer it. Make sure to sanitize your fermenter before adding the wort.
Now add enough water to bring the level in the fermenter up to 5 gallons. Make sure the water is between 62 – 70 degrees F. Mix the water well with the wort already in the fermenter.
Step #7 – Pitch Your Yeast
Now slowly sprinkle the yeast into the fermenter and with a sterilized spoon give the wort a good stir. This is the only time in the brewing process that oxygen is good for brewing
Yeast plays a significant role in the flavor of your beer. It is important to always use good-quality yeast. Many of the yeasts that come with the beer kits are not of the highest quality and you may want to swap them out for a higher-quality yeast. You can also change the flavor of your beer by using a different strain of yeast the next time you make it.
Once you have pitched the yeast put the lid on the fermenter and the airlock and stopper in place. Be sure to fill the airlock with a mixture of sanitizer and water.
Step #8 – Ferment Your Wort
Place your fermenter in a room in your home where you are able to maintain a stable temperature. Around 70 degrees F is ideal. Within 24 – 48 hours you will start to see activity in the fermenter.
Let your beer ferment for 10 – 14 days, most of the fermentation will be completed in 7 days, but the additional 3 – 7 days will make for a better-tasting beer.
You can also use a hydrometer or a refractometer to determine when it has finished fermenting as well as to determine the ABV (alcohol %).
Step #9 – Bottle or Keg Your Beer
Once fermentation is completed it is time to decide if you are going to keg or bottle your beer. Kegging your beer is more convenient, however, many consider bottled beer to taste better. One way to get the best of both worlds is to keg most of the batch and then bottle a few bottles of it to have on hand.
So, there you have it everything you need to know on how to make beer from home. Hopefully, you found this guide helpful and informative. Making beer is a fun, rewarding process, and the best part is that you can customize your beer to fit your own taste preferences by using different beer kits, changing the specialty grains you use, and trying different hops and yeast strains.
P.S. Be sure to pick up your gift of Big Robb’s top 5 favorite beer recipes from his brewpub. Details are on the side of the blog or at the bottom if you are on your phone. Cheers!