So you want to learn how to make beer from home do you? Well a big congratulations to you. You are about to embark on an awesome adventure. Home brewing is the greatest hobby in the world and in fact it is probably one of the oldest.
Humans have been making their own beer for thousands of years; and the funny thing is that the basic premise of how to brew has not changed much at all. So ifyou think it will be too complicated for you, than relax if the ancients could do it so can you my friend.
In this post we are going to walk you through the process of making your homebrew as well as the equipment you will require. I will be covering some of the topics in detail and others I am going to point you to other articles on this site.
The Basics of Home Brewing
To begin with it is important that you understand that homebrewing as a hobby can be divided into two categories. There is malt extract brewing and there is all grain. As you will learn beer is created from the sugars found in what we call malted grains. These are basically grains that have been partially germinated.
When making beer with malt extract, the malt extract is a syrupy type liquid that has been produced from grains. 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. Kind of like when you buy instant coffee, you just add water.
Now when it comes to all grain homebrewing you are actually extracting the sugars from the grains yourself. Very much like buying coffee beans instead of instant coffee; you are doing the work yourself.
Malt extract brewing is the perfect spot for new homebrewers to get started with. It is much simpler than all grain, it requires less equipment, it costs less and it still produces very nice tasting brews. The other reason why it is a great place to start is because it teaches you the basics of brewing, it allows you to get a good understanding of what is involved in the process.
In this post this is the type of homebrewing we are going to be discussing. If you would prefer to jump right to all grain you can check out the following post:
The Equipment You Will Need
Now most of us have that one friend who has been making beer for a very long time and they have pretty much set up a professional brewery in their home, complete with nice big fancy kettles, kegs with full bar and 10 beers on tap.
A set up like that can look quite daunting and costly for a person looking to get started. But have no fear there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to spend a fortune getting started.
In fact the best way to learn the ropes of this hobby is to simply get yourself a very basic beer making kit. Like anything else you can upgrade and add on over time if you so desire.
A basic beer making kit would include:
- A primary fermenter with lid and spigot
- A no rinse cleanser (sanitizer)
- An airlock
- A bottling wand or auto siphon with tubing
- A hydrometer
- A thermometer
- Beer bottles and caps
To order your own kit You can see the kits I recommend here!
Ingredients for Homebrewing
OK now that you have your equipment squared away let’s take a look at the ingredients that go into making your beer.
For a traditional beer there are just 4 ingredients:
- Grains (or in this case malt extract)
Let’s take a quick look at each of them:
Believe it or not water plays the most important part in brewing homebrew. Think about it, a beer is made up of at least 90% water. So the quality of your water plays an important part.
When you are just getting started making beer do not worry too much about water, it can become quite an in-depth subject.
For now just make sure that it has no chlorine in it and that it is obviously clean. If you have concerns with the quality of your water you can always pick up some spring water from your grocery store to brew with.
Humans brewed beer for over a thousand years before they even understood that yeast played a part in the process. They would basically leave the beer out after brewing and wild yeast would go to work and make beer.
Basically what happens with yeast is that it eats the sugars in the malt and in the process produces alcohol and C02. What a beautiful little creature yeast is wouldn’t you agree?
You can purchase either dry yeast or liquid yeast. Back not too many years ago dry yeast was frowned upon as the poor cousin to liquid yeast. People considered liquid yeast to be the superior product. Nowadays however the quality of dry yeast has improved drastically and it is in fact all I pretty much use. I prefer it over liquid yeast and can’t re
You can see the dry yeasts I recommend here!
When it comes to hops we actually use the cones from the female hop plants. They contain alpha acids and they are what determines how bitter the hop is. The more alpha acids the more bitter that hop will be or the more bitterness it will impart to your beer. You add what we call bittering hops towards the start of the boil.
Besides being used to bitter your beer, hops are also used to provide aroma to the beer. Most people do not realize but our sense of smell has a great deal to do with what we think a beer tastes like. By adding the aroma hops towards the end of the brewing process we are providing the beer with its aroma, which is perceived as taste.
There are two sorts of grains used in the brewing process. Both of them have to be milled or crushed before you can use them. If they are not milled you will not get any of the sugars out of them.
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.
Even if you are using malt extract to make your beer you can still add some specialty grains to modify the recipe to your liking. As you learn more about how to brew beer from home and gain experience you will start to experiment with this sort of thing.
Using Malt Extracts is a great place to start your homebrewing adventure. It is simple, easy and takes a whole lot less time and effort to brew with. And as indicated above the extract kits have improved significantly in recent years and you can make some very good beers using them.
You can either use the pre-hopped kits that Mr. Beer, Coopers and other companies manufacture; or you can use straight malt extract that does not have any hops added to it; it comes in either a dry or liquid form. Dry Malt Extract is referred to as DME and Liquid Malt Extract is referred to as LME.
When it comes to pre-hopped kits you can see the ones I recommend here!
In this post we are going to look at how to brew a batch of beer where you add specialty grains, hops and malt extract to the process yourself. When it comes to these kits I always recommend Brewer’s Best. They make very good, easy to follow kits that make delicious beer. You can order a Brewer’s Best Kit here!
Making Your Beer
OK so now you know the equipment you need and the ingredients that go into a beer, it is time to start brewing.
We are going to brew what is called a partial mash beer. This is where you use specialty grains, hops and malt extract instead of a pre-hopped kit.
The pre-hopped kit is simpler and also makes great beer, if you want to brew one of those to start than the following link will walk you through the process to do so: Go here to learn how to brew a pre-hopped kit.
As indicated Brewers Best provides very good instructions with their kit, they go over the brewing process step by step and are very easy to follow. Always read the instructions and understand the procedure you need to follow; I recommend keeping the instructions with you while brewing.
Step #1 – Clean & Sanitize Your Gear
If a beer does not turn out good there are usually two reasons why; either it was exposed to too much oxygen after fermentation had started or you did not clean and sanitize your equipment.
Beer is highly susceptible to bacteria and even the smallest of amounts can ruin a batch of beer.
Do not panic here, it is easy to clean and sanitize your equipment. I have dedicated a full post on how to do this correctly, make sure you read it and follow what I teach and you will be fine: How to Clean & Sanitize Your Equipment.
Step #2 – Steep Your Grains
Now get yourself a pot or kettle, it should be large enough to hold about 4 – 5 gallons of water. Add 2.5 gallons of water to it and heat it up 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. You want the grains to be spread out in the bag, not all bunched together so 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. If you have a kitchen strainer they make doing this easier.
Step #3 – Boil Your Wort
Wort is unfermented beer. So what you have in the pot now is considered wort. Bring it to a nice rolling boil, it does not have to be a violent boil, just a nice and easy rolling boil. Watch out that the wort 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 boil, remove the pot from the stove and slowly pour the malt extract into the pot, stirring it as you do. Keep stirring it until it has dissolved.
It is important to make sure it is dissolved before you put it back on the stove as it will burn on the bottom of the kettle and you will end up with a burnt taste to your homebrew.
Once it has dissolved place the pot back on the stove and bring it back to a rolling boil.
Step #4 – Add Your Hops
Your recipe that comes with the Brewers Best Kits will tell you exactly when to add the hops to your recipe.
One tip I will give you, is to take the grain bag you used to steep the grains with and clean it out. Add the hops to the bag instead of directly to the pot.
This will make for a much clearer beer. Now of course if you like a cloudy or hazy brew do not do this, simply 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. Which means you need to get it down to the correct temperature to add the yeast to it. Adding the yeast to the beer is called pitching the yeast.
Before you add the yeast the wort needs to be under 70 degrees F.
You can read all about how to chill your wort on this post, I go over all of the popular methods of doing so:
Step #6 – Transfer Your Wort to Your Fermenter
After you have cooled your wort, transfer it to your fermenter. You can either carefully pour it into the fermenter or use an auto-siphon to transfer it.
Make sure you sanitize your fermenter before adding the wort!
Now you will want to 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 it up good 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.
A quick note on yeasts. It is amazing what a yeast can do for the taste of your brew. It is important to always use a good quality yeast. I recommend using fermentis safale us-05 (for American Beers) and fermentis safale us-04 (for European Beers).
You can order them both here: Recommended Yeast
One you have pitched the yeast you can now put the lid on the fermenter and put the airlock and stopper in. Be sure to fill the airlock with a mixture of StarSan and Water. You can get StarSan here!
Step #8 – Ferment Your Wort
Place your fermenter in a room in your home that you are able to maintain a stable temperature. Around the 70 Degree F mark is ideal. Within 24 – 48 hours you will start to see activity in the fermenter.
Let your beer ferment for 2 weeks if you can stand it. Yes most of the fermentation will be completed in 7 days, but the additional 7 days will make for a better beer.
You can also use a hydrometer to determine when it has finished fermenting as well as to determine the ABV (alcohol %). You can learn how to use a hydrometer here!
Step #9 – Bottle or Keg Your Beer
Alright so when fermentation is completed it is time to decide if you are going to keg or bottle your home-brew.
Kegging is more convenient, however in my opinion bottled beer tastes better. So the choice is 100% yours. Typically what I do is keg most of the batch and than bottle a few bottles of it to have on hand, that way I get the best of both worlds.
To learn how to keg or bottle check out these posts:
That’s All Folks
And there you have it my friend you now know How to Make Beer from Home.
Welcome to this awesome hobby. If you have any questions at all drop them in the comment section below and I will be sure to do what I can to help you out.
Also, for more step by steps instructions on making a beer with malt extract, specialty grains and hops than check out this post:
Cheers my friend!
Big Robb is gone…
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