When you are learning how to make homebrew beer you will discover that when you boil it all down to the basics there are really 2 ways to make beer.
You will either use a beer kit or you will use raw ingredients (all grain brewing)
Using beer kits is the simpler of the methods and where most home brewers start out, however some would tell you that due to its simplicity you are sacrificing on quality and that using raw ingredients results in the better tasting beer.
I would definitely agree that All Grain brewing makes better tasting beer.
However the beer kits you buy these days are of a much better quality than they use to be; and the beer you make with them is actually quite tasty and definitely as good as or better than the commercial beers you would buy in a beer store.
So Where to Start Brewing?
Obviously the choice is yours to make.
I started out using kits and I am glad that was the route I went as it allowed me to get started without spending a lot of money on the equipment that is needed for all grain brewing. Also starting with beer kits allowed me to learn the basics of home brewing before moving onto the more advanced methods that are involved with all grain brewing.
Now having said that All Grain home brewing is not difficult, and using my favorite method of Brew in a Bag or BIAB it is actually quite simple and surprisingly not expensive to get started in comparison to other methods.
Now where I started with the kits, I do have many friends who started out All Grain brewing and skipped using beer kits all together and made out just fine and they would not have wished to do it any other way.
So it really depends on what you are looking to do and how deep into the hobby are you looking to go?
Do you just want to make some beer to have on hand to drink and share with friends or are you looking to get into the hobby in a big way?
Consider These Factors in Making Your Decision
Factor #1 – How much are you looking to spend starting out?
You can get started brewing with beer kits for about $100 – $150 tops.
All grain brewing using BIAB is going to cost about $200 to get started.
And with some of the other methods of making all grain beer it can actually cost up to and over $1,000 to get started; but I do not see why you would bother with those methods when BIAB makes as good of beer or better, costs a significant amount less, takes a fraction of the time to make the beer on brew day and requires a whole lot less clean up.
Factor #2 – How much time are you looking to spend brewing?
When it comes to making the beer itself, mixing the ingredients, etc. This is called Brew Day.
How much time do you want to spend during Brew day?
Brew day using beer kits takes no more than 30 minutes. Whereas an all grain brew day will take at least 5 – 6 hours. Big difference.
I personally love brew day. I make a day of it and have a few pints of my last batch of beer, BBQ some food on the grill, invite some buddies over and just have a good ol’time. So it is fun for me.
Whereas some people just want to get it done and get the beer into the fermenter as quickly as possible. It again depends on what you are looking to get from this hobby.
Factor #3 – How much space do you have to brew and store your equipment?
Brewing with beer kits takes up minimal space as the equipment needed is minimal in comparison. You can actually do all of the brewing right on your kitchen counter.
With all grain brewing there is no question you will need more space on brew day and the equipment will take up more space for storage when not in use.
However with the BIAB method I recommend that you start with you will actually not need a whole lot more space than what you would with kit brewing.
With this method if you use an electric system the only extra piece of an equipment is the kettle. If you use an open flame system you will also need a burner to heat the kettle.
Now some of the other all grain systems do take up a whole lot more space due to the extra vessels and kettles involved with them. Where Brew in a bag uses one vessel the others will use 2 – 3 vessels/kettles. Many of my friends have complete rooms dedicated to homebrewing.
Alright let’s look at the equipment you will need for both methods.
Beer Kit Equipment… the equipment you need here is very basic. And what is cool is if you decide to start here the equipment you pick up you will continue to use if you decide to move to all grain homebrewing.
The following is what you need:
- A fermenter or carboy
- A plastic spoon
- A thermometer
- A hydrometer
- Bottles and caps
All Grain Brewing Equipment… so you will need all of the above plus:
- A kettle ( 10 – 15 gallons)
- A brew bag
- A propane burner
OR if you decide to go with an electric BIAB system. They are called All-in-one brew systems. You would get one of those instead of the kettle, brew bag and propane burner. This is a great option if you want to brew indoors.
Now let’s look at the ingredients you need to make your first batch of beer.
If you are brewing beer kits, all you need to do is pick up a kit. It comes with all the ingredients packaged up in a can. Basically you just add water to the fermenter and mix in the ingredients of the can.
The kits come in every style and flavor of beer that you could ever want.
If you are brewing all grain beer, then you are going to need to source out the actually raw ingredients. You are brewing from scratch with this method.
- Base grains
- Specialty grains
- And yeast
You can either order these ingredients on their own based on what the recipe calls for or you can even order an all grain beer kit that comes with all the ingredients with recipe and instructions for making the beer.
OK you have your equipment and ingredients let’s brew…
Time to Get Your Brew On
What I am going to do now is show you how each method of brewing works. I will quickly run you through a brew day using each method and then point you to some other articles on this blog that will provide you with more detail on whichever method you decide to start with.
Beer Kit Brew Day… this really is as easy as I explained above. You pretty much simply take the ingredients in the kit, dump them into the fermenter and add water, stir it up and add yeast.
Now you put the fermenter away for at least 7 days and let the yeast go to work turning the mixture into beer. Bottle it, add carbonating sugar, let it condition for a couple of weeks, pour into your mug and enjoy.
There are kits that are a little more involved than that and do require a little more hands on work. But as a result they make even better beer.
All Grain Brew Day… so there are a lot more steps involved here. Where the kits come manufactured for you, with all grain you have to do all the manufacturing yourself.
You are going to first heat up water in the kettle to what is called the strike temperature. This is the temperature you are going add the grains to the water.
Put the grain bag into the kettle and drape the ends of it over the side of the kettle.
Once the water is at the strike temperature add the grains to the water. Pouring them into the grain bag.
Put the cover on the kettle and let it sit for an hour. This is called mashing and is where the sugars are extracted from the grains. This creates what is called wort. Wort is unfermented beer.
After an hour remove the grain bag from the kettle. Dispose of the grains.
Now turn the heat up on your kettle and bring the liquid (wort) to a boil.
You will boil for 60 – 90 minutes. During the boil you will be adding the hops when the recipe calls for it.
Now you will cool the wort down to between 60 – 70 degrees F.
At this point you will proceed just like I described above with the beer kit. Pour the wort into the ferment, add the yeast and put the fermenter away to ferment.
Time to Make a Decision
There you go my friend the 2 ways of making homebrew.
It is now up to you to decide which method you want to start with.
The following are some articles to help you decide which method to use as well as the equipment you need for each method and a few articles on how to actually brew.
Hopefully you enjoyed this post on how to make homebrew beer and now have a great understanding of how to do so.
If you have any questions on this feel free to drop them in the comment section below and I will be happy to help you out.
Big Robb is out
P.S. If you found this post helpful and want more of my homebrewing trainings sent directly to your email inbox be sure to sign up for my newsletter on the side of the blog