How to Brew Beer at Home – Everything You Need to Know
Until now, brewing beer at home was not common. But, these days, home brewing is on the verge of becoming a mainstream activity.
If you are someone who has decided to make your beer at home, this beginners guide is for you. It talks about everything you need to know, including the home brewing equipment that you’ll need, along with the whole process of brewing your beer at home. So, shall we get started?
Beer Basics – All You Need to Know
It is essential to understand the fundamentals, especially if you’re a beginner. Start with getting some insight into different types and styles of beer. This will inspire you and allow you to get more creative at brewing your own beer.
How do you brew beer? To answer this question, let’s start with the list of ingredients you’ll need. There are four main ingredients in beer:
- Water – This is the main ingredient as 95% of your final product will be water. The quality of water that you use will have a great impact on the quality of the final product.
- Yeast – This single-cell organism will eat sugar and convert it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. It will help in fermentation and will turn your sweet brown tea into beer.
- Grains or Malt Extract – The most common type of grain used for brewing beer is barley. However, you can also use alternatives like wheat, corn, rice or sorghum. So, in case you are using the All Grain method, consider purchasing barley in its whole form. If you are using the Malt Extract method, get barley malt. It is a soup of sugar and soluble starches that is ready for fermentation.
- Hops – You will need this to give flavor and aroma to your homemade beer. Additionally, hops will work as a bacterial inhibitor and help you in counteracting the sweetness that is leftover from the fermentation process. You’ll find that different kinds of hops have different flavors.
There are three fermentation methods: Lagers, Ales and Wild and Sour Ales. Lagers are made with yeast that ferments at the bottom of the mixture. Ales are also made with yeast but will ferment at the top. Wild and Sour Ales are brewed with yeasts that ferment spontaneously.
Fermentation with any of these methods will help you brew beer of a similar style and quality, but the aroma, taste and consistency will differ.
As mentioned earlier, there are two types of brewing methods:
This involves extracting sugars from the grain with a method called mashing. It converts the starches and turns them into fermentable sugars. Once done, another process called sparging will take place. It rinses the resulting sugars from the grains. After the fermentable sugars are extracted from the grain, the actual brewing process takes place. We will learn about this soon.
You don’t have to go through the mashing process here as it’s already been done by someone else. You’ll get the ready-made package in the form of a liquid or dry malt extract. You can further use this malt extract in brewing your beer.
This step-by-step homebrewing guide will talk about the all-extract process today. Make sure to read the steps thoroughly before you start brewing your beer.
The process is easy, and you can successfully brew at home. But, at the same time, if you are not careful, several things can go wrong; from yeast failing to ferment to foul, rotten-egg-smelling brew. So, go through this comprehensive guide and make note of every step involved in brewing your beer successfully.
How to Brew Beer at Home
What Will You Need?
You’ll need the right equipment to brew homemade beer. This includes:
- Fermenter – Once the brewing process is in the fermentation stage, your beer is known as wort. You will need a large vessel to hold the wort while it ferments.
- Airlock – The top of your fermenter will be securely closed, which leaves no room for carbon dioxide (produced during fermentation) to escape. The airlock will do what is required.
- Brew Kettle – The boiling will take place in the kettle. If you are a beginner, it is recommended to make a limited amount of homebrew. For this, a 1.5 – gallon kettle will be sufficient. Although, there’s no harm in getting a larger one, it’s totally up to you.
- Burner – Having a strong heat source is important. It helps you bring the gallons of brew you are making to a boil within the required time. The stovetop may work for small batches, but for the bigger ones, go for a 72,000 BTU burner.
- Siphon with Tubing – This is important. Siphoning your wort or the finished product from one vessel to another can sometimes go wrong. It is recommended that you find an auto-siphon to help you create the required vacuum you need to get this part of the process done.
- Cleaner – Like cooking, home brewing also requires that you keep things nice and clean as you go. Imagine using dirty pans, dishes or cutlery for dinner. However, try to avoid scented cleaners while brewing beer.
- Sanitizer – This is in addition to cleaning. Sanitizing is mandatory to kill the microorganisms that would otherwise create havoc with your brew.
- Hydrometer – Especially as a beginner, you will need this to measure the sugar density of the wort. It helps to have precise control over the fermentation process. You can also consider using a refractometer as a substitute if you can’t locate a hydrometer.
- Thermometer – This helps you monitor the temperature of the water during the initial stages of beer brewing.
- Wort Chiller – The experts always recommend that you have a wort chiller for cooling down the wort.
- Malt Extract
- A bag of Northern Brewer hops
- A pack of Fuggle hops
- A bag of crushed, vacuum-sealed grain
- A whirlfloc tablet to get rid of sediments
- A pack of US-05 Ale Yeast
- 4 hop steeping bags
All-Extract Home Brewing Process
So, if you are ready with the brew kit and the list mentioned above, let’s begin the process of brewing the beer at home.
Step 1: Cleaning and Sanitization
Cleaning everything thoroughly is one of the most important steps when brewing beer at home. Similarly, it is equally important to have proper sanitation in place to get a quality brew with no odd colors or off-flavors.
You can find plenty of cleaning solutions on the market. Get a highly-effective sanitizer that is ideal for home brewing. This ensures that all the contaminants are eliminated while allowing you to end with a good quality, final product.
Step 2: Heat the Water
Pour the water into your brewing kettle and heat it to about 170 degrees over your preferred burner. This won’t take long if you are making a small batch. To make the process worthwhile, it is recommended to make at least 5 gallons at a time.
Step 3: Steep the Grains
Take the grains from your kit and fill them in the muslin bag. Tie off the top and place the bag in hot water like you would a tea bag for about half an hour, making sure to stir it occasionally.
Remove the bag once this part of the process is over. Rinse the bag with clean, warm water over the kettle. This enables you to extract the final bits of flavor and add them to your homemade beer.
Step 4: Add the Malt Extract
Add the malt extract. It is pre-portioned and has the consistency of molasses. Be patient and ensure that you get it all. You can even rinse the tub with warm water to make sure you get every bit of it. Once collected, add it to the brew.
Step 5: Boil the Kettle Mixture
The kettle mixture, i.e. water and extract mixture, is now your wort or unfermented homemade beer. Bring your wort to boil. Be sure to bring it to a nice, slow, gentle boil to avoid bubbling.
Step 6: Add the Hops and Whirlfloc Tablet
Now is the time to get rid of the majority of the Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS) content, which is a by-product of the fermentation process. Place the hops in the muslin bag pre-filled with grains. Tie it off and suspend the bag in the boiling wort for 90 minutes. Do not cover the brewing pot while boiling the hops. This process will counteract the sweetness of the malt.
Do not forget to add the whirlfloc tablet after 15 minutes of suspending the bag of hops.; this helps sanitize your beer.
Step 7: Chill the Wort
Turn off the burner once the hops have had the chance to boil for at least 90 minutes. Let the wort cool down. You can leave it to cool on its own, or you can use the wort chiller we discussed earlier to speed up the process. At this stage, it is also recommended that you use a thermometer to ensure that the wort is cooled down to the right temperature.
Step 8: Transfer the Wort
Now, once the wort has cooled down completely, transfer it to the fermenter. You can use your siphon to do this. Remember, your fermenter should be bigger than the batch size; this gives enough room to ferment and foam without creating internal pressure. If the fermenter is not bigger than the batch size, the chances are that the fermenter will be compromised.
Step 9: Measure the Initial Gravity
Measure the specific gravity of the wort. Gravity is the density of the wort. This will help you figure out the sugar content in the brew and how the fermentation process is moving along. The fermentation is accurate if you see the sugar content decreasing.
The other reason for measuring specific gravity is to know the ABV level, i.e. the Alcohol by Volume level. The sugars are converted into alcohol during the fermentation process. So, when you measure the decreasing specific gravity, you can find the amount of sugar that has converted to alcohol.
For this, you can use a hydrometer or even a refractometer.
Step 10: Add Yeast to the Wort
Kick off the fermentation process by adding the yeast to the wort. The wort contains considerable amounts of sugar. Adding yeast will trigger the sugar to create even more yeast. This ultimately helps in producing alcohol in beer.
Make sure that the yeast is activated before you add it. Again, the process of activating depends on what type of yeast you are planning to use:
- Dry Yeast: This yeast does not require activation and is commonly found in brewing kits. However, make sure that the dry yeast you use is at room temperature before you add it to the wort; otherwise, it will die.
- Liquid Yeast: This kind of yeast requires activation. Shake the container vigorously to do so.
The type of yeast you use also impacts the different aromas and flavors in your homebrewed beer.
Step 11: Ferment the Beer
It’s time to ferment your beer. Place the airlock on the top of the fermenter and let the whole thing sit for around two weeks. The beer will ferment during this two-week timeframe. The airlock allows the carbon dioxide to escape during the fermenting process without letting air or bacteria sneak in.
Be sure that the temperature of the room where the ferment is placed is steady and normal. The swing in the temperature can screw up the fermentation process.
At this stage, you can consider secondary fermentation. Secondary fermentation is about transferring your beer from the first vessel into another. The secondary fermenters are usually made of glass. You can transfer the beer and leave it to age for a period of two days to several months. However, this is optional. So, it’s up to you if you want to consider secondary fermentation.
Step 12: Measure the Final Gravity
Measure the specific gravity of your brew again at this point. This shows the remaining quantity of sugar once the fermentation process completes. Basically, it tells you the alcohol content in your beer. Your beer should have a low final gravity to get a dry or crisp flavor. If it’s high; it tends to have a sweet or malty flavor.
Step 13: Carbonate Your Beer
After a 2-week fermentation process, the result is your delicious homebrewed beer. However, to create a beer that most modern drinkers understand and love, you need to carbonate it. To carbonate your beer, you can add carbonating sugars to it and let it sit for another week. You can make carbonated sugar yourself by mixing 3 or 4 ounces of corn sugar with 1 or 2 cups of water.
Step 14: Kegging or Bottling
This is the last step. Once your beer has carbonated, it’s time to store your beer. You can do this in two ways: kegging or bottling. Kegging is a convenient way to store beer, but it’s on the expensive side. On the other hand, bottling requires more time and effort, but it is inexpensive.
It’s Time to Brew Your Beer
Once carbonated, your homemade beer is ready to be served. So, pop one open and savor the flavors you created. Compliment your beer-making adventure by getting a beer tattoo for yourself. Also, don’t forget to make notes about what you liked and didn’t like regarding the final product. This will help you tweak things when you make your beer the next time.