As I mentioned yesterday, homebrewing is a gigantic process, so to fit all of the information in I decided to do this in two posts. Sorry, this has by far been my post that has required the most editing. There’s just so much to say and so many things that you would need to know before you get started. I actually recommend that you pick up a couple of books, hit up your local homebrew forums and events and get a little bit of expert advice before you start tackling brewing more seriously at home. Let’s dive right back in shall we:
Once you have your recipe in hand, with fancy names like “Melanoidin Malt” and strange abbreviations like DME/LME (dried malt extract and liquid malt extract, respectively), head to your local homebrew shop, whether digital or brick-and-mortar. There, you’ll be able to pick up the grains/malt, yeast, hops, and anything else you could need to brew. According to the German Purity Law of 1516 (or Reinheitsgebot), all beer must only contain water, grain, yeast, and hops, but most brewers these days are a bit more open-minded, including things like coffee, vanilla, fruit, spices, and many other delicious additions.
After you have all of your ingredients in hand, you’ll need some equipment. You’ll need a pot that is 5 gallons or larger, stainless steel or aluminum, a fermenter (essentially a food-grade plastic bucket with a hole drilled in the lid), and a heat source (you can use a gas burner or your stovetop, though the stove will take some time). Clean your equipment thoroughly, using a food-safe sanitizer.
Fill your pot with 5 gallons of water, and bring to temperature. For malt extract, bring your water to a boil and skip ahead. For grains, you will bring your water to around 160F, and add your grains, cover the pot, and let them steep for 30 minutes. Once 30 minutes has passed, strain out the grain or transfer the liquid to another pot, and bring the liquid to a boil. The length of the boil depends on the flavor you’re trying to achieve: boil longer for more roasted and carmel flavors, and a shorter boil for lighter beer flavors. Add your hops, earlier in the boil for a bittering effect, later for flavor, and even later for aroma.
Once you’ve finished boiling your sugar water with hops, cool down the “wort”, as it’s known, to around 100F. Transfer the liquid to your fermenter bucket, and add your yeast. Shake the bucket a few times to get some air into the solution, and your yeast will be happy little critters. Seal your lid tightly, and wait two weeks.
At the end of two weeks, you can transfer your beer to either a keg or bottles. The keg can be force-pressurized to carbonate the beer and make it fizzy. With the bottling method, it’s a bit more complicated. You’ll add some corn sugar to your beer before your transfer it to bottles, which is very easy for the yeast to eat, and they will make small amounts of carbon dioxide, which, when the bottles are capped, will carbonate the beer. This will take another two weeks for the yeast to completely eat these sugars, and carbonate your beer. Opening the beer before this will leave your beer flat or tasting “green” (a word for the less clean flavor that un-aged beer can have).
After this, all that’s left is for you to enjoy the beer you’ve made.
Have I mentioned that this whole process takes hours upon hours upon hours? Literally I think the fastest I’ve ever brewed a batch of beer was maybe about 6 hours. This one took longer, but that was because we had some burner trouble. So this is a fun time investment, but I recommend taking at least eight hours out of your day to set aside for brewing if you’re interested in it. It’s something we usually do on the weekends when we already have friends over and can check on it from time to time.
This is also an investment of space. For a lot of people this is the easy part, but when you live in a small apartment or move around a lot it can be a bit overwhelming. You don’t need a kegorator or mini fridge to store your beer in while it ferments, but it really does help. You’re looking for control with the temperature and if you live some place colder like Minnesota then you’re golden. If you live somewhere hot, like Texas, then you will struggle with this a bit more. Apparently some people up north make their beer and just set it outside until it’s ready. I can’t even conceive of that. It’s still eighty degrees closing in on fall here, and this is what we call a “cold snap”.
Hope this extremely basic overview helps you guys get a handle on brewing and answers any questions you might have about the basic process. Obviously with different recipes and types of beer you have different needs, so this isn’t really a catch-all, but it should help you get your foot in the door. Now I’ve just got to wait a few weeks and it’ll be nothing but beer and soft pretzels for days.
Lots of Love,