In recent years, homebrewing beer has seen a resurgence in popularity. There are many reasons for this, but chief among them is the fact that making your own beer is a fun and rewarding hobby. Homebrewing also allows you to experiment with seemingly endless flavors and styles, and you can customize your beers to match your own taste preferences. Apart from that, there’s some satisfaction to be gained in being able to make your own beer — the same way it feels great making your own craft coffee, but better. Brewing your beer boils down to four steps: preparing, brewing, fermenting, and bottling. Let’s go through the steps one by one.
1. Preparing the Things You Need
You’ll need a bunch of things to brew your own beer. First, choose a recipe, and get a kit for it. A kit usually contains all the ingredients you’ll need, so it makes the first time easy. Many seasoned home-brewers recommend choosing darker beers like porters and stouts for your first time, too — their dark color makes it easier to hide mistakes, keeping you from getting disheartened. Apart from the kit, here are other things you can’t brew beer without:
- Brewing Kettle
- Fermenter with Air Lock
- Stir Spoon
The initial investment for homebrewing equipment is around $100, and after that, each batch of beer costs about $30-40 to make. That may seem like a lot, but if you love drinking beer while watching sports, hanging out, and resting after working on your projects, you’ll actually end up saving a lot. The price of each batch is way cheaper compared to the cost of buying craft beer. Once you have all the equipment, you can use it over and over again to make batch after batch of delicious beer. You might also want a funnel to make transferring liquids easier, or if you’d rather spend more money to make it easier, you can even get a transfer pump graded for food. You’ll want this pump later on too if you find that you brew beer lots of times or want to make a business out of it.
As part of the preparation process, clean and sanitize your equipment. Sanitation is one of the most important aspects of homebrewing, and you should clean and sanitize anything before it comes into contact with your beer after the boiling process. If you don’t do these to your equipment, you’ll end up with a batch of beer that’s full of bacteria and other contaminants. This can lead to all sorts of problems, such as off-flavors, sourness, and even infection. Use cleaners like Oxyclean first, and then sanitize them with products like Star San or BTF Iodophor. These products are available at most homebrew stores, and they’re very effective at killing bacteria.
2. Brewing the Beer
Now that you have prepared your equipment and ingredients (which usually come with the Beer Recipe Kit), it’s time to get brewing. While the brew kit should have more detailed instructions, here are the general steps:
- The first step is to steep the grains. Put water in your brew kettle, put the grains in, and heat it. Steep the grains for about 20 minutes or until the water heats up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. If your grains were in a grain bag, lift the bag out of the water, letting water drip out of the grain bag back into the kettle. Avoid squeezing the bag so that you don’t extract tannins, which impart unwanted flavors into the beer.
- Once your kettle comes to a rolling boil, turn down the heat and add malt extracts. Turn up the heat again to a boil once the extracts have dissolved. Usually, you add the hops around this time and at different intervals, but make sure to refer to the recipe you have to know exactly when you have to add them. Remember to avoid boiling it too much when adding the hops!
- Cool down the liquid (called ‘wort,’ or sugar water). You have to cool it as quickly as you can so that it improves the clarity of the liquid and makes tannins and bad proteins fall out. You can cool the wort quickly by putting your kettle in the ice bath or using a wort chiller, which is a long, hollow coil that you can run cold water through. Make sure to avoid letting water from the ice bath or the wort chiller get into your wort; the water that passes through the chiller should come out into a sink.
3. Fermenting the Wort
Remember the part about sanitizing? This part is where sanitation plays an important role because in fermenting, foreign microbes and bacteria have a chance to grow in your wort and spoil your brew. First off, transfer the wort from your kettle into the fermenter. You can do this by ladling, using jars, using a hose, or even a pump; anything works as long as it’s sanitized. Add water if the recipe demands it, then aerate the mix by splashing it around and stirring it. This mixes oxygen into the wort. Then, sanitize your yeast pack and your scissors, and add the yeast. After that, close it off with a seal. Make sure it’s airtight, and then store it in a cool, dry place. Consult the recipe for what temperature you need to maintain. Then you wait for about 2 weeks.
4. Bottling Your Brew
This is the last step. Now is a great time to sanitize the bottles, caps, buckets, ladles, funnels, and any transfer hoses you will use. Prepare your priming sugar as well if your recipe requires it, then put it in the bottling bucket. Siphon the beer out of the fermenter into the bottling bucket. There should be sediment at the bottom; if your recipe requires you to take it, do so, but generally, you should avoid getting any of it. Then, connect the bottling bucket’s spigot to a hose with a bottle filler nozzle, and then fill all your bottles. After that, put caps on the bottles and store them for another 2 weeks, give or take. This will let carbon dioxide mix into the beer, giving you a fizzy head when you open it or pour it. Now, you’re done with the batch!
The whole process takes a month, but most of it is waiting; you only need to do things on two separate days. Day 1 is preparation and brewing day, day 2 is bottling day. Roughly 2 weeks after bottling your beer, you can start refrigerating and drinking it.
Homebrewing beer can be a fun and rewarding experience, especially if you have a good recipe to follow. Brewing, bottling, and drinking are experiences you can share with your friends and any adults in your family. Try brewing your own beer today!