Home brewing has gained popularity in the past few years because it’s sophisticated appeal and endless possibilities. Unfortunately, many people fail at their first attempt of making their own beer. Brewing your own beer is an art form that requires dedication to master. It’s just like cooking any kind of delicate food. The smallest change in the process or recipe can make a huge difference.
I know this sounds intimidating, but anyone can learn how to make great beer. It just takes a little practice and some patience along the way. After a few batches you will be able to start experimenting and make the exact flavors and styles you enjoy drinking. As a side benefit, you’ll also be able to impress all of your friends when they come over for a party. You can hand them a bottle and say, “This is stout I made a few weeks back.” They won’t know what to do.
If you have never made your own beer before it’s a good idea to start with a simple recipe and process. You don’t want to over complicate things in the beginning. At first, you just want to get the process down and learn what every step does. After you master the basics, you can start tweaking the process to come up with something totally custom to your taste buds. Or, you can be like some of us here. We have 4-5 different batches going at the same time!
The basic steps for starting your first brew batch are simple. You might want to purchase a beginner beer making kit and some home brewing supplies to get started. Most basic kits include the malt extract, hops, yeast, and muslin bags. They also have basic instructions with a simple recipe included.
Here are some simple instructions for the general process.
Heat the Water
First, you will want to get a 5 gallon kettle to boil your water in. You can start with a smaller batch, but let’s be honest. If you are going to go through the process of making beer, I would make at least a 5 gallon batch.
We generally fill a 5-gallon stainless steel kettle with water and bring it to 170 degrees over a propane burner. A stovetop works just fine, but we like to use a propane burner because it’s faster.
Steep the Grains
Put the grains from your kit the muslin bag and tie off the top, so no grains can escape in the water. I generally like to steep the grains for about a half an hours. This transfers all of the flavor and color into the water.
After a half an hour of stirring the grains occasionally, I remove the bag from the kettle and rinse it out with clean, warm water over the kettle. This gets the rest of the flavor out of the grains and into your pot.
Add Malt Extract
The malt extract typically has the consistency of molasses, so it will be a little thick and sticky. Make sure you scrape everything out of the jar. I even rise it out with a little warm water to make sure I get all the extract out.
Bring to a Boil
At this point the batch of steeped and malted water is called a wort. Wort is a word that describes an unfermented beer. Bring the wort to slow gentle boil. You don’t want your pot to go crazy and boil over the top. You just want a slight simmer.
Add the Hops and Whirlfloc Tablet
Take the hops that are included in your kit and place them in another muslin bag. Tie off the top so none of them get loose in the wort. I generally like to boil the hops for about an hour to get all the flavor out of them.
The hops have a nice bitter taste that counter balances sweet, sugary flavor of the malt extract.
After about 15 minutes of boiling, I added a whilfloc tablet to the wort. This helps clarify and sanitize the beer.
Sanitize all Bottling Containers
Since the boiling process takes about an hour, you have plenty of time to clean all of the equipment used to bottle the beer. I generally get a food sanitizer that can be mixed in a sink or pot of water, but you can just use regular dish soap. The main thing is that you make sure all of your bottling supplies are clean and ready for use once the wort is done boiling.
Chill the Wort
After the hour boiling process is done and you have removed the bag of hops from the kettle, you will have to cool the wort down, so it’s not 200 plus degrees. You can either let it sit for a while or you can use a chiller.
Since we make so many batches of beer, we just use a wort chiller to quickly transfer the heat out of the wort. Using a chiller is simple. Just hook it up to a water line or hose and place it in the wort pot.
When the water flows through the wort chiller, it transfers the heat into the coils and out of the wort kettle. Just make sure your chiller is sanitized before you use it.
Transfer the Wort and Add the Yeast
Now you’ll have to transfer the wort into a fermenter or fermenting container. Since we are making a 5-gallon batch of beer, we will use a 6-gallon fermenter. This gives us enough room for the beer to ferment, rise, and foam without expanding the container.
After you have syphoned the wort into the fermenter, you will need to top it off to a full 5-gallons with cold water. Then you can add the yeast packet. There are tons of different kinds of yeast that you can use. Your basic kit should come with freeze-dried ale yeast that will work great.
Ferment the Beer
Place the air lock on the top of the fermenter and wait about two weeks for the wort to ferment. The air lock is a water-controlled lock that allows carbon dioxide from the fermenting process out of the fermenter but doesn’t allow water and bacterial into the batch. This is an essential supply that you must have if you want to make drinkable beer.
Most beers take about 2 weeks to ferment, so keep it in a normal temperature room or garage. You don’t want extreme colds or heats in the fermenting process. It will cause the process to speed up or slow down. Both of which are bad.
Carbonate your Beer
After the two-week fermenting process, you have beer. Well, kind of. : ) First, you’ll need to carbonate the beer before you can actually drink it. The simplest way to carbonate your beer is to add carbonating sugars and let it sit for another week.
Prepare a corn sugar solution with 3 or 4 ounces of corn sugar with 1 or 2 cups of water. Mix it up thoroughly and pour it into the 5-gallon kettle we used earlier.
You can then syphon the beer from the fermenter into the 5-gallon kettle. Mix up the sugar solution.
Bottle your Homemade Brew
Obviously, make sure all of the bottles, caps, and siphons are completely sanitized before you use them.
Carefully, fill up each bottle with beer and crimp on a cap.
Wait for a Week and Enjoy!
The entire carbonation process takes about a week, so leave your freshly bottled beers in a safe place for about 7-8 days and wait for the sugar to turn into C02.
After the carbonation process is done, you have a fresh batch of beer to enjoy. Crack one open and see what you created.
This is the fun part. We like to review our notes from the brewing process and see what we can change with the next batch to improve our recipe and process. Like I said before. Home brewing is a journey and an art form. You need to spend time with your recipe and your process in order to make something truly spectacular.
Plus, it’s just fun. We have a blast. I hope you get something out of this introduction beer-making article and your first batch turns out great!