So, it’s finally time to make your own beer. The dream of crafting your own beer is something almost everyone dreams of doing since they first sip a brew, accompanied by the thought: “I can make this.”
You may have the willpower and determination to make your own beer at home, but do you have the knowledge? If not, then you came to the right place.
You’re about to begin an exciting challenge that is nearly as old as human civilization itself. People have been brewing beer for thousands of years, and, luckily, the basic process has not changed much.
We will explain everything you need to know to brew your own bottles of delicious beer. Every step will be laid out, and every term will be defined. By the end, you’ll have all the knowledge necessary to get brewing at home.
Step 1: Gather Your Tools
The first step towards making beer at home is gathering up the necessary tools of the trade. If you want your brew to turn out right, you must get the right equipment to get the job done.
Here’s a comprehensive list of what you need to get:
- Brewing Kettle: This is essential for boiling and reducing wort
- Bottling Bucket With Spigot: This uses gravity to transfer liquid into bottles
- Fermenter: Wort is placed inside and cooled to begin the fermentation process
- Air Lock: This protects brew from contamination
- Sanitizer: This kills microbes and bacteria on equipment for safe brewing
- Auto-Siphon: This transfers fermented liquid from one container to another
- Stir Spoon: You’ll use this to mix yeast, unstick a mash, and more
- Bottle Capper: This is a device to cap and seal filled bottles of beer
- Hydrometer: This tool measures the Specific Gravity (SG) of brew and helps monitor alcohol content
How you decide to gather all these ingredients is at your discretion. Just be prepared for the costly investment for the highest quality materials. You could get even fancier with your equipment if you can afford it. There are all sorts of specialized gadgets out there that hyper-focus on specific aspects of brewing that, while interesting, are ultimately unnecessary.
Alternatively, you could invest in a basic homebrewing kit that provides the bare necessities you’ll need in your beer-making journey. There are plenty available on the market that takes the guesswork out of getting the right equipment.
Step 2: Sanitize Everything
This step is critical to creating a safe and drinkable brew.
A successful batch of beer requires that all the equipment you’ve gathered is completely sanitized ahead of time—every single piece. It may seem like an annoying task that isn’t as exciting as the brewing itself, but you must do it properly.
Anything that comes into contact with your brew after the boiling portion needs to be completely sanitized. Since this process involves fermentation, or the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms, lack of proper sanitation can cause serious problems.
Why Is Sanitizing So Important?
Beer needs to be formed in an environment where yeast can eat away at sugars without competing with any other microorganisms. Yeast is the crucial ingredient in fermentation that allows sugar to convert into alcohol, and it is the main living ingredient in this entire process.
Unwanted competition for yeast comes in the form of bacteria. If bacteria has infiltrated the brew, it will create strange, potentially beer-ruining flavors and textures such as hints of vinegar, cardboard, or an off-putting, viscous mouthfeel. Bacteria can completely disrupt your ability to brew beer properly by preventing yeast from doing its job by producing alcohol.
Without sanitizers, other organisms could turn the beer into something sour and undrinkable. A key feature of popular sanitizers is that they are “no-rinse,” which means any equipment can be soaked in the sanitizer and then used right then and there for brewing. This drastically reduces the risk of contaminants because it shortens the time equipment is exposed to the elements after being sanitized.
What Kind of Sanitizer Do You Need?
There are many different sanitizing solutions available to purchase that come with their own instructions; most are self-explanatory. But most cleaning processes are similar and require only a few steps for an easy clean:
- One tablespoon of cleaner (any will do)
- One gallon of warm water
- Make contact with the item for two minutes
And that’s all it takes. No rinsing is required, and some items like the brewing kettle may not need to be sanitized since the boiling process does it automatically. But if you’re a prudent and cautious kind of brewer, it doesn’t hurt to sanitize every item in use regardless.
Step 3: Gather Your Ingredients
Now that you have all your tools and they’re completely sanitized, it’s time to collect the ingredients.
All beer has four basic ingredients that, regardless of style, are required. They are as follows:
It is essential to fully understand what each ingredient brings to the table and why they are essential to brewing beer.
Hops are cone-shaped flowers from the Humulus lupulus plant. Hops are arguably the most “famous” ingredient used in beer, and finding the right balance of how many hops to use distinguishes one beer from another.
Your hops must be added to the wort for bitterness and are mainly used to balance the sweetness of malt and give different aromas to the brew. In case you were wondering, wort is the liquid extracted from the mashing process during the brewing of beer that contains sugars fermented by yeast during the fermentation process.
Additionally, hops have many other properties that aid in brewing, such as providing stability, head reduction, spoilage prevention, and acting as a natural clarifier. All hops contain alpha and beta acids that contribute to the stability and bitterness of the beer, and they also contain essential oils which boil off to add a unique flavor.
Beer is brewed by fermenting the sugars in malted grains such as barley and wheat.
Homebrewers must embrace the process of malting where seeds need to sprout, then halted through kiln drying before accessing the sugars within. Then these malted grains need to be mashed and soaked in hot water to convert the grain's starch into sugars.
The wort created from this process is boiled with hops and other critical ingredients and then cooled with yeast to ferment it all.
For homebrew, it is not essential to mash the wort yourself if it seems too daunting a task. Instead, you can use a malt extract to skip this step and get right to use the end product of the malting process. All that is needed is liquid malt extract and dry malt extract to add to your brew.
Yeast is the most essential ingredient in brewing beer and is the primary agent of fermentation.
Yeasts are eukaryotic, single-celled microorganisms that have been used in fermentation for ages. Yeasts are fungus that reproduces asexually and can live with or without oxygen in their environment.
What makes yeast special for fermentation is that, in low-oxygen environments like a wort, they consume sugar and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol as waste byproducts.
There are two major types of yeast fermentation for alcoholic beverages like beer:
Top-fermenting yeasts create an ale-style beer, while bottom-fermenting produces a lager-style beer.
These yeast strains are two different species, with Top-fermenting yeast forming foam at the top of the wort at warmer temperatures of 60˚–70˚F. Alternatively, bottom-fermenting yeast works at much colder temperatures of 35˚–50˚F. This style takes much longer and can take up to 6 to 8 weeks to ferment.
Ale-style yeasts can produce drinks such as Great South Bay Brewery’s Massive, an IPA ale that consists of malted barley. Lager-style beers make drinks like Kim Hibiscus Sour Lager from Singlecut Beersmiths, which utilizes wheat malt.
Since beer is 95% water, it is one of the most important ingredients. Water affects beer in three essential ways:
- Water can determine the flavor of the “wort.”
- Different pH levels can have an impact on bitterness.
- Contaminants, such as chlorine, can affect the beer’s taste.
There are different ions in water that will affect beer, including calcium, chloride, magnesium, sodium, and sulfate. Each one can have a different impact on the taste of your beer.
Step 4: Brew It All Together
Now you have everything you need to start brewing, let’s get started:
Start by filling up your brew kettle with an appropriate amount of water (based on the size of your kettle) and start heating it.
As the water heats, steep the grains for about twenty minutes (or until the water reaches a high enough temperature of 170˚F).
In case you’re wondering what “steeping” is, here’s all you need to know. Steeping when one soaks crushed grains in hot water to extract color and flavor.
When the grains are removed from the kettle, let the water drip out. Remember not to squeeze the grain bag, so you don’t extract tannins and accidentally add undesired flavor to the beer.
Bring to a Boil
Bring the kettle to a rolling boil, then remove it from heat and add whatever malt extracts you’ve gathered.
Wait until the added extracts are dissolved, and then return the entire thing to a boil. Then prepare to add hops at different intervals to the boil going forward but be careful not to over boil them. The addition of hops depends entirely on what kind of beer recipe you’re going for and should be decided beforehand.
Cool Your Wort
Now, wort has been produced. This sugary water is primed for fermentation and needs to be cooled as quickly as you can. There are a few ways to do this, including:
- Ice Bath: Set your pot into a sink of ice water
- Use a Wort Chiller: A supplementary tool that can be inserted into the wort
Once your wort is cooled, it’s time to start fermenting the whole brew.
Step 5: Fermentation
Fermentation turns all the sugars in the wort into actual alcohol, thus making beer the alcoholic beverage that we all know and love.
Find a way to transfer your boiled and cooled wort into a fermenter. Some kettles have specialized additions, while other times, you may need to utilize an auto-siphon for this transfer.
Once poured into the fermenter, it’s time to add in some essential ingredients and do a few important more steps:
- Add in water: An appropriate amount for brew and fermenter size
- Stir wort with stir spoon: Important to add oxygen
- Add yeast: Dry yeast is the easiest option
- Seal fermenter: Add in fermentation airlock and store in a cool place
Step 6: Bottling
Flash forward roughly two weeks for the fermentation process to be complete. Make sure it’s at the alcoholic content you desire by using a hydrometer to measure the Specific Gravity (SG) and anticipate the beer’s alcohol content by volume (or ABV).
If it’s ready and fermented to perfection, then it’s time to bottle your beer.
Begin by cleaning and sanitizing all your equipment once again, including the bottles you intend to use.
Then, boil priming sugars in water to prepare for the transfer of your fermented liquid to the bottles. After the priming sugars cool, add them directly to your bottling bucket. Finally, use your auto-siphon once again to transfer the ferment into the bottling bucket along with those boiled sugars. Be sure to leave as many extra sediments in the fermenter as you possibly can!
Fill each bottle to the very top until every single one is ready to be capped. You can do this transfer in a variety of ways, such as a bottling spigot or a hose. Whatever works best for you and your budget.
Cap every bottle with a bottle capper, sealing the beer inside completely. Then, store your capped bottles at room temperature for a few weeks (upwards of two) to allow for the final stage of brewing to finalize.
Step 7: Refrigerate
You have reached the final countdown of brewing beer. After being bottled and left to sit for a few weeks, the end result is beer!
You can drink it right then and there, or you can put your bottles into the fridge to be enjoyed later, nice and cool.
To Brew or Not To Brew
Brewing beer can be a daunting task for anyone new to the process, but it is equally as rewarding an experience.
Be sure to keep all your tools organized when making beer and avoid making rookie mistakes, especially when it comes to sanitation. The last thing you want is to ruin all your hard work by skipping a critical step.
Once done, your beer will be the talk of the town at every gathering you bring it to. Nothing is quite as fun as seeing people crack open a bottle of beer you made and enjoy its cool, refreshing taste.
But if you don’t have the time, cash, and patience to brew your own beer right now, you can also shop around for delicious pre-made beers that are on the market. At TapRm, we have a variety of beers from breweries across the country that can satisfy your cravings. Check them out for yourself!