How to Get Started with Home Brewing

You’re standing in the beer aisle one day and one of two thoughts goes through your head. Either you decide store bought beer costs too much or there’s no beer on the shelf that completely satisfies you. So you decide you should get into home brewing, but aren’t sure where or exactly how to get started. I think I can offer you some pointers.

The first piece of advice I can give you is to get good advice. If your town has a home brew club, join up. Ask lots of brewing questions of the people around you. Your fellow brewers can tell you what shops to buy your supplies at. They can tell you what equipment you do or don’t need. Once that’s done, you’re ready to visit one of those home brew stores and pick up your supplies to start brewing.

When you go to the home brew store you’ll pick up some supplies to make your beer with. A few odds and ends aside, your homebrew equipment list should look something like this:

4 gallon pot
5-6.5 gallon glass carboy
5-10 gallon plastic bucket
fermentation airlock
rubber stoppers
bottle capper
plastic hose
thermometer
hydrometer
bottle washer
bottle caps
5 dozen beer bottles (the kind you need a bottle opener to open up)
sanitizing agent.

Now, until you get into the swing of things I’m going to recommend using homebrew equipment kits. Basically, someone has got your beer started for you. They assembled the grains, extracted the sugars, added some hops. Then the wort was boiled down to a thick syrup, kind of like a big, beer flavored can of molasses. When you brew from one of these kits most of the work is done, making your job that much easier.

Brewing your first kit should be fairly easy if you follow some basic instructions. Start with the following ingredients:
5-6 lb can of beer kit, whatever style you want to make
1 pkg ale yeast
water for boiling

1) Bring 2 gallons water to the boil. Add the contents of your beer kit, stir to combine. Allow your beer to boil uncovered for 20-30 minutes. This will make sure your kit is well sanitized.

2) Sanitize the five gallon bucket. Remember, everything that touches your beer must be sanitized to prevent the beer from infection by beer spoiling organisms. Just follow the directions on the sanitizing agent you bought.

3) Add water to the bucket. Add 3 gallons ice water to the bucket to help cool the beer you have boiling on the stove. Place the bucket in a sink full of ice and add your wort. Place a sanitized thermometer in the bucket so you can monitor the beer’s temperature.

4) When the temperature drops to 75F add your yeast. This way the wort isn’t so hot to kill the yeast but still warm enough that your yeast will stay active and ferment your beer. Also, you want to draw off a sample of beer and measure it with your hydrometer. The hydrometer will tell you how much sugar you have in your beer. A reading later will tell you how much of that sugar got turned into alcohol.

5) Take another hydrometer reading 5 days later. This will tell you if your beer’s fully fermented. This is when you transfer your beer into the glass carboy. Let it sit there for a couple of weeks to let it clear up and mature a little.

6) Finally you’re ready to bottle and cap your beer. Sanitize 60 beer bottles and caps. Take a cup of dry malt extract and add it to 2 cups water. Mix, bring to a boil and let it cool. Stir the syrup in to your beer and transfer the beer into the big bucket. Fill the bottles with beer up to 2 iches from the top of the bottle. Cap the bottles and set them aside for two weeks. Residual yeast still living in your beer is going to eat the sugar and produce carbon dioxide. After a couple of weeks the carbon dioxide will dissolve into your beer and it will be carbonated and ready to drink.

Congratulations! You’ve just made beer. If you’ve followed these instructions and sanitized your equipment every step of the way, you Will have made a very drinkable product. And with the variety of beer kits on the market you can stay at this level of brewing for as long as you want. And when the day comes that you want to expand your horizons, the people at the home brew store have plenty of experience and reference books to help you on your way.