If you’re a beer lover, you’ve probably wondered at some point how to brew your own beer at home. The process seems intimidating and complex. However, once you understand the basics and invest in the proper equipment, it’s surprisingly easy. You’ll be able to brew custom beer creations to suit your taste right at home in no time at all.
Is brewing beer at home difficult?
At the basic level, brewing beer is quite simple. It’s been done since ancient times, and before commercial breweries, brewing beer at home was something everybody did. While widespread breweries, both large and small, have made buying beer convenient and affordable, many people still enjoy brewing beer at home. It’s rewarding and allows you to make beer that fits your exact palate.
Brewing beer at home isn’t difficult, but it definitely requires some education and investment. There are certain tools and ingredients you absolutely must have to get started on your homebrewing journey. However, once you make this investment, the money you save on buying commercial beer will definitely make it worth it.
Getting started brewing beer at home
Brewing beer involves four basic ingredients and four basic steps. Once you learn the basics, you can start getting fancy and experimenting with your recipes. But first, you should master the basics.
Ingredients in beer
Every beer is made up of four main ingredients. These are:
Malt is a grain that has been prepared for brewing, using a process called malting. There are many different kinds of malt you can use in your homebrew beer. Malted barley is the most common base for beer, but malted wheat is also a popular choice. Some beers use unmalted grains, like corn and rice, but we recommend getting comfortable with malt first.
Malt is what provides the sugar that the yeast consumes during fermentation to create alcohol. Thus, the type of malt you use will determine the strength of your beer. Most homebrewers do not malt their own grain. Malt can be purchased in any homebrew supply shop. You can also use malt extract, which is a more highly processed form of malt.
Hops provide the bitterness that beer is known for. They balance out the malt sweetness and add aroma and flavor to the brew.
Hops are used in much smaller quantities than malt, even in the most bitter beers. Hops are added in different amounts at different points in the brewing process, depending on the style of beer the brewer wants to make. Most homebrewers use pelletized hops, as they are easy to store and use.
Yeast is incredibly important to the brewing process, as it’s what turns the unfermented grain mash into alcoholic beer. The yeast consumes the sugar from the malt and produces carbon dioxide and ethanol, aka alcohol. Both the alcohol and the bubbles produced by carbon dioxide are vital to beer.
There are many different types of yeast available for homebrewing, and each offers different flavors and characteristics to the final beer. Two main strains used are “normal” brewer’s yeast, saccharomyces cerevisiae, lager yeast, saccharomyces pastorianus. You can find them as dry yeast or liquid yeast, depending on the process you’ll be using.
Did you know that most beers are over 90% water by volume? It’s true. There is also a lot of water used during the homebrew process that does not end in the final beer. You can use tap water in your homebrewing as long as it tastes good and normally drink it. If you don’t want to use tap water, you can use bottled spring water instead.
Equipment needed to brew beer
You’ll need to invest in some basic equipment before you can get started brewing beer at home. Most homebrew shops will sell a kit with the basic equipment you need to get started. However, the more complicated the brewing technique, the more equipment you’ll need to buy. Below is a list of basic tools you’ll need to begin brewing.
This is the vessel that will hold your wort, or your grain mash, while it ferments. This is usually a large bucket of some kind with a securely fitting lid. Ensure your fermenter is large enough to fit the amount of wort you’re planning on putting inside it.
An airlock is inserted into the top of your fermenter and allows carbon dioxide to escape without letting contaminants in. This keeps your beer fresh while fermenting but allows pressure to escape your fermenter, so it doesn’t explode.
Brew pot or brew kettles
Boiling to steep your grains is one of the key steps to home-brewing beer, and this boiling all takes place inside a brew pot. This is a large pot of kettle, usually with a capacity of about 1.5-5 gallons. If you’re planning on brewing a large batch of beer, make sure your brew pot is large enough to fit all your ingredients, with plenty of space left to avoid boiling over.
A heat source
You can’t boil without heat, right? You’ll need a heat source that is powerful enough to bring your large brew pot full of ingredients to a boil. The stove in your kitchen should work fine, at least for small to medium-sized batches.
Investing in a siphoning or tubing system is a great way to transfer your wort, or your finished beer, from container to container without lifting, pouring, and possibly spilling your beer. Auto-siphons work wonderfully, as they create a vacuum to pump liquid from one vessel to another without introducing too much oxygen, or other contaminants, into your beer.
Keeping your homebrew equipment clean is vital to the process. Make sure you thoroughly clean each item after every use to avoid a sticky mess. You can purchase specialized home-brew cleaners, but unscented dish soap works just as well.
It’s very important to sanitize your equipment, in addition to cleaning it, to make sure there are no microorganisms that can spoil your beer left on your equipment. There are home-brew-specific sanitizers available for purchase, but a homemade mixture of 1 oz. of bleach per gallon of water should do the trick. Make sure to rinse thoroughly after using bleach on your equipment.
A hydrometer is a special tool used to measure the final gravity, or the sugar density, in your wort and final beer. This isn’t an absolute necessity, but a hydrometer will help you closely monitor fermentation and calculate specifics like alcohol content.
Additionally, if you plan on bottling your home-brew, you’ll need glass bottles, bottle caps, and a bottle capper.
How to brew your own beer
Once you’ve gathered your ingredients and equipment, you’re ready to begin brewing. There are four main steps to the brewing process: malting, mashing, boiling, and fermenting. Just keep in mind that the exact timing and process will vary based on your beer recipe.
- The first step to making beer is malting. This is the process of turning the raw grain into malt. This is done by germinating the grains and allowing naturally occurring enzymes to activate. Then, the malt is dried by heating in a process called kilning. Most homebrewers buy their grains pre-malted since the process is so intensive. If you’ve bought pre-malted grain, you can begin with step two.
- The second step to brewing beer is mashing. During this step, malted grains are soaked in hot water. The starch molecules in the grains are dissolved in the hot water, and the enzymes break the large starch molecules down into smaller molecules of sugar. Malt sugar from the mash provides fuel for the yeast during fermentation.
- The next step is boiling. During this process, a solution of water and malt mash, called wort, is boiled. The boiling sanitizes the wort and helps to stabilize the finished beer. Hops are also added during the boil, and the bitter compounds are extracted. After boiling, the wort should be cooled before the yeast is added.
- The final step in the process is fermentation. During this step, you will pour the yeast into the cooled wort mixture. This begins the fermentation process, which can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, and it’s when the carbonation occurs. Some brewers also choose to include a secondary fermentation, which can help your beer clear more. Once the beer has fermented to the brewer’s liking, it can be transferred to your bottling bucket, bottled, and served.
Homebrewing beer is incredibly rewarding and a ton of fun—just remember that your first batch of beer is like a trial run. It allows you to brew beer customized to your unique tastes and share your homemade creations with your friends. It does involve some investment in ingredients and equipment, but it’s completely worth it. Plus, once you get going, the money you save from your homemade beer will pay for the cost of homebrewing.
If you want to enjoy a few India Pale Ales or a Lager while you get your home-brewing operation up and running, Saucey will deliver. We offer speedy delivery and no order minimums on an incredible variety of wine, beer, and spirits. Shop our extensive beer selection and treat yourself to a six-pack today. Plus, for more lifestyle articles, cocktail recipes, and liquor recommendations, check out our blog.