You like beer. Obviously – you are not here for the knitting tips. Would you like to make your own beer, but think it's too hard, or that you are not much of a cook? Well here's some good news! Making your own beer is almost as easy as making macaroni and cheese!
Making Macaroni And Cheese:
- Clean your equipment – At least I hope you use a clean pot when making mac-n-cheese.
- Boil Some Water
- Add The Noodles
- Drain The water
- Add Cheese
Steps for Making Beer:
- Clean your equipment
- Boil some water
- Add your malt extract and hops
- Cool wort and Siphon off into your carboy
- Add Yeast to your wort to ferment
- Bottle your beer
The best part is – not many people are ever impressed by your macaroni and cheese, but they undoubtedly will be impressed by your own beer!
Now let's explain our extreme basics a little more to really give you the confidence you need to make your own beer.
First things first you need the basic equipment to make beer. There are plenty of basic beer making kits available online and many at a fair price. Please read our article – Choosing the Right Brewing Equipment for more details. For simplicity sake, let's just state the bare basics for making your own beer.
- A large stew pot to boil the wort in.
- A large bucket or glass carboy with a fermentation lock
- Siphon hose
- Large spoon
- 50-60 Empty brown beer bottles and un-used bottle caps
- Bottle capper
- Beer Ingredients for your style of beer
Depending on the style of beer you are wanting to make your ingredients will differ, but the general fundamentals remain the same. Now let's get to it and follow through on our “mac-n-cheese” Extreme basics for making your own beer.
Mindset: Relax and have a homebrew! If you don't have a homebrew, find another beer that will help you focus on what your are about to embark on: The wonderful transformation and creation of beer!
Step 1 – Clean Your Equipment!
This step cannot be stressed enough. Sanitization is THE KEY to a successful brewing experience and final beer result. Anything that comes into contact with your wort after the boil has a chance to introduce contaminants that will affect the end result and ultimately taste of your beer. So be sure to thoroughly clean your bottles, caps, siphon hose, spoon, carboy, hydrometer, and fermentation lock with a sanitization solution.
Tip: You can use 1 Tablespoon of white bleach per 1 gallon of water to sanitize your equipment.
NOTE: Even if your sanitization solution says it's a “No Rinse” sanitizer, take the extra couple of seconds and rinse it anyways. It's called a “Sanitizer” for a reason.
Step 2 – Boil Some Water and Malt Extract
Most homebrew recipes reflect a 5 gallon batch of beer. This doesn't always mean you need to boil 5 gallons of water. Based on your beer recipe – you may be able to boil between 2 and 3 gallons of water for your wort.
In your brew pot (large pot) combine water and your extracts needed for your recipe and place on high heat stirring thoroughly. Keep a watch on your beer as you approach the boil. With all the sugars in the extract they will begin to boil up (commonly known as a boil over) right around the time it reaches a boil and this is quite messy. When you see a boil over about to happen – remove the brew pot from heat immediately! If you are using an electric stove top – slide the brew pot onto a burner that is not on and let it settle. Wait for the bubbles to fall and place back on the stove.
Note: You will generally run into between 2 and 4 near boil overs so stay on the ready! Once your wort achieves a successful boil, you are well on your way and shouldn't have to worry about another boil over.
At this time you begin your boil time of 60 minutes.
Step 3 – Add your hops
In general – you boil the wort at a full boil for 60 minutes. Again, depending on the recipe and style – the time may vary. Your hops will also vary. Around the beginning of the full boil you'll add some of your hops. This addition of hops are referred to your bittering hops. Later in the boil with around 15 minutes or so you'll add another addition of hops known as aroma hops.
Step 4 – Cool Wort and Siphon Off into Your Carboy
When the 60 minute boil is complete, try to cool your wort off as fast as possible. By cooling the wort quickly you are:
- Helping the trub coagulate and fall to the bottom of the brew pot
- Helping to remove “chill haze “
- Minimizing time to add the yeast to start fermentation
- Reducing risk of bacteria being introduced to your beer
Ways to quickly cool your wort include:
- Ice Bath – place the brew pot into the sink or bath tub and surround it with ice and cold water
- Purchase a wort chiller, or better yet, make your own wort chiller
- If you live where it's cold or have snow you can place your brew pot right into a snowbank or outside to help cool it off – make sure you have a lid for your brew pot to keep contaminants out.
Once cooled, you want to siphon the wort out of your brew pot into your fermentation bucket or carboy leaving as much trub behind in the brew pot as possible.
If you boiled less than 5 gallons of wort – you may add water to the wort in the carboy to achieve your 5 gallons.
Tip: You may add a couple of gallons of ice to your carboy – so when you add the hot wort, it will help cool your wort down.
Also at this time you'll want to take a sample of your wort to measure your Original Gravity , also known as starting gravity, with your Hydrometer. Please see Reading a Hydrometer for more information. Make sure you write down your starting gravity – this will help you determine the alcohol content of your beer when fermentation is complete.
Step 5: Add Yeast
Just prior to adding the yeast to your wort – you should aerate your wort. This can be done my simply attaching the bung to the carboy – and with your finger over the hole – shake it like CRAZY! Or as Outkast would tell you “Shake it, shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture!” Do this for a minute or so (or the entire length of the song if it really gets you going).
Once the wort is aerated, simply add your yeast, reattach the bung and fermentation lock. This will begin the fermentation process. It is best to keep your fermenting carboy out of directly sunlight and in a dry place. Temperature should be constant also. Many homebrewers place their fermenting carboys in a closet, and I like to place a towel around the carboy to keep out light.
Fermentation is one of the more exciting parts of the homebrewing process. This is when the yeast is “eating” all of the sugars in the wort and turning them into alcohol. The fermentation lock will bubble like crazy for the first few days, and if you look at your glass carboy, it looks kinda like blizzard season in a snow globe!
Step 6 – Bottle Your Beer
After about 2 weeks of fermentation, your beer is ready to be bottled. It is important to make sure all fermentation has ceased or you are simply creating little beer bombs that will explode in your basement. As long as your fermentation lock doesn't bubble for a couple minutes, you are ready to bottle.
In preparing to bottle your beer, make sure you have 50-60 empty, clean, and sterilized beer bottles ready with caps. You will add corn sugar to your beer and stir it into dissolve, this will help create the bubbles in your beer.
Again using your siphoning tube – siphon the beer into your clean, sterilized bottles, up to about an inch away from the top and cap tightly. Once all your beer bottles are filled, place the bottles back into your closet to sit and carbonate for approximately 2 weeks.
Step 7 – Enjoy
After about 1 month from when we first started making our own beer we have finally come to the most anticipated part of making your own beer at home, DRINKING IT! Grab your first bottle and a clean beer glass from the cupboard. Open your beer and listen for the refreshing sound of carbonation being released. Pour the beer into your glass and enjoy! You've earned it!
Note: When pouring your beer, be careful of the last “swig” in the bottle, it will contain some dead yeast and sediment. It is not by any means harmful if you do drink it, just unpleasant to look at. If your buddies are drinking it, I suggest you pour theirs for them because they may get a little “hissy” from seeing that in their beer. Just a small step in trying to introduce others into the wonderful world of beer we love so much.
So there you have it, making your own beer at home is really not so hard after all! These instructions are absolute basic, and once you expand onto other brewing methods and styles, your steps will change and some complexity will be added, but just realize this: man has been brewing beer for hundreds of years. And of course, most importantly – relax, have a homebrew!