Brewing Your Own Beer
If you’re tired of outrageous beer prices or having to sip your beverage in a smoke-filled bar, maybe it’s time you learned how to brew your own beer. It’s easier than you might think, and you’ll soon have a sweet-tasting nectar that puts the named-brand breweries to shame.
Just follow the steps below, and you can learn how to brew your own beer in no time. If you’re a fan of good beer or just cheap beer, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
Brew On Premises
While this article focuses on how to brew your own beer at home, you should also be aware of businesses known as Brew on Premises. These facilities provide you with the equipment, ingredients and instructions on how to brew your own beer. While not quite as rewarding as doing it all yourself, it’s still a fun option that warrants a mention in this article.
Purchase Brewing Equipment
Before you can start brewing your own beer, you’ll need to purchase the basic equipment. These items can be obtained online or through a store which sells brewing supplies. Either way, your expenses shouldn’t run more than $200, and it might be far less if you shop around for the best deals.
To brew your own beer, you’ll need the following items:
- Brewpot – This item is used to boil the beer ingredients. It should be made of an enamel-coated metal or stainless steel. The capacity of the brewpot should be at least 16 quarts.
- Primary fermenter – After brewing the ingredients, the wort is placed in here to begin the fermentation process. It should hold at least seven gallons and be made of food-grade plastic.
- Airlock and stopper – Allows carbon dioxide out but keeps outside air from getting in. Fits on top of the primary fermenter.
- Plastic hose – It should be made of food-grade plastic and be five-foot long.
- Bottling bucket – A bucket with a spigot. It needs to be as large as your primary fermenter, because you’ll be pouring the beer into this container prior to the bottling process.
- Bottles – Used for storage and secondary fermentation. Solid glass works best. You also want to make sure the bottles are dark-colored, as light can damage beer.
- Bottle brush – specialized tool used for cleaning bottles.
- Bottle capper – If glass bottles are used, you’ll need a bottle capper in order to apply a cap to the tops of the bottles. Your best bet is one which can be attached to a surface, thus allowing you to hold the bottle with one hand and operate the capper with the other.
- Stick-on thermometer – These stick-on thermometers can be applied to the side of your primary fermenter to allow you to know the temperature of your beer.
- Miscellaneous items – In addition, you’ll need to get the following basic household items: saucepan, small bowl, rubber spatula, oven mitts and large mixing spoon (plastic or stainless steel).
You have two options at this stage. You can either buy a brew kit which provides you with a recipe and all the ingredients, or you can pick out a recipe you like and purchase the ingredients yourself. Brew kits keep things simple, and they are highly recommended for the beginning brewer.
Keep Everything Clean
All of your equipment must be kept clean and sanitized. If not, you take the risk of bacteria getting into your beer and ruining it. As a general rule, items need to be cleaned and sanitized right before you use them.
Cleaning can be performed with soapy water and a brush (or a dishwasher). Sanitizing uses heat, iodine or chlorine to kill off remaining bacteria. You can use the “heat dry” cycle of a dishwasher to accomplish this, or you can mix up a sanitizing solution consisting of 2 ounces of unscented chlorine bleach or pure iodine for every five gallons of cold water. Your equipment should then be soaked in the mixture between five (iodine) and 30 minutes (chlorine).
Cooking Your Beer
To begin brewing your own beer, first heat two quarts of water from 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water begins steaming, remove it from the heat.
At this stage, you’ll want to add the ingredients of your beer kit. You may also want to add additional fermentables such as liquid malt extract, rice syrup, demerera sugar, Belgian candi sugar, dry malt extract and brewers sugar. Each of these additional ingredients will add a different flavor, so don’t hesitate to experiment or ask advice from brewers with more experience.
You want to make sure everything is dissolved, so be sure to stir, stir, stir. Afterwards, place a lid on the mixture and heat it for 10 to 15 minutes on the lowest heat setting.
Next, add the mixture to four gallons of cold water in your primary fermenter. Mix for a few minutes until the side of your fermenter feels cool to the touch. You can now add your yeast and begin the primary fermentation process.
The mixture you have created to this point is known as “wort.” Within a day of being placed in the primary fermenter, your mixture will begin to ferment. This process will continue for three to five days.
Check the airlock and look for bubbles rising up through the water. This means the mixture is fermenting. After five days, you should begin a daily check to see if the beer mixture is still fermenting.
If primary fermentation is still taking place, leave the mixture alone. If the bubbling has stopped, or if there are at least two minutes between bubbles, then primary fermentation has stopped. In this case, you are now ready to bottle your beer and allow secondary fermentation to take place.
It is now time to bottle your beer and allow secondary fermentation. Before you begin the process, make sure to clean and sanitize the following equipment: mixing spoon, saucepan, plastic hose, bottle caps, bottles and bottling bucket.
You’re also going to need some pure dextrose in order to make a priming solution. This is what allows the remaining yeast to carbonate your home-brewed beer.
To make this priming solution, take a saucepan and pour in two to three cups of water. Next, dissolve ¾ of a cup of dextrose into the water. Place over medium heat and bring it to a boil. Then cover it and allow it to cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
Once the priming solution has been made, set your bottling bucket on the floor and the primary fermenter above it. When you move the primary fermenter, be careful to not shake it too much, or you’ll cause the sediment to float up from the bottom. Then hook up the plastic hose to the primary fermenter and put the other end in the bottling bucket.
Pour the priming solution into the bottling bucket, and then allow the beer to flow from the primary fermenter into the bottling bucket (via the plastic hose). Be careful not to drain out all of the beer, as the last of it will contain sediment.
Now place the bottling bucket in the spot previously occupied by the primary fermenter. Clean the hose and then place it onto the bottling bucket. Place the other end in a bottle and begin to fill it with beer. It’s best to line up the empty bottles, as this will allow you to fill one after another without having to constantly close and open the spigot. About an inch of airspace should be left at the top of each bottle.
You’ll then need to cap all of your bottles. You can either use screw-on tops or metal caps with a bottle capper. After capping the bottles, check each one for leaks. If you find any, remove the cap and re-cap the bottle.
Once the bottles have been capped, find a dark, cool place to store the bottles and allow secondary fermentation to take place. The temperature of this area should range from 60 to 70 degrees. The beer will need to be left there for at least two weeks in order for secondary fermentation to take place.
Drink Your Beer
Now all that’s left is to drink your beer. Once the cloudiness of the beer has cleared (meaning secondary fermentation is complete), place it in the refrigerator. When it reaches the temperature you desire, open the bottle, pour the contents into a glass and enjoy. I suggest pouring it into a glass because drinking straight from the bottle can lead to gas and bloating (from the leftover yeast and sediment).
Just remember not to get behind the wheel of a car if you’ve been drinking. Whether you buy your beer or brew it at home, drinking and driving is never cool.