How To Make Beer At Home
There are numerous articles on how to make beer and if you are a beginner, you have chosen the right one. My goal is to show you how easy and satisfying it is to make your own beer at home in your kitchen. If you prefer to watch a video on this subject there is one at the bottom of this page. This article is for brand new beginners to the hobby.
Why brew your own beer?
- Believe it or not, with practice, you will be able to brew beer as good as, if not better than commercial beers. One reason for this is you will never have a fresher beer than the one you made yourself. When you go to a liquor store to buy beer, especially craft beer, much of that beer has been sitting there for a while, slowly losing flavor.
- You will be able to brew beers according to your own tastes.
- You will be able to brew virtually any style of beer from lagers to ales, craft beers, historic beers, European beers. You name it, you will be able to brew it.
- You will instantly become more popular with your friends and family!
Is brewing your own beer right for you?
If you are creative, if you like to cook, if you like science, if you are inquisitive, you will most likely enjoy making your own beer but most of all, you have to love beer!
A quick warning! This hobby can grab a hold of you and not let go. I tell everyone that the beauty of brewing your own beer is it can be whatever you want it to be. It can be very simple or very complex or somewhere in between. It can take just a few hours of your time or it can eat up days of your time. You decide. In the end, you will be enjoying some amazing beer!
So let’s get started!
I am only going to cover the basic equipment needed to get you started. You will quickly find that there are numerous pieces of equipment you can own and more than one way to do everything. I will focus on simplicity and the fact that we are going to do this in the kitchen.
Brew Kettle - Brewers will have kettles of all sizes but as most of us start brewing our own beer in our kitchen, I recommend a kettle that has a volume of 20 liters or 5 gallons. The reason for this size is it will fit on almost any kitchen stove even if you have an over the stove microwave. I strongly recommend stainless steel.
Buckets – You will need two, 6.5-gallon buckets. One with a lid with a hole and grommet for an airlock for fermentation, and another with a spigot for bottling.
Hydrometer – Sounds technical and looks intimidating but it’s not. One of the most important pieces of equipment you will have. The hydrometer is your window into what is going on in your fermenter. We will teach you how to use a hydrometer.
Thermometer – I think everyone knows what this is!
Bottle Brush – You got to have clean bottles.
Twin Lever Capper – Caps those clean bottles.
Airlock – During fermentation the airlock allows CO2 to escape without letting any air in.
Auto Siphon – This is a handy tool for siphoning beer. We siphon beer in order to reduce splashing and oxygen pick up during transfers. This helps keep the finished beer stable so it won't stale.
Siphon Tubing – Siphon Tubing is vinyl tubing that connects to the auto siphon when transferring and bottling.
Items you will need not included in the Beermaking Equipment Kit/
Bottles – You will need 48, 12 oz amber bottles for packaging your beer.
Bottle Caps – Caps for your bottles.
The easiest way to buy this equipment is to buy our Beermaking Equipment Kit. It has everything except the bottles and caps.
As this article is designed for beginning brewers, I am going to recommend purchasing Beer Ingredient Kits. These kits are designed by our brewers and have the main ingredients you will need to brew a 5-gallon batch of beer and there are literally over a hundred different beers to choose from. For a beginner, this is absolutely the easiest way to get started. Also, a beer ingredient kit is included with the above Beermaking Equipment Kit.
Other ingredients you will need that are not included in the Beer Ingredient Kit.
- Priming Sugar – This is a 5 oz bag of corn sugar used to naturally carbonate your beer.
- Yeast Nutrient – Essentially vitamins for your yeast.
- Whirlfloc or Irish Moss – Known as kettle finings, these ingredients help to make a clearer finished beer.
- Yeast – While yeast is needed for every beer, it is left out of the kits because there are usually several options of different yeast for the beer. We offer recommendations on all of the kits so you will know which yeast to buy.
The easiest way for beginners to make beer is by using a beer ingredient kit that uses malt extract. Usually, these are called extract kits. As a beginner, you want to avoid any kits labeled All Grain as they are difficult and require special equipment.
The first thing we must do as a brewer is to make wort. Wort is the term used for unfermented beer. Professional brewers and advanced homebrewers make wort from malted barley. This is a very complex and equipment intensive process and is difficult and costly for a beginner. That is where malt extract comes in. Malt extract is wort that has been condensed into a powder or liquid syrup. The powder malt extract is called DME or dry malt extract and the liquid syrup is called LME or liquid malt extract. Using malt extract allows you to make wort simply by mixing the malt extract with water.
In our extract kits you will find:
- Malt Extract. Usually, it will be liquid malt extract, LME, or a combination of both LME and DME.
- Hops – All of our hop packets are labeled, and the instructions will tell you exactly when to add them to your wort.
- Specialty Grains – These specialty grains are designed to add flavor to your wort and are steeped using a muslin bag, kind of like you would steep a tea bag.
- Muslin Bag for steeping the specialty grains.
- Step by Step Instructions.
Before you brew, make sure you have all of your ingredients and be sure that your specialty grains are crushed. We will do that for you at the store but if they are not crushed you will need to crush them your self with a rolling pin and a plastic bag. Crushing the grain your self is a pain so be sure to have the homebrew store do it for you.
- Pull your yeast out of the fridge and allow it to warm to room temperature while you are brewing. If you are using a Wyeast Smack Pack, place it on the counter laying flat. Feel for the packet inside the package, and smack it with the heel of your hand.
- On your stove, put approximately 2.5 gallons of water in your kettle and bring the water up to between 150 and 160 degrees. Turn off the heat.
- Add the muslin bag with the specialty grains to the kettle. Make sure all the grain is hydrated and then steep your grains for 20 to 30 minutes maintaining the 150 to 160-degree temperature range.
- Remove the muslin bag and grain and discard.
- Add the malt extract. Stir until the malt extract is thoroughly dissolved.
Congratulations, you now have wort. Next, we are going to boil the wort and add the hops. We will be boiling the wort for 60 minutes.
- Turn the heat back on and bring your wort up to a boil. As the wort gets closer to a boil you will see a foam starting to cover the entire top of the wort. Be careful at this point to avoid a boilover. You may need to remove the kettle from the heat from time to time to keep it from boiling over. Eventually, the foam will die down and the chances of a boil over decrease. You want to make sure that you have a roiling boil. Depending on your stove you may need to straddle the kettle over two burners.
- Once you have a rolling boil, it is time to start adding hops. Add the hops as directed in the instructions. It’s important to adhere to the timing of the hop additions in the instructions.
- After the last hop addition has been added and boiled according to the instructions, remove the kettle from the heat. The boil is now over.
Next is chilling the wort. We want to get the wort temperature down to around 70 - 75 degrees. The simplest way to chill your wort is by buying a wort chiller. If a wort chiller is not in the budget then an ice bath will do. Just place your kettle of wort in the sink, avoid splashing water into the wort. Add ice to the sink and stir the wort. This ice bath should get your wort down to around 100 degrees.
Next, pour your wort into your clean and sanitized fermentation bucket and add cold tap water until you achieve 5 gallons of wort in the fermenter. After topping up with cold tap water the temperature of your wort should drop down closer to 70 – 75 degrees depending on how cold your tap water is. If it is still too warm, cover the fermenter with the lid and airlock and let it come to room temperature before you pitch the yeast.
Now that your wort is chilled it is susceptible to bacteria and infections. You must be diligent to be sure that everything that touches your wort is clean and sanitized.
Before you aerate and pitch your yeast, you want to take a specific gravity reading. The hydrometer measures the specific gravity of your wort. The more sugar in your wort the higher the specific gravity. Less sugar in your wort will have a lower specific gravity.
Specific gravity or SG is measured throughout the fermentation process to determine when fermentation is complete. Specific gravity will also give you approximate alcohol by volume percentage.
The first specific gravity measurement you will take is what we call the OG or Original Gravity. This is the specific gravity of the wort before we pitch the yeast. The importance of this measurement is to know the starting SG. You need to know the OG to determine your alcohol by volume or abv. It is also helpful in determining when your fermentation is complete.
To take this OG measurement, use a sanitized turkey baster or wine thief and draw a sample of wort and add it to the tube your hydrometer came in. Fill the tube about ¾’s full of wort. Then place your hydrometer in the tube and it will float. Where the level of wort meets the hydrometer is your gravity reading.
Next, we need to determine the finished gravity or FG. The finished gravity represents the gravity when fermentation is complete. I recommend for beginners to allow your fermentation to go for two weeks from the day you pitch your yeast. It doesn't have to be exactly two weeks. It can be a few days less or a few days more, it doesn't matter. Most fermentations will be complete in two weeks but not all.
After two weeks of fermentation take a sample of your beer. It is no longer called wort because it has been fermenting. Fermenting or fermented wort is called beer. Place the hydrometer in the sample and you will get a much lower measurement because the yeast has consumed much of the sugar and converted it to alcohol. You will want to make a note of this gravity reading.
Let the beer sit another couple of days and take another sample. If the gravity reading is the same as the previous one, then your fermentation is complete. This gravity reading we call the FG or Finished Gravity. If the gravity has gone lower since the last reading, your wort is still fermenting. Give it a few more days and check it again. Once you have 2 days of steady gravity then you know your fermentation is done.
Now you know your OG and your FG. You can plug these two values into any number of online abv calculators to determine your alcohol by volume.
Aeration and Pitching Yeast
You must provide oxygen to the wort for yeast health. Most beginners will do it one of several simple ways.
- Pour the wort from bucket to bucket several times. (This can be a litte messy if you're not careful.)
- Vigorous stirring. (when your done stirring, stir some more!) Your arms should get tired.
- You can buy an attachment that will fit your drill. That makes it easy!
- Basically, any way you can whip up a lot of aeration in your wort.
Once your wort is aerated go ahead and pitch your yeast. If it is dry yeast just sprinkle it on top of the wort. If it is liquid yeast just pour it in. No need to stir the yeast in.
Place a clean and sanitized lid on the fermenting bucket and fill the airlock about ¾’s of the way with sanitizer. Place the airlock in the grommet on the lid.
Place the fermenter in a place where the ambient temperature is between 65 and 70 degrees. Closer to 65 degrees is better.
Once you pitch your yeast then you are conducting a primary fermentation. This is where the yeast will consume all of the sugar in the wort. I recommend you allow two weeks for primary fermentation. Once you have a stable FG as discussed in Specific Gravity you can do a secondary fermentation.
When yeast ferments a wort, they make a big mess. Secondary fermentation is designed to give the yeast time to clean up after themselves. Yeast can create all kinds of off flavors during fermentation and during secondary fermentation, the yeast will clean all of that up. Hop material, as well as other solids created during fermentation, will start to settle out. You can conduct your secondary fermentation in the same vessel as your primary fermentation. There is no need to transfer to a secondary vessel. I recommend two weeks for secondary fermentation.
Bottling Your Beer
- Clean and sanitize 48 12 oz amber bottles.
- Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the 5 oz package of priming sugar. Stir thoroughly and make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Return to the burner and bring the sugar solution to a boil. Boil for a couple of minutes and then dump the sugar mixture into the clean and sanitized bottling bucket (the bucket with the spigot).
- Place your fermenting bucket on the counter and your bottling bucket on the floor. Using your auto siphon transfer the beer from the fermenter to the bottling bucket being careful to not suck up too much of the yeast that is on the bottom of the fermenter. As your fermenter gets near the bottom you can tilt the bucket to try and get every last drop of beer out of it.
- Place the bottling bucket on the counter and place your bottles on the floor or a shorter table. The bottles need to be below the spigot as you are going to gravity drain the bottling bucket.
- Place one end of your tubing on the spigot and the other end to your bottle filling wand. Turn on the spigot and you will see the beer flow to the wand.
- Place the want in a bottle and press down and the beer will flow into the bottle. When the beer gets to the top of the bottle lift up on the wand and the flow will stop. Move on to the next bottle and repeat until all bottles are filled.
- Then cap all of your bottles.
You just filled your bottles with beer that has been dosed with a specific amount of sugar. What will happen is another fermentation will begin in each bottle as the yeast will begin to ferment that little bit of sugar that we put into the beer. This is what creates carbonation. Set your bottles in a dark area of the house that has an ambient temperature between 65 and 70. Allow two to three weeks for the beer to carbonate. Here is a video of How to Bottle Your Homebrew.
There you have it. You are now ready to enjoy your first homebrew! Cheers, and welcome to the obsession!
Here is a video I made which shows the brewing process discussed above.