Brewing your own beer at home is easy, inexpensive, and fun. Brewing is the production of beer by steeping a starch source (commonly cereal grains, the most popular of which is barley) in water and fermenting the resulting sweet liquid with yeast. It may be done in a brewery by a commercial brewer, at home by a homebrewer. With a few simple pieces of equipment and ingredients here’s how you can brew your own mini batch.
Step 1: The Equipment You Need
Large Brewing pot – any large kitchen pot that will hold a couple of gallons of water with room to spare to avoid boiling over.
Kitchen strainer – to strain grains and hops before going to the fermenter
Rolling pin – for crushing the grain or large mortar and pestle
3 gallon container of bottled water – this will provide you with the water to make your beer and serve as your fermentation container
Bottling container – An empty container of at least 3 gallons…could be another empty water bottle or a clean, scratch-free, food grade plastic bucket.
4 feet of 5/8″ clear poly-vinyl tubing – for siphoning
Fermentation air lock
Bottles – there are a lot of options here and I’ll cover some of them in the bottling step later
Step 2: Your Ingredients
You’ll need to find a local homebrew supply shop or one of many such shops on the web from which to purchase the ingredients. (Coastal brewing Supply Company – here in New London, CT)
3 lbs light dried malt extract
8 oz crushed crystal malt
1 oz Northern Brewer pellet hops
1 pkg brewer’s yeast
3/8 cup sugar for bottling
Step 3: Crushing the Grain
Use a large heavy freezer bag and pour in roughly 8 ounces of the crystal malt a little at a time. Use a rolling pin to crush the grain. You don’t want to make flour here just a very course texture of broken grains. Later on, when you decide to get more serious, you may wish to purchase a malt mill designed specifically for this purpose.
Step 4: Steeping
This is the brewing term for the process of extracting from specialty grains, crystal malt in this recipe. First pour 1/2 gallon of water from your 3 gallon water bottle and place a mark at the 2 1/2 gallon water level. Now pour up to 2 1/2 gallons of the remaining water into your brew pot leaving at least 3 inches to the top of the pot. Add your crushed grains. Turn on the heat to medium high and bring the temperature up to 150 to 155 degrees. Turn off the heat and cover the brew pot for 30 minutes. Use a strainer to remove as much of the spent grain as possible without worrying too much about a few remaining grains.
Step 5: The Boil (Be careful here! This is the point where you are at most risk of boiling over.)
Now bring the contents of the brew pot to a boil. Then, remove from heat and stir in the malt extract. Return to heat and again bring to a boil. Boiling over is something you definitely want to avoid as you’ll have quite a sticky mess to clean up if it happens. Once you have a controlled boil add about 2/3 oz of the hop pellets to the boil and maintain the boil for 60 minutes to get the most from the bittering potential of your hops. Submerse your kitchen strainer in the boil for the last 15 minutes to sanitize it for later use. At the end of 60 minutes turn off the heat and add the remainder of the hop pellets. Cover and let the newly added hops steep for 10 minutes. Hops added at this point will contribute some hop flavor and aroma to your finished beer.
Step 6: Air Lock
The idea is to let carbon dioxide produced during fermentation escape while keeping air outside from getting in.
Step 7: Cooling
Wort is simply unfermented beer. Faster is better when it comes to cooling. One method for cooling is to create a cold-water bath in the sink to partially submerse the brew pot in. Adding ice to the bath will help accelerate the cooling process. Gently swirl the brew pot in the cold bath water. Once the sides of the brew pot become cool to the touch, you’re ready for the next step but first a word on sanitation.
Sanitation is very important in brewing, anything that comes in contact with the wort can be sanitized by soaking in a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water for 30 minutes.
Gently pour your cooled wort through your sanitized strainer and funnel into the empty fermentation bottle. You’ll want the total volume in the fermenter to be 2 1/2 gallons. If your brew pot was big enough to allow you to boil a full 2 1/2 gallons, you’ll have to compensate for evaporation that took place during the boil. If you need to add water to reach the 2 1/2-gallon mark made in Step 4 do it now. Tap water is fine. You can use water from the 1/2 gallon you poured off in Step 4 if you saved it to a sanitized container. Bring the total volume up to the mark we made earlier on the bottle.
Step 9: Pitching Yeast
Pitching yeast is the brewing term for adding yeast to the unfermented wort. If the wort, now in your fermenter, is approximately room temperature you can pitch the yeast. If the sides of the fermenter are warm to the touch then let the wort cool to room temperature before pitching the yeast.
Step 10: Fermentation
Over the next 7 to 10 days the yeast will do its work of converting sugars in the wort to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Place the fermenter in a cool, dark place (ours is in the cellar). Total darkness isn’t necessary but direct sunlight is a definite no-no. The fermentation process is fun to watch but don’t be concerned if nothing appears to be happening for 12 to 24 hours. After that time, you should begin to see foaming and bubbles escaping from your air lock. After 7 to 10 days the fermentable sugars should be converted by the yeast and you’re ready for the next step.
Step 11: Priming
You now have beer! however, you’re not done quite yet. At this stage it’s flat. Priming is the process of adding a measured amount of additional fermentable sugars just before bottling. Live yeast still in your beer will convert the additional sugars to carbon dioxide while in the bottle. The carbon dioxide has no way to escape the bottle resulting in carbonated beer.
Boil 3/8 cup (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) of sugar (preferably corn sugar but table sugar will do) in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Cover and let it cool some then pour into a sanitized container large enough to hold your beer (another large empty water bottle, empty plastic bucket, etc). Now siphon your beer from the fermenter into the bottling container being careful not to disturb too much sediment at the bottom of the fermenter, you’re ready for bottling.
Step 12: Bottling and capping
As a homebrewer you’re ultimately going to want brown beer bottles and caps or a kegging system to contain your finished product. There are many alternative options for the first-time brewer. You can buy empty bottles and caps. You can reuse bottles and buy; you can reuse empty growlers from your local brew pub. It’s important to use something that will withstand pressure in the bottle resulting from carbonation. Clean and sanitize the bottles prior to filling them. Soaking in a diluted bleach solution for 30 minutes and rinsing with clean tap water will do the trick.
Step 13: Aging
Bottle-conditioned beers must be aged in the bottle at least 7 days to allow the fermentation that takes place in the bottle to carbonate the beer. Place your bottled beer in a cool dark place for 7-10 days and try to avoid the temptation to open a bottle early. Don’t put the bottled beer in the fridge yet or the yeast will not be able to do its job on the priming sugars. The beer will also begin to clear during this time as suspended yeast settles to the bottom of the bottle.
Step 14: Have a drink
Chill and Serve. Open a bottle and slowly pour into a glass leaving just a bit in the bottom of the bottle.