You want to brew beer at home. Awesome! I’ve been brewing beer (be it gingerbeer at first) at home successfully for the past 5 years.
Let me first say that as a beginner, you want to start small. So think nano-brewing small. By that I mean batches less than 5 Gallon or less than 25 Litres.
When you first start out, you might make a mistake or two, but in all honesty, if you can follow simple guidelines I give you here, you can brew your own beer at home too. It really is HARD to mess it up.
Where do I even begin with Brewing?
All you need to understand when you begin is the process.
The process goes like this:
- You gather your ingredients and mill the grains
- You mash the grains and lauter it
- You boil the wort and chill it
- Sterilize your bucket and anything else that will touch the wort
- Ferment the wort and bottle it
- Let age for 3-6 weeks and enjoy
Don’t worry, I will explain. Just follow along. I won’t share a recipe here, but you’ll find enough in our recipe section.
What is beer?
Beer is simply 3 things. A combination of grains, water and hops, fermented and allowed to age for a few weeks.
What Ingredients do I need To Buy?
You will need to buy a few things. Some of them will be once off and others will be bought every time you want to brew a batch.
Let’s begin with the equipment you will only need to buy once:
1 x Boiling Pot – make sure it can hold 25-30 litres of liquid (5gallons) preferably a tall pot
1 x Brewing Bucket – food grade plastic is good, also 25-30 litre volume (5gallon)
1 x hydrometer – for testing the alcohol level in your brew
1 x hydrometer tube – for holding the brew sample
50 x cap or swing top bottles 440-500 ml each
1 x auto-siphon tube
1 x food grade thermometer to check heat in your wort
1 x heat regulator – to keep your wort and mash temps controlled
1 x capper if you use cap-type bottles
1 x bottling wand
1 x grain bag
3- 5 hops bags
That’s the equipment out the way. It seems like quite a lot to buy, but trust me, once you have it, you’ll be spending way less to make your own beer.
Now for the beer ingredients:
2-5kg grains – depending on your brew
Sanitization grains or liquid
1 x packet Yeast
That is all you will need to buy when you want to brew, the grains, yeast and hops, if you already have sanitizer you’re good to go.
Do I Need To Buy any Chemicals or Filters?
Some people say you need to add yeast cultures and clearing aids to your beer to make it super clear when you want to drink it.
I have never added anything to my beers and don’t mind a bit of cloudiness in my beer. After multiple tests, some people have found that the unfiltered and untreated beers taste better than the filtered and treated beers.
Test both and see which you prefer. In my own opinion, I would say, keep it as natural as possible.
How long does it take to Brew Beer?
The brewing process takes time. Let’s walk through it.
You need to get your grains and mill them if not already milled say it can take 10-15 minutes.
You need to put your grains into your grain bag and either boil or steep it, depending on your recipe.
The vast majority of recipes call for a steeping process where you get water to the boil for a few minutes, then switch off the heat and then set your bag into the hot liquid at a temperature of about 60-65 degrees. (You need to measure and keep this temperature consistent for an hour)
Once the steeping process is over, you need to lift the grain bag out of the pot and suspend it over the wort.
You now need to lauter the grains (pour the same temperature hot water over the grains) so that any remaining sugars enter the wort in the pot. This can take from 15 to 45 minutes.
Boiling the Wort
Once the lautering is over, you have to boil the wort, adding your hops at the times specified in your recipe, typically at the 1 hour, 30 minute, 15 minute and 5 minute marks. Again, the wort is boiled for 1 hour.
Once the wort has been boiled for the hour, you need to chill it as quickly as possible to prevent any bacteria growing on the wort. This can take from 15 to 45 minutes.
The wort is then transferred to your brewing bucket and yeast pitched.
Fermeting the Wort
Wort is typically fermented for 10 days to 6 weeks, depending on your brew recipe.
Before you bottle your beer, you need to sanitize the bottles. You don’t want any foreign bacteria to influence the taste of current wort you’re going to add.
Starsan or any other boric acid type of sanitizer works well to make sure your bottles are clean. Make sure to rinse them out well and let them drain before putting the caps on as soon as you turn them the right side up. Washing can take about 30 minutes.
The bottling process can easily take 2-4 hours because of the preparation. Remember, you need to add about ½ teaspoon of glucose or sugar to each bottle to feed the small remaining amount of yeast so that your bottled beer carbonates and has some decent fizz when you pop it later.
Use your auto-siphon and bottling wand to get the beer from the bucket into your bottles. Often times, your bucket will have a tap to which you can directly attach the wand. (It’s still a good idea to have an auto-siphon for other types of brews)
Once bottled, let your beer age for 3 to 6 weeks before popping the first bottle. This just allows the flavours to mature and for the yeast to carbonate your beverage.
Is home brewing dangerous?
From my own experience, I would say that home brewing is safe for anyone, as long as you stick to keeping your workplace sanitary and wash out the bottles before each brew.
Use common sense too. If you take a little sip from a newly opened bottle and it tastes off, then you might want to dump it and try another bottle.
If more than one bottle tastes off, you will have to dump the whole batch and try again. Just keep things clean and you’ll be fine.
Home brewing your own beer is a fun hobby and if you do it well enough, you could soon be supplying your entire neighborhood and attending craft beer events to share your brews with others.
Have fun with it, experiment and brew. Brew it your way and have fun with it. Be sure to share your recipes with us here.