So you’ve decided to make the leap? Don’t worry, it’s more of a step than a leap. The plunge happens once you just can’t stop making your own wonderful homebrew creations! I’ll start out with the basics in this installment and work our way up from there. As Charlie Papazian says “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.”
In this article about how to make your own beer, I will be discussing the basics of extract brewing, the basic equipment needed, and the basic process involved.
What exactly is extract homebrewing and what is extract? Beer is made using the sugars from malted grains. Malt extract is exactly that, sugar extracted (taken) from malted grains. Malt extract can be purchased in either dry (DME) or liquid form (LME). In extract brewing the brewer utilizes this extract to maximize time and efficiency.
The life blood of your beer is the yeast. Yeast consumes sugar. Like any living creature, when yeast eats it then produces by-products, the major by-products being CO2 and alcohol. While yeast will work at “eating” most sugars, malt sugars are ideal for their chemical make-up.
What equipment do you need to take advantage of that magical little yeast? While you could piece everything together a la carte, you can usually get a discount when you buy a basic homebrewing kit. The basic equipment kit consists of:
6.5 Gallon Primary Fermenter with Drilled & Grommeted Lid
6.5 Gallon Bottling Bucket with Bottling Spigot
Easy Clean No-Rinse Cleanser
Siphon & Bottling Set-up
Home Beermaking Text
Twin Lever Capper
Liquid Crystal Thermometer
A 3-5 gallon stock pot and cooking thermometer are also need and are usually available as an add-on if you do not already have these at home.
So now you have the equipment, what do you do with it? On to brewing. Let’s take a look at a sample recipe.
Malt Base: 6 Lbs DME OR 7.2Lbs LME
Specialty Grains: 1 lb. Munich, 1/2 lb. Caramel 120L, 1/4 Lb Amber
Hops: 8 HBU Cluster (Boiling), 3.5 HBU Hallertau Select (Finishing)
Other: 2 Hop Sacks, 5 oz. Priming Sugar
Yeast: White Labs California / Wyeast 1056
Instructions for how to make your own beer:
1. Remove Crushed Grains from package and put in muslin bag. Tie bag at end to allow maximum circulation. Place in minimum 1 gallon cold water, slowly bring to approximately 160 degrees, hold temp for 10 minutes. Discard grain, add gypsum if water is soft.
2. Add Malt Extract, stir well to dissolve. Bring to a boil, add Cluster Hops, and continue boil for 55 min. Add Hallertau Select Hops and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Pour unfermented beer(wort) slowly into fermentation vessel containing enough cold water to total 5 gallons.
4. Let temperature drop to approximately 80 degrees. Take hydrometer reading, sprinkle or “pitch” yeast on top. Affix cover and airlock to fermenter and stabilize temperature at approximately 67–72 degrees.
5. Airlock should be active within 24 hours. With fermentation slowing down by the end of day 7, the clearing stage is beginning. Siphon beer into clean carboy, affix airlock, and cover to keep light out and let clear for approximately 7 more days.
6. When ready to bottle, boil priming sugar in approximately 1 cup water for 1 minute, add to bottom of bottling bucket, then siphon beer into the same bucket(take final hydrometer reading while siphoning into bucket). Fill bottles to 1“ from top of bottle and cap.
7. Store beer at 67–70 degrees for 7–10 days minimum.
As you can see, homebrewing is a simple process. Steep some specialty grains for flavor and color. This is essentially making a grain tea. Add your malt sugars. Boil your sugars into solution. Boil your hops. Hops have essential oils and must be boiled to extract them. Cool your solution(wort). Add to fermenter and add your yeast. In 7-14 days the yeast will convert the sugars into alcohol. Then bottle your beer.
We covered the basics in this article about how to make your own beer. However there are many ways to brew beer, this is just the beginning. In future installments I’ll discuss other aspects of the homebrewing process. Things like how to read a hydrometer, secondary fermentation, and fermentation temperature and why the cold causes us so many problems.
Until then, happy brewing!