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How to Brew Beer at Home
There are three ways to brew beer at home.
1. Beginner: Using a starter kit.
If you have never brewed beer before its recommended to purchase a starter kit, which includes all the necessary equipment required to start you on this fascinating and enjoyable hobby.
You then need to choose a beer kit to brew which appeals to you.
There are different qualities of beer kits. It all depends on the amount of hopped malt extract which they contain which usually means the kit either one or two cans of malt extract.
The one can kit will produce a more than an acceptable pint and will require additional brewing sugar or malt extract.
The two can kit produce better quality beer and needs no extra brewing sugar or malt. It’s your own choice, and many customers find the more economical one can kit a very acceptable pint.
All homebrew beer kits have concise and clear instructions which are easy to follow and produce consistent results; they require the same techniques and equipment.
Recommended for the first brew.
Primarily the kits which contain a concentrated liquid, to which water is added to create a wort (the name for an unfermented beer liqueur). Add your yeast which then ferments for a few days, changing the brewing sugar into alcohol.
The fermented liquid (beer)is then stored in a barrel or bottles and allowed to clear before drinking.
Adding a small amount of brewing sugar or malt extract into the bottle or barrel which then ferments which produces CO2 which then gives the beer its fizz.
Homebrew beer kits usually take about 2 – 3 weeks from start to drinking although most brews will improve with age.
The basic technique is as below (however do check kit instructions as each home brew kit may differ slightly):
1. Position the cans of extract in warm water for 5 mins to soften the malt extract and make it easier to pour out.
2. Sterilise the fermenter/bucket and empty the can (or 2 cans if using a Premium kit ) into the bucket, then add a little boiling water to the cans and rinse out and add to the fermenting bin to get as much malt extract out as possible.
3. Add additional brewing sugar or Spraymalt (if required in instructions, budget, and midrange only) and any other additives supplied with the kit (Hops, oak chips).
4. Boil 6 pints of water, and then stir into the fermenter until all the ingredients are dissolved.
5. Once all the ingredients are dissolved top up to 23 Litres with cold water.
6. Sprinkle beer yeast on top and stir.
7. Half fill an airlock with water and fit on to the bucket lid and fit on the fermenter. Position the fermenter in a warm place, which is not in direct sunlight for approx 4-6 days.
8. Check the airlock until bubbles have ceased (if using a hydrometer when gravity remains constant).
9. Transfer to Bottles or Barrel
10. Keep the beer somewhere warm (room temperature) for two days then store somewhere cool for 2-3 weeks until beer has cleared.
Drink and enjoy.
2. Extract - Grain and Hops
The grain and hop method uses the same basic techniques as kits; however, you prepare the wort from ingredients instead of using a concentrate.
The ingredients water, malt extract, and hops are boiled for approx 1 hour then cooled before adding the beer yeast.
You can choose and buy packs of extract, hops, and yeast then follow a recipe.
There are many different recipes to follow, and you can add herbs and spices to create unique blends.
There is a vast range of hops which all have there own distinct flavour and taste.
This method is about the same cost as using a Premium kit, but you have the flavour control and satisfaction of creating your recipes.
Some people, however, will only ever brew beer kits, they might decide that they like the taste of a particular beer kit and find it very easy, convenient and practical to use.
3. All grain – full mash.
Full mash follows the same principals as extract, but you create the malt from grain instead of using extract. The malt, hops, and yeasts you have chosen depend on the type of brew you wish to create.
Full mash is the method used by professional brewers and how commercial beer is produced.
It is the most challenging method, which needs the most equipment and takes the longest time to make. However, it gives you the most control over your finished brew.
You are creating your extract not buying it – which necessitates purchasing extra equipment.
All grain beer brewing is the cheapest way to brew once the initial investment of the brewing equipment has been returned.
This method is not recommended for a beginner, and many homebrewers never move on to this method being perfectly happy buying extract or using beer kits.
The necessary equipment needed for brewing 40 pints beer from a beer kit is
* 25 Litre Fermenting bin/bucket and lid - this is to brew the beer before bottling or Kegging
* Syphon - the syphon is used to syphon the brewed beer (also known as racking) from one vessel to another, i.e. from the fermenting bin to a keg or bottle.
* Hydrometer - the hydrometer is used to measure the density of the beer before, during and after fermentation. The amount of brewing sugar that is still present can be measured and registers the amount of alcohol which is being produced.
* Beer Paddle - used to stir the liquid when adding the yeast.
* Steriliser - used to ensure all equipment is free from bacteria which may spoil your brew.
* You will need additional equipment for brewing using the Extract or All Grain brewing methods.
Tips for creating a good beer at home:
1. Keep clean – ensure all utensils that touch the beer are sterilized as infections from bacteria is the greatest threat to beer brewing.
2. When using tap water treat with ½ a crushed Campden tablet per 25L to remove the chlorine. Just combine the water and tablet, stir and leave for 5 mins before using.
3. Have Patience. Brewing beers require time so don’t rush things. Leave for at least four weeks after bottling which allows the beer flavours to intensify.
4. Ferment at the right temperature and away from direct sunlight. Most ale yeast ferment between 18 – 22 c and keep the temperature as constant as possible for best results.
5. If bottling – use a second fermentation bin fitted with a little bottler. Mix all the priming sugar with some boiling water, add to the second ferment bin then rack the beer and bottle using the Little Bottler.
The Little Bottler avoids having to prime each bottle and ensure the brewing sugar is sterile and evenly mixed. It also makes bottling much easier to do.
6. Incorporate oxygen into the wort before you add the yeast by giving the wort a good stir. Doing this will help the yeast get started more quickly.
7. Relax and enjoy your efforts. Making beer at home is easy and reasonably hard to make a mistake.