Brewing beer at home
There are 3 different ways in which to brew your own beer.
1. Beginner: Using a starter kit.
This is the easiest and quickest method and you only need the bare essential equipment. If you have never brewed beer before its recommended to purchase a complete starter kit, which includes all the equipment and ingredients required. We supply these as Microbreweries which allow you to choose the type of beer you want and add bottles or barrels if you don't want to recycle your own. There are different qualities of kits, defined by the amount of malt extract contained in them. Generally they come as one can or two cans of hopped malt extract. The one can kits will produce a more than acceptable pint and will require additional sugar or malt extract. The two can kits produce better quality beer and require no additional sugar or malt. It’s a personal choice and many customers find the more economical one can kits suit their taste and budget.
All kits have clear concise instructions to follow and require the same equipment and techniques. They are easy to follow, require very little skill and produce consistant results. Recommended for the first brew. Basically the kits contain a concentrated liquid, to which water is added to produce a wort (the name for a pre fermented beer liquer). Yeast is then added which ferments over a few days, turning the sugar to alcohol. The fermented liquid is then stored in a barrel or bottles and allowed to clear before drinking. A small amount of sugar or malt extract is added to the bottle or barrel which ferments producing CO2 which gives the beer its fizz. Kits usually take about 2 – 3 weeks from start to drinking although most brews will improve with age.
The basic technique is as below (check kit instructions as individual kits may alter slightly):
1. Place 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 and empty the can (or 2 cans if a Premium kit is being used), then add a little boiling water to the cans and wash out into the fermenting bin to get as much malt extract out as possible.
3. Add additional sugar or spraymalt (if required in instructions, budget and midrange only) and any additional additives supplied with the kit (Hops, oak chips etc).
4. Add 6 pints of boiling water and stir until all the ingredients are dissolved.
5. Top up to 23 Litres with cold water.
6. Sprinkle yeast on top and stir.
7. Place the lid back. If using an airlock ensure it is half filled with water. Place somewhere warm and away from direct sunlight for approx 4-6 days.
8. Ferment until bubbles have ceased (if using a hydrometer when gravity remains constant).
10. Keep somewhere warm (room temperture) for two days then store somewhere cool for 2-3 weeks until beer has cleared. Drink and enjoy.
2. Extract - Hops and Grain
This method uses the same basic techniques as kits but you prepare the wort from ingredients rather then using concentrate. Water, malt extract and hops are boiled for approx 1 hour before cooling then adding yeast as above. This method requires a large pan and strainer in addition to the basic equipment required for kits. You choose and buy packs of extract, hops and yeast then follow a recipe. There are lots of different recipes to follow and you can add herbs and spices to create unique blends. There is also a huge range of hops which all have there own unique flavour. This method works out about the same cost as using a Premium kit but you have the flavour control and satisfaction of creating your own recipes. Some people however will only ever brew starter kits, it’s a personal choice. They might decide that they like the taste of a particular kit and find it very easy, convenient and practical to use.
3. All grain – full mash.
This follows the same principals as extract but you create the malt from grain instead of using extract. The malt, hops and yeasts you choose depends on the type of brew you want to create. This is the method used by professional brewers and how commercial beer is produced. It is the hardest method, needs the most equipment and takes the longest to produce. It gives you the most control over your finished brew. Basically you are creating your own extract instead of buying it – which is where the extra equipment comes in. All grain is the cheapest way to brew after the initial investment of the equipment has been recouped. This method is not for a beginner and most people never progress to this stage being perfectly happy buying extract or using kits.
The basic equipment needed for brewing 40 pints beer from a kit is...
* 25 Litre Fermenting bin and lid - this is to initially ferment the beer before you bottle or Keg
* Syphon - this is used to Syphon the beer (also known as racking) from one vessel to another, ie from the fermenting bin to keg.
* Hydrometer - this is used to measure the density of the beer before, during and after fermentation so the amount of sugar that is present can be measured and therefore how much alcohol has been produced.
* Paddle - used to stir the liquid when adding the yeast.
* Sterliser - used to ensure all equipment is free from bacteria which may spoil your brew.
* Bottles or Barrels.
* You will need additional equipment for brewing using the Extract or All Grain brewing methods.
Tips for creating great beer at home:
1. Keep clean – ensure everything that touches the beer has been sterilized as infections from bacteria is the greatest threat to great beer.
2. If using Tap water treat with ½ a crushed Campden tablet per 25 litres to remove the chlorine. Just add to the water, stir and leave for 5 mins before using.
3. Have Patience. Brewing beers takes time so don’t rush things. Leave for at least 4 weeks after bottling for the flavours to develop.
4. Ferment at the correct 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 ferment 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. This avoids having to prime each bottle and ensure the sugar is sterile and mixed evenly. It also makes bottling a lot easier.
6. Get oxygen into the wort before you pitch the yeast. Do this by adding any water from a height so it splashes or give it a really good stir. This will help the yeast get starter quicker.
7. Relax and enjoy the process. Making beer is easy and reasonably hard to mess up.
Check out our great brewing forum for more tips, advice and brewing banter.