Brewing beer at home

There are 3 main different methods for making beer at home. From kits, using malt extract and full mash/all grain. In this post we will cover making beer using a beer kit.

Using a beer kit. 

This is the easiest and quickest method and you only need the bare essential equipment. If you have never brewed beer this is often a good place to start and its recommended to purchase a complete starter kit, which includes all the equipment and ingredients required. You’ll find a good range of these in our Microbreweries section.  Most will 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 but will require an additional quantity brewing 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 consistent results.

The kits contain a concentrated hopped liquid malt extract, to which water is added to produce a wort (the name for a pre fermented beer). 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 and this is know as priming sugar. This sugar ferments producing CO2  which cannot escape the enclosed vessel giving the beer its carbonation.

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 minutes 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, 1 can kits 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 with cold water to the volume in the instructions and stir thoroughly to mix and introduce oxygen which will help with the fermentation.

6. Take a hydrometer reading and record the results.

7. Pitch the yeast

8. Place the lid back.  If using an airlock ensure it is half filled with water. Place somewhere warm and away from direct sunlight for until fermentation is complete (usually within 7 days).

9. Ferment until bubbles have ceased (if using a hydrometer when gravity remains constant).

10. Transfer to Bottle or Barrel, adding priming sugar which ferment in the vessel and give slight carbonation.

11. Keep somewhere warm (room temperature) for two days then store somewhere cool for 2-3 weeks until beer has cleared. Drink and enjoy.

The basic equipment needed for brewing from a beer 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.

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.