Browse around online and you’ll find thousands of sites, blogs, and instructional videos that show you how to start brewing beer at home with equipment you have lying around the garage. Yes, you can build your own fermenting equipment and reuse plastic soda bottles, but seriously. When your beer turns out worse than cheap store-bought beer left out in the sun all day, will you know if it’s something you did wrong or if it’s something in your makeshift equipment? Probably not.
If it's your first time making beer at home, do yourself a favor and start with a beginner’s home brewing kit. You can find them for under $100 and you won’t need to hassle with trying to find all the right pieces and parts. Besides, you’ll need a supplier for malt, hops and yeast anyway, even if you do rig up your own microbrewery equipment. Save yourself the aggravation and start with a beginner’s kit. Why suffer through nasty beer just because you started with the wrong equipment? It’s just inhumane.
Important Things to Know
Most home brew kits, supplies, and recipes are designed to make a 5-gallon batch at a time. That’s the equivalent of two cases of beer. Depending on what type of commercially brewed beer you normally drink, home brewing is cheaper. Average ingredients run less than $40 for a batch.
Learning how to make beer is not difficult. But it does take patience. It takes at least a month to make a batch of beer from start to finish. Brewing takes a couple of hours, and then a week or two for fermenting and another two to four weeks for bottle conditioning, which carbonates the beer. If you hope to have your beer ready for the big game, give yourself plenty of lead-time.
The most important thing about making beer at home is sanitizing. All equipment, bottles, anything that comes in contact with your batch requires sanitizing. Warm soap and water are not enough. Chlorine bleach at 1 tbsp per gallon works. Rinse well to prevent weird aftertastes. No-rinse acid sanitizers are best and sold through any home brewing supplier.
The Basic Process
Recipes vary, depending on the type of beer you plan to make. Several steps stand between starting a brew and finishing your beer. The precise steps, ingredients, and methods vary depending on equipment, recipe, and your choice of specific ingredients. In short, boiling water, malt extract, hops and yeast combine to create the perfect beer-producing ecosystem. Boiling kills unwanted bacteria and wild yeasts, creating an all-you-can-eat mash buffet for brewer’s yeast organisms.
The organisms in brewer’s yeast feed on the sugars in the malt and hops, creating alcohol as a byproduct. The steps you take in the brewing process determine what kind of ecosystem you build for your hungry little organisms, and ultimately, the finished beer. Once you build the system, the fermenting process begins and your job is simply to wait and observe.
Tips for Better Beer
Keep both your fermenting and finished beer away from light. Use dark colored glass for bottling, or place clear bottles in a box or under towels to keep out of both natural and artificial light.
Start simple, with easy recipes like a pale ale. Be prepared to brew a bad batch or two. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is good beer. Follow your recipe to the letter until you get a good feel for brewing, then experiment as you see fit.
Do you have tips for home brewing?