Many people brew their own beer because it is so much cheaper than buying it from a liquor store or pub. However, increasingly, more and more people are getting into home beer brewing because it is easy to make a beer that will taste better than most commercial brews on offer, and the art of beer making is a relaxing and rewarding pastime.
Depending on the method of beer brewing, you can spend an enjoyable hour or so a day making a batch of beer. There's nothing quite like deciding on what sort of style you're going to make, then buying your ingredients in an easy to make kit, and returning home to make a great brew.
With a bit of practice, you shouldn't have any trouble giving some imported and boutique beers a real run for their money, not only in regards to taste, but how terrific it will look as well.
Mythbusting home brewing. There are many myths about home beer brewing, and like most myths, they're mostly not true at all. Let's debunk a few of the more popular untruths surrounding the art of brewing at home.
1. Homebrew is stronger than "normal" beer.
Wrong. You can make homebrew as strong or as weak as you like - it all depends on how much sugar or malt you add. Two readings from a hydrometer (a low-cost necessity for brewing) as well as a simple calculation will give you a fairly accurate measure of the alcohol content. So making refreshing light beer is just as easy as
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- WHAT YOU NEED
Fundamentally, you need barley, hops, yeast and water. Who would have thought that just four ingredients could combine to produce such a fantastic beverage as beer. Sugar is extracted from the barley, hops are added for bitterness, then yeast goes to work and converts much of the sugars into alcohol. While these are the building blocks, many breweries and home brewers often add extras to make subtle, or sometimes not-so-subtle, changes to their beers.
Let's begin with the ingredients and a bit of background as to how and why they are used. Don't be daunted as much of this information is for experienced brewers, so if you're new to home brewing just read through the information below for some broader background understanding.
All the beginner really needs to have is a beer kit, a fermenter, and some basic brewing tools. And we've put the whole thing into a box called the Copper tun Starter Brewery Kit to make it all easy for you. It comes with all the gear you need to get started along with your first batch of ingredients.
Essential ingredients. Malted barley
Malted barley is essential to make beer and is the main ingredient in almost every brew. Without malted barley, you don't get beer. However, the barley has to be malted before it can be used to make beer, because its starch is insoluble.
Home brewing kits available at homebrew shops and supermarkets are liquid malt to which hops has been added. They are effectively a beer ready to happen, that has gone through the preparation process and then been condensed at the stage when yeast would usually be added.
Different grains can be added to your beer to give it different characteristics. Some will add body, others color and some both. They are usually added in small quantities to make subtle differences to beers. The variety of barley and even where it is grown can affect its flavour.
- HOW TO BREW BEER
4 Easy steps to brewing great beer. To get you started the BrewCraft team has simplified the process into a 4-step guide, separating the categories into:
1) Preparation, 2) Fermentation, 3) Bottling, 4) Maturing. When in doubt though, always go by the instructions you find in your beer kit.
As you become more experienced you learn where you can bend the rules and where you can't, and when you get to the stage where you've mastered the basics, go back to the homepage of this website and click the Advanced Guide. There's plenty more information available for those brewers who want to aim higher. But in the meantime, here's a quick and easy step by step guide for the beginner.
Clean and sterilise your equipment before using it - read the Instructions first. Put the yeast aside as you will need it for the next stage, not this one.
Dissolve the contents of the Beer Kits recipe can you have purchased, into 2 to 4 litres of very hot water in a sterilised bucket. Use less hot water in hot weather and more when it is cold. Add 1kg of glucose or dextrose and stir to dissolve. DO NOT USE SUGAR because it won't work.
• Add about 10 litres of cold water to your fermenter.
• Transfer the hot mixture from the bucket to your fermenter and mix through very thoroughly.
• Top up if necessary with cold water so that the water level is at the 22.5 litre mark.
• Now get the yeast and sprinkle it on to the surface.
• Then seal the fermenter, fit the airlock and half-fill it with cool water that has been boiled beforehand.
• Allow the brew to ferment, and typically this takes about a week. Try to keep the temperature in the fermenter constant from around 20 to 23ºC and try to avoid it falling below about 18ºC.
• Fermentation is finished when the airlock stops bubbling and the brew itself begins to clear. Then you need to allow a further 48 hours for it to clear thoroughly.
NB!!!! Take Note of the Following: FININGS – ADD FININGS APPROXIMATLEY 48 HOURS PRIOR TO BOTTLING.
Sterilise the bottles and rinse with cool boiled water – or use steriliser and rinser machines.Use your priming scoop to put a measured amount of sugar into each bottle. Fill each bottle to within 5 cm from the top. Close each bottle with a crown cap and seal it firmly with a capping tool. Shake thoroughly then stand the bottles in a warm spot that is around 20 to 23ºC for about a week. Store your bottles or at least another two weeks before sampling your new beer.
Homebrew improves greatly with bottle ageing and will not go off in the bottle at all, unless kept for quite a few years. A six month old beer will be very much better than a one month old beer. So, try to age your beers, you will enjoy them much more. In fact, you will be amazed at how much your aged beers have improved. Don't forget to label and date each batch. Keep samples to try at 3, 6 and 12 months old. Take notes about how they taste then you will see for yourself how this amazing improvement works.
- ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT
There are a few basics needed to home brew and many more devices that will make the brewing process quicker or easier.
The BrewCraft team recommend that beginners get a starter pack with a fermenter (usually with stick-on thermometer), bottle brush, caps and hand capper, along with a hydrometer, steriliser, funnel and spoon. A boiler is also needed. All of these are marketed by 'Copper Tun' and available at most good home brewing supply stockists.
For simple brews, a large saucepan in which to dissolve the ingredients is enough. Advanced brewers who start boiling their own wort with malt and hops will need several saucepans, or a dedicated boiler. These are usually stainless steel and have an electric element or are placed over a gas burner. A boiler of 30 litres is ideal, but 25 litres will do as a bare minimum. Some people also use stainless steel kegs with the top cut out and a tap fitted.
Brewing takes place in a container called a beer fermenter that typically is made from 'food grade' 'plastic' that holds approximately 25 litres in volume. While a typical brew is only 23 litres, there has to be room left at the top for the yeast to foam up.
The BrewCraft team strongly warns against using a standard plastic rubbish bin for this purpose, as very harmful and potentially fatal toxins will leech into the beer from any plastic container that is not approved and certified 'food grade'.
An adhesive strip thermometer on the side of the fermenter is essential to know when it is safe to pitch your yeast and to monitor the temperature during fermentation and keep it under control, if need be. A large selection is marketed in the BrewCraft range.
Bottling is probably the most disliked aspect of home brewing, so using larger bottles makes sense because you have sterilise, prime and fill fewer. (Just think, 23 litres = 30x750ml bottles, 60x375ml bottles and 68x330ml bottles). If you can obtain them, use the older-style bottles with a crown seal (not a twist-top) and are made of heavier glass.
Some people use PET plastic soft-drink bottles. While they have the advantage of being much lighter, unbreakable and easily sealed, you really do consider whether you want to put your beer into plastic. The BrewCraft team don't think it's good to do so.
It's false economy to try and save a few cents by buying the cheapest caps you can find. Why? Because good caps are cheap enough and if you do skimp on a poorer quality no-name brand they you are likely to get poor seals, which means flat beer. The only thing worse is no beer. Some caps are designed only for twist-tops, some for crown seals and some for both, so buy the right type and ensure it is a trusted brand, such as 'Copper Tun'.
The old-school way of capping was to use a hand-capper. A preferable method is the lever-capper, which has two levers, that are pushed down gently to crimp the cap over the top of the bottle. Breaking bottles is far less frequent with this bottling method, but still happens too regularly.
We recommend you use what is called a bench-capper. It consists of a base on which the bottle is placed and a vertical bar to which a lever is attached. The cap is placed on the bottle and the lever is pulled down to crimp the cap, forming a tight seal without fuss and with miniscule damage risk. The best part of this method is that the bench-capper can be bolted to your work bench wherever your home brewery is located - in the back of the garage, under the house, a storage shed, or wherever it may be.
Brewing log book
It's a fantastic feeling cracking open the first bottle of a batch of home brew to discover it's a ripper. But you'll get a sinking feeling when you realise you don't have a record of how you made it. All you need is a book (nothing fancy, just an exercise book will do) in which you can record what went into the beer, anything unusual you did during brewing, along with when it was made and bottled. You might also like to write down how much it cost, its original and final gravity (so you can work out the alcohol content) and keep a running record of how many bottles you have left.
Even if you rinse your bottles as soon as you drink your homebrew, they will, over time (and sometimes after just one brew) accumulate a film on the inside. A good bottle brush will remove this easily, especially if used with a bottle-washing powder or solution. The alkaline washing powder available at homebrew shops is usually no different to powder used in a dishwasher. Don't use detergent, such as dishwashing liquid, as any residue will destroy the head on your beer. There's also so little oil in beer that detergent won't be effective anyway.
There are countless bacteria that could ruin your beer and a good steriliser will kill all of them. Sterilisers comes in many forms, but the BrewCraft team suggest using sodium metabisulphate. Some use household bleach or use boiling water or even heat their bottles in the oven to kill any bugs, while others put them in the dishwasher. However, the heat from an oven or dishwasher could weaken your bottles depending on what type of glass they are made from. Talk to your homebrew shop about a good chemical for the job, and don't forget to rinse thoroughly.
Other basic brewing tools
The BrewCraft team recommend home brewers also have a long spoon, preferably 'food grade' plastic, which is easier to keep sterile than wood... a funnel, to get priming sugar into the bottles... and a priming measure. You can use a teaspoon, but buy a cheap, plastic sugar measure from your homebrew shop as this will ensure that quantities are consistent.
Extras to make brewing easier
Here are a few other items that make the task of brewing beers and ales an even more rewarding and successful pastime. Although not essential, every serious home brewer should get them.
To accurately gauge the actual alcohol content you need to use a hydrometer.
Many home brewers believe life is too short not to have one. The BrewCraft team wholeheartedly agree.