22 October 2014 - Best Beer HQ
How to brew your own beer
Everything you need to know about becoming a DIY brewer…
There’s nothing better than brewing your own beer. Actually, there is – buying it! Seriously though, don’t be put off by the fact that you probably won’t be able to make a beer as good as the experts do. The joy comes in perfecting your beer-making skills over time, until one day you brew a beer nice enough to share with your mates. Imagine how proud you’ll feel then!
Beer brewing for beginners (a summary)
If you already know how beer is made, skip ahead and follow the steps. For everyone else, beer is made by soaking malted barley in hot water to release the malt sugars. The sugar solution is then boiled with hops, which season it. You cool the solution and add yeast to ferment the sugars, which releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and alcohol. When that’s complete, you bottle the beer and add sugar to provide carbonation. Sound easy enough? Now let’s give it a try.
- Malt extract
- Yeast (what kind depends on the type of beer you’re brewing)
- Specialty grains
As with most things in life, preparation is the key to success. Well, it’s one of many keys to brewing the perfect beer…
Remember to keep your work station clean. Thoroughly clean and sanitize everything that is likely to come into contact with your beer. Don’t use bleach, because that can cause your beer to taste bad later. Let everything drip dry, and then it’s just about time to begin.
But first you’ll need to get a notebook. You’re going to want to make notes about everything you do, including what strain of yeast you use, the amount of ingredients you use and anything else that you might want to replicate (or change) later.
Let the brewing begin!
First, you need to steep your grains by putting them in a grain bag and then resting it in a large stock pot, which contains 10 litres of hot water (around 66 degrees Celsius) for roughly 30 minutes. Then remove the grains and let the water just drip out of the grain bag. Do not squeeze the bag, as this might cause extract tannins to seep in and ruin the flavour of the beer later on.
Now it’s time to add the malt extract and boil everything together. Add the hops at various intervals, which will add flavour, bitterness, aroma and all those good things to the beer. Your beer brew kit will tell you when to do this and how much to use.
Generally, hops added early to the boil will contribute more bitterness at the cost of less flavour and aroma. Add them late, however, and it will have a pronounced flavour and aroma, but not as much bitterness.
After you’ve finished boiling the mixture you need to cool it down as quickly as possible. One way is to put the pot in a sink or bathtub full of ice-cold water. Gently stir the mixture to cool it slightly faster. When it gets to around 27 degrees Celsius, it’s ready to be poured into the beer fermenter.
At this point, you should splash the mixture around a bit as you pour it in the fermenter, as the yeast needs oxygen to work. Once fermentation begins, however, you’ll want to minimise the beer’s exposure to air – or you’ll risk having a horrible-tasting beer at the end.
Use a strainer to scoop all the hops out. Then add water to make 20 litres, before adding yeast. Put the lid on the fermenter and remember to use the airlock. Put the fermenter in a dark area with a relatively consistent temperature. Lagers will need refrigeration to ferment properly.
If you’ve done everything right, within 24 hours you should see the airlock bubbling. That’s a good sign. If it isn’t bubbling within a day or so, you should start worrying that you’ve either done something wrong or the yeast is dead.
Bottle your home brew
Leave you beer alone for two weeks from the time you started fermenting it. Has the airlock stopped bubbling so much? Good. It’s time to bottle your home-brewed beer.
Hopefully, the beer kit you’re using has come with its own priming sugar or dried malt extract. If it hasn’t, you’ll need to get some. This will carbonate your beer, which is crucial if you plan on drinking the stuff!
Boil the sugar in some water and then cool it. Add it to a clean and empty bucket with the spigot (the long tuby thing) connecting the bucket to the beer fermenter. Siphon the beer as gently as possible into the bucket with the sugar in it. Try not to let any of the sediment from the fermenter get in, if you can.
Stir in the priming sugar solution at the bottom of the bucket and then let it settle for a bit. Now it’s time to bottle it. Remember not to overfill your bottles! Leave a little bit of air at the top. Then store your bottles of beer at room temperature for at least one week, preferably two, before you chuck them in the fridge.
Now it’s time to open your home-brewed beer and toast to your success (or lack thereof). Cheers!
Also check out the history of beer.