The Simple Process of Home Brewing

What You'll Need
Home-brewing kettle
Water
Hops
Yeast
Thermal heat exchanger
Fermenting vessel
Carbon dioxide keg
Sugar

How would you like 48 bottles of beer for as little as 20 bucks? If you're tired of paying top dollar at the grocery store, home brewing could be for you.

Home brewing is an inexpensive way of producing beer that can taste just as good as the beer big corporations make. Even better, you can customize it to your taste rather than having to settle for bland, mass-marketed beers. If you're worried it might be too difficult to brew your own beer—don’t be. It's simpler than you might think, and this article will walk you through it.

Home brewing takes 4 steps: boiling together the ingredients, cooling the resulting mix, adding yeast for fermenting, and priming.

Step 1 - Boil Ingredients

The boiling stage requires a home-brewing kettle, which costs from $35-400. Mix together water, hops, and yeast. The result is called wort, and is boiled for at least 15 minutes (though for best results, you should allow at least an hour).

Step 2 - Cool Ingredients

Next, you have to cool the wort to no more than 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius). This has to be done quickly—within 30 minutes and without exposing the wort to the atmosphere. You will use a thermal heat exchanger, which is a type of copper or stainless steel tubing that is dipped into the wort. Cold water then flows through the tubing.

Warning: Follow standard safety precautions when working with copper in contact with food. Always inspect copper for the blue-green verdigris that forms on oxidized copper. Verdigris is toxic and should be removed by scrubbing copper with vinegar or an oxalic acid-based cleaner.

Step 3 - Ferment

Once the wort is cooled, you have to pour it into a fermenting vessel. This is a container used specifically for home brewing. The pouring must be quite quick and firm to make sure the wort is aerated.

Sprinkle the yeast into the wort and seal the fermenting vessel. The fermentation process produces carbon dioxide, which bubbles through a special lock at the top of the vessel. For ideal home brewing—the vessel should be stored in temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) for ale and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) for lager.

Fermentation takes a few days. You can tell it’s complete when there’s a layer of sediment (trub) at the bottom, and the foamy head at the top has disappeared completely.

Siphon the beer into a different vessel to remove the trub and allow the beer to age. This usually takes 2-4 weeks.

Priming

Carbonate the beer by boiling either white cane sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, corn sugar, or maple syrup with water and adding to your final product before bottling. You may also use a special keg to force carbon dioxide into the brew. Some recommendations suggest adding a sugar directly to each bottle, but boiling your sugar and adding it to the entire batch prior to bottling is a safer food handling process.

Summary

When you taste your brew, you'll notice an immediate difference—it's literally alive. When commercial brewers make beer, they have to pasteurize it which kills off all the yeast and removes the carbonation. In home brewing, you keep the yeast alive, allowing the beer to age over time as wine does.

Although the home-brewing process is relatively simple keep in mind this is only a guide. Your home-brewing supplier will give you more detailed instructions for the specific ingredients you use, and you’ll need to plan your ingredient amounts based on what kind of system you setup.

There are a wide variety of kits available. Start with a small, low-cost beginners kit and expand from there.

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