Making your own beer at home is a great way for beer aficionados to have fun, get creative and save natural resources. If you’ve been thinking about taking up this DIY hobby but don’t know where to get started, check out our beginner’s guide to homebrewing, which lists basic ingredients and equipment, explains the homebrew process and offers tips from expert brewers.
Homebrewers use a wide variety of ingredients to flavor their beers including herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables. But all beers generally have four basic ingredients: malt, hops, yeast and water.
Malt: To make malted grains, brewers prompt the seeds of barley and other cereal grains to sprout, then dry them in a kiln to stop their growth and extract their sugars, according to Northern Brewer Homebrew Supply. The malted grain is then crushed and soaked in hot water – a process called “mashing” that converts the grain’s starch into sugars.
If you’re new to homebrewing, you’ll probably want to skip the mashing step altogether and purchase readymade malt extract, which comes in liquid or dried powdered form.
Hops: Hops are flowers used to add bitterness to balance out the malt’s sweetness; they can also provide a variety of flavors and aromas to the beer. Hops act as a natural preservative, preventing the beer from spoiling.
Yeast: Yeast converts sugars from the malt into alcohol and carbon dioxide – a process called fermentation. Beer yeast is sold in dried or liquid form and comes in two major classes, says the American Homebrewers Association (AHA): ale and lager.
- 1.5-5 gallon pot
- Large stainless steel spoon
- Measuring cup
You’ll also need a basic homebrew equipment kit that you can buy online or at a local homebrew supply store. The AHA recommends that the kit include:
- Two food-grade plastic buckets: one for fermenting, the other for bottling
- An air lock to keep your fermenting beer sanitary, allowing carbon dioxide to escape without letting in outside air
- A floating thermometer to tell you when the liquid in the fermenting bucket has reached the proper temperature and yeast can be added
- A racking cane for siphoning beer from the fermenting bucket to the bottling bucket
- Bottle brush
- Bottle filler
- Bottler capper
- Bottles and caps
1. Clean and sanitize equipment
Many homebrewers will soak their equipment in bleach to kill any bacteria that can spoil the beer’s flavor. But to make your homebrewing more environmentally responsible, we recommend using an eco-friendly sanitizing alternative like Star San Sanitizer.
2. Making the “wort”
The mixture of water, malt extract and hops you’re making is referred to as “wort”; it’s not officially called beer until the yeast is added.
Boil warm water and remove from the burner. Stir in malt extract and place back on burner, bringing to a boil. Then add hops, and boil for length of time specified by the recipe.
Pour the wort into the fermenting bucket, using the strainer to filter out the hops. Add water, if your recipe calls for it.
Take a reading of the wort’s temperature with the floating thermometer, and add the yeast when the wort reaches the temperature range noted in the recipe.
Then seal the bucket with its lid and add the air lock. Store in a dark area with no direct sunlight, such as a closet, for up to two weeks to allow the fermentation process to take place.
First, you’ll need to sanitize all bottling equipment, including the bottles and their caps. Then siphon beer from the fermenting bucket to the bottling bucket using the racking cane.
Place the racking cane into the bottle bucket and attach the bottle filler hose. Begin filling the bottles, leaving an inch of space at the top of the bottle – called “head space” – to allow the beer to develop the proper amount of carbonation.
Use the bottle capper to seal caps onto the bottles and wait 2-4 weeks for the beer to carbonate.