The Basics of Home Bfrewing

In my opinion home brewing is one of the greatest hobbies on the market. And I don’t say this simply because there are beers involved. Think of it. From four ingredients you can make any style of beer. And with a little creativity you can put your own twist on those beera. When I discuss home brewing to people who aren’t into it though, I get many of the same questions. Doesn’t it take a long time? Isn’t it a lot of work? but Isn’t it expensive? But doesn’t home made beer taste kinda bad?

The answer to these questions is no. You can have beer made, bottled and ready to drink in as little as two weeks. The most work you’re going to do is the day you bottle your five dozen or so beers. As far as expense goes, once you’ve purchased your bottles and equipment, you can make 5 gallons of beer for half the cost of buying it. And as for how your home brew tastes, that goes down to the quality of your ingredients and your cooking techniques. The better your ingredients, the better your finished product.

Now that I’ve both intrigued and confused you, I should give you some idea of what you’ll be getting into. To make your own beer you’ll need equipment which will be available at your local home brew store. When you go to the home brew store let the staff know what level of work you’re willing to put into your hobby and how much you’d like to spend on it. They’ll set you up with a starter kit that will include the following equipment.

1) BREW POT First you need a stock pot capable of boiling 5 gallons of wort. As you start with kits, you’ll only be boiling 1-3 gallons of wort at a time. But a larger pot will give you room for boil overs (trust me, they can happen) as well as room to move up to partial or all grain brewing.

2) PRIMARY FERMENTER When you’ve boiled your wort, you’ll need a 6 gallon food grade plastic bucket to ferment your beer in. These buckets will come with a tight sealing lid and a hole in which to fit a rubber stopper and airlock. 

3) HYDROMETER The hydrometer is a must because you’ll need it to calculate your beer’s alcohol content. It’s a long, slender glass tube that looks somewhat like a thermometer that’s been weighted at one end. Once you’ve put your beer in the fermenter you float the hydrometer to take a reading of your beer’s original gravity. When the beer’s done fermenting, you take another reading. Those two readings allow you to figure out how strong your beer is.

4) THERMOMETER A thermometer is another must. After the boil when you transfer your wort into the primary fermenter you’ll need to measure the wort’s temperature. Once your wort cools to 70-75 Fahrenheit, you’ll add your yeast to ferment the beer. Too cold and the yeast won’t do anything. Too hot and your yeast will die. 

5) RACKING CANE A racking cane is basically a stiff plastic or glass straw that fits into your primary fermenter‘s nozzle. This cane allows you to transfer beer from the fermenter to the carboy or into the bottles when it comes time to bottle your beer. 

6) 6 FEET 3/8 INCH TUBING Plastic tubing is another item that will make it easier to transfer your beer between containers. It’s especially useful when your beer has finished maturing in the carboy and needs to be transferred back to the fermenter when it’s time to bottle your beer.

7) AIRLOCK AND STOPPER The airlock is a roughly S shaped piece of plastic tubing. When some water has been put in the lower curve of the airlock, it allows excess CO2 to escape as your beer as itferments while keeping airborne contaminants out of the beer. One of the most essential parts of home brewing is keeping airborne bacteria out of your beer. The rubber stopper will hold the airlock securely in place during fermentation.

8) GLASS CARBOY The carboy is basically a large jug made out of thick glass. The carboy is the vessel in which you’ll age your beer for a few days or a couple weeks. The ageing allows haze inducing particles to drop out of your beer so when you bottle your beer, it’ll be crystal clear. Sometimes, you’ll be given a second 6 gallon food grade plastic bucket in lieu of the glass carboy. Either will do the job. 

9) 5 DOZEN PRY TOP BEER BOTTLES The beer bottles can be the same bottles you drink already. The important thing to remember is they have to be pry top, not twist top. The twist top bottles don’t always seal properly, allowing individual bottles to be exposed to spoilage organisms. 

10) BOTTLE CAPPER The bottle capper is a fairly self explanatory piece of equipment. It’s a sort of Y shaped contraption that crimps beer bottles onto the neck of your bottles. Once you’ve filled them with beer, of course.

11) 5 DOZEN BOTTLE CAPS  Thankfully, boxes of bottle caps come in greater than 5 dozen increments. Usually, a box of caps will have hundreds of caps at a time, just waiting to seal up your home made beer.

12) SANITIZER I can not stress enough how important it is to clean and sanitize your equipment. Most starter kits will come with a sanitising powder that you simply mix with water and use to sanitise your equipment before brewing. Remember, if it comes in contact with your beer, it must be cleaned and sanitised first.

13) THE COMPLETE JOY OF HOME BREWING The Complete Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian is a must have for home brewers. This book teaches you nearly everything you need to know to make beer. He leads you from kits, to dry malt extract, to brewing exclusively with grain. Having a copy of this book will make it light years easier for you to learn about your new hobby.

When you get home with your equipment read the Complete Joy of Home Brewing. This book will detail the steps involved in producing your own beer. From cleaning and sanitizing your equipment to boiling and brewing your beer to bottling, Charlie Papazian’s book will teach you everything you need to know to make beer. After reading the book and deciding what kind of beer you’d like to make, you’ll probably still have a couple questions. 

If so, talk to the people at your home brew store. They’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you might have and help you make your first batch of beer. I’d also recommend you find a home brew club to join as you’ll have access to more experienced home brewers should you have questions. My only piece of advice is that you start brewing from kits. Beer kits are pre-made beers that you only have to do a little bit of work with to produce a good tasting beer.