Home Brewing - The Basics

It is often said "If you can boil water, you can brew beer".  It may not be quite that simple but brewing beer is easier than you might think.  You just need fresh ingredients, a good recipe and some beer brewing equipment.  Here are the basics you need to know to start brewing great beer.

Ingredients

Beer brewing starts with four ingredients:

    • fermentable sugars (typically from malted barley or other cereal grains),
    • water,
    • hops and
    • yeast.

Don't be fooled by this short list ... the varieties of each ingredient are endless & you can add spices, fruits, herbs and many other ingredients to create truly unique offerings.

Recipes

Now that you know the ingredients, you need a recipe.  Typical beer brewing recipes include these basic steps.

    1. Boil water then add malted barley and later hops to create a sugary soup called wort.
    2. Cool the wort then add yeast to create flat beer (also called 'bright' beer). 
    3. Add a bit of sugar and bottle the 'bright' beer to transform it into the finished carbonated beverage we all love - beer.

Like all recipes, the key is knowing how, when and what ingredients to add.  In fact, these variations in recipe & ingredients are what determine the style of beer.

Equipment

In addition to fresh ingredients and a good recipe, you also need some brewing equipment to boil, store and bottle your brew.  Here's the basic equipment needed to make 5 gallons of beer (approximately 2 cases).

On brew day (Steps 1 & 2 above), you will need:

    • Brew pot - For boiling water & making wort (minimum 4 gallons)
    • No Rinse Sanitizer - To clean & sanitize all brewing equipment and utensils
    • Long spoon or paddle - To stir in ingredients and prevent boil overs
    • Thermometer - To gauge the water/wort temperature
    • Fermenting Bucket - To store, ferment and condition your beer (6.5 gallons)
    • Airlock - To prevent oxidation of fermenting beer yet allow carbon dioxide to escape
    • Hydrometer - To determine alcoholic content of wort and finished product

On bottling day (Step 3 above), you will need the following additional items:

    • Bottle Brush - To clean and sanitize beer bottles
    • Bottling Bucket - To hold fermented beer and priming sugars before bottling (6.5 gallons)
    • Siphon Setup - To transfer beer between containers
    • Bottle Filling Wand - To fill your bottles with your brew
    • 54-12 oz. Non-twist Bottles - To hold your new brew ... plan ahead & empty some now!
    • Bottle Caps - Unused caps to seal bottles
    • Bottle Capper - To tightly fit the cap over the bottle

Home Brewing - Getting Started

OK, you read Home Brewing - Basics above and you're interested in home brewing. But now you wonder "Yeah, but how do I get started?"

We make it easy by providing almost everything you need - fresh ingredients, good recipes and brewing equipment - in pre-packaged kits.

Ingredients and Recipes

The easiest way for first time home brewers to start your beer brewing adventure is with a beer brewing kit.  It's easy.  Pick a style of beer you would like to make and select a kit that matches. Each of our beer brewing kits contains an easy to follow recipe and all the ingredients you need to brew about two cases (5 gallons) of a particular style of beer.  

In addition, each beer brewing kit is rated on brewing difficulty.   I suggest you pick one that is rated "Easy" for your first attempt and move up to higher rated kits as your confidence grows.

If you would like a recommendation, I would suggest one of our bestselling kits, American Light.  It is an easy recipe to brew and an excellent entry to home brewing.

Equipment

OK, that takes care of the Ingredients and Recipe but you still need brewing Equipment.  We offer a couple of kits that contain the basic equipment you need to brew beer.  Our Standard Beer Equipment Kit is a very affordable set of equipment containing everything a beginning brewer needs to start brewing beer.  Our Deluxe Beer Equipment Kit includes everything in our standard kit plus a carboy (a 5 gallon bottle used for secondary fermentation to allow your finished brew to have more clarity and an overall better flavor) and an auto-siphon (to more easily transfer your brew without disturbing sediment).

Both kits contain all the basic equipment listed above for brewing beer except the bottles (you can re-use any pry off, not twist-off, bottles) and a brew pot (any 4 gallon or larger stock pot will work).

Home Brewing - A Final Word

One final word, I believe the two MOST important things in brewing beer are cleanliness and having fun.  Cleaning and sanitizing all your brewing equipment is the most important task in the entire brewing process. If not done, the yeast will not be happy and unhappy yeast produces bad tasting or smelling beer.

I also believe brewing beer should be fun and a way of relaxing with friends.  Make it social - do it with friends over a few cold ones.  As I like to say, "The best way to brew is to have a few".

Also, if you happen to live in NW Ohio or simply are in need of a road trip, I suggest you sign up for one of our free beer brewing classes at our store in Findlay, Ohio.  We teach you the basics of brewing in a couple of hours.  If you enjoy it, we can help you with all your beer brewing needs.

Great, you've picked a beer brewing kit and you have all your brewing equipment.  That's all you really need to make a great beer.  So, what are you waiting for?  Brew.

If you have questions or run into any problems, you can always contact our BrewMaster for help. 

Finally, below is a more detailed explanation of the beer brewing process.  Per a number of requests, I have included a little more of the chemistry behind beer brewing.  Enjoy.

Home Brewing - A Chemistry Lesson

A number of people think my recipe for brewing beer above is too simplistic.  For those of you who feel that way, first I'm sorry but brewing beer just isn't that complicated.  But, what I will give you is that the chemistry behind it is a bit more involved.  So, for those of you who want a quick overview of the chemistry behind brewing beer, here's a slightly more detailed (but still basic) explanation of the brewing process.  The steps are broken out to better explain the interactions of the ingredients. These steps include:

    • First, you steep the malted barley in hot or boiling water which releases the sugars from the barley creating a sugary soup called wort.
    • Next, you boil the wort and add hops as a bitter balance to the sweet malt flavor.  Hops also add flavor and aroma to your beer.
    • After the wort has boiled long enough, you cooled it and add yeast starting fermentation.  Over a week or so, the yeast converts the sugary wort soup into 'bright' beer (i.e., flat) by eating the sugars and producing alcohol and carbon dioxide.
    • After fermenting, the 'bright' beer needs to rest in a cool dark place (it has worked hard after all) to mellow and mature its flavors.  Often the 'bright' beer is transferred to a secondary container to filter out sediment for more clarity and purer flavor.
    • Then right before bottling, a little sugar is added to turn the 'bright' (but flat) beer into that carbonate beverage we all love - beer.  The sugar activates viable yeast still suspended in the beer producing a small amount of alcohol and, this is key, carbonation.

There you have it - beer brewing chemistry 101.  Who knew high school chemistry could be so much fun?

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