Brewing beer at home is becoming a popular pastime thanks to the introduction of home brewing kits that contain all the necessary equipment. It has become much easier with these kits to create your very own beer from the comfort of your home. Some kits include the ingredients needed to make beer while others do not.
We’ll run through these necessary ingredients so that you know what you will need and why it is important. In addition, we’ll look at the equipment you’ll require so that you are ready to brew and bottle your own beverages in no time. Lastly, we’ll give you a very basic recipe for creating a delicious homestyle beer that can form the foundation for other lagers and ales.
Ingredients in beer
There are four main ingredients in any beer – hops, grains, yeast and water.
- Hops – These are the flavour bombs. They give your beer its taste and aroma. Hops also counteract the sweetness produced during the fermentation process and control the bacteria in the brew. There are various types of hops that each have unique flavours and smells.
- Grains – Beer can contain a variety of grains, the most common of which is barley. Other grains include wheat, corn, sorghum and even rice. Barley can be used in its whole form for the all-grain method of brewing, or it can come in malt form which is used for extract brewing.
- Yeast – Yeast is a key ingredient for brewing. It is a single-cell organism that eats sugar and converts it to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeast is what makes beer alcoholic and fizzy. Yeast is responsible for the fermentation process and without it, beer cannot be made.
- Water – Water is the main ingredient of beer by volume – most beers are 95% water. The quality of water used for brewing will directly determine the quality of the beer, so use the freshest water possible. Avoid using tap water that contains chlorine and other chemicals as this could kill the yeast and give your beer a funny taste.
Two methods of homebrewing
As mentioned when discussing the grains, there are two basic methods for homebrewing; all-grain and extract brewing.
- All grain brewing – This method entails using whole forms of the grain and then mashing it to release the sugars. These sugars are basically food for the yeast. Mashing the grains means soaking them in cold water to release the starches and sugars.
- Extract brewing – This method skips the mashing step because when you buy grain malt, the sugars have already been separated for you. Malt can come in a liquid or dry form and, while it is more expensive to buy than whole grains, it can save a lot of time and effort.
Equipment needed to brew your own beer
To brew your own lagers and ales successfully, you will need the right equipment. Do not improvise if you don’t have the equipment as this rarely results in a successful brew. All of this equipment can be purchased from a brew store. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Fermenter – This is a large vessel that stores the fermenting beer, keeping it sealed from bacteria.
- Airlock – The airlock keeps the fermenter airtight but has a one-way valve that allows excess carbon dioxide to be released. This prevents pressure from building up in the fermenter.
- Brew kettle – This is the contraption used to boil the ingredients. For a beginner, a 10 litre brew kettle will be big enough but you may want to get a 20l or 25l one in case you want to brew more one day.
- Burner – You will need a heat source that is strong enough to heat up the brew kettle. For small batches, a stovetop burner may work, but consider purchasing a bunsen burner for larger brews.
- Siphon and tubing – Once your brew has boiled, it will need to be transferred into the fermenter. A siphon is the best way to do this without spilling.
- Hydrometer – The hydrometer is used to measure the sugar density of the brew.
- Thermometer – You will need to measure the temperature of the water during the early phase of brewing, so get a reliable thermometer.
- Wort chiller – This chiller will cool down the brew once it has boiled.
- Cleaner – Keeping a clean brewing kit is essential as it prevents a build-up of bacteria and keeps the beer tasting fresh. Buy an organic, non-scented cleaner if possible.
- Sanitiser – In addition to cleaning your kit, you will need to sanitise it to kill any bacteria that could contaminate your brew.
- Bottles and caps – You can buy bottles and caps in bulk. Most kist will come with a capper that will allow you to attach a metal cap to the bottle.
Basic steps to brewing your own beer
- Heat 10 litres of water to 76℃ in your brew kettle. Measure the temperature with the thermometer
- Add your grains and let it soak for 30 minutes at that temperature (keep the heat steady).
- Add malted extract and hops to the solution and then bring it to the boil (100℃) for 90 minutes.
- Remove brew from the heat and transfer into the wort chiller using the siphon tube. Leave to cool.
- Using the siphon, transfer the cold brew into the fermenter.
- Add your yeast, attach the airlock and allow it to ferment in a room with a temperature between 20℃ and 25℃. Leave to ferment for one to two weeks.
- After the main fermentation process has finished, add your priming sugar for carbonation.
- Now you are ready to bottle your beer.
Note that these steps are very basic and can form the foundation for many brewing methods. Once you gain experience in brewing, you will be able to play around with ingredient ratios and other methods that enable you to create unique, flavourful and aromatic beers right in your own home.
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