Brewing beer is fun and easy. Humans have been making beer successfully since the dawn of civilization (literally).
It certainly may feel daunting at first, because there are a lot of terms and processes that you may not be familiar with. Rest assured, bigger idiots than you (us, namely) have made plenty of fantastic beer.
Keep it simple and keep things clean, organized, and sanitized, and your odds of making a delicious beer are very good.
Below is a list of the basic steps taken from the American Homebrewers Association. We highly recommend that you become a member today, so that you can take advantage of many more resources like this, as well as support the homebrew community at large.
Step 1: REVIEW
Read through the homebrew recipe and steps of the brewing process entirely before starting your brew day to ensure maximum efficiency.
This tutorial will walk you through the entire brewing process for a German-style wheat ale. The same steps can be applied to any extract-only recipe, although instructions for other beer styles and fermentation and packaging processes will vary.
Step 2: GATHER SUPPLIES
Ensure you have all the homebrewing equipment and beer ingredients necessary to brew.
You will need the following equipment:
- Boil pot (2+ gallons)
- Fermenter and airlock
- Bottling equipment
Step 3: CLEAN EQUIPMENT
Using unscented cleanser, thoroughly clean all brewing equipment.
Debris on equipment can harbor microorganisms that can spoil a batch of beer, even with proper sanitation.
Step 4: HEAT WATER
Put 1 gallon (3.79 L) of water in the boil pot and bring it to a boil.
Step 5: ADD MALT EXTRACT
Once boiling, remove the pot from heat and stir in the malt extract, being careful that it does not collect on the bottom of the pot.
Stir until completely dissolved.
Note: removing the pot from the heat source prevents the malt extract from scorching.
Step 6: RETURN TO BOIL
Once the malt extract has dissolved, return the liquid to a boil.
Step 7: ADD HOPS
After the liquid reaches a rolling boil, add the bittering hop addition.
Note: hop additions are typically labeled with the time left until the end of the boil.
Step 8: SANITIZE EQUIPMENT
Everything that comes into contact with the wort after the boil must be sanitized to prevent risk of infection that could spoil a batch of beer.
Step 9: CHILL WORT
After the 30 minute boil is complete, you have successfully created wort, the unfermented liquid that will turn into beer.
Fill the clean and sanitized fermenter half way with cold water.
Add the hot wort after it has sat for 5 minutes.
Fill the fermenter with cool water to reach 5 gallons, and allow the wort to sit until it drops in temperature to 70-75°F (21-24°C).
Note: if using a glass fermenter, do not add wort over 100°F (37.8°C), as it could shatter
Step 10: PITCH YEAST
When the wort temperature has dropped, sanitize your yeast package and add (pitch) the yeast.
Note: If using a Wyeast smackpack, it is advised to activate the yeast at least 2-3 hours before pitching into the fermenter.
Step 11: SEAL FERMENTER
Seal the fermenter with a clean and sanitized airlock and bung.
If using a bucket fermenter, a carboy bung is not typically needed.
The airlock can be filled with no-rinse sanitizer or a high proof alcohol.
Step 12: SHAKE FERMENTER
After sealing, give the fermenter a vigorous shake for a minute or two to provide some oxygen to the yeast.
After shaking, prevent the liquid from splashing as much as possible until the beer is enjoyed.
Step 13: STORE FERMENTER
In the next 1-2 weeks, the yeast will be converting the fermentable sugars from the malt extract into CO2 and alcohol, a process known as fermentation.
Pick a location that holds temperature within the range called for by the specific yeast, allows for minimal disturbance (splashing) and prevents any light from reaching the wort
For this specific recipe, keep the fermenter on the lower end of the 65-75°F (18.3-23.9°C) range.
Step 14: MONITOR FERMENTATION
Signs of fermentation should be visible via a bubbling airlock after 12-72 hours.
The bubbling is caused by CO2, a byproduct of fermentation. If the bubbling slows down or stops, it doesn’t necessarily mean fermentation is complete.
Another visible sign of fermentation is the formation of frothy foam on top of the wort called kraeusen.
The sure-fire way to know if fermentation has ceased is to use a hydrometer.
Step 1: BOIL WATER
After 3-4 weeks in the fermenter, your beer is ready to be packaged. Now that fermentation has stopped, the un-carbonated beer needs to be primed in order to carbonate.
To do this, a small amount of sugar (dextrose) will be added to the beer. The yeast will ferment the sugar, creating CO2, which cannot escape the capped bottle and subsequently carbonates the beer. Bring two cups (473 mL) of water to a boil.
Step 2: ADD PRIMING SUGAR
Once boiling, add 5 ounces (141.7 g) of priming sugar (dextrose), and boil for 10 minutes.
If you’ll be bottling less than 5 gallons (18.9 L), a good rule of thumb is to use 1 ounce of priming sugar for every gallon being bottled.
Step 3: ADD TO BUCKET
After the 10 minute boil, remove from heat and add the priming sugar solution to your already clean and sanitized bottling bucket.
Step 4: TRANSFER BEER
Using clean and sanitized equipment, such as an auto-siphon or racking cane, transfer (rack) the beer from the fermenter into the bottling bucket.
Note: create a whirlpool in the bottling bucket in order to evenly mix the sugar without splashing.
Avoid transferring the solid contents (trub) at the bottom of the fermenter into the bottling bucket.
Step 5: ATTACH BOTTLE FILLER
Attach the bottle filler to the spigot of your bottling bucket with a small piece of food-grade tubing.
Note: be sure to sanitize all these pieces of equipment thoroughly.
Step 6: FILL BOTTLES
Fill the clean and sanitized bottles up to the very rim of the bottle neck.
When you remove the bottle filler, the volume should be perfect—about one inch from the top of the bottle—and consistent from bottle to bottle.
Step 7: CAP BOTTLES
Carefully cap the bottles with sanitized caps using a sanitized bottle capper.
Step 8: STORE BOTTLES
Place bottles in a room-temperature area, around 70°F (21.1°C), and let them sit to allow carbonation to take place.
Step 9: ENJOY
After 2-3 weeks, open a bottle and enjoy the fruits of your labor!