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Below are the proper tools and equipment that will allow you to brew your first batch of delicious beer. Keep in mind that this is the simple way. As you continue to brew at home, more equipment will be necessary for getting the best results.
__7.5 gallon stainless steel or copper pot.
It is best to use stainless steel or copper because it does not release chemicals into the water, like aluminum.
__6.5 gallon food grade plastic fermentor or glass carboy.
Both ferment beer well, but it all depends how much you want to spend. We suggest to primary ferment in a plastic food grade bucket, and use a glass carboy for secondary fermentation.
__Lid with airlock and rubber seal, or small plastic cork with hole for airlock.
It is important to seal the fermenting beer as tight as possible, to prevent any oxygen. Oxygen can cause oxidated beer, which could leave a cardboard, chalky taste. The purpose of the airlock is to slowly allow carbon dioxide to be released.
To strain out any of the access hops and create a clean beer before the fermentation process. __Stainless Steel Spoon
It is imperative that you stir in the malt extract to prevent any burning on the bottom of the pot. Creating a vortex will gradually stir in the malt extract without burning it.
This will allow you to check the original gravity and final gravity. More detail will be given during the rookie lesson
Keeping consistent temperatures is crucial for creating your wort and for fermentation. You will need to check the temperature regularly.
Necessary when using a glass carboy for primary fermentation. __Sanitizers (Idophor, C-Brite)
Sanitation is the most key component when making beer. Any small organism or bacteria could ruin a good batch of beer. I suggest Idophor for sanitation, and C-Brite for a disinfectant.
This piece of equipment is important for transferring beer to secondary fermentation, as well as bottling. Bottling will be discussed later in the rookie course.
An important piece of equipment for bottling beer. It acts as a lever that squeezes caps onto the top of the bottle to seal your beer.
Caps can be found at any homebrew store. I recommend buying by the bulk.
Brewing 5 gallons of beer will require at least 48 bottles, or two cases of beer. It may not be a bad idea to have more, just in case you brew more than 48 bottles. Start collecting 12 ounce brown, pop top bottles. You can also buy bottles at a homebrew shop.
Now that you have all of your equipment ready, lets get ready to brew beer!
The main ingredients you’ll need for brewing your first batch of beer.
The four main ingredients in making your rookie beer are water, malt extract, hops, and yeast. I will go in brief detail about each ingredient to give a better understanding of how each ingredient works.
If you have a clean water source from your sink or hose, it should be conducive for making good beer. Some homebrewers add certain minerals, like gypsum, to duplicate the water in certain regions. If you feel you have a bad source of water, there are certain measures you can take. First, I suggest a local grocery store and by spring or mineral water. I fill up a five gallon plastic jug for water coolers at the grocery store. You could also boil off any chemicals, and put the boiled waterto good use. If it is a true concern, you can call your local goverment and figure out your water source.
The purpose of malt extract is to provide some of the flavor of your beer, give it color (Lovibond), as well as the necessary sugars that yeast will convert wort into alcohol. There are two types of malt extract, dry malt extract (DME), or liquid malt extract. Dry malt extract is a powdery substance, and liquid extract looks like syrup. Both work well to create your wort. The flavors of malt extract vary from extra light, light, amber, wheat and dark. Depending on the type of beer you desire will determine the type of extract you will use. For example, if you want to make a stout, you probably will need to use a good amount of dark DME. Furthermore, there are also kits that are available at homebrew shops that will provide the proper extract. If you want to mix and match extracts, or use the kit is up to individual preference.
It is important to understand how extract works. Lets say you want to make a pale ale. More than likely, you will use a light and amber extract. Now, if you were to take 1 gallon of water at 160 degrees and 1 pound of malt extract, you will get a original gravity (OG) read of about 1.048. It differs between liquid extract and DME. Since homebrewers generally brew 5 gallon batches, you will at least need 5 pounds of malt extract. If you want a brew a beer that a has higher alcohol content, you will need to add more extract. But, be advised not to add too much extract, because your beer will be too malty, and lack hop aroma, bitterness, and flavor. Finding the delicate balance between hops and malt, with a yeast that complements the sugar is crucial for becoming an excellent homebrewer.
Hops have a long history in beer making that has allowed beer drinkers to enjoy the bitterness, aroma, and flavor that hops offer. They have complex characteristics that a small understanding would be beneficial when using hops for the first time.
The first thing in understanding hops is the form hops come in, which are hop pellets, hop plugs, and fresh, dry hops. In the rookie level, the usuage of hop pellets are the easiest. Later on, you will get a better understanding of using dry hops, as well as plugs.
Hops have certain acids, resins, and essential oils that give beer certain bitterness, flavor and aroma. A key part to putting hops into beer is the utilization you will achieve when hopping your brew. When it comes to hopping , it begins when the boil starts. It is best to use bittering hops, because its utilization will last longer than flavor and aroma hops. Flavor and aroma hops is best utilized near the end of the boil.
I’m sure you are wondering at this point what types of hops there are, how much to use, and which ones are considered bittering, flavor, or aroma hops. Furthermore, I bet you are wondering what regions of the world do hops come from. Well, I do recommend to find sources that provide various hop strands and their functions. Hops are extremely complex both in chemistry and characteristics, so finding a good source that elaborates would be beneficial. In regards to using hops, it begins with the boil that lasts 60 minutes. Some beers may require more time, but 60 minutes is the average time for a boil.
Keeping a hop schedule is important for recording purposes. It is nice to see when you put your hops in at what time in the boil. Then, you can determine if your beer has a nice balance of bitterness, flavor, and aroma. If changes are necessary, you can always resort back to your hop schedule.
Like hops, yeast is extremely complex. There are so many strands of yeast, it may be daunting to pick which yeast is best for your style of beer. However, makers of yeast have done an excellent job in creating yeasts and matching it with the desired beer.
First, it is important to understand that there are two types of yeast, top fermenting yeast and bottom fermenting yeast. Top fermenting yeasts are used with Ales, Stouts, Porters, Wheat beers. Any beer that can be fermented at room temperature uses top fermenting yeasts. Bottom fermenting yeasts are used for lagers, bocks, pilsners. Lagers need to be fermented at cooler temperatures, roughly around 45-50 degrees. So, cold storage is imperative when fermenting lagers. In the end, brewing beers with top fermenting yeasts is much easier, since you do not have to invest in cold storage. But, lagers have a long and historic tradition, so they too are fun and excellent to brew.
Realize that yeast turns your wort into alcohol, so handle it with great care. You wouldn’t want to mess up your beer. Also, it provides some flavors that accentuate your hops. Some provide a fruity, citrusy flavor, while some yeasts give a clove flavor. The bottom line is to pick the proper yeast with the style of beer that you make. You don’t want to use a Hefeweizen Yeast with a Pale Ale beer. Again, finding resources that show which yeasts match certain beer styles will help turn your beer into a delicacy.
Striking Your Water
Now that you have a review of the equipment you need, and the proper ingredients for making your first brew, let’s get started!
Make sure that you make proper space to organize all of your equipment so it is accessible. Place the items that are necessary in the beginning close to you. Put aside the items needed for later on in the brew.
Striking water does not mean hitting it really hard. It essentially means to put a flame to it. The first part of brewing is to make sure your water reaches the proper temperature of 160-165 Degrees. Have your thermometer ready.
Imagine you are steeping tea, and you don’t want the tea to get too hot. The same rule applies with beer.
If you strike the water and reach a higher temperature desired, it may burn your extract and give you an astringent, chalky taste. Plus, it doesn’t create the desired sugars necessary for yeast to convert to alcohol. Keeping a constant temperature of 160-165 degrees is important in making a quality beer. There are situations where you may want to lower the temperature to 150-155 degrees, depending on the flavor you want. A lower temperature creates a lighter body, while high temperatures creates a heavier body.
An important rule is to strike your water no higher than 165 degrees. Key Point: 160-165 Degrees for your water!
Do The Mash
Now that you’ve struck your water to the proper temperature (what is it? That’s right, 160-165 Degrees Fahrenheit), let’s create the mash by putting in your extract.
Depending on the beer you wish to make will depend on the extract you use. To keep it simple, let’s make a pale ale with light and amber extract. Remember, malt extract provides the color (SRM), and the proper sugars for fermentation.
Create a small vortex in your brew pot with your stainless steel spoon, and put your extract into the kettle. You should immediately see a change in color, almost a copper looking color. The purpose of starting a vortex is to make sure that you don’t burn any of your extract.
Let that sit for 30-40 minutes to make sure that you create the proper sugars desired for yeast attenuation. Once you have completed this step, we’ll move into your boil and adding the hops.
Hop Times At Homebrew High
Now that we’ve created a nice wort with our malt extract, it’s time to boil your wort to utilize the bitterness of hops and alleviate some of the cloudiness of a homebrew.
Once you have waited 30-40 minutes, turn your flame to high. Keep an eye on the boil! I know it sounds boring, but once your wort hits a boil, it will rise very quickly. Too many times have I heard horror stories of homebrewers leaving their boil, resulting in a messy cleanup. Another tip is to have your hops of choice ready and weighed out in individual portions.
As soon as you reach the boil, put your first portion of hops in and begin your predetermined hop schedule. For example, lets say you have a 60 minute boil. At 60 minutes: 2 oz of Centennial hops. At 30 min: .5 oz of Cascade hops. At min: .5 oz of Cascade. At 1 min: .5 oz of Mt. Hood. Having this type of hop schedule written down will keep good records.
The boil should be a steady, rolling boil. Keep an eye on the boil, making sure that it is consistent. As the boil rolls, begin to prep your sink for bringing down the boil to 70 degrees. At 10-15 minutes left in the boil, put cold water and ice in your sink. You need to bring your wort from 212 degrees to 70 degrees. Try to time that where you sink is at its peak coldness. At this point, you will be doing several things at once. Keeping an eye on the boil, following your hop schedule, and preparing your sink for pitching your yeast. As long you have everything organized, it should be smooth transitions.
Not every homebrew will be what you want. Through trial and error, you can make the beer that you are looking for. Try drinking different microbrews and see if they have the types of hops on their bottle or box. Then you can match the qualities to your homebrew. Once your beer has been fermented and ready to drink, focus on tasting the hop bitterness and flavor, and smell the aroma to see if the recipe and schedule is a keeper. If it is not, you can adjust your schedule both in timing and the types of hops.
Now, that we have finished our hop schedule, let’s see how good your pitch is.
Before we prepare to cool down our wort, it is now time to consider our sanitation.
It is so important that at every thing is clean and sanitized.
Is your fermenting bucket or glass carboy sanitized? How about your airlock? Your thermometer? For a disinfectant, as said earlier, we recommend C-Brite. For sanitation, we use Idophor. Be sure to have everything clean, including your hands. As the temperature goes to down for fermentation, the greater risk for contamination. Have the attitude of being overly clean to avoid any bacteria.
Now, we can finally throw a pitch!
Pitch Your Yeast
You made your wort and put in a bunch of hops. Now let’s see if you are good pitcher because we want a pitcher, not a belly itcher. (beer impairs your judgment, especially with jokes.)
Turn off your flame and carefully take your kettle to the sink. Caution! Contents are Extremely Hot! At all costs, avoid getting burned. Use pot holders or gloves. Once you have placed your kettle in the cold water, its time to play the waiting game. Keep your thermometer ready and check periodically. Also, have your hydrometer ready. Remember to stay sanitized.
Once your wort has reached 70 degrees in your kettle, it’s time to put your wort in the fermentation vessel. You will notice in your kettle that there are hops floating around and it may not look appetizing. This is where your strainer will come into play. Place your strainer over your bucket and pour into the bucket carefully. If you are using a glass carboy, place the funnel into the carboy and the strainer over the funnel. Try to avoid any spilling.
Check and see how many gallons of beer you have in your bucket. Do you have 5 gallons? Is it a little over 5 gallons? Is it under 5 gallons? If it’s a little over 5 gallons, not to worry. However, if it is under 5 gallons, place cold, clean water in your fermentation bucket to reach 5 gallons. Remember, you should have started with 5.5 gallons of water, and some water should have been boiled off. If too much boiled off, place extra water to achieve 5 gallons.
Now that you have the proper amount in your fermentation bucket, get out your hydrometer and check the original gravity. Depending on the type of beer you made, you should have an original gravity of approximately 1.048. Anyway, remember your OG and write it down when you are done.
Get your yeast ready! Wind up and PITCH! Pitching your yeast simply means pouring the yeast into the fermentation. In 24 to 48 hours, it should be activated. You will notice this activation when your airlock begins to bubble. As soon as you pitched the yeast, seal immediately and place in a dark room at room temperature.
Congratulations, rookie brewer! You have completed your first homebrew! How does it feel? How do you think it went?
Now is a good time to reflect on the process, and analyze the various steps. As long as you followed every step, you should have a good brew.
To Primary or Secondary?
So you have been waiting patiently for your beer and now an important decision awaits you. Do you strictly primary ferment or do you transfer into another vessel and secondary ferment?
If you chose to primary ferment, be advised that you want your ale to ferment for two weeks. If you chose to do secondary fermentation, primary will take 5-7 days, then you can transfer your beer using a racking tube and racking hose to secondary fermentation for 2 weeks. Secondary offers more clarity in your beer, since some of the sludge will remain in the primary container. However, buying another fermentation bucket or glass carboy will run you another 15 to 20 dollars. We strongly suggest doing secondary fermentation in a glass carboy. It leaves a better finish for your beer.
In the end, it all depends how much you want to invest. We feel it is worth the extra money to secondary ferment. However, primary fermentation is just as effective and cheaper in the long run.
Now we’ll discuss racking your beer for bottling.
As you are waiting patiently for your fermentation to finish, it is now time to consider getting ready to bottle your beer. There are two things that you can do to prep yourself for bottling and one includes drinking and saving up on beer bottles. However, you will need specific beer bottles. Twist offs WILL NOT work, because your capper will not function. You need brown, pop top beer bottles that you will need to cap yourself. The reason brown is the best bottle is to make sure that the beer is not exposed to too much sunlight. You want to store your beer in the dark at room temperature. I suggest you start asking your friends to start saving their beer bottles for bottling. Then, everyone can have fun saving beer bottles for your homebrew.
Another option you can do is to go to your local homebrew store. Usually, they sell clean beer bottles for about $10 a case. This would be a good start, but be sure to save beer bottles for re-use.
One of the hassles of brewing beer is sanitation. Your bottles must be clean, or any wild bacteria can ruin your beer. I recommend soaking them in water with a touch of C-Brite or Bleach and have a bottle brush ready to clean the inside. It is a tedious process, but you will be grateful once you have a clean, refreshing beverage. Also, as soon as you pour your beer into glass, immediately wash it out. This will help the cleaning process for later.
Once your beer bottles are clean and ready for bottling, let’s rack the beer for bottling.
Racking Your Beer
Now that fermentation is finally over, we are one step closer to having your finished homebrew.
Take your fermented beer to an elevated surface and place your bottling bucket below it. You are going to use your racking tube and hose to transfer your beer from fermentation to your bottling bucket.
It is important to measure the final gravity before we rack your beer. Take your hydrometer and place into your finished beer. What does it read? Based on the beer you’ve made, it should read around 1.015. As soon as you have this reading, you can figure out the ABV once your done bottling your beer.
Now that you have your final gravity, place the racking tube into the beer, and push the hose all the way down into the tube. Make sure the other end of the hose is in the bottling bucket, and that the bottling bucket is securely fastened. Any leaking would be disastrous, so double check before this process even begins. Beer will slowly go into the bottling bucket.
Understanding carbonation is our next topic.
Carbonation gives you that fuzzy feeling when beer hits your lips. Flat beer is blasphemy, so lets make sure we properly carbonate your beer. We have to realize that during fermentation, lots of CO2 is dissolved. It is our job to replenish the beer carbon dioxide so it enhances the flavor of homebrew.
Out of all of the primers that I have used for carbonating beer, a 1/2 cup of corn sugar has given me the best results. There are some complex ways to carbonate beer that can be addressed later on, but a 1/2 cup of corn sugar will work.
As you are racking your beer for bottling, you will need to fill 1/2 cup of corn sugar and the rest with water until you have reached 1 cup. Place in the microwave for 3 minutes, or until corn sugar is dissolved, and place in the bottling bucket. This simple way will give you a great tasting, carbonated beer.
Bottling Your Beer
The final step before drinking your beer. You are only 2 weeks away before quenching your thirst with a homebrew.
Now that you have carbonated your beer, and all of the beer is in the bottling bucket, have your caps, capper, and bottles sanitized for use. Furthermore, I recommend having a partner with you for bottling. It makes the process a lot easier.
What you want to do is place the bottle under the hose, and turn the knob to OPEN. Fill your beer until you have rougly 1 inch of space between the top of the bottle and the top of the beer. If you filled too much, place the small portion back to the bottling bucket. Place a cap on top of the bottle, take your capper, and push down hard to feel the cap seal around the bottle. Continue this process until you cannot fill any more of your bottles. The rest you can taste to see what you are in for. Place your bottles in dark room, room temperature for at least two weeks.
Tasting Your Beer
You’ve waited a long two weeks for your brew, now it is finally time to taste your creation. Place a couple in the refridgerator. Once they are cold, pour into a glass and check carbonation. If its not carbonated enough, you may need to wait longer. If you have 1/2 inch to 1 inch of head (or the bubbles on top of the beer), you should be pleased with carbonation. Your first homebrew is ready to drink.
While you are tasting your beer, try to taste the characteristics of the beer. Does it have a nice malt taste? How about bitterness and flavor? Does it smell flowery, or citrusy? If you can dictate some distinct flavors that you like, try to replicate it with another brew. Furthermore, it is also important to address what you don’t like about the beer. Is it too hoppy? Too malty? Does it have a funny aftertaste? As a homebrewer, it is important to realize that not all beers you make will be the best. Through practice, you will be able to make delicious beers. It took me quite some time to make a good beer, and I always find myself wanting to do better. Homebrewing takes lots of patience, and the incentive of making better beer always provides motivation and a drive to master a craft that has been around for centuries.
Here’s a great article Anbrew wrote on tasting your beer: http://www.homebrewschool.com/tasting- your-brew
The rookie level is designed for novice homebrewers to get a general idea of how to brew beer. You may find that your beer did not match the expectations that you desired, since you only used malt extract. But if you followed the steps properly, your brew may surprise you. To see how you did, below is a nice guide to see how your style of beer matches some characteristics like flavor, aroma, taste, and body.
Since you have completed the rookie level of Homebrew School, the potential to make better beer is up to you. You can try a couple more extract brews to hone your skills, or you can make the next step of brewing beer by trying the Veteran level. This level focuses on the use of grains, which offers more creativity in the brewing process. Chill out with a homebrew!
Homebrew School Rookie Homebrewer’s Checklist
- Equipment Check (Fermentation Vessel, Lid With Seal, Airlock,
- Kettle, Thermometer, Hydrometer, Stainless Steel Spoon)
- Sanitation Check (C-Brite and/or Idophor on all equipment)
- Step 1: Kettle on stove with 5.5 to 6 gallons of water to reach
- 155-160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Step 2: Ingredients-Appropriate amount of Dry Malt Extract
- (DME) and Liquid Extract. _____ Lbs. of DME ____ of
- Liquid Extract. 30-45 minutes at consistent temperature. Stir
- Step 3: Bring to a Boil for 60 minutes
- Step 4: Hop Schedule
- Type of Hop(s):
- Alpha Acid
- Amount in Ounces:
- Time put into the Boil
- Bring Wort to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Check Original Gravity _______.
- Seal and fill airlock. Clean equipment.
Homebrew School Bottling Checklist
- 48-50 Clean, Brown Beer Bottles. No Twist Offs!
- Box or Six Pack Holders to put Beers In.
- Racking Hose and Tube
- Bottling Bucket
- Priming Sugar
- Bottle Capper
- Check Final Gravity ________ (Take Original Gravity ______ — Final Gravity ________ / 7.5 = _____ (%ABV)
- Use Racking Tube and Hose to Rack Beer into
- Bottling Bucket.
- Prepare Priming Sugar. Take 1⁄2 Cup of Corn Sugar and 1⁄2 Cup of Water to achieve 1 cup. Microwave for 3 minutes.
- Place in Bottling Bucket.
- Taste Small Amount of Beer
- Bottle Beer Using Caps and Bottle Capper.
- Clean and Sanitize Equipment.
You’ve now read the fundamentals for how to brew beer using the extract method. Join Homebrew School and learn more advanced techniques with our 24/7 multimedia training.