The Basics of Home Brewing and Where To Start

The basics of home brewing are іnсrеdіblу ѕіmрlе. Yоu саn of соurѕе mаkе it аѕ соmрlеx аѕ уоu wаnt dереndіng оn hоw muсh control уоu want оvеr the flavors, or if уоu trulу wаnt to start frоm ѕсrаtсh, using thе most basic іngrеdіеntѕ. But fоr the bеgіnnеr, ѕtаrtіng wіth еxtrасt kits, іt’ѕ really a breeze. If you саn bаkе a cake уоu саn definitely ѕuссееd аt hоmе brеwіng. That really іѕn’t аn оvеrѕtаtеmеnt.

Although producing grеаt tаѕtіng beer іѕ very еаѕу tо do, іt wouldn’t be very еffесtіvе to try tо еxрlаіn to уоu аll the ѕtерѕ іnvоlvеd in аn аrtісlе. Inѕtеаd, I’m gоіng tо give уоu some of the basics of home brewing and tips thаt I lеаrnt еаrlу оn that made mу lіfе easier.

The two mоѕt bаѕіс саtеgоrіеѕ оf beer аrе Alеѕ, аnd Lаgеrѕ. Alеѕ аrе gеnеrаllу more рrоnе to fruіtу nоtеѕ (е.g. bаnаnа, pear, apple, аnd raspberry) whеrеаѕ lаgеrѕ аrе normally сrіѕреr, сlеаnеr tаѕtіng.

A ԛuеѕtіоn соmmоnlу asked by beginner brewers іѕ: “Whаt ѕhоuld I choose fоr my first bееr?”

basics-of-home-brewing-Ales-Vs-Lagers

Fоr beginners, mу usual reply іѕ “ѕtаrt wіth Ale”. Brewing Alе іѕ thе bеѕt сhоісе fоr a beginner because they аrе ԛuіtе ѕіmрlу lеѕѕ соmрlісаtеd tо learn on.

Of соurѕе іf you rеаllу hаvе your hеаrt ѕеt оn a lager fоr your first bееr іt іѕ роѕѕіblе, thоugh thе process is a fаіr bit mоrе іnvоlvеd. I rеаllу feel strongly thоugh thаt for уоu to gеt thе bеѕt rеѕultѕ from уоur fіrѕt brew уоu ѕhоuld ѕtаrt wіth Alе.

Thеrе іѕ a huge variety оf types wіthіn thіѕ саtеgоrу (Alеѕ) ѕо уоu’rе sure tо find something thаt you would enjoy. Alѕо, just because I ѕаіd they аrе рrоnе tо fruіtу notes, dоn’t take thаt аѕ me saying thеу’rе going tо taste lіkе аn аррlе cider оr ѕоmеthіng. We are ѕtіll tаlkіng beer here; dоn’t еxресt anything dramatic, еvеn if іt does hаvе a hіnt or ѕlіght resemblance, thаt’ѕ rеаllу аll іt is. Evеntuаllу, once you mаkе your fіrѕt lаgеr уоu wіll thаnk mе fоr kееріng thіngѕ simple fоr уоur fіrѕt tіmе.

Nоw thаt уоu know thе category оf bееr you nееd to ѕtісk with fоr your first bаtсh, уоu’rе left wіth the dесіѕіоn of whісh іndіvіduаl type уоu wаnt (thеrе are рrоbаblу 1000 dіffеrеnt аlеѕ оut thеrе). Eасh bееr kіt mаnufасturеr wіll have thеіr own ѕеlесtіоn fоr уоu to сhооѕе frоm, mаnу оf whісh аrе mоdеllеd аftеr рорulаr beers you’ve lіkеlу trіеd. Aѕ lоng аѕ уоu соmе into thе ѕuррlу ѕtоrе wіth an idea оf a bееr уоu соuld handle drіnkіng a lоt оf, сhаnсеѕ are thе ѕhор оwnеr will have no рrоblеmѕ mаtсhіng уоu up wіth a kіt that will ѕuіt уоur tаѕtеѕ. Remember, this is the basics of home brewing so keep it simple.

Here’s another insider tір thаt wіll mаkе уоur fіrѕt brеw so muсh еаѕіеr!

basics-of-home-brewing-brewstore

If уоu hаvе the орtіоn оf сhооѕіng bеtwееn thе kіtѕ thаt come іn a mеtаl саn, and those thаt come іn a саrdbоаrd bоx (with a plastic, lіԛuіd fіllеd bladder),

trу the can fоr your fіrѕt time.

Bу opting fоr the liquid “bееr mіx” (brewers саll this “wort”) уоu аrе bаѕісаllу rеmоvіng one of the mоѕt tіmе соnѕumіng, and mеѕѕу ѕtерѕ tо the brеwіng рrосеdurе.

With thе boxed kіtѕ уоu’ll need to bоіl thе ingredients for аt least аn hоur, аftеr whісh you need tо quickly сооl the liquid dоwn. Wіth thе kits that соmе in liquid form, уоur bураѕѕіng thіѕ whоlе part of thе brewing process.

 

Trust mе оn this; уоu want уоur lіfе to be as еаѕу аѕ possible оn уоur fіrѕt bаtсh.

Usually, bоth tуреѕ оf kіtѕ аrе rоughlу thе ѕаmе рrісе ѕо іt рауѕ tо gо fоr thе “nо bоіl” tуре. Hоwеvеr, іf you find thаt уоur local ѕuррlу ѕtоrе dоеѕn’t саrrу it, dоn’t panic. Bеgіnnеr аnd аdvаnсеd brеwеrѕ hаvе bееn uѕіng the саnnеd kіtѕ ѕuссеѕѕfullу fоr уеаrѕ and will fоr years to come, ѕо уоu’ll dеfіnіtеlу nоt be disappointed wіth еіthеr tуре.

So remember, these basics of home brewing:

  • Start with an Ale
  • Choose one you know you will like
  • If possible use a no-boil option

If you can do those three things you keep your cost down, have a high likelihood of success on your first try and start a spark for a hobby that will grow into a wildfire. Trust me…I know!

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Small Batch Brewing-Why it’s the Best Way for Beginners

When it comes to starting out in brewing beer there are so many options available to you. Everything from to elaborate full grain kits. If you’re just starting out your first reaction may be to jump in head first and buying a complete brewing kit but that can be a large investment that might possibly disappoint you and at the end turning you off to this great hobby. And we can’t have that!

So let’s talk about a new craze that has really taken off over the last year…small batch brewing. So why is it so great and why is it best for beginners? Well I’m glad you asked. Let’s first start by talking about the process of brewing. No matter what method you use there is a chain of events that have to happen. Let’s look at a normal 5 gallon full grain batch brewing process. The process looks like the image below.

how-to-brew-all-grain

As you can see there are many steps involved and there is special equipment required to go through the entire process. Not to mention time. A standard brewing process could easily take most of the day. So as you can see it’s a very involved process that for the beginner brewer can be very daunting.

Enter small batch brewing.

So with that said let’s talk about the advantages and benefits of small batch brewing. There are many but I’m going to focus on the biggies.

  • Scale

small batch brewing kitOne of the key advantages of small batch brewing is scale. Because you brew on a smaller scale, the required equipment almost disappears. You can easily use regular kitchen items and the few required items are very cheap and can be purchase easily either online or at a local brew shop. And for those that want super easy, there are ready made kits that come with everything you need to enter into small batch brewing.

  • Quality

If you are an avid beer person you cannot beat the quality of the beer you brew. You will be brewing beer in the same exact process that is used to produce the craft beer off the shelf. The big difference is freshness. It will be the highest quality beer along with ultimate freshness. No more questioning how long it sat on the shelf. For commercial craft brewers this is their benefit. They go and tap the tank before bottling for their own beer. You will be doing essentially the same thing.

  • Variety

Because you can scale ANY recipe you find small batch brewing gives you access to every beer style ever created. Think about that. Have you ever tried a beer while traveling or at a brew pub and thought it was great but knew your access was limited? Not anymore. Especially if you are at a brew pub. Most brewers are proud of their work and love to talk about their craft. Most of the time they are happy to share their recipes.

  • Simplicity

The process of brewing can be complicated (as you saw above) but as with small batch brewing the process is greatly simplified. Most of what you do is actually done in a single pot reducing the steps down to just a few. What takes hours for a full size batch reduces down to minutes, depending on the style.

  • Tradition

 Babylon brewingFor some, tradition may not seem like a benefit but taking part in a process that is over 9000 years old is pretty cool. Not too many people can say this. Not to mention the pride of producing something in the same manner that has been done for eons. There is a certain amount of pride that comes with that. When you crack that first bottle and pour your brew into a glass, go ahead and try not to smile. I dare you.

So, as you see, small batch brewing is an exciting and rewarding hobby. You get the freshest brew around, you get to experiment and try new things and you can share with friends and family. When it gets right down to it there really are not to many negatives to small batch brewing. Probably the waiting for you first batch but good things come to those that wait.

If this post inspired you to try it, or maybe it was a complete failure…tell me about it! Comment to the post. I love hearing from others on their adventure and others like to read it too. Till next time, I’ll save a seat at the bar for you.

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Understanding the Different Ways to Brew Beer at Home

Brewing beer at home can be a daunting task if you don’t know what is available to you. Yes there are different methods and they range from very easy to very complicated. The key is to understanding what methods of brewing are available to you and which will be best for you to brew beer at home.

In general, there are three basic methods.

Each one has a difficulty level and of course there are different degrees of difficulty that exist in each one. Let’s take a look at each one and I will point out the basic difficulty, cost and benefits for each when wanting to brew beer at home.

Brewing – Difficulty Level: EASY    Cost: $

Ways to Brew Beer at Home - extract brewing

Extract brewing is one of the simplest and easiest ways to brew beer at home. This is because most of the work has been done for you. All the fermentable sugars have been extracted from grains and the hops have been added to the sugar so all you have to really do is boil the extract (usually in syrup form) to sterilize the liquid and them ferment. These kits usually come with dry yeast that you put into the liquid once you cool and transfer to a bucket for fermenting. If you have heard of Mr. Beer kits then you know about extract brewing. Another great benefit is you can get extract kits in all sizes. Ranging from a manageable 2 gallon batch all the way up to 6 gallon batches.

So what do you need for equipment?

  • A pot for boiling -12 Qt will work for most
  • A food grade bucket with air tight lid and air lock– 3 to 5 gallons (size is dependent on the final batch)
  • Bottles (Either plastic or glass)

What is the process for extract brewing?

As stated before this is by far the easiest. The total touch time is about an hour and cleanup is very easy. The steps to extract brew are:

  1. Add required to water to pot and begin to heat up the water
  2. As the water is heating up open can of extract and pour into water. Bring to a boil.
  3. Boil for 30 minutes
  4. Pour into bucket and let cool to 75F
  5. Put in yeast, place cover on bucket, and air lock and let ferment for 7 to 14 days
  6. After fermenting is complete – stir in small amount of sugar, bottle and let age for 14 to 30 days in cool dark place.
  7. Drink and enjoy!

So, as you can see, there is not much to it. As with everything there are pros and cons to this method but depending on level of involvement you want to and overall investment this is the simplest and easiest way to brew beer at home.

PROS: CONS:
  • Very Easy
  • Recipe is Predetermined (Difficult to tweak)
  • Low Investment
  • Ingredients Can Be Expensive
  • Touch Time is Low
 

 

Partial Extract Brewing – Difficulty Level: MEDIUM    Cost:$$

Ways to Brew Beer at Home - partial mashPartial extract brewing is what it sounds like. You use a liquid or powder malt to make up the majority of the fermentable and add specialty grains and hops. This adds extra steps to the process, adds time and some additional equipment. There is also a much more involved recipe. This is the instructions for the grain bill and hop timing. To tweak the recipe or create a particular style you use the crushed grains to add the color and flavor. You also use separate hops in the boil to determine the hop profile with can be aroma and bitterness. And finally, you use specific yeast to create a flavor profile through fermentation. The advantage of a partial extract brew is the grain steeping is fairly easy and done on a very small scale as compared to a full mash. It’s amazing how little specialty grains you need to determine the flavor and color profile. Where the complication comes in is temperature and timing. In order to extract the flavor, color and sugars you have to bring them to a certain temperature (around 154F) and the grains need to sit in that temperature for a period of time.

So what do you need for equipment?

  • A pot for boiling -12 Qt will work for most
  • A food grade bucket with air tight lid and air lock– 3 to 5 gallons (size is dependent on the final batch)
  • A smaller pot for grains
  • Muslim bag or cheese cloth
  • Thermometer
  • Thick towel or cooler
  • Bottles (Either plastic or glass)

What is the process for a partial extract brewing?

Because you are now using grains and hops this adds a few more steps to the process. The total touch time is about 1 to 2 hours and cleanup is a little more but still easy. The steps to do a partial extract brew are:

  1. Prepare specialty grains by placing them into a muslin bag or wrap in cheese cloth and make a loose satchel.
  2. Start water by adding a couple of quarts of water to a small pot. Bring up to 155F.
  3. Take off heat, wrap pot in a blanket or add water to a cooler. Place bag of grains in water and cover. Let sit for 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Add required to water to the large pot and begin to heat up the water
  5. As the water is heating up add extract into water. Bring to a boil.
  6. Pull grain bag out of the pot or cooler and let all liquid drain. Add liquid to large pot.
  7. Boil as the recipe calls for and add hops to boil at the times instructed.
  8. Pour into bucket and let cool to 75F
  9. Put in yeast, place cover on bucket, and air lock and let ferment for 7 to 14 days
  10. After fermenting is complete – stir in small amount of sugar, bottle and let age for 14 to 30 days in cool dark place.
  11. Drink and enjoy!

If you do a quick comparison the differences from extract brewing are small but involved. This greatly adds to the time and does add a few more pieces of equipment to complete. The biggest benefit is the flexibility and your options in types and styles of beers available to go up exponentially. While this may not be the easiest way to brew beer at home it is the best of both worlds. A fair majority of home brewers use this method because of it.

PROS: CONS:
  • A ton of options in styles and types of beer
  • Adds significant time
  • Flexibility to tweak recipes to suit taste
  • Brewing process is a little more complicated
  • You get a better beer in the end
  • Requires more equipment

 

Full Mash Brewing – Difficulty Level: HIGH   Cost: $$$

Ways to Brew Beer at Home - full mash Full mash brewing is by far the most complicated and difficult way to brew. It requires a few special pieces of equipment and the process is very long. You have to carefully control water temperature for the conversion of starch in the grain to sugars and this can take some time. Also, the sparging process is a slow and careful process so as to extract all the sugars from the grain bed while trying not to pull bitter tannins. This is obviously a complicated that is not well suited to brew beer at home. So why would someone do it this way? Well, there are a few reasons. One reason is final product cost. If you factor out the cost of equipment the raw materials are very cheap when buying in bulk. Your total cost can be a third of what it cost you to extract brew.  Another reason is control. By full grain mashing you have absolute control of the final product. You can determine the final outcome by monitoring the whole process. And probably the biggest reason…pride. It’s not the easiest way to brew beer at home but it is the most rewarding. This process is well of 9000 years old. Being able to say you brew as other brewmasters have been doing for eons does come with a certain badge of honor.

So what do you need for equipment?

  • A pot for boiling –This general needs to be full size. Usually 26 quarts or larger.
  • A mash tun – This is a large vessel that has a false bottom and a port at the bottom for drawing off the wort
  • A food grade bucket with air tight lid and air lock– 3 to 5 gallons (While you can use a bucket most use glass or stainless steel fermentors when you get to this level.)
  • Muslim bag or cheese cloth – Typically used for hops
  • Thermometer
  • Hydrometer – used to measure starch conversion
  • Thick towel or cooler
  • Bottles (Usually 5 gallon kegs at this level)

What is the process for a partial extract brewing?

Because you are now using grains and hops this adds a few more steps to the process. The total touch time is about 1 to 2 hours and cleanup is a little more but still easy. The steps to do a partial extract brew are:

  1. Prepare grains by crushing and placing them in the mash tun.
  2. Bring water required up to strike water temperature. Usually calculated but generally around 165F.
  3. Pour half of the water into mash tun and stir thoroughly to make sure all grains are wet.
  4. Wrap mash tun in thermal blanket and let sit for 60 to 90 minutes for starch conversion.
  5. After conversion is complete slowly open bottom port on mash tun and let drain into boil pot.
  6. Take remaining water and trickle of top of grain bed to rinse out remaining sugar. (can take up to 3 or 4 hrs)
  7. Once sparge is complete bring liquid to boil.
  8. Boil liquid for the time the recipe calls for and add hops to boil at the times instructed.
  9. Pour into fermentor and let cool to 75F
  10. Put in yeast, place cover on bucket, and air lock and let ferment for 7 to 14 days
  11. After fermenting is complete – stir in small amount of sugar, bottle and let age for 14 to 30 days in cool dark place.
  12. Drink and enjoy!

Again, if you do a comparison, the amount of steps is not greatly increased, but these are also greatly simplified for illustration. The truth of the matter is the care that is needed and the significant time adder really makes this a long process that has complicated steps that must be followed in the right order. It’s not unusually for a brew day to take the entire morning and afternoon. Then there is the cleanup. Just bear in mind it takes time, commitment and desire to produce the best possible beer to get to this method. Not all who brew go to this extreme. It really is the final stop on one’s brewing journey but not a required one.

PROS: CONS:
  • Absolute and total control of the process
  • Very time intensive
  • Very cost effective for ingredients
  • Attention to detail is required
  • Taking part in an age old tradition
  • Significant cost adder for special equipment
 
  • Complex process

 

As you can see there are big differences in the methods used to brew beer at home. All these methods are ones, which if you decide this is the hobby you love, you will do. However, it’s not a requirement. The biggest thing about home brewing is doing something you love and being proud you made it. I know tons of people who have been extract brewing for years and see no reason to move on…and that’s OK! Find the method that works for you and start there. Even if you find out you don’t like doing it at least you can say you tried and you’ll have a great story to tell while lifting up a brew with friends and saying

“I brew beer at home! CHEERS!”

Top 5 Reasons You Should Brew Your Own Brew

Ok, let’s cut right to the chase. You love beer. You have thought about brewing your own brew but the thought is kind of daunting. Getting all that equipment, setting up, the cleaning, the waiting, the self-doubt that you can pull it off; it all adds up to “why bother, I’m off to the store to get another 6 pack!”. Well I’m here to tell you, it’s not that hard. There are so many options today that it’s not only simple, it’s very rewarding to brew your own brew.

Yeah, yeah I know you are searching around and see things like 5 gallon batch’s and full mash and all sorts of other complicated thing but you can work up to that. The key here is getting started. There is a whole industry around getting people like yourself into home brewing and the key is to make it as simple as possible. As you get more experienced and want to learn more you can branch out into more advanced brewing techniques…or not. That’s the beauty of it all. You can keep it super simple and still make great beer.

Still not convinced? Ok I hear ya. Here are the top 5 reasons why should give it a go!

  1. It’s Cheap!

On a whole bunch of levels. You don’t need any special equipment to start. There are many simple boil options that don’t require special equipment. These kits are designed to make it very simple to produce to very tasty ales. Average cost for these kits range from between $15 and $25 bucks and you’ll get between 3 and 5 gallons. They even come with the yeast!  So do the math. If you like craft brew you are spending somewhere in the area of $1.30 a bottle. With a simple extract kit it’s like less than 50 cents a bottle. And that is for an extract beer which is generally more expensive because most of the work is done for you. When (and I do mean when) you start to get into the full process you can expect around .30 cents a bottle and cheaper depending on the style. You simply can not beat the price of purchased vs. when you brew your own brew!

  1. You do not need a lot of fancy equipment to brew your own brew.

One of the most daunting things about home brewing is the equipment. If you do a little searching you come across some pretty elaborate and expensive stuff. So let me say this. You don’t need it to start out! All you need is a stock pot and a plain bucket to ferment in. You’ll also need some plastic bottles to start. If you like the process and the experience, you can upgrade as you go. Even minor upgrades to make it a little simpler are short money. Things like a bottle capper, a hydrometer, and tubing only costs about $20 bucks total. Once My advice to start is to start follow the KISS principal. Keep It Simple Stupid!

  1. It’s freakin fun!

So I remember the first time someone tried to get me involved in home brewing and one of the first things he told me was how fun it is. I was thinking “Dude, you are boiling some sweet water and then waiting around for a month. How much fun is that?” The answer is…pretty darn fun. Yeah it amazed even me. I think the act of making something is part of it but to be honest, as you learn about what you are doing it’s pretty amazing. There is a LOT of science involved but you don’t have to really know any of it. It helps but in the end, if you follow the direction, you end up with something you made and you can share it with friends and family. Watch the eyebrows go up when you hand them a glass of beer that you made and a smile comes over their face after tasting it. You won’t be able to stop the smile creep across your face.

  1. The coolness factor is way up there!

Seriously, brewing beer is something that mankind has been doing for well over 9000 years. How can something that has been around for so long be bad! Beer has been a tool mankind has used to celebrate, make water safe to drink, provide a livelihood just to name a few.  You have the opportunity to continue long traditions; to carry on brewing practices that have stood the test of time. As a matter a fact, if you dig into your family tree I can almost guarantee you will not be the first in your family to brew your own brews. Go ahead, check it out. I’ll wait. See! I told you.

  1. Anyone…yes, even you, can make great beer!

Look, the biggest fear of doing anything new thing is failure. When I ask people who love beer why they haven’t tried to make their own I get answers like “I can’t make good beer.” or “A brewmaster I am not.” Which I reply “Yes you can and do you want to be a brewmaster?”. Remember point 1 through 4? This isn’t about being judged or fears of failing. It’s about doing something that is, cheap, rewarding and fun. Are you going to ruin a batch or two? You bet your life you will but we all do. There is not one brewer that hasn’t lost a batch. Even in the large production brewery it’s a fact of life. From my experience first time brewers succeed over 95% of the time. The other 5% was because they tried to do it while drunk. It happens. I am looking you right in the eye and telling you…You my friend, can make great beer!

So what are the takeaways from this article? That’s easy. Yes you can brew your own brew and it won’t be expensive or difficult. The hardest part is the waiting on the first batch but you can taste it along the way. Actually I highly encourage it. You get to taste the change in the beer as it ages. And yes, aging makes a huge difference in the quality.  In future posts I’ll teach you exactly how to brew on the cheap. So stay tuned!

Learning about an age old tradition and reaping the rewards at the end will be worth every step you take to becoming a home brewer. So next time you reach for a six pack at the store just remember, you can make that same beer just as tasty as what’s in that bottle. Maybe even tastier!