Brewing Your First Beer

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Brewing Your First Beer

Brewing at home for the first time? This simple guide takes you through your first batch of beer including what's needed, how to brew and how to bottle. A short guide for the new homebrewer on how to brew your first extract beer!

Equipment Needed

You don't need a large set of fancy and expensive equipment to brew your first batch of beer. Many brewing supply stores sell starter kits for $75 or less. It can cost much less if you can borrow some or all the equipment from a friend. Here's a quick summary of what is needed:

  • A Large Pot - at least 3 gallons in size, though a larger one will generally result in fewer spills
  • Tubing & Clamp - to siphon the beer - most is 3/8" ID food grade plastic tubing. Clamps are available at your brew store.
  • An Airtight Fermenter - a 5 gal plastic bucket with lid, or a glass carboy. If you can afford it, purchase a glass carboy as they are easier to clean and don't leak. If you get a carboy you may need a large brush to clean it
  • An Air Lock and Stopper - sized to fit your fermenter
  • A Bottle Filler - available from your homebrew supplier - should be sized to fit your tubing
  • A Thermometer - with a range of 0-100 C or up from 32-220 F
  • Bottles - You need just over 2 cases in 12 oz bottles to bottle your beer. Do not use twist off bottles - get the bottles that you have to pry the lid off.
  • Bottle Brush - While not absolutely required, you usually need a good brush to get your bottles clean
  • A Bottle Capper - a hand driven device to cap your bottles
  • Bottle Caps - New bottle caps sold at your brewing supplier - you need about 50 caps for a 5 gal batch
  • A Sterilizing solution - Household bleach can be used, but it must be thoroughly rinsed to prevent contamination. Your brew store may also have other alternatives such as iodophor and starsan that also sterilize well.

Ingredients Needed

The list below assumes you want to brew 5 gallons of a simple ale. You can use BeerSmith to formulate your own recipe or download recipes from our recipe page if you are looking for a different style.

  • 6 lbs of Unhopped Pale Malt Extract - Usually this comes in cans that are 3 lbs each. Malt provides the sweet base that the yeast will feed on to make alcohol. Available from various manufacturers.
  • 2.25 Oz of East Kent Goldings Hops - Hops add bitterness to your beer. Pellets are most common and easy to store.
  • 1 Package of Wyeast American Ale liquid Yeast (#1056) [ or White Labs California Ale #WLP001 ]
  • 2/3 cup Priming Sugar - such as corn sugar. Also available from your brew store or grocer.

The Extract Brewing Process

Brewing consists of five simple stages.

  1. Brewing the Beer - The pale malt extract and hops are boiled together with water for about an hour to sterilize the extract and release the bittering qualities of the hops. Frequently grains are steeped in the mixture prior to the boil to add additional color and flavor complexity.
  2. Cooling and Fermenting - The hot mixture (called wort) is cooled to room temperature and siphoned or transferred to a fermenter where it is combined with additional water to achieve the desired 5 gallon batch size. Once the mixture drops to room temperature, yeast is added to start the fermentation process. Cleanliness and sterilization are very important since the wort can be easily infected by bacteria while in this state. An airlock is used to keep the fermenter sealed during fermentation. Your beer will ferment for 1-2 weeks.
  3. Priming and Bottling - Once the beer is fully fermented, it is usually siphoned to another container to prepare for bottling. Here priming sugars such as corn sugar sugar are mixed with the beer, and then it is siphoned into bottles and each bottle is capped with a bottle capping device.
  4. Aging - Once the beer has been bottled it needs to age for 2-6 weeks. During aging the yeast will ferment the remaining sugar you added and create carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide will naturally carbonate your beer so it is nice an bubbly. In addition, undesirable sediments such as excess yeast and proteins will drop out of the beer during aging and this will enhance the flavor of your beer. In some cases it may take several months to reach peak flavor, though it is usually drinkable after a month.
  5. Drinking - When the beer is properly aged - just put the bottles in the fridge and enjoy! There's nothing quite like a great beer that you made yourself.