Instructables

How to Make Beer

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So, you've considered brewing your own beer but you're not yet willing to drop the cash for the entry level kit just yet. With a few simple pieces of equipment and ingredients here's how you can brew your own mini batch. In just a couple of weeks you can taste for yourself if homebrewing is a hobby you want to take to the next level.

Don't get me wrong, I think the entry level brew kits are a good value. They include some special equipment not used here that will make things easier. But, will you enjoy the beer or find the brewing process rewarding? I think so. This project will allow you to find out for yourself.
 
 
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Step 1: Equipment

  • Brew pot - any large kitchen pot that will hold a couple of gallons of water with room to spare to avoid boiling over.
  • Kitchen strainer - to strain grains and hops before going to the fermenter
  • Kitchen thermometer
  • Large funnel
  • Rolling pin - for crushing the grain
  • 3 gallon container of bottled water - this will provide you with the water to make your beer and serve as your fermentation container
  • Bottling container - An empty container of at least 3 gallons...could be another empty water bottle or a clean, scratch-free, food grade plastic bucket.
  • 3 feet of 3/8" clear poly-vinyl tubing - for siphoning and fermentation air lock
  • Bottles - there are a lot of options here and I'll cover some of them in the bottling step later

Step 2: Ingredients

Most recipes for the homebrewer are written to make 5 gallon batches. I've simply cut the ingredient list by half for the 2.5 gallon batch here. You'll need to find a local homebrew supply shop or one of many such shops on the web from which to purchase the ingredients. (See resource list in Step 15)

Simple Ale
  • 3 lbs light dried malt extract
  • 8 oz crushed crystal malt
  • 1 oz Northern Brewer pellet hops
  • 1 pkg brewers yeast
  • 3/8 cup sugar for bottling

Step 3: Crushing the Grain

Use a large heavy freezer bag and pour in roughly 8 ounces of the crystal malt a little at a time. Use a rolling pin to crush the grain. You don't want to make flour here just a very course texture of broken grains. Later on, when you decide to get more serious, you may wish to purchase a malt mill designed specifically for this purpose.

Step 4: Steeping

This is the brewing term for the process of extracting the goodness from specialty grains, crystal malt in this recipe. First pour 1/2 gallon of water from your 3 gallon water bottle and place a mark at the 2 1/2 gallon water level. Now pour up to 2 1/2 gallons of the remaining water into your brew pot leaving at least 3 inches to the top of the pot. Add your crushed grains. Turn on the heat to medium high and bring the temperature up to 150 to 155 degrees. Turn off the heat and cover the brew pot to let the magic take place inside for 30 minutes. Use a strainer to remove as much of the spent grain as possible without worrying too much about a few remaining grains.

Step 5: The Boil

Now bring the contents of the brew pot to a boil. Then, remove from heat and stir in the malt extract. Return to heat and again bring to a boil. Be careful here! This is the point where you are at most risk of boiling over. A boil over is something you definitely want to avoid as you'll have quite a sticky mess to clean up if it happens. Once you have a controlled boil add about 2/3 oz of the hop pellets to the boil and maintain the boil for 60 minutes to get the most from the bittering potential of your hops. Submerse your kitchen strainer in the boil for the last 15 minutes to sanitize it for later use. At the end of 60 minutes turn off the heat and add the remainder of the hop pellets. Cover and let the newly added hops steep for 10 minutes. Hops added at this point will contribute some hop flavor and aroma to your finished beer.

Step 6: Air Lock

This step can be done earlier but I chose to do it during the boil. In any case you'll want to keep one eye on the boil at all times. Did I warn you about boiling over?

I used a commercial air lock but you could fashion an air lock from a piece of clear vinyl tubing, one end fitted to the cap and the other end in a cup of water. The commercial air locks are only $1 or so and are included in the starter kits. I drilled a 3/8" hole in the water bottle cap. The air lock fits snugly in the hole. The idea is to let carbon dioxide produced during fermentation escape while keeping air outside from getting in.

Step 7: Cooling the Wort

Congratulations! At this point you have wort (pronounced wert). Wort is simply unfermented beer. Quicker is better when it comes to cooling. One method for cooling is to create a cold water bath in the sink to partially submerse the brew pot in. Adding ice to the bath will help accelerate the cooling process. Gently swirl the brew pot in the cold bath water. Once the sides of the brew pot become cool to the touch you're ready for the next step but first a word on sanitation.

Sanitation is very important in brewing. Anything that comes in contact with your cooled wort must be sanitized else you run the risk of undesireable critters living and multiplying in the wort only to contribute nasty unintended flavors in your beer. You've sanitized your strainer in the boil, right? Your fermentation bottle is sanitary because you just opened it and capped it after using water from it, right? Your funnel and anything else to come in contact with the wort can be sanitized by soaking in a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water for 30 minutes.

Step 8:

Gently pour your cooled wort through your sanitized strainer and funnel into the empty fermentation bottle. You'll want the total volume in the fermenter to be 2 1/2 gallons. If your brew pot was big enough to allow you to boil a full 2 1/2 gallons you'll have to compensate for evaporation that took place during the boil. If you need to add water to reach the 2 1/2 gallon mark made in Step 4 do it now. Tap water is fine. You can use water from the 1/2 gallon you poured off in Step 4 if you saved it to a sanitized container. Bring the total volume up to the mark we made earlier on the bottle.

Step 9: Pitching the Yeast

Pitching yeast is the brewing term for adding yeast to the unfermented wort. If the wort, now in your fermenter, is approximately room temperature you can pitch the yeast. If the sides of the fermenter are warm to the touch then let the wort cool to room temperature before pitching the yeast. Note: A package of brewers yeast typically contains an amount for a 5 gallon batch so pour approximately half a package into the fermenter. A little more than half is fine and it's probably better to be a little over than a little under.

Step 10: Fermentation

Over the next 7 to 10 days the yeast will do its work of converting sugars in the wort to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Place the fermenter in a cool, dark place. Total darkness isn't necessary but direct sunlight is a definite no-no. The fermentation process is fun to watch but don't be concerned if nothing appears to be happening for 12 to 24 hours. After that time you should begin to see foaming and bubbles escaping from your air lock. After 7 to 10 days the fermentable sugars should be converted by the yeast and you're ready for the next step.

Step 11: Priming

Congratulations, you now have beer! But, you're not done. If you drink it now it's going to be flat. Priming is the process of adding a measured amount of additional fermentable sugars just before bottling. Live yeast still in your beer will convert the additional sugars to carbon dioxide while in the bottle. The carbon dioxide has no way to escape the bottle resulting in carbonated beer.

Boil 3/8 cup (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) of sugar (preferably corn sugar but table sugar will do) in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Cover and let it cool some then pour into a sanitized container large enough to hold your beer (another large empty water bottle, empty plastic bucket, etc). Now siphon your beer from the fermenter into the bottling container being careful not to disturb too much sediment at the bottom of the fermenter (you did remember to sanitize that siphon hose, didn't you?). Your beer is now primed and ready for bottling.

Step 12: Bottling

As a homebrewer you're ultimately going to want brown beer bottles and caps or a kegging system to contain your finished product. There are many alternative options for the first time brewer. You can buy empty bottles and caps. You can reuse bottles and buy caps (not the twist-off cap bottles). If you're going to use regular pry-off cap bottles you're going to need a capper (included in starter kits) to press fit the caps on the bottles. You can reuse champagne bottles. You can reuse empty growlers from your local brew pub. You could use empty soda bottles and caps. In any case it's important to use something that will withstand pressure in the bottle resulting from carbonation. Again, sanitation is important. So, clean and sanitize the bottles prior to filling them. Soaking in a diluted bleach solution for 30 minutes and rinsing with clean tap water will do the trick.

Step 13: Aging

Bottle-conditioned beers must be aged in the bottle at least 7 days to allow the fermentation that takes place in the bottle to carbonate the beer. Place your bottled beer in a cool dark place for 7-10 days and try to avoid the temptation to open a bottle early. Don't put the bottled beer in the fridge yet or the yeast will not be able to do its job on the priming sugars. The beer will also begin to clear during this time as suspended yeast settles to the bottom of the bottle.

Step 14: Drink it!

Place a few bottles in the fridge to chill. Open a bottle and slowly pour into a glass leaving just a bit in the bottom of the bottle.

This one turned out well. It tastes very good but I did notice a slight chill haze after refridgeration. I'll admit, I'm still pretty new to this so I'll have to do some research to find out what causes chill haze. Nevertheless, it's still a tasty brew!

Step 15: Reference

Brewing supplies:
Northern Brewer - http://northernbrewer.com/

Recommended reading:
The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060531053/sr=8-1/qid=1146779286/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-1364816-4552766?%5Fencoding=UTF8

I recently discovered the Basic Brewing web site. Lot's of good information here including audio and video podcasts... http://www.basicbrewing.com/

Thanks to Luke for the brewing photography and the starter kit that got me interested in brewing to begin with!
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Kharabe2 years ago
easier way to carbonate your bottles is to add corn sugar to each bottle heres the chart
12 oz bottle 3/4 tsp
16oz bottle 1tsp
22 oz bottle 1 1/2 tsp
1 liter bottle 2 1/2 tsp
2 liter bottle 1 1/2 tbsp
3 liter bottle 2 1/4 tbsp

its that easy and you dont have any where near as much risk of to much or not enough sugar when bottling as you do using a sugaring solution mixed with the wort
Corn sugar? Is that High Fat Corn Syrup?
I know it's a year old, but this struck me as wrong and I've got that typical internet user's inability to let bad information just sit around on the internet willy nilly.  A quick hit to google told me that corn sugar is not the same thing as corn syrup.  In fact, the Corn Growers Association of America tried to get corn syrup renamed to corn sugar but the FDA denied them.  Probably because there already is such a thing as corn sugar, and it's a whole different beast than corn syrup.

Corn sugar is dextrose, which is a type of glucose.  High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is solution of roughly 50/50 (it varies by intended purpose) fructose and glucose in a small amount of water. Table sugar is sucrose (refined cane sugar), which is a combined molecule of fructose and glucose produced by sugar cane and sugar beats.

HFCS is a manufactured product, corn sugar and table sugar are refined natural products, which is why HFCS is cheaper.

Not a single one of them contains any fat at all.  They are 100% fat free.  They can, however, MAKE you fat.  Your body converts unused sugar into fat for storage.  Thus, sugar of any kind has no fat, yet eating too much is quite fattening.  
That's interesting (corn sugar vs. aggressively marketed high fat corn syrup). Corn syrup works good for making gummy bears, and fake pancake syrup, but it's absolutely awful in tea and many beverages. I wondered if you were using the corny syrup in your beer recipe. I've never seen a bag of "corn sugar" but it probably exists. Thanks.
frosh26261 year ago
If I wanted to make a fruit beer, at what point would I add fruit? Im assuming during the fermenting process? I'm just concerned as fruits have a natural sugar of course and could mess with the process.
did you get an answer?
imarunner2 (author)  ygorbulsky8 months ago
I haven't done many fruit beers but I know opinions are all over the board on when to add it, if and how to process it, and on and on. It also depends somewhat on exactly what you want out of the finished product. You duly note the sugars in fruit will be happily consumed by the yeast.

Like I said, there are lots of opinions and techniques for making fruit beers. As a general rule late fruit additions (after primary fermentation is complete) will lend more fruit flavor and aroma to the finished beer...much like late hop additions contribute more hop flavor and aroma.
frosh26261 year ago
If I wanted to make a fruit beer, at what point would I add fruit?
Octorobot1 year ago
I write for a beer blog (beersnob.ca) and I've always wanted to start brewing. I didn't have enough space to try it until recently and frankly was a little intimidated by the process and thinking about all of the equipment that I thought I'd need.

Thanks for the post (and the comments)! It's nice to know that I can potentially brew a good tasting ale on the cheap with semi-MacGyvered equipment. I love that kind of thing!
jonnybo1111 year ago
This looks like a very detailed instructable but I wonder something about the taste.
Is it a wheaty beer or a plain beer or a dry beer soft beer and so on and so forth
as long as you use the correct strain of yeast for the type of beer you are brewing and make sure that everything post-boil is sanitized, there should be no problem with flavor...
Also, make sure that you pay very close attention to your temperatures especially when you pitch your yeast... if your wort is too hot the yeast will be shocked and die... if it is too cold, the yeast will remain dormant and not ferment either.
I have an Irish stout the I got from Midwest Supplies in bottles now and an American Pie Cream Ale from Homebrew USA in my primary fermenter now... Can't wait until I can open some bottles!

All in all, good instructable! One thing though that you should note...
While you can use a new plastic water jug as a fermenter, you may have a serious problem getting the flavor out of the plastic which is why most home-brewers use the glass carboy... it is much easier to clean and isn't porous so no bacteria can hide inside once it's been cleaned/sanitized...

One last thing... Star-San... this stuff is amazing... you definitely must get some and keep it on hand if you intend to brew much.

Cheers!
imarunner2 (author)  jonnybo1111 year ago
This Instructable is more about the brewing process rather than the recipe. You can make many different beers by varying the ingredients following this technique.
ssherard1 year ago
Would it hurt to place a spigot about a inch above the bottom in the bottle for the siphoning to the bottling bucket. Or would that disturb too much sedi?
Thanks Sandra, that guide is brilliant just what I was looking for. I can finally make tasty beer and save money at the same time. I'm a happy chappy!
nik142 years ago
u 'll not have to do any research to find out what causes chill haze

because i found it

u just have 2 put the beer bottles in the 'fridge.u will see after 36-48 hours it gets chill haze, remove it to room temp for another 24-36 hours and those proteins settle out leaving protein free clear beer behind!
I use the liter I saved to "re-pitch" before botteling, and it's not needed if you keg of course....


I hope this is usefull 4 u
:)
madmedix3 years ago
Yes there is....use a cornelius keg (the old stainless steel kegs used to be connected to soda fountains), a tank of CO2 and a regulator. Get at least a 24" fridge. Get the draught tap. drill a hole through the door. NO MORE BOTTLING. and .....cold....carbonated....beer in about 2 days. NO SEDIMENT. It is worth every freakin' penny. No more bleach splashing in bottles, all that jazz. only have to sanitize the kegs, clean the lines (reasonably, about one a month) and you are golden....And in no shortage of friends to help you try it out either :-)
Oh wow....you know the name of the SS keg... "cornelius." THANK YOU!!!
YEAH kegging is where its at!...that being said its not for everyone. requires more space than bottles...it is also a larger cash investment.
80391807 years ago
im limited to ingridients. there isnt a homebrew store around where i live. so i was wondering what can i substitute for the ingridients. things that i cud find at a market or grocery store or something. i was wondering about corn starch, and whole wheat flour, for my "barley" and cloves for my "hops." wud that work? if not please help me out. thank you.
Raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries!!! Fantastic flavors for beer!!

Shipyard makes a fantastic seasonal Blueberry Smash ale.... and I thought it was one of the fines beers I've ever tasted.
imarunner2 (author)  80391807 years ago
If I were you I'd consider trying to brew with something you DO have available. If you are able to get apples you might try brewing a hard cider or if you have honey available you might try brewing a mead. I've personally not brewed either but I've tasted some excellent samples of both from home brewers.
Yeah! There's lots that can be brewed without brewer's ingredients, but most of them aren't beer. From my limited knowledge, any combination of sugar and yeast in a liquid will produce some sort of alcoholic beverage. Look around on the net for recipes, and if you're technically inclined, there are for sure some demos out there on how to make moonshine from corn syrup or sugar. You'd just need to fashion yourself a little still, which would cost about $40 or $50 at your hardware store. (note this isn't legal everywhere)
sabetts 80391806 years ago
If you can't get malted grains and hops (and dont want to order it online), then you can always try making hooch! You'll need white sugar, molasses, some fruit juice, and bread yeast. Boil everything but the yeast with water. I believe the ratio is 5kg of sugar per 20L of water. The molasses and fruit juice add nutrients for the yeast since it can't live no white sugar alone. Cool it and transfer to your fermenter and pitch your yeast. The next step is to build yourself a still. I'd recommend a tea kettle still because its easy to make. You can find all the details online of course :).
mev5 years ago
If you have a turkey fryer, you may want to use the burner and boil outside. It's a little less convenient than brewing in a kitchen, but if you boil over, the mess is outside, not in your kitchen. A boilover is a real sticky mess!
BeerLover mev2 years ago
I LOVE that idea!!!!
eranox mev5 years ago
100% agreed! If you're married and experience a boil-over in your kitchen, expect to hear about it in recurring arguments for many years to come.
Is using hops necessary ? cuz i couldn't get any...and is there a replacement ?
You can substitue othe things for the hops like Sruce tips.

BeerLover2 years ago
This looks fantastic. I CANNOT wait to try it.
rug2 years ago
at what step would we add other flavors?
Munchys3 years ago
I am only 15 is this legal?
no. it's only legal if you're over the legal drinking age.
is it legal if it just made it?
jrh065 Munchys3 years ago
No, the law generally allows 100 gallons max per person that is 21 years or older with a limit of 200 gallons per household. Since you are not 21 then you are not allotted any gallons of beer. However if one of your parents were interested You could certainly help/watch. You may be allowed to consume within the privacy of your own home if a parent gives you permission and is present, but check your state laws. The state and your local municipality makes the law on most of that stuff. In general don't worry about drinking for a while. It can wait it's not that special really.
Munchys jrh0653 years ago

I don't care about drinking at all. I just wanted to know if it was legal to make it.
troseph Munchys3 years ago
Yeah, its legal to brew at home. Some states limit how much you can make. You should check your local laws. http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/pages/government-affairs/statutes
Munchys troseph3 years ago
So what I understand in Florida http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/pages/government-affairs/statutes/florida I can brew beer for personal and family uses?
troseph Munchys3 years ago
Yep, same goes most places.
only if you are of legal age to drink it. which he is not.
It is not legal to make unless you are of legal drinking age.

Just like you can't reload bullets unless you are legally allowed to own a gun.
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