Over one million beer lovers in the US have begun brewing their own beer at home. But odds are that even more are curious about home brewing, but have yet to try it because they’re overwhelmed with where to begin.
Even if you’ve been home brewing for years, you probably remember that initial confusion when you decided to start brewing beer. Before I started home brewing, it just didn’t seem possible that you could throw a bunch of ingredients into a pot, let your concoction sit for a couple weeks and have it turn into good tasting beer. Twenty years later, I’m happy to say that it most definitely is possible.
One of the best ways to jump into home brewing is by using a pre-made ingredient kit for your first batch of beer. With these kits, you don't have to go anywhere near your oven to brew beer. These concentrated malt kits are sort of similar to making orange juice from concentrate. Just add water, mix in your yeast, and let your beer ferment and in two to three weeks you'll have your own home made beer.
In this article, we'll go over how to brew beer using a pre-made ingredient kit. We'll be using Munton's Gold Beer Equipment Kits as our example since these are some of the more popular kits out there.
To start brewing your own beer, you’ll need some basic equipment – some of which you probably already have. Visit your local home brewing supply store or check out Beer College’s Starter Home Brewing Kit for $39.95.
Here’s the equipment you need:
* Plastic siphon hose
* Fermenter with Airlock
* Bottling bucket with spigot
* Mixing Spoon
* Sanitizer Powder
Step 1: Picking Which Type of Beer to Brew at Home
Once you have all your equipment, it's time to choose which type of beer you'd like to brew. Muntons has lot of different styles of beer you can choose, from but here are the most popular ones.
CONTINENTAL PILSNER 1718
Continental Pilsner - Continental Pilsner embodies the full character of European lager style beers - light and delicate, yet richly satisfying. This beer preserves the delicate balance of natural hop bitterness with the sweetness of malt and is best served cold.
OLD ENGLISH BITTER 1720
Old English Bitter - This fine Old English beer rekindles the full bodied, rich ales of Victorian Britain. Enjoyed best when served at cellar temperature - 13°C, 56°F. This quality beer combines premium brewing malt and the choicest hops, to follow a centuries old tradition of fine brewing. In keeping with this tradition, you can now recreate the taste enjoyed by Victorian England, with this excellent Old English Bitter - a taste which improves and matures with age, if you can bear to store a few bottles for six months or so!
DOCKLANDS PORTER 1722
Docklands Porter - At the end of the 19th century a beer was brewed especially for the dockyard workers of the bustling Port of London. Docklands Porter was named after these strong men, who unloaded the cargoes of sailing ships and schooners birthed at the many wharves along the Thames. Porter had a uniquely rich and satisfying flavor which quenched the thirst of dockers after long shifts loading and unloading vessels from around the world. You can now recapture the unique flavor of traditional Victorian Porters - a light hop character and full malt flavor under lie a rich color, possible by the subtle use of the best roasted malts.
IMPERIAL STOUT 1724
Imperial Stout - As Imperial Russia extended its territories into the Baltic States during the early 1780's, Catherine the Great, Empress of all the Russians fell in love with strong British Stout. Imperial Stout captures the essence of this truly classic beer, with its full body, rich black color and distinctive dry bitterness. Capped by a smooth, creamy head, it is a brew to be savored, and enjoyed at its best when served chilled - approximately 5°C or 41°F.
HIGHLAND HEAVY ALE 1726
Highland Heavy Ale - In the Highlands of Scotland, centuries ago, small breweries began producing rich, dark, hoppy ales know locally as "Heavy". In addition "Light" beers were also brewed, known south of the border as Milds, but it was a pint of "Heavy" which typified the highlanders' preference. You can now recapture this distinctive rich bitter flavor, with its dark, malty brew, balanced by a generous helping of hops. To enjoy Highland Heavy Ale at its best it should be served at cellar temperature.
INDIA PALE ALE 1728
India Pale Ale - Keeping the British troops supplied with fresh beer out in the British East Indies proved to be a problem during the 19th Century. The lengthy journey by sailing ship caused the beers to spoil and a special brew therefore had to be supplied - India Pale Ale. This was brewed to a high alcoholic strength to keep bacteria at bay during the voyage. Upon arrival the beer was watered down to normal pub strength for the troops. Of course the officers had access to the non-diluted version! However you have a choice. Recreate India Pale Ale, brewed to the Troops Tipple at approximately 1041° strength or the Higher Ranks Reserve version in its higher strength form.
Step 2: Clean and Sterilize All Your Home Brewing Equipment
The first thing you need to do is clean and sterilize everything that will come into contact with your beer. This is extremely important as even the smallest bacteria can throw off your beer's flavor.
There are three main steps you need to take when it comes to getting ready to brew. The first is simply to clean your equipment generally to get rid of any dust, dirt, or stains on your brewing gear – including your bottles. The next step is to sanitize everything that will come into contact with your beer so as to eliminate the invisible bacteria and micro-organisms that can ruin your home brew beer. And the final step is to sterilize your – for example, by boiling your wort at a very high temperature for an hour. After all that work, be sure to store your equipment in a clean, dry area!
There are a number of different chemicals that can be used for this cleaning process ranging from iodine-based sanitizers, chlorine based bleach and ammonia based solutions as well as a number of more environmentally friendly cleaners. Making a chlorine solution by mixing 2 tablespoons of unscented bleach in 1 gallon of water is one of the easiest ways to clean your equipment. (Be very careful not to use hot water with Chlorine based products as the heat can cause gas to be released.) However, chlorine can cause corrosion on any stainless steel brewing equipment you might have so for this it would be best to use ammonia.
To start the process of sterilizing your beer brewing equipment, you will need a large sterilized sink or tub so that you can completely immerse the equipment. Make sure you only use soft cleaning sponges on all your equipment as any abrasive cleaners will scratch your equipment – allowing bacteria to form in the scratches. Keep your equipment submerged for 5 to 10 minutes and then rinse it off with water.
Step 3: Mix Your Beer From the Ingredient Kit!
The next step is to open up your ingredient kit and remove all of the contents. In your kit you will find two large cans of concentrated wort (aka the raw beer) as well as a packet of yeast. Fill up your sink with hot water and place the cans of wort into the water. This will help make the wort more runny and will make things a lot easier when mixing your beer.
Once your cans have had a chance to sit in the water for approximately 15 minutes, remove the lids from the cans and pour the contents into your primary fermenter. Now add 3.5 litres of boiling water into your fermenter and begin stirring the wort. After the wort has mixed sufficiently with the water, add enough water to your fermenter to fill it leaving 1" of space at the top. Mix the wort once again to make sure the malt extract is fully dissolved.
Now it's time to add in your yeast to the fermenter. The yeast will eat the sugars in the wort and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide in return. Cover the fermenter with a lid that is outfitted with an airlock (to allow the carbon dioxide to escape). Your air lock should be half filled with water. Then leave your beer for a week in a warm dark place.
Step 4: Let Your Beer Ferment... Then Bottle and Drink!
You should notice your beer begin to ferment within one day. Tiny air bubbles will be visible escaping from your beer through the air lock. This will continue for approximately seven days and when you cease to see air bubbles rising from your beer, then it's time to check if your beer is ready to bottle.
You can check your beer by using a hydrometer which is an instrument like a thermometer that will tell you the alcohol content of your beer. It does this by giving you a "gravity" reading for your beer. When you beer reaches a gravity of less than 1.014, it is likely ready to bottle.
Now it's time to transfer your beer from the fermenter into a bottling bucket. Bottling buckets are outfitted with spigots and make bottling your beer a much easier task. On top of this, by transferring your beer into a bottling bucket you do something called "racking" which helps separate the beer from the sediment that will have formed at the bottom of your fermenter during fermentation.
They key is to transfer your beer into the bottling bucket with as little disturbance to the beer as possible. To do this, use plastic siphon hosing and siphon the beer from one container to the other. Fill your siphon hose with water and then place one end of the siphon into your fermenter and the other into the bottling bucket. Make sure the bottling bucket is lower than the fermenter. Your beer will immediately start siphoning into your bottling bucket.
Once the beer is in your bottling bucket, you’ll need to prime the beer to allow it to carbonate in its bottles. You can do this by adding approximately 3/4 of a cup of corn sugar to your beer. Pour the sugar into your bottling bucket and stir well. The yeast will eat up the sugar and turn it into carbon dioxide.
Now that the beer is in your bottling bucket, grab the bottles you’ve set aside to fill with your beer. A 5 gallon mix of beer will yield 53 bottles. To make this step easier, you can bottle your beer in empty soda bottles – they work just as well as beer bottles and are a lot simpler to fill. Five gallons of beer will fill 8 or 9 soda bottles. Fill each bottle leaving 1 inch of air at the top. Cap securely and make sure there are no leaks.
Right now if you taste your beer it will taste pretty flat. It’s not quite time to drink it yet. You need to put your bottled beer in a cool dark place for carbonation to occur. Don’t put it in the fridge as that’s too cold. Basements work great. It now needs to sit for 2 more weeks. And then it will be time to enjoy!
If you're ready to start brewing beer, click here to find Home Brewing Beer Ingredient & Equipment Kits.