Okay so you’re keen to perhaps get into home brewing – well that’s great! Here is a basic guide to getting started. First things first you will need a starter kit of some description, our range of kits can be found here.
Next you will want to find your self a little bit of space at home to keep your fermenter, a tip for this is pick somewhere that is out of direct sunlight and remember to give yourself a height allowance to be able to get the bottling wand and bottle beneath the tap (so sitting on the floor is not ideal). The reason we say that is once your brew is done fermenting you don’t really want to be hauling the fermenter around and stirring up the yeast cake. A good example of this is a cupboard or pantry.
Right so the rest is easy – your kit will have great instructions for you to follow but here is how it works; when beginning to brew you are best to start with extract kit brewing and some of our starter kits come with a kit included. So this guide will be based on an extract kit.
- First thing to do on brew day is to check all your equipment is at hand and clean – this is really important, as there is nothing worse than realizing your are missing something when you really need it.
- Next prepare your sanitizer in your fermenter and ensure that everything that is going to make contact with your extract or brew has been sanitised properly (if your extract is in a can then include your can opener too). Sanitizing is absolutely crucial to ensuring your beer ferments well and stays healthy. Though this is very important don’t be concerned the process is easy and the sanitizer instructions are easy to follow.
- Fill up the kitchen sink with hot water and put your extract can or pouch in it. Let it sit for 10 minutes – this thins out the thick extract, making it way easier to pour.
- Once sanitized, empty out the fermenter. Boil 2 – 3 litres of water (depending on the kit) and pour in on into the fermenter. MAKE SURE YOUR TAP IS OFF… Yes I have burnt my toes more than once.
- Open your extract and pour it in slowly whilst stirring with your sanitized brew spoon.
- Once all the extract is dissolved add in your dextrose or enhancer.
- Keep stirring until all the fermentables are dissolved in the water. You are now creating Wort (pronounced “Wert”) this is basically malt water rich in sugars.
- Once dissolved you can now start adding the required amount of cold water to bring the total brew up to 23 litres. When adding the cold water a good tip I use is to pour the water in from a reasonable height and stir up the mixture too, (ensure it doesn’t splash out though as it is really sticky) this aerates the wort and is evident by a foam layer forming on the surface. Aeration is a key element required by the yeast.
- Next collect a sample of wort in your hydrometer tubing and check the specific gravity reading. The reading is at the point where the liquid line sites on the hydrometer scale (make sure there is enough wort collected to make the hydrometer float in suspension). Beginner extract kits range in an original or start gravity of between 1.035 and 1.050, however, your kit will state where to expect it – write your reading down for future reference.
- If your hydrometer tubing and hydrometer were sanitised then you can return the wort to the fermenter – otherwise discard. In the interest of understanding the proccess and in the name of science keep some to sample the taste of wort.
- Next open the packet of yeast and sprinkle over the wort. You can either leave it as is or stir it in, both will work just fine.
- Fit the lid securely to the fermenter. Fill your air lock with cooled boiled water to the correct level and fit to the lid.
- Congratulations your well on your way to enjoying hand crafted beer.
- Keep your fermenter in your selected “brew closet”
- There’s not a lot to do for the next week or so. Fermentation will start around 12 hours after the yeast is “pitched” or sprinkled over the wort. Signs of fermentation are condensation forming inside the fermenter, a layer of thick foam known as Krausen on top of your brew and of course CO2 gas bubbling out of the air lock.
- Around day seven if the bubbling has stopped take another sample and test the specific gravity – write it down.
- Wait 24 hours and take another gravity reading – the sure sign fermentation is finished is a stable gravity reading over 24 hours, so if it is the same, you are now ready for bottling your beer!
Bottling and clean up
- Step one of bottling is sanitizing everything that will contact your beer, this includes bottling wand, bottles, caps.
- Next place the correct amount of carbonation drops into your bottles – generally 1 drop per 330ml bottle and 2 for a 750ml bottle, but follow the instructions on the pack.
- Attach your sanitized bottling wand onto the fermenter tap
- Now just simply fit your empty bottle over the wand and ensure the bottom of the bottle depresses the valve at the bottom of the wand – you will see your beer flowing into the bottle. When the beer gets to the top of the bottle just lower the bottle to let the valve on the wand close – beer will stop flowing and as you lower the bottle off the wand you will notice you now have the perfect headspace in the bottle – genius!
- Affix your cap as required by the type of bottle you are using – for example if you use glass bottles (non-flip top) you will need to fit the crown cap using a capper or simply screw the cap on if you are using plastic PET bottle.
- Once the bottling is done place them away in your “brewing closet” and let them mature for approximately 2 weeks.
- Clean up time – with the right equipment it’s quick and painless. For cleaning I use a simple soft bristled brush and a bottle brush (have these brushes dedicated to brewing as your normal dish brush will have a lot of residual food, etc). It’s as easy as washing out all the loose sediment and Krausen from inside the fermenter with warm water. Then with the use of some unscented detergent and your brush, gently scrub all particles out of the fermenter. Remove the tap and clean the spigot hole with the bottle brush. I always remove the seal from the lid (if screw type) and clean it and its seating position in the lid. Basically clean the fermenter, bottling wand and other components that have had beer on or in it. Allow the equipment to dry and store for next time…..or crack into another brew day!