There are a number of different brewing methods. For beginners, extract brewing is a great introduction to homebrewing. This method allows you to not over think and actually produce a beer you can enjoy and be proud of. Extract brewing uses limited space and is not time intensive. Basically, this is how it works:
1. Extract is added to a large pot of water. This mixture is boiled with hops for bittering and flavor balance, this creates the “wort.”
2. The wort is cooled and yeast is added to begin fermentation.
3. The yeast ferments the sugars in the extract, releasing CO2 and ethyl alcohol.
4. When fermentation is complete, the beer is bottled with a little bit of added sugar to provide the carbonation. (Kegging is also an option. This can be quite a bit easier, but requires additional equipment.
Here is a deeper breakdown of the homebrewing process:
Step 1: Steeping
To start you will need a large pot (roughly 5 gallons or more) 2.5 gallons of filtered or spring water, and a big spoon.
Option 1 Extract: Since you are brewing an extract beer, you will be using either liquid malt extract (LME), dried malt extract (DME) or some combination of both as your base malts. Heat the water up and add the extract before boiling.
Option 2 Brew in a bag: For this method you will need some muslin bags and a cooking thermometer. Instead of using extract you will make your own extract by steeping (heating) grains in a muslin bag. Think of this like a big tea bag! Heat the water to a temperature of about 156 degrees, add the grains in a tied muslin bag and try and hold that temperature for about 20 minutes. Any longer and the grains can start to release unwanted flavors.
Voilà. You have made Wort!
Step 2: The Boil
After you have added your extract or removed your steeping grains it's time to get down to the boil. From here on in the process is the same for all brewing methods. Now we will be hopping our beer! You have probably heard of Dogfish Head's 60/90/120 minute IPAs. Those numbers are not arbitrary! These are boil times. A typical boil time is 60 minutes. One can make a single hop addition or many over the course of the boil, it all comes down to the recipe.
A good rule of thumb is that hops added at the beginning of the boil are for bittering and hops added towards the end are for aroma. For example a typical IPA would have many more hop additions throughout that 60 minutes than a basic stout. For your first beer try adding only one or two types of hops so you can learn how they impact your beer.
Step 3: Cooling
Once the boil is complete, it’s time to cool the wort. You want to lower your liquid to around 70 F. Cooling the wort down quickly is the goal here since you want to get the yeast in there and get it closed up to avoid contamination, So there are two options for the homebrewer.
Option 1 Ice Bath: Fill your sink up with as much ice and water as possible and sit the warm pot in the sink. The liquid temperature should drop rapidly. The ice will melt in the sink and you may need to do this a few times to get the temperature back down.
Option 2 Immersion Chiller: Purchase an immersion chiller! Running cold water from your tap through a copper coil submerged in the hot wort. The cold water won't water down your recipe just remove the heat. This will cool things down much faster.
Step 4: Cleaning and Sanitation
Cleaning and Sanitation are two different things. Dirty equipment makes bad beer while non-sanitized equipment ruins beer!
Clean your equipment as well as you can like you're doing the dishes, however instead of liquid soap, look into a brewers wash that can get your equipment clean and keep your beer from tasting like soap. If you can’t get your hand in there looking into some specialty brushes to reach those tight spaces.
Sanitation is perhaps the most important thing for homebrewers to keep in mind. We recommend Star-san as a sanitizer. It’s a no rinse formula and it is very effective. Follow the directions on the bottle and make the sanitizer directly in your equipment or fill up a spray bottle and give everything a good spritz. Anything that is going to come into contact with your wort after boiling needs to be sanitized. This includes: buckets, hoses, siphons, lids, spoons and airlocks. This can be done while your wort is cooling, and can make waiting for the temperature to drop a bit less excruciating. When you’re done, don’t worry about foam left over from the sanitizer, it wont leave an aftertaste or do any harm.
Step 5: Fermentation
So the wort is cooled down to around room temperature and the equipment is sanitized, now let's make some beer! Let's break fermentation down to its simplest form:
Yeast eats sugar.
Yeast releases alcohol.
To start you will need to siphon your cooled wort into a fermentation vessel. This could be a simple food grade plastic bucket, a conical or a glass/PET carboy. Whatever you decide to use it must be clean, sanitized and able to seal air-tight.
Best practice is to now take a specific gravity reading with a hydrometer. This will help you determine the alcohol content of your finished beer and also check in and see if fermentation is complete.
After checking your specific gravity (which will vary by beer recipe), now you can pitch your yeast.
Whether it’s dry yeast or Imperial liquid yeast the first step is to sanitize the package the yeast comes in. Give it the yeast packaging a good spritz of Star-san, before you pour it in the fermenter.
Use a big spoon to stir the yeast in. Put your lid on and add your airlock into place. Fill the airlock with some of your leftover sanitizer. Now it's time to play the waiting game.
Fermentation should begin anywhere from 2-24 hours after you pitch your yeast. If you have a good seal on your fermentation vessel your airlock should bubble as your wort ferments into beer. After a week the process should be complete. Take another specific reading and see if it's in your target range. Otherwise monitor your airlock for activity and after two straight days of no bubbles fermentation should be complete.
Step 6: Adding Carbonation and Bottling
It's time to finish your creation. If you are interested in kegging please email us or ask us at the store and we will be thrilled to help you down that path. For most new brewers you will likely bottle your beer.
A note on bottles: Philly Homebrew Outlet lots of great bottles based on the type of beer you created. However, if you're making beer you probably drink beer so save yourself about 2 cases worth of bottles. Wash your bottles in the dishwasher, remove any labels, and sanitize them. Don't save a twist off bottle as you won't be able to get a good seal at home.
Siphon your beer out of the fermentor and into a bottling bucket. When you get near the bottom stop transferring the beer when you start to see solids. These solids are the trub. Trub is what's left behind after the fermentation process and you want to try and prevent this from getting into your final product.
Depending on the amount and type of beer you made you will need to add priming sugar to your beer into the bottling bucket so that it can become carbonated. Once the sugar and beer are in the bottle the sugar will ferment creating CO2, and become the carbonation. There are several great calculators online that will help you determine the amount of priming sugar to add.
Fill your sanitized bottles one at a time from the spigot of the bottling bucket. Leave about a ½”-1” of room from the very top. Place a cap on top and utilize a capper to seal your beer inside. After 3-5 days at room temperature the carbonation will be created in the beer. Chill your homebrew down to the desired temperature, crack one open and enjoy!
Congratulations you are now an official homebrewer. Take a picture and send it to us on social media! We love to see what our friends have made.
If at any time you have any questions, concerns, comments etc. please stop in the store, give us a call or post something online, we love to help. Cheers!