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 homebre