Homebrewing 101, Part Three

by: BeerAdvocate on 10-18-2000
Before we get into what the necessary equipment is, we will touch upon two other subjects first: cleanliness and relaxation. Cleanliness – it’s a must in producing a clean, drinkable brew. All equipment that will ever come in contact with the beer must be cleaned and sanitized. This can be done with a 30-minute soak in a diluted bleach solution and, to be on the safe side, remember to wash and sanitize before and after each brewing or bottling. Relaxation – brewing is fun and is not intended to be a stressful chore. Think of brewing as cooking, because that’s what it essentially is, cooking to your specific tastes. The best way to brew: relax and have a beer.

What follows is the basic equipment needed to make five-gallon batches, which will make roughly two cases of beer.

Beer bottles – Two cases will be needed for every five-gallon batch. Non-twist bottles, preferably brown. So get a head start and empty some right now.

Bottling bucket – Fermented beer will be siphoned into and mixed with some priming sugar in preparation for bottling.

Bottle filler – A spring-loaded tube that will fill the bottle when the end of the filler is pressed down on the bottom of the bottle.

Brew kettle – This is where the wort (unfermented beer) will be boiled. Hops are also added to this, as well as herbs or spices. A five-gallon minimum size is needed, but if you can find an eight-gallon lobster pot that will work just fine.

Caps and capper – unused caps to seal the bottles, and the capper will tightly fit the cap on the bottle.

Fermenters and airlocks – Basically a plastic bucket with a lid. This is what the cooled wort will be fermented and conditioned in. Two are recommended, one for the primary fermentation and one for the secondary. An airlock is simply a two-chambered plastic piece that will fit on the cover of your fermenter to let gases out but no air in; this is accomplished with water as the seal.

Hydrometer – This gadget will check the gravity of the wort and the finished product to gauge the alcohol percentage.

Siphon tubing/Racking Cane – Tubing to siphon beer from one container to another, both with a 3/8-inch size. The cane is hard plastic in order to stably fit down the side of the fermenter.

Thermometer – Used to gauge the temperature of your cooled wort.

Wort chiller – Copper tubing wrapped in a loose circle with one end that attaches to a cold water faucet. As the cold water flows through the copper tubing it draws the heat away from the boiled wort.

Time To Brew
Get all of the equipment out, ready the ingredients and have a beer, relax. This recipe will be for English Bitter, a very drinkable session style brew.

6-7 pounds of Unhopped Light Malt Extract

2 ounces Hops – Goldings, Fuggle or similar

2 packets of dried brewers yeast or a "Ready to Pitch" liquid culture

Bring six gallons of water to a boil. If you have a smaller pot that can’t fit six gallons, make sure you leave enough room for the extract and some additional space in case of a boil-over. Turn off the heat and mix in the malt extract thoroughly, until fully dissolved. Return to a boil and carefully watch for boil-over. Boil for 15 minutes, then add hops. Boil for 60 more minutes; then cool with your wort chiller. Drop to around 70-75ºF. Hydrate the dried yeast using some sterile tepid water (75-80 Degrees F). Stir the cooled wort in a whirlpool fashion to pull most of the hops to the middle, then siphon the wort into the fermenter. Pitch in the hydrated yeast and stir vigorously to aerate. Remember to save a sample to measure the gravity with the hydrometer, and to also taste before sealing and filling the airlock with water. Let ferment. You should notice some bubbling action coming from the airlock within anywhere from a few to 24 hours, depending on the yeast. Let the wort ferment for 5-7 days, then carefully siphon into the sealed/airlocked secondary fermenter and let condition in a cooler place if possible for at least seven more days. If there seems to be little or no bubbling action coming from the airlock, then the beer is ready to bottle. Boil 1/2-3/4 cup sugar – homebrewing, corn sugar or cane sugar. Gently pour this into the bottling bucket and siphon the finished beer on top. Stir carefully so as not to aerate, and fill each bottle to around 1/2-1 inch from the top of the bottle. Let condition for 2-3 weeks at room temp. Chill, then decant gently, so as to not disturb the yeast sediment in the bottom of the bottle. Enjoy!

Some kits come with "no boil" directions; these will make a decent beer. However, we suggest that you omit any big additions of sugar; instead of the sugar, just substitute a second kit. And, before your first batch, we suggest you read up on the subject, visit your local homebrew store for further questions or contact us. And, for a list of homebrew shops in your area, check out: http://beeradvocate.com/beerfly/

Respect Beer.
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