How do I start homebrewing?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by karateadult, Jan 18, 2013.

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  1. karateadult

    karateadult Initiate (0) Jan 18, 2013 Pennsylvania

    I have wanted to start brewing my own beer for a while but I have a few questions..

    When I last looked into it, there were kits to start out or I could just buy basically what would be in a kit but individually. I remember this being sort of a "just as a hobby" type thing and people saying that you shouldn't drink out of the bottles you filled because there was yeast on them or something. I also couldn't find any reasonable place to buy empty bottles to fill that were like $15 for 24 empty bottles.

    My main question is, if I wanted to make my own beer and bottle it with the some professionalism that would let me give it to friends and family to drink as if it were any other beer, what method would I use for this and can you point me to where I would get that equipment?
  2. jsullivan02130

    jsullivan02130 Initiate (0) Mar 28, 2007 Massachusetts

    Read this: Then buy the book.
  3. clearbrew

    clearbrew Initiate (0) Nov 3, 2009 Louisiana

    Bottles: I have been brewing for approx 13 years and I think I have only bought 1 or 2 cases of bottles. All of the rest have come from saving store bought beer bottles. Get some PBW, soak the empty bottles and the labels will peel right off.
    If you bottle condition your beer, then yes, you will get yeast sediment in the bottom of the bottle. This is not a very big deal as any good beer should be, properly, poured into a glass. Unless deliberately disturbed, the yeast will stay in the bottle. Then just rinse the empty bottles and store them for the next batch.
    The other option is to buy a keg. You can serve directly from the keg, or you can use the keg to carbonate your beer, then bottle it from the keg. If you go this route you will not have the yeast sediment. However, you will incur more expense. If you chose to got this route, google "beer gun" or "homemade beer gun."
    The carbonation process will be a bit more work if you "force carbonate" with a keg, but the overall time will be less. Beer only takes a few days to carbonate in a keg instead of the standard 2 weeks with bottle conditioning.
  4. JimSmetana

    JimSmetana Initiate (0) May 11, 2012 Illinois

  5. scurvy311

    scurvy311 Disciple (343) Dec 3, 2005 Louisiana

    Bottling, while really important, is not as important as everything that comes before it.

    #1 Of course you can consume the yeast that is in the bottles.
    #2 "Professional quality beer" is completely doable. With enough experience y can regularly surpass "professional quality beer". Hell, I've had some horrible "professional quality beer".

    #3 Do this:

    Read: How to Brew, by John Palmer

    If you are still interested, then buy the book. Usually it is the other way around, but I understand that the book is more up to date than the site.
    Also check out The Joy of Homebrewing.

    You can also do a beer advocate forum search for:
    Absolute noob
    Absolute beginner
    Essential homebrewer's library (this one is a gold mine of links and directions to good information)
    Best kit or best homebrew kit

    Beer advocate also has a decent search feature for whatever else you are looking for, and there are other Homebrewing forums online.

    Or you can just post a question on the forum.

    Then when you are ready for recipe info:
    Listen for free to The Brewing Network's Jamil Show podcasts on iTunes. They are broken down by style, but they all have good information in them. Some of the shows are much more than just style guidelines and recipe information.

    Then if you need more information there is also:
    Brew Strong podcasts for free on iTunes
    A subscription to Zymurgy and/or Brew Your Own magazine

    And tons of good information online, just understand that not all of it is good, and some of it is really bad. I do not traffic other sites, but bad advice is shot down pretty quickly on this forum AND backed up with solid information and/or experience.

    Except for "How to Brew", there is no specific order IMO on how to consume the rest. And this is not an exhaustive list, this is just my personal route.
  6. kjyost

    kjyost Initiate (0) May 4, 2008 Manitoba (Canada) & Full Wort Boils!!!
    (Who has HB42's full wort boil benefits handy?)
  7. pmoney

    pmoney Crusader (709) Apr 15, 2011 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Clean your hands and all of your equiptment. Twice.
  8. ipas-for-life

    ipas-for-life Disciple (347) Feb 28, 2012 Virginia
    Beer Trader

  9. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,396) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Here are HB42's Extract Brewing Tips...
    First of all it's important to realize that good quality, fresh extract alone can brew fantastic beer as long as your recipe formulation and brewing technique are good. One of the best beers I've ever brewed, extract, all grain, or otherwise, was an abbey singel that was nothing but pilsen DME, a little table sugar, a touch of hallertauer, and wyeast 1214. I've brewed show stopping English bitters with nothing but Muntons extra light DME, a touch of crystal, some goldings, and wyeast 1968. And nothing is more popular than my simple extract hefe, which is nothing but 6 lbs of wheat DME, an oz of noble hops, and wyeast 3068 (it doesn't get any easier than that, and it's a great beer).

    if you want to brew great extract beers, the following guidelines are imperative:


    I can't stress this enough. If you're doing concentrated boils, you're never going to produce flawless beers, no matter what else you do. If you're brewing 5 gallons of beer, you MUST start with at least 6-6.5 gallons of wort, and this is ESPECIALLY true for very pale colored or very hoppy beers. Late extract additions are helpful for those who do concentrated boils, but they're not a sub for a real FULL wort boil.

    2) Use only high quality, extra light, light, or pilsen extracts, and I much prefer dry extracts over liquid, as they tend to be fresher and lighter in color.

    Every extract beer that you brew should be based on either extra light DME, or pilsen DME. When an all grain brewer builds a recipe, they start with a pale base malt and work from there, even for the darkest beers, and a great extract brewer should do the same. Extra light extract is nothing but basic good quality 2-row, and a touch of carapils, while pilsen extract is 100% pilsner malt, and either of these are a fantastic slate on which to build any amazing beer. If you want to brew beer like an all grain brewer, then you need to think like an all grain brewer and build your recipes from the ground up.

    3) Use only FRESH extract!

    Don't buy extract kits that have been sitting on a store shelf for who knows how many millennia. This is especially true with liquid extract, which has a much shorter shelf life than dry and tends to darken and taste stale over time. This alone is a good reason to completely avoid liquid as far as I'm concerned. And try to find a retailer that moves their product and always has fresh inventory. For example a larger online homebrew supply may be better at providing fresh products than your stagnant local shop.

    4) Do NOT scorch your extract.

    This is yet another reason why I prefer DME over LME, as DME floats while LME sinks to the bottom of the kettle. If you decide to use LME however, remove the kettle from the burner and FULLY dissolve your extract before putting it back on the heat.

    5) Know which grains can be steeped and which can't.

    The only grains that can be steeped are crystal/caramel/cara malts, and roasted grains like chocolate malt, roasted barley, and black patent malt. EVERYTHING else really needs to be mashed. Doing things like trying to steep oatmeal or munich does nothing but load up your beer with unconverted starch, which is not doing your beer any favors. If you want to include other grains in your extract beers, then do a mini mash, NO exceptions.

    5) DO A FULL WORT BOIL! Partial boils kill beer. Seriously.

    6) Keep your yeast happy at all times.

    It's very important to pitch healthy yeast in adequate numbers, and use yeast that's appropriate for the style. Many extract kits come with a packet of generic "ale yeast" that is typically of low quality. You're never going to brew a fantastic English bitter with an old, stale packet of characterless "ale yeast". Get familiar with handling liquid yeast strains and making starters, and pay attention to proper pitching rates and proper fermentation temperatures, as both are extremely important for producing high quality beers devoid of off flavors.

    7) Never ever rush your beer.

    Great beer takes time, and most beers will benefit from spending some extra time in the fermenter and in the bottle. This means at least 2-3 weeks in primary before either bottling or moving to secondary, and if you're bottle conditioning give your beers at least 6-8 weeks in the bottle and you're sure to see a great improvement.

    And for shit sake, get yourself a bigger kettle! That, along with getting some decent ingredients, are the best things that you can do for your extract beers.

    And don't let anyone tell you that you can't brew great beer with extract, because that's BS. Some of the best beers that I've ever brewed were extract beers, no question.

  10. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,263) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    We all started with our first batch. That is the hardest part.
    JrGtr and CBlack85 like this.
  11. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Initiate (0) May 21, 2010 Texas

    I skipped batch one and went straight to batch two. :grinning:

    it's sorta true actually, as my first batch was an all-grain 10 gallon session with an expert (20+ years brewing, bjcp etc) where he gave me half the batch, so all I had to do was bottle.

    batch two was a little trickier... :rolling_eyes:

    seriously tho, OP: follow advice in this thread. read links. do your homework. then just do it. it's daunting at first but it's actually easier than you think.
  12. reverseapachemaster

    reverseapachemaster Initiate (0) Sep 21, 2012 Texas
    Beer Trader

    If you have a local homebrew shop they usually carry starter kits of all the basic equipment and then you just need to buy a suitable kettle. You can buy those at the same place but you might have something at home/parents have something that is suitable to start with and you can upgrade later.The basic equipment kits are mostly all you need other than the kettle. I've been brewing for 3.5 years and still use the same stuff as my primary equipment.

    If you don't have a local shop, midwest supplies frequently runs groupons for the starter equipment kits for I think $60. You probably have to pay shipping on top of it but it might be a little cheaper than ordering at other places online or even locally.

    Lots of people are getting into the hobby and deciding they don't like what they are making or don't want to put in the work and unloading equipment on craigslist. Look around locally, you might be able to find a basic kit with minimal use dirt cheap. There's usually some Mr. Beer kits that people use once or twice after getting them as Christmas gifts and then try to unload on CL a couple months after the holidays. That's also an option to start with but the ingredient kits are not the greatest beers and are expensive for what they are. Still, you might be able to get the Mr. Beer equipment kit for like $20 and that equipment is all perfectly useful in the future. There are people with 10+ years of brewing that use the Mr. Beer equipment from time to time.
  13. PhillyStyle

    PhillyStyle Meyvn (1,209) Apr 8, 2008 Georgia

    My copy of "How To Brew" arrived this week. Can't wait to start brewing.
  14. Jimjohson

    Jimjohson Initiate (0) Dec 26, 2012 Georgia

    The yeast in the bottom isn't just a homebrew thing, saw it in the bottom of plenty of beers while stationed in Germany. If you want to get a kit like Mr.Beer go right ahead. In the end it's just a fermenter, it can make 2.5 gal batches. Splitting a 5 gal batch ain't hard. Anyone who says anything else is just being a snob. Don't matter how you start, just start. So get a kit, brew your first batch. Then go read and find out what you did wrong... Like a lot of us. :slight_smile:
  15. Duffman929

    Duffman929 Aspirant (279) Nov 27, 2010 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Rather than start a whole new thread on this, I'm just going to jump in....does someone know of a reputable site to purchase a kit that will ship to an APO address? I've looked at the ones here and a few others with no luck. I'll keep searching, but I just don't want to have to pay to have it shipped twice. Thanks.
  16. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Initiate (0) May 21, 2010 Texas

    I would contact several places and find out., northern brewer, midwest brewing supplies, etc. I bet they will, don't know if it will cost more or not (it may, but it will be worth it anyway).
  17. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,396) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I think sergeantstogie has been through this. Perhaps he'll comment.
  18. sergeantstogie

    sergeantstogie Aspirant (202) Nov 16, 2010 Washington

    Right you are! Many will ship. However many will also charge you extra and tell you it's because it has to go so much further even though the DOD picks up the shipping tab once it leaves NJ but I digress. MY recommendation is
    They are out of Oregon and have a son who is active duty so there is that. Also they will do their best to put as much product into one box as possible to save on shipping cost. If you give them a heads up, they will only charge you what USPS charges them. That has been my experience. Also, Adventures in Homebrewing ( has done right by me too.
    AlCaponeJunior likes this.
  19. sergeantstogie

    sergeantstogie Aspirant (202) Nov 16, 2010 Washington

    I see Duffman you are in Germany. Then your best bet is hopfenunmehr. OK prices, super fast shipping and it's cheap. You might have to learn a lil german or use google translate. Also, their shipper can't get onto post/base but you can just give them your cell # and they will call you from the gate when they are there to deliver.
  20. Duffman929

    Duffman929 Aspirant (279) Nov 27, 2010 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    That's fine because I don't live on base. I will for sure look into it. Thanks!

    RBCORCORAN Aspirant (239) May 18, 2009 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader is a great forum to learn everything you need to know and every question you can imagine has been asked and answered 1000 times.Even a dedicated section for beginners.
    Bottles - tell your friends that if they want beer they need to start saving non-twist off bottles and wash them before giving them to you. no bottles - no beer.
  22. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Initiate (0) May 21, 2010 Texas

    A bit anal, but necessary to mention:

    Note: not all non-twist off bottles are created equal. Around here there are some fine breweries that unfortunately use bottles that don't work well with my bottle capper (a common capper). RABC's beers are plenty good (I love their signature hop pale ale) but their bottles don't work, the neck is designed wrong. Stone's bottles work great, thus I drink a lot of stone (when I'm not drinking homebrew). You'll see if you examine the top of the bottle that certain neck designs work better than others. Also, some bottles seem to be more fragile than others. Again, stone uses great bottles which are strong and survive reuse/capping.

    The other thing is cleaning/storage. A guy gave me 12 grolsch type bottles, but they weren't clean and were stored right side up with liquid still in the bottom, i.e. bacterial pools of gunk. He meant well, but needed to be educated. Bottles need to be rinsed several times in hot water, including shaken vigorously if it's a bottle conditioned beer to get the yeast off the bottom, and stored upside-down so they dry well, stay dry, and don't get bugs in them. If there's any gunk in them that isn't cleaned by shaking/rinsing immediately, I Don't use them.

    Nowadays when I'm at the beer brewing area (my bro's) we shake/rinse the bottles immediately, rinse them in sanitizer, then dry on a bottling tree and store upside down in closed lid boxes.

    Generally, bombers are the bomb. I haven't found a bomber served beer yet that didn't have a good bottle (they may exist tho).

    Most of this I learned the hard way and by trial/error.
  23. reverseapachemaster

    reverseapachemaster Initiate (0) Sep 21, 2012 Texas
    Beer Trader

    With questionable accuracy as to the answers.
  24. JimSmetana

    JimSmetana Initiate (0) May 11, 2012 Illinois

    An addition to the bottling mini-thread here. It seems to me that bombers are made with thicker glass. I maybe off-base. I do notice that the bottles I have been saving from good breweries (FFF etc..) are really lightweight. Never noticed until I started saving them. Dont want any bottle bombs.
  25. boddhitree

    boddhitree Devotee (482) Apr 13, 2008 Germany

    I use Hopfen und Mehr often and like them, but their site is completely in German, so if you don't do German, I recommend another site whose prices are equivalent and actually have a bigger selection of equipment and a few more styles of malt. It's Brouwland, based in Belgium, and they have their site as well all in English. I prefer them because I can get EVERYTHING there and their service is not only in English, but they reply promptly and are extremely helpful, and you don't have to send a bank transfer until after your shipment arrives in about 4 days after you place your order.
  26. CBlack85

    CBlack85 Defender (699) Jul 12, 2009 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    You should find your local homebrew club and join, that has really helped the quality of my homebrew...
    MacNCheese likes this.
  27. beerchick14

    beerchick14 Initiate (0) Feb 11, 2013

    I'm also just going to jump in here.
    I want to get a starter kit for my boyfriend and I but am not sure where to start. We aren't sure if we will continue brewing but we want to get a taste for the process. We are into IPA's and Stouts and that's what we would want to brew. Where do I go without spending a fortune and still get everything I need??

    I was thinking something like this...
  28. ipas-for-life

    ipas-for-life Disciple (347) Feb 28, 2012 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    That looks like a good kit to have some fun with and see if it's something you want to pursue. If you like it then you can decide whether you want to upgrade your equipment. One of the down sides is you will only get around 10 beers out of it and it can be a good amount of work for a small return. Also the ingrediants usually aren't that fresh in these type of kits from what i've read. So I wouldnt put too much stock in the out come of the first batch.
  29. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Initiate (0) May 21, 2010 Texas

    You should be able to get a good starter kit for around $100 that will brew five gallons, and beer kits from $30-$50 for a damn good kit with extracts, specialty grains, hops etc. I know I just had a beer brewed from a kit at the LHBS that they were selling and it was delicious. Go big or go home, if you ask me! And if his first beer comes out great you'll look golden!
  30. beerchick14

    beerchick14 Initiate (0) Feb 11, 2013

    You were right AlCapone. I did go big lol. I ended up getting this kit with a some bottles and caps and also a Brewers Best Kit for Imperial Pale Ale.{47}-Glass-Carboy.html

    I think he'll love it. And I am volunterring myself for the role of Igor in the mad science lab!
  31. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Initiate (0) May 21, 2010 Texas

    It's an excellent kit. You did very well.

    Just a couple tips for the future:

    1. no-rinse cleaner? it may or may not be star-san, but it's probably not. Star-san rules. A little goes a long way. Get some starsan, or at least get some for batch II.

    2. you may want to get an auto-siphon. your kits says "siphon hose and shutoff clamp." I'd say use it on the first batch and decide if you need to upgrade (it's a cheep upgrade). Definitely practice with siphoning using a bucket and some water before you attempt to do so with your first batch. You don't want to discover that it's harder than it looks when you're in the middle of transferring your beer (it is harder than you think). Siphoning can be a pain in the ass, especially without an auto-siphon.

    3. try to keep your hump on one side or the other. Remember in Young Frankenstein when Igor changed sides on his hump? You don't want that to happen halfway through a brew session. :rolling_eyes:

    As for the brewer's best imperial pale ale kit (based on this review of the kit)...

    I haven't tried it. Instructions can sometimes be unclear. Come up with a procedure before you start, with a check-list. Here is an example of a procedure I used on a partial mash beer (similar to yours, but NOT the same, you need to develop your own procedure!).

    150-155 is also fine for steeping grains. 160 is a bit high.

    Cooling is important. Since you won't have a wort chiller, you're going to need about 20 lbs of ice to cool 3-4 gallons of wort. Get the wort preferably in the high 60's when you pitch the yeast. DO NOT pitch the yeast if the beer is in the high 70's or higher!

    Boil as much of the wort/water as you possibly can. Don't just boil a gallon and add 4 gallons of water. Better to boil 4 gallons and add one gallon water. I am assuming that you won't be equipped yet to do a full boil, which is fine. But remember that more=better when it comes to boiling your beer before you cool and pitch the yeast. You need a decent sized boil pot. Typically homebrewers (including me) start with a 5 gallon pot*. That will boil up to about 4 gallons. You have to watch for boil overs! Boiling 3.75 gallons of wort and adding a little water at the end to bring your volume up to five gallons is fine, your beer will be just fine. Just don't boil too little wort**. Also, your stove may or may not be up to the task of boiling that much wort. I had to straddle two burners at first, and even then about 4 gallons was the max (and it took forever to boil). Now I have a turkey fryer, which was fifty bucks, and it came with a nice big pot that works great.

    Leave it in the fermentation bucket for 2 weeks before you even think about messing with it. AT LEAST 2 WEEKS. You'll be impatient, but trust me, you'll thank me for this advice later.

    The exact kit you bought looks like it will make a quality beer. If you even reasonably don't screw it up, you will likely come out with a very tasty beer.

    Bottling is much easier with two people. :sunglasses:

    Don't be afraid to post your procedure for critique before brewday. Ask lots of questions, and good luck!

    *we do this because we're cheep when we first start out. bigger is better tho. You can utilize a pot that's too big later, but you can't make a pot that's too small grow bigger.

    **if you have to split the boil between two pots, that's better than boiling too little wort
    beerchick14 likes this.
  32. ipas-for-life

    ipas-for-life Disciple (347) Feb 28, 2012 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    The kit does come with an auto-siphon I got a similar kit for my brother for christmas from bells. I second the suggestion for Star San for sanitizing.
    beerchick14 likes this.
  33. MickJ0nes

    MickJ0nes Initiate (0) Dec 10, 2012 Pennsylvania

    This kit was my first IIPA and third batch (more like first drinkable batch). I wanted an easy way to jazz it up so I added 1oz. hallertau at 30min. and dry hopped the last two weeks with 1oz. whole citra. It came out better than I could have imagined.
  34. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Initiate (0) May 21, 2010 Texas

    You can't f'up dry hopping. :sunglasses:
  35. beerchick14

    beerchick14 Initiate (0) Feb 11, 2013

    I am overjoyed at all the responses I'ved gotten!!! I am so excited to give the gift to him and get started! I will definitely take everything you've told me into consideration and post our process up here before we get started. I'm looking into get Palmers' How to Brew before we get in too deep also. AND just FYI this SN is my alias lol. I have another name on here that shall be revealed come gifting day. I just couldn't post under it cause he is sneaky that way :wink:

    I definitely won't change my hump though. My hump is unmoveable. Like a rock.
  36. beerchick14

    beerchick14 Initiate (0) Feb 11, 2013

    Are the hallertai and citra something you would attempt on your first go around?
  37. MacNCheese

    MacNCheese Initiate (0) Dec 10, 2011 California has a lot of podcasts of brewing on BrewStrong and recipe info on the Jamil Show. Worth a listen, but join a club and sit in on someone else's brewing session and ask questions. Brewing alone is boring, always fun to have someone around and talk through the process.
  38. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Initiate (0) May 21, 2010 Texas

    We've got 3 people now who regularly participate and help with the processes, cleaning, bottling etc. Makes the brew day easier and more fun.
  39. beerchick14

    beerchick14 Initiate (0) Feb 11, 2013

    He loved it! Can't wait to get to work!!!!!
  40. Danny1217

    Danny1217 Champion (846) Jul 15, 2011 Florida
    Beer Trader

    So, for someone who has brewed four partial boil batches now, what is the cheapest way I can start doing full boils? You all make it sound like no big deal, but I can't exactly do this on my stove top or with any of the pots currently in my house.
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