At some point, almost every true beer fan toys with the idea of brewing his own. The notion is definitely tempting: the costs are relatively low, the results relatively good, and will clearly be put to better use than six bottles of sand art.
If you do decide to take the plunge, thorough preparation will be the key to your home beer brewing success. Round up all your equipment and make sure it’s all spotlessly clean. Your basic setup will cover two broad areas: home brewing equipment and beer ingredients.
Ingredients for Home Brewing Beer
Creating your first home brew requires astonishingly few ingredients. Between the supermarket and a brewer’s supply store either on or offline, you can quickly gather everything you need:
- Water: You wouldn’t think water could vary so much, but water is the most varied chemical substance on earth. Pure water is but H2O, but the elements dissolved in pure water make big contributions to beer. Get 22-30 liters, or 6-8 gallons, of good quality spring water. If you make subsequent batches of brew, you may want to experiment with other waters. Your water should contain neither chlorine nor fluoride.
- Malt Extract: This is the lifeblood of your home brewed beer. You can choose a malt extract based upon the variety of beer you would like to brew, such as amber, pilsner, or wheat. At the supply store, you will see both dry malt extract and malt extract syrup. Each form has its advocates.
- Yeast: These live organisms turn the sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol. They are available in dry and liquid form and top or bottom fermenting, depending on the type of beer you are trying to make.
- Hops: Available as whole leaf hops, pellets and plugs in dozens of varieties. Good suppliers will tell you the hop variety as well as its alpha acid content. You may not need to purchase hops on their own if your mal extract already numbers hops as an ingredient, as many ultra-basic home beer brewing kits do.
Given the huge number of beers and brands on the market, it’s shocking to think that those four ingredients can make drinkable beer. Of course, even the home brewer, once he gets beyond the sheer basics, may be in the market for fruit additives, herbs and spices, or various chemical agents to improve the brewing process but none, strictly speaking, are necessary.
Startup Equipment for Home Brewing Beer
- Brew kettle: A container to hold your unfermented liquid- the wort- ready to be boiled. Typically, the beginner uses a five-gallon glass carboy, like a large water bottle. You add hops and other ingredients through the spout at the top.
- Fermenter: A container with a lid to hold the cooled wort. To begin fermentation, you will add yeast. If the recipe you are to follow calls for secondary fermentation, you’ll need a second fermenter.
- Bottling tank: You’ll siphon the fermented beer into a container before bottling. It’s essential that the bottling tank be completely clean.
- Beer bottles: Enough clean beer bottles to store your batch (assuming you and your friends don’t drink five gallons of beer right out of the tank). Dark brown bottles are best; they prevent spoilage due to excessive light during storage.
- Bottle filler: A spring-loaded device used to fill beer bottles.
- Capper: An optional, but helpful, tool to put caps onto the bottles. Corks or screwtops are alternatives, but each has drawbacks. Cork can splinter or introduce mold into the brew. Screwtops need to be seated properly in order to ensure a tight seal and avoid oxygen spoilage.
A home brewing starter kit might also include a thermometer; a hydrometer to measure something called specific gravity, if your recipe requires certain levels; siphon tubes, a timer, a long handled spoon.
You will also need a heat source. Air will often take care of the cooling need, but heating the wort to boiling will require an application of heat, such as with a Bunsen burner or stovetop.
That’s it! If you get serious about the hobby (and make sure it stays a hobby, or you’ll find yourself in legal trouble) you can upgrade your equipment, but your first batch of brew won’t require anything fancy. In fact, you can get basic beer making kits that supply you with absolutely everything except the water.