There are as many different ways to brew as there are brewers. So many, in fact, that you may be wondering how to start.
For the benefit of any brewing newcomers, this post shares the way I brew at the moment. If I were to start over, this is what I’d do.
Before going any further I’m going to come clean.
One of the most popular pages on this site is the guide to brew in a bag (BIAB).
While that’s great news, I suspect it’s mainly read by people who already know what BIAB is.
With this article I want to show you beginners, or even experienced kit brewers, that with BIAB all grain brewing is within reach from the start.
I’ve deliberately not mentioned brew in a bag in the title to tempt you in.
That’s right. If you’re a beginner, don’t bother with a beer kit! Try brew in a bag instead.
What You’ll Find Out
If you stick with this to the end you’ll discover everything you need to know to make your own beer.
More importantly you’re going to see that from the start you can concoct your own beers from raw ingredients, with very little equipment that’s not already in your kitchen.
But first, what’s beer made of?
Nearly all beer contains four main ingredients:
By far the largest component of any beer, the water you use affects flavour, but for most purposes tap water is fine.
If it’s good enough to drink that is.
The main event in beer making is called mashing. It’s where malted barley is soaked in water to produce a sugary liquid called wort.
Wort is boiled with hops, a bitter flower.
As well as having a preservative effect, they add bitterness and flavour which compliment the sweeter malt.
You ferment the resulting liquid with yeast, which convert the malt sugars into alcohol and gas.
These are the four main ingredients. There may be more, depending on the beer.
The first thing to do is assemble the brewing equipment.
To avoid an unwieldy and out of control article, I’m not going to go into any more detail on equipment.
If you need it, there’s more information here:
Home Brew Supplies : Complete Equipment List For Beginners
How To Make Your Own Beer
First choose a recipe for your first brew, nothing too complicated.
This English IPA will do, and is what I’ll refer to on the rest of this page.
Before Brew Day
Planning is important, and there are a couple of things to do the day before you brew.
1. Prepare Ice
Fill at least four plastic bottles with tap water and freeze them. You’ll see what they’re for later.
2. Prepare Water
Fill your brew pot with 21 litres/5.5 gallons water. This gives approximately 15 litres/4 gallons of beer, as per the recipe.
Now’s also a good time to make sure you’ve got everything else ready.
Now comes the main event. Brew Day.
1. Heat Water
Cover the hob, everything except the heating ring, with foil. Sticky liquid runs down the brew pot and wrecks your oven if you’re not careful.
First thing on brew day turn on the heat.
Make sure you put the colander in beforehand to form a false bottom – it’s difficult to do when the water’s hot. This stops the malt from burning, when you add it.
2. Boil Water
In the small saucepan, boil a little water for twenty minutes and leave to cool to room temperature.
You need it later to rehydrate the yeast.
3. Prepare malt
While you’re waiting, get prepared. First, weigh out the malt.
4. Line Brew Pot
When the water in the brew pot reaches mash temperature (in this case 67°C/152°F) plus 1°, put the bag into the brew pot.
5. Add Malt
Gently pour in the malt.
Give it a light stir, just enough to wet the grain and break up any dough balls.
6. Cover and Mash
Leave for the required mash time, 70 minutes in the IPA recipe.
Check the temperature every now and again and add more heat if necessary.
7. Remove Bag
Take the hot and heavy grain bag out and let it drain as much as you can stand.
Turn the heat back on and bring the wort to the boil.
Meanwhile, put the wet bag into the fermenting bucket to drain. It helps to put a bowl in the bottom to raise the bag out of the liquid.
After the wort’s cooled a little, lightly squeeze the bag to get more liquid out.
9. Add Hops
Once you’ve got a vigorous boil start adding the hops as indicated in the recipe.
Times are usually given counting down to the end of the boil.
Typically you add hops at the beginning for bittering, throwing in more at the end for flavour.
10. Prepare Fermenter
By now you should have poured the extra wort from the fermenter into the brew pot.
Clean out any residue and rinse thoroughly.
Now comes possibly the most important part of the day.
Fill the fermenter with cold water and 1 oz of Star San.
Throw in the airlock, your yeast jar and hydrometer. Put the lid on and leave for a couple of minutes – that’s all it takes.
12. Save Sanitiser
Empty the sanitiser from the fermenter.
Set some aside for bottling day by filling two or three plastic bottles, and the sprayer.
13. Fill Bath
Shortly before the end of the boil, fill your bath with cold water and add the ice bottles.
14. Cool Brew Pot
Put the brew pot, with the lid on, into the ice water.
Let it cool quickly to room temperature, moving the water round from time to time to speed things up.
15. Prepare the Yeast Jar
While that’s happening, pour a little of your sanitised water into the jar. Leave twenty seconds and throw away.
16. Add Water
Add around 200ml/6 oz of the water you boiled earlier in the day.
17. Add Yeast
Sprinkle the dried yeast on top of the water and leave for ten minutes.
Swirl the jar to mix the yeast with the water and leave a few more minutes.
19. Aerate the Wort
By now the wort’s cool. Pour it back and forth between the fermenter and the brew pot.
The idea’s to get a lot of oxygen in to help the yeast with the fermentation.
20. Pitch The Yeast
Throw the yeast into the fermenter.
21. Put The Lid On
Put the lid on and seal. Move it around to mix thoroughly.
22. Store and Ferment
Fill the airlock with Star San and push it into the top of the fermenter.
Store the beer somewhere safe, at a constant temperature, to ferment. Around 20°C/70°F.
Clean everything now. It’s a lot easier than when it’s dried stuck tomorrow.
Before bottling, you add a little more sugar to the beer. The yeast ferment this inside the bottles, creating gas.
If you don’t do this, the beer will be flat.
1. Weigh Sugar
Weigh out sugar. Use this calculator to determine how much you need.
It’s around 65g/2.3 oz for the IPA.
2. Boil Sugar
Boil the sugar for twenty minutes in 450ml water. Do this 3 or 4 hours beforehand so it’s cool when you need it.
3. Rinse Bottles
Assemble your bottles and rinse, using the bottle brush to scrub inside if necessary.
Prepare two or three more than you think you need.
4. Sanitise Bottles
Pour the sanitiser you reserved on brew day into two or three bottles. Leave 20 seconds. Then start pouring into the other bottles, topping up as necessary.
Keep going until all the bottles are done.
5. Line Up Bottles
Put foil or cling film on the sanitised bottles and line them up on the floor.
6. Add Sugar
Take the lid off the fermenter. Put it on a high surface and very gently pour in the cooled sugar solution.
Stir extremely carefully with your sanitised stirrer. Any oxygen mixed in now will damage the beer’s flavour.
7. Leave To Settle
Loosely replace the lid and wait twenty minutes, time for the sugar to mix evenly with the beer.
8. Prepare Siphoning Area
Now you’re going to siphon the beer into your bottles.
Put a pot of sanitiser on the work surface and an empty pot on the floor.
9. Clean Siphon
Run cold water through the siphon for a few minutes to rinse.
10. Sanitise Siphon
Quickly put the racking cane into the pot of sanitiser. Don’t let the water out.
Press the bottling wand into the lower container to start the flow. Sanitiser will replace the water inside the tube.
When it’s full of sanitiser stop the flow and wait for at least twenty seconds.
11. Start Siphon
Quickly move the racking cane from the sanitiser to the beer. Insert it almost to the bottom, about 2cm clear.
Push the wand into the pot to restart the flow and this time wait for the tube to fill with beer.
12. Fill Bottles
Now start filling, until there’s no more beer.
13. Sanitise Caps
Put the bottle tops in your pot and cover with sanitiser. Then pour into the colander to drain.
14. Cap Bottles
Put a cap on a bottle. Hit with the capper and hammer until it grips snugly.
Repeat on all bottles.
The beer needs to be stored in the bottles for two weeks, ideally a month (sorry). This improves flavour and clarity, and gives the yeast time to carbonate the beer.
Again, clean everything thoroughly now. It saves time later.
Drink The Beer
After all that waiting, crack open a beer and enjoy.
That’s all there is to it. Good luck with your first batch!
Any questions, leave them below.