Your First Batch
(adapted from The Everything Homebrewing Book by Drew Beechum )
Getting Started - Your Best Resource
First things - find your local homebrew shop. If you're in the LA area, you're in luck with two resources - Culver City Homebrewing Supply and the home shop of
the Maltose Falcons, The Home Beer Wine Cheesemaking Shop in Woodland Hills. If you're not in LA, you can find homebrew shops either on the
American Homebrewer's Association Shop Finder or on Beer Advocate's Beerfly. For those with no local options, there are several great mailorder/internet
retailers out there; MoreBeer.com and NorthernBrewer.com are the biggest in the business.
When you walk into your local shop, pay attention to a couple of things: is the shop clean and well lighted, does the staff (usually one person) seem friendly
and ready to answer questions. If you to get started quickly, just say you're new to the hobby and need to know what to get! Also, check the freshness of the ingredients.
Dust on top of everything may indicate that your store doesn't move ingredients fast enough to ensure freshness. In addition to you want to see variety in terms of grains,
hops, extracts and yeast, but freshness trumps selection every time.
In amongst all the chaos of foriegn gear and equipment, every homebrew shop will have a kit designed just for you. These starter kits
come with most of the gear you need to get started. If you're looking to do things on the super cheap, you can strip parts of the standard kit, but
you won't save much money and this is all about getting you started quickly. All told expect to spend around $150 for a kit and ancillary parts.
What's Included in a Good Kit
- plastic fermenting bucket
- glass carboy for aging
- bottle capper for sealing your bottles
- siphoning setup
- odd measuring device called a "hydrometer" (it helps you predict how strong your beer will be and is beyond useful)
- miscellanous bits and bobs.
- Generally included with the kit purchase is a set of ingredients for your first batch.
Your ingredient kit will contain: Malt Extract (either dry powder or liquid), Hops (usually green rabbit pellet looking things) and Yeast (either liquid or dry).
Good kits will also contain a small amount (1-2 pounds) of crushed barley malt, more on this after this brief break.
What's Not Included
- 5 gallon stockpot - preferably stainless steel, but an enameled canning pot works well too. Aluminimum should work fine, just don't scrub it shiny.
- 2 cases of bottles. Your shop will sell them for cheap or you can gather them the old fashioned way. (Twist offs are not preferred for this application)
The Different Types of Brewing:
- Extract Only: Uses just the concentrated wort extract to make your beer. Really old school kits include hop extract mixed in the syrup and instruct you to add sugar before mixing with water and pitching the dried yeast. It makes beer and is good to get your feet wet with the whole process.
- Extract with Steeping Grains: Uses the extract, but spices things up with freshly cracked malt that you soak in hot water. The resulting tea is then strained. For the price of more time and a colander, you create fresher and more varied beer. Great way to balance the time needed to brew and the demands of real life.
Step by Step Instructions for Getting Your First Batch Fermenting
Take a deep breath! It’s time to get started. This first batch may not be perfect, but it will be beer. Focus on learning the process. Prepare for the day by gathering six to seven gallons of filtered water. If you don’t have a filter system, buy bottled drinking water or visit your local water store. Chill three to four gallons. When using a Wyeast pack, smack it the day before.
New equipment usually only requires a good rinse, but examine them closely. Fermenters need to be clean of all dirt before you try to sanitize them. Cleaning ahead of time saves you brew day hassles and keeps you focused. Sanitation, on the other hand, must be done at the last minute. Clean everything, hoses, airlocks, test tubes, funnels, and anything else you’ll use for brewing.
Steeping Grains Process
Heat 3 quarts of water to ~170F, more or less and stir in your grains. Let these steep for 45 minutes and enjoy a nice cold beer. Meanwhile, bring another 3 quarts to 170F. When the 45 minutes are up, pour the grain and water mixture through a tight colander into your main kettle. Slowly rinse the grain in the colander with the 3 quarts of hot water and then discard. Bring the 1.5 gallon of "tea" to a boil.
Heat 3 gallons of water to a boil.
Remove the yeast from the fridge to warm up. If you’re using liquid malt extract, put the syrup in hot water to loosen the syrup. Add water salts when the water boils. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in your extract. Mix thoroughly. Extract resting on the bottom scorches, ruining the beer.
Return the kettle to a boil. When the boil is roiling, add your first hop addition and start a timer. Add additional doses of hops and clarifiers according to the recipe.
Hop additions are always specified for the time remaining in the boil. For instance a hop addition labeled as the "15-minute"” addition is added after the kettle has been boiling for 45 minutes with only 15 minutes before the heat is shut off. Convert times by subtracting the time specified from the boil time. The "15 minute" addition happens 45 minutes after the first
addition (60 mins - 15 mins = 45 mins)
As the wort boils, mix enough sanitizing solution to fill the fermenter. Your store has some fantastic chemicals for this, but the cheapest is a tablespoon of unscented regular strength bleach per gallon of water. Let this soak for 20 minutes with your airlock and other gear, rinse thoroughly and air dry completely, upside down.
After an hour’s boil, turn off the heat and tightly cover the pot. Settle it into a sink full of cold, just running water or ice water and cool to around 90°F. When ready, add two gallons of chilled water to the fermenter and then the lukewarm wort. Top up with chilled water to reach five gallons.
Close the fermenter and place the airlock in place. Rock the fermenter back and forth for 10 minutes to thoroughly mix. Take a sanitized wine thief or turkey baster (unused for poultry) and draw enough wort to float a hydrometer in your jar. Record the original gravity for your records.
Open the yeast pack (with sanitized scissors if necessary) and pour ("pitch") the yeast into the waiting wort. Close up the fermenter and fill the airlock with vodka or sanitizer solution. Put the vessel somewhere cool (between 60°F and 70°F preferably) and wait. Within twenty-four hours the airlock should bubble, slowly at first and then like a machine gun. Congrats.
Sit back with a brew and wait patiently for two weeks.
For an average strength beer, two weeks is sufficient time to get the yeast to do it's thing.
Once the beer ceases fermenting, clean and sanitize the bottling bucket (either your big fermenting bucket or a spare bucket) and siphoning gear. Pay close attention to any bottling wands or spouts. Failure to clean these can ruin all the hard work you’ve done. Wash out fifty bottles. Drop the bottles into the bucket full of sanitizer. After the appropriate soak, drain the bottles and cover with foil.
To a cup of water, add ¾ cup (4.4 ounce by weight) of priming (corn) sugar and bring to a boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Add to the bottling bucket and keep covered. Carefully siphon the beer out of the fermenter into the bucket. Siphon from above the yeast layer to keep the beer fairly clear. Let the beer swirl through the sugar syrup. Thorough mixing is the key to consistent
carbonation from bottle to bottle. Don't forget to grab a small sample (a half pint) of the beer to take a "Final Gravity" ("FG"). Comparing the OG from brewday to the FG will tell you approximately how strong your beer is.
Attach a hose and bottling wand to your bucket’s spigot (or a siphon ready racking cane). Press the wand to the bottom of each bottle. When the beer reaches the top of the bottle, pull the wand out. The remaining space is perfect. Cover the bottle with a cap and move on. Once the bottles are filled, break out the capper and crimp the caps firmly to the bottle. Press
multiple times, rotating the bottle each time, to ensure a solid seal. If you have a brew partner, they can cap while you fill.
Set the bottles in a warmer spot (70°F) for two weeks then place a bottle in the fridge to chill. When you the pop the cap you should hear a reassuring hiss of escaping CO2. Decant the beer in one smooth pour to avoid adding the accumulated yeast in your glass. If you don’t hear a pfft, check the remaining bottle temperatures. Wait another week and check again.
And that my friends and neighbors is your very first beer! Drink and share and toast with pride, you've rejoined the long history of homemade beer.
Wasn't that simple? A word of advice - start your next batch immediately so you're never without homebrew!
-- Drew (and the Maltose Falcons)
By the by, if there's something you don't understand in these recipes - don't worry and let it slide for now. You'll pick up the details later.
Dead Simple Hefeweizen
- The easiest way to brew a summer wheat beer. The longest part of your brew day is the boil.
For 5 Gallons at 1.048, 6.4 SRM, 12 IBUs, 4.7% ABV
6.60 pounds Wheat (Weizen) Liquid Malt Extract (LME)
0.5 ounce Tettnanger Pellets (4.5 percentAA) for 60 minutes
0.5 ounce Czech Saaz Pellets (3.5 percentAA) for 5 minutes
White Labs WLP830 Hefeweizen IV, Wyeast 3650 Bavarian Wheat
Extract with Grains
Chico West Coast Pale Ale
- A classic American Pale Ale (ala Sierra Nevada Pale Ale) - This kit is for sale the Home Beer Wine Cheesmaking Shop
For 5 Gallons at 1.059, 8.4 SRM, 43 IBUs, 5.9% ABV
1.00 pounds American Two-Row Pale Malt
0.50 pounds Crystal 60L Malt
0.50 pounds Honey Malt
0.50 pounds Aromatic Malt
6.60 pounds Pale Liquid Malt Extract (LME)
1.0 ounce Perle Pellets (8.25 percent AA) for 60 minutes
0.5 ounce Amarilo Pellets (8.9 percent AA) for 10 minutes
0.5 ounce Cascade Pellets (5.75 percent AA) for 0 minutes
American Ale Strain (WLP001, Wyeast 1056, Wyeast 1272, Safale US-05)
Steep the malt in 3 quarts of 170°F water for 45 minutes and rinse the grains with 3 quarts of 170F after the steep.