Starting a new hobby can cost a lot of money. Thankfully home brewing is not one of those hobbies. The equipment can cost you less than $100 to get most of the items you need. These usually include the fermenting bucket, a bottling bucket and some of the other basics you need, such as the siphon hose, bottle filler, bottle brush and bottle cappers. Some additional equipment that is not included in the basic starter kit is: a large pot to boil the beer in – it is recommended to use a 5 gallon pot, a large spoon to stir the beer during the boiling process and sanitizer to make sure your equipment is clean. Also, make sure you have an appropriate heat source as some electric ovens are not able to handle boiling the beer for extended periods of time and boil overs can be messy. I personally use a stand-alone propane burner in my garage or outside.
Buy Ingredient Kit
After that, you can get an ingredient kit for between $25 – $50. The large price range for the ingredient kits are driven mainly by the types of hops and grains used. An IPA or a specialty beer, such as a bourbon barrel porter can be purchased for around $50, while an English bitter or pale ale might be closer to $25. Even at $50, an ingredient kit should be yielding over 50 beers.
The most important part of the process is to make sure a beer is in hand to give you inspiration for making your own. The process for making the beer from an ingredient kit is very easy.
Make the Wort
The first step is to make the wort, which is done by basically making “tea” using the grains and 2.5 – 3 gallons of water. The key part to this step is to keep the water between 150 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This is done for about 20 mins. After the wort is created, it is heated up to a boil and the malt extract is added. You will also hear the ingredient kits called extract kits for this reason. While adding the malt extract, it is important to watch out for the wort boiling over. After the malt is added, bring the wort mixture back to a boil and add hops at intervals described in the instructions. This is typically done over a period of 1 hour.
Cool the Wort
The next step of the process is to cool down the wort enough to pitch the yeast. This can be done multiple ways, but the most inexpensive way is to place the pot used to boil the wort into an ice bath. The wort is cooled down to 70 degrees and it is important to do this step as quickly as possible to avoid any outside contamination. Once the wort is cooled, it is transferred to the fermenting bucket – which is usually 6.5 gallons for a 5 gallon batch (the yeast gets a little wild so the larger bucket helps ensure there is enough room for when fermentation happens). Additional water is added to make the wort mixture 5 gallons and then the yeast is added and the bucket is sealed.
Bottle or Keg the Beer
The (almost) last step, now that the beer has been in the fermenter, is to bottle or keg the beer. This is done by transferring the beer to the bottling bucket and adding a sugar source for the yeast to use to create carbon dioxide. Make sure to use an online calculator to determine how much sugar should be added to get your desired carbonation level. Once the beer and sugar are in the bottling bucket, the beer can be transferred to the bottles using a bottling wand.
The last, hardest step is the wait for a very long few weeks to allow the beer to carbonate and become ready to drink! A quick note on this – the beer does tend to get better the longer it is in the fermenter and bottles.
Got a question for me? Shoot me an email at JPovlich@chortek.com.