SOYOUWANNA MAKE YOUR OWN BEER?
We know how it is. You can't be bothered to leave your home every time you want to drink eighteen or twenty beers. Or perhaps you find the (liquid-waste euphemism) they sell at your local booze purveyor unpalatable and overly expensive. There has got to be some answer to these pressing difficulties, hasn't there? Well, there's one answer that involves twelve steps, but that sounds way too hard. Here we present an answer with a maximum of five steps that provides you with good beer, plentiful beer, cheap beer. Brew your own and send us samples when you're finished.
We're talking about YOU doing it
There are actually two ways that you can brew up a batch of beer. First, you can go to a u-brew establishment (also known as Brew on Premises, but we call em "u-brews") which provides you with all the equipment, ingredients, and instructions, and keeps the beer for you while it's brewing. Second, you can brew it at some other location, like, say, your house.
This SYW is about brewing beer at your house or other agreeable location. The whole u-brew thing is cool, and we'll tell you a little bit about it, but because we didn't want to make this SYW 12 million pages long, we decided to focus on how to whip up beer within the confines of your own property.
If you really want to hop to it, skip the steps and check out this video on making your own brew.
WATCH THIS HOW-TO VIDEO
- Primary fermenter
- Airlock and stopper
- Plastic hose
- Bottling bucket
- Bottle brush
- Bottle capper (if glass bottles are used)
- Stick-on thermometer
- Household items
Now we will explain what these items are and give you a basic idea of what you do with them, although the more detailed brewing instructions come in steps 2, 3, and 4.
A brewpot is a huge pot made of stainless steel or enamel-coated metal which is of at least 16-quart capacity. You might have a huge pot at home already, but it's no good if it's made of aluminum or if it's a chipped enamelized pot. These will make the beer taste funny. You use the brewpot to boil up the beer ingredients or "wort," as described in 3. Cook up some beer).
The primary fermenter is where the wort goes after you've boiled it, and it's where the beer begins to ferment and become that fabulous stuff that makes you so funny and charming. The primary fermenter must have a minimum capacity of 7 gallons, and a lid which seals airtight and accommodates the airlock and rubber stopper. There's no faking these puppies you've got to buy one that's made for the purpose. Make sure the one you buy is made of food-grade plastic, as this kind of plastic doesn't allow the bad stuff in or let the good stuff out.
Airlock and stopper
The airlock is a handy gadget which allows carbon dioxide to escape from your primary fermenter during fermentation, thus keeping it from exploding, but doesn't allow any of the bad air from outside to enter your beer's hygienic little world. It fits into a rubber stopper which has a hole drilled into it, and the stopper goes in the top of your primary fermenter. The stoppers are sized by number, so make sure you figure out what size of hole you have and what kind of stopper fits it.
This small, wind-powered burrowing machine is . . . no, just kidding, we're talking about an ordinary five-foot length of food-grade plastic hose. You need it to transfer beer from place to place, and you need to keep it clean and free of kinks or leaks.
This is a large, food-grade plastic bucket with a spigot at the bottom. It must be at least as big as your primary fermenter, because you need to pour all the liquid from your primary fermenter into your bottling bucket prior to bottling your beer.
After primary fermentation, you place the beer in bottles for secondary fermentation and storage. You need enough bottles to hold all the beer you're going to make (a 5-gallon batch of beer is about 640 ounces, so if you're using 16-ounce bottles you'll need 40). The best kind of bottles are solid glass ones with smooth tops (not the twist-off kind) that will accept a cap from a bottle capper. You can use plastic ones with screw-on lids, but they look crappy and they're not as good for fermentation. It's your call, but we recommend you go with the glass ones.
Whether you use glass or plastic bottles, make sure they are dark-colored. Light damages beer, so you want your bottles to be as dark as possible.
This is a thin, curvy brush which you can insert into a bottle in order to clean it out really well. We haven't even gotten into how clean everything has to be, but we will, and the bottle brush is a specialized bit of cleaning gear you will need.
If you take our advice and buy glass bottles, you will need some sort of bottle capper to secure the caps on them. You'll also need caps, of course, and you can buy them from any brewing supplies store. The best sort of bottle capper is one which can be affixed to a surface and worked with one hand while you hold the bottle with the other. There are also cheaper ones which require two hands on the capper, but these can be a pain. Go where your budget guides you.
This is a thermometer which you can apply to the side of your primary fermenter. They look like thin strips of plastic and they are backed with an adhesive. You can purchase them online, from a brewing supplies store, or from a pet store or aquarium store (they are also used for aquaria).
In addition to the above specialized equipment, you will need the following household items:
- Small bowl
- Rubber spatula
- Oven mitts/pot handlers
- Big mixing spoon (stainless steel or plastic)
Once you've got all these things, you're properly armed.