So you are ready to make home brew beer. At this point, I will assume you have purchased a Level 3 kit and are both excited and nervous for your first batch. As a note, if you are starting at Level 1 or 2 this will not apply. You can just add water and you are done.
You have read the instructions and it seems pretty straight forward so you are ready to get started. The instructions will seem like it will be maybe a couple of hours, but here is what you can expect if you are using a Brewer’s Best or Brewcraft kit.
Step 1 – Sanitize Your Equipment
For brew day, it is a relatively short list of what needs to be sanitized:
- Hydrometer (Don’t forget whatever you will use to get your sample to test the specific gravity)
Sounds simple, but you should plan on about 30 minutes to finish this. Don’t forget that you will also need to clean your brew pot and stirring spoon. I have covered sanitization in detail so we will move on to the next step in your journey to make home brew beer.
STEP 1 Time: 30 minutes
Step 2 – Steep The Grains
Your instructions should say to add about 2 gallons (sometimes more) to your brew pot and bring it up to around 160 F. There you will see that you steep the grains for about 10 minutes.
The reality is you are taking 2 gallons of room temperature water up to 160 F. This is easier said than done and requires some time. Realistically, it will take about an hour to get to temperature depending on your burner. For simplicity, I will assume 45 minutes.
So you start the “10” minute step and after 45 minutes you actually start counting. Watch as your water begins to its transformation into wort. Your 10-minute timer goes off and you hold the bag over the brew pot and allow the liquid to drain out. The instructions will remind you not to squeeze the bag and let it drain.
After a couple minutes of dripping (for rounding, I will use 5) you toss your grain bag and the grains into the garbage.
STEP 2 Time: 1 hour
So now you have a wort right? Nope, you are now 1.5 hours into brew day and yet you have a little way to go to make home brew beer.
Step 3 – The Boil
Now the fun part. Hops and extracts will be added to finally produce the wort. The instructions say one hour of boiling, which is true, but your pot is at 160 F (not boiling). For some recipes, you add another 2.5 to 3 gallons of water which cools it down further.
So, depending on your burner again, plan on taking about 45 minutes to reach boiling…now you are ready to make home brew beer…nope, now you turn off the heat and add the extract. The next step in the instructions is simple, return to boil…
When really, you want to heat it slowly and continue stirring. The malt you just added could not have all dissolved and will settle to the bottom. If you don’t stir it up it will burn to the bottom of your pot. Well, finally after 15 more minutes you have a nice rolling boil.
WATCH IT CLOSELY – There is potential to boil over if you aren’t careful. Be ready to remove the heat if this happens.
Now you boil for one hour and add the hops as the recipe says and your wort begins to take on a familiar smell. Finally, your journey to make home brew beer is nearly complete for brew day…except it isn’t close…
STEP 3 Time: 2 hours
Step 4 – Cool For Yeast Addition
So you are 3.5 hours into your brew day and finally ready to put your wort into the fermenter. You read the instructions and they recommend cooling the wort. This is achieved by placing the brew pot in a sink full of ice water.
Simple enough right? Well, you will quickly notice that the ice you had placed into your sink is gone. You touch the sink water and…it is HOT!!! Well, hopefully you bought a bag of ice (or your ice maker is ready) because you will need to keep adding ice.
I cannot stress enough that your wort must be at the temperature listed in the recipe or you could kill the yeast when it is added. If you do that then your make home brew beer day will wind up being a failure.
If you were lucky enough to only have to boil 3 gallons of water then you have 2 gallons waiting to be added. That is free cooling and shortens your cooling time by about 15 minutes. To make sure you are planning enough time, I will assume you boiled all 5 gallons. This means you are waiting about an hour for it to cool.
A few notes on cooling:
- Do NOT add ice directly to your wort
- Try to keep the brew pot covered as it cools to prevent anything from getting in there
- There are methods to cool it quicker, but I will cover those later
STEP 4 Time: 1 hour
Step 5 – Specific Gravity and Yeast
The final step to brew day is to check the specific gravity of the wort. Your instructions should give you a range of where they expect it, but don’t worry if you aren’t in that range. Just make sure you aren’t in the final gravity range.
You have the specific gravity and verify the temperature is good so you add the yeast. Seal up the fermenter, but make sure it can vent or it will open itself. At long last, your make home brew beer journey is complete for brew day.
Finish It Up
The last thing you will have to do is move your fermenter to its final resting location. You will move it carefully to try not shaking it up. You are finally done!
So your brew day has now taken 4.5 hours and you will have a little clean up. This means you have spent 5 hours on your make home brew beer journey. You will spend the next couple weeks counting bubbles as it ferments and then it is on to bottling to complete your journey.
If you have any questions, comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.