So you are ready to brew your first batch of beer. When I began on my journey to start home brewing beer, I was advised to start with a porter or a stout. It has been long enough that I can’t remember why, but that is what I began with. After brewing many batches, I will give you this advice…brew whatever your favorite is. If you can follow a recipe then you can make any kind of beer kit out there.
In order to make your own beer you need to make sure you are ready. You need the equipment, ingredients or kit, and time. I will explain how my first batch went, but trust me when I say you will need some time.
Home Beer Brewing Equipment – Your First Investment
The first step to home brewing beer is to get the right equipment for the job. I covered this in detail in a previous post so I will spare some details here. Just know that you will save money in the long run by brewing your own beer…that will make it easier to spend what you need to get started.
Find Your Kit – Probably The Toughest Decision You Will Make
This is the hardest part about your first home beer brewing batch. My only recommendation is to not go too fancy with your first batch. Stick with your favorite beer type and get a generic recipe. I would hate for you to be excited for the product and have it turn out bad so you never try again.
The main deciding factor should be fermentation temperature. Outside of sterilization, the temperature of your fermenter will have the biggest effect on your beer quality. There are plenty of books explaining the chemistry, but the general idea is the yeast used is meant to perform in a certain temperature range. As a general rule of thumb:
- Ales and Stouts – Target fermentation temperature is around 70 F (21 C)
- Lagers – Target fermentation temperature is around 50 F (10 C)
If you are starting out, an ale or a stout would probably be best as that is around the temperature you will keep your home. I have since converted a deep freezer by adding a temperature controller to allow me to ferment at lower temperatures. Review the recipe instructions to make sure you can get the optimal fermentation.
Learn From My Mistake: One of my favorite beers is a Dunkelweizen. It ferments around 65 F (18 C) and I thought I could keep the room at that temperature (my wife kindly gave me a room for my beer). Well, I couldn’t keep the temperature below 70 F and the fermentation took off. My air lock plugged and I had to spend the next day cleaning the floor after the lid blew off my fermenter.
Sterilization Sterilization Sterilization
I cannot stress enough how critical it is to have your equipment sterile when you begin. Anything that touches your beer when it is at room temperature (fermenter, bottling system, bottles, etc.) must be sterilized. This is the easiest way to get unwanted flavors when you are home brewing beer.
Learn From My Mistake: As I set out to make my first batch (a stout) I bough 48 bottles from the brewing store. They had been there a while and had some dust accumulated. No problem I though. I will just give them a quick wash with some dish soap and be good to go. Then I rinsed them at least 5 times with hot water until I did not see any more soap coming out and then rinsed again for good measure. I went through the brewing and fermentation and it was time to bottle. As I do everytime, I sampled the flat beer from the fermenter to make sure I didn’t screw that up…and it tasted great. I was excited so I bottled the beer in the washed, rinsed, and sterilized beer bottles. A couple weeks later it was time to taste the fruits of my labor. The first sip was pure bliss…until the dish soap after taste. So I “enjoyed” 48 beers with a funny after taste and filed that in the never again category
Brew Day – Make No Other Plans
So the day has finally come to brew your first home brewing beer batch. You open your kit and review the recipe. Here is the short version of my last recipe made:
- Bring 2 gallons of water to around 170 F (77 C)
- Steep grains for 20 minutes
- Add 3 gallons of water and boil
- Add malt and boil for 1 hour (add hops within that hour at different points)
- Cool, pitch yeast, and ferment for 2 weeks
Simple enough. What it doesn’t explain is it will take you 1 hour to get the 2 gallons to temperature. Another 1 to 2 hours to bring the 5 gallons back to a boil. Then 2 to 3 hours to cool the wort down to where you can pitch the yeast. If you assume the short end of each range, you now have spent 5 hours to make a batch of beer. That is after learning ways to speed it up. Just plan on around 8 hours minimum for your first batch.
Fermentation – The Waiting Game
If you have made it this far you are doing great. Now your wort and yeast are sealed in your fermenter and the magic is happening…except you don’t see any bubbles coming out your air lock. Fear not, it usually takes a day or two to start. Just check on your home brewing beer batch every day to make sure it is bubbling. Follow the recipe instructions and wait two weeks. It will be painful with the anticipation, but worth it.
You recipe may mention secondary fermentation. That step does offer some advantages, but for your first batches you don’t need to try that. See if you like the process and results before you go an purchase a secondary fermenter.
Bottling – Just When You Think You Are Done
At long last you have waited out the fermentation and are ready to bottle. Sample your beer just to be safe, it will be flat but the flavor will be there. Follow your recipe and add the priming sugars so you can have carbonated beer. This step will get old fast as you fill 48 12-ounce bottles about halfway up the neck and then cap them.
So you have now spent the better part of two days (brew day and bottle day) and you review the recipe to learn…you have to wait 1 to 2 more weeks before enjoying your beer. On the bright side, you have finished your first home brewing beer batch.
Four Weeks To Glory
You started your journey to your first home brewing beer batch of beer four weeks ago. Hopefully you put a couple bottles in the refrigerator a couple days ago so you can enjoy. From experience, this will be the most rewarding day of the entire process (yes, even with the soap aftertaste).
Now that you are enjoying that first beer, time to start planning the second. Remember, it takes 4 weeks to enjoy the next batch of 48 12-ounce beers. Most importantly, when you finish a beer remember to rinse out the bottle and save it. The last thing you want to do is go out and buy more bottles.
If you have any questions as you progess through your first batch, comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.