How to Make Beer at Home: Extract Brewing Explained (Part 1 of 3)

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Hello, this is Todd Burns with Homebrew Happy Hour.  

I am assuming this is your first batch of beer and my goal is to make it as easy as possible to learn to brew an extract or mini mash. I am also going to assume you will watch the accompanying video, but I also want to bullet point the steps, so you will have a reference while brewing. Keep in mind that brewing is not difficult, it is a lot like cooking.  You simply follow the recipe and use equipment specific to brewing beer.  Last but not least, remember to “Relax and have a Homebrew!”

Here are the steps: 

Ingredients: 

Your ingredients can vary, but they will always contain the main four ingredients; water, malted barley (and possible other grains), hops and yeast

Equipment: 

Talking about equipment in homebrewing is a slippery slope.  You can brew beer with very simple equipment, but you can also get into complicated equipment. For today we will keep it simple.  The kit we are using is the Complete Homebrew Kit from Kegconnection.  This is a great kit because of all it has in it, but if you are really on a budget and already have a soup pot big enough to brew beer in(4 to 5 gallons is recommended), you can pick up a Brewer’s Fundamental kit for well under $100.  You can see all of Kegconnection’s kits by clicking here. 

Steps to Brewing (Watch video for more detailed information)

  • Heat 2 ½  gallons of water to 155°F.  (or to the temp recommended in your instructions) 
  • Add your steeping grains (using a grain bag) and steep (like a tea bag) for about 20 minutes. Remember that your water temperature will go down when you add grains, just maintain it at about 155°F.  Don’t stress out if it is within 5 degrees or so. 
  • Remove your brew kettle from the burner (this will help avoid a boil over). Add ½ or more of your other fermentable.  This could be either liquid or dry.  You just pour either of these in while stirring. Make sure it is stirred well before starting your boil. 
  • Return your brew kettle to the burner and bring your wort (this is what the liquid in your pot is not called!) to a boil.  As you approach boiling temperature watch the wort closely and make sure it does not boil over or you will have a mess.  Reduce temperate as you approach your boil.  Remember that you want a nice steady boil, but not one that can result in a boil over.  The boil step will typically last 60 minutes, although some styles use a 90 minute boil. There are two ways to time your boil.  One would be to set your timer for the amount of boil time (say 60 min).  The other is to set your timer to go off when your next hop should be added. 
  • Now it is time to add your first hops.  Keep in mind that recipes can have different “hop schedules (times you add hops).  Most have you add hops at the beginning.  These are the bittering hops. They might be called a “60-minute hop” because they boil the entire 60 minutes.  Your other hops will be added for “flavor” and “aroma” and the length of time they are in the boil will be dictated by which of these three sensory goals they have. Your recipe will tell you when to add each hop.  
  • When you have 5 minutes left in your boil you can add your whirlfloc tablet. This will help you clarify the beer later. This is not required, but a good practice.  You may also have a hop addition at this point. 
  • Towards the end of the boil or after the boil is completed (called flame out) add the remainder of your fermentable (The dry malt extract “DME” or the liquid malt extract “LME”) 
  • Once you have completed the boil it is time to start cooling down your wort so you can add yeast.  There are a lot of methods for cooling down your wort in including using a wort chiller, but when you are extract brewing you can also get away with just cooling your wort down using ice in your kitchen sink.  You will also be adding water to bring your recipe up to the proper number of gallons (normally 5 gallons) I normally use RO (reverse osmosis) water or boil water and then cool it down before adding.  If you get the water cold this will help cool your wort faster as well. You want to cool your wort to yeast pitching temperature.  The temperature you will need will be listed on your recipe and on most likely on the yeast package you are using. I know that all Imperial Yeasts (my personal favorite) give a range of fermentation temperatures. 
  • *****IMPORTANT***** Once your water drops below the boiling temperature you want to be very careful not to contaminate it. This means that anything that touches the beer must be sanitized. I use San Step Sanitizer. It is no rinse and works great even in hard water. Start sanitizing everything you will use going forward as you cool your wort. 
  • Now that your wort is cooled down it is time put it in the sanitized fermenter bucket and add the yeast.  With an extract recipe you can also add the extra water after the wort.  The two liquids combined should give you the temperate you need to ferment so determine what the temp should be with the two liquids combined. 
  • Aerate the wort by using your large stirring spoon to “push” down firmly into the wort and introducing air (oxygen). Do this for a minute or two and then pour in your yeast.  Aerate additionally for a minute or so and then put your bucket lid on the fermenter, making sure it is firmly sealed. Next, put your three piece airlock “bubbler” in the hole of the lid.  You want to add water or sanitized water to the bubbler up to the line in the main chamber. 
  • Documentation – Make sure you write down all the information from your brew day.  You can use your recipe sheet.  If your got wet during the process you can print out a new one by going to any of the recipes on www.kegconnection.com

Congratulations, you just brewed your first beer! 

There are two more steps in the process.  The first is transferring your beer into the secondary for clarification and the last step is either bottling or kegging your beer.  For now, you just want to watch your beer and make sure the airlock is starting to “bubble” in the next 24 hours or so.  Then you let it ferment until it is ready to enter the secondary. 

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