Making beer happens in three steps, and lucky for us, they’re easy to do at home!
Understanding the basics of homebrewing will open your eyes to the world of possibility that comes with being the brewmaster of your kitchen.
Step 1: Make the Wort
The homebrewer has the very important task of making the wort on brew day. Wort is what we refer to beer before it has been fermented into alcohol.
Think of wort as a sugar-laden concoction made from three of beer’s four main ingredients: malt, hops, and water. The ratio of these ingredients combined with the use of additional ingredients—like specialty grains, fruits, spices, herbs….oysters?—dictates the overall flavor and style profile of your brew.
A typical brew day utilizing malt extract takes around 3 hours. All-grain brewing—the process of making beers without the use of extracts—takes around 5–6 hours with the additional step of mashing the grains.
Step 2: Fermentation
While we homebrewers are steering the ship on brew day, something else takes over when the wort hits our fermenters—beer’s fourth main ingredient, yeast!
Fermentation is where the magic happens, as yeast consumes the fermentable sugars and converts it into alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2). Without yeast, our concoction would remain overly sugary wort void of alcohol and balance.
Fermentation typically takes 1–3 weeks to complete, and some beers are then aged for longer after that.
An exciting part of homebrewing is monitoring your fermenting wort. In some instances, you will see the wort bubbling and foam forming in less than a day!
Step 3: Carbonating & Packaging
The last step comes with an important choice: keg or bottles?
Kegging is easier because you are able to carbonate your now-fermented beer in as little as a day. However, you do need to have a draught system to keg (well worth the investment if you brew a few batches a year).
The alternative to kegging is bottling. Bottling is approachable because you can reuse the craft beer bottles you already get from liquor stores. Just be sure to avoid twist-off bottles! Simply buy some caps and a bottle capper and you’re ready to go.
Carbonating in bottles is different from force-carbonating a keg with a tank of CO2. Bottling requires conditioning in order to carbonate. Conditioning is the process of adding sugar back to beer just before it is bottled and capped. Yeast consumes the sugars, creating a small amount of CO2. The CO2 can’t escape from the bottle, so it absorbs into the beer, creating carbonation.
Bottle conditioning can take 1–2 weeks to reach ideal carbonation. The benefit of bottles is they’re easy to share with friends and store for later!
That’s it! Brew, ferment, carbonate.
Now that you see how basic the brewing process is, it’s time to get ready for your first batch!
Tune in to our video below showing you the easiest (and cheapest!) way to make your first beer at home.