Though it isn't my new favorite beer, it's actually pretty good. I tastes like a basic wheat beer, not too exciting but definitely decent, and for my first time I'd say it's incredible! One thing I wish I would have researched more was adding spices and flavor, like how my Dad suggested coriander. As a frequent beer drinker, I feel like it's missing a little kick. The best feeling was hearing that carbonation when I popped off the top, and seeing it foam up just the right amount when I poured it into my glass. Carbonation can be tricky, and even if it doesn't effect the flavor no one likes a flat or super foamy beer. I am pleased with my results, but now I have more curiosity about trying different hops and maybe brewing with grain instead of malt extract.
This has been such an awesome project, and I am so thankful to have the time to learn such a cool new hobby and get credit for it! I will definitely keep brewing beer, and I'm already playing around with ideas for the next one. Here is a re-cap of my essential questions:
- What materials are needed to start home brewing?
- 5 gallon food grade bucket, or glass carboy (I'll probably go with a bucket for my first time)
- large brew pot (6-7 gallons at least)
- strainers for various parts of the process
- Special air lock for the fermentation bucket that shows if it's fermenting
- Siphon or tool for bottling; optional 5 gallon bucket for bottling with a spigot
- bottles and bottle caps
- thermometer, hydrometer
- food safe sanitizer for equipment
- Dry Malt Extract (DME) or Grains (wheat, barley, etc)
- purified water
- priming sugar
- spices, flavorings
I preferred Ballast Point's Brew Mart in San Diego, and Amazon also offered a lot of deals on equipment.
Phase one: Brewing
1. Boil the malt
2. Add the hops
3. Pour into fermenting container. Allow it to cool, then add yeast and seal
Phase 2: Fermentation
4. Leave to ferment for a few weeks depending on recipe.
Phase 3: Carbonation
5. When fermentation is complete, add priming sugar to facilitate carbonation (the yeast will consume the sugar and produce CO2, creating carbonation!).
6. Bottle beer, then allow resting time for carbonation to take place.
Phase 4: Enjoy!!
Phase 1: One day.
Phase 2: 3 for this one, but it seems to depend on the recipe. Most of the beginner recipes listed on Homebrewers Association's website are 3-4 weeks for this step.
Phase 3: One day
Phase 4: 2-3 weeks.
TOTAL =7 weeks from start to finish
must be stored 2-3 weeks. I let mine go the full 3, but you can always open one at 2 weeks and see if it has enough carbonation. Then it just needs to chill overnight (because nobody likes warm beer).
The Homebrewer Association suggests Pilsner or German wheat beer recipes, and my Dad suggested I start with a wheat beer, both because of my preferences and he said ales were "easier". He didn't elaborate, but in my research I found that ales are fermented at higher temperatures, thus storing them is "easier" because you don't have to work so hard to maintain a cool temperature. Lagers, like pilsners, are fermented around 50-60 degrees, while ales can be around room temp. This particular wheat beer recipe was the easiest on Ballast Point's recipe page, only 1 kind of malt and 1 kind of hops, nothing fancy.
Bottling beer is kind of fast-paced, as you want to avoid contaminating open beers, and so I didn't get a lot of pictures or video. Essentially you transfer the good liquid from the glass carboy to the bottling bucket, with a system of siphon and tubing. Then you mix in priming sugar, and attach a special tube for bottling. Start bottling and have someone else cap them immediately, and put them in whatever they will be stored in. This video was the best example:
- Siphon (I am definitely looking into an auto siphon. There are a number of ways we made this work, but auto siphons look sooo much easier, when I have a little extra cash)
- 5 gallon bucket for bottling with a spigot
- bottles and bottle caps
- bottle capper (which, by the way, comes with a plate you can adjust for 22oz bottle tops vs. 12oz bottle tops. A lesson I learned after about 20 minutes of panic thinking I wouldn't be able to cap any of my beers)
- Something to store them in safely for transportation and/or storage
~ $210 for everything the first time around
~$40-60 for future brews, now that I have the tools
- $110 for equipment
- $20 for emergency supplies at the last minute (thermometer strip, funnel, sanitizer)
- $40 ingredients (DME, hops, yeast, 5 gallons purified drinking water)
- bottles, caps, capping device = FREE! (bottles=$24, caps=$6, Capper=$20)
The airlock and the temperature strip. The airlock contains water, which bubbles as the wort releases gases, which signals it's fermenting. It's really the only way to tell if the yeast is working, and also when it has stopped or slowed. The beer is basically done when the bubbles slow to every 30 seconds or longer. It isn't that sophisticated, but it works!
Temperature is important, depending on the type of beer (ale or lagers) like I discussed before. The temperature strip seems to be the main method of monitoring with glass carboys, although there are other fermenting containers that have thermometers built in. You can also purchase coolers and systems that keep the fermenting container at a constant, regulated temperature, which is necessary for lagers.
The hydrometer is used to measure and monitor alcohol content. Some brewers measure throughout the fermentation to a specific alcohol content, but that also opens up the beer to contamination and off flavors. I waited until bottling to measure again.