The Very Basics of Homebrewing

Brewing your own beer at home is not only a lot of fun, but its a hobby that provides you with an excellent, high quality beverage.  I consider this post to be the pre-requisite to a Brewing 101 course.  We’ll be covering the very basics here today.

First of all, don’t go and get all of the equipment and ingredients unless you have brewed with a friend or at least done a fair amount of reading on the topic.  Brewing at home is easy, but there are a lot of tricks that are very helpful to know.  The best book I’ve read is The Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian.  It is a fast read and Charlie has a good sense of humor.

When it gets down to planning out the steps you’ll be taking, download the PDF files from the MoreBeer Learning Center that outline clearly the process.  While you’re at MoreBeer’s website, take a little surf around.  MoreBeer has been my sole supplier of choice for ingredients and supplies for at least three years.  Everyone there is extremely helpful and don’t mind answering even the dumbest questions.

You’ll be starting out as an “extract” brewer.  This means, you’ll be steeping grains for a period of time and then mixing in an amount of thick syrupy malt extract.  Eventually you’ll work your way up to “all grain” brewing.  I’ve been brewing for 6+ years and I’m not there yet, though.  I may not ever be, either.  The extract kits are great, and there are also partial mash kits that are great at giving you a taste of mashing without the extra equipment needed.

Cost-wise, you can’t go wrong.  A kit with all of the equipment you’ll need to get started will cost around $70.  You’ll also need a stainless steel kettle to boil 5 gallons of liquid and refillable bottles.  Almost any bottle that requires a church key to open (as opposed to twist off) will work.  Lastly, you’ll need an ingredient kit.  These can run anywhere from $20 up to $50.  I usually end up spending $35 because I go with a cheaper kit and get the liquid yeast.

Cost analysis: at $35 per batch for a yield of 48 12 ounce bottles, the cost per bottle is $.73.  Consider that the quality of beer that you’ll be brewing will be light years ahead of Budweiser – I’d say more like Sierra Nevada.  A six pack of Sierra is usually $8, or $1.33 per bottle.  At that rate, you’ll have your initial investment in equipment recovered before you finish your fourth batch of beer.

Stay tuned – tomorrow I’ll be posting pictures from today’s bottling session.  I’ll post brewing pics once I brew the next batch.  The two batches that I bottled today were already brewed and fermenting by the time we started this blog, so I’ll catch you guys the next time around.

Good Luck!  Robert.

The next steps:

Preparing for bottling



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