How to Brew Your Own Beer and Maybe Even Save Some Money – The Brewing Process

Welcome to the second installment of the how to brew your own beer series. Last week I discussed what kind of equipment you need, how much it will cost, and where you can find it. Once you have all the equipment, you’re basically going to be cooking and following a recipe. Simple enough, right?

Even though the process is simple, there are some tips and tricks you can use to help you avoid mistakes and make a better beer. In today’s post I’m going to walk you through the process of starting your first extract beer from the initial boil to the final addition to the fermentation bucket. Once you put the beer in the fermentation bucket it’s essentially out of your hands and your yeast will be doing all of the work.

After this post and getting through the actual brewing process. we’ll wrap up next week with the final stage of bottling. From there it’s just a waiting game to let the carbonation build up and for your beer to mature a bit before enjoying your final product. Dial-up users, I apologize in advance, but there are a lot of pictures in this post. So, let’s get brewing!

Your Ingredients

To make beer you actually only need a few ingredients. You need water, malted gains, hops, and yeast. Within that basic framework you still have an almost infinite number of combinations to make any type of beer imaginable. For this tutorial I’m going to be talking about making beer from a malt extract recipe. Without going into detail, this just means that your barley has already been malted and their sugars condensed into a concentrated extract. This extract comes in either a dry powder or liquid syrup form. If you weren’t using an extract, you’d have to buy the bulk grain yourself and go through the process of mashing and extracting the sugars out of the grain yourself. This is what a lot of homebrewers do and it’s called “all grain” brewing, but we need to learn to walk before we can run. All grain brewing is a great way to obtain even more control over your beer, but it is a little more work and can require some additional pieces of equipment that might put homebrewing out of a beginner’s budget. So, we’ll stick to the basics and then you can decide later if moving to all grain is something you’d like to do.

Let’s take a look at your typical extract ingredient kit. Here’s my latest kit that I purchased from Midwest Supplies for an Ordinary English Bitter. The standard kit with dry yeast only costs $25.

beer-kit

As you can see in the picture, there isn’t much to this kit. At the top left the two containers you see contain the malt extract. This recipe called for 3.3 pounds of a gold extract and 1.4 pounds of the pale malt in a can. Below that you’ll see a bag full of raw crushed grains. These are specialty grains that get steeped in the water to extract some added flavor and body for the beer. To the right of that is what looks like a mesh sock. It’s just a muslin bag to hold the grain while it steeps. To the right of that in the two shiny bags are the hops. In most kits you’re going to see hop pellets. These are just hops in their whole form processed and pressed into small little pellets. Finally, at the top right there is a bag of priming sugar. This is the sugar used at the very end for the bottling stage which we’ll cover next week. This little bit of sugar is what the yeast need to produce enough CO2 in the bottles to give them the appropriate carbonation. So, we won’t be using that right now.

One thing you don’t see in the picture that should come in your kit is the yeast. I apologize, but I forgot to take the picture until I had already created my yeast starter and threw away the package. But most kits will come with a little packet of dry yeast, or if you upgrade, some live liquid yeast. I’ll talk more about yeast in just a little bit.

Before getting started I want to set some expectations for you so that there aren’t any nasty surprises during the process. First, you need to consider the time it takes to complete a brewing session. Don’t attempt to brew unless you have at least 4 hours of uninterrupted time available, at least for your first couple batches. The complete process takes a bit of time. If you have steeping grains, they usually need 15-30 minutes at around 155 degrees. After that, you need to bring your water to a boil, which might take another 15 minutes. Once you begin boiling, most recipes call for a 1 hour boil. After the boil, you then need to cool the liquid down to 70 degrees or less, which if you’re using an ice bath can take upwards of another half hour or more. Once you factor in the prep time and cleanup, you’re easily looking at 3 hours at a minimum, but being your first time it will take a little longer. Once you start you really can’t stop, so just be aware going in that you need a decent block of time set aside.

Initial Steps and Steeping the Grain

To get started, all you need is your boiling pot and a thermometer. As I discussed in the equipment section, as long as you have a pot that can boil a few gallons of water with some room to spare, that’s enough to get started. If you have a larger pot or can afford something that is up in the 20-30 quart range, by all means that will be helpful. Most recipe kits will come with instructions that discuss using a 1.5-2 gallon boil, but I happen to have a 5.5 gallon pot so that’s what you’ll see in the pictures. I happen to use 4.5 gallons of water.

So, go ahead and fill your pot with water. The general rule of thumb is that if your water is good enough to drink, it’s good enough to make beer with. If you have questionable water or very high chlorine you might want to use some bottled water from the store, but at this stage we aren’t going to concern ourselves with the science behind water quality. When you fill your pot you should make sure to give yourself at least a couple inches of head room as we’re going to be adding things to the water and bring it to a rigorous boil.

Here’s my pot shown with the probe thermometer attached. If you don’t have a dedicated probe thermometer you should be able to use any cooking or meat thermometer. We only need the thermometer if you’re steeping grains in the beginning, which in this case we are. That’s because you ideally want to steep your grains in water that’s between 150-170 degrees and it can be tough to estimate that temperature without one. But if you don’t have one, don’t worry. Just get your water hot, but not boiling.

fresh-water

Once your water hits the target of about 155 degrees or so, it’s time to add the steeping grains. Ideally, your homebrew supply store crushed the grains for you, but if they didn’t, you’ll want to take a rolling pin or something else hard and lightly pound them to crack the hulls. Like I mentioned above, your grains should have also come with some sort of cotton or mesh sack to put them in. Go ahead and cut a corner off of the plastic grain bag and then dump the grain into the sack as seen here:

grain-bag1

It stretches a lot, but don’t worry, the grain won’t come out. It is very important you use some sort of bag or straining device because you only want to leave these in the water for up to 30 minutes, and never at boiling temperatures. Extended periods of time or excessive temperatures can extract the tannins from the grain husks and add a very bitter and astringent flavor to your beer, so you need to be able to easily remove the grains from the water. Once your grains are in the sack you’ll have something like this:

grain-bag2

It’s good if you have a long end on the sack so you can tie it off to the handle of the pot, but you can also just tie a knot in it and let the whole thing float in the water and then fish it out with a spoon or something when you’re done. Easy enough, so now all you have to do is add it to your water that’s hopefully sitting at roughly 155 degrees. Once you put it in you’ll start to see some stuff floating around and the color of the water starting to change. That’s fine, and just think of it like making a big cup of tea.

steeping-grains

Next, just go by the directions and let the grain bag steep for as long as the recipe says. It will usually call for anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes. You might have to turn your heat off on the stove in order to keep it at the right temp, and that’s fine. Just make sure it doesn’t get all the way up to a boil.

After time has elapsed you need to remove the grains. For this you’ll just want to lift the bag out of the water and let everything drain out of the bag. Now whatever you do, resist the urge to squeeze the bag or try to get every last drop out. Doing so can also add excess tannins to your brew which can lead to astringency. So, just hold the bag long enough to get the bulk of the water out. You can then discard the grain and bag (unless you have a reusable nylon bag or something).

drain-grains

The Boil

Now that you’ve steeped your specialty grains (assuming your kit came with any) it’s time to move on to the boil. This is where the real magic happens. Once your grains are removed, go ahead and crank up the heat and bring your water to a boil, or close to it. Once you’ve reached that point turn off the burner because we’re going to add the malt extract. You don’t want the extract to scorch on the bottom of the pan, so that’s why we’re killing the heat for the time being. If you have liquid extract like I do in this recipe, it’s a good idea to let the container to sit in a sink full of hot water for 5 minutes or so to thin out a bit so it’s easier to poor. It is a pretty thick syrup and you want to make sure you get as much of it out of the container as you can. If you have dry powder extract you can just add it right in. Here I am adding my extract.

add-extract

You can also dunk the extract container into the hot water a few times and slosh it around to help get the last little bit of extract out. Once the extract is added you want to grab a big spoon or any other utensil that will reach the bottom of the pot and stir things up until it’s all dissolved. Again, to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom that can be scorched once added back to the heat. In my case, I bought an inexnepsive brew paddle for about five dollars since I didn’t have a spoon long enough to work with my pot.

stir-pot

After your extract is all mixed in you’ll want to bring it up to a boil. At the same time, this is where you have to be careful. Do NOT turn your back on this pot at this stage. As your liquid, now considered wort, comes to a boil you’re going to reach what’s called the “hot break” stage. As the boil just starts to get going you’ll notice some foam collecting at the top like this:

hot-break

The foam is caused by proteins in the wort that coagulate due to the rolling action of the boil. The wort will continue to foam until the protein clumps get heavy enough to sink back into the pot. You’ll start to see particles and clumps of protein circulating in the wort that kind of looks like egg drop soup. This is called the hot break and may take anywhere from 5-20 minutes to occur, depending on the amount of protein in your extract. Don’t be fooled by this harmless looking foam! It can go from harmless to a boiling over disaster in a matter of seconds, and trust me, you don’t want to deal with cleaning up boiled over wort on your stove.

So, watch your boil closely at this stage. If you see the foam start to rapidly rise, immediately take it off of the heat. Another good option is to have a spray bottle filled with water handy and you can combat it with a few sprays. Either way, you want to avoid having it boil over the side of the pot. Once you’ve passed the hot break phase and hopefully avoided any boil overs you should have a nice rolling boil going that looks more like this:

boiling

Adding the Hops

Once you’ve reached a good boil your recipe will likely call for the first addition of hops. The first hops you add are going to be the bittering hops. Without going into the science of it all, as hops are boiled they release alpha acids that contribute to the bitterness of the beer. Most recipes will call for some amount of hops to be added at the beginning and then being boiled for a full 60 minutes. Other hops are added at later points in the boil depending on recipe. The later hops add less bitterness and more flavor and aroma. I’ll save all of the details on how to utilize hops in your beer to one of the many books out there on homebrewing, but for now you’re just going to follow your recipe instructions.

In this recipe, it calls for adding 1.5 oz of UK Goldings hops for 60 minutes. So, once my boil is good and rigorous, I dump them in. This is another time to be careful because adding hop pellets can also trigger a major foam up and cause a boil over, so add them slowly to make sure you don’t get any surprises.

adding-hops

Once you’ve added the hops your work is done for a while. At this point you’re probably going to set a timer for 60 minutes and then just make sure you have a continuous and rolling boil, stir every 5 minutes or so and make sure nothing is scorching on the bottom, and add any additional hops later on as per the recipe. While we’re talking about the boil, one thing you do want to consider is the intensity of the boil. To make sure the hops are utilized properly you want to maintain a rolling boil. That means you want more than a simmer with just a few occasional bubbles, but not boiling so violently that you’re on the verge of overflowing your pot non-stop. You just want to keep a good constant hard boil that has the surface of the wort dancing and churning.

I actually just wanted a good excuse to try out my new video camera, but I recorded a few seconds worth of a good boil to give you an idea of what you want to see. It also illustrates why it’s important to have some head room in your pot.

Cooling the Wort

Once your boil is completed, it’s time to cool the wort. You need the wort to be at or close to your ultimate fermentation temperature. For one, yeast will die if the water is too hot. Since you need your yeast to make beer, that’s not a good thing. Second, your need your yeast to begin working at what’s close to their optimum temperature so that they don’t produce too many esters or off flavors in your beer. For most ales, that means you want to get down to the 60-70 degree range.

You have a few options when it comes to cooling down your wort. The easiest is to simply fill your sink with cold water and some ice and then set your pot into it. This will begin transferring the heat from your boil pot into the surrounding water. While this works, it does take a little bit of work as you’ll need to regularly drain the water from the sink every 5 minutes or so as it starts to warm up and lose its cooling ability. So, make sure you have a big bag of ice on hand if you’re going to use this method.

You can speed up this process by regularly stirring the water bath and the wort inside the brew pot. This is important, but make sure that the spoon or other utensil you’re using to stir your wort is sanitized as we discussed in the equipment section! Once your wort falls below about 170 degrees it’s possible to get an infection from outside bacteria, so anything touching your wort from this point forward must be sanitized. With that in mind, just make sure you’re careful to keep a lid on the pot and to only stir it with a sanitized device.

This ice bath process could take anywhere from about 20 minutes to nearly an hour depending on how much water you boiled. Have patience, because getting your wort to the optimal temperature will yield far better results. This might mean changing the water a dozen times and going through a 10 pound bag of ice. Again, you ideally want to get your wort to below 70 degrees before adding your yeast, and the closer to 60-65 degrees the better. Use your probe or whatever thermometer you have on hand to check the temp. If you don’t have one, try to estimate by touching the pot with the back of your hand and when it’s cool to the touch, it’s probably getting close.

I used the ice bath method for my first few batches, but as I began to get frustrated with the length of time it took to cool the wort and my larger boil size, I opted for the second method of using a wort chiller. A wort chiller is simply a device that uses coils of tubing to expedite the heat transfer needed to cool the wort. There are both immersion and counter-flow chillers, but I decided on an immersion chiller. That means I actually immerse my coils of tubing into the wort and then pump cold water through the coils to cool the wort. Here’s a picture of my immersion chiller in action and hooked up to the sink:

cooling-setup

It’s a relatively simple setup. Cold water goes in one end from the faucet and spirals down the copper tubing coil and then the hot water comes out of the other end and back into the sink. Here’s a close up from the inside of the brew pot:

cooling-wort2

Again, I leave my brew paddle in there so I can constantly stir the wort around the coils as that helps speed up the cooling process. With this setup I can cool about 4 gallons of boiling wort to 60 degrees in about 15 minutes. When I was using an ice bath this process took me nearly an hour with the same amount of liquid so it has really freed up some of my time. Again, this is completely optional, but can be very handy to have. I made this chiller myself by picking up a 50′ coil of 1/2″ copper tubing at Lowes along with a few fittings and hoses for around $60 total. You can buy these chillers already made from most homebrew shops, but one of this size would run you north of $100.

Transferring the Wort to Your Fermenter

Once you’ve cooled your wort down to the desired temperature you can add it to your fermenter. Like I discussed in the equipment section, this will probably mean a big plastic bucket. Keep in mind that since you’re adding cooled wort to your fermenter, you need to make sure it’s completely sanitized! So before dumping it in be sure to sanitize the entire inside of the bucket and the lid with your sanitizing solution of choice. I recommend Star San since you don’t have to rinse it, but you’re free to explore other options.

The other thing you want to consider is aerating the wort at this stage. Your yeast need oxygen in order to do their job, so it’s at this point you want to introduce as much oxygen into the mixture as possible. I do this by using a big plastic strainer that fits perfectly over the mouth of the bucket as seen here:

pouring-wort

All of the little holes will help introduce oxygen into the mixture as it’s poured. If you don’t have a strainer that works, don’t worry. You can do without one and simply use a sanitized spoon or whatever you have to help stir up the wort in the bucket or put the lid on and slosh things around a few times. You also have a few options when pouring the wort into your fermenter. The strainer can help keep some of the larger hop particles and stuff out, but many people simply dump everything right in. It’s really up to you, but you’ll make good beer either way.

Finally, you have to then top off the wort with enough water to get you to the total amount called for by the recipe. Most recipes are for 5 or 5.25 gallons of beer, so depending on how much you used for your boil, you might need to add a few more gallons of regular water to your fermenter. Again, you have a few options. The cheapest is to just use your own tap water to top off. If you do this, to be safe it’s a good idea to boil the water first, preferably a day or two ahead of time, and make sure you’ve killed any bacteria or anything that could be in your water and contaminate your beer. Or, you can simply use a few gallons of bottled distilled water from the store that should already be free of any contaminants.

And here’s another good tip. If you plan ahead and refrigerate your water you can reduce your time spent with the pot in the ice bath since the cold water you add will reduce the temperature of your wort. In my case, I have to add just shy of one gallon of water to my fermenter to bring me to the 5 gallon mark.

topping-off-water

Taking Your First Gravity Reading

Once you’ve added your top off water and mixed it up real good it’s time to take your first gravity reading with your hydrometer. This is important for a few reasons. First, you want to make sure your gravity is close to what the recipe calls for. Your recipe kit should list what the expected target original gravity is. This just tells you how much sugar is dissolved in the wort and if your numbers were somehow way off it could detect a problem in your process. Second, this will help you know when the fermentation is complete and even calculate the alcohol content of your beer.

To take a gravity reading you need a hydrometer, which should have come with your brewing kit. If not, hopefully you purchased one separately. Next, you have a take a sample of your wort. Again, whatever you use to take this sample, make sure it’s sanitized! You can use a turkey baster and suck some up and put it into a tube of some sort or even purchase a device called a wine thief that’s meant specifically for this job. Either way, once you have the sample drawn you need to stick your hydrometer in and see where it reads. Make sure you spin it and get all of the bubbles off to ensure a correct reading, but after all said and done you should see something sort of like this:

hydrometer-reading

Do you see how the surface of the liquid rises up in the middle? That’s what you want to read, so in this sample I consider it a 1.032. Keep in mind that hydrometers are typically calibrated to 60 degrees, so if your wort is warmer than that when you test, refer to the chart that comes with it in order to correct the reading. But my wort was at about 64 and that didn’t call for any adjustments to the reading. Once you know your starting gravity take a note of it in your brewing notebook because you’ll have to refer to it later.

Pitching the Yeast

Pitching is just a fancy word for adding the yeast. Once your wort is cooled down and you’ve topped off with water, the last thing you need to do is add the yeast to the mix. There are two kinds of yeast available to the homebrewer: dry and liquid. Dry yeast is the standard that’s sent with most kits and the cheapest. You’ll receive directions with the kit that talk about how to rehydrate the yeast, but generally it just means dumping the packet into a cup or so of warm water about 20 minutes before you’re ready to add it to the wort. Truth be told, some people don’t even do that and just dump the dry packet right into the wort. But for now, let’s just follow your directions.

stir-plate In some cases, you’ll actually be required to, or be suggested to use liquid yeast. There are some yeast strains that just aren’t available in dry form so it’s possible you’ll encounter this. If you do have a liquid yeast it’s best to make what’s called a starter about a day in advance. I’m not going to go into the details here, but briefly, it’s simply where you create a mini batch of wort (usually just 1-2 liters) and add the liquid yeast to that about 12-24 hours before pitching into your main batch of beer. This just helps ensure that the yeast are really alive and viable while also giving them a head start so they can multiply before you dump them into your beer. You just want to make sure you are putting enough yeast into the batch so you can reduce stress and help make your fermentation go as smoothly as possible.

Once you get into using liquid yeast and making starters you might go as far as I did and make a custom stir plate to help keep the starter constantly moving and adding oxygen into the mix to speed up the process. Again, totally unnecessary if you’re using dry yeast, and not even really necessary if you’re making starters with liquid yeast. But I think it looks cool and it’s a great conversation starter when company comes over and sees what appears to be a crazy science experiment going on in the kitchen.

After you have re-hydrated your dry yeast or prepared your liquid yeast the only thing left to do is dump it into your fermenter. As you can see here, I’m just dumping in my 1 liter starter, but you would do the same if you had your dry yeast sitting in a cup of warm water.

adding-yeast

Let the Fermentation Begin

After you’ve pitched your yeast, the last thing you need to do is snap on the lid (sanitized of course!) and stick your airlock in place. With the airlock you have a few choices. You can fill the reservoir with a little bit of your sanitized water solution or just use some cheap liquor (preferably vodka). You just want a liquid in the airlock that will kill any bacteria that try to get in while at the same time remaining harmless in the event the liquid gets sucked back into your beer.

Now all you have to do is set your fermentation bucket in a cool location. Remember, your yeast will probably want to maintain temperatures in the 60-70 degree range, so a cool basement is ideal. This is where the liquid crystal thermometer on the side of your bucket will come in handy. Here you can see my batch chugging away at around 64 degrees or so:

temp-control

Temperature control is extremely important when making beer. In fact, it’s probably one of the most important factors in brewing a great beer. If the temps get too high, the yeast will produce off flavors and other byproducts that can significantly alter the taste of your beer. If the temps drop too low (usually below 60) the yeast can go dormant and stall out your fermentation. So really, you want to keep your beer at a constant temperature in the mid-60s if at all possible to ensure you make the best ale (lagers are a completely different story and require cold fermentation temps).

Also keep in mind that fermentation is an exothermic reaction, meaning just because your bucket is sitting in a 65 degree room doesn’t mean your beer is at 65 degrees. In fact, during the most active stage of fermentation you could see your beer be as much as 8-10 degrees warmer than the outside air. Typically this only lasts a few days, but that alone is enough to give your beer some undesirable flavors if left unchecked.

If you don’t have the ability to keep your beer at the require temps, there is an easy solution. Find yourself a bucket or tub that’s larger in diameter than your fermentation bucket. Fill it with cold water and then set your fermenter inside of it and then add some ice or frozen water bottles. This should help keep the temps down to where they should be. This is usually only a problem during the most active fermentation stage, so generally after a few days to a week you can remove it from the water bath and leave the fermenter at ambient temperature, hopefully still 70 degrees or less.

Patience is a Virtue

The key to making good beer is patience. If you’ve even followed your recipe instructions even halfway right, given enough time you will produce some good beer. Remember, the yeast are in control once you’ve done everything above. You’ve simply created an environment that’s perfect for them to carry out their job, so now you must wait. The problem most new home brewers face is trying to rush their beer. Your first few are exciting, I know. You will want to pop the lid on your fermenter every day and try to put it into bottles as soon as possible, but resist the urge.

Most kits will tell you that your beer will only take about a week to complete fermentation. That’s not long enough. It might be true that your fermentation is complete, but it doesn’t mean the yeast are done and it’s ready to bottle. Even after the main fermentation your yeast are hard at work cleaning up after themselves. This process will help mellow any off flavors that might have been produced and help make your beer even better. So at a minimum you should let your beer sit in the fermenter for two weeks even if your instructions tell you otherwise. In fact, if you can let it go three weeks, you’ll be rewarded.

I know you want to see how your first creation turned out as soon as possible, but the time will come soon enough. Instead of worrying about your beer that’s already done, use this time to learn more about the brewing process and expand your beer knowledge. Then start planning what your next brew is going to be.

Keeping Good Notes

To consistently make good beer, you need to keep good notes. From brew day to tasting your first bottle six to eight weeks may have passed, so do you think you can remember every little detail of how you made that beer if it’s really good and you want to make it again? Even when following a recipe with set ingredients there are so many variables in play that it’s difficult to make the exact same beer twice unless you have a detailed record of what you did. Just adding hops 5 minutes late or for a few minutes longer can have an impact on the flavor. The length of time it takes to cool the wort can greatly alter the clarity of the final beer. And even more important, just a degree or two difference in the fermentation can totally change the flavor of your beer.

So, make sure you keep good notes! You’ll be thankful you did once you find a beer you like and wish to make it again. Also, it can help you spot errors in your brewing process so you can learn from your mistakes. It doesn’t matter how you take notes, but there are a few things you’ll want to include for sure.

Include in your notes:

  • Recipe kit and batch size – If you get a pre-made kit, take note of where you got it and how much you paid for it. Make sure you write down how big of a batch it creates as well.
  • Date - This is important on so many levels because you want to to be able to see what day you brewed, when you took gravity readings, and anything else along the way so you can track your progress. Since some beers take literally 3-6 months to finish, having dates will be important.
  • Detailed ingredient list – Even if you’re using a kit, make sure you write down each ingredient separately. This way in the future you can try recreating the beer without the use of a kit or can tweak it by altering just one or two items.
  • Gravity readings – Your gravity readings are your only true measure of what’s going on with your beer, so any time you take a reading be sure to record what it is and the date. Also note what the recipe calls for as expected readings so you can see how close you are.
  • Process and times – Make sure to record your process and the time it took to do everything. Make note of how long the boil lasted, how long it took to cool the wort, and list any details about the process that made the job easy or hard.
  • Temperatures - Finally, the most important thing to keep record of are your temperatures throughout the process. Record the temp of the steeping grains, what the temp was when you added the yeast, and what temp the fermentation bucket was at various intervals.

There is a number of free and commercial brewing software packages out there that can help you do this on the computer, but for me, nothing beats a good paper notebook. I spent a few dollars and bought a nice leather covered notebook with thicker pages. I figure I can easily list about 100 recipes or so in the notebook and because of the quality, it should last for at least another generation. Besides, what if I create some really great recipes and would like to pass them down? It would make a great heirloom to one day pass on. Passing on a CD with a bunch of computer files on it just isn’t the same.

Here’s a sample page out of my notebook:

recipe-book

RDWHAHB

Finally, I’d like to leave you with an acronym coined by Charles Papazian in the book The Complete Joy of Homebrewing: RDWHAHB. It simply stands for, “Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a HomeBrew.” If you take anything away from your first brewing adventure, just follow RDWHAHB. If you think you messed something up or that your beer is ruined, just relax and step back for a moment. Maybe even have a beer or two while you look things over. Chances are your beer is just fine, even if you made a mistake. Truth be told, it’s actually pretty hard to ruin your beer. Sure, you might end up with something that didn’t turn out quite as you wanted, but as long as you have added yeast to some water with sugars from some sort of grain along with some hops, you will make beer. So relax and don’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the process.

More to Come

This was a long post and a lot to digest, I know. You might have to read it a few times to let it all sink in. And again, this is just a brief overview of the general process and there’s a lot more you can learn by reading one of the brewing books out there like The Complete Joy of Homebrewing or Palmer’s How to Brew.

Stay tuned next week when I wrap up the series by talking about how to tell when your beer is done, ready to be bottled, and how to bottle and carbonate your beer. Bottling can be seen as a chore by some, but it’s really pretty easy as long as you have the right tools and know your process. So, we’ll cover that soon.

Read on to the final part in the series: Bottling Your Beer

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Filed Under: Food

About the Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and spent a few years working as a financial planner. Today, he helps people make the most of their money by writing about personal finance here and elsewhere on the web. Jeremy is also Coach at Adaptu and a regular contributor for other publications such as Intuit, and American Express. Be sure to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Google+.

5 comments
The Biz of Life
The Biz of Life

Loved the detail in this post. I did this many years ago. Can't say I saved any money, but produced some good tasting beer. One caution... your pots, pans, etc. must be immaculately clean or you run the risk of ruining a batch. Bottling and making sure the bottles were clean was the most tedious parts for me.

The Digerati Life
The Digerati Life

This is an incredible post -- full of so much substance. Too bad I don't drink, but I can appreciate a great guide when I see it. Plus I love your pix -- nice to see you in it!

Savings Accounts Girl
Savings Accounts Girl

Cool, thanks for the informative article - I'm going to try it and see how mine will come out.

Craig
Craig

Sounds like I will have a new hobby at some point.

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Last week I introduced this mini-series that will cover brewing your own beer at home. I've been brewing for a while now, but I wanted ...