Everything You Need to Know to Craft Your First Extract Beer.
By James Holt
Most Craft Beer fans have considered making beer at home at some point or another. I know when I first looked into it myself, it was a bit overwhelming. The process can seem like a daunting lab experiment, that could result in either transforming your house into a crater (which might be bad for curb appeal), or poisoning all of your drinking buddies (which may put a damper on poker night). I assure you that nothing of the sort will happen, and if you follow a few simple guidelines, you will make a great beer, with equipment you probably already have in your kitchen, even your very first try. I want you to think of brewing less like a science project and more like following a fairly simple recipe.
(Propane Burner, Kitchen Stove, Etc.)
Approximate Cost- Free (most people have a kitchen stove…right?)
If you live in a tent, or you just want to boil your brew faster, use a propane burner (It’s a good excuse to drink in the backyard anyhow.)
- Large Pot to fit a 5 Gallon batch
(Basically the larger the better, you could use a pot that’s as small as 20 quarts (5 Gal.) but your life would be much easier if you had a pot that was a little larger. 32 & 40 quarts are popular sizes for brewing because you have a little extra room in the pot to avoid boiling over the sides)
Approximate Cost- Free (most people have a large soup pot at home or can borrow one.)
If you have to buy one, Here’s one for 35 bucks with free shipping
- Some Beer Line 5 or 6 feet should be plenty
(Go to the hardware store, get some clear pvc tubing that is FDA approved)
Approximate Cost- $0.50 per foot or about 3 bucks total.
- A 5 Gallon fermenter or two Either: 1. A glass/plastic carboy specifically designed for brewing. $20-$30. 2. A food grade bucket with a lid. $10-$20. 3. A food grade water tank. $10. Buying two will make secondary fermentation and bottling much easier.
- Large Spoon Large enough to stir your pot full of liquid
- Airlock with Rubber Plug
(This is for letting c02 out of your fermenter without letting bacteria in. Commercially made Airlocks
cost $1-$2 at the homebrew supply shop or online. The rubber plug will cost about the same.
A Makeshift Airlock can be made by running a length of beer line from the top of your fermenter to inside a glass of water. Make sure your fermenter is sealed up around the beer line. Honestly, just spend the buck though.)
- Brown Bottles At Least 50 12oz or equivalent.
(Make sure to use bottles that aren’t the twist-off type. They should be brown because clear or green bottles let UV light in and can skunk your beer! You have a couple of weeks to save these up, so drink a couple of cases of beer, rinse the bottles after they’re empty and put them back in the box neck down. You’ll thank yourself later because you have to sanitize these bottles. You can also purchase new bottles.)
Approximate Cost- Free with your alcoholism!
- Bottle Brush
(A bottle brush is very handy for cleaning. anything similar will do.)
Approximate Cost- $3 bucks
- Sanitizer A Small Bottle
(A little bit goes a long way, usually a cap full will sanitize 5 gallons of water for cleaning.)
Approximate Cost- $4.00
- Thermometer Most people already have one of these too.
- Bottle Caps Enough to cap your Bottles
Approximate Cost- $1.50 for 50 (buy 100 just to make sure you don’t run out! You can also just buy by the pound)
- Bottle Capper
Approximate Cost- Here’s one for $12
Total Equipment Investment for Most People: $59
2 new fermenters………$30
(Food Grade Buckets or Bottles)
2 Airlocks, 2 Stoppers…..$4
Bottle caps & Capper……$15
You can in fact, look up, or write your own recipe for your first Extract Brew, but for the convenience factor, I highly recommend purchasing a ready-made Extract Brewing Kit from one of the following companies:
You can also purchase any of the equipment I listed previously from those sites. I think you will find a really great selection of styles to choose from. I have personally ordered from these companies and couldn’t be more satisfied.
Note: Extract Brewing Kits generally cost between $35-$50, and they are all inclusive, and meant for brewing 5 Gallon Batches.
- Boil 5 Gallons of water. (Boiling happens at 212F)
- Stir in the water treatment included in your brewing kit.
- Turn off the heat. SLOWLY Stir in your Malt Extract. (Make sure that the powder fully dissolves, or in the case of syrup extract, that the syrup dissolves and doesn’t sink to the bottom of the pot and burn.)
- Bring back to boiling. Keep boil going for 1 hour. Add hops as called for in your kit. Stir them in at the first few minutes of the hour and you will have very bitter notes in your finished beer. Stir them in 5 minutes before the end of the boil and aromatic, citrusy notes will come out.
- While you are waiting for the hour to pass, begin to sanitize your utensils and fermenters. Make sure to keep an eye on that pot, because your wort can boil over the sides very abruptly, and you need to be around to adjust the flame and stir.
- After that hour of boiling is finished, cover the pot and cool as quickly as you can. For about $30 you can purchase a wort chiller which brings the temperature down below 80F in 15-20 minutes. If you aren’t sure if you want to buy one yet, then you can fill a sink with ice and cool the wort with an ice bath. This takes substantially more time.
- Once your wort is below 80F you can siphon it into one of your sanitized fermenters. Make sure to leave the trub (hops and junk that you don’t want in your beer) at the bottom. If your temp is above 80 then you will kill the yeast!
- AT THIS POINT PLEASE READ ‘Beginning Homebrewing: Measure Your ABV’ IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO FIND OUT THE ALCOHOL CONTENT OF YOUR BEER!
- Pitch the yeast (at room temp) into the fermenter. Sanitize the airlock and stopper and fill the airlock with a little water. Install your airlock on your fermenter and store in a cool, dry place.
- Check on your beer after a couple of days to make sure it has started fermenting. You will see the airlock bubbling away and a ring of Krausen (brown, yeasty goo) around the top level of beer.
- After the main fermentation happens (about a week) it’s a good idea to siphon your beer off of the dead yeast cells at the bottom to a secondary fermenter. This will help clarify your finished beer.
- Wait about one more week, for a total fermentation time of at least 14 days. Sanitize all of your bottles, and clean up your equipment.
- Siphon your beer into a sanitized bucket or carboy. Add your priming sugar, which will kick start the remaining yeast to carbonate your beer in the bottles. Give the Beer a quick stir.
- Fill each bottle to about an inch below the top. Too much headspace on the beer will cause it to oxidize. Not enough headspace will cause bottles to explode! There are many ways to fill your bottles, that same beer line with a siphon stopper works great, so do food grade buckets with a spigot at the bottom.
- Cap each bottle carefully and store in a dark cool place.
- After a couple more weeks of finishing time, stick those bottles in the fridge and enjoy! (Make sure to send me one!)
This guide is meant to give very basic instructions and a very basic understanding of the process of extract home brewing. There are endless options for setup and just as many variations in technique. Feel free to post your comments, tips, and any questions you may have at the bottom. You can always email me at James@NorthBayBreweryTours.com