Nothing can match the feeling of sipping some chilled beer made from your own hands after a long day of work. But the world of beer brewing is a colossal one and involves many steep learning curves.
Producing beer is an art in its own right due to the number of steps and complexities one needs to plan for, and conduct before reaping the fruits of your labor. There are also as many as three different methods of brewing beer that vary in levels of difficulty. As such, one is presented with a lot of room for creativity to form the beer suited perfectly to their own palate.
In this article, we’ll give you some basic insights into the process and world of beer brewing. Then, we’ll lay down the steps to build a home brewery you’re proud of, even if you are just starting out. To make sure you have adequate knowledge of the procedure, however, we would recommend putting in several hours of additional research on certain topics before even thinking of attempting to brew beer.
Thankfully, it’s worth it, and you will definitely end up saving a lot of money over the long run. On top of this, home-brewed beers are a popular gift across the world, and setting up a basic brewing system to get started with can cost as low as $100, on average. To get started on your own journey into the world of brewing beer, read on.
So, How is Beer Brewed?
The Different Methods of Brewing
The main ingredients of beer are grains, water, yeast, and hops, which give the beer its bitterness and balance the sugars from the grain. You can choose from three different methods of brewing: extract brewing, partial-mash, and all-grain brewing. Many beginners of brewing start out with extract brewing and make their way up to all-grain since the process for the former is relatively simpler.
But extract brewers will tell you that the malt produced by this process if done properly, can be as good as one produced by all-grain brewing. Whether there is truth to that claim is something we will leave on you to find out. However, the main difference between the three methods is the space for variation that they allow with respect to flavors and textures of the beer. However, there is definitely some utility in trying out all three methods before deciding which one suits you best. There are no shortcuts to improving at brewing beer, and persistence will be key. The path to getting the taste just right is a long and arduous one that will require many failed attempts before success.
The Process of Brewing Beer
Brewing involves many steps and keywords that can seem daunting at first, but once you read it a few times, the process will start to appear much simpler. We’ll cover some of the basics in this section.
In simple terms, the process of brewing beer is essentially you extracting the sugars and liquids from a base grain and adding water, before separating the husk. This is succeeded by adding hops, which counteract the sweetness of the sugars and eventually combining with yeast before leaving the solution to mature. There are some additional steps and ingredients that need to be added along the way, and we’ll go over the steps briefly.
Step 1 (Mashing): Here, grains like barley, wheat, rye, or others are crushed in a mill to extract sugars called grist.
Step 2 (Heating): The resulting mixture is combined with warm water for about an hour. This breaks down the starch of the grains into sugars by activating natural enzymes from the malt.
Step 3 (Lautering): Despite the odd name, this step just involves separating the sweet liquid called wort from the grain husk.
Step 4: (Boiling): The main difference between this step and step 2 is the temperature, which is higher in this step. This is done to destroy any remaining particles to leave a clear liquid for fermentation.
Step 5 (Fermentation): Many expert brewers ferment their beers in two stages, but it is not necessary to do so. Fermentation is commenced by adding yeast to the extracted wort. This stage produces the alcohol, carbon dioxide, and other flavors of the final beer.
Step 6 (Bottling or Kegging): After fermentation, you need to store your beer in either bottle, which are more inexpensive, or kegs, which gives you greater control over carbonating the beer.
Building the Ultimate Home Brew Set up
This section is for those who have had some experience in brewing and want to take their brewing to the next level. We’ll cover the steps to building the best all-grain brew set up that you can get for your home. Make sure you have enough space for the various parts that you’ll need. A garage, and if you can afford it, a barn dedicated to brewing would be ideal. Also, remember to thoroughly sanitize all equipment before usage. Now, on to building the setup.
Each step needs distinct parts to carry out its function. The mashing needs a mash tun to break down the grains and extract its starch while maintaining a constant temperature. If you get one with a false bottom, that’ll help you conduct the next step using the same vessel.
After mashing, the heating process needs a kettle. Most brewers skimp out here if they’re running on a tight budget, but we highly recommend getting a big kettle (at least 8 gallons) right at the beginning. A large kettle will help you make adequate quantities for large parties, as well as prevent any spillovers from heating.
Then, you’ll need a lauter tun, which can be used as a substitute for the mash tun. Some other components include wort chillers, siphoning tubes to connect various parts, a thermometer, spoons, the requisite ingredients such as yeast and water, and a plastic pitcher.
Similar to building the ultimate home brew set up for coffee, building the ultimate brew set up for beer relies heavily on knowing which parts of the process to focus on. Many brewers, for example, keep the mashing process simple by just passing it through a mill, but others prefer to hand crush them for the added personal sentiment. As mentioned, a bigger kettle from the get-go will doubtless prove very convenient over your attempts to brew beer. Following the boil, you’ll need to cool the wort, which can be done using the wort chillers. Some brewers recommend getting two chillers instead of one for ease of use.
Eventually, you’ll need to transfer the clear beer to a fermenting vessel, where the yeast is added and the mixture left to mature. This is perhaps the most important step of the entire process. Get a yeast starter to ensure that the fermentation cycle starts off properly, and to reduce risk of contamination. There are many many more accessories that you can get, such as carboy handles, hopbacks, etc, but the list is far too long to go over in this article.
Once fermented, make sure you store your beer using the relevant techniques to prevent contamination. This will also help the beer carbonate properly. If you plan on producing beer in bulk, a kegerator might be worth investing in. Despite being a sizeable initial investment, it ultimately makes the process simpler and gives you control over the carbonation.
As you learn more about brewing and have practiced it a fair number of times, there is massive room for experimentation and playing with flavors, combining grains, and producing different types of beer. It’s one of those hobbies that demands discipline but is rewarding in its results.