The Homebrewing Process.

Homebrewing your favourite beer is becoming a favourite pastime for many people of all ages and many varied backgrounds. Here at Burleigh Homebrew we have most of the ways and means to begin. It doesn’t have to take too much of your time and is a great hobby that has an enjoyable reward at the end of the process. It also gives you a warm fuzzy feeling of being proud of yourself after creating your own beer, you could even start referring to yourself as a brewmaster!

At this point in time Home Brewing shops have access to beer making ingredients from all over the world. Ingredients including Malts of all varieties. Hops that have been grown in America, England, Germany, Czechoslovakia, New Zealand and Australia. Dry and liquid yeasts of all different strains from all the major suppliers. There are even adjuncts such as dry enzyme and finings available.

Making the beer can be as easy or as complicated as you want. Homebrewing companies such as Coopers/Morgans/Mangrove Jacks/Blackrock etc have made it easy for those brewers who haven’t the time or inclination to create a beer from scratch. They have mastered the process of combining all the ingredients and reducing them into convenient 1.5kg cans of hopped specific extract brew. From a lager, an Ale to a stout to name a few, at their breweries they combine a mashed combination of malt, water and hops to boil up a brew of specific taste. It is then place in a vacuum to allow it to be reduced to these concentrated 1.5kg cans of extract.

The ingredients they use in all the brews has improve immensely from the old days. If your experience with homebrew in the past was a taste of bananas or was basically unpleasant then it must have been a while ago. Homebrew beer nowadays can be made to commercial/craft beer quality.

Try and get a sample from a friend or go to your local homebrew shop. Here at Burleigh Homebrew we will always have a beer on tap for you to taste.

Now to the varied processes of making your beer at home.

Homebrewers using the 1.5kg cans of hopped extract only have to mix some fermentable sugar/malts and warm water for dissolving to the canned extract, mix vigorously, sprinkle the yeast on top and leave to ferment for 7-10 days. Your homebrew has been created. The chemical reaction of yeast and sugar takes place to produce an amazing specific beer of your choosing. Once  fermentation is finished there is the process of either bottling or kegging. In the bottles it will need to be carbonated (secondary carbonation), this is done by adding 8gms of sugar for each litre of brew. The kegs can be force carbonated with CO2.

The beer would be at a drinkable stage after 2 weeks but would still be green, a term used to describe it of not being ripe or mature. For best results the beer will get better with age, 1 month- 2 months or for even better tasting beer 3 months of maturing.

There are numerous ways to augment the basic procedure described above to enhance the overall beer quality and all of them are rather simple and they won’t add much time to the brewing process.

Using a better yeast that goes with the particular style of beer is probably the best way to take your brew from a good one to a great one. As I have mentioned previously Homebrewers nowadays are blessed with the quality of good yeasts that are available to them and there is a diverse number of different strains that can be used in your brew.

Hopping, whether used for bittering, finishing or dry hopping can be added to the brewing process to enhance your brew. Steeping the hops in boiling water will extract bitterness, in water that is hot will extract mostly flavour and throwing the hops in the fermenter 3+ days after your fermenting begins will extract the hop’s aromas. Here at Burleigh Homebrew we have 20+ hop varieties available from all over the world.

Another way to give your beer a kick is to steep a small amount of freshly cracked grain/malt. This process is simple and only adds about half an hour or so to your brewing process. It entails, getting hold of about 500gms of your favourite speciality grain. This could be a crystal style malt, (very popular) a chocolate or even a roasted style malt for your stouts and porters. Just place it in a bag and lightly crack the grain, using a rolling pin should suffice. The quickest way to infuse the flavours is to steep the grain in a pot in a couple of litres of water that has a temperature between 65-70 degrees for about half an hour. The other way is to just use tap water and leave it in your fridge overnight. You can place it a bag of muslin cloth or something similar or just run the liquid grain mix through a sieve into your fermenter when you’re making up the brew. This will give your beer a freshness that takes it over and above the ordinary brew.

When all the ingredients are mixed well with water and placed into your fermenter, the amount of water to add -in most cases- to your fermenter should total 23litres. It is important at this stage to mix all the ingredients thoroughly to aerate the wort. The optimal temperature to pitch yeast for most brews is around the 22-23-degree mark (there will be information on the packet, but you’ll get away with it being between 20 to 30 degrees). Don’t pitch the yeast if the wort is over 30 degrees as there is a chance of yeast failure. There are also different methods to  introduce/prepare the yeast for pitching which we will cover in later posts.

All there is to do now is to seal the fermenter and take a gravity reading with your hydrometer. There are some long-time brewers that say they don’t use the hydrometer, but my advice is to use it, the hydrometer is your friend. Not only by taking a reading at the start and the end of the fermenting process will it give you the alcohol content, most importantly it will give you the vital info that the brewing/fermenting process is complete. By taking a reading two days in a row at the end of brewing, which is usually day 7 during the warm months and day 9 during the colder months. So, for example on day 9 your reading is 1.008, take another reading the next day if it’s the same reading, 1.008 then fermentation is complete, it’s ‘cooked’.

 Your brew has gone through the natural chemical reaction of yeast converting sugar to alcohol.

That is the initial and simplest way (with a few small upgrades) to create a homebrew beer and is recommended that the beginner ‘gets his feet wet’ by doing the first couple of brews in this manner.

You’ll get an idea of how it all works together.

One thing that wasn’t mentioned and is probably the number 1 rule when Homebrewing beer or doing anything that involves yeast and fermenting: Sanitization! As the yeast will react with the sugars so it will react with bacteria. Make sure every container and utensil you are using in the beer making process is sanitized. It’s just a matter of common sense and cleanliness, wash your hands prior to starting.

If you’re the adventurous/creative type you can then experiment with partial brewing using grain and unhopped extract and once you have that mastered this process and your beers are amazing, heaven forbid you can move on to all grain brewing, just as they do in the breweries.

We’ll discuss these other methods of brewing in later posts.

Here at Burleigh Homebrew we strive to maintain a fresh and abundant supply of everything you would need to homebrew beer in the most popular styles of beer and methods of brewing. We are also available to give you advice on how to make your Homebrewing experience an enjoyable and successful one. You won’t get any of that advice from one of the conglomerate’s supermarkets or bottleshops that carry a limited range of homebrewing ingredients. Keep that in mind when you are in the market for purchasing any homebrew supplies.

Support your local Homebrew store.

Cheers Mick BHB