Homebrewing is a fascinating and rewarding hobby for beer aficionados. However, the process of brewing beer can seem long, tedious, and overly complicated.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at the process of beer brewing and show you how to easily brew delicious, quality beer at home.
For more articles like this, remember to regularly check out our blog. To start brewing your own beer, check the Brewbarrel, a comprehensive kit including all you need to brew fantastic beer in your own home.
Beer is basically made from 4 ingredients:
- Barley (or other grains like wheat or rye): Barley is a cereal grain that looks very similar to wheat. The seeds from this grain are harvested, steeped, and germinated to create malt. The malt is then dried by gradually heating it. Most breweries skip this step and use malt they have sourced to make their beer.
- Hops: The hop plant is actually a member of the hemp, or cannabaceae, family. The flowers contain a variety of acids and oils and are added to the brewing process in order to add bitterness and aroma to beer. Hops is also a natural preservative and helps to prevent beer from spoiling. There are many different varieties of hops, each of which can give beer slightly distinct flavors and aromas.
- Yeast: Yeast is a single-celled microorganism. It is responsible for producing the alcohol and CO2 in beer and also gives it a distinct flavor. There are two main types of yeast used to make beer; ale yeast and lager yeast. The former tends to ferment at higher temperatures and typically rises to the surface of the beer during fermentation, while the latter ferments lower temperatures and ferments at the bottom of the beer.
- Water: The quality and type of water used in the brewing process has a huge impact on the overall quality and flavour of the final product. Homebrewers usually use distilled water or treat water using a variety of techniques. Large breweries will often have their own filtration systems, while others claim to use spring water from various natural springs.
The process of beer brewing involves 6 essential steps: malting, mashing, sparging, boiling, fermenting, and bottling/carbonation. Below we explore each of these steps in more detail:
Malting is the process used to create malt from barley or other grains. The main goal of malting is to isolate the enzymes needed for brewing.
The grains are first immersed in water to begin the germination process. Barley is usually steeped in water for roughly 2 hours before the grains are removed and then dried for roughly 8 hours. This process is repeated roughly 2 or 3 times until small roots (called chits) start to form in roughly 95% of the grains.
At this point, the grains are allowed to germinate further by storing them in a cool, slightly moist, and well-ventilated area until the small leaf (or acrospire) growing from the grain measures roughly the same size as the grain itself.
During this time the seeds are regularly turned in order to avoid the formation of bacteria and/or mould due to the heat generated by the germination process.
The malt is then dried at a steady temperature of roughly 31-50 degrees Celsius. Drying at higher temperatures will destroy the enzymes in the seed needed for mashing (the next step in the brewing process).
Finally, the dried, malted grains are separated from the rootlets growing out of them and crushed to create a pale malt. The grains can also be toasted at varying temperatures to create specialty malts.
The process of mashing involves steeping the malted barley grains in hot water for roughly 1 hour.
This activates certain enzymes in the grains and causes them to break down and release their natural sugars. These sugars are later consumed by the yeast in the fermentation process to create alcohol and CO2.
This also adds sweetness and other distinct flavours and aromas to the beer from the malt.
Sparging involves rinsing the steeped grains in hot water to extract any remaining sugars. They are then separated from the hot liquid left over from the mashing process, which is called “wort.”
At this point, the malted barley grains are removed and discarded.
Next, the wort is boiled for roughly 1 hour in a new, clean vessel in order to kill off any remaining microorganisms in the liquid.
Hops are also added to the wort during the boiling process to add flavour. The time at which the hops is added to the wort affects the final taste of the beer. Brewers often experiment with adding hops at different stages in the boiling process to create different flavours in their beer.
Once the boil is completed, the wort is rapidly cooled to roughly 21-27 degrees Celsius and the yeast is added (or pitched). If the yeast is added at higher temperatures, it will die.
At this point, brewers need to avoid contaminating the wort. Because it is no longer at intense temperatures, it is susceptible to contamination from other microorganisms and bacteria.
This is largely a waiting period. The wort is added to fermentation tanks and is left to sit anywhere from 1-2 weeks. During this time, the yeast consumes the sugars extracted from the malted barley grains to create alcohol and CO2. The alcohol is released into the air while the alcohol is left in the beer.
Once the beer has been fermented, it needs to be carbonated and bottled before it is ready to drink.
Most home brewers carbonate their beers by adding sugar a small amount of sugar to the bottles, causing the residual yeast left in the beer to consume the sugar and carbonated the beer. This is known as bottle conditioning.
Larger breweries will usually directly inject carbon dioxide into the beer.
The brewing process we just described is quite long and complex. However, there are simpler ways to brew beer at home.
One of the simplest ways to brew beer is to use a malt extract. Malt extracts are essentially concentrated forms of wort that are available in liquid or dry forms.
Malt extract is produced by following the first 4 steps outlined above to create wort. The liquid is then concentrated using heat or a vacuum to evaporate water and create a concentrated version of wort which is called malt extract.
Using these extracts allows home brewers to bypass the more complex steps of the brewing process and skip straight to the fermentation stage. However, working with malt extracts limits brewers’ opportunities when it comes to creating unique flavours and aromas in their beer as they are only in control of the final stages of the brewing process.
Brewing beer at home with malt extract is extremely simple.
First, you’ll need to decide on what kind of malt extract you plan to work with. Extracts are available in many varieties, including lagers, amber ales, pale ales, IPAs, stouts, porters, and many more.
You’ll also need to decide whether to work with a dry or liquid extracts. There is a long-standing debate among home brewers regarding which is better, and making the choice is completely up to you. However, any quality extract from a reputable manufacturer should produce solid results.
Once you’ve decided on which extract to work with, you’ll be able to easily create quality brews in your home.
Always make sure to clean all your brewing equipment. The most common reason for failed brews is contamination, so make sure to pay extra attention to the sanitation of all your equipment.
When working with a new kit, simply rinse all equipment with hot water. When using old kits or other utensil, use a safe, heavy-duty cleaner and rinse thoroughly.
In order to brew your beer, simply add your extract to a fermentation vessel and add water according to the instructions that came with your extract. Always make sure to use drinking water with no chlorine odour and heat it to roughly 21-27 degrees Celsius.
Quickly add yeast evenly to the surface of the liquid and cover your vessel. Let the mix ferment for roughly 6 days, making sure the temperature of the brew remains steady.
On day 6 you’ll need to begin measuring the specific gravity of your brew on a daily basis. Once your gravity is stable for 2 consecutive, your brew will be ready to bottle. For exact information on how to measure the specific gravity of your homebrew, click here.
To carbonate your brew, either add a pre-measured amount of sugar to each bottle or use carbonation tablets. Then store your bottles at or above 18 degrees Celsius for roughly 2 weeks to allow for secondary fermentation.
At this point, you’ll be able to cool your beers and enjoy them.
If you’re looking for an even simpler method for brewing beer, be sure to check out the BrewBarrel available through the Zamnesia Head Shop.
This kit comes complete with all the equipment and ingredients necessary to create home-brewed beer at home. The kit includes an empty beer keg, malt extract, yeast, hops extract, a pressure control valve, come beer coasters, and a simple manual.
Below are the basic steps to create beer using the BrewBarrel. To order yours, click here and get ready to start brewing incredible beer in your own home today.
1. Unpack your BrewBarrel kit.
2. Remove the lid from your keg and add in your malt extract. Next, fill up malt bottle with cold water to the first marker, then with boiling water to the marker at the top, and add to the keg.
3. Reseal the keg and shake it for roughly 30 seconds.
4. Add in 5 bottles of cold water.
5. Add your hops extract and yeast, and then close your keg with the pressure control valve.
6. Rest your BrewBarrel for 24 hours at room temperature.
7. Turn your keg upside-down for ten seconds, then return it to its original position and rest the keg for at least 5 days at room temperature to allow for fermentation.
8. Finally, place your barrel in the fridge for 2 full days. Then, sit back and enjoy a glass of your very own home-brewed beer.