Planet Beer

This is a blog about making beer, primarily ME making beer. However, it will also teach you how to homebrew---either all grain or with little cans of goo. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Making Beer: What Every Man, Woman, and Child Should Know*

Today I'd like to cover making beer at home with malt extract. Extract comes as a dried powder or in cans. Before we get to the benefits of each, let's look at the process of brewing. Brewing has four stages: Mash, Boil, Ferment, and Condition. It's easy to remember these steps with the simple saying: My Butt Feels Clammy. When you use an extract, the mashing has been done for you, so you'll skip this step.

Now, to make beer, you'll need a pot to boil it in. If you have a three gallon pot or bigger, that's best, but a smaller pot will do---not much smaller than two gallons, though. (This will help prevent boil overs, which are icky.)

You'll also need two other pieces of gear, a six gallon glass bottle (called a carboy)and an airlock. The big glass bottle will probably cost $15-$20, and the airlock (a small plastic object) costs around $2.50. You'll need a long handled plastic or steel spoon to stir with, but I'll bet you have one of those at home---otherwise add it to the list. You'll need a funnel and a sieve too. (I'll give you a place to get everything at the end.)

Back to the extract. Liquid extract comes in cans, in either hopped or unhopped varieties. The hopped varities are usually referred to as "kits". They come with a packet of dried yeast, and as their name implies, they also have hops included. Plus, they often have a style pictured on the label. For example, you can find Stout, Porter, Amber, and other flavors already formulated for you. Extracts such as these are a good place to start out. One thing I've noticed, and that is the mixture at five gallons tends to be a bit weak for my taste. So, to adjust the amount of alcohol, you can either add less water or get two cans of extract. I have had good luck with Munton's and Edme, which I believe are made by the same company.

Let's say you've bought the extract, carboy, and airlock and are ready to go. The night before brewing, take two 2.5 gallon containers of water and refridgerate them. You can use any water that's suitable for drinking to make beer. You can buy spring water if you like, especially if it comes with the 2.5 gallon container around it! You will be using 5 gallons of water, more or less, for your recipe. Any containers you use for the water need to be sanitized with a bleach and water mixture, then rinsed with hot tap water, unless they come from the store with water already in them. You will also need to sanitize and rinse the container in which you reconstitute your dried yeast, unless you buy liquid yeast apart from the "kit".

Next day, take your pot (now cunningly called the "brewpot") and put hot water from the tap into it. Place the can of extract in the water and let it sit for 30 minutes or so, to make the extract easier flowing. Now dump out the hot water from the pot, and put a gallon to a gallon and a half of cold water into the pot. Place the pot on the stove and turn it on high. As the water gets too hot to hold your finger in, open the can of extract and add it to the water slowly, while stirring with your steel or plastic spoon. (never use a wooden spoon as it may harbor bacteria)

Reconstitute your yeast, following the instructions on the package. The packet should have come with your "kit". If you bought a liquid yeast apart from the kit, follow the instructions on the yeast with regard to warming time.

Bring the mixture (now called "wort") to a boil and keep it there for 30 minutes. (Some extracts may say not to bother boiling, but ignore them.) Remove the brewpot from the heat.

Before you use the carboy (coming up!) you'll need to disinfect it, along with the airlock, using a solution of 2 ounces of bleach and 5 gallons of water. You can do the carboy first, then pour a few pints into a plastic container to rinse off the airlock, funnel, and sieve. Leave the airlock, funnel, and sieve in the container with the bleach for now. Pour the remaining bleach mixture down the drain. Take about a quart of hot water from the tap and rinse out the carboy, then dump that down the drain as well. Put the carboy onto some newspapers on the floor. Remove the funnel from the solution and rinse it in hot water from the tap.

Place the funnel in the carboy. Rinse the sieve in hot water from the tap and place the sieve in the funnel. Now, pour your 2.5 gallons of chilled water into the carboy. Next, pour the wort (hot stuff in the pot!) into the carboy through the sieve and funnel. Add any remaining water from your starting 5 gallons to the carboy at this time. Remove the sieve and add your yeast to the mix. Remove the funnel.

Remove the airlock from the bleach mix, rinse with hot water from the tap, and add about 3/4 of an inch of water inside the airlock. (If your airlock wasn't in pieces before, you'll need to take the top off to do this.) Put the airlock back together and insert the bung end (rubber part) into the carboy. Place the carboy in a dark space (or just out of the sun). You may shake the carboy up some to get better aeration (more about that later!) but you're done for now, congratulations! In 24 to 36 hours, your wort should begin to ferment. It will go on this way for up to 10 days, at which time you'll be ready to bottle it. We'll cover that in the next post. For now, here is one place to get everything you need to make beer:
Things Beer. Feel free to call them and ask any questions you might have. Or email me at:



*Not that a child, necessarily, has to know how to make beer. But you just never know, a situation COULD, in theory, arise.


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