How to Brew Your Own Beer

Have you ever considered learning how to brew your own beer? Homebrewing is relatively easy and inexpensive to get started, and making your own beer is usually cheaper, too. Includes helpful step-by-step instructions for homebrewing.

| October/November 2008

  • Learn how to brew your own beer. If you enjoy drinking flavorful beer, why not learn how to brew your own? It’s cheap, fun and delicious!
    Learn how to brew your own beer. If you enjoy drinking flavorful beer, why not learn how to brew your own? It’s cheap, fun and delicious!
    Photo by Istockphoto/Carlos Alvarez
  • These are the ingredients for the basic brown ale described in this article. Batches of homebrew can be made using only malted barley grain (known as all-grain brewing). However, this beer uses malt extract as the primary source of the fermentable sugars, and a small amount of barley to fine tune the color and flavor.
    These are the ingredients for the basic brown ale described in this article. Batches of homebrew can be made using only malted barley grain (known as all-grain brewing). However, this beer uses malt extract as the primary source of the fermentable sugars, and a small amount of barley to fine tune the color and flavor.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • This is a typical kitchen homebrewing setup. Your kitchen stove is a good place to start brewing, because it requires minimal equipment. Many brewers use propane burners and brew outdoors, as pictured elsewhere in this article. In either case, the basic steps for making this beer are the same.
    This is a typical kitchen homebrewing setup. Your kitchen stove is a good place to start brewing, because it requires minimal equipment. Many brewers use propane burners and brew outdoors, as pictured elsewhere in this article. In either case, the basic steps for making this beer are the same.
    Photo by Kellan Bartosch
  • The end goal — finished beer! This is homebrew that’s been bottled in a
    The end goal — finished beer! This is homebrew that’s been bottled in a "growler" half-gallon jug from a brewery. You can also put your finished beer in regular-sized beer bottles, but doing so makes the bottling process a lot more work.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • A closer view of the brewpot and grain bag in action.
    A closer view of the brewpot and grain bag in action.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • The malt extract is dumped into the brew pot.
    The malt extract is dumped into the brew pot.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • This beer was made with the help of half a dozen people. Does it take this many people to make a batch of beer? No, but it sure is fun! Here, two of the brewing crew show off the dried malt extract.
    This beer was made with the help of half a dozen people. Does it take this many people to make a batch of beer? No, but it sure is fun! Here, two of the brewing crew show off the dried malt extract.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • Nathan (the author) begins brewing the brown ale by putting the grain bag into the brew pot.
    Nathan (the author) begins brewing the brown ale by putting the grain bag into the brew pot.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • Now the beer is being siphoned from the brew pot into the primary fermenter. The thermometer is to check the temperature to see if the beer is cool enough to add the yeast.
    Now the beer is being siphoned from the brew pot into the primary fermenter. The thermometer is to check the temperature to see if the beer is cool enough to add the yeast.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • Adding — or pitching — the yeast. Fermentation is about to begin.
    Adding — or pitching — the yeast. Fermentation is about to begin.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • Now it’s time to add some hops. Here Amy, a first-time brewer, gets a closer look at the hops as Nathan, the author of this article, adds them to the pot.
    Now it’s time to add some hops. Here Amy, a first-time brewer, gets a closer look at the hops as Nathan, the author of this article, adds them to the pot.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • A closeup of the hops. You can buy pellet hops, like these, or you can use whole leaf hops. Ounce for ounce, you can get a bit more flavor out of pellet hops than whole leaf hops, but many brewers consider them more difficult to work with (they can be difficult to strain out of the wort).
    A closeup of the hops. You can buy pellet hops, like these, or you can use whole leaf hops. Ounce for ounce, you can get a bit more flavor out of pellet hops than whole leaf hops, but many brewers consider them more difficult to work with (they can be difficult to strain out of the wort).
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • Tip # 1: Do sanitize all the equipment properly. If you accidentally contaminate it with bacteria you’re not going to poison yourself, but you will likely add “off flavors” that can make the beer taste less than palatable.
    Tip # 1: Do sanitize all the equipment properly. If you accidentally contaminate it with bacteria you’re not going to poison yourself, but you will likely add “off flavors” that can make the beer taste less than palatable.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • Tip #2: Don’t leave the brew pot unattended, because it may boil over, like this. When this happens, blame the most inexperienced member of your brewing crew.
    Tip #2: Don’t leave the brew pot unattended, because it may boil over, like this. When this happens, blame the most inexperienced member of your brewing crew.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • About five weeks later, the beer is ready! OK, time to consider some handy brewing tips and check out a few more photos of homebrewing equipment and homebrewers in action.
    About five weeks later, the beer is ready! OK, time to consider some handy brewing tips and check out a few more photos of homebrewing equipment and homebrewers in action.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • Yep, we’re in a basement. The generally cool temperatures of a basement are a great place to store beer as it ferments.
    Yep, we’re in a basement. The generally cool temperatures of a basement are a great place to store beer as it ferments.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • Another important piece of equipment: the primary fermenter, otherwise known as a bucket.
    Another important piece of equipment: the primary fermenter, otherwise known as a bucket.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • More brewing equipment: This is what an airlock looks like. The airlock keeps out ambient air that contains bacteria while allowing CO2 to escape. When the beer is fermenting, the liquid inside will start to bubble as CO2 passes through.
    More brewing equipment: This is what an airlock looks like. The airlock keeps out ambient air that contains bacteria while allowing CO2 to escape. When the beer is fermenting, the liquid inside will start to bubble as CO2 passes through.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • Tip #3: Measure the specific gravity of the beer with a hydrometer (shown here) to find the alcohol content of the beer. It may not be the specific gravity you were aiming for with the recipe, but knowing how close you got is a good learning experience.
    Tip #3: Measure the specific gravity of the beer with a hydrometer (shown here) to find the alcohol content of the beer. It may not be the specific gravity you were aiming for with the recipe, but knowing how close you got is a good learning experience.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • The brewing team hard at work. From left to right: Joe, Nathan, Nate and Amy.
    The brewing team hard at work. From left to right: Joe, Nathan, Nate and Amy.
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • It’s a beautiful day for homebrewing! Why not go start making a batch of beer right now?
    It’s a beautiful day for homebrewing! Why not go start making a batch of beer right now?
    Photo by Megan Phelps
  • Spent grain
    This is the spent grain from an all-grain batch of beer. All-grain brewing is cheaper than extract brewing, but it's easier to start with extract because it's simpler and requires less equipment. 
    MEGAN PHELPS
  • Brewing in action! Many homebrewers are eager to show interested new brewers how to get started. Here, experienced homebrewers Joe and Nathan, show beginning brewers Max and Nate the basics.
    Brewing in action! Many homebrewers are eager to show interested new brewers how to get started. Here, experienced homebrewers Joe and Nathan, show beginning brewers Max and Nate the basics.
    Photo by Megan Phelps

  • Learn how to brew your own beer. If you enjoy drinking flavorful beer, why not learn how to brew your own? It’s cheap, fun and delicious!
  • These are the ingredients for the basic brown ale described in this article. Batches of homebrew can be made using only malted barley grain (known as all-grain brewing). However, this beer uses malt extract as the primary source of the fermentable sugars, and a small amount of barley to fine tune the color and flavor.
  • This is a typical kitchen homebrewing setup. Your kitchen stove is a good place to start brewing, because it requires minimal equipment. Many brewers use propane burners and brew outdoors, as pictured elsewhere in this article. In either case, the basic steps for making this beer are the same.
  • The end goal — finished beer! This is homebrew that’s been bottled in a
  • A closer view of the brewpot and grain bag in action.
  • The malt extract is dumped into the brew pot.
  • This beer was made with the help of half a dozen people. Does it take this many people to make a batch of beer? No, but it sure is fun! Here, two of the brewing crew show off the dried malt extract.
  • Nathan (the author) begins brewing the brown ale by putting the grain bag into the brew pot.
  • Now the beer is being siphoned from the brew pot into the primary fermenter. The thermometer is to check the temperature to see if the beer is cool enough to add the yeast.
  • Adding — or pitching — the yeast. Fermentation is about to begin.
  • Now it’s time to add some hops. Here Amy, a first-time brewer, gets a closer look at the hops as Nathan, the author of this article, adds them to the pot.
  • A closeup of the hops. You can buy pellet hops, like these, or you can use whole leaf hops. Ounce for ounce, you can get a bit more flavor out of pellet hops than whole leaf hops, but many brewers consider them more difficult to work with (they can be difficult to strain out of the wort).
  • Tip # 1: Do sanitize all the equipment properly. If you accidentally contaminate it with bacteria you’re not going to poison yourself, but you will likely add “off flavors” that can make the beer taste less than palatable.
  • Tip #2: Don’t leave the brew pot unattended, because it may boil over, like this. When this happens, blame the most inexperienced member of your brewing crew.
  • About five weeks later, the beer is ready! OK, time to consider some handy brewing tips and check out a few more photos of homebrewing equipment and homebrewers in action.
  • Yep, we’re in a basement. The generally cool temperatures of a basement are a great place to store beer as it ferments.
  • Another important piece of equipment: the primary fermenter, otherwise known as a bucket.
  • More brewing equipment: This is what an airlock looks like. The airlock keeps out ambient air that contains bacteria while allowing CO2 to escape. When the beer is fermenting, the liquid inside will start to bubble as CO2 passes through.
  • Tip #3: Measure the specific gravity of the beer with a hydrometer (shown here) to find the alcohol content of the beer. It may not be the specific gravity you were aiming for with the recipe, but knowing how close you got is a good learning experience.
  • The brewing team hard at work. From left to right: Joe, Nathan, Nate and Amy.
  • It’s a beautiful day for homebrewing! Why not go start making a batch of beer right now?
  • Spent grain
  • Brewing in action! Many homebrewers are eager to show interested new brewers how to get started. Here, experienced homebrewers Joe and Nathan, show beginning brewers Max and Nate the basics.

Learn how to brew your own beer with this helpful guide. Homebrewing is a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to enjoy flavorful, affordable drinks.

How to Brew Your Own Beer

The revolution has happened. Chances are good that you live within a short drive of a brew pub, microbrewery, or — at the very least — a store from which you can purchase quality beer. In fact, the craft brew industry is so strong right now, you may wonder, “why even bother trying to brew my own beer?”

There are a few compelling reasons. First, you are in full control of the ingredients you put into your brew. This leads naturally to the second: Given that you have full control, you can brew beers to completely suit your own tastes, beers that commercial breweries would never risk brewing. Want to brew an American pale ale? Sure. Want to brew a chocolate cherry ancho pepper-flavored porter? Hey, I’m not here to judge. Third, while the initial cash outlay — though minimal — may intimidate some, it is far cheaper in the long run to brew your own beer than to buy microbrewed beer.

Beer Brew Tools

To get started brewing your own beer, you’ll need a few essential pieces of equipment. You can find all kinds of brewing supplies at local homebrew supply shops, or mail order online at sites such as Northern Brewer and William's Brewing.



The brew kettle. This can be a regular stainless steel, enameled iron or aluminum stockpot, preferably 12 quarts or larger. For advanced brewing, the kettle must be at least 6 gallons in size, but for the purposes of this article, 12 quarts will do. This is the most expensive piece of brewing equipment, but you can get it for about $40. Altogether the rest of the equipment may run you another $50 or $60.

A soup spoon. This can be plastic, wooden or steel; it doesn’t matter.

ArkieGirl72638
10/23/2013 11:10:31 AM

A friend and I brewed our Fourth of July celebration beer. It was a dark stout and we used 10 lbs of Bing Cherries in the mix. People went crazy for it...now we brew beer at least twice a month, sharing expense and splitting the booty!! I wouldn't mind a keg set up and will have to look into that. Luckily, I have a great root cellar and store all my beer there. Maybe wine is the next logical step...I planted grape vines last year...hhhmmmm!


daynanator
5/6/2013 12:26:40 AM

 

Just like most things... beer is better when it is home made. I use a crawfish pot and burner for the boil kettle, an old ice chest (with a few modifications) for a mash run, and old icing buckets (I got for free from a grocery store) for fermentation. I keg everything I brew. 5 gallons of beer for $20... can't argue with that logic. 


Patrick Klungle
11/1/2012 12:21:42 PM

I brewed by own beer and find it a lot like cooking. Having some one in joy the bold fresh taste of my beer is like having somebody enjoy a cake I just made. He gives a sense of pride and accomplishment as someone might find in baking or cooking. The techniques and style vary from individual and at the end you truly have a handcrafted beer. I think it's an enjoyable experience and fun to try. Author of the book - Beer Ingredients II, The Ultimate Beer Ingredient Guide, What Does What.




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