If you have read some of my previous blogs you will know that I am an avid beer drinker. What you may not know is that I have toyed with the idea of brewing my own beer for about two years now and have always found myself dreaming, thinking, and wondering if I could even do it. Words like fermenters, airlocks, and carboys danced in my head, and intimidation set in like the hair of the dog on a Sunday morning. Well on my recent birthday my loving boyfriend had purchased me my first home brewing kit as a present. I was so surprised and I am obviously thrilled, but now I have no more excuses. It’s time to brew.
So the question now becomes what do I do with all of this equipment? I opened this box of jugs, plastic buckets, tubes, nozzles and valves of all sizes, and I was once again intimidated. Much to my desire in this moment of desperation and self-doubt, there was this little book to be found in this large box of mystery items titled: Handcraft Brewing Guide – A Beginners Guide to Home Brewing, and it has put my mind at ease. I can really do this! (And I’m sure you can too!)
Equipment, it’s not so scary, like anything else everything has its name. A fermenter is nothing more than a pail or a bucket. Plastic, with a wide top. Most beer making shops sell buckets in 6 – 7 ½ gallons in size and their lids will have drilled holes in them for airlocks. An airlock is a one-way valve that lets the carbon dioxide out that will be produced during fermentation, and it also keeps the air out as to not affect your wort. Wort is the solid grains (malt/hops) that are separated from the sugary broth that the grains have been boiling in during the brew. A carboy is simply a five gallon glass water bottle that can be fitted with a stopper and an airlock. Carboys are used as a secondary fermenter when brewing beers that have an extended fermentation time or aging periods, such as a lager.
So we will need the following for our first brew:
A large stainless steel pot, 16 – 20 quart capacity, this will be your brew pot.
A large vessel for fermenting, like a plastic bucket in 6.5 – 7 gallon capacity. You’ll want a bucket with a lid that comes drilled and grommeted to accept an airlock.
An airlock, which is a small plastic water valve which gets placed at the top of your fermenter (the plastic bucket,) that lets CO2 escape without letting outside air in.
A siphon set-up, this is all of that plastic tubing, with various rigid tips for transferring beer between your buckets and bottles, five foot in length of 3/8 or 5/16 inch inside diameter.
A strainer, cheesecloth or fine nylon on top of a kitchen colander would be great.
A large funnel
A bottling bucket, which is a second plastic bucket with a spigot at the bottom.
Bottles, long necked and brown in color with non-screw top bottles. You’ll need two cases of 12-ounce bottles for each 5 gallon batch of beer.
Bottle capping device
Cleanser and sanitizer
Cleaning brushes, a bottle brush and a carboy brush.
A Hydrometer, thermometer, pH papers, or a pH meter will also prove to be helpful.
Once we have all of our equipment, then we’ll be on our way to home brewing. Check back in a few days and we’ll explore the next step, purchasing ingredients for the first brew. We will use only four ingredients – barley malt, hops, yeast, and water. Brewing in its purist and simplest form. I am going to visit the Bell’s General Store where they have lots of home brewing supplies. I’ll probably start with a Pale Ale or an IPA for my first brew, and I look forward to exploring the world of home brewing with you soon.