Humans have been making fermented beverages for as long as 12,000 years, and beer production as we know it today dates back 5,000 years.
The brewers back then didn’t have the giant brew kettles and mash tuns you’ll find in commercial breweries today. And for brewing beer at home, you won’t need them either.
Making homemade beer only requires a few inexpensive tools and a bit of patience. It gives you an opportunity to experiment with flavors and aromas that you’ll only otherwise get in an expensive 6 pack of craft beer.
If you’re ready to embark on your first DIY beer batch, keep reading to learn what you need, how to do it, and how much it’s going to cost you.
Equipment for Brewing Beer at Home
Brewing beer at home is as easy as buying yourself a home brewing kit at your local brew shop. They usually come with all the tools you need and even include ingredients. But if you think beer brewing will be your new hobby, you should consider investing in some brewing equipment.
- a carboy – aka the large glass jug used for fermenting and storing your beer
- an auto-siphon – for transferring the beer out of the carboy and into bottles
- empty bottles, a bottle capper, and a bottling tip – for bottling your beer properly
- a hydrometer – for testing the alcohol content of your brew
From your kitchen, you’ll need a pot that can hold up to four gallons of liquid, a large spoon to stir with, and a thermometer.
Ingredients for DIY Beer
There are four main ingredients that go into every brew. These are:
- Hops. Used during the boil to add bitterness, hops are flowers from the Humulus lupulus plant. They’re sometimes added at the end of the boil to add fragrance to the brew.
- Grains. Grains add flavor, aroma, color, and body to a brew. They’re crushed and placed in a grain steeping bag and used to make your wort.
- Malt extract. The sugars extracted from milled grains are called malt. While there are methods for extracting those sugars yourself, using a malt extract is a more convenient way to brew beer at home.
- Yeast. Yeast is a single-celled fungus and the most important part of the fermentation process. It consumes the malt sugars to produce alcohol.
- Priming sugar. This mix of water and sugar finishes off your brew after fermentation has taken place.
- Water. 90% of beer is water, so the water you use to brew is important. It should be clean, free of odors, moderately hard (in terms of minerality), and low to moderate in alkalinity.
Any other ingredients will depend on what kind of beer you’re going to brew. Look on the internet for recipes for porters, ales, pale ales, pilsners… whatever kind of beer you fancy. Part of the fun of homebrewing is that you can experiment with the recipes as much as you want.
The Process of How to Brew Your Own Beer
The first step to any DIY beer brewing process is to clean and sanitize your equipment. This will ensure that no contaminants ruin the fermentation process or change the fragrance and flavor of your recipe.
Then, you’re ready for the real fun/
Steep the Grains
The first step in brewing your own beer is boiling the water and steeping the grains. You’ll need about two gallons of water and your grain bag filled with crushed grains.
Once the water reaches a boil, drop the grain bag in and let it steep for 20 minutes before removing. The water should change to a murky shade of brown.
Add the Malt
That shady brown liquid is your wort. In this step, you’ll prepare the wort for fermentation.
When the grain bag is removed, bring the wort to a rolling boil and then remove it from the heat source. Add the malt extract and the hops, stirring until dissolved.
Return the pot to heat and let it boil for about an hour. Five minutes before that hour is up, add the finishing hops.
Cool It Down and Transfer
After boiling, the wort needs to be cooled down to 70 degrees. You’ll need to cool it as quickly as possible. Have an ice bath ready in your sink for this purpose.
Use your thermometer to check that the wort is cool enough. Then siphon it into your carboy and add two to three gallons of water. To aerate the wort, use a diffusion stone or rock the carboy back and forth.
Add the Yeast
Drop in your yeast and top the carboy with a bubbler.
Let It Ferment
Most DIY beer brews will take about two weeks to ferment. When there are bubbles coming through the bubbler, you’ll know it’s ready.
Alternatively, you can measure the attenuation of your brew. For more on how to do that, visit this site.
Add the Final Touch
When your beer is ripe, you’ll need to finish it with priming sugar. Add your priming sugar to two cups of boiling water and let it dissolve. Add this solution to the beer and you’re ready to bottle or consume!
How Much Does Brewing Beer at Home Cost?
The question really comes down to whether picking up a 6 pack of beer at your local shop is cheaper than brewing beer at home. And the answer is: that all depends on what kind of beer you’re looking for.
If you’re happy to drink run-of-the-mill, big brand beer, it’s probably cheaper to buy your 6 pack from the store. But if you’re not satisfied by anything less than a craft brew, then brewing beer at home is your best bet.
With that said, as long as your not thinking about starting a business out of it, the equipment and basic ingredients you need will cost about $200. But you can find home brewing kits for as little as $150.
More Ways to Save
All you need to get started brewing beer at home is about $200 in equipment and ingredients, a great recipe, and some patience while you wait for it to ferment. If you’re a craft-beer lover then making homemade beer is an affordable way to explore all the flavors and scents that the brewing industry has to offer.
And for more ways to save and manage your finances, check out our personal finance blog.