Brewing Beer For Beginners

American craft beer has gone a long way since its early days in the 1960s in California, with independent brewers springing up in communities of all sizes. 

While it’s true that you can probably pick up world-class brew just down the street, brewing your beer has several benefits and is much simpler than you may think.

If you’d like the know the basic process of brewing beer for beginners, I’ll walk you through it below.

Now let’s get brewing. 

What Qualifies As Beer? 

Enjoying A Glass Of Beer With A Friend.

Even though it may sound simplistic, a foundational understanding of our craft is essential to succeed as home brewers.

Beer is a work of art that has a life of its own.

But first, we must learn beer’s “genetic blueprint” before we can brew our biological symphonies. 

Whipping up some beer will make a lot more sense after that.

As a bonus, we’ll have something to look back on as we hone our brewing techniques.

So, what is beer made of? 

The Germans provide a valuable point of reference for answering this question.

Possibly you’ve heard of the Reinheitsgebot, the beer purity law in Germany. 

Going back to the 16th century, it declared that the only components that could be used to make beer were water, barley, and hops. 

I won’t bore you with the background of why this rule was passed (has the government ever met an industry it didn’t want to regulate? ), but you may have noticed that it left out a crucial ingredient: yeast! 

That’s because, back in the 1500s, nobody realized how vital yeast was to brewing beer.

To get the yeast into the beer, brewers would either use yeast from the sediments of previous batches or let the beer sit out for a while so that wild yeast could do its job. 

Louis Pasteur, a French chemist working in the 1800s, is credited with discovering yeast’s crucial function in fermentation.

We’ve all had artisan beers that have more than just four components, of course.

Nonetheless, these four pillars form the foundation for comprehending the “genetic blueprint” of beer.

I’ll tackle each one below.

Try the beer in a bag too.

Beer Ingredients 

Containers With Beer Brewing Ingredients.

Water 

This is the primary component of any brew by far.

About 90–96% of each beer formula is water.

In light of this, it makes sense to go for clean, “tasty” water.   

As you progress in your brewing beer beginners skills, you may explore ways to alter the water (by adding minerals, for example) or get spring water to give your brew a distinctive flavor.  

For now, tap water that is safe to drink can also be used for brewing.

Most of us in North America can get by with water from our taps. 

You should drink bottled water instead of tap water if the local water supply contains high sulfur, iron, or bicarbonate levels. 

The same goes if you notice your water tastes like chlorine.

Otherwise, it should brew just fine if it tastes pure.

Related Reading: What Is The Best Water For Brewing Beer? – Read It Here.

Barley 

Barley is our primary source of sugar for brewing.

While barley’s appearance resembles wheat’s, the two are different.  

That’s because the barley was steeped in water at just the right temperature and pressure by a professional maltster so that the grains could germinate. 

After harvesting, the grains are dried to stop further development.

During this step, sugars and starches are formed for later use in the beer-making process. 

Most 1-gallon recipes call for 2 pounds of malted barley or grains.

The style will, of course, affect the outcome.

However, it requires one more process before it can be used: milling (crushing). 

Most homebrew stores offer grain milling services, and many online retailers now provide pre-milled grains. 

If you can’t get your hands on any of those, place your grains in a large ziplock bag and gingerly crush them with a rolling pin.

However, it’s highly advised to have your grains milled if possible.

It would be best to consider barley (malt) as the essence of your beer.

Its importance is frequently underappreciated.

Related Reading: All About Malty Beer – Learn More Here.

Hops 

This is the favorite component of many beer drinkers.

In the wild (or on a farm), a hop plant can reach 18 feet, making it a remarkable botanical specimen. 

And it turns out that the hop, or Humulus lupulus, is connected to hemp, just like everyone has been saying! 

Hops are used to counteract the sweetness of the malt by adding bitterness and, typically, a flowery flavor to the beer.

Hops, in addition to being a tasty addition, prevent beer from turning rancid.

This is how the India Pale Ale was invented!

Related Reading: A List Of Hoppy Beer And Measuring Hoppiness – Read It Here.

Yeasts

There are entire books dedicated to yeast and its miraculous properties.

I’ll do my best to keep this short so we can discuss brewing beer. 

Yeasts ferment carbohydrates into ethanol and carbon dioxide gas.

Beer wouldn’t be beer if it didn’t have it.

Yeasts, which are microbes and therefore alive, thrive on sugar as nutrition. 

Wild yeasts abound, but most are unpalatable when added to beer.

Fortunately, a wide range of beer yeasts has been developed, and each can add its unique flavor to the beer they ferment. 

Beer yeasts can be broken down into two distinct families: lager and ale yeasts.

In contrast to ale yeasts, which ferment at warmer temperatures, lager yeasts require cooler temperatures for their fermentation process.

Related Reading: Choosing Between Yeasty Beers – Learn More Here.

The Equipment You’ll Need

One Of The Equipment Needed In The Brewing Process.

A Starter Kit 

I suggest you get a beer brewing starter kit to not overcomplicate your first batch. 

All the tools you need to ferment, transfer, and bottle your beer are included in these kits, which are also usually reasonably priced.

You’ll probably need to buy your bottles, though. 

All the necessary equipment, including a fermenting bucket, bottling bucket, bottling wand, bottle capper, auto-siphon, transfer tubing, an airlock, and sanitizer solution, should come in a quality starter kit. 

You’ll need a large enough pot or kettle, propane burner, and brewing kit.

The stovetop in some homes probably isn’t big enough to safely hold a kettle containing seven to eight gallons of water. 

Also, a digital thermometer is essential for monitoring steeping and pitching temperatures.

Brew Kettle 

When working with 5-gallon batches, I advise using a standard 7-8-gallon pot.

This way, you’ll have ample room to prevent any potential spills. 

You can get some standard kettles by Bayou Classic, which are always worth looking at.

Remember that a beer batch’s average volume is 5.55 gallons. 

A 6-gallon kettle will do the trick, but it will be up to the brim when adding more top-up water.

The MegaPot 1.2 series from Northern Brewer is an excellent investment if you’re searching for a more robust and refined brew kettle that will evolve with you.

Gas Burner

You will probably also need a propane burner, which you can pick up at any hardware shop.

You don’t have to get anything that expensive.

It would be best if you had something stable and substantial to put your wort-filled kettle on.

Related Reading; The Pros And Cons Of Using An Electric Brewer – Dive Deeper Here.

12 Oz. Bottles or Keg

You’ll need around 48 amber 12-ounce bottles and bottle caps if your kit doesn’t include them.

You may buy new ones or use empty beer bottles after removing the labels. 

Though this part is incredibly tedious, it will help you save money.

Bottle recycling might be an exercise in perseverance, but the payoff is well worth the effort.

Alternatively, you can keg your homebrew, albeit doing so is more expensive and time-consuming.

Related Reading: Your Guide To Beer Keg Sizes – Learn It Here.

Extract Recipe Kit 

As a beginner, try using a recipe kit.

While experienced homebrewers create their recipes from scratch, beginners can get by with a kit that includes premeasured ingredients and instructions. 

All you have to do is stick to the provided instructions.

You can find countless kits on the internet, some of which even include replicas of popular commercial brands of beer.

Related Reading: How To Brew Beer At Home Without A Kit – Read More Here.

The Step-By-Step Process of Brewing Beer

A Step In The Beer Brewwing Process.

Step 1: Sanitation. 

The brewing process doesn’t start with the brew itself.

Once you’ve gathered all your supplies, the first step is sanitation. 

You must first clean and sterilize ALL of your tools and equipment.

Understand that this is a crucial step that cannot be skipped. 

Be thorough, and do not try to cut corners! 

Cleaning and sanitizing anything that will come into contact with your beer throughout the brewing process with an approved sanitation solution, like Five Star Star-San, is an absolute must.

No-rinse options are my go-to because they save time without compromising effectiveness.

After sterilizing your brewing tools, you may begin the brewing process.

Next up, a beginner’s guide to brewing beer.

Step 2: Set up the brew. 

During brewing, you must pay the closest attention for the longest time. 

It is crucial to stick to a regimented timetable and keep a careful eye on the brewing process as it unfolds. 

This step is broken down into several more minor phases, each critical.

These steps are mashing, lautering, and boiling.

Correct as many things as possible, as they will affect the final beer’s quality. 

You can’t skip any of these essential brewing stages, as they will be the foundation for your final product.

If you make a mistake, it will have effects later on.

Remember that the first few times you try to brew beer at home, you will probably fumble a few times. 

Please don’t let this dampen your spirits. 

Remember that errors like these are unavoidable in the early stages of any endeavor and that you are not alone in this.

Write down, recognize your mistakes, and turn setbacks into learning opportunities.

Related Reading: What Goes On In A Home Brew – Learn More Here.

Choosing Your Brewing Method 

Brewing can be done using an extract, a partial mash, or an all-grain approach.

According to their names, these processes vary mainly in how the beer’s foundation is laid.

Extract Brewing 

The “wort” (beer’s base) is made from either dry, liquid, or a combination of grain extracts. 

Extract brewing is excellent for beginners and even experienced homebrewers because it requires less space, time, and equipment than traditional homebrewing methods. 

Despite their increased knowledge and skill, some brewers insist on using extract brewing techniques because they are the most time-efficient.

Partial Mash 

During partial mash brewing, also known as “mini-mash,” malt extract is used in addition to grain. 

The range of options available regarding your beer’s taste, texture, color, and appearance increases dramatically when you use both ingredients. 

Those who have already brewed successfully using extract-only techniques and have a firm grasp of the process but are eager to push things further may find this a significant next step. 

The shift from extract-only brewing is simple because it doesn’t need much additional time, equipment, or space.

All-Grain Brewing 

The final option is all-grain brewing.

It’s the most authentic way to brew beer, but it takes more time, a more extensive setup (and hence more money), and expert knowledge of the process. 

Because all-grain brewers don’t use malt extracts, all of their beer’s sugars come directly from the grains, giving them more leeway in recipe formulation. 

This, in turn, can lead to a greater likelihood of errors occurring.

Only a seasoned homebrewer who thoroughly understands the process should attempt all-grain brewing to get the best results.

Step 3: Get brewin’. 

Now that you know your brewing options, let’s review the minor phases.

Mashing

mashing

To provide the yeast with the nutrition they require, the starches in the grain must be converted to sugar during the mash process.

In addition, it will serve as the foundation for your beer’s color, body, and flavor.

The process of mashing is analogous to that of steeping tea. 

The grain bill will be submerged in hot water, where the starches will be gently broken down, and the key enzymes within the grain will be activated, converting the starches to fermentable sugars. 

Paying attention to the water quality, temperature, and stirring during the mash is crucial.

Lautering 

Lautering, or separating the wort from the grain, is the next phase.

Following the mash, the grain is filtered to release any remaining sugars.

Ultimately, you’re doing this to maximize your return on investment. 

Because the yeast feeds on sugar during fermentation, a higher sugar concentration increases the likelihood that the beer will ferment successfully and produce alcohol rather than sugar water.

The lautering process may vary, depending on the style of brewing.

But in nearly all cases, a technique termed “sparging” is included. 

In the sparging process, water is heated to a higher temperature than the mash and is then poured over the grain to “rinse” it of any excess sugars. 

Some specialized brewing equipment may be needed, but the basic process remains unchanged.

Boiling 

Despite their similarities, the boil and the mash are two distinct steps in the brewing process.

The starch-to-sugar conversion in the mash does not occur at a boiling temperature. 

It takes place at a significantly greater temperature than the mash (about 212°F depending on elevation) and lasts much longer.

The hops won’t be able to thrive in the wort unless the enzymes are killed off, the oxygen is removed, and the pH is lowered, all of which happen during the boil.

Hops are a vital component of beer and can be used in various ways to generate numerous effects. 

It offers bitterness to the beer, counteracting the sweetness of the grain, and strikes a balance that is important no matter what style of beer you’re making. 

Providing flavor and aroma to beer and can be added at any point during the boil.

They are a flavorful addition to beer and a natural preservative that helps keep it safe from microorganisms and other contaminants.

When done correctly, the boil will establish ideal conditions for fermentation.

Step 4: Chilling the wort. 

As soon as the boil is over, the wort must be cooled rapidly to avoid contamination.

The wort needs to be cooled to room temperature in under 20 minutes.

This could be easy if your batch is small enough or not if the room temperature is too high.

Here are the two usual approaches: 

Ice Bath 

ice bath

Most amateur brewers will choose the ice bath method of cooling wort in the first few brewing times.

Sinks, bathtubs, or other big containers can be filled with cold water and loaded with ice, depending on the size of your batch.

Once the ice bath has been prepared, the brew kettle should be lowered slowly while the wort is constantly stirred to ensure even cooling. 

If you don’t want any bath water to get into the pot, be very careful when placing it in the bath. 

The ice will melt quickly due to the high temperature of the kettle and wort.

Continue to add ice until you reach room temperature.

Wort Chiller

Wort chillers, available in immersion, counterflow, and plate styles, are a modern, efficient method for lowering the temperature of the wort. 

These are more expensive but worth it because they can be used repeatedly without ice and maintain their cooling effect each time.

Step 5: Transfer to the primary fermenter. 

Once the wort has been cooled, it should be moved to a fermenter.

The wort and sterile topping-up water should fit comfortably in your chosen container.

Once you have the right amount of liquid, you may take the initial gravity reading.

The reading will tell you how dense the wort is compared to the density of water, known as its specific gravity. 

To know how much alcohol is in your beer, you can measure its gravity and determine its alcohol by volume (ABV).

With a hydrometer, you may determine the first gravity reading, sometimes called the original gravity (OG).

It would be best to get a sample of your wort and put it in a test tube before getting an accurate reading.

Ideally, you’d use a hydrometer test jar or another comparable cylindrical container, but the tube most hydrometers come in is enough in a pinch. 

Put the hydrometer into the container with the wort sample and shake it until completely submerged. 

The OG is the line at which the liquid level is precisely equal.

Please take note of this figure, as you will want to refer to it once fermentation is complete.

Step 6: Pitch the yeast.

After getting a gravity reading, it’s time to add in the yeast.

This process is known as “pitching” in the domain of brewing. 

To get the best results from your brew, you need to pay close attention to the yeast’s condition before you pitch it.

It would be best to let your yeast sit out at room temperature for about three hours before pitch time to ensure that it is active and ready to go when the time comes to pitch. 

When you do this, fermentation goes more smoothly, leading to a higher-quality beer.

When your yeast is ready, “pitch” it into the fermenting vessel and aerate the mixture by stirring it briskly with a sterilized spoon or by sealing the lid and shaking the jar. 

Aeration is crucial because it restores the oxygen content of the wort, which was lost during the boiling process. 

The yeast can’t grow without oxygen, so that’s necessary if you want the fermentation process to end successfully.

Once the yeast has been added (liquid yeast or dry yeast) and the mixture has been aerated, the container should be covered with a clean airlock or equivalent blow-off valve to allow the CO2 to escape while keeping out the air.

Step 7: Fermentation. 

Successful fermentation is the key to creating a great beer.

Fermentation does not need constant monitoring as the brewing process does, but it still needs to be occasionally watched for the duration of the operation.

Fermentation is suggested to be divided into primary and secondary phases.

Primary Fermentation 

To produce alcohol and carbon dioxide, yeast must be given access to carbohydrates during primary fermentation.

The procedure also allows any sediment to settle to the bottom of the container, separating them from the beer. 

Yeast cells, unneeded proteins, and hops are all part of the “trub” collected during brewing.

Depending on the type of beer you’re brewing, this step can take anywhere from a week to two months.

Primary fermentation should start after the yeast has been added and respiration has finished, which takes about 12 hours.

Keep the environment between 68- and 72 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal fermentation results.

Fermentation is well underway if you smell carbon dioxide gas coming from the container. 

A common sign of a well-functioning airlock is bubbling inside the airlock itself.

This indicates that the yeast is fermenting the sugars successfully.

When bubbling frequency decreases, you can assume that primary fermentation is nearly over.

Beer should be moved to a secondary fermenter at this point.

Secondary Fermentation 

While most fermenting has already happened during primary fermentation, some fermentable and active yeast cells are still left. 

Transferring your beer to a secondary fermenter and letting it last longer will allow the remaining yeast to convert the more complex sugars. 

This results in a higher-quality beer with enhanced clarity, a more mellow flavor profile, a decreased risk of infection, and the introduction of off-tastes.

Brewers often do dry hopping during the second fermentation of the beer.

Of course, dry hopping is style-dependent, particularly for IPAs and other hoppy beers. 

The gentle infusion of oil and fragrance from the hops is best achieved after secondary fermentation when the rapid release of CO2 has already taken place.

The secondary fermentation stage requires at least a week, but you can take as much time as you like.

Related Reading: Fermenting Maple Syrup – Find Out Here.

Step 7: Take the final gravity reading and alcohol content. 

After the beer has spent enough time in the secondary fermenter, the final gravity reading (also known as “FG”) can be taken.

Beer’s alcohol level depends entirely on the yeast’s work throughout fermentation, which may be determined by measuring the beer’s final gravity.

Take your FG reading in the same way as your OG one, maintaining the same rigorous standards of cleanliness.

As you now know the exact percentage of alcohol in your drink, you might be itching to try it out.

Alas, the beer is not yet carbonated and will need additional conditioning.

Step 8: Bottling and kegging. 

Bottling Beer After Brewing.

Beer must be stored in an airtight container to carbonate and condition before consumption.

Two common approaches are bottle and keg storage.

While bottling has traditionally been thought of as the less complicated option for homebrewers (especially with a bottle filler), kegging has recently gained favor and is arguing that it is, in fact, the superior option. 

There is no “wrong” way to do something, and each approach has merits.

The beer’s temperature and the amount of CO2 you want to add affect the final carbonation level.

Related Reading: Brewing Or Buying Beer – Which is Cheaper? – Deep Dive Here.

Final Thoughts 

Congratulations, you have made it as a first-time home brewer!

Feels great, huh? To that end, I offer my sincere appreciation for reading this guide. 

It might not be as in-depth as you want, but you’ll learn the ins and outs of beer brewing the more you do it. 

By now, at least, you know the general steps involved in crafting your brews!