How To Brew Your First Beer

by John J. Palmer

Brewing a beer is a combination of several general processes. First is the mixing of ingredients and bringing the solution (wort) to a boil. Second is the cooling of the wort to the fermentation temperature. Next the wort is transferred to the fermenter and the yeast is added. After fermentation, the raw beer is siphoned off the yeast sediment and bottled with a little extra sugar to provide the carbonation. But there are three important things to keep in mind every time you brew: Cleanliness, Preparation and Good Record Keeping.

Cleanliness: - Cleanliness is the foremost concern of the brewer. After all, Fermentation is the manipulation of living organisms, the yeast. Providing good growing conditions for the yeast in the beer also provides good growing conditions for other micro-organisms, including bacteria. Cleanliness must be maintained throughout every stage of the brewing process.

Preparation:- Take the time to prepare your brewing area. Have the ingredients ready on the counter. Prepare your brewing water. Have the ice on- hand to cool the wort when its done boiling. Is the Fermenter clean and sanitized? Make sure that all equipment is clean and ready to go before starting. Patience and planning are necessities.

Record Keeping - Always keep good notes on what ingredients, amounts and times were used in the brewing process. The brewer needs to be able to repeat good batches and learn from poor ones.

Brewing Terms - The following terms will be used throughout these instructions. Many of the terms come from German and appropriate pronunciations are given. On the other hand, German pronunciation is optional.

Required Equipment:

Optional but Highly Recommended

Bottling Bucket - A 6 gallon food-grade plastic pail with attached spigot and fill-tube. The finished beer is racked into this for priming prior to bottling. Racking into the bottling bucket allows clearer beer with less sediment in the bottle. The spigot set-up is used instead of the Bottle Filler above, allowing greater control of the fill level and no hassles with a siphon during bottling.

Ingredients Commercial beer kits always provide 3-4 pounds of malt extract and instructions to add a couple pounds of sugar. Don't Do It! The resultant beer will have an unpleasant cidery taste. The following is a basic beer recipe:

This is a basic Ale beer and quite tasty. You will be amazed. Further descriptions of the ingredients follow.

Malt Extract:




Yeast Starter

The Wort and Oxygen


Beginning the Boil

Cooling the Wort

Pitching the Yeast


Use of Secondary Fermenters (Optional)

A Word About Hydrometers

Priming & Bottling

Some Things to Watch out for:

Contamination of beer can happen at any stage of the brewing process. Some are not readily apparent. But any problem that can be easily drank will not cause physical harm. A few infections that may cause severe gastric distress will first be noted by their appalling smell. Here are some warning signs:
  1. Mold floating on top of the fermenting beer. Toss it.
  2. The beer has slimy strands in it. This is a sure sign of Lacto infection. Toss it.
  3. The bottled beer has a milky layer at the top and/or small residue bumps clinging to the sides of the bottle neck in the airspace. This is a micro-derm infection. The beer will smell rotten and taste nasty. Do not confuse this with the dew that condenses near the bottle cap; the dew is normal. Also, Priming with DME will leave a protein ring around the top of the bottle, just like what is left on the sides of the fermenter. This is also normal.
  4. The bottled beer has a very sweet smell, like molasses. This is a sign of an Aceto (acetic) infection. The beer is on its way to turning into malt vinegar. Malt vinegar is good, but not what was intended.
  5. The bottled beers are getting worse with time, a stale, cardboard-like or sherry-like flavor is becoming noticeable. This is a symptom of oxidation. Drink the beers sooner and try to avoid splashing the hot wort next time.
  6. A skunk-like or cat-musk smell. The beer is light struck. Always store beer in a dark or shaded area.

Recommended Reading:



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