Welcome to homebrewing, a fun and easy hobby that many start for different reasons. Some enjoy the hands-on process of creating something of their own, some are swept up by the continuing creativity of the craft breweries and want to experiment themselves, and others want to save costs rather than buying by the case from a retail beer outlet. Brewing can be as simple or complex as you want it to be, there are many different ways to brew beer. In this section, we are going to show you one way, and we are going to keep it as simple as we can be for someone just starting out with their first batch. We're going to walk through the equipment, the ingredients and the process. This is not intended to teach you everything there is to know about brewing, more to come on that later, this is to kick things off in the right direction.

The following items are required for a basic brew day:

Brew Pot: Used for boiling wort. For a 5 gallon batch, we recommend a brew pot size of at least 8 gallons. A full boil will result in a better beer. Using a smaller pot requires topping off the finished boil with water to the fermenter.

Thermometer: There are temperature readings required during the process. A brew pot with one installed is ideal, but a handheld digital thermometer will work as well.

Cleaner/Sanitizer: Equipment needs to be cleaned and sanitized before use. Only the equipment after the boil requires sanitization.

Fermentation Vessel: Bucket or carboy, something food grade to contain your beer while it ferments.

Air Lock & Stopper: This is inserted into the top of the fermentation vessel to keep your beer from being oxidized during fermentation. Allows for Co2 to escape and keeps from anything getting into your beer.

Hydrometer & Jar: Use to figure out original and final gravity (before and after fermentation) to calculate your alcohol percentage.

The following ingredients are found in a typical Extract Kit recipe:

  • Malt Extract: This comes in two forms, liquid and dry. Some kits are all liquid, some kits can contain both. These Malt Extracts are sugars that are extracted from malted barley, this is what the yeast ferments. Lighter varieties can produce grainy/bready flavours and aromas, whereas darker extracts can be nutty/chocolate/roasty.
  • Steeping Grains: Cracked/crushed grains are steeped like tea before boiling the wort. This gives additional flavours and colour to the finished beer. A wide variety of malts produce different flavours like caramel, chocolate, coffee, honey, etc.
  • Hops: Typically kits will include a bittering hop and a flavouring hop. Some will include multiple flavouring hops for a hoppy beer, or sometimes no flavouring hops for a maltier beer. Hops add the bitterness to a beer and also a wide variety of flavours and aromas like citrus, pine, grassy, earthy, floral.
  • Yeast: A packet of yeast does all the fermenting. Yeast eats all the sugars that are provided by the malt, and this is what creates the alcohol in the beer. There are Ale yeasts, also known as "top-fermenting yeast". And there are Lager Yeasts, also known as "bottom-fermenting yeast". These yeast work at different temperature ranges, lagers are cold-fermented, ales are a bit warmer. We recommend ales for beginners as it's much easier to find a room to ferment in the ale range.
  • (Other): Sugars & Spices. Certain styles may call for specific ingredients. Vanilla beans for a Vanilla Stout, or Belgian Candi Syrup for a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, the experimentation can be endless for what goes into a recipe.
This How-To will use our West Coast IPA 5 Gallon Extract Recipe kit, but the instructions should work for all the same. The West Coast IPA 5 Gallon Extract Recipe kit can be found in the 5 Gallon Extract Kit Section.

West Coast IPA 5 Gallon Ingredient Kit

The Process

  • After acquiring your own kettle (with thermometer and ball valve) you are ready to begin the brewing process. Preparation is key to a smooth brew day. Have everything cleaned and set out where it's accessible as you need it.
  • Take your yeast out of the fridge at this time to allow to warm to room temperature, between now and when the brewing is finished, it should be ready to go.

Step #1 - Collecting Pre-Boil Volume
  • Collect approximately 6.25 gallons of room temperature water in the brew pot and begin heating.
  • This can be done on a propane burner (turkey fryer) outside, or in the kitchen on your stovetop.
  • Any water that is fine for drinking is fine for brewing. Tap water or spring water is okay for use.

Step #2 - Steeping Specialty Grains
    • Pour the crushed specialty grains into a muslin steeping bag (included in the kit), tie off the open end in a knot and steep the bag and grains into your kettle. Some kits contain multiple different types of grain if so do this for each.
    • Grains are steeped as you would a tea bag in hot water. Steeping grains add flavour/aroma and colour to a brew.
    • As the water is heating, steep the grains for 20-30 minutes or until the temperature reaches 170°F. Do not steep the grains over temperatures of 170°F, this will lead to bitter off flavours and undesirable tannin qualities.
    • When the temperature has been reached, the steeping bag can be removed and grains can be discarded.
    • The muslin steeping bag can be washed and reused for future batches.

      Step #3 - Adding the Malt Extract
      • After the grains have been removed at 170°, allow the water to continue to heat.
      • When the water begins to boil turn off the heat and add in the Malt Extract Syrup (and/or Dry Malt Extract depending on your kit).
      • With a long-handled spoon from your kitchen, stir thoroughly after adding the Extract, this prevents sticking to the bottom of the brew pot.
      • Once added, you now have what is called wort (pronounced "wert"), which is unfermented beer.

      Step #4 - Start the Boil
      • Turn on the heat and return to a boil.
      • Keep a close eye on the kettle as any Extract or sugar additions will result in extra foaming on top of the boil. (*TIP: FermCap S is a great foam control additive that further prevents from boil-overs!)
      • Adjust heat as needed. A nice, rolling boil is ideal. Also, do not cover the brew pot with a lid.

      Step #5 - Hop and Sugar Additions
      • Start a timer for 60 minutes, this will be the length of your boil.
      • On your recipe instructions page, you will see a list of hops and addition times.
      • For example; a 60-minute addition means from 60 minutes until the end of the boil, so it is the first addition.
      • A 5-minute addition would be 5 minutes from the end of the boil.
      • The 60-minute addition is the bittering addition.
      • Adding a hop at the beginning of the boil will create bitterness.
      • Hops added closer to the end of the boil are for flavour and aroma, less of the characteristics will be boiled off letting the hop profile shine through in the brew.
      • (Note: Not all kits will include late addition hops, usually the maltier beer styles).
      • (Note: If the recipe has any sugar additions; Corn Sugar or Belgian Candi Syrup. They are typically added to the beginning of the boil as well).

      Step #6 - Post-Boil
      • After all hop additions are complete and your timer reaches zero, the heat for the boil can be turned off.
      • You should be left with approximately one less gallon of wort, approximately 5.25 gallons.
      • Record your boil off amount so you can make any adjustments depending on your setup on the next batch. Each heat source and brew pot dimensions will have a different boil-off rate.

      Step #7 - Chilling the Wort
      • Place the brew pot in a sink or tub and add ice cold water around it. (Or if you have a handy snowbank nearby, that can work too!)
      • If your brew pot has a thermometer installed, do not submerge it in the water. Instead, fill water to below the thermometer and wrap a towel around the pot with the bottom of the towel in the water. The towel will soak up the water and cool the upper portion of the pot.
      • Ideally, you want to chill the wort as quickly as possible. The brew pot in a sink method is not the fastest, but for beginning purposes, it is suitable while learning the basics. The first upgrade when advancing in the hobby is usually an immersion coil or plate chiller, which can reduce cooling times from 30-40 minutes down to 5-10 minutes. This not only improves your beer but also speeds up your brew day.
      • Chill until the wort has reached 65-70°F, the optimal range for ale yeast fermentation. (Check the temperature range on your package of yeast, this may vary).

      Step #8 - Sanitizing
      • Use powdered brewery wash to clean equipment prior to sanitation.
      • While chilling, now is a good time to sanitize the fermentation vessel (in our case, the 6-gallon carboy) and anything else that may come in contact with the wort; airlocks, bungs, tubing, siphons if required).
      • Follow dilution instructions on the bottle. (Note: StarSan is re-usable, keep a spare bucket with a ratio of 5 gallons of water to 1 oz of StarSan and soak equipment. Or with the same ratio, but scaled down, fill a spray bottle and spray equipment to sanitize.) StarSan requires very little contact time (minutes) and the foam is non-harmful to beer. So when racking the beer no need to worry, just rack on top of the foam.
      • Only sanitize equipment that is already clean!

        Step #9 - Transferring
        • When yeast pitching temperature has been reached and all the fermentation equipment has been sanitized, it is now time to transfer the liquid.
        • This can be done in several ways depending on equipment. In our case, we are simply opening the ball valve and draining into the 6-gallon carboy using the 5" funnel. Siphoning with a sanitized racking cane or auto-siphon is another option for those without a draining valve.
        • Note: Prior to pitching yeast is a good time for checking gravity. Using the hydrometer and hydrometer jar, fill the jar with a sample and record the original gravity reading. After fermentation is complete, take a final gravity reading. Then you'll have what you need to calculate the alcohol percentage.

        Step #10 - Aeration
        • Aeration of the wort is required for yeast activity in the fermentation process.
        • Put one of the bungs onto the top of the 6-gallon carboy.
        • Shake or rock the fermenter back and forth gently for several minutes, splashing around the wort.

        (Please Note: The bucket image above is for display purposes only, the Home-Brewery in a Box is set up to ferment using the carboys)

        Step #11 - Pitch the Yeast

        • Pitch the yeast package at the recommended temperature on the package. (If the temperature of the wort is too high or too low, it may shock the yeast and prevent it from working.)
        • The temperature on the package is also the temperature range you will want to keep your beer at for the duration of the fermentation. So move to a room in this range and where fluctuations are minimal.
        • Dry yeast can be pitched straight from the packet or can be re-hydrated first before pitching (instructions typically on the package).

        Step #12 - Prepare for Fermentation
        • Put the bung lid onto the carboy.
        • Sanitize an airlock with the sanitizer solution or water and attach it to the bung.
        • Move fermenter to an out of the way, dark place to allow for the Primary Fermentation to take place.

        Step #13 - Primary Fermentation

        • Fermentation will begin within approximately 48 hours of pitching the yeast.
        • Visually there will be a foam surface on top of the beer and bubbles may start coming through the airlock.
        • If foam starts escaping from the carboy while fermentation is taking place simply remove the airlock and bung.
        • Prior to using the blowoff hose make sure to sanitize it using a sanitizing solution.
        • When using a blowoff hose, put one end into the carboy and the other end into a bucket of sanitizer.
        • Remember to take gravity readings a few times during fermentation leaving a few days in between.
        • 1-2 weeks after brewing, the fermentation should be done. If the gravity has not changed, the beer is finished.
        • It may take fewer or more days to ferment but don't worry your beer should be fine.
        • Your brew is now ready for secondary fermentation!

        Step #14 - Sanitization Prior to Secondary Fermentation
        • Use powdered brewery wash to clean equipment prior to sanitation.
        • For this step, you will need to clean and sanitize a 5-gallon carboy, an auto-siphon, transfer tubing, the airlock, and the bung. If you have anything else you are using that may come in contact with the wort; sanitize it as well.
        • Follow dilution instructions on the bottle. (Note: StarSan is re-usable, keep a spare bucket with a ratio of 5 gallons of water to 1 oz of StarSan and soak equipment. Or with the same ratio, but scaled down, fill a spray bottle and spray equipment to sanitize.) StarSan requires very little contact time (minutes) and the foam is non-harmful to beer. So when racking the beer no need to worry, just rack on top of the foam.

        Step #15 - Bottling
        • Sanitize all bottling equipment that will come in contact with your brew; Bottling Bucket, Siphoning Tube, Bottle Filler, Bottle Caps, Empty Bottles.
        • Transfer to bottling bucket using a siphoning tube.
        • Avoid splashing and try not to disturb the sediment at the bottom of the fermentor.
        • Keep the transfer of sediment into the bottling bucket at a minimum.
        • Measure out your priming sugar (corn sugar/dextrose). 4oz is required on average for a 5 gallon batch of beer.
        • Boil into 16oz of water, cool to room temperature, then add to your bottling bucket with your beer while avoiding any splashing.
        • Gently stir to mix priming sugar into the beer.
        • Attach the bottle filler to the siphoning tube.
        • Proceed to fill the bottles and finally cap them using a bottle capper.
        • Let your newly bottled beer condition at room temperature for 1-2 weeks.
        • Once carbonated, the bottles can be then stored cool or cold.
        Now that you are done, it's time to enjoy your freshly brewed beer. Enjoy!
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