What do you need ?
There's a few differences once your wort has finished brewing depending on if you want to store your brew in a bottle or a barrel. There are a lot of reasons why bottles are better but the main one is, it's easy to put a bottle in the fridge. Also if there is any sediment in the bottle, cooling it down will force the bad stuff to the bottom. So the rest of this guide covers brewing to bottle. Details of the following items are on the equipment page.
- 42-44x 500ml beer bottles
- 2x 500ml crates (You don't have to have these but it makes storing easier)
- Crown caps
- Capping tool
- Fermenting bin (ideally with a tap or you'll need to siphon to your bottles) You want a bin which doesn't have too much head space. 30L bins seem to have too much room from the wort to the lid so try to avoid these.
- Long wort paddle
- Dextrose sugar (if your kit doesn't have sugar)
- No-rinse sanitizer (this is much easier than the rinse type)
How do you start the kit
If you like hoppy beers, look for IPA kits. Every kit I have brewed follows the same formula;
- If your bin has a tap, fit it now and make sure you have a temperature strip on the side.
- Fill the bin with 5L of warm sanitizer and put the airlock and paddle in. Mix, clean and wipe everything. Then pour the sanitizer away
- Warm the malt pack in a saucepan of hot water (this makes the malt pour more easily)
- Most kits say to put 3L of boiling water in to the fermenting bin. Don't do this as you'll end up with 23L of wort above 25c which is too hot for the yeast. Instead pour in 1.5L of boiling water and 1.5L of cold.
- Add the malt and dextrose sugar (or malt enhancer)
- Mix furiously and tip the bin to see the bottom to make sure the malt and sugar has fully dissolved
- Top up to the required volume occasionally stirring - usually 17 or 23 litres. Measure the temperature every few litres with a food thermometer to make sure you are above 23c and below 25c.
- Make sure the temperature is 25c or less
- Gently sprinkle the yeast evenly over the top of your wort
- Close the lid and place the bin where you intend to leave it for several days \ I've never had a beer kit that smelt so it is fine to brew in the house. Make sure it is out of direct sunlight and between 19 to 24c
- Take a hydrometer reading and record this somewhere
- Insert the air lock and top it up with boiled water (it's fine if the water is hot)
- Have a beer and forget about your brew;)
During the brew
There are a few things to watch out for while the wort is fermenting. The airlock may do nothing for up to 24 hours (sometimes up to 36 hours) depending on the kit and temperature. Some kits bubble furiously once they start, some bubble gently for the whole fermentation but most seem to build up to a peak and then reduce to a calm bubbling. For this reason it's important to follow some steps...
Make sure the room temperature is between 18c and 24c. You will need to use a heat pad if the temperature is below 18c. I've brewed using a heatpad in the garage at 5-8c with no issues. Most kits will stop fermenting at 17/18c. A perfect temperature seems to be about 21/22c. Similarly a room that is too hot (24c+) is going to be a problem and the only solution I've seen for this is a modified fridge where you can set the temperature to 21c like this one
- While you are waiting for the bubbling to start, DO NOT fiddle with anything. Just be patient.
- Check the temperature of the bin regularly
- You may see a build up of scum (krausen) on the sides of the bin if it is translucent. This is a good healthy sign.
- Check the airlock first thing in the morning, afternoon and last thing at night and make sure it has enough boiled water in it
- Regularly check how long the interval is between each bubble from the airlock. This is the best way to know when things are slowing down but doesn't tell you if the fermentation has stopped.
- If you have a kit with hops you will have a suggested dry hopping SG which will be higher than the final SG. This varies from kit to kit. Take a hydrometer reading and make sure your SG is the same or very close to the dry hopping SG. If your SG is still too high, leave the wort for 2 more days and test again. If you get a consistent reading over 24hours, your fermentation has pretty much stopped.
For all (I think) IPAs, you will have a pack of hop pellets. These obviously add the hops flavour to your wort. If you plan on drinking your brew at room temperature, you are best to put the hops in a muslin bag and drop in to the wort to avoid sediment in the beer. However, if you like your brew chilled to about 4c, sprinkle the hops over the top of your wort and reseal your bin lid.
Batch Priming (optional####
Batch priming is simply the process of adding all the priming/carbonation sugar to your beer before bottling instead of adding half a teaspoon to every bottle. You can add the sugar directly to the fermenting bin but an alternative (especially with dry hopped beer) is to syphon from the primary fermenter to a secondary (in layman's terms just syphon to another bin). To help the sugar dissolve in the bin it is easier to heat the sugar in boiled water. A personal guide is 150g of water to 85g of dextrose sugar.
- Sanitize your secondary bin, tap, bottler, syphon.....everything
- Gently syphon the beer to the secondary bin
- Stir gently to get the beer circulating (NO BUBBLES)
- Add the dissolved sugar, close the lid and leave for 15 minutes
- Gently stir again to circulate
- You are now ready to bottle
NOTE: DO NOT ADD ANY PRIMING SUGAR OR CARBONATION DROPS IF YOU HAVE BATCH PRIMED :)
This process is actually secondary fermenting. The idea is you are getting the last bit of fermenting done with the remaining yeast in a sealed bottle. Therefore you are actually adding some gas to your beer. Some kits have a small sachet of sugar, some have carbonation drops and some have neither. Dextrose sugar is fine. 1/2 a teaspoon for 330ml bottles and 1 teaspoon for 500ml bottles is a good guide. You can also use carbonation drops.
- Wait until the brewing stops (now this is subjective but you should have a final SG value in your instructions. If your wort is 0.02 or less from the final SG and hasn't moved for 48 hours, you are ready to bottle.
- Sanitize all your bottles. Some people do this in the dishwasher. I make up 10L of very hot sanitizer in the sink and wash out each bottle and leave to drain upside down in the crates.
- You can fill your bottles from the bin tap or by siphoning (messy). A much easier way is to use a bottler tube (see the equipment page)
- Fill each bottle leaving 2-3cm space at the top and DO NOT move the bin or you will agitate the sediment at the bottom.
- Once all your bottles have been filled you should have about 20-21L of bottles.
- Fill each bottle with the required sugar or carbonation drops
- Quickly cap the bottle
- Turn each bottle upside down to make sure there are no leaks.
- Now leave the bottles in the same place where you brewed for two weeks
After two weeks move the bottles to a cold place - below 18c (garage ?). The longer you leave the bottles, the clearer they will be. Providing your storage is cold enough, you can keep your bottles for a few months. It's vary hard to say how long a bottled homebrew beer would last. 20 bottles in my house doesn't last long :)