Your kettle, fermenter, funnel (optional), sanitizer, hydrometer and ingredient kit.
Brewing is a process. The process involves boiling and chilling, a period of fermentation and finally bottling and
Pre Boil Preparation:
You may be using liquid yeast or dry yeast. Most liquid yeast can simply be added to the fermenter with good results. However,
if using a Wyeast Smack-Pack Activator System™, you should activate the pack by breaking the inner pouch with a firm smack.
Let the pack incubate at room temp for at least three hours. The best way to use Wyeast is to smack it a few hours before
(or the night before) you plan to start brewing, and make sure that it inflates before you start the process.
If you have dry yeast, simply allow the yeast to warm to room temperature. We will be using the yeast later on, set aside.
Fill your brew kettle with 2.5 gallons of water. Any good quality drinking water is fine to use.
Steep Specialty Grains:
Not all recipes or kits involve specialty grains. If your recipe grain does not involve specialty grains, proceed to step 4.
Specialty grains add extra color and flavor to your finished beer. Specialty grains are steeped as you would a tea bag in
hot water. Add grains to your muslin bag, soaking in the heating water for about twenty minutes or until the temperature of
the water reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not steep the grains in water over 170 degrees, as this will result in a bitter
After removing the steeping grains, bring the liquid to a boil. Many recipes require you to add the Malt Extract (Liquid or
Dry) once the liquid reaches a boil. For best results, remove the kettle from your heat source first, then slowly add the Malt
Extract and stir until dissolved. Then return the kettle to the heat source and bring it back to a boil. If you add the extract
while boiling, it may simply scorch to the bottom of your kettle and create burned flavor in the beer.
We now have wort! Wort (pronounced ‘wert’) is the combination of liquid grain sugars and water. This sweet wort will be
transformed as we add hops in our boiling period and later when we add yeast to begin our fermentation process—the process by
which wort finally becomes beer.
As you boil your malt, you will notice some changes in your brew kettle. A foamy substance will slowly rise and cover your
kettle surface. The foam is a product of the proteins present in the malt. These proteins begin to coagulate during the
boiling process and rise to the surface, when clumped together, the proteins will become heavy and drop to the bottom of your
pot again. This process may take anywhere from five to twenty five minutes. This is referred to as the “hot break.” Many
brewers will wait for the hot break before beginning their hop additions and timing their 60 minute boil. It is not, however,
required. Watch the heat level carefully, as the foam can very quickly boil over and make a dangerous mess.
To cover or not to cover, that is the question, and a good question at that. Covering your brew kettle will help achieve a
quicker boil, but it if the cover is left on during the boil it will contribute to an off-flavor in your finished product.
When you boil your malt, you boil off sulfur and other compounds. Without the lid, those compounds boil off as vapor, but with
the lid on, they may reappear as condensate, dripping back into your kettle and creeping into your finished beer. So, once you
have the liquid boiling, leave the cover off.
Hop additions are typically performed according to what is called a hop schedule. The schedule is the order that the hops are
added. While some brews may only call for one type of hop added at one time, typically there are more. Usually, the hop added
earliest in the boil is the varietal responsible for bittering the beer, while those added towards the end of the boil contribute
to flavoring and aroma. Hops are added with the amount of time they need to boiled, therefore times referenced always refer to
how much time is left in the boil.
In this schedule, add the Goldings at the very start of the boil, which lasts 60 minutes. Add the Liberty 10 minutes
before the end of the boil so as to boil for 10 minutes. Add the Willamette 5 minutes before the end of the boil so as to
boil for 5 minutes.
Variances in hop additions can dramatically alter a beer recipe. If you are new to brewing and want assured results, follow
the hop addition schedule in your recipe kit. As you become more experienced, play around with your hop additions, you may find
you like the results! Recipes may call for other additions like spices, sugars or more malt. Treat these just like hops and add
them to the kettle at their specified times.
WARNING! The watched pot never boils, but the unwatched pot always boils over. If the wort starts to froth up
dramatically towards the top of your kettle, immediately cut the heat and stir. Boilovers will leave your stovetop a
sticky, scorched and perhaps damaged mess. Stay in the brewhouse, not the doghouse!
Yeast is highly temperature specific. Yeast varieties not only thrive in particular temperature, they can only exist in
particular temperatures ranges. Temperatures too cold and too hot will kill your yeast.
Remember, No Yeast = No Beer
The extreme heat of the boil will surely kill your yeast. Before we even think to add our yeast we must make sure our wort is
within a tolerable temperature range. The easiest way to do so is to use a cold water bath. Simply put your brew kettle in this
cold water, replacing the water as necessary to ensure the temperature decreases quickly. You may even add ice cubes to this
During this water bath, you will want to keep your brew kettle covered almost all the way to protect the wort from any airborne
As the wort cools, you can sanitize your fermenting equipment. If you think back to discussion of preparation, we noted the most
important aspect of the brewing process was to clean and sanitize our equipment. Anything that may come into contact with your
brewed wort must be sanitized. As we discussed earlier, contamination by bacteria or wild yeast may result in off flavors and
an undrinkable beer.
When the temperature of the wort has fallen below 100 degrees Fahrenheit you can top it up with cold water to bring the
temperature down to the appropriate range for your yeast. Then it’s time to get ready for fermentation.
For future brews, you may eventually consider a wort chiller. This simple
device will reduce the amount of time it take to chill your boiled wort. The sooner the wort is chilled and into the fermenter,
the less likely it is that some other contaminant will ruin your beer.
Slow and steady wins the race. Slow and steady also prevents precious beer spillage and tedious cleanup after brew day. Now that
you have cooled your wort, you will need to transfer it to a fermentation vessel. Remember, this may be a bucket, this may be a
carboy, but either way it should be sanitized.
- Add two gallons of cool water to your fermenter. It is handy to have a gallon water jug or pitcher around to avoid eyeballing
- Next, pour in the cooled wort. Leave behind any thick sludge in the bottom of your kettle.
- Add more cool water to bring the total volume of liquid in your fermentation vessel to five gallons.
- Seal the fermenter. Gently rock the wort back and forth for a few minutes to aerate for fermentation.
Measure your brew’s specific gravity with a hydrometer. Hydrometer readings before and after fermentation tells us whether or
not fermentation is complete and can help estimate the alcohol content of the finished beer. Record this number, your original
specific gravity (OG) to use as a reference moving forward.
Patience is a Virtue:
The fermentation process, the process that converts our wort to beer, begins on brew day and ends a week or two later.
Pitch the Yeast:
The brewing term for adding yeast to wort is pitching. Early on in your brew day, you prepared the yeast for this moment. You
either gave a good whack to your Wyeast Smack Pack or you brought your dry yeast out of refrigeration to warm to room
temperature. Sanitize a pair of scissors and sanitize the area you will cut on the actual yeast package. Remember, odd elements,
bacteria and the like can destroy our beer. Open your packet, if you have liquid yeast, go ahead and pour it directly into the
wort, if you have dry yeast, sprinkle it on the surface of the wort.
Seal Your Lid:
Seal the lid of your fermentation vessel, fill the airlock with some of your sanitizer solution and move your vessel into a dark,
quiet spot. Basements and closets are great places to store your beer during the fermentation process. Ideally, the place where
you store your fermenting beer will maintain a somewhat steady temperature and will encounter little exposure to light. You may
want to store your brew in an area that is easily cleaned, a particularly violent fermentation could cause a bit of a mess.