Here at Keg Fridge, we have received a ton of questions about basic homebrewing and homebrewing supplies, we have summarized it to 10 FAQs about homebrewing and the essential supplies you need to start making your own brew!
Homebrewing has its own long history. In fact, it has been an ancient practice since the millennium BC and survived various prohibitions. As for the exact time it began, no one knows for sure.
Up until the medieval times, though, producing beverages was mainly done at home. Then pubs and monasteries began producing for local trade. In 1920, the US Prohibition closed down breweries, prompting brewers to turn to use malt for purposes other than making beer.
“‘Malt and hop’ stores popped up across the country and some former breweries turned to selling malt extract syrup, ostensibly for baking and ‘beverage’ purposes. Limited amounts of wine and hard cider were permitted to be made at home, however the alcohol content was limited to one half of one percent.” (1920-30.com)
In 1978, however, President Jimmy Carter signed the bill, H.R. 1337, into law. What it did was to finally allow homebrewing of beer with an alcohol content higher than 0.5% and federally legalize homebrewing. Still, there was one major rule: homebrewing of beer would only be “for personal or family use, and not for sale”.
This did inspire the craft beer revolution. Today, homebrewing is allowed all over the country (individual states do have their own regulations about it) and enjoyed culturally the world over.
10 FAQs about the Basics of Homebrewing
Now that your interest is piqued, it’s time to learn more about the art of craft brewery. Read through these several frequently asked questions below to get ideas especially on what are needed for homebrewing.
How is a beer made? It’s really pretty basic, but it does require a bit of time and effort.
- Simmer and mash out grain and water to extract the sugar from the starch in malted grain. Use a well-insulated mash tun.
- Sparge to strain out more or all the fermentable sugars from the grain.
- Make a wort by boiling with the right amount of water and hops.
- Cool the wort down immediately in a wort chiller after boiling. Pour into a fermenter after.
- Fermentation follows. Start stirring in or pitching the yeast to ferment the wort.
- Bottle or keg the finished product.
How do I start my homebrewing projects? Consult homebrew or wine-making retailers. They know this best. Specialty shops can give the most information. They also sell brewing supplies, offering the necessary ingredients and equipment that are needed, at least, for the first batches. They will be able to provide a basic starter package.
On the yellow pages, find a local shop under “beer” or “wine”. Or go online for a search, it’s up to you. Should there be no local shops nearby, many others do mail order services.
What are the most basic tools needed to start homebrewing? Have the following:
- an equipment kit
- a homebrew burner
- a large brew kettle/pot (at least 5 gallons)
- a fermenter
- cleaner and sanitizer
- the first batch of ingredients
- bottles and crown beer bottle caps
- bottle filler
- a bottle capper
Starter kits usually include essential and even non-essential equipment and possibly a book.
What is sparge? Sparge means to moisten by sprinkling. This is especially done with water in brewing. The idea is to run additional water through the mash to strain out (extract) more or all the fermentable sugars from the grain.
What is a wort? What is a wort chiller? Wort is the unyeasted sweet liquid from the soaked mixture of warm water and ground malt. That becomes the beer.
A wort chiller is quite simply the device where the wort is chilled right after boiling. Quick cooling means a lower risk of contamination, less chance of an off-flavor, and a clearer homebrew.
Three Types of Wort Chiller:
- The immersion chiller – most common and easiest to use, for small-scale operations
- The counterflow/countercurrent chiller – most efficient design, for larger operations
- The plate chiller – fastest and most efficient, uses much less cold water so most economical
What is a fermenter? It is a unit where the fermentation takes place in, at least, two weeks. It is sealed off except for a vent pipe through which the carbon dioxide escapes and prevents entrance of outside air. Contamination is much lessened.
The 6-gallon food-grade plastic pail is recommended for beginners because they are easy to use.
What is a bottle filler?
It is used to transfer the homebrew from the primary fermenter into a bottling bucket. The two most common and basic bottle fillers are:
- the siphon type (simple bottle filler) – used for wine, mead and cider projects
- the counter pressure bottle filler – most commonly used by commercial breweries and those who keg homebrew beer
Why is there a need for a bottle capper?
Bottling also needs to be right and that includes having a proper bottle capping system. Choose from these:
- Double-lever bottle capper – a simple capping machine; works by applying force to two spring-loaded handles that attach crown style, non-twist beer caps to glass bottles.
- Bench bottle capper – secured to a tabletop, it is easier to operate and a more efficient way to cap bottles
Wouldn’t it be better and faster to use canned malt extract? Some people buy canned malt extract, but the more dedicated mash their own grain. Both methods work. However, with actual mashing, there is greater control over the finished product. Also, those who do mashing swear that this results in better beer.
Do a research or, even better, do a personal experiment on both methods to find out.
Will making my own beer cost me more or less than simply buying it?
One of the most asked questions about homebrewing basics, will I save money if I brew my own beer? The initial investment may cost one around a hundred dollar — that is for a starter package with equipment and ingredients. But that’s just for the first batch of beer, which could amount to about two cases of premium beer. The second batches should then cost much less, as little as $20. Two or three batches after, it’s already a “break-even”. It would already be worth the price of buying the starter package.
On a more practical note, a keg of beer could last for months, saving one time and money from buying bottled and canned beers from the market every time.
For a homebrewing beginner, these are the most basic necessities. Once the homebrewer becomes more knowledgeable and accustomed to the practice, he or she will begin to experiment more and create a better beer using more methods and special tools.
If the answers provided here are not enough, learn more about homebrewing from Keg Fridge! Keg Fridge Kegerators is open for inquiries and imparting knowledge and experience. Visit them at KegFridge.com.