Home brewing beer at home is a rewarding and inexpensive hobby that is continuing to grow in popularity. The quality of home brew equipment and ingredients that is now available along with an abundance of ‘how to’ information from the internet and online forums means home brewers can now make excellent quality craft beers in any style they want, no matter what their experience as brewers may be.
There are many different ways to brew beer at home with differing levels of complexity. If you are new to brewing you might find the options a bit confusing however; the basic brewing process is relatively straight forward and there are many similarities / overlaps between methods.
In general terms, the process of brewing beer at home can be broken down into three broad categories:
- Beginner – Beer Kit or Hopped Extract Tin Brewing
- Intermediate – Extract Brewing
- Expert - All Grain Brewing / Brew In A Bag (BIAB)
When choosing a home brewing method you are really deciding on your approach to the wort. You can buy a ready-made Beer Kit or make it yourself via All Grain Brewing / BIAB. Extract Brewing offers something in between.
Like with most hobbies, new home brewers tend to start with the easiest method and as their knowledge increases they progress through to ever increasing complex brewing processes. In general, we see the majority of home brewers’ progress from Beer Kit or Hopped Extract Tin brewing to Extract Brewing followed by All Grain Brewing (i.e. Beginner – Intermediate – Expert)
It is worth noting that All Grain Brewing will give you the best result. This is due in main to the ability of the home brewer to have full control over all aspects of the brewing - from selecting grain, milling, mashing, boiling, adding hops, selecting yeast etc. With that said, given the quality of the Beer Kits or Hopped Extract Tins available now days, a very good craft style beer can be made by a beginner, especially if they experiment with premium yeasts, additional hops and pure malt fermentables (as opposed to Dextrose).
At Aussie Brewmakers we focus primarily on the beginner to intermediate home brewer. We do service all grain brewers for hardware at Aussie Brewmakers however, our other business – All Grain Brewing Direct is our dedicated ‘expert’ All Grain Brewer online store (see www.allgrainbrewingdirect.com.au) .
Whatever method of home brewing you undertake the key stages are the same and can be categorised as:
- Combining extracted sugars to make a wort either directly from grain or via an extract tin + a fermentable sugar
- Adding hops either via a boil or via a hopped extract tin
- Pitching a yeast, the strain of which will be dependent on the beer being brewed
- Primary fermentation
- Clearing the beer, either via finings, cold crashing or racking to a secondary fermenter
- Bottling or kegging
- Carbonating via secondary fermentation (i.e. adding sugar to bottled beer) or via CO2 (force carbonating if kegging)
The following is a brief overview of each of the three broad home brew beer categories:
Beginner – Beer Kit or Hopped Extract Tin Brewing
Beer Kits are readily available and are typically supplied in a 1.7kg tin with a yeast sachet under the lid. They are commonly referred to as ‘Beer Kits’, ‘Beer Tins’ or ‘Hopped Extract Tins’. They are the most common form of home brewing for beer due to their ease of use (great for beginners) and relatively low cost. Almost everyone that home brews beer started on these kits. They are quick and easy to use and require very little equipment.
Beer Kits are essentially a ‘head start’ on what an extract or all grain brewer would do. The tins contain malt extract that has also had the hops added. They are available in a wide variety of beer styles and common brands include Thomas Coopers, Morgan’s, Black Rock, Muntons, Tooheys and Beermakers.
A 1.7kg tin is typically combined with 1kg of Dextrose or 1.5kg of malt (either dried or wet) in a fermenter which is then topped up to 23L with water before having the yeast pitched. This will make circa. 60 x 375ml stubbies of beer.
Although beer kits make a great beer many home brewers will also add additional hops, steep grain into the brew, add fruit or other flavourings and use premium yeasts to enhance the beer. Aussie Brewmakers uses Beer Kits as the basis of many recipe packs we have available, most of which introduce additional ingredients for the beer kit brewer.
For detailed information on brewing beer from Beer Kits please refer to the ‘How to Make Beer, Cider & Ginger Beer’ page under ‘Getting Started’ on this website.
Intermediate – Extract Brewing
Extract brewing is the next step up from Beer Kit brewing. The main difference is you will be using malt extracts that have not already had the hops added. Extract brewing adds a greater level of control over the beer style / flavour given you have the ability to control the hop profile. It differs from All Grain Brewing in that you are not doing the mash process.
Extract brewing is typically done with a large pot and a thermometer on the stove or a gas burner. Malt extract either wet (from a tin) or dried is added to water and boiled with hops added at different stages of the boil. The boil time of the hop will define the flavour and bitterness profile dependant on the hop variety used.
Following this process you are essentially at the same stage as a Beer Kit brewer and then add water and ferment as normal.
Extract Brewing saves time and equipment over All Grain brewing however, you are giving up some flexibility and control over the whole process via using extracts.
Expert - All Grain Brewing / Brew In A Bag (BIAB)
All Grain Brewing is the most expensive and complex form of making beer at home. It does however; give you total control over the beer style and flavour. If you know what you are doing any beer style (even ones you invent yourself) are within reach.
All Grain Brewing involves taking malted grain and converting the starch into sugar by soaking the malt in warm water – this is called mashing. Typically base and specialty malts are combined to make a style of beer. Following mashing the malted grain is sparged with hot water to ensure all of the sugars are extracted into a sugary liquid is called the wort (pronounced ‘wert’). This liquid is then transferred to a brew pot (unless you are using a single vessel system like a Grainfather or Robobrew) where it is boiled and hops are added for bitterness, flavour and aroma. The wort is then cooled rapidly and transferred to a fermenter and yeast is pitched. Fermentation is then undertaken as per all the other brewing methods.
All Grain Brewing can be as complex or simple as you like. Single vessel breweries are available such as Grainfathers and Robobrews as well as large multi vessel systems such as a HERMS system (Heat Exchanged Recirculating Mash System) or a RIMS system (Recirculating Infusion Mash System). Brew In A Bag or BIAB is the simplest variation of all grain brewing.
BIAB basically removes the need for a dedicated mashing vessel and then a transfer to a brew pot. Basically, all of the process is undertaken in the brew pot. Typically malted grain is placed in a bag and placed in the brew pot. After the sugars are extracted the bag and malt is removed and then the boil and hop addition takes place in the same pot. The obvious benefit of BIAB is it is a lot simpler and requires less equipment.
So there we have it – making beer is not rocket science! If you are just starting out or if you are a seasoned veteran looking to change the way you are brewing Aussie Brewmakers are here to assist you at every step.