Guide to Homebrewing – Extract Brewing

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I can’t say that I have always been into beer. I started drinking beer after I graduated from college and at that time it was the typical beer that you would get out of the corner store which was not very good. After college, I moved around the country with my jobs and this is where I first got into craft beer really enjoying the distinct types of flavors and the diverse types of beer that are out there.

Being an engineer, I have always been interested in how things work, how things operate so with my love for beer I naturally was curious about how beer was made. For Christmas, a year ago my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I told her “A home brew kit”. So, for Christmas I received my first bare bones brew kit which came with everything I needed to get started as well as a recipe to brew. The first beer I brewed was a Brown Ale (taste like NewCastle).

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Photo by John Allen

There are two types of brewing that you can get into; Extract or All-Grain. Typically, when you first start brewing for the first time you will most likely start with extract. Extract kits come with all the ingredients that you will need to brew that specific type of beer.

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For example, the above picture of a typical 1 Gallon Extract Beer Kit. This typical beer kit is for a cranberry dark wit, which is a cranberry wit beer that includes crush chocolate wheat malt. Most extract beers come with the malt, yeast, specialty grains, and flavoring. I will go over the steps to extract brewing below.

Brew Day Preparation

Purchasing your first brew kit will be an exciting time (maybe it’s just me), but for this day to go smoothly a little preparation is in order. Without this preparation, you will be running all over the place trying to find what you need. Remember “A little preparation goes a long way to making great beer”

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Photo by John Allen

Equipment

For extract brewing for will need a few items. You can purchase these in a readymade kit from your local homebrew supply store or one of the many online stores available. I will have a list of local and online homebrew supply companies at the end of the article.

  1. Heat Source This can be your home stove, but eventually you would want to move to a propane burner that will generate more heat and if you have the unfortunate luck of a boil over it will not happen on your stove. Trust me your significant other will not like the cleanup.
  2. Boil Pot The boil pot or brew kettle is where all of the malt extract, hops, and specialty grains will be boiled for the entire process. As you move to bigger volumes you will need to purchase a bigger kettle. Keep in mind the quality of the pot is something to not overlook.
  3. Stirring Spoon When adding your additions to the boil kettle, you will need to stir, a stirring spoon is essential. Most can reach the bottom of the boil kettle. Most homebrewers use metal spoons, but some use plastic.
  4. Measuring Cups A standard measuring cup is needed to measure your ingredients with precision.
  5. Thermometer One of the most critical steps of homebrewing is to measure your temperature, from the temperature of your wort (unfermented beer) to pitching your yeast, a thermometer is a must.
  6. Sanitizer – Sanitizer keeps bacteria out of your wort when getting ready to pitch the yeast. This is critically important in homebrewing, some will say it’s the most crucial step in all of homebrewing as unsanitized equipment leads to infections and bad beer. I use Star Sans Sanitizer.
  7. Fermenter A vessel needed to hold the wort (unfermented beer) and yeast, this transforms into beer. Most beginner’s kits come with a plastic bucket with airlock, but homebrewers use glass and plastic carboys to ferment as well. As you get more advanced there are more advanced fermenters that are made from stainless steel and use temperature control.
  8. Airlock The airlock is placed on top of the fermenter lid to let CO2 escape which is a byproduct of the fermentation process. If you don’t use this it can easily cause the lid pop off which will expose your beer to oxygen which will cause off flavors.
  9. Racking Cane an auto siphon which is used to take beer from your fermentation bucket to your bottling bucket.
  10. Bottling Bucket – Just like a fermentation bucket, this one is used to prepare the beer to move to bottles. It has a spigot on the bottom to easily move the beer to the bottles with the help of a bottle filler.
  11. Bottle Filler This is a hard-plastic tube with a spring-loaded tip used to fill bottles. Once the tip of the filler is press to the bottom of the bottle it will fill the bottle. Once you fill the bottle then you can lift the wand to stop the flow of beer.
  12. Bottles Bottles come in different shapes and sizes. Most beginners will start with 12oz bottles, but depending on the type of beer you will use diverse types.
  13. Caps to cap the bottles
  14. Bottle Capper Tool used to bottle your beer for bottle conditioning.
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Photo by John Allen

Resources

Homebrewing can be a very enjoyable hobby so much so that you have homebrewers out in the world that have spent thousands of dollars of their equipment and who make amazing beer. The homebrew industry is a very collaborative culture that loves to help. There are many homebrew clubs in the Houston area that you can join, and learn from fellow homebrewers. I am currently a member of the Sugar Land Imperialist Homebrew club. We meet once a month and have meeting on a variety of topics. There is also the American Homebrew Association which I am also a member that has many different recipes and articles on everything homebrew. AHA also host the national homebrew competition every year in late spring / early summer, which is on my bucket list to attend.

Homebrew Store – Local

Homebrew Store – National

Homebrew Club – Local

  • Sugar Land Imperialist – Sugar Land, TX
  • Cane Island Alers – Katy, TX – cialers.org

If you have any questions on how to get started homebrewing or looking for a homebrew club please contact me at johncarlosallen@gmail.com


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