Putting Your Beer Kit Together

All home brew kits will come with its own set of instructions. As every beer kit will be slightly different I am not going to explain in great detail the process, as long as you follow the instructions supplied  you’ll be fine.

A common phrase you may see on home brewing forums online and other home brewing resources is “The first step in brewing a beer kit is to throw away the instruction sheet”. Don’t take this advice, it is clear that the biggest manufactures of good quality beer kits want you to brew a beer and then like it enough to go a buy another kit when you have drunk it all. If the instructions provided weren’t up to scratch and produced bad beer it would be much simpler for the manufacture just to amend the instructions on the kit rather than lose potential customers in the future. Beer kits clearly range in value and some will produce better beers than others (generally the more you pay, the better the final product) but don’t be fooled into thinking the instructions with the kits are somehow impeding the quality that is possible from the ingredients provided.

Having said that, many of the processes underlying the brewing method itself are often not mentioned in the manufacturers instructions. Here I explain what is occurring in your beer during the brewing process and hope it gives you a good grounding to progress further in your home brewing hobby.

Basic Steps

Here are the  basic steps that come with most beer kits to give you an idea of what’s involved.

  • Clean and sanitise all your equipment, sometimes you will have a sanitising powder provided with the kit but usually not. Be sure to buy one along with the beer kit if it doesn’t come with one.
  • Mix the malt extract with a quantity of water. The beer kit will usually be in one or two tins, these are concentrated so mixing with water dilutes them to the correct level for your beer
  • Mix everything up and add yeast. Adding yeast is called pitching and the yeast are the organisms that convert the sweet sugary liquid you just mixed up, into beer by creating alcohol and carbon dioxide.
  • Fermentation is an important part of the brewing process and is often not explained very well with your beer kit instructions so let see what’s happening during this process.

Fermentation and Yeast

Fermentation

This part of the brewing process is the slowest and requires the most patience. This is where you, the brewer, do nothing but there is something happening to the beer, and it’s being done by yeast.

Yeast are a particular strain of fungus that have evolved to be particularly useful to the Brewer. They are perfectly suited to the environment created by your beer kit and have all the food (sugar) and nutrients they need to multiply and reproduce. This is vitally important because without yeast we wouldn’t have any alcohol at all.  They also provide a large proportion of flavour to the beer so making sure they are happy is important so they perform as well as possible.

Once you have pitched yeast into your fermenting bin containing  the sweet malty liquid  they begin reproducing and multiplying. As they multiply they consume the sugars available and the by-product of this is alcohol. The more sugar available to the yeast the higher the alcohol content of the beer (within reason). The amount of sugar available to the yeast is how brewers can control the alcoholic content of their beers.

As I said you have to do nothing during fermentation, except that is, to make sure the fermenting beer is in an ideal environment for the yeast this means keeping the fermenter in a spot where the temperature is consistent and ideally around 17°C – 22°C. If the beer gets too hot the yeast will gradually die and leave you with unfermented beer. Too cold and they go into a sort of hibernation and again won’t ferment the beer probably. Keep them around room temperature and you will have a great beer to enjoy.