So your ready to brew your first beer! The first method most home brewers in Australia start is a simple “Kit and Kilo” brew. This is the process of mixing a can of hopped malt extract, a kilo of brewing sugar, adding water and then adding (pitching) yeast.
This post will be brief, but more detailed than the label on most brew cans. The reason why I want to be brief is not to overwhelm you because frankly, the process is not really that difficult and it would be a worthwhile exercise if you went it on your own the first time. Once you get your first brew out of the way I will teach you some methods that will greatly improve your beer. These include adding extra hops at different times during the brew to add extra bitterness, flavour and aroma or using a different yeast rather than the packet that comes with your kit.
Let’s get ready to brew your first beer.
I assume that you have already got a beginners home brew kit, if not check out my first post “So you want to start brewing beer….” here I give a list of the basic equipment you will need to start brewing.
For educational purposes let’s say your first brew is going to be a Australian Coopers Pale Ale. If you have already purchased a different brew can or fermentables the method is still the same. Before you start brewing please familiarise yourself with my “Cleaning and Sanatising” post as sanitary practices in brewing is ESSENTIAL!
1.7kg Australian Coopers Pale Ale Can (Brew Can)
1kg Brew Enhancer 2 (Fermentable Sugars)
1 Packet of brewers yeast. (Comes with the can)
Tip: Clean and Sanitize about 4 soft drink bottles and fill with water then refrigerate overnight. This will assist in getting your cooling your wort to the correct temperature before pitching yeast. Better yet purchase a 10 litre water container from the supermarket and chill that.
Make sure your equipment is clean and sanitised. A full clean may not be required for brand new equipment on the first brew, but sanitising most definitely is!
Tip: Get yourself a brand new clean bucket or flexitub from Bunnings. You will purely use this for holding your stirring spoon, can opener, scissors and airlock while brewing. I put some no rinse sanitizer in there during the brew to keep my gear sanitised because placing your stirring spoon on the bench is simply not good enough.
Remove the label from your brew can. Take the plastic lid off and put the packet of yeast somewhere safe until it’s time to pitch.
Tip: When you purchase a brew can it’s a good idea to take the yeast out and store it somewhere cool such as your fridge.
Fill your sink with hot water and place the brew can submerged for at least 10 minutes to soften up the mixture inside for ease of pouring it out when it’s time.
Place 2 litres of boiling water into the fermenter.
Pour the 1 kilo of brew enhancer 2 (or the fermentable you have) into the fermenter, then using a sanitised mixing spoon stir until it fully dissolved.
Tip: If you are using Light Dry Malt it may clump up, so a lot of stirring is required. If there are some clumps you can’t get to dissolve the yeast will still manage to eat it all up. Another option is to put the 2 litres of water in a pot, get it boiling and stir in the Light Dry Malt until its dissolved.
With your sanitized can opener, open up your brew can and pour it into the fermenter then stir well. You mostly likely need to use a tea towel to hold the can because it may be hot.
Tip: if you want to get every drop of extract out of the brew can put a little bit of boiling water in there from the jug and give it a bit of a swirl or a stir with your mixing spoon. If you didn’t need the tea towel before you will now.
Top up your fermenter with tap water to the 20 litre mark. Once you get to the 20 litre mark check the temperature with a sanitised thermometer or the one stuck on the side of your fermenter. At this point you will need to add boiled or refrigerated water up to the 23 litre mark to achieve a temperature range of 21°C – 27°C. This is the recommendation for the yeast used in the Australian Pale Ale brew can. For example if you had a Lager the required temperature is more in the range on 13°C – 21°C. I don’t know what yeast you are using in this brew I suggest you check the instructions on the label. Also if you do have a Lager brew can I suggest trying an ale if this is your first brew.
Note: Yeast and Fermentation temperatures will be detailed in posts of their own in due course.
Tip: Before you pitch your yeast into the wort, aerate it as much as possible by vigorously stirring, shaking the fermenter or making a good splash when adding your water. The reason for this is because it gives the yeast a healthy head start to reproduce cells and start eating up all the sugars to produce alcohol. This is the only time oxygen is your friend in brewing.
Now that you have your wort at the required volume and temperature, take a gravity reading with your hydrometer. Note down the reading for calculating the alcohol by volume (ABV) at the end of the ferment. This reading will be called your original gravity (OG).
Once you have taken your original gravity reading simply cut open the packet of yeast and sprinkle it over the top of your wort. You can rehydrate the yeast before pitching but that’s also a topic for another future post.
Put the lid on the fermenter along with the airlock filled with water and place the fermenter in a place where it’s mostly dark and the temperature is constantly between 18°C and 24°C for minimum of 10 days. Again this temperature range depends on the yeast you are using.
Tip: To help keep the temperature steady and away from light, wrap the fermenter in a towel or blanket. Again another thing I will be posting in the future is a temperature controlled fermentation fridge.
Tip: For an extra level of protection put a small amount of no rinse sanitiser in your airlock water.
After a minimum of 10 days take a specific gravity reading with your hydrometer and note it down. Repeat this same step the next day. If the readings are exactly the same for 2 consecutive days and under 1.018 then it’s safe to say you can bottle your brew.
Note: This gravity reading is known as your final gravity (FG) and will be used with your original gravity (OG) the calculate the ABV. I will guide you through bottling in the next post along with a basic guide to hydrometer readings and calculating the ABV.
How did your first brew go? Did my instructions and tips help at all? Hit me up in the comments below.