Lets assume at this point that you have all of the necessary equipment and your ready to make your first beer. The easiest way to do this is by using a beer kit. They generally come in 2 sizes, a 1kg kit or a 3kg kit. The 1kg kits generally require you to add extra fermentables such as 1kg of sugar or spray malt. The 3kg kits contain everything you need, meaning no need to purchase anything extra. Both kits are capable of producing approximately 23litres or 40 pints. Inside of the kits you will find a can (2 cans if it is a 3kg kit) of concentrated wort and a packet of brewers yeast. This wort is made up of malt extract that has already been hopped by the manufacturer. As a note, I tend to use bottled mineral water for my beer, this is because I don’t trust the quality of the water coming through the tap in Thailand, also, it is worth putting approximately 19litres into the fridge the night before you start brewing (I will explain later).
Now, lets get started on your first batch.
STEP 1: First of all you will need to clean and sanitise ALL of your equipment and surface areas that will come into contact with the beer including tin openers and cans of wort. I generally use idophor or scentless household bleach. Once sanitised rinse everything off with boiling water that has cooled down.
STEP 2: Take your beer kit and remove all of the labels. Fill a bowl with boiling water and stand the unopened can in it for around 10 minutes. This softens up the wort inside making it easy to pour out. Whilst you are waiting for the wort turn the kettle or stove on and boil 4 litres of water.
STEP 3: Pour 3½ litres of boiling water into the fermenting vessel (FV) leaving the remaining ½ litre to rinse out the can once you have poured the wort in.
STEP 4: Open the can (2cans if it is a 3kg kit) and pour the contents into the FV. Take the remaining ½ litre and rinse out the cans and pour this in. We don’t want to waste any of this as it all contributes to flavour and potential alcohol content. If you are using a 1kg can kit, now is the time to add the 1kg of sugar or spray malt, do not do this if using a 3kg kit. Give the contents of the FV a good stir, you should start to smell the aromas of the malt.
STEP 5: Take the 19litres of pre-chilled water out of the fridge and add it to the FV. This should bring your total volume up to around 23 litres and the temperature of the wort to approximately 21-23degC. The temperature at this point is critical as the yeast will not start its all important job of making alcohol if it is too cold. If it’s too hot the yeast will die. You should ALWAYS check your temperature before pitching the yeast.
STEP 6: Take your big spoon and give the wort a good stir for 5 minutes, making sure to get plenty of air into it. You should end up with a big foamy head on top of the wort. Next, take a sample of the wort and measure the original gravity (OG) using a hydrometer. Make a note of this reading.
STEP 7: Take the sachet of yeast, pour it into the FV and give it another good stir. Put your lid on the FV and if you have an airlock, fit it now. Keep the FV at a constant temperature between 18-23degC for approximately 10 days.
STEP 8: After approximately 10 days in the FV your beer should be ready to bottle or keg. Sanitise all of your bottles, lids and anything else that will come into contact with the beer using exactly the same method as mentioned earlier. Get a sample of beer and take a reading using a hydrometer. This will give you your final gravity (FG) which allows you to work out how much alcohol is in it. The FG should read somewhere between 1008 -1012 if you’ve had a good fermentation.
STEP 9: Now you need to prime your beer. If using bottles add approximately ½ teaspoon of sugar per 500ml bottle; per 640ml bottle, I generally add ¾ of a teaspoon. If using a keg, measure out around 85g per 23litre batch and add it to the keg. Make sure your sugar is not contaminated with food etc. I always keep a bag of sugar separate which I use only for brewing so that no nasties get in there. Alternatively boil 85g of sugar with 1pint water and add it to the keg. To use this method with bottles you need to rack the beer to a secondary fermenter with the mixture of sugar and water before putting it into the bottles. Make sure that you minimise the air getting into your beer at this point as it will cause your beer to oxidize.
STEP 10: Siphon your beer into the bottles or keg. Make sure you put the tube into the bottom of the bottle or keg to prevent air getting into it. If you have a fermenter with a tap then you will not need to siphon. Simply attach the tube and turn the tap on.
STEP 11: Put the tops onto the bottle and leave for 1 week at the same temperature in which you carried out primary fermentation. After 1 week, drop the temperature down to around 10-13degC and leave for another 4 weeks. Taste the beer during this time to see the difference it makes by letting it condition for longer. You should notice a difference between beer that has aged for 1 week compared to that which has aged for 4 weeks.
Now for the hard part… Sit back, relax, put your feet up and pour your first beer. Enjoy!