Making your own beer can be fun, and it is not hard to do at all. The basic recipe for beer is very simple, and requires very little investment. You can take the basic beer recipe and run with it, adding your own flavorings and trying different grains for texture and flavor. The main thing to remember is the smell – it has a strong odor when fermenting, so be sure and check with roomies before brewing, or brew it in a private location.
To make beer you need a few things before you start. You should be able to find everything on this list easily. You need twelve (12) 2-liter bottles (wash out and save soda bottles) or the equivalent number of smaller plastic bottles with twist on caps; one 10 gallon plastic bucket with a lid; about 74” of siphon hose; a hose clamp; a thermometer; a large pot and a hydrometer. You can find most of these at your local hardware or restaurant supply store for under $50.00 USD.
After you’ve acquired the tools you need, it’s time to focus on ingredients. One of the key ingredients is your Malt Extract. The type of Malt Extract you buy will determine the type of beer you make (light, dark or stout). The Malt Extract comes in wither a 40 ounce can or a 1.5 kilogram “tall” size. The recipe used here is based on the 40 ounce can, but you can also use the 1.5 kilogram “tall” to make a heavier beer if you want.
The also sell “pre-hopped” Malt Extract. Using the pre-hopped extract will give your beer a much more hoppy flavor. This is based completely on personal taste, so if you like hoppy beer, buy the pre-hopped Malt Extract. It doesn’t change the recipe at all to use the pre-hopped version.
You will also need Yeast. Some places sell a Malt Extract brand that includes the Yeast packets, some don’t. Regular Brewer’s Yeast is what you want here. You only need 1 teaspoon for the recipe, so unless you plan to make beer every day, you won’t need to buy a huge amount.
The last ingredient is Sugar. You can use 6 to 8 cups of regular white granulated sugar, or you can use 8 to 9 cups of corn syrup (this gives a better taste than regular sugar). If you can afford more Malt Extract, using two cans of Malt Extract in place of all of the sugar will give you a stronger beer flavor.
Cleanliness is the most important thing to remember in making beer. Before you do anything else, sanitize your tools in soap and water, then hot water and bleach. Make sure to get all of the bleach out after you are done. Next pour 2.7 gallons of cold water into your 10 gallon bucket. In your large pot, boil 7.5 quarts of water.
Add one can of Malt Extract to your boiling water, stirring and boiling for about 20 minutes. Add your sugar, corn syrup or second can of Malt Extract and stir until it is dissolved completely. The moment your sugar, syrup or malt has dissolved, pour it rapidly into the bucket of cold water. Pouring it rapidly helps it mix together. Now start adding cold water by the liter (use your 2 liter bottles if you want) until your bucket full of beer mixture is room temperature according to your thermometer (68 degrees).
Sprinkle in your brewer’s yeast and give it a good stir. Immediately cover it with the lid and make sure it is on loosely so it doesn’t blow off with the pressure of the fermenting gas. Don’t open the lid for 6 days, no matter how curious you are. Keeping the beer between 62 and 68 degrees F will be your best bet for great beer.
After 6 days, use your hydrometer to find out if your beer is ready. Put the clean hydrometer into your beer. Give it a spin to get rid of any bubbles on the surface. If you are making a light beer your hydrometer should read 1.008 and 1.010 to 1.015 for darker beers. That means it is ready to bottle. If it does not read that, take out the hydrometer and put the lid back on for a couple more days.
Once your beer is ready to bottle and your bottles are sanitized, put the bucket of beer on a level table. Put your 2-liter bottles on the floor, on top of a clean cloth or some tarp or newspaper to catch any spills you make. Add two level teaspoonfuls of regular white granulated sugar to each bottle. Using your siphon and siphon clamp, siphon your beer into each bottle. Be careful not to touch the sugar! You don’t want to suck sugar up into the siphon hose!
Other things to avoid during the siphon process include tipping or shaking the bucket – the bucket of beer on the table should not be sloshed around or shaken as it makes the beer have a flat, cardboard taste. Also, hold the siphon hose close enough to the side of the bottle to avoid making any froth or foam – that will also lead to a weird taste in your beer. Also, leave a little space for air at the top of each bottle so your beer can expand.
Screw your bottle caps on as tightly as possible. Turn each bottle over and give a shake to dissolve the sugar you placed at the bottom into the beer. Put your bottles in a warm, dark area for two to three days, then move them to a cool dark area. Your beer is safe to drink after about four days, but it will keep for quite a while in the cool, dark spot.