How To Brew Beer – The Ultimate Virtual Brew Class

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Brew Organic » How To Brew Beer


Better brewing begins with the right knowledge! 

Before you start your first batch of beer, you will need to learn the basic process. 

No matter how much you spend on home brewing equipment, there is no substitute for the right knowledge and experience. 

Regardless whether you are brewing beer or brewing your morning cup of Joe using the best espresso machine!

This class is adapted from the brewing classes taught at 7 Bridges home brew store in Santa Cruz California. 

This virtual class contains all the same information including color photographs of the basic brewing process, from start to finish and may take up to 1 hour to complete. And for more advanced tips, we suggest checking out our homebrewing tips for levelling up your game!

The basic procedures documented here can provide a quick reference to most mash-extract recipes, and can give the new brewer some ideas for making premium organic beer at home. And once you’re done, we recommend checking out things to do with spent grains.

However, these brewing procedures should not be considered complete as the information available to home brewers can and does fill many books, as well as information available online. 

Many home brewing shops teach regular classes or do frequent brewing demonstrations, or you can learn from a friend who brews. 

Regardless of how you learn, a good book about brewing will be a valuable reference as you explore your home brewing hobby.

The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing

The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing, because it is easy and fun to read, has an easy to understand beginner’s section, and goes beyond the basics with intermediate and advanced brewing sections.

How To Brew

How To Brew, because it has information about the latest brewing products and covers beginner and intermediate brewing extensively.

The Right Equipment

A Brew Kettle

One of the main steps in brewing is boiling the beer. As most recipes are for 5 gallons of home brew, the best choice is a stainless steel pot with a lid that is at least 5 gallons in size. If you plan on brewing all grain recipes (advanced brewing), a larger pot (6- 8 gallon) is best. Ceramic on steel (a home canning pot, for instance) is also acceptable, as long as the ceramic is not chipped. Aluminum is not a good material as it will absorb flavors from the beer that can detract from subsequent brews and has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

A Fermenter

The beer will need to be in a clean environment and protected from airborne dust and bacteria while it ferments. Most homebrewers ferment in a closed system that uses an airlock, a small valve that allows fermentation gasses to escape while preventing outside elements from entering the system (pictured on top of the bucket to the left). A good 5 or 6 gallon glass bottle (called a carboy) is the best option for most home brewers. It will give you years of service and is easy to sanitize. A food grade plastic bucket can also be used. The fermenter should have an airtight stopper with an airlock to vent gasses from the fermentation. For the best results, 2 fermenters should be used, a primary & a secondary fermenter.

A Funnel

If you use a glass carboy as your primary or only fermenter, a funnel is essential. Without it, a huge mess is inevitable unless you are adept at siphoning. You should have a funnel that is only used for brewing, as funnels used in the kitchen are almost impossible to clean and sanitize adequately for brewing. Most funnels designed for home brewing are at least 8″ in diameter, and some come with a snap in screen for filtering out hops and other particles.

Straining Tools

For straining whole grains and hops. For mash- extract or extract brewing, a grain straining bag is an economical choice. All grain brewers will need a large straining vessel, called a lauter tun. To strain out the hops after the beer is boiled, a good strainer is also very helpful.


By siphoning, it is possible to transfer beer from one fermenter to another or to bottles without exposing it to air. Plastic tubing and a rigid plastic or stainless steel tube (called a racking cane, pictured left) is needed to siphon the beer. It is important that the tubing used is food grade vinyl, as non food grade can leach chemicals into the liquid passing through it. Most home brewing siphoning systems are 3/8″ in diameter. An external pinch clamp is also useful for providing flow control.

Cleaning & Sanitizing

To brew successfully, it is important to develop good cleaning & sanitizing habits. 

A low sudsing, fragrance free cleanser can tackle most cleaning jobs, or check with your local home brew store for excellent cleansers developed just for brewing.

After cleaning, most equipment will also need to be sanitized: a good all purpose sanitizer is Iodine. 

We prefer Iodine because it is economical and when mixed with water to the recommended dilution and is non-toxic.

Bottling Equipment

To finish your beer, you will need to bottle it. 

For this you will need a bottle capper, caps, and a bottle filling wand (this connects to your siphon tubing). 

Of course, you will also need bottles: Thick walled, non- twist off bottles, or flipper top bottles are good choices.


To measure the density of the beer before and after fermentation, which will help you evaluate your brew and enable you to determine the final alcohol content.


A must for mash- extract and all grain.

One that can be immersed in hot liquids and reads a temperature range of at least 40- 180F. 

A Wort Chiller

After boiling 5 gallons of beer, cooling it down can be a time consuming task, unless you have a wort chiller. 

An immersion chiller is all you really need if you brew 5 gallon batches. 

This chiller works by immersing the copper coils in the boiling wort (unfermented beer) 15 to 20 minutes before the end of the boil to sterilize it. 

After the boil is complete tubes are connected to both ends of the chiller. 

One tube is for the cold water to enter the chiller, and is connected to a sink or a garden hose faucet. 

The other tube is for the hot water to exit the chiller and into a collection bucket or drain. 

As fresh water is precious and a wort chiller uses up to 20 gallons to cool 5 gallons of beer, it is good to reuse this water after the brewing is done. 

For ideas about how to reuse this water, see our tip about water conservation.

The Basic Ingredients of Beer

Most quality beer consists of 4 main Ingredients:


Beer is over 90% water. 

Because it is the main ingredient by volume, to brew good beer, you need to start with good water. 

To keep it simple, the water you use for brewing should be free from chlorine or other chemicals, and should have some basic minerals. 

A good rule of thumb: If the water is good to drink, it is almost always good for brewing your own beer. 

One exception is distilled water- distilled water has no mineral content, which the yeast will need to ferment the beer properly.

Most tap or spring water has a dissolved mineral content sufficient for brewing with barley malt extract. 

If using tap water and your tap water is chlorinated, you should either filter the water or boil it to remove the chlorine. 

Some municipalities are now using Chloramine for water treatment. If this is the case in your area, the water will have to be filtered to remove the Chloramine as boiling will not remove it. 

If you do not have a water filter, buy bottled water or find a source of filtered water nearby. 

Many grocery stores now have machines where you can buy filtered water by the gallon, using your own container.

Barley Malt

Barley malt is the chief ingredient in beer next to water. 

It is the main source of fermentable sugar, and also contains many minerals and vitamins that help the yeast to grow. 

Most brewers start out using barley malt extract, in syrup or powder form, as in this form it is ready to boil up and ferment.

Barley malt is made from whole barley, in a process called malting. 

First the grains are sprouted and allowed to grow for a short time, until the grain proteins have been converted into starch, the ideal food source for young plants. 

When the seed has reached the optimum starch content, the growth is stopped by kilning the barley at low temperatures to dry it out.

The darker specialty malts like caramel and chocolate are made by heating the wet barley to temperatures of about 150 oF. 

The heat activates enzymes that are naturally present in the barley grains, which convert the starches to sugars. 

After the starch conversion is completed the grains are roasted to caramelize the sugars. 

The temperatures and length of time determine the final color of the specialty malt.

Barley malt extract is made by mashing the pale barley malt in water to convert the starches to sugars. 

After starch conversion, the sugars which are dissolved in the liquid are rinsed through the grains, a process known as sparging. 

The sweet liquid is then condensed into barley malt extract or spray dried into dry malt extract. 

This is usually done at low temperatures in a vacuum environment to preserve the light color of the barley malt extract.


Hops, as used for brewing, are the flowers of the hop plant, a climbing viney plant that grows well in many climates. 

Hops contain acids which add bitterness to beers is boiled for a period of time. 

Adding bitterness to beer helps to balance the sweetness of the beer, as well as acting as a natural preservative. 

Hops also add flavor if boiled for a shorter duration. If boiled for a very short time, steeped at the end of the boil, or added fresh to the fermenting beer, hops also add a delicate aroma to beer.

As the oils present in hops that add flavor and aroma are highly volatile, they are easily lost in an extended boil. 

Thus , many recipes for beer call for adding hops in 2 or 3 stages:

Bittering or boiling hops 

If boiled for over 45 minutes, a significant amount of bittering from the hops is dissolved into the beer.

Flavor Hops

If boiled for 10- 20 minutes, the flavor compounds are released into the beer without adding too much bitterness. Most of the aroma is lost, even with a shorter boil.

Aroma or finishing hops

A delicate hop aroma, a desired characteristic of many beers, is infused into the beer if the hops are added in the last 5 minutes of the boil, or steeped at the end of the boil, or added to the fermenter. Adding hops in the fermenter is called dry hopping.

Hops have not always been the primary herb used in beer. Centuries ago, many other herbs were used to add bittering, flavor, and medicinal properties to beer and other fermented beverages. Some of the herbs traditionally used in beer include mugwort, heather, and wormwood


Types of yeast available to home brewers (clockwise from top left):

Wyeast liquid yeast in a foil self starting pouch (available in 2 sizes), White labs liquid yeast in a 35 ml tube, Wyeast liquid yeast in a 150 ml tube, dry ale & lager yeast’s (Vierka Lager, Edme Ale, Munton’s Gold Ale, and Danstar Ale) , and dry wine yeast (Red Star and Vierka Mead).

Without yeast, beer would not exist. 

Yeast is a unique single cell organism that eats sugar and expels alcohol and carbon dioxide. 

Yeast comes in many variations, or strains, and there are two major categories of yeast that determine the type of beer produced.

Ale yeast 

The most commonly used by home brewers. 

Ale yeast is top fermenting, meaning that it concentrates near the top of the fermenting beer.  Because it thrives in warmer temperatures, usually between 60 to 75 oF, ales can be fermented at room temperatures without any temperature controlling equipment. 

Examples of beers fermented with ale yeast include Pale Ale, Nut Brown Ale, and Stout.

Lager yeast

A bottom fermenting yeast that ferments at lower temperatures, usually between 45 to 60 oF. 

After the lager is fermented it is often allowed to condition in the fermenter at very low temperatures (usually between 35 to 45 oF) for 2 to 8 weeks. This process is called lagering. 

Examples of beers fermented with lager yeast include Pilsner, Marzen, and Bock

Yeast for home brewing is available in two forms, liquid and dry.

Dry brewers yeast

Dry brewers yeast is similar in appearance to common bakers yeast (unless you want beer that tastes like bread, stay away from bakers yeast for brewing), having a grainy, powdery appearance. 

To produce this yeast, the living yeast cells have been dehydrated carefully so that the water inside of the living yeast cells is removed without killing the yeast. 

When the dry yeast is introduced to liquid, it becomes rehydrated and is ready for brewing. 

To achieve the best results when using dry yeast, it is a good idea to rehydrate the yeast in water, and then add the rehyrated yeast to the unfermented beer. 

Dry beer yeast is inexpensive and has a shelf life of 1 to 2 years if stored in a refrigerator. The selection of dry yeast is limited, however.

Liquid brewers yeast

Liquid brewers yeast is hydrated yeast in a hibernating state stored in a liquid, and is available to home brewers in two forms. 

Some yeast is available in a tube or vial that is ready to pour into the fermenter; no preparation of the yeast is required. Dozens of strains, both ale and lager, are available. 

Liquid yeast in this form is very perishable and is usually only viable if used within 4 months of production, unless a starter is made (see our brewing tip, making a yeast starter).

Some liquid yeast is also available in a foil self starting pouch. 

These pouches have a small bubble of sterile nutrient solution sealed inside, floating in the liquid yeast solution. Before brewing, the small inner bubble is popped to mix the nutrients with the yeast. This new source of nutrients causes the yeast to “wake up” from hibernation and start to grow. This causes the foil pouch to swell, indicating the yeast is ready to add to the fermenter.

Getting Started: Yeast Preparation

Using Dry Yeast

Most dry yeast will start the beer fermenting quickly without much preparation.

It is important to use fresh yeast, or yeast that is less than 1 year from the production date that has been stored under refrigeration. 

To improve the chances of a good fermentation with dry yeast, the yeast can be rehydrated in a small amount of sterile water before adding to the beer.

To make sure the water is sterile, boil it for at least 10 minutes, and then cool it down to 70 oF(the water should be the same temperature as the fermentation temperature of the beer you are making).

Using Liquid Yeast

The most common form of liquid yeast available to home brewers is Wyeast, which comes in a foil packet (often referred to as a “smack-pack”). 

The packet contains instructions for popping the inner pouch to start the yeast growth. This is usually done the day before brewing, unless the Wyeast packet is more than a month old. 

For each month beyond one month, pop the package an additional day in advance of brewing, up to 4 days. Thus, if your packet is two months old, pop the yeast two days before brewing; if it is six months old, pop the yeast 4 days before brewing.

The Wyeast smack-packs come in two sizes, 50 ml and 175 ml. The smaller 50 ml pack will require 12 to 36 hours after pitching for visible fermentation to begin. For faster fermentation, a starter is recommended with these packages (click here to find out how to make a yeast starter).

The larger, 175 ml pack is becoming very popular as visible fermentation can start in as little as 6 hours, although it usually takes from 12 to 24 hours.

Using Pitchable Liquid Yeast

A relatively new option for homebrewing is also the easiest liquid yeast to use. 

On brew day, before starting your batch of beer, simply remove the liquid yeast vial or tube from the refrigerator so that it slowly warms to room temperature. 

Once your beer is ready for the yeast, simply shake the tube or vial to mix well, remove the cap, and pour it in. 

The beer will show visible signs of fermentation in 6 to 24 hours, depending on the freshness of the yeast, the fermentation temperature, and other factors.

Getting Started: Cleaning & Sanitizing

One of the most basic, but most important steps to successful home brewing is proper cleaning and sanitizing. 

Done properly, this is really a two step process:


The best reason to practice good cleaning habits is that it is YOUR beer, and you will be drinking it. 

Without proper cleaning, surface build up can occur, which provides a place for bacteria and other unwanted organisms to take up residence.

Every surface that touches your beer during the brewing process should be clean and free from oil or soap residues. 

Most brewers use their brewing equipment only for brewing, to prevent odors and oils from the kitchen from affecting the quality of your beer. 

The cleanser used is also important. 

Common dish soap is effective (as long as it is unscented), but it does have some disadvantages: it is a foaming cleaner and requires thorough rinsing to remove all of the soap residue. 

Many home brew supply sources carry cleansers especially made for brewing, and many of these are free from phosphates, chlorine, or other toxic chemicals and so are low environmental impact. 

Two of the best are 5-Star PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash), and Straight-A cleaner.

One last word about oil and soap residue: Both can affect the quality and appearance of your beer because they interfere with head retention, causing the beer foam to dissipate rapidly. 

For this reason, your serving glasses should also be well rinsed to ensure the best possible presentation of your hand-crafted beers.


After cleaning, all equipment that comes into contact with your beer after it has been boiled must also be sanitized. 

This is usually done by soaking the equipment in a sanitizing solution for about 10 minutes. 

One of the best all around sanitizers available to homebrewers is Iodophor, an iodine based sanitizer. 

Iodophor is non-toxic when mixed to the recommended dilution, yet is a very effective sanitizer. Iodophor is toxic if undiluted, and should never be used full strength. 

The recommended dilution for home brewing purposes is 1/10th of a fluid oz. per gallon of water, or about 1 Tablespoon per 5 gallons. 

The solution should be a light amber color. 

It does not need to be rinsed if equipment is allowed to drip dry after sanitizing. 

Note that it is not necessary to sanitize equipment that contacts your beer before and during the boil, as the process of boiling will sterilize both the beer and the boiling pot. 

Equipment that does not need to be sanitized includes grain straining equipment (bags, strainers, or other vessels), thermometers used before the boil, the brew pot & spoon, etc.

The reason for sanitizing all other equipment is to reduce the population of bacteria present in your brewing system to a very low amount. 

This allows the yeast to dominate your fermentation. 

Once yeast is present in large numbers, it in itself is a strong deterrent to other organisms, even other strains of yeast and wild yeast. 

It is not necessary to sterilize the equipment; sterilizing is the complete removal of all living organisms requires an autoclave (a type of oven used in laboratories) or boiling for more than 20 minutes.

In Summary:

If you remember the following, your home brewery cleaning and sanitizing routine will be successful:

All Equipment used in brewing must be clean and free from oil and soap residues. 

All equipment that touches your beer after the boil must also be sanitized. 


Soaking the Grains

Before we start the batch of beer, let’s have a look at the recipe:

7 Bridges Red Ale: Extract Brew Recipe

International Bittering Units (IBU’s): 40 

Original Gravity (O.G.): 1.048- 1.054 

Final Gravity (F.G.): 1.012-1.016

Ingredients for 5 gals:

  • 7# Organic pale malt extract 
  • 1/2 # Briess Organic caramel 60 oL malt 
  • 1/4 # Briess Organic caramel 120 oL malt 
  • 1/8 # Briess Organic chocolate malt 
  • 3/4 NZ Hallertaur hop pellets -bittering (32 IBU) 
  • 1/2 oz. German Select hops- flavor (8 IBU) 
  • 1/2 oz. New Zealand Hallertaur hop pellets- aroma 
  • Yeast: Wyeast #1056 American Ale or dry ale yeast 

For bottling: 

  • 3/4 cup corn sugar or 1 cup of malt extract 

Optional ingredient: 

  • 1/4 teaspoon Irish Moss 

Items in photo, clockwise from top left:

  • Extract in pouch
  • A glass of Red Ale
  • A Flip top bottle
  • Hops in pellet form
  • Grain mixture (caramel & chocolate, crushed)

First, prepare the grains:

Weigh out the grains that your recipe calls for, and mix them together. 

Place the grains in a cotton or nylon straining bag, and close the bag tightly.

The malted barley grains need to be crushed before using. 

For this batch, we have purchased the grains already crushed, and they are sealed in a plastic bag. 

Once grains are crushed they should be used right away or sealed in an airtight bag to keep them fresh. 

Check your grains by smelling them- they should have a fresh , grainy aroma, or a sweet caramel and or chocolate smell, if they are specialty grains.

If you need to crush the grains, the best way is with a roller mill designed for crushing grain. A corona mill can also be used. 

If you do not have a mill, the grain can be crushed by putting it in a plastic or canvas bag and crushed with a rolling pin or by gently whacking it with a wooden or rubber mallet. 

A properly crushed malt is important: the grains should be shattered enough so the insides are released but the husks are still intact. 

The husks act as a filter when mashing the grain; if they are pulverized the grains will stick together and prevent a good straining.

Adding The Grains

Fill your brew pot with 1 to 5 gallons of water, place it on the stove, and turn the heat on medium. 

Add the bag of grains and heat the water slowly to extract the essence from the grains.

A small amount of grain will add color and flavor to your beer.

 Basically, a grain tea is made and with the pre- boiled, unfermented beer, before the malt extract is added.

Soaking The Grains

Let the grains soak as the water heats. 

Before the water reaches a boil (160- 180 oF), turn the heat off.

It is important that you DO NOT BOIL the water with the grain bag in it as it will detract from the quality of your beer. 

Boiling will release excess tannins from the grains which will give the finished beer an astringent aftertaste. 

If you have a thermometer, it is best to heat the water to between 160 and 180F and then turn off the heat. 

For this recipe, a soak time of 10 to 20 minutes is sufficient, because all of the grains are specialty grains which have been pre-mashed and caramelized.

Remove The Grains

Remove the grain bag- Use a spoon (or two) or tongs to prevent burning your hands.

Set the bag in a clean dish to cool down. When it has cooled enough to handle, gently squeeze the remaining liquid into the brew pot. 

It is important to not try and wring out every last drop of liquid from the grains, as this will add too much solid matter to the brew and can affect the taste and clarity of the finished beer. 

The spent grains are no longer needed for the brew, as the flavor and color have already been extracted. 

The grains still have some use, so if you are able, we recommend one of the following options:


Spent grains have a large amount of fiber which is excellent for building compost. Because of the high sugar content, they can attract insects and rodents, so it is a good idea to mix the grains thoroughly with the rest of the compost matter.

Animal feed

Spent grains are an excellent food source for poultry, pigs, or cows. It should be fed to the animals fresh.


For making bread, spent grains add barley malt sugar and fiber (put the grains in a blender with some water to reduce the husk size). Other foods you can make with the spent grains include granola, cookies, or energy bars.

After removing the grains, if there is room in your pot for more water, add enough water to make up to 5 1/4 gallons of liquid. 

If your pot is not big enough to hold this much water, don’t worry; our instructions for boiling have details for boiling less than 5 gallons (a partial boil). 

Turn the heat back on and heat until the water is really hot, almost boiling. This will make it easier to dissolve the extract. 

When the water is hot, turn the heat source off.

Boiling the Homebrew

Now that your brewpot is full of hot grain tea, it is time to add the extract. 

If you have not done so already, turn the heat off completely. If you add the extract while the heat is on, you risk scorching or burning the extract, which will give the beer a burnt taste and leave you with a nasty cleaning job.

Adding the Extract

With the heat turned off, add the extract to your brew pot and stir thoroughly to dissolve all of the extract.

If your extract came in a plastic pouch, snip off a corner of the pouch – an opening of 3 or 4 inches will allow the extract to flow out quickly but will give your more control of the flow. 

To get all the extract out, fold the pouch in quarters and squeeze it from the top as you would a tube of toothpaste. You can also widen the opening of the pouch and then spoon some of the hot liquid from your brew pot into the pouch to dissolve the remaining extract.

If your extract came in a plastic tub or a metal can, open the container and pour the extract into the pot. A rubber scraper will help you remove most of the extract. To get every last drop, ladle some of the hot liquid from your brew pot into the container and let the remaining extract dissolve, and then pour the liquid back into your pot.

Once all the extract has been added to your brew pot, stir well to dissolve all of the extract. This will take 5 minutes or so, depending on how much extract is being added, and how hot the water is. 

Once all of the extract is completely dissolved, turn the heat back on and bring the brew to a boil.

Boiling the Wort

The wort (unfermented beer) must be boiled before fermenting to kill unwanted organisms, settle proteins that can cause bitterness, and release the flavors and bittering compounds of the hops or brewing spices.

This recipe calls for a one hour boil time.

As the wort comes to a boil, it is prone to boil over – skimming the foam off the top will help prevent this, as will careful heat adjustments. 

Another method to control boil over is to have a spray bottle filled with clean drinking water- if foam starts to rise quickly just spritz it until it subsides. 

If a boil over does occur (almost every home brewer has experienced this at least once), we strongly recommend that you turn the heat off immediately and clean up the mess before you continue with the batch. Otherwise, the sugars in the spilt wort will bake onto your stove and will be virtually impossible to clean off!

A good rolling boil (above 212 oF) will produce the best results. 

Once your wort is boiling merrily, check the clock for the boiling start time. Now you can add the bittering hops. As an example, we will use the hop schedule for our recipe. Recipes vary, both in types of hops and boiling times, so be sure to check the details for your recipe.

Our recipe calls for 3/4 oz. New Zealand Hallertaur hops. 

Add these, and boil for 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes, it’s time to add more hops. We’ll add 1/2 oz. of German Select hops. 

The hops we added at the beginning of the boil will remain in the boil as well. We will also add a small amount of Irish Moss (a type of seaweed), which will help to settle proteins during the rest of the boil, and will result in a clear finished beer.

Because we will be using a wort chiller to cool the beer down, we will now remove the plastic hoses and place the wort chiller into the boiling brew. We also leave our metal spoon in the pot and insert a thermometer. 

We are doing this before the end of the boil because we want these items to be sterilized by the boiling wort.

After adding all this stuff, we’ll let the wort get back up to a rolling boil, and then boil it for another 15 minutes.

We now have 5 minutes left of boiling time, so it is time to add our aroma hops. 

We’ll add 1/2 oz. of New Zealand Hallertaur hops, boil 5 more minutes, and then turn the heat off.

Cooling The Wort

To reduce the risk of contamination, it is best to cool down the wort quickly after the boil. 

Another reason to cool the beer down quickly is that it will improve the quality of your beer by trapping desirable aromas and settling proteins for a clear finished beer. 

There are three methods of doing this (see below for an explanation of all 3 methods); for this batch we will use an immersion wort chiller, which we have already placed in our brew pot along with a metal spoon and a thermometer…

Using The Immersion Wort Chiller

A wort chiller is a coil of copper tubing (these can be purchased for around $35 (or you can make one yourself) that is placed in the pot of hot wort. 

Cold water is run through the tubing to chill the wort. The chiller is sanitized by putting in the brew pot for the last 15 minutes of the boil.

After the boil, we turn the heat off and carefully move our pot to a heat resistant surface near our water source. 

We’ll attach our water in and water out hoses with hose clamps. 

The water in is connected to a garden hose, and we have several empty buckets on hand to collect the water exiting the wort chiller. We’ll use this for cleaning up, and to water the garden once it cools down.

Now we turn the water on, adjusting the flow so that the water coming out the exit tube has some heat. If the water is moving too quickly, our wort will not chill much faster, but too much water would be wasted. 

As the brew cools down, we can slow the water flow even more.

By stirring the wort while it is chilling (with our sterilized spoon!), we will reduce the amount of time it takes to cool the wort by as much as 1/2. 

With a thermometer in place, we can check the progress as we stir. Our batch cools in just 15 to 20 minutes. We cool it down to 70 oF.

As soon as the beer is cool, we remove the chiller and put the lid back on until we are ready to pour it into the fermenter.

Pouring The Beer Into the Fermenter

Our fermenter has already been sanitized (we did this before we started the boil), and so has our funnel. 

Both of these items have been drained of sanitizer. Our stopper and the yeast package are soaking in sanitizer right now. 

Now we pour the beer into the fermenter as pictured on the left. This pot is heavy!

If it is too heavy for you to pour a full 5 gallons at once, you can start out with a sanitized ladle or small sauce pan and scoop part of the beer into the fermenter until the pot is light enough to lift.

All of the hops that were put into the brew are now broken up into small particles. 

Our funnel has a built in screen, which is in place to filter out most of the hop particles. 

This filter is very fine, and usually gets clogged before we have poured all of the beer into our fermenter. We still have our sanitized spoon, and we use this to stir, to free up the flow as we go.

If we boiled less than 5 gallons, after all the wort has been poured into the fermenter, we’ll top it up to 5 gallons with pre-boiled and cooled water.

Now that our fermenter is filled, we are ready to add the yeast!

Two Other Methods of Cooling the Wort:

#1: Immerse the pot in a cold water bath. 

This can be done in your sink, or your bath tub, or a large bucket. Ice cubes in the water bath will speed the process up immensely. Use a sanitized spoon to stir the hot wort- this will speed the cooling process considerably. Keep the water bath cold by adding or replacing cold water as needed, or adding more ice cubes. Circulate the water bath around the pot to speed the cooling process.

#2: Add sterile cold water or ice. 

If you boiled less than 5 gallons this is an easy method to cool down the wort. It is very important that the water or ice cubes used are completely sterile! Use distilled or sterile bottled water, or sterilize water by boiling for 15 minutes. Ice cubes should also be made with sterile water, in sanitized trays.

Adding The Yeast

Adding yeast is a critical step to making great beer. 

As with all the stages covered thus far, good sanitation is important. 

Temperature, quantity and quality of yeast, and aeration (oxygen dissolved in the unfermented wort) is also critical.

Pitching the yeast

Now that our beer has been transferred to the fermenter, it is time to add the yeast. 

The yeast we are using for this brew is a Wyeast smack pack, which we activated yesterday. 

We have sanitized the yeast package in our iodophor sanitizing solution. We’ll use scissors to cut the corner of the package open. We have sterilized the scissors by holding the metal blades over an open flame for about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn our hands or melt the plastic handles.

Our yeast is pitched (added to the unfermented wort) by carefully pouring into the fermenter. 

We have checked to make sure that the temperature of the wort in the fermenter is between 65 and 75F, and our yeast is at about the same temperature.

Yeast is a living organism, and will not perform properly or will even die if conditions are not right. 

If the temperature is too low (under 60 F for ales and under 50 F for lagers) the yeast will be very sluggish or may not start fermenting at all. 

If the temperature is too high (over 80 oF) the yeast will be killed and more yeast will have to be added once the wort has cooled down.

If you are adding a different type of yeast or using a yeast starter, the process of pitching the yeast is pretty much the same. 

A tube or vial should have a protective plastic seal around the cap, which makes sanitizing the container unnecessary. The vial or tube should be shaken well before pitching.

Dry yeast should be rehydrated for the best results, as covered in our yeast preparation section.

A yeast starter can be added directly to the fermenter as well. 

You may want to sanitize the lip of the container with the starter in it with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or a strong liquor (such as vodka or rum) before pouring it in.

Aerating the Wort

We have one more step before leaving our brew to ferment. 

We will aerate our wort, or dissolve oxygen into the wort, by shaking vigorously for at least a minute. 

The yeast will need this oxygen in this first stage of its life-cycle, the reproductive stage. 

After the initial reproductive stage, yeast becomes anaerobic, meaning it thrives in an oxygen free environment. Thus, after your beer starts to show visible signs of fermentation, it should never be shaken or splashed. 

So just before or after adding the yeast and before activity is visible is the only time your wort should be aerated.

Once the yeast is added to the fermenter, it starts reproducing, because it now has a huge new food source: 5 gallons of your homebrew! 

During this reproductive stage there is no visible activity, which is the reason for the lag time between pitching the yeast and visible fermentation. 

This lag time can range between one and 48 hours, depending on many factors. 

These factors include: quantity and freshness of the yeast, amount of available dissolved oxygen, temperature of the wort, concentration of sugars in the wort (a stronger beer will take longer to start fermenting), and the type of yeast (lager yeast’s generally take longer than ale yeast’s).

Now it’s time to ferment!

Fermenting The Homebrew

Once the yeast is added the beer will ferment for 1 to 3 weeks. 

During fermentation, yeast will eat the available sugar in the wort and expel alcohol and CO2 gas, until either all of the fermentable sugars are gone or the alcohol level becomes too high for the yeast to tolerate. 

During this time, there is very little that needs to be done except for providing a stable environment.

Preparing For Fermentation

Before we ferment, we take a hydrometer reading. 

This will tell us our original, or starting gravity of the beer. 

This is a measurement of the density of the wort, which should be much higher than water (1.000) because of the high concentration of malt sugars. 

We take a sample of the brew with a wine thief or siphon hose that has been pre-sanitized, and fill our test jar with the sample. 

We place the hydrometer into the sample jar and give it a quick spin to release any bubbles that may be trapped on the bottom of the hydrometer that could affect our reading. 

To properly read the hydrometer we look at the line between liquid and air at eye level. The bottom of this line is where we take our reading. 

Our starting gravity reads 1.048, which is right on target for our Red Ale.

Now that our yeast has been added, it is time to seal the fermenter. 

Because we are using a 5 gallon carboy as our primary fermenter, we will need to set up a blow off tube. 

The blow off tube will allow CO2 and foam to escape the fermenter without letting any airborne particles in. 

Our blow-off system uses a sanitized rubber stopper and a sanitized 3′ length of food grade plastic tubing. The end of the tubing is placed in a container of sanitizing solution to create a closed system.

If we used a six gallon carboy or bucket, a blow-off tube would not be necessary, because a larger container would allow enough room for the foam produced during the early stage of fermentation. 

In this case, we would close the fermenter with an airlock. 

The airlock is filled halfway with sterile water or a neutral sprit such as vodka. 

This allows escaping gasses to bubble through the airlock without allowing any unwanted airborne organisms into the fermenter.

We place our fermenter in a cool dark place, that has a fairly constant temperature of 60- 70 F.

If our chosen location is not dark, we will wrap a towel or heavy cloth around the fermenter to prevent light from hitting the fermenter and to provide some insulation. 

It is especially important that strong light does not reach the fermenting beer as this can affect the flavor of the finished beer, causing what is often called a “cardboard” taste.

12 to 24 hours later, our beer is actively fermenting. 

A thick layer of foam has formed on top of the beer- this is called the kraeusen. 

Also, because we used a glass fermenter, we can see the brew actually moving in a churning, swirling motion. 

It is good that we used a blow-off tube, because the foam is starting to get pushed out of the fermenter. If we had used an airlock, it could get clogged, causing a buildup of pressure that could blow the cork out of the fermenter or even break the glass carboy.

3 to 5 days later, the kraeusen has all but disappeared and the fermentation activity has slowed considerably.

It is time to transfer the beer to a secondary fermenter. 

Although this step is not necessary, it will produce a more complete fermentation, and a beer with a cleaner taste and appearance. 

We will siphon the beer into the secondary fermenter, to prevent air from being mixed into the beer. Siphoning is not too hard to do once to get the hang of it- see the next section (siphoning) for a good trick for doing this.

After transferring we put an airlock on the fermenter and allow the fermentation to complete, for another 5 to 8 days. 

Our total fermentation time will be 8 to 14 days. 

We know when the fermentation is complete because:

1. The airlock bubbles less than once every 60 seconds.

2. We take a hydrometer reading and it is in the range of the final gravity for the recipe we have made (1.012 to 1.016). The next day we take another hydrometer reading, and it has not changed. The hydrometer reading is lower at the end of the fermentation because the sugar molecules (heavier than water) have been converted to alcohol molecules (lighter than water) and CO2, which has been pushed out of the fermenter.

3. The beer is almost clear; the top two thirds of the fermenter are relatively clear, but the bottom third is still somewhat cloudy, which is O.K.

Now it is time to bottle, but first we should review siphoning techniques, to make sure we get it right!

Siphoning the Beer

The trick to getting beer from one vessel to another without mixing air into it is by siphoning it. 

There are many techniques for starting a siphon, but we prefer to avoid making contact with the tube with our mouth, as this could contaminate our beer. 

Below is one easy method to starting a siphon without sucking on the end of the siphon hose or using any “siphon starter” gadgets.


Before anything else, the siphon tubing should be at least 4′ in length, and it should be attached to a rigid tube, or a racking cane, with an inverted tip on one end. 

A curve at the top is also useful, to prevent the flow from stopping due to a collapsed flexible siphon hose. 

A tubing clamp, the kind that is threaded onto the outside of the tubing and pinches the tubing closed, is also useful.

In a bucket or similar container that can fit all of the tubing and at least 1/2 of the racking tube (if only 1/2 will fit the racking tube will have to be sanitized in 2 stages), sanitize the siphon assembly.

Once the siphon assembly is sanitized, shake off the excess sanitizing solution, being careful to hold the racking cane at the top curved part so the bottom will not be contaminated when you put it into your beer.

Fill the flexible tube (but not the racking cane) with sanitizing solution or sterile water. If you use a bleach or other chlorine based sanitizing solution, DO NOT USE THIS TO FILL YOUR SIPHON TUBE! Use sterile water instead, or an iodine based sanitizing solution.


For the siphon to be successful, the container you are siphoning from needs to be higher than the container you are siphoning into. 

A good rule of thumb is that the bottom of the full container should be level or higher than the top of the empty container. Also make sure your siphon tube is long enough to reach the bottom of the empty container, so that there is very little splashing. 

You will also need a small container (a cup or larger) on hand to catch the first few ounces of the flow.

Lift the siphon tube that is full of fluid carefully, holding it level so the water does not exit either end of the tubing, as pictured on the left. 

Holding it level, place the racking cane into the beer as shown. 

At this stage you need to be very careful that you do not spill any of the liquid from the tube into your fermenter, especially if that liquid is sanitizing solution.


Now that your racking cane is resting in your fermenter and your siphon tube is full of liquid, starting the siphon is a simple matter of dropping the end of the siphon tube down to below the fermenter. 

The weight of the liquid in the siphon tube will draw the beer up from your fermenter and through the tube. If you filled the tubing with sanitizing solution, drain this into a small container and then stop the siphon by pinching the tube or with a tubing clamp.


If an air bubble gets trapped near the highest point of the siphon assembly, it will slow the siphon rate considerably, and may even stop it. 

To force the air bubbles out of the siphon, squeeze the siphon tubing at the location of the bubble several times quickly. If this does not work, the union between the racking cane and plastic tubing might not be tight enough. 

Fix this by pushing the plastic tubing higher up the racking cane or by putting a small plastic hose clamp over the union.


Now you are ready to transfer your beer from one container to the next, or to bottle it.

To transfer to another container, move the end of the siphon tubing into the container so it reaches as close to the bottom as possible. 

Release the flow by unclamping the tubing. 

The siphon will be successful if your first container is higher than the second container and your siphon assembly is leak free.

To bottle your beer, attach a bottle filling wand to the end of your siphon tubing and insert the wand into your first bottle. Fill to the top. Repeat. Fill to the top…etc.


One of the best pieces of advice we give in our classes about siphoning is this: don’t wait until you are faced with your first 5 gallons of beer to transfer to get the hang of siphoning. 

Practice with water first! 

After a few practice runs, siphoning is no longer a daunting task, but another enjoyable aspect of your home brewing hobby.

Now Let’s Bottle That Beer!

Bottling The Beer

Bottling is a simple process, but a little time consuming. 

This step is more fun if you have a friend to help you… perhaps the same friend who will surely help you drink your homebrew!

Preparing To Bottle

First, we’ll need bottles. 

The bottles should be brown or green glass for best results, and they should not be twist-off bottles. 

Proper beer bottles have a smooth, raised lip at the mouth of the bottle to provide a good surface for a positive seal once capped, and are made of heavy glass. 

We will need about 54 12 oz. bottles, 40 16 oz. bottles, or 30 22 oz. bottles.

We clean the bottles thoroughly, rinse, and then sanitize the bottles. 

Iodophor sanitizer is best as it does not need to be rinsed (if the solution made in the proper ratio- 1/10 fl. oz. per gallon of water). 

We’ll drain the bottles on a bottle tree, in a very clean dish rack, or by having a friend hold them upside down just before we fill them.

Our bottle caps also need to be sanitized. 

Our caps should not be boiled (some caps have soft liners which can peel off the cap if boiled, and others have special liners to absorb oxygen, which can be damaged by boiling), so we will soak them in Iodophor sanitizing solution. 

After soaking in the sanitizer, the caps can be rinsed with hot water that has been sterilized by boiling for 10 minutes. 

Rinsing with this hot water also softens the inner plastic liner of the caps, which will help to provide a good seal.

Now we will prepare our priming sugar. 

This is a small amount of sugar that we need to add to the beer just before bottling. This sugar will cause a small re-fermentation in the bottle, which will provide natural carbonation. 

For priming, we can use 3/4 cup of corn sugar or cane sugar, 1 cup of malt extract, or 1/2 cup of honey. 

We’ll add our priming sugar to 2 cups of water in a small stainless steel sauce pan, and boil it for 15 minutes. 

Then we cool the priming sugar solution by carefully resting the pan in a cold water bath, being very careful not to splash water into our now sterile priming sugar. Our pan has a lid, so we’ll use that to help keep it from getting contaminated.

Once the priming sugar is cool (under 80 oF), we’ll pour it slowly (to avoid excess splashing) into our fermenter of beer. 

We’ll use our sanitized racking cane to gently stir in the priming sugar, being careful not to stir up too much sediment from the bottom of the fermenter.

Filling The Bottles

Now we are ready to fill our bottles! 

We’ll set up our siphon as described in the previous section, and attach a bottle filling wand to the end of the siphon hose. 

The bottle filling wand is about 18″ long, and has a special valve at the tip which allows liquid to flow through it when pressed down, but stops when lifted. This will help us avoid making a huge mess, but it is still a good idea to have a small pan or an old towel under the bottles and a small amount of spilling is inevitable.

With the bottle wand we fill the bottles one by one until all the beer has been bottled. The bottles may be capped immediately, or try this tip to reduce the amount of oxygen in the bottles…


Instead of crimping the caps immediately after filling the bottles, place the caps loosely on the bottles and wait 15 minutes before crimping the caps down with the bottle capper. 

This will allow CO2 to fill the space at the top of the bottle and will help to purge the oxygen from the bottles. 

Oxygen absorbing bottle caps will also improve the quality and shelf life of the beer.

Now that the bottles are filled and capped, it’s time to hurry up and wait! 

The bottles should be stored at room temperature (60- 70 oF) for the first few days, then at cooler temperatures (50- 60 oF) for a week or two and until consumed. 

It is best to not store the bottles in a refrigerator until the beer is fully carbonated, because the cold temperatures will slow or even stop the carbonation of the beer.

After about two weeks, we will chill a few bottles and try them. Excellent! 

It is now time to brew another batch, before this one is gone……!


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