Home Brewing For The Complete Novice

Eli Goldman
32.443 Introduction to Biochemical Engineering
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, NY 12180

The brewing of beer is a process which was developed by early man and besides a few minor changes has remained essentially the same ever since. Its origin has been lost with time, but many people believe the first batches of beer were made in ancient Egypt and Mesoptamia. Since these early days, a number of advances have been made in this ancient process with the help of modern science and technology.

 The simplicity in the actual brewing process has fascilitated the growth of beer production around the world. Its now become possible for a person with limited training to produce a high quality beer at home. This ability has given birth to a hobby which many people from all walks of life have come to enjoy.

 So say someone wants to try their luck at home brewing beer, where and how are the going to do it? It would be nice if we all had access to a brewery for producing beer, but since we don't we are limited to the confines of our kitchen. To begin, a local home brew or hardware store (for the thrifty) will provide the necessary supplies for brewing your first few batches of home brew. Enough equipment for brewing 5 gallons of beer will run between $30 and $40 (without including the cost for the ingredient kit). The ingredient kit may run an additional $15 to $20, depending on the type of beer being produced. With this investment and some supplies from the kitchen the home brewer is ready to begin.

 Many people ask why someone would spend time and effort to make beer when a local supermarket or convenience store provides beer for most cases under $5 a six pack. The home brewer would probably respond by giving them one of their home brews and asking them to answer the question. Many home brewers including myself, testify that home brewing quickly transforms from a hobby into an obsession. One reason for this is the fact that the practitioner doesn't have to be rocket scientist to be successful. Their is an element of art involved in following or developing a recipe; sensing and controlling those steps which influence beer quality and character; and finally evaluating, balancing, and fine tuning the most critical parameters to produce fine beers. Overcoming uncertainty and outwitting nature has appeal to both the scientist and the non-scientist. 

The Basic Equipment Needed for Home Brewing




The brewkettle is where the sweet wort (which is what beer is called before it is fermented) is boiled. Use an enamel-coated or stainless steal pot that holds at least 3 gallons. Do not use aluminum or plain steel because they will give off-flavors to the beer.

Primary Fermenter



The primary fermentor is where the fermentation occurs. A food-grade container, usually a white plastic bucket with a lid, that holds at least 6 gallons will do. The lid needs to have a hole were an airlock could be placed. This would typically be provided in the equipment kit. Eventually, the home brewer would move on to a glass fermenter after becoming familiar with the process. For the thrifty brewer, a 6 gallon bucket bought from a hardware store with the lid modification will work just fine.




The airlock also called a fermentation lock keeps your beer from being exposed to outside air while letting carbon dioxide escape from your fermenter. It should fit in the hole in the lid of your primary fermenter. This is typically supplied in the equipment kit. For the thrifty brewer, a food grade plastic tubing can be placed in the hole then ran to a glass of water where the other end is placed in the water. This will allow the gases to escape without jeopardizing the fermentation process.

Bottling Bucket



This is the bucket from which the bottles will be filled. It should hold at least 5 gallons. It can be of the same type of container as the primary fermenter. This bucket will contain a tap at the bottom to allow for the filling of bottles. Typically it will also be provided in the equipment kit. For the thrifty It can be purchased at the hardware store, but making the tap may be a little difficult.

Siphon Hose



This is for transferring your beer from the primary fermenter to the bottling bucket. It is usually clear, food grade plastic tubing. You will need about 6 feet. The tubing is provided in the kit, but it could be purchased at the hardware store.

Bottle Capper



This device puts the caps on the bottles once filled with beer. Numerous styles are available, any one will work just fine. The capper is typically supplied in the equipment kit, but can be bought seperatly at the home brew store.

Unscented Household Bleach



You will use a dilute bleach solution to sanitize your brewing equipment. Preventing bacteria and wild yeast from getting into your beer is very important. While they won't harm you, they can cause unpleasant flavors in your beer. Typically supplied in the ingredient kit.

The Ingredients for Making Beer

(These ingredients will be provided in you beer kit)

1. Malt Extract Sugar

 2. Hops

 3. Ale Yeast

 4. Water

 5. Corn Sugar

What to Do




 1. Soak one 3lb. can of malt extract syrup in hot water for at least 20 minutes. This makes the syrup easier to pour. While it soaks, bring 1 1/2 gallons of water to a boil in your brewkettle.

 2. Remove the brewkettle fom the heat, add the malt extract to the water, and stir until it's all dissolved and return the kettle to the burner.

 3.Boil the mixture, called wort, for at least 45 minutes. Make sure the burner is hot enough to cause a roiling boil. If the boiling gets too violent reduce the heat. Five or ten minutes before you are finished boiling, add the hop pellets. These hops will give your brew a nice aroma.




 1. While you are boiling, sanitize your primary fermenter and the aairlock using the sanitizing solution provided with the kit. If one is not included, prepare 1 ounce of bleach per gallon of water. Sponge all surfaces of your fermenter with the sanitizing solution and rinse well with hot water. From now on, everything that comes in contact with your beer must be sanitized either with a clean sponge or by soaking in a bleach solution. This is very important.

 2.Fill your fermenter with 3 gallons of fresh, cold water and cover with the sanitized lid.

Cooling and Pitching



 1. When you are finished boiling, carefully pour all the wort into your water-filled fermenter. It's boiling hot, so be careful. Put the lid on tightly.

 2. When the wort has cooled to near room temperature, open the lid and sprinkle the two packets of yeast over the wort. There is no need to stir. Cover and attach your airlock. Add water to half-fill the airlock.




 1.Fermentation should begin within 24 hours, but it could take longer. A sure sign of fermentation is the bubbling of carbon dioxide through the fermenter. Keep the fermenter at room temperature and away from light. After 10 days from beginning fermentation, you're ready to bottle.




 1. Bottling is the most unpleasant part of home brewing. Sanitize 50 12 ounce, non-twist off bottles in a solution of 1 to 2 ounces of bleach in 5 gallons of water. Let them soak for at least 45 minutes. Rinse each bottle with tap water. Make sure there is no gunk in the bottom of them.

 2. Sanitize your bottling bucket, and siphon hose using a bleach solution containing 1 ounce of bleach per gallon of water. Transfer the beer from ther fermentation bucket to the bottling bucket via the siphon hose.

 3. Place the bottling bucket with the beer in it on a counter. Open the valve at the bottom and fill the bottles so that there is 1 inch of head space. Add 3/4 of a tsp. of corn sugar to eack bottle. Do not put the sediment at the bottom of the bucket into the bottles. Cap the bottles making sure the cap is on tightly.

 4. Place the filled bottles on a shelf where they won't be disturbed. Wait at least 2 weeks before drinking. Pour the beer into a glass leaving the sediment at the bottom of the bottle.

Alas, the finished product. Now, that you've survived the first batch, begin the next, and next. Within time you'll quit your job or school and devote every waking moment to the obsession. After brewing a few batches using a beer kit bought at a brew store, the home brewer will quickly want to brew at the next level. This level involves the use of recipes in brewing specialized beers. There are different levels of difficulty associated with following a recipe, but don't let this intimidate you. With a little patience, the home brewer will succeed at making quality specialized beer. If you feel you are ready to move on, try brewing from one of the following recipes. Don't worry if a few batches come out undrinkable, it happens to the best of brewers. Remember that making a mistake is the best way to learn about the process. The are a few universal things to keep in mind when brewing beer. The following tips may be helpful.