Before we get into an actual brew, it is probably a good idea to go over the basics of brewing. There isn’t a lot of terminology necessary to get started, but the basics are definitely good to know. Let’s take a look:
The first thing you need to learn about is the equipment. There are a few basic tools needed, and a few that will make your life a lot easier. For now, we will just go over the basics. We’ll save the tips and tricks for our first brew.
The fermentation jug, also known as a carboy, is what your finished product will go into to ferment. This is the last step before bottling. The carboy resembles a water cooler jug, and it is generally glass. A specialized plastic bucket can also be used for this step. With the fermenter, you also use a bung, or plug, and a blowoff valve assembly. This helps the fermenting liquid to release the CO2 it creates during the fermentation process. Remember, yeast turns sugar into CO2 and alcohol. That CO2 has to go somewhere!
The bottling bucket is generally a specialized plastic bucket with a lid and a spigot on the front. This is used to get your beer into the bottles. This is also a step that helps to get most of the dead yeast out of your beer. Like I said, these details will get covered more in upcoming posts. You generally have a length of hose and a bottling spigot to help with the bottling process.
Auto Siphon with Tubing
The auto siphon is how you transfer the liquid from one container to another. This can be from one fermentor to a 2nd fermentor, or to the bottling bucket. Either way, you can’t just pour it out, so the siphon helps you move it.
A hydrometer is what you use to determine the Original Gravity and Final Gravity of your brew. Basically, it helps you determine how much fermentable sugar there is in the wort, or pre-beer, and how much exists before you bottle. With the help of a little math you use these numbers to figure out how much alcohol will be in your beer. You generally have a tall, narrow vial to put some beer into for the testing process with the hydrometer as well. Once again, don’t worry about trying to understand this for now, we will cover it in more detail in a later post.
The thermometer is one of your most useful tools in the beer making process. You must control the temperature of your brew very closely every step of the way. Failing to do so will give you too much or too little fermentable sugars, which can kill an otherwise perfectly good brew. A good, long thermometer is a must have.
A good, metal spoon is necessary to stir the brew throughout the brewing process. No wood spoons or wooden handles, as these harbor bacteria.
The brew kettle you use will vary greatly depending on how much you are brewing and how you cook it. We will cover this in more detail later. For your first brew, a very large stock pot used for canning is a safe bet.
The rest of the basics all involve the most important step in brewing, cleaning and sanitizing. Not properly cleaning and sanitizing everything you use for the brewing process will ruin any brew. Introducing dirt and bacteria into the brewing process is a surefire way to get crazy, unwanted results. This includes off tastes, over carbonation, under carbonation, and all around bad beer. Take the time to clean and sanitize everything. Every time.
- Bottle brush
- Cleaner (PBW is the best)
- Sanitizer (Star San is the standard)
- Carboy Brush
- Spray bottle for sanitizer