We’re here! It’s brew day and time to make some excellent beer at home. If you’ve missed volumes 1 & 2 of this series, you can check them out here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2).

In today’s post, I’ll walk you through the whole process, step-by-step and end-to-end. Jargon will be kept to an absolute minimum and explained where I can’t avoid it. Don’t worry, we’ve got this!

Pour yourself a cup of coffee (or beer if you must!) and we’ll get started.

Step 1: Get everything ready

One of the worst things you can do to yourself on brew day is to just launch into it without any planning or forethought. Sure, it may seem like a good idea at the time, but it will only lead to frustration and screw-ups.

So, to avoid that, your first step is to organize all the equipment, ingredients and other bits and bobs that are required for a successful brew day. Here’s a checklist you can use to get started:

Equipment

  • Make sure your stock pot is clean and sparkling.
  • Ensure that you have your mason jar clean and ready.
  • Clean your brew spoon and/or whisk and place it within easy reach.
  • Clean the fermentation bucket, lid, rubber gasket and airlock with warm water and dish washing soap.
  • You’re also going to need your kitchen scale – make sure it’s got charged batteries if you’re using a digital one!
  • Ready a few containers (small plastic containers or even drinking glasses are fine) for hops and syrup additions.
  • Make sure your thermometer is clean and if you’re using a digital one, that it’s batteries are charged.
  • Rinse your muslin or voile bag with brewing water and place that within easy reach for later.

Sanitizing

  • Mix up some sanitizer liquid (make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to get the dilution right) and fill your fermentation bucket to the brim.
  • Also fill a spray bottle with sanitizer – you can use this to spot sanitize things throughout brew day.
  • Place the clean lid, rubber gasket, and airlock into the sanitizer-filled bucket.
  • Take another clean bucket and fill that with sanitizer as well. This is for all the other bits of kit that you want sanitized. I prefer using a second bucket rather than the fermenter because some objects that require sanitizing (e.g. scissors) can scratch your fermenter. Into this second bucket put a pair of scissors, the mason jar and lid, and your sieve.

Make sure that all of the above has at least 10-20 minutes contact time (soaked) with your sanitizer before using them.

Now that everything is soaking nicely in your sanitizer, you can move on to getting your ingredients ready!

Ingredients

First, if you haven’t ordered your crystal malt pre-milled, you’ll have to crack open the grains using a rolling pin or (empty) wine bottle (51 g / 1.8 oz of crystal malt).

Simply put your grains in a sealable plastic bag, smooth out the bag and crack open the grains using the rolling pin. Try to crack open all the grains. The goal here is to just open up the outside husk of the grain rather than creating a grain flour. Because crystal malt is already quite brittle, this process should be quick and easy.

Don’t forget to taste the grains! As a brewer, it’s important to get to know your ingredients, and just like any food product, tasting serves an important quality control function. Make sure that the grains don’t taste musty or off. If they do, don’t use them! Crystal malt should have a pleasant biscuit-like, sugary flavor when fresh.

Measure out 425 g (15 oz) of Dried Malt Extract (DME) and place that aside.

Pro Tip: DME is very sticky, messy stuff if not handled properly. Never decant DME over steaming water, it will clog up the container.

Measure out the golden syrup (68 g / 2.4 oz) into a coffee mug.

Now, measure out your hop quantities and place each hop addition in its own container (drinking glasses work well) as follows:

  • 10 g (0.35 oz) Fuggles
  • 3 g (0.1 oz) East Kent Goldings
  • 1.5 g (0.05 oz) Fuggles & 1g (0.04 oz) East Kent Goldings (You can put these two in one container, because they’ll be added at the same time)
  • Also have around a quarter teaspoon of Irish Moss on-hand 

Crystal Malt before being mercilessly crushed!

Step 2: heating and steeping

Now that everything’s ready, it’s time to heat up your brew water. We’re making a 4 liter (1 gal) batch, but we need to start with slightly more water than that. Why? Because we’ll be losing some in absorption from the grains as well as eventual boil-off during the 60 minute boil.

So, to end up with 4 liters (1 gal) of beer, we’ll start with 6 liters (1.6 gal) in the stock pot. Make sure that you’re using water filtered with a charcoal filter or mineral water.

Switch on or light the stove hob and heat your water to 68 degrees Celsius (154 F). Here’s where your thermometer is going to come in handy!

While you wait for the water to heat up, take the crushed crystal malt and place it in your voile or muslin bag. Tie the bag up to stop any grains from escaping, but leave enough space for the grains to move around a bit.

Once your water is at the correct temp, switch off the heat and submerge the grain bag in the water. Replace the pot’s lid to keep the heat in.

Start your timer, and set it for 30 minutes. Now’s a good time to make sure that you have everything prepared, but if you’ve been following this step-by-step, you’re already there. Nice one!

At the end of 30 minutes, you’ll notice that the water has taken on a rich amber color. You’ll also smell the sugary goodness of the malt. Congratulations! You’re on your way to brewing awesome beer.

Remove the grain bag and let it drain naturally into the stock pot. If you want, you can place it in a colander over the pot to drain completely, but you don’t have to. Just let it drain using good old fashioned gravity until it’s just dripping, then remove. Don’t squeeze the bag! That might introduce tannins into the beer that you don’t want.

A lot of beginner brewers wonder about what to do with spent grains. Since you don’t have an awful lot of it, you can chuck it in the garbage. Alternatively, you can use it as mulch in the garden, feed it to the chickens, or bake it in the oven and use it as muesli or cookie ingredients. Barley truly is the gift that keeps on giving!

The final thing to do in this step is to re-light those fires! It’s time to bring your wort (what this barley-transformed liquid is now called) to boil.

Step 3: The boil

Pro Tip: In brewing we count time backwards, so in this section, I’ll tell you when to add the different ingredients. If you have to add something at “15 minutes”, it means to add it when a sixty minute timer reads “15”, in other words, 45 minutes into the boil.

It’s time for the most dramatic part of the brew: the boil! This is where you get to compose your beer out of raw ingredients like sugars, malts, and hops.

It’s a good idea to keep the lid on your pot to speed up your time-to-boil. Once the liquid is going through a good, rolling boil (see the pic below for what this looks like), remove the lid.

You won’t need the lid again until after the boil, so clean it, spray it with sanitizer, and set aside.

Add the dried malt extract (DME), but first turn off the heat! Never add DME to boiling liquid. It’s a recipe for a big mess.

Rather add it to just-boiled wort.

Using your brew spoon or whisk, add the DME, ensuring that no large clumps form. Once all the DME is added, light the fire again and bring the wort back to a rolling boil. At this stage, you need to start your 60 minute timer.

From this point onward, you’re going to be happy that you pre-measured your ingredients as well as placing them in separate containers. You did that, right? 

A good, solid rolling boil. It’s a violent process.

Here’s how you’ll be adding them during this 60 minute boil:

60’: Add the golden syrup & 10 g (0.35 oz) Fuggles. The easy way is to pour the syrup and then dip the coffee mug into the wort to capture some liquid, swirl it around a bit and then pour everything back into the kettle.

The hops, you can just throw right into the pot. Savor the amazing aroma that releases into the kitchen! That’s beer being made! This hop addition will mostly serve to bitter out the beer, countering the incredibly sweet malt extract, and creating something that tastes more like beer.

Pro Tip: whenever you add anything to boiling wort, be aware that it might result in a boil over. If you think that’s going to happen, you can either switch off the heat temporarily or spray some brew water using a second spray bottle (not your sanitizer!)

15’: Add 3 g (0.1 oz) East Kent Goldings and a quarter teaspoon of Irish Moss. The hops in this addition will add more aroma and hop taste to the beer, and less bitterness. Irish moss will help with clarifying your beer, and as I’ve said before, clear beer is a true joy.

5’: Add the last hops, 1.5 g (0.05 oz) Fuggles & 1g (0.04 oz) East Kent Goldings. This final addition will add mostly aroma to the beer. These two varieties combine to create a lovely herbaceous aroma for your English bitter.

0’: Switch off the heat and create a whirlpool. Now with the boil done, you want to make sure that all the left-over hops and protein from the malts are collected together at the bottom of your kettle. That will make it easier to leave them behind when you pour the (cooled) wort into the fermenter later.

You can easily create a whirlpool in your stock pot by stirring continuously with your spoon or whisk. Maintain the whirlpool for a few minutes, then put the sanitized lid back on. It’s time for the next main step in the brew: cooling your wort.

Step 4: Rehydrating yeast & Chilling wort

In order to pitch your yeast successfully, you have to cool down your wort to the correct temperature. Yeast won’t grow in overly hot water, and needs an environment of around 20-25 degrees Celsius (68-77 F) to thrive.

The easiest way to do this without additional equipment is to place the kettle in an ice bath. So, fill up your kitchen sink with ice, some water, and a good punch or two of salt. Place the covered stock pot in this solution. It should take around 20-30 minutes to chill to the correct temperature.

During this time, you can rehydrate your dry ale yeast. Make sure to sterilize the mason jar and scissors, open the packet, and using the jar, pour a third of the packet (4g / 0.15 oz) into about 50 ml (1.7 fl oz) of brew water. Cover the jar and leave the yeast to rehydrate. About 15 minutes into this process, gently swirl the mason jar a few times. You can repeat this 2-3 times over the next 15 minutes. You should end up with a creamy mixture, perfect for pitching into chilled wort!

Sterilize the thermometer and measure your wort’s temperature after about 20 minutes. You’re aiming for anything between 20-25 degrees Celsius (68-77 F). When your wort is chilled, it’s time for the final step: fermentation.

If you purchased a hydrometer or refractometer, you should also measure the starting gravity of your wort now. Remember to use sterile equipment (I find a turkey baster quite useful for this task) and don’t put the sample back!

Rather taste it. You’re aiming for something close to 1.044. Don’t worry if it’s 2-3 points off (i.e. 1.041-1.047). If it’s WAY off, you can check out our handy calculator and either dilute with sterile water or add some DME.

Step 5: Fermentation

Drain your fermenter of the sterilization liquid. Transfer the lid, airlock and gasket to your second bucket of sterilization liquid.

Place the sterilized sieve over the fermenter mouth and pour in the chilled wort. Make sure to do this from a height to create some aeration. This is the only time in making beer where you want to introduce oxygen. It will help your yeast grow!

Once the wort is in, pitch in the hydrated yeast. No need to stir, so just pop on the lid with airlock and close the fermenter.

You can half-fill the airlock with some vodka or sterilization liquid – that’ll keep the nasties out!

Now all that’s left to do is to put the fermenter somewhere in your house where the temperature is a relatively stable 16-22 degrees Celsius (60-71 F).

Let the fermenter well alone for at least 1 week.

Pro Tip: Don’t worry if the airlock stops bubbling after a few days. That’s normal and doesn’t mean that fermentation has ended. It’s just less vigorous. There’s also no need to transfer to a secondary fermenter. That’s a homebrew myth that has zero evidence arguing in its favor.

After 10 days or so, measure the gravity of your beer by taking a sample (using sterile equipment as always). Don’t return the sample to the fermenter, rather taste it! When the gravity reading is around 1.011, it’s ready to bottle. If it’s higher than that, leave it a few days longer, it won’t do any harm.

Additional Pro Tip: To further clarify your beer, move the fermenter into a fridge for about 2-3 days prior to bottling. This is called cold conditioning and prevents something known as cold haze. This haze appears in chilled beer and although it doesn’t affect taste, it does make the beer appear murky. Which is not great.

And that’s it! At the end of this step, you’re ready to bottle your beer. Read how to do that in this post.

For this recipe, you’ll be priming your beer with 23 g (0.8 oz) of glucose.

Below, I’ll list the vital statistics of the beer you’ve created. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every one of these. I’ll explain these in a future post!

Vital Statistics for Old Reliable English Bitter

Original Gravity: 1.044
Final Gravity: 1.011
Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 4.4 %
IBUs: 30 

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