Ready, Set, Brew: A Homebrew How-To

Posted on March 13, 2013 by


Homebrew edit

Writer: Darren Sweeney


The first step to making a drinkable brew is sanitizing the equipment.

“You want to sanitize everything that comes in contact with your beer,” said Katie Silberger, an employee at Fifth Season Gardening Co. in Charlottesville.

The equipment typically includes a 5-gallon or larger stainless steel pot, a large bucket and glass carboy for fermentation, an airlock, a thermometer, a hydrometer, siphoning equipment and a bottling bucket or cooler with spigot. Fifth Season sells equipment kits complete with everything but the pot.


After sanitation, the next step is to begin heating water in the pot.


Once the water reaches a certain temperature, about 165 to 170 degrees, it is time to steep the grains by placing them into a grain bag and putting it into the water. Steeping usually takes about 20 minutes, depending on the beer.


After removing the grain bag and letting the liquid drain back into the brew pot, the water has become what is known as wort.

“The wort becomes your beer,” said Adam Rihner, a home brewer who spends his Saturdays helping fellow beer makers find what they need at Fifth Season. Rihner explained that brewers bring the wort to a boil and add malt extract. The wort is boiled for about an hour.


The hops also are added during the boiling process. Adding hops at the beginning kills off the fragrance, but extracts the bitterness; adding hops at the end of the boil keeps the fragrance, but doesn’t extract the bitterness; adding hops at the beginning and end creates a really hoppy beer.


After the wort has boiled for about an hour, the next step is to cool it down rapidly to about 70 degrees by either placing the pot in ice water or using a special wort chiller, which can be found online or at the local homebrew store.

“(The wort) has to be at a certain temperature before you put the yeast in or else you’re going to kill the yeast,” Rihner said.


The wort is poured or siphoned into a sanitized bucket for fermenting, adding enough clean water to make sure the wort is at approximately 5 gallons.


The yeast is then sprinkled into the wort and stirred in.


After the yeast has been added, the fermentation bucket is covered and put it in a cool place.


The fermentation is usually done within a few days, but most brewers usually wait a week before transferring the beer from the primary fermentation bucket into a glass carboy for secondary fermentation.

The second stage of fermentation usually gives the beer more clarity and flavor. The beer will then usually sit for another two to three weeks before it is bottled.


By Darren Sweeney, Guest Writer

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