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Easy beginner's guide to home brewing from a beer kit


beginner's guide to making home brew from a kit
A beginner's guide to easy brewing beer from a malt kit

Well done you on deciding to brew some home brew. This guide will help guide through making your first batch of beer, step by step.

There can be nothing finer that a delicious home made beer. This beginner's guide is a 'how to' for using beer kits.

There is no boiling of the wort wizardry here, just some brewing 101 tips.

That fancy 'brewing day' in a pot stuff will come later, when you've got a couple of brews under belt and you're ready to go up a grade.

If you are genuinely interested in learning how to brew beer, then a beer kit is a great way to start as you can quickly learn the fundamentals beer making in the comfort of your own kitchen or man shed...

The brewing of beer is actually an act of scientific exploration.

Now get to it!


Getting ready, at which point I assume you are ready to make beer

I'm going to assume you have a brand new beer kit for making beer.

Your loving partner may have given it to you for Christmas (mine did!) or maybe you got there yourself out of curiosity. Either way good on your for giving beer making a go.

You have all the ingredients and supplies. A can of malt extract with some yeast (and it's not an old can). Some brewing sugar, dextrose or a brew enhancer (we really recommend the use of an enhancer).

You will have all the equipment. You'll have a fermenter  - possibly a 30 litre drum or 5 gallon glass carboy).

You have access to boiling water and also to cold water. You might even have bought some beer hops to add to your wort.

You'll have a clean working space such as a kitchen bench and you'll have enough time to not be interrupted. When I brew from home brew kits I do it after dinner when the kids are in bed and the dishes are done.

I might even have a couple of beers while I do the job, because it seems a natural enough thing to do right?

It's time to clean and sanitize your equipment

In case you hadn't heard, your beer wort needs a warm and clean environment in which to ferment. That means all that nasty bacteria that's on your stirring spoon and on the inside of your fermenter drum or bottle needs to be thoroughly cleaned and then sanitized.

Your home brew starter kit should have provided you with a sachet of a cleanser and also a sanitizer (people often refer to this process as sterilization, just go with it).

Leave your drum to soak for as long as possible (even though it's new, it's likely had all the equipment stored inside it if it's a drum, so heaps of opportunity for nasties to find a home in there).

If you plan on continuing to brew beers, this is the start of your habit of cleaning and sanitizing all your equipment every single time you make beer.

Every. Single. Time.

So once you are sure everything has had a good soak, carry on my wayward son to making a top rated beer.

The rest is easy.

There are plenty of beer making methods. We can do it in four steps.

Step 1 - Malt Up

beer extract kit sitting in a pot of water
If you're smart, you may have already put your opened tin of extract malt into a pot of boiling water so that it's warmed up and can be easily poured into your fermenter.

Sometimes I leave it sitting on the top of my closed fireplace, this works well too.

At this point I like to put on some fancy surgical gloves so as to avoid the mess that's probably about to happen all over your kitchen bench.

Add your extract malt and about 3 litres of boiling water to your fermenter. Stir with a sterilized stirring device until it's all dissolved.

Don't accidentally leave the spoon in your kit...

Your brew kit probably came with a beer enhancer, now is the time to add it and dissolve as well. If your kit did not have an enhancer, you really should think about adding some and you will get a better mouth feel and enjoy your beer that much better.

Step 2 - Water is the essence of aqua...

It's time to add the water.

I like to use the garden hose so I carry the fermenter to the kitchen back door and go for gold. The water in NZ where I'm from is pretty good. If the water is of poor quality, where you come from, you may wish to find a better source of water, at the least boil it maybe.

I guess the basic rule is if you can handle drinking a glass of water from it, that's your source.

Fill your fermenter to 5 gallons of water or to the 23 litre mark. Stick with that, your malt kit has been designed with exactly this amount of water in mind.

Step 3 - Yeastie Boys

It's time to add the yeast. This is called 'pitching'.

Seasoned pros will tell you to never use the yeast that comes in your start kit or with your can of malt as it may be old or damaged or whatever.

I'm thinking you just want to make some bloody beer so throw what came with your kit into to your fermenter and worry about that kind of issue when it actually occurs.

But wait!

Make sure the temperature of the water is close to in line with the instructions on the tin of malt - you want to give the yeast a chance to activate so don't put it in or 'pitch' it if you're out of whack. That said in my experience just pitch it in when you're ready.

But be warned, only pitch your yeast when you've added the extra water - if you pitch your yeast into the boiled wort, you will kill the yeast.

You're not making Panhead Supercharger here, you're making your first batch of home brew.

Step 4 - Hop to it

If your kit came with some hops or you were smart enough to procure some, chuck them in now, maybe half the packet. This is called dry hopping.

Some might recommend to add the hops 5 days into the fermentation process but we say just get on with it.

Close up the fermenter, make sure the drum or cap is on firmly. Add your airlock with water inside. You'll use this to keep track of fermentation by observing the CO2 bubbles as they are released during fermentation.

A failure to see bubbles does not mean fermentation has failed!

Step 5 - Let fermenting beer lie 

This is now a waiting game. Once you've put your be an a suitable place where the temperature will be fairly consistent, leave her alone.

Set and forget...
working out alcohol content
Taking a hydrometer reading

Well not quite - if you have a hydrometer, take a reading and write it down. You will need it to be able to work out when fermentation is complete and also the alcohol content of your beer.

A loose guide is when the bubbles are finished, fermentation is usually complete. Once you are sure this is the case, you can think about bottling your beer.

This is an occasion where you should consider completely ignore the instructions on the can and leave your brew in the fermenter for about 2 weeks.

While at face value fermentation is complete, the yeast will still be interacting with everything and this extra time will greatly improve the quality of your beer.

Be patient!

Let me know when you are ready to bottle!

So the short summary on how to make your home made beer

1. Add your malt from the can to 3 litres of hot water
2. Add any brew enhancer or dextrose as well as any hops. Stir it all up.
3. Fill fermenter to 23 litres or 6 gallons.
4. Pitch in your yeast in
5. Add the airlock, firmly seal the drum and place in a cool position.
6. Ensure fermentation is complete. You may want to use a hydrometer during this stage
7. Bottle when ready but it's best to let your brew sit for a while

So that's the rough guide to brewing beer from a kit. As you can read, it's a pretty straight forward exercise and you don't need a Bachelor of Food Technology to get it right.

It's about good old home economics and it's a little bit about applying some common sense.

You might want to bear these easy to make mistakes in mind.

The absolute key things to bear in mind are having properly sanitized equipment, follow this guide and it's hopefully helpful beer making instructions more or less and don't stress.

Beer can be a tough mistress, but it can be pretty forgiving...

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