Monday, December 27, 2010

Yay! You got a beer kit!... Now what?

I hope everyone is having happy holidays this year and got all the beer brewing equipment they could dream of (and maybe some they didn't). Remember, if there's something you didn't get you can always return a few of those ugly sweaters/work shorts that you never really wanted in the first place. At probably 30 bucks a pop, that will net you about 100 bucks you can spend anywhere. That's much better than a gift card.
So you got a homebrewing kit, and you're wondering what do do. Here's a few tips for your first homebrewing experience...
Open the box.
This can actually be a pretty daunting task, what with all the packaging tape and styrofoam and such. I'd recommend setting your ingredients aside from your equipment, get your eyes on every piece of equipment, and figure out what the hell everything is. I remember having everything out on the table, and being so excited about all the stuff I had that I had no idea what any of it does. Figure out what stuff is. It's going to be pretty hard when your instructions ask for a hydrometer, and you're holding the spoon.
Buy some stuff.
This is where that 100 bucks extra cash comes in. Your brewing kit comes with most everything, but there are some handy tools that makes life a lot easier. A few of those things are... A 5 gallon brew pot (most kits don't come with this critical piece of equipment). An autosiphon (a clutch piece of equipment). A thermometer (with a 12" sensing element). Lots of ice (if you haven't thought how to cool your boil yet). Eventually you'll also need some bottles and some bottlecaps. One last thing, if you happen to be at the store already, buy some iodophore (amberdyne, any iodine based, rinse free sanitizer). Your kit probably comes with a sanitizer, but it probably sucks. A bottle of amberdyne is 3 bucks, and will probably last you around 5-10 batches, maybe more.
Get everything out.
You're going to make a mess. Period. There's no way around it. Tell the wife. Get the kids out. Have 911 on speedial. Clean out your kitchen of everything not brewing related, it'll make things easier.
Yeah... right. You're way too excited to read "How to Brew" by John Palmer in it's entirety. But what I do recommend, and what John alludes to in his short first chapter, read just enough so you know your yeast from your malt. Five minutes of reading the first chapter of John's book will probably save you a lot of headache.
Don't use your instructions...
I know I just came off saying do a little reading. But chances are, you have a few different set of instructions. Probably one that came with your kit, one from your "how to" book, and one with your beer recipe. All these instructions will contradict each other and specifically say not to follow the other instructions. My recommendation is to use the instructions that came with your ingredients. If there's any holes, follow your how-to book.

Be careful, but not too careful
Charlie Papazian repeatedly says in his book "relax, don't worry, have a homebrew."  (I know what you're thinking... "but I don't have a homebrew!" Relax, have a regular beer. We 'aint splitting hairs here). There are some very important aspects of brewing that needs to be followed. Chances are, however, that if you slip a little bit, you won't have any problems. Keep things sanitized, but don't be afraid if you took a breath in the direction of your spoon. Cool your wort quickly, but don't worry if it takes a half hour. Make sure nothing gets in your fermenter. But don't freak if your brother spits in... wait. Ok, freak out if your brother spits in your fermenter.

Clean up afterwords
This goes back to the fact you will make a mess. Your wife/roomate/dog will be very happy if you don't leave the workspace looking like ground zero.
That should be plenty to get you going! The first time is always tricky juggling all the tasks you think you have to do at once, but after the first time you will realize how easy everything is! Please feel free to post comments on how your inaugural brew sessions go, and also feel free to give either Nick or I a direct message on twitter (@Splobucket for me, and @Tantilloon for Nick) if you have any questions. We love to hear from you (it makes us feel like people really read this stuff) and we love helping people learn about this awesome hobby!

1 comment:

  1. You're right, the dextrose is just sugar, and John Palmer does warn not to use it. It could be one of two things though, it could be sugar to add to your boil, and it will raise the alcohol content. It also could be priming sugar that you add to your fermented beer right before bottling. I would follow the directions that came with the recipe and use the sugar. It's not going to make that huge a difference.