Welcome to the Bigger Jugs Simple Brewing Guide.
Ask 100 brewers (professional or amateur) how to brew the perfect beer and you will get 100 different answers. What’s more, they are all probably correct, as your choice of beer is most definitely down to personal taste. From Lager to Bitter and on to Stout, or any of the dark or light ales in between, the choice is almost infinite. Fortunately, the brewing process for all of these is basically the same and that process can be made even simpler by using a brewing kit. What follows here is the simplest guide to brewing basic beer at home using a typical liquid malt extract beer kit.
First and foremost, all brewing equipment must be absolutely clean. If this is not adhered to, contamination from normal household bacteria can make the brew undrinkable. To clean your equipment you need to wash all the items with water and washing-up liquid, then rinse thoroughly with water. To sterilize, you will typically mix a small amount of powder with warm water to make a special cleaning solution. Your equipment needs to be in contact with this solution for 5-10 minutes (or just left soaking in it will be fine) and then rinse the equipment in clean cold water. The 2 most popular cleaners are Youngs sterilizer/cleaner and VWP sterilizer/cleaner, though I have known people to use baby bottle sterilizing solutions. Once your equipment is clean you can move on to the main brewing stage.
Follow simple instructions
a) The instructions for your brew will either be under the cap or on the reverse of the label, so remove both and read the instructions. Apart from the instructions you will find a sachet of yeast under the cap and possibly a hop sachet.
b) Place the bare tin in a bowl of hot water to make the malt extract easier to get out of the tin.
c) Empty the contents of the tin into the fermenting vessel (large bucket with lid), rinse the tin with clean hot water to get as much extract out as possible (careful the tin will get very hot). Add a few litres of boiling water and top up to the level suggested in the instructions (usually 40 pints) with cold water.
d) Add sugar according to the instructions and stir until it is dissolved. Standard household white sugar can be used but using special Brewing Sugar, Spray Malt or Beer Enhancer is often credited with much better results.
e) Add the contents of the yeast sachet. Sometimes the instructions state to sprinkle the yeast on top of the brew and sometimes you are advised to start the yeast working by adding it to half a cup of warm water and sugar first, your instructions will tell you which method to use.
f) Clip the lid in place and move the fermenting vessel to a warm dark place.
Wait until the brew has finished fermenting. Depending on temperature this will take 7-14 days.
Follow a few more simple instructions
a) Siphon the beer into bottles or homebrew barrel, adding about ½ to 1 tea spoon of sugar per pint. This will give your beer a bit of fizz.
WARNING don’t add more than ½ tea spoon of sugar per ½ pint of beer or the bottle may well explode. Barrels tend to have a pressure release safety valve so this is less of an issue.
Give the brew time to condition, again depending on temperature this will take 7-14 days though your beer will improve if left to mature for a while, as a rule the stronger the beer the better it gets with time and longer it will last in the bottle.
Follow the last simple instructions
a) If your beer is in the barrel then pour off a small amount of beer, maybe ¼ pint, and discard it. This will clear any liquid that may be in the pipe or tap. Then, into a clean fresh glass pour yourself another small amount to check it is clear, smells good and tastes good. If so, then enjoy your beer in sensibe moderation. If the beer does not taste 'right' then perhaps a little more time is required before trying again.
b) If your beer has been bottled then there will be a small amount of sediment in the bottom of the bottle. Very carefully open the bottle, taking care not to disturb the sediment. Slowly and carefully pour the contents into a clean glass stopping just before the sediment leaves the bottle. There is a knack to this which will come very quickly. Check it is clear, smells good and finally tastes good if so then enjoy your beer. If not, then leave it at least few days before trying again.