How Do I Make Beer?

J. D. Kenrich

Anyone with a few ingredients, some relatively simple equipment and some spare time has the ability to make beer on his own. Home brewing is a popular hobby that can result in a satisfying, consumable final product. By carefully preparing the workspace, boiling malt extract, adding hops, cooling the mixture, facilitating fermentation and completing the bottling process, it is possible to create a home brew with great taste.

Hops, which are used to make beer.
Hops, which are used to make beer.

To make beer, it first is necessary to fill a brew kettle about two-thirds full of plain water and put it on the stove to boil. When the water heats, liquid malt extract should be added and stirred to the point of dissolution. The combination of the water and the extract is now referred to as wort, which must be allowed to boil for an hour. The heat generated during this part of the beer-making process ensures that no bacteria can survive.

Tanks for fermenting beer.
Tanks for fermenting beer.

Next, hops in leaf or pellet form are added to the mixture. Hops are included to impart beer's characteristic bitterness. An additional infusion of hops will then be added toward the end of the boiling process. It is important to select hops that are green in hue, avoiding those that have yellowed, because color is indicative of age and potentially degraded flavor. After the boiling is complete, the wort is taken off the heat and the kettle is covered and placed in ice water.


At this stage in the process, it is critical that all the equipment used to make beer is thoroughly sanitized. Funnels, the fermenter, the airlock and any other item that comes into contact with wort must be cleaned with a chlorine solution. It also is possible to purchase commercial sanitizing products able to further reduce the danger of contamination.

Three types of beer in pilsner glasses.
Three types of beer in pilsner glasses.

The sterilized fermenter is filled with the cooled wort and plain water, and any hops remaining in the wort must be extracted with a strainer. It is important that wort be cooled to roughly 70° Fahrenheit (21° Celsius) prior to the addition of the ale yeast. Once yeast is incorporated, the process begins whereby sugars become alcohol and carbon dioxide. In a relatively short time, bubbles will be forced through the airlock sitting atop the fermentation vessel. The entire fermentation process will take somewhere between three days and two weeks.

Once the bubbles attempting to escape through the airlock begin to significantly slow and the wort is no longer cloudy, bottling and conditioning — also referred to as priming — can commence. A quantity of sugar should be boiled in water, slightly cooled and transferred to a clean container large enough for the full batch of beer. The contents of the fermenter should then be siphoned into the container, whereby the beer will be complete. Once sanitized, individual bottles can hold the final product, which must age for a minimum of one week. All that is left to do at this point is sample the results and enjoy the fact that you were able to make beer.

Malt extract is known for its use in brewing beer.
Malt extract is known for its use in brewing beer.

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Discussion Comments


@Markerrag -- some people would argue that those kits kind of defeat the purpose of getting into the beer brewing hobby because you have a lot of flexibility on how your beer tastes if you brew it the traditional way. The notion is that you will want to add certain things as your skills develop and a brewing machine and kit don't really allow for that because the user is supposed to dump in some ingredients and let the machine go to work.

If you want a "set it and forget it" brewing experience, do some research on brewing mead. You can create your first batch of that stuff in a gallon milk jug if you want (you can do the same with wine, of course, but such a setup seems to be the most popular way for mead brewers to get started).


If you are considering making your own beer, you might want to start with one of those kits where you pour in all the ingredients and let a machine do most of the work for you. Brewing beer on your own takes a lot of time and effort and those brewing kits are very good at cutting that time and effort to about nothing.

Of course, you might like spending a day heating, measuring, stirring and straining and more time keeping an eye on your fermenting brew. However, that is more than a bit of a chore, so get ready to spend some time if you want to brew your beer the old fashioned way.


Sterilization is extremely important and it is easy and cheap to do it. Simply mix a tablespoon of bleach with a gallon of water and you have a sterilization fluid that works very well and has been used on dishes and such for years. It is a very safe way to sanitize anything that might come in contact with the stuff you are trying to turn into beer.

If you do use bleach, make sure to rinse all of the dishes and utensils you use it on very thoroughly. There are some sterilization solutions out there that don't have to be rinsed off, but the bleach-water combination isn't one of them. If you don't rinse well, your beer might taste horrible and might not even be safe to drink.

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