Welcome to The Brewer's Coop
Advice Page


[ Return to Homepage | Interactive Catalog | Getting Started | Other Beer Links | Finding Our Store | Send Email]

  • Jump to Basic Equipment
  • Jump to Basic Ingredients
  • Jump to Basic Brewing Procedure
  • Jump to Basic Fermentation
  • Jump to Basic Bottling Procedure
  • Jump to Kegging Your Beer
  • Jump to Yeast
  • Jump to All Grain Brewing
  • Jump to Making Mead
  • Jump to Making Soda

    BASIC EQUIPMENT

    The following include many of the equipment essentials for homebrewing. This list is not inclusive due to the ever increasingnumber of gadgets and new ideas. As your brewing experience grows, consider what additional equipment would make your uniquebrewing style more efficient and enjoyable.

    Brew Kettle

    The brew kettle is where the brewing process begins. All beer begins its life by boiling the malt and hops with water.Generally you want to boil at least 2 gallons of wort (the beer before it's fermented). We recommend at least a 3 gallon potto begin, with a 5 gallon pot a good investment. Stainless steel is the material of choice because of its durability, but enameled steel pots work well too. See our catalog for both stainless steel and enamel pots.

    Fermentation Vessel

    The fermentation vessel holds the wort during the fermentation process. What goes in as wort comes out as flat beer! Fermentation vessels are normally plastic food-grade buckets or glass containers called carboys. Plastic buckets are less expensive, but can stain and scratch easily, thereby allowing bacteria to flourish and off-flavors to permeate into successivebatches of beer. For these reasons, glass carboys are generally preferred and a better investment.

    Thermometer

    Thermometers are useful for both the boiling process and fermentation. Floating thermometers help in the brew pot because the wort can boil-over if it's not carefully watched (believe me this happens!) There are adhesive-backed thermometers useful totrack fermentation temperatures.

    Hydrometers

    Hydrometers are used to track specific gravity and calculate the alcohol content of your homebrew. The hydrometer checks the densityof the wort or beer by floating it in a test jar full of the liquid being tested. The more sugar in the liquid, the more dense theliquid and the higher the hydrometer will float. As the sugar is converted into alcohol the density goes down since alcohol isless dense that water. Using these theories, the hydrometer was invented and now calculates alcohol using only a simple mathematicalcalculation.

    Airlock

    An airlock is a simple plastic device that allows the fermentation gases (carbon dioxide) to bubble through water to escape.At the same time the water in the airlock prevents air from getting into the fermenter, keeping it contamination free.

    Carboy Cap

    A carboy cap fits on the lip of a glass carboy fermenter and has a hole to hold an airlock as well as a spout you can connect aa siphon hose to so you can 'blow-off' the krausen. As the fermentation takes place the yeast creates a large foam head. In a carboy there is no headspace, so you must provide a means for this to exit the carboy: a 'blow-off' hose!

    Bottling Bucket

    Bottling buckets are food grade buckets with a spigot on the bottom to facilitate bottling. Beer must be siphoned from the fermentationvessel after fermentation because there is a thick layer of dormant yeast on the bottom of the fermenter. If you attempted tosimply pour the beer out of the fermenter there would be no way to separate the yeast from the beer. You should not ferment ina bottling bucket because the spigot makes sanitation very difficult.

    Bottles

    Bottles come in many shapes and sizes and they should all work fine. Some things to keep in mind: if you're re-using bottlesfrom your favorite six pack, make sure they are brown glass and durable, returnable bottles. Green and clear glass greatly affectthe flavor of beer so avoid them at all cost. Also, twist-off bottles will not cap properly, so make sure your bottles have astandard non-twist lip. Each 5-gallon batch will fill approximately 52 12-ounce bottles.

    Siphon Hose

    Siphon hose is flexible food-grade vinyl tubing. It is used to siphon beer from fermenter to bottling bucket and also to connectthe bottle filler to the bottling bucket.

    Racking Cane

    A racking cane is clear rigid plastic tube with a removable plastic tip to keep the bottom of the cane out of the yeast cake on thebottom of the fermenter. Often the canes are curved on the top to make it even easier to 'get over the hump'!

    Bottle Filler

    A bottle filler is clear rigid plastic tube with a plastic tip on one end that acts as an automatic shut-off valve. This valve is usually spring loaded and keeps the beer from flowing (all over your floor) as you move from bottle to bottle while filling. Thereare several designs of bottle fillers including a spring-less valve type and super-premium all-copper design for lifetime use.

    Bottle Capper

    Bottle cappers come in two basic designs: bench type and double lever type. Bench cappers sit on a solid surface and bottles are insertedunder the crimping device to complete the capping. These are considered by many to be easier to use than double lever cappers.Deluxe bench cappers come with automated height adjustment so its simple to use even with bottles of different heights. Standard benchcappers must be manually adjusted. Double lever cappers are used by holding one handle in each hand and pressing down on thecrown cap to crimp it to the bottle. Most double lever capper have a magnet to hold the crown cap before it's crimped on the bottle, andare easy to use.

    Bottle Tree

    Bottle trees are plastic drying racks for your bottles. The trees allow you to invert bottles on the tree to expedite drying.Used in conjunction with a non-rinse sanitizer and bottle rinser this setup is as easy as sanitizing bottles can be!

    Bottle Rinser

    Bottle rinsers are designed to fit on top of a bottle tree. Each rinser contains a bowl which holds sanitizer and automaticallyshoots the sanitizer into the bottle when you depress a bottle on the rinser.

    Bottle Washer

    Bottle washers are usually made of brass and connect to a hose spigot. An adapter is available to connect this device to any kitchen faucet.These washers spray a powerful jet of water into your bottle when the bottle is depressed on the washer, and automatically shuts-off whenyou lift the bottle off the washer.

    Bottle Caps

    Bottle caps come in a variety of designs. You always must use new crown caps. Fairly new on the market are oxygen barrier crowns. Thesecrowns have special liners which actually absorb the oxygen in the head space of the bottle. Oxygen degrades beer even after the bottlesare capped, so using the crowns help preserve your hand-crafted brew once in the bottle.

    Sanitizer

    Sanitation is the most important step of brewing. Wort is rich in sugars and other nutrients which makes it an ideal place for most anythingto grow, including bacteria. Your goal as a successful homebrewer is to keep the bacteria away while allowing the yeast to consume the sugars thereby creating alcohol and flavor. There are several sanitizers and the market to help you in your quest for delicious homebrew. It isimportant to clean all your equipment before sanitizing it. Water and a sponge or brush work well for this. After your equipment is clean thenyou should sanitize it using a reputable commercial sanitizer. Don't use household cleaners or soaps because they contain perfumes and anti-spottingagents which can retard yeast growth and carbonation. We recommend an idophor sanitizer because it is a potent sanitizer and does not requirerinsing after use making it convenient. One-Step Sanitizer and B-Brite Cleanser are also very popular with homebrewers.

    BASIC INGREDIENTS


    Malt

    Malt is generally made from barley grain. Some advanced brewers and most professional breweries start the brewing process directlywith the grain. As a beginner, and many advanced brewers start with malt extract. Extract is the sugar and other nutrients fromthe grain which creates the food for the yeast. Malt Extract comes in syrup form and in powder form. The powder has a little lesswater, but otherwise the two forms are identical, and personal preference may dictate which form you prefer. As a rule of thumb, each 5-gallon batch requires about 6 or 7 pounds of malt extract. Malt extract is also available either plain or hopped. If you lookthrough our Catalog you'll see the plain extracts which are used when following or designingrecipes. You'll also find hopped extracts which contain generic hop bitterness, and "kits" which are malt extract and hop bitternessdesigned by the manufacturer to duplicate famous beer styles. Unlike The Coop's boxed kits, canned extract kits have the hops alreadyadded, which tends to lack any hop flavor or aroma. For this reason we recommend The Coop's boxed kits, or if using a canned kit suggestyou add additional hops at the end of the boil for flavor and aroma.

    Hops

    Hops are flowers which provide bitterness, flavor and aroma to finished beer. Generally, the longer you boil hops in the wort, the morebitterness extracted, but long boiling leaves little or no flavor or aroma. Hops are available in whole flower, pellet and plug form.Pellets are usually the most favored due to their compact size and freshness, but all forms work well. Hops also preserve the finishedbeer product.

    Yeast

    Yeast converts the malt sugars and nutrients into alcohol and flavor. Yeast is available in dry powder form and in pure liquid packets.The dry yeast usually starts faster, but isn't as clean as the liquid yeast. The liquid strains are available in dozens of styles, so theyare especially advantageous when trying to duplicate a specific style.

    Water

    Water is the final ingredient in beer. Any potable water is normally fine for beer.

    Adjuncts

    Many beers are made with adjunct ingredients. Adjuncts are ingredients other than the four basics above. Adjuncts include rice, sugar,spices, honey, unmalted wheat and barley, etc., etc., etc., etc.

    YOUR FIRST BREW


    Boiling

    Boiling is where it all begins. Heat at least 2-gallons of water to boiling. Remove kettle from heat and add your malt extract. Allow to mix thoroughly before returning to the heat. Return to boiling, adding your bittering hops. Boil vigorously for 30-60 minutes. 5 minutes beforethe end of the boil add your finishing hops for flavor and aroma.

    Cooling

    Cooling your wort is very difficult because of the high density of the liquid. Remove your brew kettle from the heat, cover with a lid or tinfoil,and set in an ice bath in your sink until luke warm.

    Sanitizing

    This very important step should be done while your wort is boiling. Thoroughly sanitize your fermenter, airlock, lid or carboy cap, and a siphonhose if you are using a blow-off tube and a funnel if you are using a carboy.

    Pitching

    Rehydrate your dry yeast by adding the yeast packet to about 1-cup of luke warm water in a sanitized glass or jar. Cover with tinfoil and allow to sitfor 20 minutes. Add the cooled wort to your fermenter, stir, shake or roll the wort vigorously to oxygenate the wort. This is a very important step becausethe yeast needs oxygen to start its fermentation cycle. Top the fermenter up to 5-gallons total with cool water. Now 'pitch' your yeast into the fermenter when the wort temperature is under 80 degrees F, andcover with lid or cap. Attach airlock, or blow-off tube if using one, but not both simultaneously.

    BASIC FERMENTATION


    Fermentation

    Fermentation should start within one day of pitching your yeast. If using liquid yeast it may take two days. If using a bucket you'll see the airlock bubbling. In a carboy you'llget to see all the action through the glass. The fermentation may vary substantially depending on temperature, wort ingredients, oxygen in the wort before pitchingyour yeast, etc. Normal fermentation takes 7-10 days, but some fast fermentations can be complete in as little as 4 days. Long fermentations should be done in 14 days.During fermentation keep the fermenter between 65-75 degrees F. for Ales. See the Yeast section for further discussions about liquid yeast, ales, lagers, etc.

    BASIC BOTTLING PROCEDURE


    Siphoning

    Siphoning is thought of as tricky business, but it's really quite easy! First of all there are siphon starters you can buy to make the process easier.See our Interactive Catalog. Here are a couple basics and an easy way to get started without a siphon starter. Siphoning worksby gravity. Therefore, you'll need to place your fermenter above your bottling bucket so the bottom of the fermenter is above the top of your bottling bucket.Now connect your sanitized siphon hose (flexible) to your sanitized racking cane (rigid). To siphon from your fermenter into your bottling bucket fill the entire hose and cane with water.Make sure your siphon hose is long enough so that when the cane is in the fermenter the hose will reach to below the bottom of your fermenter, preferably to the bottom of yourbottling bucket. Keeping your thumb over the hose end (to keep the water from flowing out), insert the cane into the fermenter. When the tip is below the beer line, you can dropthe hose end into the bottling bucket. Presto! The beer should follow the water out of the hose and continue until the fermenter is down to the sediment line. Remember tosiphon gently. You want to get as little beer as possible in contact with the air, since air degrades beer.

    Bottling

    When the airlock stops moving, take a specific gravity reading by removing a small portion of the beer into a test jar. Write down the reading and discard the contentsof the test jar so you don't contaminate the fermenter. You may want to taste this for a sneak-peek of your brew. After a day take another reading in the same manner.Compare the two readings to see if the specific gravity has changed. If it has you know the fermentation is still active. If not you can sanitize your bottling bucket,racking cane, bottle filler, siphon hose, bottles and bottle caps. Heat a cup of water to boiling. Add 3/4 cup of corn sugar and boil for 5 minutes.Add this mixture to your clean bottling bucket first, then siphon gently into the bottling bucket on top of the sugar. This ensures a well mixed sugar level and thereforeconsistent carbonation. Now attach your siphon hose to the spigot and the bottle filler and fill each bottle. Once full cap and place in a warm dark location for 5 days.

    The First Bottle

    After 5 days, the beer should be carbonated. Remove one and place in the fridge for a couple hours. Remove and pop the top, listening as you do so. You should hear a hiss! Slowly pour your beer into your favorite beer glass, leaving the bottom quarter inch or so where the yeast sediments. Enjoy your homebrew!!

    Aging

    Your first beer will continue to improve with age. Homebrew is all natural, so it doesn't have an indefinite shelf life, but most homebrew will improve for the first coupleof months in the bottle. After this it will slowly degrade. With age in the bottle your beer will also clear as more yeast settles. You may also notice slight carbonationincreases.

    KEGGING YOUR BEER


    Kegging is super easy, and I guarantee you'll never go back to bottling, but this section is still under development.Check back soon

    YEAST


    This section is next for completion and will cover dry and liquid yeast, ales, lagers, starters, etc.

    ALL GRAIN BREWING


    This section is still under development

    MAKING MEAD


    This section is still under development

    MAKING SODA


    Ingredients

    Soda is remarkably simple to make, using only 4 ingredients and requiring no boiling or fermentation. You'll need soda extract,sugar, champagne yeast and water. The soda extracts can be ordered through our Interactive Catalogand come in several flavors. Rootbeer is the most popular. You'll need 4 pounds of sugar for four gallons of soda. We suggest 2 poundscorn sugar and 2 pounds cane sugar. The more cane sugar, the sweeter the finished product. Dry champagne yeast works fine for sodasbecause it's used only to carbonate the soda. This means if you use a keg and force carbonate, you won't need the yeast.

    Procedure

    Simply add the 4 pounds sugar to 4 gallons water. We recommend heating the water to help dissolve the sugars, but it isn't required.Add the sugar and water to your bottling bucket and stir until well dissolved. Add the soda extract and yeast and again stir well toensure the mixture is consistently mixed. Now simply fill your sanitized bottles and immediately cap. The champagne yeast will startto ferment the sugar in the mixture, but will quickly go dormant since there are no nutrients in the mixture to sustain yeast life.As the fermentation begins it creates carbon dioxide, which carbonates the soda naturally in the bottle. The soda will have a very slight alcohol content, about the same as orange juice. Keep the capped bottles at about 75 degrees F. Carbonation should be complete within two weeks.The yeast will settle in the bottle, so you'll need to pour out of the bottle to drink.

    FEEDBACK

    Please let us know what you think of our page! If you have other questions, tips or tricks you'd like to share, send us an E-Mail Note and we'll try to include it in our next update. Thanks for your input!!

    Thank You For Visiting The Brewer's Coop Advice Page

    1-630-393-BEER

    Fax 393-2323


    [ Return to Homepage |Interactive Catalog |Getting Started |Other Beer Links |Finding Our Store |Send Email]

    copyright ©1996 - 2003 The Brewer's Coop, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
    This Page Last Updated 04/21/03.