How to Brew Beer: 5 Steps for Making Beer at Home – Part 1

by Brad Smith on January 10, 2009 · 68 comments

beer_friendsHave you ever wanted to make beer at home? Home brewing for the first time? We’ve decided to start the new year with a three part guide that takes you through your first batch of beer including the equipment needed, how to brew the beer and how to ferment, bottle and age it.

Editor’s Note: #1 selling author John Palmer and I have put together a How to Brew with Malt Extract video/DVD which is beautifully filmed and can teach you the basics of brewing beer with malt extract.. It will get you up to speed in less than an hour and you can purchase/rent it digitally or on DVD here.

Brewing is a great hobby. In these difficult economic times, many people are turning to hobbies that can be done inexpensively at home in a reasonable amount of time. Brewing fits this bill, as it does not require a huge investment in capital or time, and is a great hobby to enjoy with friends.

Equipment Needed

You don’t need a large set of fancy and expensive equipment to brew your first batch of beer. Many brewing supply stores sell starter kits for $75 or less. If you are interested in pursuing the hobby long term, a deluxe brewing kit can be found for less than $150. A number of online stores will even ship the equipment and ingredients directly to your door. It can cost even less if you borrow some or all the equipment from a friend. Here’s a quick summary of what is needed:

  • A Large Pot – at least 3 gallons in size, though a larger one will generally result in fewer spills
  • Tubing & Clamp – to siphon and bottle the beer- A 6 foot section of 3/8″ ID food grade plastic tubing will work. Clamps are available at your brew store
  • An Airtight Fermenting Bucket – a 5 gal plastic bucket with lid, or a glass carboy. If you can afford it, purchase a glass carboy as they are easier to keep sanitized and don’t leak. If you get a carboy you may need a large bottle brush to clean it
  • An Air Lock and Stopper – sized to fit your fermenter
  • A Bottle Filler – available from your homebrew supplier – should be sized to fit on the end of your siphon tubing
  • A Thermometer – A floating thermometer with a range of 0-100 C or up from 32-220 F
  • Bottles – You need just over 2 cases in 12 oz bottles to bottle 5 gallons of beer. Do not use twist-off bottles – use high quality bottles that require a bottle opener.
  • Bottle Brush – While not absolutely required, you usually need a small brush to get your bottles clean
  • A Bottle Capper – a hand driven device to cap your bottles also available from your homebrew store
  • Bottle Caps – New bottle caps sold at your brewing supplier – you need about 50 caps for a 5 gal batch
  • A Sanitizing solution – Beer is prone to infection, so everything must be sanitized before use. Household bleach can be used, but it must be thoroughly rinsed to prevent contamination. Your brew store may have alternatives such as iodophor and starsan.

Ingredients Needed

The list below assumes you want to brew 5 gallons of a simple ale. You can use BeerSmith to formulate your own recipe or download recipes from our recipe page if you are looking for a different style.

  1. 6 lbs of Unhopped Pale Malt Extract – Usually this comes in cans that are around 3 lbs each. Malt provides the sweet base that the yeast will feed on to make alcohol. Available from various manufacturers. Dry malt extract is an acceptable alternative.
  2. 2.25 Oz of East Kent Goldings Hops – Hops add bitterness to your beer. Pellets are most common and easy to store. Keep your unused hops in the freezer in airtight bags.
  3. 1 Package of Wyeast American Ale liquid Yeast (#1056) [ or White Labs California Ale #WLP001 ]. Liquid yeast gives very high quality beer.
  4. 2/3 cup Priming Sugar – such as corn sugar. Also available from your brew store or grocer.

An Overview of the Brewing Process

Brewing consists of five simple stages.

  1. Brewing the Beer – Pale malt extract and hops are boiled together with water for about an hour to sterilize the extract and release the bittering qualities of the hops. Frequently grains are steeped in the mixture prior to the boil to add additional color and flavor complexity.
  2. Cooling and Fermenting – The hot mixture (called wort) is cooled to room temperature and siphoned or transferred to a fermenter where it is combined with additional water to achieve the desired 5 gallon batch size. Once the mixture drops to room temperature, yeast is added to start the fermentation process. Cleanliness and sanitation are very important since the wort can be easily infected by bacteria in this state. An airlock is used to keep the fermenter sealed during fermentation. Your beer will ferment for 1-2 weeks.
  3. Priming and Bottling – Once the beer is fully fermented, it is siphoned to another container to prepare for bottling. Here priming sugars such as corn sugar sugar are mixed with the beer. The beer is siphoned into bottles and each bottle is capped with a bottle capping device.
  4. Aging – Once the beer has been bottled it needs to age for 2-6 weeks. During aging the yeast will ferment the remaining sugar you added and create carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide will naturally carbonate your beer so it is nice and bubbly. In addition, undesirable sediments such as excess yeast and proteins will drop out of the beer during aging and this will enhance the flavor of your beer. In may take several months to reach peak flavor, though homemade beer usually drinkable after a month.
  5. Drinking – When the beer is properly aged – just put the bottles in the fridge and enjoy! There’s nothing quite like a great beer that you made yourself.

This is the five step process for making your own beer. The brewing portion takes a few hours, and bottling and transferring take another hour+ spread out over a few weeks.

Overall, brewing a batch of extract beer involves 3-4 hours of your time and about 4 weeks to ferment and age into a drinkable brew. This makes home brewing an attractive hobby for people who lead a busy lifestyle, but enjoy making things from scratch.

In part two of our first time brewing guide, we will give you detailed instructions on the brewing and fermenting process.

Thanks again for your continued support. Don’t forget to browse the larger BeerSmith blog (which has hundreds of articles), subscribe for regular delivery, or listen to the podcast (also on the blog) for a wealth of great brewing information.

Related Beer Brewing Articles from BeerSmith:

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

kappclark January 10, 2009 at 11:17 am

GREAT blog –

Can I link to this ?

Brad Smith January 10, 2009 at 11:22 am

I don’t see why not! Thanks for the kind comment.

kappclark January 10, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Thanks, Brad..

Saw your blog on HBT … GREEN with envy..

Go Eagles !

Jim V January 13, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Just a short note to say how much I appreciate both the BeerSmith program and your blog! Thanks,


Scott-TheBrewClub October 7, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Great how-to series. Thanks for posting for the noobs like me!

UNCLE CHUMPER October 12, 2009 at 4:18 pm

i usually make vino from chokecherry’s ripened in the upper peninsula of michigan’s dewey august morn sunshine. berries so plump, juicy, and dry, that i have seen black capped chickadee’s scare away hungry black bear for the sole right to a tree. i have never heard of a chokecherry beer though. what do you sugest? UNCLE CHUMPER’S FROZEN ACRES

Gaudior December 6, 2009 at 11:58 am

The recipe page is still linking to a location on your hard drive.

Other than that, great blog.

Brad Smith December 9, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Thanks – I corrected the broken link!

Beer Making June 9, 2011 at 4:59 am

Interesting take on this issue. I for one have seen many twists on this and can often spot the holes in the argument however, on this occasion I believed your writing is such that everyone should be in agreement with this. Thank you for sharing it with us.

webby September 29, 2011 at 6:28 am

Hey, Thanks for you lesson Brad, I tried it once and that was not a complete success. Now the second attempt is on the way, This time I’ll enjoy my beer. Thanks.

JerryF December 29, 2011 at 8:12 am

High quality 12 oz bottles, don’t use the threaded bottles, OK good idea, San Miguel Brewery has thousands of amber high quality non screw on cap bottles, and your the guy who suggested I use them.
Personally I find the only drawback to using PET screw on cap bottles is the price I have to pay to get them. Over a $1.00 ea plus the caps.
But there is a way to go, buy the Walmart flavored water in the 1 lt size for $0 .69 then wash and reuse, caps last for 5-8 Xs before replacing.

The only problem I see with home brewing is the hose job when buying supplies.

D.N.Bhandarkar March 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Hello Brad,

I am an Indian living in India. I mention this mainly because, across all Hindu cultures in India, making any alcoholic preperation at home is taboo. But I am a fad of home wine making. I have been successfully making home wines since last more than 20 years. And I don’t have any reservations to boast that over the years I have perfected the art of making home wines. There are no fussy things about my wine making; no kits, no special equipments. But high quality hygenic conditions are maintained while fermenting my must in plastic buckets and jars, throughout the processs. My home wine is comparable to any branded wines sold across the counters in India.

I now want to brew beer at home without kits and commercial equipments (hardly available at sane valuations in India!) Of course, I already have a recommended thermometer and hydrometer. I can also manage to have airtight fermentation jars. But the thing I fail to understand is what is hops and pale malt extract. Can I not make my malt at home with locally available grains such as millet, corn, jowar, wheat and such other? Even though I know how to make malts by sprouting grains, I am not sure if it is the same as ‘pale malt extract’. And hops is totally unknown to me, though I have heard of it. Is it so very important in home beer brewing?

I am sixty eight years old with a lot of life still left to spend on my experimentation at home playing with spirits. i have a taste for wines and ales, but not distilled liquors. Will you be kind enough to mail at least a casual reply?

Thank you for reading this.


Brad Smith March 26, 2012 at 9:37 am

Hops is a plant (actually the cones from a plant) you can purchase here in the US and grown throughout the world. Extract is malt extract made by mashing malted barley. Both are widely available from homebrew supply stores here both locally and on the internet. Beer is made from hops, malted barley, water and yeast – so these are key ingredients. Unfortunately I have no idea where you might find hops or malted barley (or extract) in your area – perhaps over the internet?

Youdy November 13, 2012 at 6:36 am

Hi mate, can u make a video of making beer pls? Cos easy for me to learn. Thanks very much for reply.

Jeremy Edsall November 25, 2012 at 9:24 am

Great website. I’ll find your book on Amazon and post it on my home brewing web site.

Sisay Awoke December 13, 2012 at 3:35 am

Please send me a book around brewing beer

Sandra July 3, 2013 at 7:16 am

enjoyed your site, we live in South Africa, want to expiernce with home made beer. would like to get your newsletter and if you have more tips as to our South African climate and the availibilty of ingredients. Thanx so much have a great day!

Sarah July 9, 2013 at 12:10 am

Would it be okay to bottle the beer in growlers instead of bottles?

Tuhin August 8, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Great blog! I really enjoyed reading this and now am very motivated to brew my 1st beer batch! Will fill you in how it goes in the next couple of months.

Patrick August 21, 2013 at 1:40 am

Thanks for the great article! When kind of beer would this produce (ie. ipa, pilsner, etc.)

BrewDemon August 21, 2013 at 6:11 am

There I found you, guys! It seems like we have the same passion. I have always liked beer which makes me want to brew more of its kind. You did a good job on this post, Brad. I’ve been checking this blog for quite sometime now and all I can say is it’s cool. By the way, let me add some basic tips on your list. Cleanliness must be observed at all times. Keep a record of what you’re doing even if it’s a simple recipe. This will not limit you in creating ideas beyond your simple recipe. But if you aren’t sure how to start with your beer brewing, you might want to start with starter kits. We have more variants that you can choose from.

Matthew August 22, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Why so much priming sugar? I use about half that amount for 2.0x CO2 volume in my pale ales. That’s getting close to bottle bomb pressure.

Manny November 5, 2013 at 7:52 am

Absolutely love your blog. It was very easy to follow, and you made sense of things I was uncertain about. Thank you very, very much for sharing your expertise.

chris January 7, 2014 at 5:50 am

Hi, great blog! I’ve been making my own beer for a while now and I’ve made a few enjoyable batches. I feel like experimenting abit and I have been by using licorice and honey but I was wondering if you knew of any good fruits I could use to add some interesting flavours? I only ask because I don’t want to add some fruits not knowing what the outcome will be and waste it all? Thanks, chris

tyler March 13, 2014 at 1:45 pm

If you are interested in brewing your own beer here is a recipe book

Peter Gray April 3, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Great write-up, a complete overview of the whole process. Would be interested to hear what your first homebrew was – I’ve been hearing of several people that started off with a less than simple beer!

I’m starting a blog on the same subject – so if you’ve got any tips it would be appreciated 🙂

Bradley Becker April 5, 2014 at 6:40 pm

I would like to know the ideal specific gravity reading to bottle my beer. can you help me? Thank you.

MJ May 13, 2014 at 3:50 pm

I would not recommend using plastic for any type of cooking, especially not brewing.

Chemicals in plastic leach into food, especially boiling liquid, even if its food grade.

Omid July 6, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Hi Dear
I’m living in Iran and I make the best beer in our home with very simple equipments.
If you are interested , I can describe you later!
Tanks for your comments

Pilar Hoare September 16, 2014 at 5:25 am

Thankyou for you advise in making beer I will doit with my friends, is a good hobby and I think wee will enjoy.

B A Craig January 30, 2015 at 2:14 am

Thank for everything…

Eric February 12, 2015 at 10:41 pm

I have a question regarding steeping grains in a grain bag. Should I repeatedly pull the bag out of the water like a tea bag or is it better to just leave it in place the entire steeping time?

Brad Smith February 12, 2015 at 10:45 pm

You leave it in the water for the duration of the steep, then remove it.

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