Once you decide that you would like to start making beer at home, you probably should early on pick one of the handful of ways you can actually go about doing this. There are a few different methods, which you might compare to easy, intermediate, advanced. Although, I think it’s more like easy, also easy, advanced as some of the methods are just as easy as others. What I think I’m trying to say is that “extract brewing” is about the same easy-factor as “BIAB brewing” (beer in a bag), while “all-grain brewing” is more advanced and will need more equipment and know-how.
Having said that, my current experience with beer homebrewing is quite limited thus far. I just got involved with it this past October 2014, and already am hooked. I started right out of the gates with BIAB and most of the content I put up here will be related to that for some time. But either way, everyone should pick the method that suits them best, both in available space, comfort level, and also cost. To begin, it is worth mentioning that regardless of which method you end up going with, all the steps from BOIL onward are the same for all the brewing methods, but how you get there differs. To help explain it more, here are options for you to mull over…
This method means you are brewing the beer at home, most likely on your stove, but you are using a pre-made “extract” as the primary source of ferment-able sugars. Extract comes in two forms, LME (liquid malt extract) and DME (dry malt extract). Both have their place, some recipes call for one or both kinds, but essentially these are pre-mashed grains that are then reduced down to a portable format that people can buy and then recombine with water to make beer out of. In some extract recipes there is a “partial mash” aspect where you DO get some grains and steep them in the wort. It wouldn’t be incorrect to call that “BIAB with training wheels” since you can get a feel for it while not yet having to manage all those grains initially. There are partial boils where water is added at the end to reach the batch volume, and then there are full boils where all the water is introduced up front. Techniques can be different based on brewer preference or recipe.
BIAB / BEER-IN-A-BAG BREWING
BIAB is a newer trend, which involves taking the same grains used in all-grain brewing, but without all the equipment. You basically take a food-grade paint strainer style bag, put it in your kettle, and you “mash” the grains in that for an hour. Then instead of having to lauter and sparge the grains before transferring them to a boiling kettle, you just lift out the bag, gently squeeze/drain any recoverable wort, and the wort is already in the boiling kettle. You do everything in one kettle! The amount of water used is generally all introduced in one shot, in your “strike water” volume, and between grain absorption and boiling off, you end up at your batch volume at the end.
All-grain brewing involves more equipment, and more control of the overall process. Setups can vary, but basically you start in a mash/tun kettle or cooler, allow the crushed grains to mash for an hour, and then you go through lautering where the water is transferred out and back in, to let the grain bed settle and avoid sediment being in the wort. Then you extract the wort from the mash/tun into a separate vessel – your boiling kettle. The process of mashing/lautering is where a lot of technique can come into play. There is the lautering, but also there is sparging. The amount of water used can be calculated and different amounts used in the mash, used in the sparging, etc. The key takeaway is that there are strategies here that the brewer will favor over time, or depending on the recipe, and the additional steps and hardware allow for those creative differences.
I personally chose to start right out of the gates with the BIAB method, mostly because I wanted to get some good gear, but didn’t have the space or the desire to spend as much up front on the new hobby. But, I did want to start with all raw ingredients and not work with extracts that were pre-made, so the choice was easy for me.
- 2 – Determine Batch Size
- 3 – Buy Equipment
- 4 – Choose a Beer Recipe
- 5 – Buy Your Recipe Ingredients
- 6 – Have a Brew Day!
- 7 – Secondary Additions
- 8 – Bottling Day