HOMEBREWING STARTER KIT INSTRUCTIONS
From cleaning and sanitizing, through primary and secondary fermentation, follow these instructions along with your ingredients recipe to perfect your beer.
YOUR STARTER KIT INCLUDES
- Bucket Fermenter with Bored Lid and Tap (Primary Fermenter)
- 5 Gallon Glass or PET Carboy (Secondary Fermenter)
- Stopper with Hole
- Racking Assembly (Siphon Tool and Tubing)
- Bottle Brush
- Bottle Capper
- Triple Scale Hydrometer
- Hydrometer Test Jar
- Stick-on Thermometer Strips (2)
- Bottle Filler
- Equipment Cleanser
- Plastic Mixing Spoon
- Beginner’s Guide to Homebrewing
YOU MAY ALSO NEED
- Beer Recipe Kit or Ingredients
- Sanitizer (Star San, Iodophor, or similar product)
- 4 to 8 Gallon (16-32qt) Stainless Steel Kettle
- 20-50 ft Immersion Wort Chiller
- Dial or Digital Thermometer with a range of 32-212°F (0-100°C) or greater
- Pop-Top Beer Bottles (48 x 12oz or 24 x 22oz)
- Bottle Caps
- Priming Sugar or Carbonation Drops/Tablets
- Muslin or Strainer Bags for grains and hops
- Measuring Spoons, Cups, and Pitchers
- Scales for weighing grains and hops
- Large Stainless Mesh Strainer with Handle
- A Wine Thief or Stainless Baster for taking samples
- Carboy Carrier Strap System
- Fermenter Heat Pad or Belt
- Close supervision is needed if brewing around children. Liquids and surfaces will become extremely hot during the brewing process. Always exercise extreme caution to prevent injury while brewing.
- If your equipment kit includes a glass carboy, always handle it carefully. Do not lift it by the neck when it is full of liquid; avoid impact with hard surfaces. Never fill your carboy with scalding hot liquids. Immediately discard any carboy that appears to have formed cracks or other defects. A carboy carrier strap system can help move and lift full carboys.
- Follow fermentation steps precisely. Never bottle your beer before fermentation is complete. Never exceed recommended priming sugar dosages. Do not bottle condition in glass jugs, growlers, jars, or other containers not designed to hold the level of pressure created while bottle conditioning. Failure to follow these steps may result in glass bottles bursting due to excess pressure.
- If your equipment kit includes a PET plastic carboy, do not fill it with liquid that exceeds 120°F (49°C) and avoid placing it near burners. High temperatures may cause your carboy to deform. Do not use a brush or cleaning tools that may scratch the material.
- Follow use and dosage instructions for cleansers and sanitizers and pay close attention to all product warning labels.
TIPS FOR BREWING GOOD BEER
Proper cleaning and sanitizing of equipment is the most critical part of the brewing process. Without it, you risk the introduction of contaminants and undesirable microbes into your beer. All brewing equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed before brewing. Anything that touches your beer after it has been brewed must be clean and sanitized. In addition to cleaning with the equipment cleanser that is included with your kit, Star San, Iodophor, or a similar sanitizing product is recommended. Throughout these instructions we refer to a ‘rinse’ step after cleaning/sanitizing, however, this step may not be necessary with other products. Always follow the instructions on the pack.
Finished beer is 90-95% water, making it one of the most important ingredients. Use only clean, neutral tasting water that is suitable for drinking. Avoid using water with a strong chlorine presence, which is extremely hard, or has been softened. Using filtered or store-bought drinking water may be necessary depending upon the quality of your tap water.
Stable temperature is essential for good fermentation. Significant temperature shifts should be avoided during fermentation. Fermenting your beer at too hot or cold temperatures can result in sluggish or overactive fermentation and create undesirable flavors in your finished product.
Homebrewing is a hobby that teaches patience. Good beer can’t be rushed. It’s always better to wait a few more days than to transfer or bottle your beer too early. You’ll find that beer which has been allowed to condition for an extra week or two after bottling will typically taste better.
Good notes will help you recreate recipes, adjust recipes, and identify mistakes. We advise keeping track of dates, times, temperatures, gravity readings, and other information.
TRIPLE SCALE HYDROMETER AND RACKING ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS
USING YOUR HYDROMETER
Your hydrometer has three scales; Specific Gravity, Potential ABV%, and Brix.
When taking a reading, ensure the hydrometer floats freely in the test jar and isn’t resting on the bottom. Take the reading from where the liquid level is on the scale on the hydrometer. Make a note of your readings as well as the date. Once you have finished taking a reading, discard the sample and clean all equipment after use.
Specific Gravity (SG) is a scale that measures the density of a liquid solution. The more sugar present in a solution, the higher the density. Therefore, a solution containing a lot of sugar will give a high SG reading. During fermentation, yeast converts the sugars present in your wort (unfermented beer) to alcohol, meaning as the wort ferments, the SG decreases, and the Alcohol by Volume (ABV) increases.
Knowing the Original Gravity (OG), a measure of Specific Gravity before fermentation, and later comparing it with the Final Gravity (FG), a measure of Specific Gravity after fermentation, will help you to determine if fermentation is complete, as well as the ABV% (Alcohol by Volume) of your beer. Your approx. ABV% can be calculated using this formula: ABV% = (OG – FG) x 131.25.
For example, (1.050 – 1.010) x 131.25 = 5.25% ABV.
Take a Potential ABV% reading at the start and end of fermentation. By subtracting the Potential ABV% reading after fermentation is complete from the original Potential ABV% reading, you will determine the beer’s final ABV%. This should be done while the wort is at fermentation temperature; if the wort is too warm your reading will not be accurate.
Brix is the measure of grams of sucrose present per 100 grams of liquid and is another method of determining the potential alcohol content of your beer before fermentation. A Brix reading multiplied by 0.59 will give you your beer’s potential alcohol content. E.g., a reading of 10.0°Bx will give a potential ABV of 5.9%.
USING YOUR RACKING ASSEMBLY
Your racking assembly is made up of 5-foot siphon tubing and a siphon tool (curved inner tube and larger, outer tube). To assemble, run hot water over one end of the siphon tubing for several seconds (or soak it in hot water) to soften the material slightly, then slide it about ½ inch onto the curved end of your siphon tool.
Always place the vessel containing the liquid you’re transferring on a sturdy, elevated surface, above the vessel you’re transferring the liquid into.
Insert the siphon tool into the liquid you’re transferring and let it rest at the bottom of the vessel – do this gently if there’s any sediment at the bottom of the vessel to avoid disturbing it.
Insert the end of the siphon tubing into the vessel you’re transferring the liquid into, letting it rest on the bottom of the vessel.
To start the siphon
Using one hand to hold the outer tube of your siphon tool in place, slowly pull the curved inner tube out so that the siphon tool fills with liquid, then push it back down into the siphon tool to start the flow of liquid. You may need to repeat this pumping action a couple of times.
Once the flow has started, it will only stop once the first vessel is empty or by lifting the siphon tool out of the remaining liquid in the first vessel.
Once you have finished, clean your racking assembly using the equipment cleanser and rinse.
Preparing Your Equipment
1. Remove the nut and one of the two washers from the bottling tap, leaving one washer in place.
2. Gripping the body of the bottling tap towards the threaded end, screw it into the threaded hole in your primary fermenter, ensuring that it is screwed in tightly and will hold a seal.
3. Make sure that the handle of the tap is in the Off or Closed position, then rotate the spout so that the spout is oriented upwards (upside-down). The spout should always be in this position unless in use, such as when transferring or bottling, at which time the spout should rest over the edge of a solid surface such as a counter, stool, or table.
4. Your equipment kit includes two stick-on thermometer strips. Remove the backing from one and apply it to your primary fermenter just above the tap. Apply the second thermometer strip to the lower 2/3 of your carboy.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
Your beer can spoil due to contamination by a variety of bacteria and other microorganisms. Anything that touches your wort after it has been boiled should be cleaned and sanitized. This includes the primary fermenter and lid, carboy, airlock, stopper, mixing spoon, racking assembly, bottles, bottle filler, and any muslin or mesh bags being used for dry hopping.
Tip: The following steps can be completed during the downtime of the brewing process, such as while boiling or waiting for your wort to cool.
1.Rinse your primary fermenter, lid, mixing spoon, and airlock with warm water to remove any dust or debris.
2. Make 1 gallon of cleanser solution inside your primary fermenter by following the instructions on the equipment cleanser included.
3. Seal your primary fermenter with the lid.
4. Over the next 15 minutes, periodically swirl and shake the primary fermenter to ensure that all surfaces have been rinsed with the cleanser solution.
Check around the bottling tap for any signs of leakage. Tighten further if necessary.
5. Pour some of the cleanser solution into another smaller vessel such as a quart jar or pitcher for later use, then discard the remaining solution.
6. Thoroughly rinse the primary fermenter and lid with cool water.
7. Disassemble the airlock and place it into the sanitizer solution. Soak for 10-15 minutes, then remove, rinse, and set it aside on a dry paper towel.
Prepare the Specialty Grains
Your recipe may include specialty grains. These are used to add color, flavor, aroma, and other desirable characteristics to your beer that cannot be attained from using malt extracts alone. Skip this step if your recipe does not include specialty grains. Your specialty grains should be crushed before steeping.
Tip: Complete the steps in this, and the Prepare your “Wort” sections simultaneously.
1.In a large saucepan or pot, add 2 Cups (16 oz/1 Pint/500 ml) of cold water per ¼ lb. of specialty grain.
On your stovetop, bring the water to 175°F (80°C) or just steaming hot if you do not have a thermometer. Turn off the burner.
2. Pour your specialty grains into a strainer bag and close it off, then place the bag in the water, making sure that the grain is completely saturated.
3. Cover the pot and steep the specialty grain for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove the strainer bag from the liquid allowing it to drain into the pot, then dunk the bag in the water that you are currently heating up in the brew kettle a few times to rinse it and allow it to drain. Do not squeeze it. Discard the grain when done.
5. Add the liquid from your saucepan or pot to the water in your brew kettle.
Prepare your “Wort”
Follow the general steps below along with your recipe.
1. Add no less than 2½ gallons (9.5 Liters) and no more than 5 gallons (19 Liters) of cold water to your brew kettle and bring to a boil. How much water you add will depend on the size of your kettle. Be sure to leave at least 1 gallon of additional space to account for boiling activity and the addition of malt extract. If you do not have a wort chiller, it’s recommended that you start with only 2½ gallons of water.
2. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, turn off the heat.
3. Wait a few moments to allow the bottom of the kettle to cool slightly. Slowly pour your malt extract into the kettle while stirring the bottom of the kettle. All the malt extract should be dissolved before turning your burner back on. Any undissolved malt remaining at the bottom of the kettle when you turn the burner back on will scorch.
Tip: Add only half of your malt extract at the beginning of the boil and repeat the above process when 15 minutes remain to add the other half. This will prevent scorching of the sugars in the malt which can contribute an “extract tang” flavor to your beer.
4. If your recipe uses a combination of both Dry and Liquid Malt Extracts (DME/LME), add the DME with the first malt extract addition.
5. Turn your burner back on to bring your wort up to a rolling boil. As soon as your wort has reached a boil, make a note of the time, or set a kitchen timer, and begin timing your boil. Add boiling hops now if the recipe calls for it.
Tip: A 60 to 90 minute overall boil time is common for most homebrew recipes. It’s standard for most recipes to be written in a countdown format, for example a “15 minute” addition indicates a step should be completed with 15 minutes of the boil time remaining.
6. Monitor your kettle carefully to prevent it from boiling over. Adjust your burner and stir as needed.
7. Follow the steps for your recipe, adding hops and other ingredients to the brew kettle when called for.
8. Turn your burner off once you have reached the end of your boil.
Cool the Wort
1.Your wort should be cooled to fermentation temperature quickly to prevent contamination by microbes that may spoil your beer. 65-72°F (18-22°C) is the ideal temperature range for most beer styles but be sure to check the recommended fermentation temperature range for your yeast.
If using an immersion style wort chiller, place it in the kettle and wait 2 minutes before running water through your chiller. This will allow enough time for the wort chiller to be sanitized by the hot wort. Run cold water through your wort chiller until the wort has reached fermentation temperature, stirring occasionally. Remove the chiller before following the transfer steps below.
If you do not have a wort chiller, an ice bath can be used to cool your wort quickly. Seal the drain of your kitchen sink, then cover your kettle and place it in the sink. Pour ice around your kettle and fill your sink with cold water until the ice begins to float freely. Stir your wort in a circular motion occasionally, replacing ice as needed. Wait for the wort to reach below 80°F (27°C) before transferring it to your primary fermenter. If you do not have a thermometer to check your wort temperature, allow your wort to cool until the outside of your brew kettle feels cool to the touch.
Ambient with Cold Water
If you do not have a wort chiller and are unable to use an ice bath, cover your kettle and allow it to sit, cooling for about 45 minutes. Then, add a gallon of cool water to your fermenter, then follow the transfer steps below.
Once your wort has cooled to within fermentation temperature range, wait a few additional minutes before transferring so that any solids still in suspension have time to settle.
2. Pour your wort into your sanitized primary fermenter while avoiding transferring any sediment that has settled on the bottom of the kettle into your fermenter. If you have a strainer, you can sanitize it and place it over your fermenter to help filter out any sediment. If pouring the beer from your kettle is too difficult, sanitize the racking assembly and use this to transfer the wort from your kettle to the fermenter – see Using Your Racking Assembly above.
3. Top your primary fermenter off to 5½ gallons (21 L) with cool water. Place your hydrometer in the test jar and use the tap on your primary fermenter to draw enough wort so that the hydrometer floats freely. Take an SG and Potential ABV% reading and note them down with the date of the reading – see Using Your Hydrometer above.
Add the Yeast
1. Confirm that the wort is within fermentation temperature range by reading the thermometer strip.
2. If you are using a dry yeast, sprinkle it on top of your wort. Do not stir. The yeast will hydrate and settle into the wort on its own. If you are using a liquid yeast, follow the instructions on the package for preparation, then pitch (pour) the yeast into the wort in your primary fermenter.
3. Seal the primary fermenter with the lid. Half-fill your airlock with clean water (or to the fill line), then insert the stem of your airlock about ¾ inch into the grommet in the lid. The airlock will maintain a seal while allowing CO2 created during fermentation to escape through the water.
1. Move your fermenter to a spot where you can ensure it will remain within the recommended temperature range for the next 7-10 days. Your airlock should begin to bubble within 12 to 48 hours after adding your yeast, and foam (krausen) will begin to form on top of your beer. Keep the fermenter lid closed to prevent contamination.
2. After a few days of vigorous initial fermentation, activity in your fermenter will begin to slow and the foam will settle. After 7 to 10 days, and once any activity in the airlock appears to have ceased, you will want to transfer (rack) your beer to the carboy (Secondary Fermenter), leaving any sediment behind (see Racking below).
Adding hops during fermentation can help increase the hop flavor and aroma in your beer; this is usually reserved for hop-forward beers such as IPAs. If your recipe calls for dry hopping, your hops should be placed into a sanitized strainer bag and added 3-5 days into fermentation. Avoid allowing dry hops to remain in your beer for more than 7 days, as this may produce grassy and vegetal flavors.
Transferring your beer to a secondary fermenter and leaving the yeast sediment behind will give you a better tasting beer with improved clarity.
Tip – read Using Your Racking Assembly above before starting this section.
1. Using your equipment cleanser, create ½ gallon of cleanser solution in your carboy, then seal the carboy with the stopper. Shake your carboy a few times so that all internal surfaces are rinsed with the solution. Be especially careful doing this if you have a glass carboy.
2. Begin to siphon the cleanser solution out of the carboy into a container such as a large bowl, pitcher, or jar, stopping when the container is about ¾ full. Use some of this solution to sanitize the outside of your racking assembly and keep the rest for later.
3. Pour the remaining cleanser solution out of your carboy and discard it. Rinse your carboy and racking assembly.
4. Ensure that no liquid remains in your carboy or racking assembly, then place your carboy on the floor. Being careful not to disturb the sediment, move your primary fermenter to a surface higher than the carboy and remove the lid.
5. Using your racking assembly, transfer your beer from the primary fermenter to the carboy. Avoid aerating your beer during this step as it can create undesirable flavors. Stop the siphon when the beer has reached 2-3 inches below the top of the neck of the carboy. Sanitize the stopper using some of the cleanser solution that you set aside, then move the airlock from the lid of the primary fermenter to the stopper and seal your carboy. Move your carboy back to a space where it will continue to remain within the fermentation temperature range.
6. Rinse the sediment and debris out of your primary fermenter, then wash your primary fermenter and racking assembly with cleanser solution. It may be necessary to wet a paper towel with cleaning solution to wipe away the more stubborn soils. When done, remove the tap, and use some of the solution you set aside earlier to ensure that it is clean. Rinse all cleaned equipment.
1. Leave your beer in secondary fermentation for another 7 to 10 days to allow time for your beer to finish fermenting and clarify. Make sure that the carboy is in a dark environment or is covered; exposure to light can create ‘skunky’ flavors in your beer.
2. After 7 days, take an SG reading using your hydrometer. Place your hydrometer inside the test jar and set it near your carboy. Remove the inner curved tube portion from your siphon tool and set it aside leaving you with the outer tube. Sanitize the outer tube using sanitizer solution, insert it about ¾ down into the beer in the carboy, then pull it out vertically and pour the sample into your test jar. This is best done near a sink to contain any mess. Do this as often as necessary until the hydrometer can float freely in the test jar. If you have one, use a sanitized wine thief or a stainless baster to remove the sample instead of the outer siphon tube.
3. Compare the SG to the target Final Gravity (FG) of your recipe. Discard the sample when done.
4. If your reading is higher than the target FG, replace the airlock, wait 2 to 3 days, then take another SG reading. If there has been no change, and the beer is clear and tastes dry, it’s time to bottle. If the gravity reading has dropped by more than 0.001, or if the gravity is higher than expected, allow your beer to ferment longer (no longer than 5 weeks) until the FG readings are stable. It’s very important not to bottle your beer before fermentation has completed, otherwise your final product may be over-carbonated, or worse, cause exploding bottles.
Adding additional sugar after fermentation will produce carbonation in your beer. It’s important to add the correct amount, otherwise your final product may be over- or under-carbonated.
1. To bottle your beer, you will need about two cases of brown pop-top bottles (twist-off bottles will not seal correctly). If your bottles have been used, discard any bottles containing mold or heavy soil. Make certain that they have been cleaned and rinsed in advance. Soaking your bottles in a warm cleanser solution will ensure that that your bottles are clean and assist with removal of labels. Use your bottle brush to scrub the inside of your bottles. Do not use any bottles that appear to have dirty spots in them after cleaning. Do not use any bottles that have any chips, cracks, or imperfections.
2. Sanitize your primary fermenter, tap, bottle filler, racking assembly, mixing spoon, and bottles using your equipment cleanser. Rinse all equipment thoroughly. Set aside some sanitizing solution in a large bowl or pitcher to use during the bottling process.
If you are using priming sugar: In a small saucepan, bring 2 Cups of cold tap water to a boil, then turn off the burner and stir in your priming sugar until dissolved. Let it sit for 5 minutes, stir again, then pour the sugar solution into your sanitized primary fermenter (make sure that the tap is closed).
If you are using carbonation drops or tablets: Follow recommended dosage rates on the packaging. Place the recommended amount in each bottle before filling.
3. Use your racking assembly to transfer beer from your carboy into your primary fermenter, leaving as much sediment behind as possible. If using priming sugar, gently stir the beer to ensure the sugar solution is mixed in well. Avoid aerating your beer during this step. Move your now filled primary fermenter to an elevated surface. Remove the siphon hose from the curved end of your siphon tool and connect it to the tap on your primary fermenter. (You may need to run the end of the hose under hot water for several seconds to soften it first). Connect the other end of the hose to the clear end of your bottle filler. Insert the bottle filler into your first bottle and open the tap on your primary fermenter.
4. To start the flow of beer, press the bottle filler down into the bottom of the bottle. To stop the flow, simply lift it up again. Fill each bottle to the very top; when the filler is removed from the bottle, the liquid level will drop, leaving the correct amount of head space in the bottle. Cap each bottle immediately after filling. Do not sanitize the caps or get them wet before use as this will prematurely activate the oxygen-absorbing liner. Continue bottling until all bottles are filled. Rinse any beer off from the outside of the bottles that may have overflowed. Clean all equipment thoroughly after use.
Store your bottles upright at room temperature for 14 days to condition.
The additional sugar will be consumed by the yeast and will produce carbonation within your sealed bottles.
Serving & Storage
- Serve your beer chilled. If your beer seems under-carbonated, allow it to remain at room temperature for another 7 days.
- Each bottle will contain a small amount of yeast sediment at the bottom. Store upright and carefully pour the beer into a glass before consuming, leaving the sediment behind. Rinse bottles well and save for reuse.