Your First Time is Always a Bit Messy…

Yesterday we had our first brew! The last of my supply packages from Amazon had arrived and we drove to Adventures in Homebrewing to pick up ingredients. The staff there was super friendly when I explained that this was our first time and suggested we try an Ingredient Kit from Brewer’s Best, since they included measured out ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions. Luckily, they had a whole shelf full of kits to choose from and they were ranked based on difficulty level. We chose their Summer Ale, which seemed appropriate given the hot Ann Arbor day!

The most-repeated tip we had gotten from more experienced brewers and brew blogs was to make sure to completely clean and sanitize all the equipment before brewing. We used Star San and did our best to clean the kitchen (that we share with our four other housemates) and keep our two kittens away. I had purchased everything on the BeerSmith How to Brew Beer list off of Amazon, so it didn’t come all together in one kit but ended up costing me a little bit less. Following the instructions included in the ingredient kit, we steeped the grain, boiled the wort, and added the liquid and dried malt extract. This was all fairly simple, since the packets of ingredients were measured perfectly.

Big pot on our tiny stove.

Big pot on our tiny stove.

Steeping grains.

Steeping grains.

Heating up...

Heating up…

Nice, cool bath.

Nice, cool bath.

At this point, we realized neither of us were quite sure how to siphon the liquid from the pot to the glass carboy. We tried youtube tutorials and the BeerSmith website, but all of them simply glossed over the specifics of siphoning. Is this common knowledge? Does everyone naturally know how to siphon? We even tried siphoning Star San solution through a practice tube with our mouths (pro tip: Star San tastes awful, but at least it hasn’t killed us yet?) Eventually, after adding the hops, boiling some more, and cooling in an ice-filled sink, we ended up sanitizing a large measuring cup and scooping the liquid and pouring it into the carboy. I don’t think this was necessarily the best, most sanitized way to transfer, but we didn’t have many options at that point. Hopefully the beer won’t get infected!

Doing our best

Doing our best

We added the water and yeast, but in a carboy it was a bit hard to stir. We’ve been getting some help on our siphoning technique so that by the time we end up bottling (the instructions say 4-6 days, which seems early according to various brew blogs but we’re going to monitor the CO2 bubbles in the airlock) we don’t run into the same problem.

After hours sweating in the kitchen, we were ready for something cold and easy!

After hours sweating in the kitchen, we were ready for something cold and easy!

At the end, we were exhausted and sweaty, so we laid on the couch with some cheap frozen margaritas to celebrate surviving our first brew.


8 thoughts on “Your First Time is Always a Bit Messy…

  1. Hey,

    Congrats on starting an awesome hobby!!! Wanted to give you a few quick tips newbie to newbie. Read Jim Palmer’s How to Brew (you can find it on the Internet for free). Visit it’s an online forum and it has some amazing people there that can answer any question you have. Also check out, and Brewers friend is brew log/ recipe calculator that can actually print out a step by step list for you once you create your recipe. Beer toad has tons of different recipes and inspirations for recipes. Also… If you loved that first batch and really loved brewing… Do a couple more and the you gotta go all grain… Gotta… So much more involved and way more interesting in my opinions. Here is the link that I learned from How often do you Guys plan on brewing this summer?

    • Thanks!! I think we’re going to wait until our first batch is drinkable and learn from our mistakes, but we’ll see if we can wait that long! After that it’ll depend on our schedules, we’re both students so we’re off in the summer and then have dependable schedules again in the fall. How long have you been brewing? All grain sounds so interesting, can’t wait to get the hang of brewing enough to experiment a bit.

      • We just bought and used an auto siphon for bottling! So helpful, good call on that one. It’s so helpful to have two people brewing, do you do it by yourself, because that’s so impressive!

      • Oh, additionally…. I’d give it anywhere from 10-16 days to ferment in the carboy, not 3-4. Monitoring your airlock for bubbles is not a great way to determine when fermentation is done. You have probably been seeing a lot of airlock activity and that will die down after several days… But fermentation is not done yet in the least! Best way to determine whether it is ready is to get a gravity reading. I would definitely give it some more time in primary, If you bottle too soon you may end up blowing the tops off of your bottles and not getting the desired taste/alcohol content/ body you were aiming for. Let me know if you have any more questions.

  2. Pingback: All Grain Tutorial… Step by Step… by Step | Beer Pressure

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