Q: Is home brewing
A: No, basic
home brewing is as easy as cooking pasta. If you can
boil water and follow a recipe, you can brew your own
Q: What equipment
do I need to brew my own beer?
A: The basic
equipment needed is a brew pot, a fermenter, a siphon
system, cleaning and sanitizing supplies, a strainer
or straining bag, a bottle capper and caps, and bottles.
For complete details about brewing equipment needed,
check out the equipment
section of our virtual brew class. We sell several
equipment packages for beginners needing a complete equipment
starter package. For more details, check out our on-line
Q: What Ingredients
do I need to make beer?
A: You will
need water (drinking quality), barley malt extract or
whole malt, hops, yeast, and a good recipe. If you are
brewing your first batch, we recommend an ingredient
kit, because they include all the ingredients (except
yeast, which should be ordered separately), and have
step by step brewing instructions. For our selection
of organic Ingredient kits for beginners, go here: Easy-Brew
Q: How Long
does it take to make a batch?
A: From start
to finish, a simple batch will take 4 to 5 weeks to be
ready for drinking. The cooking stage will take two or
three hours, the fermentation stage is about 2 weeks,
bottling the beer will take 2 or 3 hours, and the aging
time in the bottles is about 2 to 3 weeks.
Q: What do the
Most Ingredient kits cost between $25 and $30 for a five
This translates into 48¢ to 67¢ per 12 oz.
bottle. If you purchase ingredients in bulk in larger
quantities, you can lower your cost to as little as $15
per 5 gallons, or 29¢ a bottle.
Q: Can I make
really good beer at home?
In fact, your
first batch may amaze you, and your friends, as long
as you choose quality ingredients, practice good cleaning
and sanitizing, and follow a good recipe. As you gain
experience as a home brewer, you will be able to expand
the styles of beer that you can brew and tailor your
recipes to suit your own needs.
Q: How much
space do I need to brew my own beer?
All you need is access to a stove and sink on brew day,
a small section of a room or closet (about 2' x 2') to
store your beer while it is fermenting. The basic brewing
equipment will require a small amount of storage space
when not in use- about 6 cubic feet.
Q: Is there
any danger of my ingredients spoiling during shipping?
A: As long as
the ingredients are packaged well, there is little danger
they will spoil during shipping unless the package is
damaged by the shipper.
Yeast is the
most fragile ingredient, as it is a living organism.
Liquid yeast is the most sensitive, especially if packaged
in the new ready to pitch tubes or vials. All of the
liquid yeast that we ship is wrapped in a thick layer
of insulation, which is them insulated further by sealing
the box it is packed in air tight. Packed this way, yeast
can and does survive shipments of up to two weeks in
duration. If shipped during the hot summer months (when
temperatures are regularly over 90 oF), additional
protection may be needed (we offer a gel ice pack for
$1 that can be packed with the yeast), or you can choose
a faster shipping option (you can have the yeast shipped
separately from the rest of the order via priority mail,
Hops are also
perishable, but if packaged in airtight bags (we vacuum
seal all of our hops) and insulated, they will keep well
outside of refrigeration for up to 3 months. As heat
will reduce the quality of hops more quickly, you may
want to consider a aster shipping option in hot summer
months if the ground shipment will take more than 3 days
Barley malt is very stable unless exposed to excessive
or moisture. Malt is less stable after it has been crushed.
For this reason we seal all malt orders in plastic right
before shipping. If the malt is exposed to moisture or
extreme heat and becomes musty, it can be dried in an
oven on low heat for 10 minutes to "freshen" it up, except
forbase pale and wheat malts, which should not be exposed
to temperatures over 150 oF, which could destroy
the enzymes needed for starch conversion.
extract is very stable unless exposed to air for more
than a week, in which case surface mold may occur. Even
if this does happen, the mold can only grow on the surface
as the extract is too thick for it to live. Thus if mold
does occur, the extract is still useable for brewing
because the mold can be scraped off and the extract will
be boiled for 1 hour, effectively killing all the mold
Q: What are
the advantages/disadvantages of liquid vs. dry yeasts?
A: Dry yeast
is living brewer's yeast which has been dehydrated (all
of the water removed from the yeast cells). In this state,
the yeast is more stable, so it stores better and is
less prone to being killed by temperature changes. Most
experienced brewers agree that dry yeast does not produce
the better beer than liquid yeast, especially certain
styles of beer such as lagers and wheat beers. The quality
of most dried brewers yeast on the market today is pretty
high, and many fine ales have been brewed with dry yeast.
Dry yeast is also cheaper than liquid yeast.
can produce an extremely clear, refined beer, and comes
in a wide selection for virtually any beer style. The
liquid yeast on the market today is also extremely pure,
with no outside organisms or mutations. Liquid yeast
is more fragile, and has a shorter shelf life of 2 to
4 months, although very old liquid yeast can often be
revived by making a yeast starter- see our yeast
starter page for how to do this.
Q: Do I need
to change my brewing practices in any way when I switch
to organic ingredients?
A: No, the process
of brewing is the same no matter what ingredients you
use. You may have to make some changes in your recipes
to substitute organic ingredients (see our brewing
tips about substitutions), but the techniques of
brewing are the same.
Q: When you
say "organic," what standard are you referrring to?
This is a very good question, becuase there are many
sets of organic standards throughout the world. Our
guidelines for "organic" are those
spelled out by the USDA National Organic Program, a national,
enforcable set of laws governing organic products in
the United States. Basically these standards state that
food items labelled organic
pesticides, herbacides, or fertilizer, in soil that has
been free from such chemicals for at least 3 years. In
addition, no other toxic substances may be used as fertilizer
such as sweage sludge or radioactive waste, and no chemicals
may be used in the processing of organic ingredients,
or used near the storage area (insect killers, rat poison,
chemical cleaners, and the like). Also, no Genectically
Modified Organisms (GMO's) are allowed. Seven Bridges
is certified organic by California Certified Organic
Farmers as a handler and retailer of organic products,
which means we are required to adhere to these standards
(and be able to verify that our suppliers adhere to the
same standards) in order to sell products labelled as
What is the best way to sanitize my equipment and still "brew organic"?
A: The most
practical way is with a mild iodine solution. Iodine
is a naturally occurring mineral that is non toxic in
minute quantities. The amount used to make an effective
sanitizer is about .1 oz. per gallon of water, or about
13 ppm, which will not leave any trace of flavor and
smell in the finished beer. Iodine is also a mineral
that the human body needs in minute quantities, which
is why it is often added to table salt. It is rare, but
some people have to avoid ingesting iodine. To avoid
this, euipment may be rinsed with sterile water after
sanitizing. Other alternatives for sanitizing include
heat (boiling, or using an oven or autoclave), hydrogen
peroxide (oxygen based, a more costly alternative), or
a mild acid sanitizer such as 5-Star's Star San Sanitizer.
Q: In addition
to brewing organic, I'm also interested in conserving
water. What tips do you have?
A: There are
many ways to conserve water when brewing. Check out our water
I am concerned about GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms).
I be sure that my brewing ingredients do not contain
A: The only
way to be absolutely certain that your ingredients do
not contain GMO's is to use organic ingredients. By curent
laws regulating organic farming, organic ingredients
can not contain any genetically modified organisms. Thus
far, brewing yeast for home brewing has not been subjected
to genetic manipulation, and we have been assured by
Wyeast laboratories that the liquid yeast they sell is
free from GMO's. Corn is one of the major crops that
has been genetically modified, and due to lax policies
of the USDA, there are no lableing requirements for GMO's.
Because of this, there is no way to be sure that any
corn product, including corn sugar, is free from GMO's.
To completely avoid GMO's, a substitute to corn sugar
should be used, such as malt extract, organic cane sugar,
or by kraeusening your beer when bottling (see out tip
on how to kraeusen).
Because of our concern about GMO's in corn, we are in
the process of developing a replacement for the corn
sugar for bottling that is included with all of our beer
kits. We expect to have a replacement in the form of
dried malt extract by early 2001.
safer for the environment, compared to the industrial
If you brew with environmentally safe cleaners and sanitizers
practice water conservation, brewing your own beer at
home is safer for the environment than industrial brewing.
In addition to saving water and reducing pollution, energy
is saved as the finished beer will not be trucked long
distances, and the bottles used are usually reused from
Q: Do you have
any information about the nutritional aspects of organic
beer, such as the vitamins contained/retained?
A: Organic beer
that is home brewed at home and is unfiltered is high
in B Vitamins, carbohydrates, niacin, pyrdoxine and riboflavin,
and the minerals magnesium and potassium. If consumed
in moderation, beer has been shown to reduce the risk
of heart diasease.
Q: Any idea
why some bottles of beer might be flat while others in
the same batch are perfect?
A: This is usually
caused by insufficient mixing of the bottling sugar with
beer at bottling time. When adding the bottling sugar,
be sure to mix it thoroughly, but gently, so that excess
air is not mixed into the beer. Another possible cause
is too much residual sanitizer in some of the bottles
but not others. Make sure your sanitizer is mixed to
the recommended strength, and that the bottles are rinsed
if using bleach, or drained if using Iodophor.
Q: A friend
of mine just gave me two beer kits he has had in his
basement for almost a year now. I intend to replace the
liquid yeast but is the rest of the kit fresh enough
to make a good batch?
A: In addition
to replacing the yeast, you should also replace the aroma
hops if they were not refrigerated. and if the kit came
with cracked grains, replace these also. The extract
should be OK if it was stored at relatively cool temperatures
in an air tight container, but you may want to check
the extract also. If it smells like beer, it has started
to ferment so you should replace it. If it has mold on
the surface, it may still be OK to use, as the mold cannot
grow below the surface.