Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is home brewing difficult?
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 beer.
Q: What equipment do I need to brew my own beer?
A: The basic equipment needed is a brew pot, a fermenter, an air lock, 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 complete equipment starter packages for beginners that we call "Home Brewery Packages".
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 Kits.
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: Is making my own beer cheaper than buying beer?
A: Yes! The average cost of organic homebrewed beer comes out to $.65-$1 per bottle. Plus you get to brew the kind of beer that you like to drink, rather than what someone else likes or what is readily available in your area. And you get the satisfaction of having made it yourself (bragging rights).
Q: Can I make really good beer at home?
A: Yes! 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?
A: All you need is access to a stove and sink on brew day, and 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 as well when not in use.
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. All of the liquid yeast that we ship is sent with a small gel ice pack to keep the temperature from getting too high. 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 °F), additional protection may be needed (we offer an additional 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, for instance).
Hops are also perishable, but they are not nearly as sensitive as yeast. The bittering qualities in hops(alpha acids) degrade when exposed to oxygen, heat and light. All of our hops are packed in vacuum sealed bags. Your hops should be fine for the duration of the shipping time but you may want to consider a faster shipping option in hot summer months if the ground shipment will take more than 3 days to deliver. We store our hops between 30°F and 43°F and we recommend that you do the same at home for long term storage.
Whole Barley malt is very stable unless exposed to excessive heat 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 malt is exposed to temperatures over 150°F the enzymes needed for starch conversion may be destroyed.
Barley malt extract is very stable unless exposed to air for more than a week, in which case surface mold may occur. If mold does occur you can still use the extract. Simply scrape off the mold and boil for one hour as a regular part of the brewing process to effectively kill all the mold spores.
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. 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.
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 4-6 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. Most experienced brewers agree that liquid yeast can produce better beer, especially for certain styles such as lagers and wheat beer.
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?
A: This is a very good question, becuase there are many different 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 must be grown without synthetic chemical 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 sewage 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 organic.
Q: What is the best way to sanitize my equipment and still "brew organic"?
A: We sell two different sanitizers, an acid based santizer(Star San) and an iodine sanitizer(Iodophor). Both are high dilution, no rinse sanitizers and when used correctly will not leave any trace of smell or flavor in the finished product. We prefer 5 Star's Star Sanitizer mostly because the natural color of iodine leaves all your equipment (and possibly your hands, clothes and kitchen) with a yellow tinge.
Q. I am concerned about GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms). How can I be sure that my brewing ingredients do not contain any?
A: The only way to be absolutely certain that your ingredients do not contain GMO's is to use organic ingredients. By current laws regulating organic farming, organic ingredients cannot contain any genetically modified organisms. Thus far, brewing yeast for home brewing has not been subjected to genetic manipulation and there is no organic yeast available at this time.
Q: Is homebrewing safer for the environment, compared to the industrial brewers?
A: If you brew with environmentally safe cleaners and sanitizers and 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 previous batches.
Q: Do you have any information about the nutritional aspects of organic beer, such as the vitamins contained/retained?
A: Organic unfiltered beer is high in B Vitamins, carbohydrates, 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. If it is a strong beer or a batch that sat around for a while before bottling, this could be the result of dead yeast. 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 well 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.