During the initial Quarantine rush of 2020, when everyone rushed to the supermarket to stock up on flour and yeast for homemade loaves, my older brother and I had a different idea: to stock up on malt barley.

For the past decade, we’ve met almost every Saturday on its shady walkway to hang out with our dogs, have a barbecue dinner and brew a fresh batch of beer. We’ve steadily gone from novice to relatively experienced brewers, and lately we’ve been exploring fresh local ingredients (most recently – barley from malt in Oregon). But we would be lying if we said we did it for the sake of a constant supply of foam.

Like barbecue or gardening, making your own grog is more than just a way to get cheap booze. It also directly connects you to the culinary and scientific history of mankind. Did you know, for example, that out of a love of beer we may have switched from hunter-gatherers to farmers? What about the fact that Louis Pasteur discovered pasteurization while studying spoiled wine – and that he hated German beer?

One of the things I love is how easy it is to develop in this hobby. You can probably make something to drink (even delicious!) On the first try, but you can do something completely professional if you work hard. Basically it requires the ability to read instructions and set timers. When you’re done, your products will help you relax after a long day of scrolling.

Want to try? It doesn’t take a lot of money. Here’s what you need to know to make beer, wine, cider and honey.

Updated May 2022: We’ve added additional tips and tricks, as well as some new useful products.

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Basic concepts for drinking

It is easy to prepare alcohol. Take the sweet liquid, add the sugar yeast and wait.

When yeast eats sugar, they produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. Wait long enough (usually a few weeks) and you will get a drink that is (probably) safe to drink. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when fermenting your own booze for quality:

Sanitation

Sanitation is the most important part of any fermentation process. You want to make sure that everything that concerns your liquid before and after fermentation has been completely sterilized with a disinfectant without rinsing. (See the section on Star San below.) This prevents bad-tasting yeast and other contaminants and provides storage stability.

My own setup for early brewing.

Photo: Parker Hall

Yeast health

The brewing community says that brewers are actually just famous janitors. Yeast is what actually makes the things you love to drink. This could not be more true. The joy of your little biological buddies is extremely important for a drink that tastes good. If you are brewing beer, wine, cider or mead, be sure to include a healthy amount of yeast cells and maintain fermentation in the recommended temperature range for the specific yeast you are using.

Patience, Grasshopper

“Relax, don’t worry, make homemade beer” is the most popular saying in the world of home fermentation for good reason. Creating good things can take time, and it’s important not to rush, even if you’re excited!

Tools needed

I recommend buying gear at your local homemade beer store if you can. Experts have invaluable resources, and if you want to buy malt, hops or other ingredients in bulk, this is a great way to save on shipping. However, if you’re a little more remote, we’ve included links to buying gear online. Professional advice: Hops are harvested in August and September in the US, so around this time you will often see good discounts on last year’s harvest. Fresh hops hit the market in December. Grape and apple yields vary by location, but usually in mid-autumn.

  • Thermometer for $ 24A: You will need a quality and accurate thermometer to check the temperature of various liquids. I like this long one because you don’t steam your hand over the kettle with the hot stock.
  • Hydrometer for $ 36: A hydrometer is a cute little floating device that measures the density of a liquid, not its temperature. By measuring the density both before and after fermentation, you can get a fairly accurate idea of ​​the alcohol content. If alcohol is a solution in the solution – a by-product of sugar yeast – the liquid becomes less dense.
  • Kitchen scales for $ 18: Simple kitchen scales, such as this Etekcity model, will help you measure everything from hops to sulfites and to honey.
  • Siphon for $ 17: You will need a way to get a precious drink out of a bucket as soon as you ferment it. The autosiphon allows you to do this without sucking the hose, which will require you to sterilize everything again.
  • Fermentation vessels for $ 42: Fermentation vessels range from glass containers to stainless steel containers and not only that, but it’s best to start with a simple food-grade plastic bucket and lid. It’s affordable and you don’t have to worry about breaking the glass if you drop it. To clean them, use only the soft side of the sponge. The rough side can create abrasions on the plastic, which wild yeast and bacteria can catch during cleaning and sanitation.
  • Airlock for $ 7: The airlock is a simple device located at the top of the fermenter that removes carbon dioxide – another major by-product of fermentation other than alcohol – while keeping the bucket airtight from any wild yeast or bacteria present in the air. This package gives you five cheap.

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