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Brewing 101

Lynnae Endersby basics brewing coopers extract kit

Making your own beer is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. Your first beer is the beginning of a journey, before you even finish bottling your first beer you'll be dreaming of all the things you could tweak, ingredients you could add etc. Beer is truly where art and science meet.

Your first brew can be daunting, but it doesn't need to be. There's a lot of new terminology but nothing more complicated than baking a cake.

Beer is made from four basic ingredients

  • Malted Barley (a grain similar to wheat)   
  • Yeast        
  • Water    
  • Hops (a green flower that adds bitterness to beer)

The brewing process works like this

  1. Malted barley is soaked in hot water - this extracts the sugars needed for fermentation.
  2. The barley is then strained from the solution and boiled (now called wort), hops is added to flavour the beer.
  3. The mixture is cooled and yeast added. - The yeast ferments the sugars extracted from step #1 and creates CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) and alcohol.
  4. After two weeks of fermentation the beer is ready to bottle with a small amount of additional sugar, which when fermented carbonates the beer in the bottle.    


You will need the following equipment to make your first batch of beer: (most of this comes in our basic kits)

The main cause for batches of beer failing is contamination. Yeast are the only microorganisms that should be growing in your beer. Common unscented household bleach is the easiest way to sanitize all the equipment that comes into contact with your beer (4 ml per litre).

A airlock prevents contamination from the outside into your beer. It allows CO2 out of the fermenter but prevents any particles going into your fermenter. The airlock is filled with water and attached to your fermenter.

You will need to heat at least 2 litres of water to mix with your extract.

This is the container your beer will ferment in. The fermenter should be airtight and fitted with an airlock. Fermenters should also be made from food grade plastic, and be able to hold at least 25 litres. Having a tap is an advantage.

Measuring cup
You will need this to measure water.

Stirring spoon
A long handle spoon is ideal for stirring your wort.

Next to sanitising, temperature control is one of the most important factors to consider when making beer. If the wort mixture is too hot or too cold the yeast will not ferment properly.

A hydrometer measures the difference in specific gravity between pure water and water with dissolved sugars. (Essentially it's measuring how heavy the liquid is). The hydrometer is used to measure the sugar content of your beer. Hydrometers are useful for calculating the percentage of alcohol in your beer and can also tell you if your beer has finished fermenting. As your beer ferments, the yeast consumes the sugar and the original worth gravity (OG) decreases towards a anticipated final gravity (FG).

Capper and caps
On bottling day you will need a capper to seal your bottled beer. Hand cappers are the most economical cappers to use.

Bottling tube
This tube makes bottling easy and connects to the tap of your fermenter. It has a spring loaded valve that fills the bottle with beer when pushed against the bottom of the bottle.

There are 3 basic ways to brew beer.

1) Brewing with a beer extract kit.

Malt Extract is made from concentrated sugars extracted from malted barley - a concentrated wort. Malt extract is available in a syrup (thick like molasses) and called liquid malt extract or dried form known as Dry Malt Extract.

Both have a malty taste similar to Horlicks or Milo. The most basic extract kit includes pre-hopped cans of extract (like Coopers). All that is required is to dissolve the the extract in water, cool it down and add yeast.

2) All grain brewing.

All grain brewers work with a combination of crushed grains which are then “mashed” to remove the sugars, hops are added, the entire mixture is boiled, chilled rapidly, yeast is added and then the mixture is placed in a fermenter.

3) Partial mash brewing.

 A combination of the extract brewing and all grain brewing.

This blog post will focus on extract brewing, the quickest and easiest method. If you’ve never made beer before brewing with an extract is a great way to start. It is easy, you do not need a lot of equipment, and you will get to master the basics of brewing in no time - in fact many home brewers continue with extract brewing forever.

Extract brewing in 10 easy steps.

As mentioned earlier, liquid malt extract is a thick malty syrup made from concentrated sugars extracted from malted barley. The simple guide below makes use of a Cooper extract kit, which already contains hops.

Step 1.
Sanitise your fermenter, spoon and airlock using a mixture or unscented household bleach and water (4ml of bleach to a litre of water) – Rinse with fresh water to get rid of any bleach.

Step 2.
Boil 2 litres of water on the stove.

Step 3.
Add the contents of the malt extract tin to your fermenter and add your boiled water, stir with the long handled spoon or mix by shaking your closed fermentation tank.

Step 4.
Add another 17 litres of cold water to the fermenter, mixing the mixture while you add.

Step 5.
Check that the temperature of the 23 litre mixture is below 25 degrees Celsius. If not, let it cool.

Step 6.
Add the contents of the yeast packet (attached to you Coopers Kit)

Step 7.
Close up your fermenter, secure the airlock and put it somewhere out of the sun. Each kit has an optimal temperature that is should be fermented at, try and find a room where it is closest to this temperature.

Step 8.
Your kit should start bubbling overnight. Over the next few days (depending on the kit) it will bubble away as the happy yeast convert the sugars to alcohol.

Step 9.
When fermentation is complete, sanitise your bottles and crowns (bottle caps) – Rinse everything with fresh water.

Step 10.
Using the bottling tube, fill your bottles with beer, add a Coopers carbonation drop to each bottle (called “priming”) and seal with the bottle capper. In about 2 weeks your very own bottles of beer will be carbonated and ready to drink. Beer “ages” and “mellows' much like wine, so it will probably taste even better after 6 weeks.

What Else?

There are also unhopped extracts available for brewers who want to add their own hops, this does mean that the extract needs to be boiled with water in a large pot. Hops are added separately to add bitterness, hop flavours and aroma. The last hop addition (aroma hops) can be in the pot or added into the fermenter (also known as dry hopping).

You can also add other fermentables such as dry malt extract brewing sugars to your extract beer. These fermentables can add body and mouthfeel to your beer or make it drier.


Malted: The malting process makes the barley seeds resources available to the brewer. Barley is steeped in water until it has absorbed around 50% of its own weight in water. The barley is drained and left to germinate. After germination the barley is moved to a kiln and dried at low temperatures to around 4% moisture. This type of malt is typically referred to a base malt. The longer malts are kilned and roasted the more their colours change (amber, brown, chocolate and black) and flavours are created (these include toffee, molasses, biscuit flavours etc)

Wort: The malt-sugar solution extracted from barley prior to fermentation

Immersion chiller: A coil of metal, usually copper, through which cold water flows. The coil itself is then immersed completely in hot wort

Hops: The spice of beer. It contains compounds that give beer its bitterness and balances the sweetness of beer. Hops also contain aromatic oils that impart floral, citrus, pine and perfume like aromas to beer. The bitterness of hops is measured in its Alpha acid content (the higher the number the more bitter the hops)

Dry hopping: This method allow you to get hop aromas and flavours directly into beer without boiling the hops in wort.

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