First Things: Sanitize Your Equipment
There is one very important thing you need to do first – even assuming that you have an all in one kit which includes all of the beer brewing ingredients you need to get your first brew going. Before you do anything else, you need to thoroughly wash and sanitize all of your brewing equipment. It may be brand new, but even the smallest amount of contamination can mean ruined beer – and that’s the last thing you want to happen with your very first foray into the exciting world of home brewing.
After preparing your ingredients for brewing (which will only take an hour or two), it goes into your fermentation vessel, where it will be very active for the next couple of days, followed by another ten days or so of slower fermentation. Total fermentation time is about two weeks, so factor this into the total wait.
After your beer has completed its first fermentation, you’ll need to bottle your brew after adding priming sugar (or if you want to save a little time and trouble, carbonation tablets). Once the bottles are capped, you’ll need to store them somewhere dark at room temperature for at least two weeks and perhaps as long as a month for bottle conditioning. During this time, a small amount of secondary fermentation occurs as the remaining yeast in your brew converts the sugars from your priming sugar into carbon dioxide; if you don’t wait long enough during this step, you could end up with flat beer.
Ales vs. Lagers
Different styles of beer may take slightly more or less time to ferment and do better with longer or shorter periods of bottle conditioning. For instance, ales generally do not take more than two weeks to be ready to drink after leaving your beer brewing kit for bottles. Lagers do best with four to six weeks of conditioning after being bottled.
If you simply can’t wait, it’s OK to try them after two weeks, but many beers do benefit from a longer conditioning. Admittedly, home brewing does include a lot of waiting, but once you take your first sip, you’ll agree that it was worth it. Once you taste your handiwork, you’ll no doubt want to start on your next batch right away so that you’ll never be without fresh, home brewed beer ever again.