Homebrew: A beginner's Guide

Homebrew 101: A Beginner’s Guide

Cameron Mole

The popularity of homebrew keeps trending upwards as alcohol excise continues to surge in Australia.

And it’s no wonder. As we sprint past the $100 tax per litre mark, more Aussies have seen the benefits of brewing at home. Although affordability is the main driver of the popularity of homebrew, people are also realising that it’s an exciting hobby. It blends creativity and science with the chance to meet others to swap brews, recipes and tips.

Although brewing beer is simple (perfecting it is another story!), at first it can be daunting, and most people have a lot of questions. How much do I need to spend to get started? What if I don’t enjoy it? What if my beer’s terrible?

Our beginner’s guide can help demystify homebrew and get you started.

The Essentials: Equipment

First of all, it’s important to work out what you want from your setup.

Do you just want to make beer as cheaply as possible, or are you aiming for the highest quality beer you can make? Do you have specific styles in mind? These are some questions that can help you decide what sort of brew equipment you might need.

Generally, the bare minimum you will need depends on if you want to make beer from scratch using grain or if you want to start with a basic kit beer approach.

Equipment you may require is as follows:

  • Fermenter with thermometer – the vessel you make your kit beer in or the vessel you will transfer the wort to for the fermentation process. Thermometers are usually stuck the side to show the temperature of the liquid inside or a thermowell can be inserted into the wall of a fermenter for more accurate reads.
  • Hydrometer – measures “specific gravity”. Used to determine the density of the brew to guide the fermentation process and measure alcohol content.
  • Stirring paddle or Mash paddle
  • Bottles
  • Bottle tops
  • Bottle capper
  • Bottling Tube
  • Cleaner
  • Sanitiser

Measuring equipment

If a homebrewer decides they want to homebrew beer from grain they will require some additional equipment.

  • Mash tun – the vessel you add hot water and malt to for mashing grain to make wort
  • Brew kettle – the vessel you use to boil wort (the mash tun and brew kettle can be the same vessel, depending on your set up)
  • Sparge water heater or a HLT "Hot Liquor tank" used for rinsing excess sugar from grain to increase your efficiency 

Temperature control – this could be a fridge set to specific temperatures for the fermentation process. Temp control can be the difference between a “just drinkable” batch of homebrew and a great one.

Our Premium Brewery Starter Kit is a great way to cut your teeth as you learn the intricacies of making beer at home. If you decide to invest in a more advanced setup, contact us or visit us in store and we can advise you.

The Essentials: Brewing Method

This determines how you go about making your homebrew. For brewers who just care about affordability, or people who aren’t yet sure if brewing is for them, we recommend starting on an extract brewing kit. These contain a concentrated Hopped malt and yeast. For extract kits we strongly recommend using a yeast that doesn’t come from the kit, as this can vastly improve your outcome for a very small cost.

Another affordable option is a fresh wort kit. These eliminate a labour and time-intensive stage of the brewing cycle; making the wort. Although using a wort kit means you’re not doing the entire process yourself from scratch, you still need to ferment the wort. These are a great way to get that brewery fresh flavour without having to outlay the time and equipment.

As you become more advanced, you might like to try all-grain brewing. Instead of using a hopped malt extract, malted barley and hop pellets are used. It is the most labour-intensive of these 3 methods, but has potential to yield better results than extract brewing and gives you more control over your recipes than fresh wort kits.

Selecting Your First Brew

This is where the real fun begins. When picking your first homebrew beer, there are a few things to consider.

Some styles are easier to nail than others

If you have your mind set on a lager straight off the bat, you might have to rein in your expectations. Because lagers are such clean tasting beers, any faults will be immediately obvious, as they have no place to hide. We recommend a darker more malt forward beer or a hoppy beer for your first few brews, until you get the hang of things.

Recipe complexity

The last thing you want to do on your first brew is attempt an insanely complex recipe! Start off simple and build from there.

Some styles are cheaper than others

If you opt for all-grain brewing, bear in mind that some recipes require a lot more malt and hops than others, and the cost can add up. Check out our all-grain recipes to see if any inspire you to give them a crack.

Fermentation temperature

Good tasting Homebrew relies on specific temperatures during fermentation so as not to cause “off” flavours. Each strain of yeast has a specific fermentation temperature so make sure you keep your fermentation in that range to have the cleanest tasting beer.

What are your limits regarding temperature control? Do you have equipment you can use to keep your brew at the right temp? This can affect which brews could be right for your setup.

Personal preference

Which beer styles do you enjoy most? While you might not be able to brew them well from the word go, practice makes perfect.

Brew Day Basics

Most brews have a fairly predictable set of steps, outlined below.


Gather all your equipment and ingredients together. Make sure your recipe is always on-hand.


Cleaning and sanitising

Don’t even think of starting to homebrew without a sanitiser and a cleaner, such as  PBW. This could be the difference between a great brew and a complete failure.

Wash out your equipment with PBW, including bottles, soaking it if necessary. Sanitise anything that will come into contact with the beer, especially after the process of boiling the wort (this will kill any infections that could taint your beer).

Mashing (not required for fresh wort kits)

Heat the water in your mash tun/brew kettle (depending on your set up) to the required temperature for your recipe.

Once the water is at the desired temperature, add your grain. Stir well and keep the temperature in the specified range for as long as the recipe requires.

Lautering (all-grain brewing only)

Separate the grain from the liquid (wort). There are a few ways to do this, depending on your set up.


Boil the wort for the appropriate time according to the homebrew recipe. You’ll also need to add your hops at this step. The variety of hops and quantity and timing of the hop additions will depend on the recipe. Often there will be more than one addition. Hops add bitterness, flavour and aroma.


Once the wort’s been boiled and hops have been added, chill the liquid as quickly as possible. The recipe will determine the temperature you need to bring the liquid down to. There are a few ways to chill your wort, such as with an ice bath, counterflow or immersion chiller.

Pitch yeast

Before sealing the fermenter, add your yeast. There are extra steps you can take to increase the likelihood that your yeast will thrive, but this is probably overkill for beginners.

Primary fermentation

Here, the yeast feeds on the sugars from the malt and convert them to alcohol and CO2 (Carbon Dioxide).

Put your sealed fermenter in a temperature-controlled environment and make sure there’s a no rinse sanitiser in the airlock.

Your recipe should specify the ideal fermentation temperature and may even require you to change the temperature at certain stages.

The fermentation should be complete once the specific gravity is reached, which you measure with your hydrometer. The Airlock can be a good indication of when the fermentation is coming to an end but always use your hydrometer.

Bottle or Keg Prep

After primary fermentation, you’re ready to bottle your homebrew!

All bottles or Kegs must be cleaned and sanitised!


Transfer the wort from the fermenter to the bottles, taking care to leave room at the top for carbonation.

We recommend using a bottle filler tube. These minimise how much oxygen will be added to each bottle. Infections need oxygen, so it’s a good idea to keep as much of it out of the bottles as you can to give you the best chance of success.

A sugar derivative also needs to be added to each bottle.

Talk to us about which option best goes with your recipe.

Cap your bottles tightly with a bench capper.

Conditioning and carbonation

Now we play the waiting game.

Leave your bottles undisturbed at room temperature for the time specified in the recipe (usually 7-14 days). During the process, the sugar you added to the bottles will kick-start secondary fermentation, carbonating your beer.

Drink up!

It’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labour!

Hombrew Beer

Few beers taste as good as one you’ve made yourself.

Transfer your beers to a cool dark place or into a cold fridge for long term storage.

Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t taste how you want just yet; learning how to homebrew is an exercise in patience and it will take some trial and error to perfect.

Advice and expertise

If you have any issues or questions at all, we’re here to help!

We’re only too happy to advise you on any issues and help with any recommendations.

From beginners to the seasoned homebrew enthusiast, we have the knowledge and equipment that can take your beer to the next level.

Come in and see us or contact us today.