Home brewing: top tips from an expert

Brewer and beer consultant Richard Davie discusses all the essential brewing kit you need along with some helpful tips to make your own beer at home.

Richard Davie drinking beer

1. Buy yourself a decent kit

Extract kits have come a long way from the dusty back shelves of Boots of yesteryear, and give you a simple, affordable way to try out the hobby with very acceptable results. Established breweries like St. Peters and Woodfordes have decent kits in shops and online at about £20, for example from Wilko or Brew.

2. Bucket or demijohn

Whether it's your first time with a kit, or your hundredth all-grain brew, you need to ferment it in something suitable. Most of the time your options are between a bucket and a carboy. Carboys or demijohns look nicer, especially if they're glass, but can be a pain to clean. Food-grade plastic buckets lack glamour, but are practical – just make sure you get one with a close-fitting lid that's suitable for an airlock. As with most things there are more expensive options, but while they're good, they're not necessary. You can find buckets and demijohns at Brew Store or The Malt Miller.

3. Clean everything

If you’re making beer, then you need to be rigorous about cleanliness during the brew. VWP is an absolutely no-nonsense cleaner and steriliser for getting everything ready beforehand. During the brew, a no-rinse sanitiser is invaluable. Between the two, spoilt and infected beer shouldn’t be a problem. You can buy cleaning products online from Brew Store and The Malt Miller.

4. Look after your ingredients

Invest in some airtight plastic containers. Malt, kept dry and cool, should be fine for six months, but get rid of it after that – you’re only going to get stale flavours if you use stale malt. Likewise, dried yeast will keep, if sealed and chilled, but it will lose potency and reliability. Hops do not improve with age. Be doubtful of any before last year’s harvest, however cheap.

5. The internet is your friend

While a good book is an invaluable reference, there will be a time you come across something that flummoxes you. It's very unlikely you will be the first, and just as unlikely someone else hasn’t discussed it. From the magisterial, if dense, How To Brew by John Palmer to the uncountable forums and blogs discussing minutiae, such as Brewer's Friend, there’ll be something to help.

Three glasses of different beers. Getty Images.

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Do you brew your own beer at home? Leave a comment below...

Richard Davie is a professional brewer with roots in home-brewing. When he's not making his own beer, he works at award-winning micropub The Beer Shop.

Comments, questions and tips

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brewstersmillions's picture
7th Feb, 2019
Thanks for a concise informative article. While Wilkos and places like it stock some decent home brew kits, you'll find a lot more choice and a wealth of advice as well as everything else you'll need in home-brew specialist shops up and down the country. One of my biggest frustrations as an owner of such a place is speaking to people after they have bought the wrong stuff in places where the staff cannot advice them on what they need. There will be a home brew shop near you and most are online now and they're delighted to help you!
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Neil Playfoot's picture
Neil Playfoot
27th Jun, 2020
Hey, this is some great advice. Cleaning is definitely one of the most important points to consider when home brewing. Other key factors are: Temperature and time - temperatures can make or break a brew. If you have the wrong temperatures throughout the brewing process it can lead to off-flavours. Brew with other brewers - It is great for comradery but you will also learn when brewing with other people. Record keeping - You like a brew and want to recreate it? Without proper record keeping that is much more difficult. I have 5 tips on "How to Brew Like a Pro" on an article I have written. I think it might be quite a good addition to the above article: https://www.asianbeernetwork.com/how-to-brew-like-a-pro-5-pro-brewing-tips/