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Sanitizing your equipment is not difficult but it is one of the most important steps in making great beer. If you beer tastes funky or you find some mold or other growth on your fermenting beer, 99 times out of 100 it is because you did not sanitize properly.
In order to sanitize your equipment, it should first be clean – no visible dirt, mold, etc. You can clean your equipment, bottles etc using products such as "Straight A Cleaner", "PBW", "C-Brite" or other products. Be sure to follow the instructions. Soaking your equipment in a weak bleach solution (See "other sanitizing alternatives for the solution) overnight will also loosen most stubborn dirt. If you use soap or detergents to clean your equipment, make sure to rinse thoroughly. Soap residue will create off flavors.
You can sanitize your equipment using a product, such as "One-Step No Rinse" or "C-Brite" and following the instruction on the package.
Other sanitizing alternatives
The first step is to make your raw beer, called the wort.
If you are using grains, place your crushed grains in a grain bag and steep in ½ gallon 150F water for 20 minutes.
Strain the grains into your brew pot. Sparge (rinse) grains with ½ gallon of150F water. (The sparge water also goes in the brew pot – you are done with the grains – don’t place the grains in the brew pot.) Add water to your brew pot to bring it up to 1-1/2 gallons and bring it to a boil. Remove your brew pot from the heat and add your liquid or dry extracts, water conditioners such as Burton Water Salts or gypsum along with any bittering hops. (You may not have all of these ingredients.)
You will boil your wort for 1 hour total. (Keep an eye on your pot so it does not boil over). The following tells you when you will typically add other ingredients (if you have other ingredients) in your wort:
Add one gallon of cool water to your sanitized primary fermenter. Strain wort into primary fermenter and add cool water to reach 5 gallons. Wait until your wort reaches 80 F and pitch your yeast into your fermenter. (Pitch is just the term used for adding your yeast.) Prepare your yeast as per the instructions on the package. For liquid yeast, that typically means removing the yeast from the fridge for several hours so they get to room temperature. For dried yeast, typically you will rehydrate them by pouring them into a 1/3 cup of boiled water that has been allowed to cool to about 100 degrees F and letting sit for 15 minutes. Rehydrated yeast should be used within about 30 minutes, so don’t rehydrate until your wort cools.
If you are using a plastic bucket fermenter, sanitize your fermenter’s lid, bung (stopper) and airlock. Fasten your lid on the fermenter, install the airlock and add water to the airlock. Fermentation should start in 24 to 48 hours. Store in a dark, cool (60 to 75 degrees F) place.
If you are using a glass carboy fermenter, sanitize your blow off tubing (and bung if required), add water to your blow off catch basin (1/2 to 1 gallon pitcher or jug) leaving room to catch your blow off – about ¼ to ½ gallon of empty space. Place your blow off tubing in the fermenter and submerge the other end under the water level of your catch basin. Keep your catch basin lower than the level of the beer in your fermenter so you don’t accidentally back-siphon. Store in a dark, cool (60 to 75 degrees F) place. Fermentation should start in 24 to 48 hours. After heavy fermentation stops – usually after a couple of days, replace the blow off tubing with a sanitized, water filled airlock. You can tell heavy fermentation has stopped because the kraeusen (heavy foam) will fall back to the surface of the beer.
You may choose to fill your blow off catch basin and fermentation lock with a chlorine sanitizing solution – see "Other sanitizing alternatives" in the first section.
Same as single stage fermentation except that after heavy fermentation stops, rack (transfer by siphoning) into your sanitized second fermenter and install a sanitized, water-filled airlock. Store in a dark, cool (60 to 75 degrees F) place. Remember to sanitize your siphon tubing, racking cane, or anything else that will touch your beer.
After fermentation is finished (it will take 8 to 14 days, your air lock will show little signs of bubbling, and your specific gravity will be the same on 2 consecutive days):
After the priming sugar is dissolved, allow it to cool. Add your priming sugar mixture to your bottling bucket, and then siphon in your beer into the bottling bucket. Minimize any splashing.
Fill your bottles leaving about 1" of space in the top of the bottle and cap. Store your bottle upright in a dark, cool (60 to 75 degrees F) place. After about 10 to 20 days your beer will be ready to drink! (The cooler the location, the longer it will take to carbonate.)
Gently pour out your beer leaving the last ½" (with the yeast sediment) in the bottle. (The yeast won’t hurt you; it just tends to be a little bitter.) If you rinse out your bottles promptly, it will be less work when you get ready for your next batch!