Note: Sorry to leave you hanging…I really did have every intention of posting this last week.
Add flavoring hops at 30 to 45 minutes into boil for flavor.
After 60 minutes remove from heat and add any finishing hops. Place the pot in a sink full of ice to cool and cover (to protect it from airborne bacteria, molds, and yeasts). The liquid (which is now called “wort”) needs to be cooled to at most 80 degrees when you pitch the yeast. You will be adding more water in a bit, so don’t worry too much right now if it’s a little above 80 degrees still.
Rehydrate the yeast by adding the yeast to a bowl of lukewarm (not hot) water. Dry yeast is usually made using molasses; DO NOT use liquid brewers yeast because that contains gluten.
Now, thoroughly clean and sanitize everything that will be touching the beer (bucket, hop bag (if dry hopping), thermometer, hydrometer, your hands, etc…). The MOST important thing about making your own wine and beer is cleanliness. You’re creating a liquid specifically designed for microbes to eat (the yeast), so any other microbe that comes into contact is going to start munching away and multiplying, potentially ruining your beverage. The only way to prevent that is to keep everything clean and sanitized so only the yeast you inoculated with will thrive.
When the wort is 80 degrees (or close to it), pour it into the plastic bucket and add water to get 5 gallons (to better aid the yeast, you can put some of the water in a container and shake it in order to get more oxygen in it before adding it to the bucket). A bucket made specifically for wine and beer making is recommended since the lid will have gaskets for sealing the lid and an airlock, and the bucket will have a spigot at the bottom which makes racking and bottling much easier.
Place the thermometer in the bucket to ensure the wort is between 65 and 80 degrees. Cooler temperatures will mean a longer fermentation and warmer temps will make a shorter fermentation. Depending on the yeast you use, warmer temps can bring unwanted off flavors. Generally 70 degrees is a good temperature (but our house, in southern Florida, is seldom below 80).
Measure the Specific Gravity of your wort with the hydrometer by placing it in the wort, and write the number down. The hydrometer measures the amount of solids in the liquid; as the yeast eat the sugars in the wort they create alcohol (among other things) and this decreases the specific gravity of the wort. By taking a beginning measurement and an ending measurement you can calculate the amount of alcohol in your beer. It’s also important as a way of knowing when the yeast are done (3 consecutive days of the specific gravity not changing indicates the yeast are done).
“Pitch” the yeast by dumping your re-hydrated yeast slurry into the bucket.
Cover with the lid, and within a day or two you should hear bubbling activity. It’s OK to have an occasional look, but not too much because every time you remove the lid you’re exposing the beer to potential risk of contamination.
After one or two weeks you have beer, although it is still flat.
The next step is bottling (or if you have a carboy you can rack into that for an additional week or two before bottling). There will be a significant amount of “trub” in the bottom of the bucket which you do not want in your beer, so you will need to “rack” the beer off of it. You can either rack right into bottles or into another container. In order for your beer to become carbonated, the fermentation process will need to be continued in the sealed bottles. Therefore, either each bottle needs to have “priming sugar” (dextrose) added it, or you place the entire amount of sugar for the batch in the other container, rack into that so it all mixes together, and then fill each bottle with the primed beer (this is the preferred method for consistency).
The usual amount of priming sugar is 5 oz. for 5 gallons. After 2 or 3 weeks you now have finished beer. Allowing it to age a few months will only improve it as the flavors become more integrated and the bitterness mellows a bit.
These directions are by no means complete, and I highly recommend reading and learning about home beer and wine making via the internet or your local library before beginning.