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This article is about making beer at home. For commercial brewing, see Brewing. For making wine, see Winemaking. For other uses, see Homebrew.
A homebrewing kit consisting of hopped malt extract, yeast and instructions

Homebrewing is the brewing of beer on a small scale for personal, non-commercial purposes.

Beer has been brewed on a domestic level for thousands of years. Restrictions on homebrewing were lifted in the UK in 1963,[1] Australia in 1972,[2] and the USA in 1978.[3] In some countries, such as New Zealand, homebrewing has always been legal.


Beer has been brewed domestically throughout its 7,000-year history, beginning in the Neolithic period in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), Egypt and China. It seems to have first developed as thick beers; meads, fruit wines and rice wines were also developed. The Greeks and Romans cultivated grape wine and, to a lesser extent, beer. Domestic production in larger households was directed by women in ancient Rome and often carried out by slaves. By the Tang dynasty, homebrewing seems to have been a familiar domestic chore in China, albeit the lower classes had to make do with poorly-filtered mash.[4] Laws against making alcohol were enacted and repealed between the Zhou and Ming dynasties.[citation needed]

Mass production brewing began in the 18th century Industrial Revolution as innovations including the thermometer and hydrometer increased efficiency. French microbiologist Louis Pasteur explained the role of yeast in beer fermentation in 1857, allowing brewers to develop strains of yeast with desirable properties (conversion efficiency, ability to handle higher alcohol content).

In the UK throughout the first half of the 20th century, homebrewing was circumscribed by taxation: the Inland Revenue Act of 1880 introduced a 5-shilling homebrewing licence.[5] Chancellor of the Exchequer Reginald Maudling removed the requirement for a brewing licence in 1963.[1] Australia followed suit in 1972 when Gough Whitlam repealed the law prohibiting the brewing of all but the weakest beers in one of his first acts as Prime Minister.[2]

In 1920, as a result of Prohibition, breweries across the United States were closed down or began making malt for non-alcoholic purposes. Homebrewing of beer with an alcohol content higher than 0.5% remained illegal until 1978 when Congress passed a bill repealing Federal restrictions and excise taxes[3] and President Jimmy Carter signed the bill, H.R. 1337, into law.[6] Within months of legalization, Charlie Papazian founded the Brewers Association and American Homebrewers Association). In 1984, Papazian published The Complete Joy of Home Brewing. This remains in print alongside later publications such as Graham Wheeler's Home Brewing: The CAMRA Guide.

Brewing culture[edit]

People homebrew for a variety of reasons. Homebrewing can be cheaper than buying commercially equivalent beverages;[7] it allows people to adjust recipes according to their own tastes creating beverages that are unavailable on the open market or low-ethanol beverages that may contain fewer calories.[8] Some people join homebrewing clubs and enter homebrew competitions.[9] The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) is an American organization which oversees homebrew competitions, certifies judges, and offers categories for judging; these judging categories are called "Beer Style Guidelines" and are written by the BJCP Style Committee. Similar British organizations are The National Guild of Wine and Beer Judges,[10][11] and the National Association of Wine and Beermakers (Amateur) - (NAWB),[12] who have held an annual show every year since 1959.[12] Home brewers are frequently tempted to make beers with high alcohol content, but this is not recommended because the cheapness and quantity of beer produced can induce the brewer to drink more than they normally would.[13]


Country Homebrewing Home distillation
Australia Legal for individuals to produce alcohol without paying excise provided they do not make use of a still and they do not sell the product. A license is required to own a still larger than 5 litres regardless of whether it is being used to produce alcohol. To operate any size still for the production of alcohol (even for personal use) requires a license and excise must be paid. The rate, as of March 2011, is in excess of AU$71 per litre of alcohol produced.[14]
Canada Legal in most Canadian provinces. Liquor laws are regulated provincially, while the federal government has laws about taxation and importation of beer, wine and other liquors.[citation needed] Legal with a license to distill granted by the (provincial) government.
Czech Republic Legal. 200 Litres per household per year of beer, including notification of the customs office. 2000 litres of wine household per year. Not permitted although every household can distill fermented fruit only, up to 30 litres per year in a local distillery, for personal use only.[citation needed]
Denmark Legal. No limit per household per year of beer, given that it is for personal consumption. Not permitted - Distillation licenses not available for persons.[15]
Eritrea Legal.
Ethiopia Legal.
Finland Legal for personal use only.[16] Illegal. Only a commercial manufacturer can apply for a manufacturing permit.[17]
Germany Legal. 200 litres of beer per household per year may be produced without taxation, but notification of the local customs office is necessary. Larger quantities are taxed according to law.[18]  
Hong Kong Legal without a license within limits.[citation needed]  
Hungary Legal. 1000 litres of beer per person per year may be produced without taxation, but notification of the local customs office is necessary. Larger quantities are taxed according to law. Legal. 50 litres of palinka per person per year may be produced without taxation, but notification of the local customs office is necessary. Larger quantities are taxed according to law.
India Legal for personal use[citation needed] Illegal.
Iran Illegal[19] Illegal.
Ireland Legal for personal use. Illegal with intent to sell or if sold for profit.[20] Illegal except for officially licensed and regulated distilleries.[citation needed]
Japan Legal up to 1% alcohol by volume only; suppliers sell homebrewing equipment and kits, leaving it up to the customer to brew within the law.[21] Illegal.
Malaysia Illegal. Exemption is given to natives in Sabah and Sarawak for their own consumption. Illegal.
New Zealand Legal for personal use, not for selling without a license.[22] Legal since 1996 to distill spirits for personal consumption, not for selling without a license.[citation needed]
Netherlands Legal for personal use only.[23] Legal for personal use only
Norway Legal for personal use only. Illegal
Poland Legal for personal use only, not for sale.[citation needed] Prohibited[citation needed]
Russian Federation Legal for personal use only. Legal for personal use.
Singapore Legal up to 30 litres per household per month. Brewers must be 18 years of age or older, and the brewing process must not "degrade the environment". The product must not be sold.[24] Legal only with a license.[24]
South Africa Legal for home brewed beers in unlimited quantities for personal use only, not for sale or barter, without any required permits or licenses. Registration as a "manufacturer not for commercial use" at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is required to produce wine at home. Registration and a permit are required to own, operate, or have a still in one's possession. Producing distilled spirits at home is limited "for own use" only and products may not be sold, or used for bartering.[citation needed]

As of 2010 "agricultural distilling" permits are no longer available.[citation needed] Commercial operations require a micro-manufacturing license (for quantities up to 2 million litres of spirits per year), and various other permits are required. For larger quantities, a full manufacturing license and various permits are required.[citation needed]

Sudan Legal.
Sweden Legal for personal use only, not for sale.[25] Prohibited;[25]
Taiwan Legal for personal use only, not for sale.[26]
United Kingdom Legal in unlimited quantity for domestic consumption only. Fermented products for sale must include payment of alcohol duty and registration with HM Revenue and Customs. Legal with a license to distill granted by the government.
United States Legal in all states. Individual states remain free to restrict or prohibit the manufacture of beer, mead, hard cider, wine and other fermented alcoholic beverages at home.[27] Until 2013, Alabama and Mississippi were the only states with laws prohibiting the homebrewing of beer. Alabama and Mississippi both legalized home brewing in their respective 2013 legislative sessions.[28][29] Although all state governments have legalized homebrewing, some states retain local options that permit local governments to make homebrewing illegal under municipal law. Alaska in one such state where the local option is currently exercised.[30]

Most states permit allow homebrewing of 100 gallons of beer per adult (of 18 years or older) per year and up to a maximum of 200 gallons per household annually when there are two or more adults residing in the household.[31] Because alcohol is taxed by the federal government via excise taxes, homebrewers are restricted from selling any beer they brew. This similarly applies in most Western countries. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed into law a bill allowing home beers, which was at the time not permitted without paying the excise taxes as a holdover from the prohibition of alcoholic beverages (repealed in 1933).[27][32] This change also exempted home brewers from posting a "penal bond" (which currently ranges from a minimum of $1000.00 to a maximum of $500,000[33]) which had the prohibitive effect of economically preventing brewers of small quantities from pursuing their hobby.[citation needed]

Regulated at the National level under USC Title 26 subtitle E Ch51. Production of distilled alcohols for consumption carries an excise tax and numerous requirements must be met to legally produce.[34]

Owning or operating a distillation apparatus without filing the proper paperwork and paying the taxes carries federal criminal penalties.[35]

Homebrewing kits[edit]

1.7/1.8 kg Homebrewing kits

Homebrewing kits come in many different types and from many different manufacturers. A local homebrew store may create some of their own kits by packaging materials together. Most kits come with a full set of instructions for brewing. These instructions, sometimes called recipes, may vary widely in the amount of instruction given. For instance, many all-grain kits assume a familiarity with the brewing process and so may give fewer specific instructions on the general process. Many advanced brewers prefer to design and perfect their own recipes rather than buy kits. Kits may or may not include yeast.


For brewers with equipment and knowledge about the brewing process, all-grain kits include all the ingredients necessary to create homebrew from beginning to end. Most kits include grain and hops, some kits may also include yeast. A full set of instructions is generally included. What sets these kits apart from others is the inclusion of milled malted grain which must first undergo a mash to extract the sugars, this combination of liquid and sugars is known as wort and is necessary for fermentation. A full boil of the wort is then required, with one or more hop additions at different times depending on style.[36]

Malt extract[edit]

Some kits contain a concentrated malt extract rather than grain. Malt extract can be either dry or in a syrupy, liquid form. A few advanced kits may also come with a small amount of milled, malted grain that must be steeped with the wort before boiling. A grain bag is usually included to facilitate this process. These additional grains help add different character to the beer so that a single extract can be used to brew several varieties of beer. A full boil is required, with hop additions at different times depending on style.[37]

Pre-hopped malt extract[edit]

Sometimes known as beer in a can, no-boil, and hopped wort, these beer kits contain liquid malt extract that has already been boiled with hops to introduce bitterness and flavor. Pre-hopped kits simplify the brewing process by removing the need to add hops at specific times during the boil. Some kits may not require a boil at all, though this may increase the risk of off flavors in the resulting beer due to contamination from bacteria and wild yeasts. While some feel the quality of beer from these kits can be on par with commercial beer or homebrew made from other methods,[38][39] others feel that pre-hopped extract provides hop bitterness with little flavor and bouquet.[3]

Brewing in a bag[edit]

Brewing in a bag (BIAB) is a technique developed in Australia, which generally requires a single brewing vessel only, and a fine mesh bag to hold the grain.[40] Adding the grain to the water is what defines the BIAB process. A fine mesh bag, usually made of nylon or fashioned out of a voile material, lines the brewing pot to which the grain is added.[41] After the mashing period the grain bag, holding the spent grains, is removed and the brewing process proceeds as normal: boiling, cooling, pitching and fermenting. The brewer adds the total water volume to the brewing kettle at once, which differs from traditional mashing methods which use a specific water to grain ratio.[42] Brew in a bag or modified brew in a bag techniques are commonly employed in small batch brewing or kitchen brewing, in which homebrewers brew in 1-3 gallon batches.[43]

Brewing process[edit]

Main article: Brewing

The principles behind the process of homebrewing beer are similar to commercial brewing. A hopped wort is produced and yeast pitched into the wort to stimulate fermentation. The complexity of the process is mostly determined by the approach used to manufacture the wort; by far the simplest method is kit brewing.

Homebrewing malt extracts: liquid in a can and spray dried

Whether the homebrewer chooses to mash his own grains or chooses to purchase malt extracts, the homebrewer will then need to boil the liquid and add hops. The length of time the wort boils with the hops varies depending on the style of beer being brewed but overall boil times are usually an hour.

A partial mash differs from an extract brew in that the extract remains enzymatically active. Unlike dead malts where some of the starch has been converted to sugar via the action of heat and the natural enzymes have been destroyed, wheat and unmalted extracts need the help of enzymes to convert their starches into sugars.[citation needed]

The next step up from extract brewing is to use a diastatically active malt extract to convert starches from other beer adjuncts such as flaked and torrified barleys, flaked and torrified wheat, wheat flour, and flaked oats into fermentable sugars. These extracts are currently only available in the canned form. Unmalted barleys and wheats can add extra "body" to a finished beer.[citation needed]

Advanced homebrewers forgo the use of concentrated extract and instead extract sugars from the grains themselves. The wort is made by making a mash from crushed malted barley (or alternative grain adjuncts such as unmalted barley, wheat, oats, corn or rye) and hot water. This requires a vessel known as a mash tun, which is often insulated. The process is often referred to as all grain brewing.[44]

In one procedure popular with homebrewers called the "Infusion Mash", milled grains are combined in the tun and hot water is added. Before being combined with the grains, the water is heated to a temperature that is hotter than the desired temperature for enzymatic activity. The reason the liquor is heated is to compensate for the fact that the grains are cooler than the desired temperature.[citation needed]

The grains are infused with yet hotter water to rinse more sugars from the mash in a process known as sparging. The sparging process will also stop any further enzymatic activity if much hotter water is used; conversely the mash may be heated to around 80 °C (176 °F) to end such activity prior to placing it in the lauter-tun, and to prevent cooler grain from lowering the sparge water temperature to a lower than desirable figure.[3]

The resulting wort is then boiled, usually for 60–90 minutes. Hops are added at different times during the boil, depending on the desired result. Hops added at the beginning of the boil contribute bitterness, hops added in the last thirty minutes contribute flavor. Hops added in the last few minutes or even after the end of the boil contribute both flavor and hop aroma. These hop additions are generally referred to as bittering, flavor, and aroma additions respectively. Finings such as Irish moss, a form of seaweed, and others can be added in the final 15–30 minutes of the boil to help prevent haze in the resulting beer.

Primary fermentation in homebrewing takes place in large glass or plastic carboys or food-grade plastic buckets, nearly always sealed. When sealed, the fermenter is stoppered with a fermentation lock which allows the carbon dioxide gas produced to vent, while preventing other gasses and particles from entering. Recent innovations in nanotechnology have enabled a fermentation lock called the Sterilock to also prevent bacteria, wild yeasts and other potential harmful fungi reaching the fermenter although in some beer styles known as Sour Beer, bacteria or wild yeasts are desirable to obtain the sour characteristics. During this time, temperatures should be kept at optimum temperature for the particular yeast strain being used. For ale this temperature is usually 18–24 °C (64–75 °F); [45][46][47] for lager it is usually much colder, around 10 °C (50 °F).[45][46][47] A vigorous fermentation then takes place, usually starting within twelve hours and continuing over the next few days. During this stage, the fermentable sugars (maltose, glucose, and sucrose) are consumed by the yeast, while ethanol and carbon dioxide are produced as byproducts by the yeast. A layer of sediment, the lees or "trub", appears at the bottom of the fermenter, composed of heavy fats, proteins and inactive yeast. Often, the brew is moved to a second fermenting vessel after primary fermentation called a secondary fermenter. This secondary fermentation process is often utilized by more advanced home brewers to enhance flavor. While not required, it is generally practiced by home brewers who wish to age or clarify their beer by removing it from the sediment left behind by primary fermentation.[45] In addition to using two different fermenting containers, some home brewers may choose to only use one container in which primary and secondary fermentation take place. This container is usually referred to as a uni-tank. [48] Uni-tanks are usually conical in shape, and can either be made from plastic or stainless steel. [49] A popular plastic conical for homebrewing is FastFerment, while a popular stainless steel conical fermenter for homebrewers is The Blichmann Fermenator. [50]

Upon conclusion of fermentation, the beer is carbonated before it is consumed. This is typically done in one of two ways; force carbonation in a keg using compressed carbon dioxide, or bottle carbonation with priming sugar.[45] Any bottle that is able to withstand the pressure of carbonation can be used, such as used beer bottles, flip-top bottles with rubber stoppers such as Grolsch, or even plastic bottles such as soda bottles, provided they are properly sanitized. Priming briefly reactivates the yeast that remains in the bottle, carbonating the brew.[51] Homebrewed beers[52] (filtering improves visual appearance of the product, but complicates carbonation). Bottled beer becomes clear quicker than kegged beer, since the yeast does not have as far to descend.[53]

A video of the homebrewing bottling process: after primary fermentation, the brewers add additional sugar for producing carbonation, transfer the beer to clean bottles, and seal the bottles with crown caps. (3 minutes 9 seconds)

In homebrewing, adding priming sugar or malt extract at bottling time to beer that has had its fermentable sugar content totally consumed is the safest approach to carbonation. Exceeding recommended levels of priming sugar for a given recipe is dangerous and can result in exploding bottles, as is using inappropriate bottles or improper capping methods. Beer may also be force-carbonated using a keg and special bottling equipment so that the carbonation level can be carefully controlled. Carbonation is often achieved with approximately 4oz of corn sugar boiled in 2 cups of water then cooled and added to a typical 5 gallon batch before bottling.[citation needed]


Homebrewers often use kegs for aging, filtering, and storing beer. These are seldom the standard kegs used by major brewers to transport draught beer to wholesalers, but instead are reconditioned Cornelius kegs (colloquially known as "cornies") that were originally manufactured to store soda; these vessels are much easier to fill, clean and maintain than standard beer kegs.[54]

These kegs are stainless steel cylinders that hold approximately 5 U.S. gallons of liquid. The keg is filled with liquid via a removable hatch on the top, which is then closed and sealed. Carbon dioxide is added to pressurize the keg via an inlet port on the top and is facilitated by gently rocking the brew back and forth. Liquid is dispensed via an outlet port attached to a tube that extends to the bottom of the keg. Pin-lock and ball-lock fittings (or posts) are the two types of couplings used on the inlet and outlet ports. Coke distributors used pin-lock fittings, while Pepsi distributors used ball-lock fittings. Ball-lock are most used. The pin-lock style is often referred to as a "Coke" keg or style and the ball-lock is often referred to as a "Pepsi" keg or style, though the fittings themselves are removable, serviceable, and contain interchangeable parts.[54]

Homebrewers sometimes use 15.5 U.S. gallon commercial kegs (known as 1/2 kegs) for boiling vessels in creating wort. The kegs are drilled for a drain at the bottom, and the top cut open to create a large stainless steel cooking kettle. Many times, the piece of metal cut out of the top is re-used to create a false bottom for straining wort during the mashing process, as well as to strain the boiled wort when adding hops without using a mesh grain bag.[55]

Alternatively, kegs specifically designed for home brewing are available. The capacity may be matched to commercial extract brewing kits; typically 12 and 23 litres. Smaller 2.5 gallon kegs are also made for ease of transporting to a function.[55]

Kegs may have residual pressure, and this must be vented to avoid having the valve explode and injure or kill a person as the valve shoots out.[citation needed] Conventional 15.5 U.S. gallon kegs have circle spring clips that can be removed to release the tap valve. Some kegs such as those used by Miller have threaded valves that are threaded into the keg, and after venting, can be opened by turning the valve counterclockwise using a piece of 134" wide metal inserted between the valve ears and turned with an adjustable wrench, or pipe wrench.[citation needed] A "wonderbar" type of pry bar just happens to fit.[citation needed] After the valve is loose it is still retained by a safety catch that must be pried inward. A simple valve seal depressing tool and a screwdriver with a 1/8"diameter shaft must be used to release the safety catch. See "How to remove a Miller threaded keg valve (not retained by a spiral ring)". The safety catch prevents the valve from releasing under pressure.[citation needed]

It is not recommended that kegs be sanitized with bleach. To avoid unpleasant residuals, sanitize kegs with an iodine or oxygen based sanitizer.[56] Sanitizers like Star-San and B-Brite are commonly used.[57] The ball lock valves may be unscrewed using wrenches to allow further cleaning or replacement of O-rings or poppet valves.

Environmental impact[edit]

Homebrewing can reduce the environmental impact of fermented beverages by using less packaging and transportation than commercially brewed beverages, and by the use of refillable jugs, reusable bottles or other reusable containers.[58][59]

Brewing software and technology[edit]

Brewers now have access to a variety of software tools, whether free/open source or commercial, which allow them to formulate and adjust recipes. There are also web based recipe creation and sharing sites with extensive recipe databases contributed by users that can be viewed or downloaded for printing or importation into software using BeerXML. More traditional Internet forums continue to provide brewers with sources of advice and information from their peers all over the world.

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ a b "Adelaide Times Online". Archived from the original on 2006-08-20. Retrieved 2006-10-10. 
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  4. ^ Huang, H.T. Science and Civilisation in China, Vol. VI, No. 5. Fermentations and Food Science, p. 233. Cambridge Univ. Press (Cambridge), 2000. Accessed 8 November 2013.
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