July 19th, 2011
Beer is often a staple in the college student’s diet, but you won’t find it anywhere on your school’s meal plan. That’s why you can find so many students knocking back Natty Light and PBR — it’s dirt cheap, priced perfectly for a college student’s budget of almost zero. But at some point, you may actually start to care about what you’re drinking and realize that low quality beers may allow you to have fun, but they taste pretty gross. And while craft beer is delicious and even good for your health, it may be out of reach for most college students’ budgets.
So what’s a beer-loving college student to do when fizzy water won’t cut it, but good beer is just too much to pay for? It’s time to take up the time honored art of homebrewing! Homebrewing is legal, fun, and perhaps best of all, cheap. If you can boil water and scrub pots, you can homebrew, and it’s fun to do it with your friends. Read on to find out how you can make your very own beer-and become the life of the party.
Extract or All Grain?For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you want to create your beer using malt extract (a concentration of what is created from mashing grain malt) rather than all grain. Commercial breweries and advanced homebrewers typically brew all grain, which allows for more control over the ingredients, process, and flavor; however, extract brewing is easier for beginners, and perhaps most importantly for college students, can be brewed on a stovetop and contained inside your dorm room. If you decide to move on to all grain brewing, it is cheaper, but you may have to brew outside and upgrade a few pieces of equipment.
What You’ll NeedYour first brew will be your most expensive one, because there’s equipment to buy. None of it is terribly expensive on its own, but there are several pieces, so you may want to spread your purchases out over a few weeks, or take on homebrewing as a group project with your friends– you know they’ll want to drink your beer anyway!
The basic equipment for extract homebrewing includes:
- Five gallon brewing kettle (you may already have one in your kitchen!)
- Long handled spoon (you may also already have one of these)
- Six gallon fermenting bucket with lid
- Six gallon bottling bucket with spigot
- Fermentation lock
- Siphon tubing
- Bottle filler
- Bottle brush
- Bottle capper
- Bottle caps
IngredientsFor simplicity’s sake, we recommend purchasing a recipe kit from your local homebrew store or a popular online homebrew retailer. MoreBeer features economical beer kits that serve beers for under 50 cents a beer. Most recipe kits can be picked up for $20 to $30 each. These kits will make five gallons of beer, plenty to keep your dorm’s minifridge overflowing with beer bottles for quite some time.
If you’d prefer to build your own recipe and buy individual ingredients, plenty of experimentation can be done. Hundreds of beer recipes from breweries and other homebrewers are available. You can find them in homebrew books, which can be checked out free from your local library, as well as online. RateBeer offers reader-submitted recipes, including many that are clones of popular craft beers made by commercial breweries.