Making beer involves three main steps: brewing, fermenting and aging. Each step involves different stages, all of which can be completed at home. Brewing takes approximately 2 1/2 hours, and fermenting and aging takes three to eight weeks.
The first stage of brewing is making wort, which involves boiling malt and hops in water. Brewers use different varieties of malts and hops to achieve the desired flavor. Generally, malts add sweetness and grain flavors to the beer, while hops provide bitterness and aroma. Malts are not just used for flavor, however. They also provide the sugars that the yeast ferments at a later stage.
Once the wort has boiled, it needs to be cooled. The final temperature is important: if it is too hot, the yeast dies. If it is too cold, the yeast does not activate and fermentation does not occur.
When the wort is cool, it can be poured into the fermenter. The fermenter is a large bucket with an airtight lid and an airlock. It should be kept at a constant cool temperature for two to three weeks. During this time, the yeast ferments the sugars from the malt, resulting in alcohol. When the airlock on the fermenter stops bubbling, fermentation is complete.
The final step of making beer is aging. Priming sugar is added, then the beer is poured into bottles that are then sealed. The priming sugar allows a small second fermentation to occur; carbon dioxide is produced and trapped in the bottle, making the beer fizzy. The second fermentation also changes the beer's flavor and aroma to an extent. Once the beer is bottled, it is left to age. This stage can take two to six weeks, although the beer can be left for longer.