I noted a recent post:
discussing why kit instructions are often so horrible, and many off site links were mentioned. I figured it would be good to have that kind of information here, maybe stickied or on the wiki, so I figured w/ my horrible newb experience, I could write it as simple as possible, and then place it here for some heavy editing/fixing, and then when done, we could use it to point people to a fairly simple but complete list of steps involved in extract kit brewing. This is now the EDITED version after comments, suggestions, fixes, etc. Later in this thread is a re-post of how to do hopped extract brews as well, although this data exists elsewhere as well. Please let me know if you see any further inconsistencies. I'm going to hope for a sticky on this one, so we can get some help for new extract brewers that need a quick list w/ short details to keep their memory fresh.
The simple steps to extract brewing.
1. Sanitize everything you'll be using and keep some kind of bucket/sink/container w/ a gallon or two of sanitizing water so you can re-sanitize anything you're questioning.
2. Prep water. If you are using tap water, it is best to boil it for 15 minutes ahead of time to remove chlorine. Letting it cool will also let the harder minerals drop out. But you may want these in your flavoring.
3. For Specialty Grain kits, specialty grains will come w/ a bag and grains. You'll need to crush the grains w/ a rolling pin prior to putting them in a bag and steeping for 30 minutes at 155 degrees F. This creates a "tea" for added flavors to the final beer.
4. Bring the water to a boil. Remove the boiling water from the stove, to avoid a boilover. Mix in some (see Late Malt Additions Note at the end of this section) or all of the malt extract into boiling water slowly and mix well (if you don't mix well you can get scorching of the extracts). Put back on heat and boil for the designated time (usually 60 minutes), watch closely to avoid a boilover so as to avoid a sticky mess. Also at this time add the bittering hops at the start of the boil w/ the malt(s). Late Malt Additions Note: You do not need to boil all of the extract if you're doing a lighter colored beer or a heavy alcohol (big) beer. This can cause darker colors and even add flavors not wanted. Late extract additions to complete the malt bill can be added the last few minutes of the boil (1-5). For more detail search this forum or elsewhere for late malt extract additions.
5. The last 5-15 minutes of the hour boil will require addition of finishing hops (if any).
6. Cool the wort to yeast pitching temperature, and transfer to your fermenter. Take a sample out for testing the Original Specific Gravity with a hydrometer. (this is the only way you can be positive fermentation has completed) You can then pitch your yeast. To pitch the yeast, read the yeast packets instructions, and this will always work. Dry yeasts usually require mixing w/ warm water for 15 mins, gently stir, then you can pitch the yeast. (Pitching is the "mixing" of yeast w/ the cooled wort)
7. After fermentation is complete (from checking that the Specific Gravity has not changed at all for several days, but can vary anywhere from 10 days to several weeks) after a week or so, you can transfer to a secondary fermenter if you feel the need (this is all brewer preference), or leave in the primary until you're 100% sure the fermentation is done... again the ONLY way to know its done is that the SG readings remain consistent for several days in a row. If you're unsure it will never hurt to leave it in the fermenter for a few more days to a week.
8. Bottle. Bottling requires that you create a corn sugar mixture to add to the fermented beer so that it will carbonate in the bottles. Take the corn sugar, boil, and then add to the bottling pail/carboy. Transfer the beer carefully from the fermenter to the sugar water container making sure to NOT oxygenate the beer at all. Again remember to sanitize everything as mentioned before. Before you put any beer in bottles, make SURE the bottles are sanitized as well!! Use a bottling cane to allow easy bottling, and keep the tube all the way to the bottom and pull out when the bottle fills, this will leave enough headroom for the carbonation to build and yet not cause the bottle to explode. Whenever transferring w/ a racking cane or tube, remember to never use your mouth to create the siphon. It contains bacteria too that are bad for beer. Use an Auto-Siphon, or if you have none, fill up the tube w/ sanitary water, and let that start draining into the sink/some waste bucket until beer comes through, then pinch the tube and move it to the next container for bottling or the bottles themselves.