Homebrewing is the brewing of beer on a small scale for personal non-commercial purposes. Brewing domestically affords one the freedom to adjust recipes according to one's own preference and to create beverages that are unavailable on the open market.
Some people join homebrewing clubs and enter homebrew competitions. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) is an American organization which oversees homebrew competitions, certifies judges and offers categories for judging. Similar British organizations are The National Guild of Wine and Beer Judges and the National Association of Wine and Beermakers.
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 may give fewer specific instructions.
Below are the different types of kits; listed in order from beginner (malt extract) to intermediate (brewing in a bag) to advanced (all-grain).
Pre-hopped malt extract
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.
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.
Brewing in a bag
Brewing in a bag (BIAB) is a technique that involves a single brewing vessel, a fine mesh bag to hold the grist (crushed malt/grain), and a single heat source. The bag, usually made of nylon or fashioned out of a finely woven material, lines the brewing pot which contains all the water needed for the brew. This water is heated to strike temperature and then the grist is added. A simultaneous mash and sparge then occur for about 90 minutes. After the mashing/sparging period, the grain bag holding the spent grains is removed (lautering), and then the all-grain brewing process proceeds as normal: boiling, cooling, pitching (adding yeast) and fermenting. Traditional mashing methods require three vessels and, at least, two heat sources.
For brewers with equipment and knowledge about the brewing process, all-grain kits include all the ingredients necessary to create a homebrewed beer from beginning to end. Most kits include grain and hops, and 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.