Here’s What You Need To Brew Your Own IPA at Home
IPAs, or India Pale Ales, are incredibly popular beers. The ales’ strong, distinctive flavor and high alcohol content make them a favorite for brew fans. Homebrewers eager to try their hands at the unique beer need a few vital components.
IPA brewers need basic beer brewing equipment and ingredients, including malts, hops, yeast, and water. These components are the building blocks for every brew; however, the particular types and strains of IPAs are unique.
This article explains everything you need to know about IPAs and the equipment and ingredients needed to brew your own at home.
What is an IPA?
IPA is an acronym for India Pale Ale. The pale brew claimed widespread popularity in 1815. IPAs are hoppy beers with high alcohol content.
There are nine types of IPAs:
- English IPA
- West Coast IPA
- East Coast IPA
- Double IPA
- Triple IPA
- Session IPA
- Black IPA
- Belgian IPA
- Grapefruit IPA
Fortunately, all IPAs require the same core components.
The correct equipment makes or breaks your IPA. Homebrew doesn’t require an excess of specialized tools; however, ensuring you have the proper elements helps you craft the best beer.
Making a delicious IPA requires the following:
- a fermenting bucket
- an airlock
- a siphon
- A stirring utensil
- Bottles and caps
Fermenting buckets are where the magic happens. These are large vessels made of stainless steel or food-grade plastic.
Fermentation buckets come in a variety of sizes. Which option is best depends on how much IPA you intend to brew. A five-gallon bucket is sufficient for a small introductory batch.
Stainless steel fermentation buckets cost more; however, they are impermeable to oxygen.
Brewers opting for plastic options should shoot for food-grade plastics, including:
- High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE): A robust, chemical, and solvent-resistant material often used to store liquids.
- Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE): A durable, flexible option that holds up against corrosion. LDP is often used for packaging perishable items.
- Polypropylene (PP): A durable, heat-withstanding plastic often used to hold hot food and liquids.
- Polycarbonate: A shatter and heat-resistant plastic used for food and drink storage.
Much of the process happens in the fermentation bucket, so select one you are comfortable with.
An airlock is a small tool with a hugely important job. The little tap serves a dual purpose; it prevents unwanted oxygen from entering your brew while venting carbon dioxide produced during fermentation.
Choosing the best airlock ensures a delicious and healthy IPA. Opt for either an:
- S-shaped airlock: This lock is particularly easy to use. It is available in either glass or plastic. You simply need to fill the device with water and place it.
- 3-piece airlock: As the name suggests, the device comes in three pieces: the main chamber, the floating bubbler, and the cap. It serves the same function as the S-shaped lock without needing to be filled.
Siphons move beer between vessels without allowing oxygen into the brew. Your beer needs to make two significant trips during the brewing process.
First, the siphon moves the brew into the fermentation vessel and then into the bottles. Siphoning prevents sediment from making its way into the final IPA.
A spoon seems straightforward enough, however, selecting the correct stirrer is essential to a successful IPA.
Aim for either stainless steel or food-grade plastic. Both of these materials are durable and easily sanitized.
Avoid wood. The materials break easily and foster bacteria growth.
Bottles and Caps
Bottles and caps aren’t IPA specific, but every homebrew needs them. Once you’ve brewed the beer, you need somewhere to put it.
There is a broader range of bottle caps than you might expect. Choose the option you are most comfortable with.
Malts add the sugars necessary for fermentation to beer. The ingredient lends the brew sweetness and texture.
IPAs use 2.5 to 10 percent crystal malts and about 20 percent Munich malt to support the brew’s texture and taste.
The hops are an IPAs defining ingredient. Brewers added plenty of the components to ensure the beer maintained its freshness during the long ocean voyage from the United Kingdom to India.
While modern IPAs no longer need to worry about surviving treacherous journeys, the hop taste is pivotal to the brew.
Brewers add hops at two different points during the beer-making process. The early hops contribute bitterness, while the later ones add scent and flavor.
Yeast is beer’s unsung hero. The ingredient creates taste, fermentation, and carbonation. Without yeast, there is no beer.
Yeast eats the mash’s sugar and turns it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The ingredients lend beer subtle fruit flavors and aromas.
Yeast also keeps the brew from becoming too sweet. It eats the majority of the beer’s sugar, leaving behind only what can’t be fermented.
There are a wide variety of yeast strains available to homebrewers. For an IPA, you need to use ale yeast. Ale yeasts are top-fermenting. These strains are called saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Brewers have plenty of yeast strains available; selecting your variety based on which IPA you’re brewing:
- English Ale Yeast: English ale yeast strains are ideal for U.K. IPAs. These strains provide very little taste to the brew, allowing the hop and malt taste to dominate the flavor profile. There are 52 strains of English ale yeast available.
- American Ale Yeast: American ale yeast is similarly mild, allowing the other ingredients to shine. The strains add a subtle citrus taste, however. There are 32 American ale yeast strains available.
Water makes up the bulk of any beer. This may seem like a straightforward ingredient, but selecting the correct water makes or breaks an IPA.
The following minerals strongly impact an IPA:
- Bicarbonate: Bicarbonate negatively impacts the effect of hops in your brew. For pale IPAs, shoot for 50 parts per million. Amber IPAs use up to 100 parts per million. If your water measures greater than 100 parts per million, dilute it with distilled water until the bicarbonate level is acceptable.
- Calcium: IPA calcium levels should land between 50 and 250 parts per million.
- Sulfates: Sulfates draw out hop flavors. Since IPAs hinge heavily on the hop flavor, shoot for at least 150 sulfates parts per million without exceeding 350.
While you can brew your IPA using unaltered local water, monitoring the bicarbonate, calcium, and sulfate levels assures you’ll achieve the best beer possible.
Brewers hoping to make their own IPAs need basic beer-making tools and ingredients. Malts, hops, yeast, and water come together to make the unique ale.
This article provides a road map to crafting your dream IPA. Gather your tools and cheers.