It's up to you how organized or chaotic your brew day turns out. Aside from having a rehearsed step-by-step process to follow, and some basic homebrewing equipment, it is equally important to spend some time in advance setting up your day of brewing. Here are some pointers to help you do just that.
1. Choose A Recipe
I admit to having waited until the moment the water is hot in the kettle to finalize which beer I'm brewing... From experience it's best to settle on a set recipe in advance so you can be sure to have all its ingredients ready, especially if any specialty ingredients are necessary (orange peel, cocoa nibs, etc.). If you are just starting to adventure into the world of homebrewing, pre-formulated ingredient kits exist that can ease the process.
2. Lay Out All Your Equipment
This will help you identify your tools more quickly when you need them on brew day, as well as help ensure that you aren’t missing anything. You don't want to start brewing and realize you don't have a spoon for stirring!
3. Clean and Sanitize Your Equipment
In modern brewing all tools should be free of visible foreign matter, and fermentation-side items should be sanitized. I recommend filling the fermentation bucket with sanitizer and warm water and placing all items that need sanitizing inside it (siphon, tubing, airlocks, etc.). After several minutes, dump the liquid but leave the foam and items in the bucket until you are ready to brew (but not for longer than a day or two, as the sanitizer may start eating away at anything plastic).
4. Prepare Water for Cooling/Dilution
If you're going to cool your extract brew with water, you could boil the water a day or so in advance to help sanitize it. Leave it covered in the pot overnight, so on your brew day you can add it (once cool) to the fermentation bucket to reach the desired final volume of beer.
5. (Optional) Prepare a Yeast Starter
The yeast provided with your recipe, either dry or liquid, probably is sufficient to ferment your beer, but most likely contains less yeast cells than optimal, and in a dormant state. In order to wake up the yeast and increase their number, you can make a "yeast starter" in advance. To do this, boil a small amount of extract and water, in a ratio similar to that of the beer you will make, let it cool in a jar or flask to room temperature, then add the yeast. The yeast will begin to operate, and once the main brew is ready for yeast on brew day you can pitch this entire yeast starter, jump-starting your fermentation. It is possible to skip this step, but I would highly recommend against it to achieve the best final product.
You are now ready for brewing. Next up, a 10 step guide to proper execution on your brew day!
Jeffrey Michael, known as The Biking Brewer, is Certified with the Beer Judge Certification Program, having judged over twenty homebrew competitions over the past ten years. Also a trained sommelier and student of the French Culinary Institute, he frequently travels to uncommon parts of the globe in search of new fermented beverages. He tweets at @TheBikingBrewer and posts at www.facebook/TheBikingBrewer.