This discussion could easily fill an entire post, But for the purposes of this “homebrew how to guide” – we’ll be focusing on starting with a kit (IE – Extract Brewing). While both methods will yield equally delicious beer – I personally recommend that beginners start with using a pre-made kit.
My philosophy here is that there are already enough places during this process for beginners to make a minor mistake and ruin their first batch of beer. So for me, starting with an extract kit, means that there is just one less step where things could go wrong. I want you to enjoy creating delicious craft beers as much as I do – I want your first batch of beer to be perfect!
You can buy these kits at nearly any brewing store (brick & mortor or online). I personally am rather fond of my local NorthernBrewer store, These guys always give me great advice and they offer free brewing classes on the weekends. This is a great chance to not only learn the craft and ask questions during your lessons, but to network with other home brewers as well. And while I pride myself on my ability to put together awesome guides & reference material – Nothing can quite match going through the entire process in person.
Learning how to homebrew beer isn’t terribly complicated, but it does require a decent amount of gadgets and gear. So to start things off – I decided to breakdown all the equipment you’ll need to get your hands on before we can get started. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how to use all of the equipment later in this post, but for now – I just wanted to make sure that everyone has a handle on what each piece of equipment in their kit is and what it does. So even if you’re already familiar with your home brewing arsenal – it may be worth giving it a quick read.
While you can source all of the below equipment separately, It will be much cheaper to simply purchase a quality home brewing starter kit to grab all of the essential equipment. These kits will include all of your core pieces of equipment that you will need to proceed through this guide and brew your first batch of beer!
If you have any questions regarding equipment, extract kits or the brewing process as a whole after making your way through this guide – I’d be happy to answer any questions you have in the Extract Brewing Forums.
Fermenting Bucket, Grommeted Lid, Airlock
The 6.5 gallon fermenting bucket is essentially just a large, air-tight food grade bucket with a hole drilled in the top for the bung and airlock. While you can source these any number of places, generally speaking – just buying a pre-made kit is often the easiest way to go.
While these buckets are great for beginners, If you are serious about brewing your own beer – I’d urge you to upgrade to glass carboys. If you’ve ever brewed a batch of beer before – You know just how important it is to keep everything clean & sterile. The main issue with these plastic buckets, is that the soft malleable plastic is easy to scratch. These grooves & scratches can house bacteria that can be tough to get rid off – At this point it’s better to just replace the bucket or upgrade to a glass Carboy.
Either way, the beer will taste exactly the same in either container, as long as there is no contamination. Glass Carboys are just easier to keep clean!
6.5 Gallon Bottling Bucket /Bottling Wand & Tubing
The bottling bucket is to be used on…you guessed it – bottling day. Basically, the idea is that once your beer has completed fermentation you transfer the beer to this new container. Which serves 2 very important functions:
1.) Allows you to get rid of most of the sediment in your beer.
2.) Makes Bottling a manageable task.
Once you’ve cleaned all of your equipment and transferred your beer into the bottling bucket, You can attach the hosing and bottling wand to the spigot and start filling up those empty beer bottles with delicious home-made beer! While this process is easily do-able without the bottling wand, If you have one – It’s much easier to fill the bottles and maintain a consistent fill level.
Auto-Siphon & Tubing
Some kits may or may not come with this – If your kit doesn’t have one, I highly recommend getting one before you brew your first batch of beer! They can usually be picked up for $10-$15 bucks at any wine/beer making shop.
The auto-siphon is used to transfer your beer from your fermenting bucket to either your second stage fermenting bucket/carboy – or into the bottling bucket.
Note: It’s important to note that before using the auto-siphon, you should let all of the sediment settle to the bottom.
Having a decent cleaner / Sanitizer is absolutely essential. You want to make sure that you thoroughly clean all of your equipment before using it! The single largest point of failure for anyone new to homebrewing is sanitation! There are tons of cleaning products on the market, and I’m sure they all work just fine – But I personally have always used and trusted PBW.
After you’ve thoroughly cleaned all of your equipment – it’s time to start sanitizing it. Simply mix the solution with water, scrub lightly and you’re done! It may seem counter-intuitive at first but DO NOT rinse all the foam out from your carboy/bucket, the foam is your friend. Don’t Fear The Foam!
Empty Beer Bottles
I know what you’re thinking – Why bother listing this? I know what an empty bottle is!
Which is precisely why I felt the need to clear some things up, because this seems like such an obvious component to homebrewing – people often over-look some pretty important things when picking out their bottles.
It’s important that before you start stockpiling your beer bottles that you test them with your capper. Nothing is worse than finding out on bottling day that half your bottles will be no good! Here are a few words of advice:
1.) Source Brown bottles (Best for not letting in light)
2.) Do not use twist off bottles (They won’t work)
3.) Do not re-use beer if a bottle breaks! (Broken glass = wasted beer)
If you can afford a larger brew-kettle with all the bell’s and whistles, great. If not, any decent sized stock pot will work just as well.
If you don’t have an (5+ gallon ) stockpot and you would like to move onto cooking a 5 gallon batch but can’t afford a new brew kettle – not to worry! If you have a 3 gallon Brew-Kettle you can safely follow directions to brew 3 gallons and then add the other 2 gallons of water to the fermenting bucket.
I think all of the below components should be pretty self explanatory.
Other Equipment To Consider…
While none of this equipment is strictly necessary to make a great homemade beer, it does certainly help! I strongly encourage beginners to do a few batches of their own before spending any additional cash on the following items. Once you’ve gone through everything a few times, You’ll have a much better idea of what would be a valuable addition to your kit or what you could live without.
The wort chiller allows you to greatly expedite the time it takes to move your wort from brew kettle to fermenting bucket by rapidly cooling the wort.
For anyone not familiar with this process – After you’ve completed cooking your beer, before you can move the beer into the fermenting bucket and add the yeast, you have to rapidly cool down your wort.
Personally – I’m a bit too cheap to drop $40-$50 bucks to shave a few minutes off this process. Although I’ve had friends purchase it and say that they really do like it. Alternatively, You can simply fill your sink with ice & cold water and cool the wort this way!
Bottling Rack / Dryer
Bottle Racks like these are great for freeing up valuable counter-top space and keeping your work space dry and your bottles clean while you prep for bottling your brew! It’s great for when you have to clean up labels & clean bottles and is even better when you need to sanitize and prep them for bottling day. I personally own this very same model, and I love having it.
Something to keep in mind: Some brewers despise bottling day. Often times these folks will skip straight to a kegerator system, If this sounds like something you may be interested in down the road – You may want to skip this purchase!
If you are following along with our guide and using an Extract kit as recommended above, you can safely hold out on purchasing one of these bad boys. The hydrometer is the tool that you would use to calculate the alcohol percentage of your beer, which in the case of our kits, is already disclosed.
As a side note, this process also will consume a small amount of beer (considerably more if you are only doing a 1 gallon batch!) So just something to keep in mind when you are considering adding this to your kit.
The glass carboy essentially serves the same function as our fermenting bucket from higher up on this list, It’s an airtight storage container for our beer while it ferments.
The main difference here, is that it’s a much better investment for long term brewers, in that glass is generally much easier to clean and sanitize. It also has the added bonus of being transparent (duh), which will allow you to keep an eye on your beer as it ferments. Especially critical while you are watching it over the first couple of days after brew day. Just be mindful that because you are working with glass instead of an opaque plastic – You may have to take extra care to cover the carboy with a dark towel or sheet to make sure your beer doesn’t get exposed to the light.
- Malt extract is the concentrated sugar that is extracted from malted barley during the mashing process. Malt extract is creating using the same mashing process we discuss in the All-Grain home brewing guide. Manufacturers will then take the wort and concentrate it in either liquid form or in a dehydrated powder ‘dry malt’ extract for consumer use.
- It is the sugar contained in malted extract that yeast cells will consume to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process is known as fermentation.
- Malt extract comes in both liquid and dry malt form and is broken up into 4 separate styles: Base Malts, Kilned Malts, Caramel Malts & Roasted Malts. For an in depth look at each of these styles, John Palmer over @ howtobrew.com has a detailed list of each main malt extract style.
- Typically malt types are associated with certain style of beers, A lager malt for a lager, a wheat malt for a wheat bear or a roasted malt type for a darker style beer – like a stout or porter.
- Humulus lupulus or ‘Hops’ as they have become affectionately known are the green cone shaped flower that is used in brewing as a both a bittering agent, a preservative , to add aroma and to ultimately to balance the beer against the more sweet taste of our sugary malt extract.
- The introduction of hops wasn’t noted until 822 AD by a Carolingian abbot. Unfortunately the world was slow to adopt the use of hops in their beer because it was difficult to establish proper proportions of ingredients when hops were first introduced into the brewing equation.
- There is approximately 120 different unique species of hops! Each with a distinct rating in 2 very important categories: Alpha acids, which determine the aromatic strength and influence of the hop variety has and Beta acids which denote the bittering strength of the hop.
- During the Brewing Process, Hops are usually categorized as such:
1.) Bittering Hops: Typically added in the beginning of the brewing process, once a rolling boil has been reached. Bittering hops are responsible for balancing the malt profile of your beer.
2.) Flavoring Hops: Generally added 15-30 minutes before the end of the boil.
3.) Aromatic Hops: The alpha acids in hops that are responsible for aroma are extremely temperamental and will quickly be driven off by the intense heat and steam during the boil. These are usually added a few minutes prior to the end of the boil are during fermentation in process known as ‘dry hopping’.
- Brewers yeast ( Saccharomyces cerevisiae) comes in either liquid or dry form and is comprised of millions of single celled fungi. These fungus consume the simple fermentable sugars found in our malt extract and convert it to alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process is known as fermentation.
- As with hops, yeast also comes in a number of different strains – each with it’s own unique flavor profile. Each yeast strain will interact with your beer differently and produce varying levels of alcohol, C02 and other compounds such as esters, ketones, fatty acids and phenolics.
- Brewers yeast strains are usually categorized as either a Ale yeast (top fermenting) or Lager yeast (bottom-fermenting).
Crushed Grains / Steeping Grains
- Like the malt extract we will be using from our kit – Steeping grains are crushed malted barley, that are used to impart color, flavor, aroma and complexity to the beer rather than to add any more fermentable sugars.
- The type of malted barley that is used will typically be defined by the style of beer you are brewing and the desired color and flavor profile of the beer.
Example: crushed chocolate malt grains may be used in a stout or porter while a pale caramel malt would typically be found in pale ales and amber lagers.
- While most kits will include some form of pr-crushed and packaged grain for steeping, If given the option the best results are usually result from crushing the grain fresh before use.
**It should be noted that not every extract or beginner beer kit will include crushed grains!
- Priming sugar is added to your beer prior to bottling it, to add an additional source of fermentable sugar for the yeast cells to consume. Since the bottles will be sealed air-tight, the alcohol and carbon dioxide the yeast produce from consuming this extra sugar will serve to carbonate the beer over the coarse of 1-2 weeks. This process is known as bottle conditioning.
- As with nearly all of the ingredients on this list, there are several different options for brewers when it comes to picking a priming sugar. Some of the most popular choices among brewers are dextrose, malt extract, white sugar, molasses and honey.
- The proportions for adding priming sugar will vary slightly depending on the type of priming sugar you are using and the size of your batch of beer. Northern brewer has a great Priming Sugar Calculator that will get you exact values for each different type of priming sugar.
- Since water makes up the majority of beer, it has a big impact on how the final product turns out.
- The minerals that are present in your water will effect the starch conversion of the the mash (all-grain only)
- If there is a strong presence of un-desired minerals like sulfur, you may want to consider sourcing some distilled or mineral enriched water. That being said, one of the most sought after beers in the world gets it’s unique aroma and flavor in large part to the high sulfur content in the nearby towns unusually mineral rich waters. Read the full Burton-on-Trent Story.
The general rule of thumb regarding water is…
If the water tastes good, the beer will taste great.
It’s time to brew us some beer!
If you purchased liquid yeast – You will want to make sure that you go ahead and activate it before we get started. Start by placing your palm on one side of the package and locating the smaller nutrient pack inside. Your goal here is to ‘smack’ the nutrient packet inside and break open the membrane, allowing the yeast to start consuming the simple sugars contained within. It is important that you do this a few hours prior to the beginning of your brewing process to allow the yeast to come out of their dormant state. Once the membrane inside the packaging has been broken, place the package someplace warm (like the top of your fridge) to speed up the process. You will know when the yeast are ready when the bag begins to swell up!
Note: If for some reason the bag does not begin to swell up or the Wyeast package is past it’s expiration date do not proceed with your brew day! Being impatient here can cost you your entire batch of beer if the yeast isn’t alive and ready to go.
If you have dry yeast, There is no additional preparation required.
The single largest contributing factor to creating a ‘bad brew’ is contamination. It’s essential that you take the time to carefully and thoroughly clean and sanitize any equipment that might come in contact with your beer prior to getting started. It’s important to establish early on a strict ritual of cleaning your equipment properly before you get started, I personally prefer to begin cleaning and preparation while the water is coming to a boil to optimize my time as best as possible! Don’t worry if this doesn’t make sense quite yet, If this is your very first time brewing I recommend that you read through the entire process first so you can start to build a structured schedule of what events need to happen and when. Or if you’re more like me – You can just kind of ‘wing it’ on your first go and just have fun with it 🙂 Whatever your approach, we want to make damn sure that we do a good job cleaning and sanitizing our equipment first!
So let’s get started…
First things first – You’ll want to gather up all of the following equipment to clean and/or sanitize it properly before we get started:
- Fermenting Bucket / Glass Carboy
- Auto-siphon / funnel
- Grommet & Airlock
What I like to do is fill up a spare bucket full of warm water and sanitizing solution, and then just dump all of the little bits and pieces in to keep them sanitized and ready to go. Any items on the list that are considerably larger than the bucket (namely the auto-siphon and fermenting bucket) should be flushed and cleaned with the sanitizing solution immediately before use. It should be noted that you don’t need to use the cleaning PBW cleaning chemicals during every batch, in fact – I try to avoid using that stuff whenever possible. (Less is more here) That being said… it’s a good idea to use it every few batches – especially if there is any visible residue left over after washing your equipment in warm water and soap.
Anything that will fit in your bucket of sanitizing solution should be good to go whenever you are ready for it, But equipment like your fermenting bucket, glass carboy and tubing will require a small bit of extra attention. For items like your auto siphon and tubing you should keep them as submersed as possible and cycle the cleaning solution through them prior to use. For larger items like your fermenting bucket and carboy, you will want to make sure to use a cleaning brush to remove any and all residue left over from previous batches of beer first. Once you’ve successfully removed any residual gunk from your fermenting vessel, go ahead and add about 1 gallon of water and some sanitizing solution, seal and shake vigorously to ensure that all of the surfaces have been thoroughly cleaned.
Word To The Wise…
One of the biggest mistakes I made when making my first batch of beer was too completely rinse out all of the foam left over in my glass carboy. The result was a slightly sour tasting batch of beer, due to some small contamination from my water source. While you need not worry about the water you will use later in your wort (it is being boiled after all) – You should be very cautious about introducing any new sources of germs to your sanitized surfaces. The Star-San solution that was mentioned earlier in this article is a food grade solution, which is perfectly safe to leave well enough alone in it’s foam form. If there is one thing you take away from this section of the guide – don’t fear the foam! The healthy of amount of foam left over in your fermenting vessel will only serve to protect you from the many bacteria that seek to ruin your first batch of beer. I promise it will not affect the final flavor of your brew, and will in fact help to protect your beer from contamination and an assortment of different off-flavors caused by bacteria.
Since this process can vary slightly depending on the contents of your extract kit and the type of beer you are trying to brew – You should supplement the following guide with the instructions that came included in your extract kit. These instructions will detail the exact hop additions, timing and more.
**The following guide will detail the process for brewing a 5 gallon batch of beer, Scale up/down as needed.
1.) Fill your brew kettle with approximately 2.5 gallons of water and set the flame on high, our goal is to reach a steady temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit. While the water is warming up, you should find a cloth mesh bag and some crushed grains in your kit – empty the entire contents of your crushed grain package into your mesh bag and place the bag into the kettle to steep the grains. Continue this process for about 20 minutes or until the water has reached the desired temperature of 170 degrees.
2.) Once the temperature reaches 170 degrees, remove from heat and slowly stir in your malt extract until dissolved. Then return to the stove top, stirring occasionally and re-heat the mixture back to 170 degrees. Your un-fermented beer during this stage is now referred to as ‘wort’.
3.) For the remainder of the cooking process you will want to refer to your kits included instructions for hop addition timings and amounts. If you have a timer handy, it’s helpful to set it as a reminder for when these should occur. While the timing and amount of your hop additions will have a direct impact on the beers final bitterness and aroma – don’t be afraid to experiment a bit with variations as you become more experienced. Hop additions will impart a stronger hoppy and bitter flavor to your brew the earlier that you add your hops to the wort during the boiling process, while adding hops towards the end of the boiling process will instead impact the beers aroma.
4.) About 15 minutes prior to the end of your boiling process, we will need to start preparing to cool down the wort as quickly as possible. Your goal here is to cool the wort to at least 100 degrees as quickly as possible once the boiling process is complete. If you have a wort chiller, simply attach it to your kitchen sink and start running cold water through. The wort chiller acts as a radiator to rapidly cool down the wort and improve efficiency in the brewing process. If you don’t happen to have a wort chiller yet, you can simply fill your kitchen sink with ice and cold water to cool the wort. (albeit a little bit slower)
5.) When the boil is complete, cool your wort as quickly as possible using either of the 2 methods detailed above. Since this process generally takes a few minutes, now is a great time to start preparing your fermenting bucket and yeast! Your fermenting vessel should already be cleaned and sanitized at this point, You can either prepare your auto-siphon to transfer the wort to your fermenting bucket/carboy now or you can simply grab the brew kettle and poor it directly into your fermenting vessel.
Once your fermenting bucket is ready to go, you will want to prepare your yeast. If you have a liquid yeast pack (Wyeast) and your bag has started to expand (indicating that you have healthy yeast cells within) You are all set for now. If you have a dry yeast packet, you can safely pitch the yeast directly into your wort when the time comes.
6.) By now your yeast should be ready, wort cooled and fermenting bucket sanitized and ready to go. Transfer your wort into your fermenting bucket/carboy while trying to leave any sediment behind in the brew kettle. Then add cold water to your fermenting bucket to bring the total volume of the wort to approximately 5 gallons.
7.) Take your rubber bung or lid for your fermenting vessel and seal it up tight. We will want to make sure that we mix the wort and water together and aerate the wort now. The best way to do that is to get your hulk on and shake the hell out of it! I mean…You can probably just rock it back and forth like a little girly man, but we’re making frickin’ beer here man, c’mon have fun with it!
8.) Once the wort has been aerated or you become exhausted (really whichever comes first) – Set the fermenting bucket back down and take a temperature reading on the wort. The wort needs to be cooler than 78 degrees before we can add our yeast. When the wort is no longer warm to the touch or reaches 78 degrees, you can go ahead and add your yeast.
9.) Place the bung and airlock on on your fermenting bucket/carboy and move it to a warm, dark place to begin fermenting.
10.) Grab an ice cold beer.
The fermentation process will typically last 4-6 weeks and is mostly an idle process while we wait patiently for our beer to finish fermenting. That being said, now is a great time to start preparing for bottling day. If this is your first time going through the brewing process, you will want to start saving empty beer bottles and testing them to make sure that your bottle capper and bottles design are compatible. Now comes the hard part…When you’ve figured out which beer bottles will work best for you – You have to somehow find about 48+ similar empty beer bottles. Bottoms up!
It’s important to keep an eye on your beer while it is fermenting during the first 48-72 hours after brew day. Active fermentation appears in the form of a healthy foamy head and bubbles as the yeast consumes the simple sugars in the beer and poop out alcohol and C02 – yum! If the foamy head begins to make it’s way to your airlock, It can begin to harden in the airlock and eventually create an airtight seal, pressure then builds and can cause the rubber bung and airlock to shoot from your fermenting vessel like a bullet. If you suspect that your beer may be undergoing a very healthy fermentation and would rather be safe than sorry, you can use your blow-off hose tubing that is included in most basic beer making kits to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you.
Image Source: Howtobrew.com
To do this, simply remove the bung and airlock and insert the tubing into the bung hole or carboy mouth and make sure it is airtight. Then insert the other end of the tubing into a spare bucket full of water and sanitizing solution. After a few days the initial surge of fermentation should subside and you can re-sanitize your bung and airlock and place them back on your fermenting bucket/carboy.
Active fermentation has ended when the foamy cap of your beer falls back into the beer and there are no more signs of Co2 bubbles in your beer. From here – the type of beer you are making will dictate whether you proceed with secondary fermentation or go move straight to bottling you brew. Please refer to your specific kits instructions and proceed accordingly.
Before transferring your beer to your secondary fermentation bucket, we will need to go ahead and clean and sanitize the secondary fermentation bucket, lid, grommet, airlock and auto-siphon. Once everything is cleaned and ready to go, you can begin to use your auto-siphon to transfer the beer to the secondary fermentation bucket. When transferring your beer from one bucket to the next, try to minimize movement as much as possible so that any leftover sediment from the brewing process remains on the bottom of the bucket.
Depending on the type of beer you are brewing, you may also be tasked with doing some dry hop additions during the secondary fermentation phase. Dry hopping your beer is a great way to add more depth to your brew. As you become more experienced and familiar with the brewing process and it’s core ingredients, you can begin to experiment with other late addition ingredients like candied sugars, orange rinds, spices, honey and more to add more layers of complexity to your beer.
The day has finally come… Just have to bottle your beer and you are just 1-2 weeks away from cracking open a bottle of home brewed deliciousness. Bottling your beer servers 2 very important functions: 1. It will carbonate your beer and 2. it is a great way to share your home brewed beer with friends, family and coworkers. Alternatively, you can avoid bottling all together in favor of kegging your brew and using Co2 to carbonate your beer much faster. Each system has it’s own advantages and pitfalls, but both yeild equally delicious beer if done properly. For the purposes of this guide however, we will be going through the bottling process. To get started, you’ll need to clean and sanitize all of the following equipment…
Bottling Day Equipment
- Bottling Bucket w/ Spigot
- Bottle Filler & tubing
- 48+ Brown Beer Bottles
- Bottle Capper
- 48+ Bottle Caps
- Bottle tree (optional)
1.) Once you’ve cleaned and sanitized all the above equipment, You’ll want to begin by taking your priming sugar and dissolving it with some warm water in small pot on the stove.
Below are some guidelines for the main types of priming sugars available to you:
2.) Once your priming sugar solution is prepared, we will need to remove it from the stove top and try to cool it as quickly as possible. Usually submerging the pot in cold water and throwing a few ice cubes in the mix will do the trick pretty quickly. Once your priming sugar solution has cooled to about 74 degrees, you can add it to your beer in the bottling bucket and stir briefly to make sure that your beer and priming sugar mixture has mixed thoroughly.
During primary fermentation the yeast consume the fermentable sugars in our malt extract to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. Our goal when adding this priming sugar is give the yeast some more sugars to consume to produce some more carbon dioxide. Since we will be creating an air tight seal on our bottles, the extra Co2 will slowly build pressure in the beer bottles and serves to carbonate the beer. This process is known as bottle conditioning.
3.) After you have added your priming sugar, you will want to use your auto-siphon to transfer your beer from it’s fermenting bucket to your bottling bucket. Once the beer has been transferred, attach the bottling filler and tubing to the spigot on your bucket. Then move the bottling bucket to a high surface to allow gravity to keep your bottling wand flowing and working properly.
4.) Finally, go ahead and start using the bottle filler to start filling each bottle full of beer. The trick to using this thing is to fill the bottle all the way to the top while the bottling wand is inside the bottle, and when you remove the filler – you should be left with the perfect amount of empty space in the bottle. ( ~1 inch ) After you fill each bottle, you can use your bottle capper to seal the bottle and prepare it for storage one last time.
5.) Once all of the bottles have been capped store them in a warm, dark place for 1-2 weeks. If you aren’t bothered by a flat beer, you can certainly crack one open early to see how it turned out! At the end of 2 weeks, when you open each bottle it should be accompanied by subtle hiss and a foamy head when poured. This indicates that the beer has been carbonated and is ready to be enjoyed!
Congratulations, you’ve just made 5 gallons of home brewed beer my friend!
Once you’ve got a few Extract/Kit batches of beer under your belt, you may be asking yourself where do I go from here? Is Kegging worth the extra upfront cost? How do I grow my own hops? What about All Grain Brewing? The great thing about brewing beer is that you can get as intricate or simple with your brewing process as you’d like, this is just the tip of the iceberg! Below you’ll find a list of resource pages that I hope will help answer any remaining questions you have and help take your brewing to the next level.