Asking how to brew beer is sort of like asking how to build a house. There are many different ways to get there, depending upon personal taste and the amount of effort you want to invest, but regardless, there’s a fundamental process.

I sat down with two West Tisbury guys who have been brewing their own beer for a couple of decades, Philippe Jordi and Paul Farrington, and they took me through the process.

There are two main types of brewing, they explain: the more traditional all-grain method, where the sugar must be extracted from the malted grain, and the shortcut method, using pre-made malt extract. Philippe and Paul generally brew with malt extract and have been happy with the results.

“For the basic equipment,” Paul says, “you need a stainless steel pot like you cook lobsters in, a couple of five-gallon plastic buckets – it helps if they have a tap on the bottom – and a five-gallon glass carboy jug.” Add to the list a thermometer, some clear tubing (for siphoning), a couple of air locks, and perhaps a cooling coil. Everything that comes in contact with the beer throughout the process must be sterilized.

For ingredients, you’ll need water, malt extract, hops, brewer’s yeast, a little sugar, and grain – specifically barley. These ingredients are sold separately and in kits at beer-making specialty stores and online.

“You can go to a beer-making store,” Philippe says, “and tell them what kind of beer you like, and they can give you suggestions on what kinds of hops, what kinds of grains, and what kinds of malt to use.”

“So if you’re in Boston,” Paul adds, “and you really like Sam Adams Summer Ale, they can fix you up.”

Paul describes the first steps: “You have to boil the grain [in the big pot] for a couple of hours. After about an hour, the malt [extract] goes in and then toward the end, you put in the different hops.” The hops add flavor to the beer and come in different varieties; brewers experiment with and time these additions pretty meticulously. You can also add herbs or spices. This past summer, Paul and Philippe joined fellow beer aficionado Tim Boland, director of the Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury, for Tim’s course on brewing with botanical components to create interesting and complex flavors.

After the hops and flavoring are added, you cool the mixture – called the wort – in a plastic bucket, then add yeast, which starts the primary fermentation. The bucket’s cover has an air lock that allows carbon dioxide to escape while keeping air out. There’s a little water chamber on the top of the lock where you can see the bubbles being formed from the carbon dioxide.

“Let it bubble until it’s mostly stopped,” explains Paul, “until the yeast has consumed most of the sugar.” This can take anywhere from four days to two-and-a-half weeks.

Then you transfer this mixture to the carboy jug for the secondary fermentation, “to let the mixture oxygenate again so the yeast reactivates,” Paul says. “It sediments out even more and you leave it for two-and-a-half to three weeks. If you didn’t do this second fermentation, the beer would be bitter and unrefined.”

The final step is the bottling. The liquid gets siphoned into another plastic bucket, and sugar is added to activate the carbonation. When it’s ready, you siphon the beer or pour it out through a tap at the bottom of the bucket into individual bottles. Paul uses Grolsch beer bottles because they have an airtight cap, but you can use any bottles you want, with a beer capper tool to secure the tops.

“Every kind of beer has a different recommended aging time,” Paul says. “Two months is decent for lagers. For some beers, I recommend around nine months. I had a batch I sampled at seven months and was shocked at how much better it was at ten months.”

That, in very broad strokes, is how to brew your own beer. Excluding the one-time cost for the equipment, basic beer kits generally start at $40. A five-gallon brew should produce over fifty twelve-ounce bottles. Given that premium beers can cost around $12 for a six-pack, home brewing can certainly save some money. But that’s only one reason to brew your own.

“It’s a fun thing to do,” Philippe says. “It’s sort of like cooking. You can make your own variations, and they tend to be more robust and interesting than the beers you can buy.”