Beginner's Guide to Making Beer from a Kit, even when you're 81 years old
There is a vast range of home brew beer kits to choose from, and all their instructions will differ slightly. However the principles are generally the same, and the following general guide will give you an idea of what's involved if you fancy making your own beer from a kit and have never done it before.
Why make your own beer at home?
The reason customers start making beer at home is usually the cost.
Whilst there is duty payable on beer that you buy, there is no duty on beer kits. That's why it works out so much cheaper than shop bought beer. Once you've invested in the equipment (which is also very well priced, the start up costs are low), you can be enjoying beer for under 35p a pint! Even the top quality branded kits made by recognised big name breweries, such as St Peter's Brewery Beer Kits, work out at less than 75p per pint.
Customers tell us the beers taste exactly the same as the ones you buy, if not better. And making your own beer is an enjoyable and satisfying pastime. It also takes less time than you might think.
When you get your beer kit, it is strongly recommended that you closely follow the instructions which come with it. I have had calls from people who have gone headlong in without reading anything and then hit problems later. Beer making from a kit is really is very straightforward and pretty much guaranteed to turn out well if you follow the instructions.
This year we gave my Dad a Coopers Beer Kit for Father's Day and we helped him make his first. My Dad is 81. Once we'd shown him once, he'd got it. Now he makes his own beer, so no more carrying bags of cans and bottles home from the supermarket. He simply re-uses the bottles as he goes along.
We gave him a Beer Making Starter Kit exactly like this, because the Coopers European Lager tastes very similar to his bottled beer of choice (rhymes with Rex).
Once you have all the equipment, all you'll need to buy in future is the beer kit itself. The equipment and bottles can be re-used over and over again. If you'd like a kit along these lines to get started but with a different beer, give us a call and we can sort that out for you.
So what's likely to be involved?
1. Clean and sterilise
This is becoming the mantra of my life, I really can't stress it strongly enough. Whatever home brew you are making, clean & sterilise all equipment that will come into contact with the beer, wine or cider. Fermenting liquids are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, and unwanted bacteria will spoil your beer.
There are a variety of Cleaners and Sterilisers to choose from, all of which are simple to use. Simply follow the instructions on the packaging. Regardless of whether the instructions say about rinsing off the sterilising liquid, we always rinse everything thoroughly in cold water after sterilising and just before use. Some don't. It's down to personal choice.
Here we are sterilising bottles in Dad's bath when the beer was ready for bottling - quick and easy!
2. Warm the Tin or Pouch
Assuming your beer kit comes in a tin like this Coopers Real Ale Kit, warm the tin of ingredients in a pan of boiling water which will soften the contents, then pour the softened contents into bucket. Rinse the tin & add this as well.
Not all beer kits come in a tin, some come in pouches like Simply Pale Ale. The instructions on the kit will tell you which part of the kit to pop into warm water to loosen it.
You're doing all this to ensure you get the maximum amount of ingredients out of the packaging, which can be harder to do when the contents are cold.
3. Put tin contents in fermenting vessel, add sugar and water
Pour the contents of your kit as instructed into your fermenting vessel. Add the required amount of sugar, brewing sugar or brew enhancer, depending on what you're making. Add boiling water - again, check what your kit says, it's usually about 4 pints.
Stir the liquid vigorously for 5 minutes to dissolve the contents & introduce oxygen, which will encourage good fermentation. Now top up with the required amount of cold water.
If your tap water is high in chlorine, leave to stand for 24 hrs before adding. Or use bottled water instead.
4. Check the original gravity
Now it's time to take your first hydrometer reading. You do this by floating the hydrometer in a sample of the liquid, and reading off the level. Most kits will read approximately 1040 at this stage.
Check the temperature of your brew is between 18°C & 26°C (any higher than that could kill the yeast), then add the yeast & stir well.
Full instructions on how to use the hydrometer will be in its protective tube or read our post about how to use a hydrometer.
5. Wait whilst fermentation takes place
Now all you need to do is keep that fermenting vessel at room temperature, 18°C to 26°C, and wait. At some stage the beer will start to ferment.
After around 5 days, any froth should have sunk to the bottom of the container & the gravity can be checked again with your hydrometer. When you have 2 identical readings over 2 consecutive days, you're ready to move on to the next step.
6. Transfer your beer to bottles or a barrel
Using a syphon, transfer the beer to your bottles or barrel, being careful to avoid disturbing any of the sediment at the bottom. If you have made your beer in a vessel with a tap, the sediment is likely to have settled below the tap level which makes it easier.
If you want to know the alcoholic strength of your beer, you can take a second hydrometer reading now and then calculate its strength by using the original and final gravity readings.
7. Prime your beer with sugar or carbonation drops
Now you're reading to prime your beer so that it has some fizz. Add around 80g of sugar to prime a barrel, or 1 teaspoon of sugar/one carbonation drop per 500ml bottle.
Keep your beer in the warm for 4 days, this will allow it to carbonate within the sealed vessel or bottle. Then leave to stand for approximately 2 weeks in a cool place for the beer to condition & clear. My Dad put his in the larder.
8. Drink and enjoy
And feel proud that you've made wonderful beer. It will be delicious to drink and at a fraction of the price of shop bought! And if you start making the next kit when the equipment is freed up, then you'll never have to buy beer again.
How cool is that?
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