A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

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A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby BIGJIM72 » Thu Apr 10, 2014 00:07

How hard can it really be to make beer?

That was the question that was put to me,sometime in the early 90s on a night out, when you could spend a night in a pub without a meeting with the bank manager. It was a question that baffled,intrigued & fascinated in equal measure. So- in the pre broadband age I looked in the Yellow Pages & found my local Homebrew shop (this statement shows how long ago it was-no broadband & a LHBS in London) & have never really looked back. I came back the proud owner of a plastic bucket & spoon & a Coopers Aussie lager kit. That first kit changed a lot of view points. But the question had been answered-not hard at all

I spent a lot of years making kits & being happy with the end result. Kits taught me an awful lot-a sanitising regime,patience,yeast behaviour & a lot more. At this point in time I was yet to discover forums- so I was alone, in a brewing group of one. So I followed the kit instructions-bottled it when they said bottle,drank it when they said it was ready. I know better now that those instructions were hopelessly optimistic with regards to a timescale- but I got a baseline as to how the R&D guys thought it should taste-there was no brewing short or hop teas or dry hopping.Cringe as appropriate. I confess- I brewed an awful lot of Wherry & thought it was fantastic at the time (& skillfully treated the kit beer IMHO is better than Woodefordes own bottles).

My AG conversion only happened down to cost reasons- I had no lofty ambitions of crafting artisan beers for myself & discerning friends, I was made redundant (another day or 2 of service would have got me a payout,but I ended up with nowt). I found a cheap boiler on Ebay, a mate did a run to Tuckers Maltings & the rest is history. Me & kits finished when I realised that a premium 2 can kit could cost as much as a 25kg sack of Marris Otter malt-which could (with other ingredients) provide the base for 5 or more brews,as opposed to one.

Kits? Always worth making once to the instructions-just so you get a feel for what they are like before you try to mod them.

Always worth making a yeast starter-those 5g packs of yeast need all the help they can get. I'm sure there will be a thread about this arriving shortly.

Kits can be improved/tweaked by the use of hop teas or dry hopping. 1 can kits can be improved by using beer kit enhancer(BKE) or spraymalt, or malt extract,as opposed to brewing sugar or household sugar. ( On the subject of household sugar I could be wrong but I am sure that cane sugar is better than beet sugar. The science eludes me-but using household sugar for brewing rather than just a small amount for priming can cause a bad head) Brewing short is another option.

The Coopers website suggests ways of blending 1 can kits to make other beers.

Again-other threads will be arriving shortly.

The debate as to which method of brewing will go on and on. Kits may cost a bit more-but they have come a long way since the 1970s-they can produce a stunning pint. AG is more time consuming but allows for greater control & tinkering.

Kits taught me a lot. Brewing is a journey-you will find out what you like,then hopefully move on & get a little more adventurous with every new brew.

I have a medical condition- I am fool intolerant.

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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby oldbloke » Thu Apr 10, 2014 00:16

I've only recently started on beer, though I have a few years of wine and cider behind me, so for now I'll be doing kits.
I take on board all your points - cost, getting exactly what you want, etc - but right now I need something I can just chuck in a bucket.
Space is a consideration - what's the smallest amount of gear/space you need to go AG?
Is BIAB smaller spacewise or just simpler?
Time, luckily, isn't a constraint.
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby BIGJIM72 » Thu Apr 10, 2014 01:07

I was just trying to get the ball rolling really & hoping a few more contribute.

There should be no stigma with kits TBH. Chuck it in a bucket might make a great how to header!

Kits are tailor made for those with time & space issues. I'm lucky if a brew day lasts less than 6 hours ( admittedly I am not standing hawk like watching it the whole time). I am sure there are a few bag pullers out there who could comment.

My AG kit consists of a 28lt tea urn & a similar sized coolbox mash tun-they take up minimum space & generally live under my office desk until called into use.

A B&D workmate is also part of my brew equipment.

There are some nice kits about-Woodefordes, St Peters,Brupacks. I never tried a Festival but hear only good things.

I have a medical condition- I am fool intolerant.

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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby LeithR » Thu Apr 10, 2014 09:00

Yes, I certainly see kits as a very useful basic and relatively quick way to get a good acceptable brew going. I use them to experiment with using all the tricks (hop teas, short brews, DME added etc...). I see the hobby as a spectrum from kits at one end to AG at the other, all aspects are valid and have a place.

As to kit, I have a 35L boiler and I BIAB mainly. I don't see the big bits of kit requirements are much more than a boiler and maybe a couple of FV's so much of the space requirements are taken up with grains, hops and other adjuncts.

I live in the country and recently have had problems with mice, my local council recycling point came good when I managed to get another wheeley bin to store my grains from them. Only cost me 6 bottles of home brew. Not a bad deal!! I'm waiting in expectation as we have just planted Oats in my fields (13 acres) and next year planning to plant Barley, probably not MO, it will be a variety more slanted towards the whiskey industry, I'll then try a bit of home malting so will be on the look out for some tips.

Its a great hobby which takes you into some interesting nooks and crannies. :thumb:

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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby bobsbeer » Thu Apr 17, 2014 10:17

I think over the years kits have improved immeasurably. The quality of the finished result is excellent even with some of the cheaper kits. Although the classic newbie trick of adding extra sugar to raise the ABV tends to spoil the outcome. And may be what puts people off kits. I brew both kits and AG, and good beer has been the result. But as with all things, start with quality ingredients you get a quality result. And this does apply to kits.
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby tim_n » Thu Apr 17, 2014 10:51

oldbloke wrote:I've only recently started on beer, though I have a few years of wine and cider behind me, so for now I'll be doing kits.
I take on board all your points - cost, getting exactly what you want, etc - but right now I need something I can just chuck in a bucket.
Space is a consideration - what's the smallest amount of gear/space you need to go AG?
Is BIAB smaller spacewise or just simpler?
Time, luckily, isn't a constraint.


BIAB sounds good for you if you want to go AG. Small foot print easy to manage. Only real "problem" is a little more grain used per brew. Hardly any problem

Tim

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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby Thegoldenheap » Thu Apr 17, 2014 12:21

Interesting insight into your brew history bigjim. We'll written!

I only started as a New Years resolution, it's was either sausage making or brewing, couldn't decide on what mincer so ended up brewing. A few wine kits and a A beer kit under my belt, got three beer kits to do! And a wine! I will go ag me thinks, some day. I want to master all the basics first, cleanliness, bottling, clearing!!! Etc etc and most of all patience.
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby stuart180 » Thu Apr 17, 2014 13:06

I'm only into my 3rd brew (2 kits and 1 ginger beer) and I'm completely hooked :D

Seeing the kit some of you guys have built from scratch is truly inspiring.

Personally, I'm happy with my 2 can kits and little experiments (Ginger Beer) at the moment.

It's been a great introduction into brewing and has certainly led to me doing WAY more research into brewing.

I've probably did around 10 hours worth of reading through the sites, forums (and youtube vids) before even attempting my first brew.

I'd love to go AG one day, but for now, I'm very pleased with my little bit of kit, It's a nice little hobby and I love seeing the reactions when friends and family try one of my beers and they can't believe it's a homebrew!

:cheers:
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby linf » Sat Apr 19, 2014 16:59

I Iook at the set ups of brewers on here with envy,yes Barnsley brewer i mean people like you :lol: .I'm only into about my third kit and there is so much info on here and places like YouTube for pimping a kit i can see how some people sort of slide into AG or extract etc. eventually.
I can see how the cost factor comes into it with the price of a premium kit or 1 can kit plus extras but i can't help having a dabble with 1 can kits.
My next brew will be getting dry hopped to see what that does for me and i've just seen a great chocolate stout video with steeped grains.
One things for sure....i'm gonna need a bigger shed!
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby Growler » Sat Apr 19, 2014 17:24

I have done full AG and each time it's been a cracking pint but I mainly do kits cause it takes an hour to get a kit going as oppose to several hours and constant attention to get a AG in to the fermentor

I'm so busy recently that if it wasn't for kits I wouldn't have any beer
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby Rwilts » Sat Apr 19, 2014 17:26

I have been trying to kick the kit habit for 18 months :oops: I bought my 50l pot year last christmas - Had my 7.5 kw burner for this Christmas But on Thursday i threw down another 2 kits!!

I have made about 30 kits in the last 3 years and not one as been undrinkable.. They are a good way of building a stock quickly and easily and as other have said they are a great way to get into the hobby and get your basics down..

I am really keen to move onto BIAB and now have only two kits left in stock -- Must get the BIAB on soon...

O and when i have finally made that step I wont be looking down on any kit brewers :cheers:

' This is solemnly promise - I need to get brewing again '

And i have done it !!!!!

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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby Crankwood » Sat Apr 19, 2014 21:53

I made kits for the first few months and really enjoyed the vast majority of the beer I produced. My reason for moving to all grain was that as a hobby I find it much more rewarding. I have only brewed 2 all grain batches but putting together the kit, building a lot of it myself (and I am a DIY idiot) learning and soaking up all the info I can has been brilliant. There is still so much more to do as well. I just didn't get this satisfaction brewing kits.
Having said that when I'm short if beer and time the Coopers cans will be coming out
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby JDGBrew » Thu Apr 24, 2014 02:02

As a complete novice into homebrew im really enjoying it as a hobby, have just kicked off my third kit on tuesday and only started less than a month ago! Hooked you could say.
There are far too many kits on my to do list before I think of taking the leap into AG.
Have told myself to stick to kits for a while until im completely happy with the basics and get to build up a bit of kit that way aswell.

'I saw one guy loose a tooth lunging for a foaming mug and miss judging it'- Aleman

FV1 - Coopers Aus Lager (Raspberry)
FV2 - Coopers Stout
BBkt -...
Keg1 - nowt
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Keg3 - Empty
Conditioning - Brewferm Grand Cru - Razorback - Youngs IPA 7.5%! Citra/Centennial Wilkos Golden Ale. Brewferm Tarwebier w/orange & coriander. Rioja 25 bottles
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby kentmark » Fri Apr 25, 2014 07:18

An old friend of mine got me interested in kit beer brewing. Gave the first couple a go as per instructions then started reading online about brewing short, adding different sugars etc. Even kit brewing there is a lot that can be learnt from the processes.

I am aiming to give BIAB a try soon, but kit brewing remains good for me, takes up very little space, is very quick to do and my 3 year old daughter can help prepare it, stirring the sugar into the wort etc. With having a pre-schooler time is limited and at a premium!
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby ericmark » Mon Jun 02, 2014 00:36

I think ease of brewing and cost point more to the kit now than in the past. The big supermarket like Morrisons do kits for less than £7 and after buying sugar still looking at under £8 even with extra sugar still under £9 and with extra sugar and a little extra water one can kick up a pint with an ABV of 5% for less then 25p a pint it really does take some beating.

As one starts to modify in the main it puts up the price and the big one is which of the cheap cans to start with?

So Geordie seems to be the cheap one with Lager, Scottish Heavy, Yorkshire Bitter, Bitter and Mild. Three are very similar Scottish Heavy, Yorkshire Bitter and Bitter the Yorkshire Bitter is most bitter with Scottish Heavy the least. Adding extra sugar to Yorkshire Bitter makes it far too bitter but with Scottish Heavy one can double the sugar without spoiling the beer. So up to 25 litres of water and one has a very cheap brew at 5% ABV.

In the main the kit beers are around the 3.5% ABV following instructions by the letter. Also the Lager is not real Lager it's just a simulated taste of a real Lager. However I think the idea of gradual progression is a good one. My friend is really into making beer from raw materials but to be frank it tastes rotten he jumped too quick.

I like the idea of producing the traditional range of ales from the same brew. But I have to face facts I just have not got the space to malt my own grain or install the rest which would be required to start from scratch. There are so many areas where one can mess up the process yet with kit brews it's so easy. I have poured one bottle down the drain clearly a problem with cleaning. But not bad for a year of brewing.
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby Gunnar » Mon Jun 02, 2014 06:48

I have done three kits, 2 WOW's, a mead on the go and a turbo cider mellowing. I only started brewing kits a few months ago. I love it, but I am aiming to go a step further like dry hopping. BIAB, if not a big outlay, is something I would love to move on to. AG brewing is definitely the goal eventually. That said, I have enjoyed the results from extract brews, I now brew the beer I drink :)
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby AltonAnt » Mon Jun 02, 2014 08:34

It is great to see so many people interested in going AG via BIAB :thumb:
It really is a simple entry into the world of mashing and with excellent guides such as the one from Callum, there has never been a better time.

I agree with everything in the OP regarding kits with only one minor comment regarding yeast. It isn't recommended to grow starters from dried yeast but rehydrating :thumb:
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby beeker » Wed Sep 10, 2014 10:49

I'm halfway through my first ever brew and I'm using a kit (Bulldog Four Finger Jack). It's been great so far, very easy to use. I can see how it can all become addictive. It's a real learning curve and I've picked up a few tips for my next brew already. I'll be adding the finishing hops on Thursday and bottling on Saturday.

A few things I'll be doing differently next time:
-Rehydrating the yeast the night before. I added the sachet straight to the wort and felt it didn't mix too well.
- Keeping my fermenting brew in a dark room - it's been in the corner of the kitchen since starting and has had a fair bit of daylight. Not sure how much difference this will make.
- I have a secondary fermentation tank but I didn't rack off to it this time - wasn't sure what to do! - but will try to use it next time.

Planning: Festival Razorback IPA
Fermenting: Young's American IPA
Conditioning: Bulldog Four Finger Jack, Ultimate Brewery Classics American Pale Ale, Young's American Pale Ale
Drinking: Williams Bros Joker and Ceasar Augustus (commercial)
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby MARV » Mon Oct 13, 2014 22:19

Personally I'm getting really sick of the kits, there's only a selected few that are any good, personally the only way forward is grain brewing. However the only kit I have found that gets rid of that "homebrew twang" is the beer works craft brewery series, any thoughts on getting rid of that crappy twang?
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Re: A few thoughts on kits (not a guide)

Postby BIGJIM72 » Mon Oct 13, 2014 22:57

MARV wrote:Personally I'm getting really sick of the kits, there's only a selected few that are any good, personally the only way forward is grain brewing. However the only kit I have found that gets rid of that "homebrew twang" is the beer works craft brewery series, any thoughts on getting rid of that crappy twang?


Maybe its time to think about an extract brew.

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