Home Brewing from a kit.

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  • Hi All


    I have just started my first ever beer from a kit. I was given the kit as a gift so I had no choice over brand etc. It is a Kilner Bitter kit.


    As I said this is my first attempt so I don't really know what I am doing but the instructions were easy enough to follow although deciphering the hydrometer was fun.


    I think I got an original gravity reading of 1040, Does that sound right?


    My next question is. What can I do to improve or tweak a beer kit. Can I add more sugar or hops to improve flavour etc.


    I am excited to see and taste what it comes out like


    paul

  • When I was a teenager in the 70's beermaking kits were really popular and could usually be found in most high street chemists and there were lots of home brew shops around too. I think mostly because the price of pub beer was steadily increasing through tax and high inflation. They dont seem so popular these days,I suppose because theres so much choice of beer and its relatively cheap that eople dont bother brewing their own, which is a shame.You can make superb beer and lager and wine with kits,some at least as good as professionally brewed beer or wine.If you get really good you can rival some of the CAMRA ales.
    My father, grandfather and myself all made beer both from kits and from raw ingredients and it became a ritual to each make a brew at least once a month so there would always be some(plenty) in stock to drink.


    The hydrometer is easy to use.It measures the specific gravity of a fluid ie the fuids density.
    Normal water has a specific gravity of 1.000.
    In the case of brewing if you add sugar to water in which it disolves, the SG will go up as the density increases.

    You take the SG of the brew after youve added all the initial ingredients sugar etc, but before the yeast has been added and you will have an SG of 1.040.(So yours is correct)
    Then you add the yeast and leave to ferment n a large bucket or bin whatever you have for the purpose, as per the kit instructions.
    If youre making wine,the SG would normally start off around the 1.080 mark as the content of sugar is higher and is a longer fermentation proess.


    As the yeast ferments in the beer brew it consumes the sugar, so the brew density will reduce and so the SG will decrease accordingly towards the 1.000 mark (that of normal water) and depending on the brew that youre making,the kit it will usually tell you when to move to the next stage of brewing process, such as into another fermentation vessel with bubble traps or into bottles when the SG reaches a certain mark.Bottling too soon before the fermentation is done can cause the bottles to explode so beware. Bottling too late may lead to flat beer so its imprtant to get it right.


    If the SG is below 1.000 ie 0.090 it simply means the fluid has a much higher alcohol content so is less dense than normal water.


    But you need to follow the guide on the correct SG for the brew youre making, as once its gone from 1.040 down towards the 1.000 mark the alcohol content is already increasing so if you dont follow the instructions for the brew in hand then youll end up with the wrong alcohol % for the beer and alter its taste and consistency or could stop fermenting prematurely.


    The hydrometer is useful if your not sure if the beer is still fermenting after a week so using the hydrometer to check the SG periodically will confim its still fermenting ( the SG continues to reduce). If it sticks close to what it originally was after over a week then its probably stopped working,the yeast may have died and its doubtful if you will get it to restart -its usually scrap.


    Its very important the beer is kept at the correct fermentation temperature or the process will cease and be ruined if its too cool or become too aggressive and ferment out of its fermentation vessel-make a mess and risk contaminating the brew.
    In the summer months theres a chance of over active fermentation if it gets too warm, but with winter brews its important they dont get chilled and the yeast killed.
    Follow the kit instructions you cant normally go wrong.


    As for whether you can adapt the recipe...yes they can be adapted but its best that you get brewing beer as per the kit, spot on everytime and know what youre doing and what the adding or changing of ingredient quantities will do to change your brew before you actually set about altering and adapting recipes.Adding sugar suddenly for instance can kill the yeast so rendering the brew scrap.


    I have on occasions experimented with brews that I thought had died due to unexpected temperature drops so added sugar and yeast in an effort to rekindle life and create something out of the brew,thought nothing more of them for weeks,tested the SG and tasted them a few more weeks later and found thm pretty ick or borderline flat, but then gone back a few months later and sampled again before deciding to throw them and found the same brew was like a dark mead and total nectar to drink, with one large glass rendering one very silly indeed so theres nothng to stop you playing around with the kits and brewing process once you get the basics right.
    Experimenting by brewers is afterall whats given us such a large collection of excellent CAMRA ales in the UK.


    Professional brewers go to a lot of trouble to get the kits spot on and fool proof.There are also kits available for many types of beer lager and wine in more specialist brewing stores online, where the guesswork and experimentation has already been done and chance is reduced to a minimum.
    Its fun doing the whole brew with raw ingredients hops etc It is time consuming, but often worth the effort,the smell alone is wonderful, but the kits are a much simpler and effective way of getting great beer.


    Google home brew beer kits or home brew stores. Home brewing is very popular in the US and some good online specialist stores there.Plenty of beer brewing books on places like Amazon or smallholder sites and youll find some beer brewing and wine making content on Youtube too if you need help in understanding the whole processes.
    The only thing that stops me brewing my own now is being mobile (Beer doesnt appreciate being shook up )and not having the space or I would be brewing regularly.

  • Thank you so much for taking the time for such a thorough explanation. I wish there was a way to give you more than one groovy.


    I am really excited about my first brew. I am going to put this one in a barrel because I am brewing it for the allotment association BBQ in a few weeks. There are a few home brewers at the allotment and I am hoping to start a small brewing club up there so we can get together and brew and have a few beers.


    I am going to see if I can get my dome build by then and serve the beer in the dome. I will design a label for the barrel.


    Dome Brew.


    paul

  • 1040 sounds about right for a beer that will come out at about 4.9 %. I would not try tweeking till you get a feel for the brewing buisness, but adding 20 g of sugar per litre will increase alcohol by 1% , but the alcohol will kill the yeast once it gets above 9-15% depending on the yeast used .
    Go easy on adding hops , they are powerful flavoring !


    Tons on the web about brewing ! I only make wine at the moment , as I drunk the beer to quick for the effort it took , but its a good introduction to becoming an alcoholic :insane:


  • No worries,the brewers at the allotment will help once they know youre a fan of home brew...and I expect theyll help drink it too :D


    The beer kits are pretty good quality and way more choice compared to when I started in the 70's when the choice was limited.I used to brew Mild as did my grandfather and my father brewed bitter and it was lovely beer, at least as good as the pub variety or I wouldnt have continued with it.We were lucky to have a local chemist who was a real enthusiast too so stocked every possible accessory and was a wiz with technical info on brewing and additives which helped.
    As Ma Bungoa said go careful on the experimentation as you can end up ruining a brew with overstrong taste or killing the brew.If you eventually go the raw way with hops, malt,etc its fun but youll probably need to invest in some larger cooking vessels.
    Im sure one or two of the Allotment home brewers have done it and could advise or lend the equipment.
    If youre going to brew through the winter regularly then put the brew in a room with a stable ambient temp like a spare room and invest in a simple thermostatic heater and it will prevent failures due to getting cold.
    The only bugbear for me with brewing was bottling,I hated the plastic barrels at the time, but sterilising pint bottles was tiresome so usually I bottled into larger quart bottles with stone stoppers which worked out less tedious. Not sure if you can still get those kind of bottles(I kept all mine) but I think the plastic kegs have come on a bit since I first started.


    Once you get the beer bug you'll probably want a go at wine and that is well worth getting into even though the maturing time is longer.My spare room always had gallons of differnt kinds on the go in Demijohns bubbling away and the converted coal store racked out as a wine store kept them perfect till drunk ......which I often was :)
    Good luck with the Dome Brew ..and the domes (yes Ive looked at your website-very impressed :thumbup: )

  • really well written article NomadicRT, :thumbup: I used to make beer, lager and wine kits , used to be loads of choice, real good some of them. Remember my dear old mum popping in one day, I said to her, "try a glass of this " it was a lager that I had tweaked, she fell off her pushbike on the way home. lol. She was okay , but never touched a drop of my brew again.

  • I'll be interested to see the replies here, been thinking of trying one of thes kits myself.


    They do cider kits as well Wurzel :D . Found a nice Double IPA kit on Amazon would suit you , Bulldog home brew kit, Evil Dog, 7.1%, someone in the comments recon they got it nearer 8.1 % and someone else nearer 10%, wow blow yur socks off lol. Expensive though at £27.77 for 23 litres :eek:

  • I am knocking out fruit wine ,3.5 lbs sugar /gallon. Lidl sugar £0.49 kg, fruit is free, and I use previous batch yeast to start new batch.20 p a bottle ? dunno ? to trollied to work it out , hic !!! Hic !! fart , follow through !! OK , need to refine the proceedure hic

  • I am knocking out fruit wine ,3.5 lbs sugar /gallon. Lidl sugar £0.49 kg, fruit is free, and I use previous batch yeast to start new batch.20 p a bottle ? dunno ? to trollied to work it out , hic !!! Hic !! fart , follow through !! OK , need to refine the proceedure hic


    :rofl:

  • They do cider kits as well Wurzel :D . Found a nice Double IPA kit on Amazon would suit you , Bulldog home brew kit, Evil Dog, 7.1%, someone in the comments recon they got it nearer 8.1 % and someone else nearer 10%, wow blow yur socks off lol. Expensive though at £27.77 for 23 litres :eek:


    Love the name Evil Dog lol and Bad Cat .. £27.77 works out around 69p a pint or 90p for a large tinny which isnt a bad price compared to what youd pay for strong beer in a pub or club or even supermarket, I dont think,The Bad Cat is £32.59 ... Think youd want to be reasonably successful with the cheaper kits though before shelling out that kind of money.

  • I am knocking out fruit wine ,3.5 lbs sugar /gallon. Lidl sugar £0.49 kg, fruit is free, and I use previous batch yeast to start new batch.20 p a bottle ? dunno ? to trollied to work it out , hic !!! Hic !! fart , follow through !! OK , need to refine the proceedure hic


    20p a bottle........ Im liking the sound of that :) .. bargain!

  • I am really interested in making country wines and beers from found ingredients because there is 0% tax to pay.


    Brewing from kits and even brewing from raw ingredients can incur VAT because grains that have been malted for brewing ar vatable.


    I will start a new thread about country wines and how to do it so it is easier to find in the index


    Paul

  • [h=3][/h]


    (1)This has come up many times over the decades and caused uproar some time ago when the chancellor of the time threatened to tax home brew, but never materialised... but if youre producing beer for solely your own domestic consumption- not for sale- you dont need to register as a brewer,it doesnt attract VAT or as its called 'Beer Duty'...as per the Excise Notice below.The same applies to wine.Different rules apply to spirits and it is illegal to distill spirits without a license.


    The beer,wine and cider kits and brewing and winemaking equipment and ingredients do attract VAT at the prevailing rate - currently 20%.


    (2) They would have to know youre brewing beer and drinking it anyway and measure how much youre brewing and consuming at home to know how much to tax to claim off you, which requires records and put simple it would cost them far more to monitor the home brew production and consumption than theyd ever get back in duty so HMRC never pushed to include home produced wine and beer.


    If you brew in a micro brewery such as a keg worth (81 litres) for commercial sale then youre supposed to register and pay the applicable rate per percentage of alcohol per litre and the rate is currently around £18 per percentage alcohol over 1.8% per Hecto litre.so duty on average 4% beer is around 44p a pint or about 80p a litre.Stronger ABV attract higher duty.


    Lesson there...dont sell of use at public events or you'll ptotentially flout the law. However,people do give home made wine and beer away as raffle prizes and as far as I know no one has ever been prosecuted.


    Just make the beer and stop worrying :)


    Most everyday food stuffs dont attract VAT so non of your home production ingredient costs- fruit sugar etc- will be tax, except for the VAT on kits,-if you use one.
    If you gather fruit from the hedegrow,or orchards, extract the juice,ferment it without using a kit and then bottle it, its obviously going to be very low in cost and the tax youve paid on sundry winemaking items,miniscule or 0.


    If it was uneconomic for tax reasons to make home brew,people wouldnt make it and there wouldnt be a market for beer and wine kits.





    [h=1]Excise Notice 226: Beer Duty[/h] Updated 12 December 2014

    Guidance


    [h=1]Alcohol Duty rates from 23 March 2015[/h] Updated 23 March 2015

    [h=2]Contents[/h]



    [h=3]4.4 Exemption from registration[/h] You do not need to apply for registration to produce beer in the following circumstances:

    • brewing solely for your own domestic consumption
    • brewing only for research or experimental purposes - see section 17
  • http://www.amazon.co.uk/Home-B…llon-Carboy/dp/B0057VXNZ6


    out of my price range when you can get plastic ones for £15 from Wilkos .


    Glass is nice as you can watch the leas doing lava lamp impression , and watch the bubbles :)


    I usd to have some large glass carboys but theyre fetching £30 or more for 2nd hand.I used to have lots of demijohns bubbling away too but obviously smaller... Have you looked on Gumtree for Demi's ? usually you can get some for just a few squid or a job lot.

  • I usd to have some large glass carboys but theyre fetching £30 or more for 2nd hand.I used to have lots of demijohns bubbling away too but obviously smaller... Have you looked on Gumtree for Demi's ? usually you can get some for just a few squid or a job lot.


    Will have a look , I prefer large vessels as its less fannying around, I put all finished wine in 2 litre cider flagons for same reason :)

  • We used to do home brewing beer at one time. Nice, but it does get you drinking:reddevil:

    We'd bottle up into 2-litre bottles or larger, and once you've opened one of those on a warm evening, you just gotta finish it, you don't want to let it get flat. And if you do two or three different beers, and open one of each... Not good if you have to get up at 5.30 am, as we sometimes had to do, to be at work 6.30.


    But watching this thread with interest, just maybe might want to start again, now we're retired:beard:

  • We used to do home brewing beer at one time. Nice, but it does get you drinking:reddevil:

    We'd bottle up into 2-litre bottles or larger, and once you've opened one of those on a warm evening, you just gotta finish it, you don't want to let it get flat. And if you do two or three different beers, and open one of each... Not good if you have to get up at 5.30 am, as we sometimes had to do, to be at work 6.30.


    But watching this thread with interest, just maybe might want to start again, now we're retired:beard:



    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBSxAAJ_2SI

  • Yes, indeed. Home-brewing is one of the most seemingly-innocuous ways down into incoholism.


    Most folk tend regulate their intake of booze by what it costs, unless they are already alcoholic.
    So when you brew your own, instead of the £10 a week's worth of booze you might normally buy, there is at least £30 a week's worth waiting for you. Three times as much, and probably stronger. So long as you are sensible about it, and have the iron will to make it last longer, that is fine. But who amongst us has the iron will...?:reddevil: We all start off by being jolly sensible about it, of course.


    Home-brewing does combine the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity, as George Bernard Shaw said about something else entirely.

  • You are probably right. i do have to keep a constant eye on my drinking but my wife doesn't drink alcohol at all so I always have someone looking out for me and she will tell me if I am starting to take the piss.


    I do not have room for a barrel at home so it will be kept at work and I will draw off a couple of pints to take home.


    Or spend all day at work pissed


    paul

  • I have had barrels before but personally prefer bottles. Don't get me wrong barrels are easier and ideal for a party where it goes quickly but messing around with co2 cannisters is a pain. Also they are difficult to chill if you prefer your brew chilled. As oldkeith says, 2 litre bottles are a good compromise for bottling speed etc.


    I have just started another brew of Bulldog Evil Dog double IPA. It is very nice but at 7.1% has a good kick to it.


    I made some mead a long time ago which was quite nice. Takes a long time though.



  • That's good. My other half generally keeps an eye on me, too. She only seems to get through a pint in an evening, so it's a bit obvious if I go to refill too often:whistle:
    Good idea to keep it at work, but make sure you have an alternative cool drink available...and don't get entertaining prospective customers:)

  • Some of the best we brewed was a very strong Barley Wine beer, usually for the festive season. Only did eight pints at a time, and quite expensive, so not for friends or neighbours, or relatives or visitors. A selfish beer. Used to open it up on Christmas Eve, after dinner. Don't remember a lot about those Christmases!