Brewing from Kits, Tins and Pouches.
This is the easiest way to brew and it’s reliable but it’s the taste equivalent of a Ready Meal however:-
- there are some good ready meals available, I like the M+S “Balanced For You” range.
- they are convenient.
If you just want to brew and drink ordinary quality with a minimum of fuss and bother kits fit the bill.
All kits come with instructions, follow them BUT they are notoriously optimistic about how long things take, fermentation times, conditioning times especially.
A lot can be done to customize, improve and optimize kits, what you get in a kit is the product of the first half of the brewing process known as the “hot side”.
That’s the production of wort flavored with hops and it’s important but the second half of the process is equally important.
What happens during fermentation and conditioning makes the difference between adding Lemonade and reaching straight for another one!
- As always you need Sanitized equipment infected beer is ruined, no exceptions.
- Temperature control is vital it impacts the flavor and final gravity of the brew, I generally prefer to ferment on the cooler side of the yeasts working range even though it takes a little longer to finish. The yeasts working range will be in the instructions or on the packet.
- Brewing less than the suggested volume will result in more body and a more intense flavor.
- Rehydrate your yeast and oxygenate the wort before pitching.
- The fermentation is finished when the hydrometer reading (Specific Gravity) remains the same when measured over three or more days.
Kits split into two groups One Can and Two Can, either may have pouches instead of tins, the biggest difference is the amount of wort you get, a "One Can" kit will not have not enough fermentables to brew 5 gal of normal beer so sugar or DME must be added . Two Can kits are usually more than double the price of a One Can kit but need nothing added to them.
Improving Kit brews.
One Can kits, often called Kit n Kilo, tell you to use sugar to make up the bulk fermentables, don’t do it, use Beer Enhancer or Malt Extract to replace it this will result in a beer with more body and flavor.
If you use Dry Malt Extract (DME) you will need 1.25 X the recommended amount of sugar.
Improvements to the Max?
Some Two Can kits also benefit from extra hop additions.
If you have had the kit for more than a very few months or your suspect it’s been in the shop for a while before you bought it you should consider buying new yeast as it’s the yeast that goes off first.
Most of them will never make lager they are not supplied with the right yeast, lager yeast is described as bottom fermenting and works in the range 9 - 12 ⁰C much colder than other yeasts.
Unusually Saflager 34/70 yeast has been demonstrated to work at higher temperatures so you might manage without a fridge. Most “lager kits” produce a light ale that has some similarity to lager but 34/70 could be used to replace the kit yeast and produce a true lager.
Note. If you're fermenting at a lower temperature (lager) or the initial gravity is high then you should use more than one packet of yeast for a 23litre brew.
On the subject of fermentation, one of the internet fantasies is that lager fermentation (especially) is going to take weeks. This is NOT TRUE with the right amount of good yeast and the correct conditions fermentation can take less than 5 days for a normal strength beer e.g. a Bitter and 10-14 days for a lager.