Author Topic: homebrew?  (Read 32502 times)

homebrew?
« on: December 09, 2013, 12:51:31 pm »
Thinking of getting MrsC a starter homebrew kit for xmas.

Recommendations, kits to avoid, etc, please.
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citoyen

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Re: homebrew?
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2013, 03:18:15 pm »
I was given the Young's Microbrewery for my birthday last year, which I recommend. It took me a while to start using it, but I've done three brews with it in the last two months.

It comes with all the basic kit you need to get started, including a two-can extract kit (it's advertised with a Woodforde's Wherry kit but mine came with a St Peter's Ruby Red Ale kit). You just empty the contents of the two cans into the fermenting vessel, add water, add the sachet of yeast, leave it to brew for about a week, then rack it off into the pressure barrel, leave to condition for a couple of weeks, then start drinking. And I must say that the results are pretty good.

If you want to bottle your beer instead, you obviously need to provide the bottles (I've just collected a load over the months rather than putting them in the recycling), as well as a capper (about £10-£15) and some crown caps (about £3 for a bag of 100). It's also a good idea to get a bottling wand (a syphon tube with a valve in the end) and a bottle drying rack.

Obviously that set comes with an extract kit to get you started, but further kits are readily available - one-can kits are cheaper (£10-£15) but need you to add a bag of sugar to make up the fermentables and the resulting beer will have less body than an all-extract kit. Two-can kits cost around £20-25 but don't need anything added and tend to give better results (according to what I've read, rather than personal experience). Of course, you can use dried malt extract instead of sugar in the one-can kits, but then you're ending up not really making a saving on the cost of the kit. Tesco Direct have some pretty good deals on kits - when they're in stock, which isn't often. Wilkos also stock a good range and have some good offers.

Woofage

  • Ain't no hooves on my bike.
Re: homebrew?
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2013, 04:57:55 pm »
Freecycle is a good source of beer bottles. As well as your own used bottles of course ;).

In fact our fermenting vessel came via Freecycle together with a load of bottles. We got the rest of the stuff on-line from http://www.home-brew-online.com/. Our first brew will commence this evening :).
Pen Pusher

Re: homebrew?
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2013, 08:46:48 pm »
I don't think a voucher for freecycle will quite cut it as a christmas present.
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Woofage

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Re: homebrew?
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2013, 09:26:36 pm »
No, of course not, but when you get your second and subsequent brews on and the first lot has used up most of your bottles then you may need some more ;).

If you use a pressure vessel there is no need for bottling but it creates a storage problem all of its own.
Pen Pusher

citoyen

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Re: homebrew?
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2013, 08:32:03 am »
Just remembered another bit of kit that mrscharly might find useful: an aquarium heater. This is a tip I've picked up from home brewing forums - it ensures the brew is kept at a steady temperature during fermentation. Get a decent one from a proper pet shop and just drop it straight in the fermenting vessel.

I need to get one myself - I suspect the stout I've currently got on the go has stuck due to the room the FV is in getting too cold overnight, even though the house is centrally heated.

The more elaborate solution is to build a brewing fridge.

citoyen

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Re: homebrew?
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2013, 08:45:17 am »

Or do what I do: find a beer you like that isn't too expensive and has a good bottle. It's a convenient excuse  ;D

A good bottle is one with beer in it! I've amassed about 150 bottles, all different shapes (but all basically the same size, ie 500ml). The only ones I consider no good are the ones with a bulbous neck, as the capper won't fit on them. Brown bottles are definitely best, but I store mine in the dark anyway.

Quote
Also, I would avoid using table or cane sugar in your beer, it can make it thin and watery ime. Some DME or generic LME would make a tastier beer, and it's not that expensive if you source it from an online home brew shop.

Indeed. From what I've read, plain sugar is good for alcohol and carbonation (so fine for priming) but nothing else. Though the possibilities for using different kinds of fermentable material are seemingly endless. Again, the home brewing forums are a good source of advice on this matter.

Woofage

  • Ain't no hooves on my bike.
Re: homebrew?
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2013, 09:09:27 am »
Just remembered another bit of kit that mrscharly might find useful: an aquarium heater. This is a tip I've picked up from home brewing forums - it ensures the brew is kept at a steady temperature during fermentation. Get a decent one from a proper pet shop and just drop it straight in the fermenting vessel.

That's a good idea. I got my first brew going last night and the bucket's in the bottom airing cupboard so I'm hoping the temp will be about right but I'll keep a check (there is no tank in the ac just pipes so it doesn't get overly warm in there).
Pen Pusher

Re: homebrew?
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2013, 10:23:52 am »
@ the OP: Don't take this the wrong way (I'm not judging you or the Mrs., and please correct me if I'm wrong) but might your idea be akin to when Homer offered Marge a bowling ball as a present ?

MrsC seriously considered starting a 2year course in brewing. So I don't think it is like Homer offering Marge a bowling ball ;)
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citoyen

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Re: homebrew?
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2013, 11:01:49 am »
What temperatures are you fermenting at ?

At the moment, "room temperature", which is usually in the range 18-20ºC, but probably dropping to 16ºC or lower overnight, which does increase the chances of the yeast crashing out - though presumably the fermentation generates its own warmth, so the temperature of the brew will be a little higher than ambient temperature.

One of the chaps on the brewing forum I visit ferments his stout at 22ºC using an aquarium heater. Having seen the photos, I'd say this is not advisable if the room you keep the FV in is carpeted.

Re: homebrew?
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2013, 07:07:44 am »
If you had an insulating jacket around the vessel, couldn't you have a temp sensor inbetween the vessel and the jacket?
<i>Marmite slave</i>

Re: homebrew?
« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2013, 12:04:41 pm »
I was thinking of the sort of jacket you use around hot-water cylinders.

Heating could be by micro-bore plastic pipe, wrapped around the keg, under the jacket. Circulate warm water, heated to the correct temp. Actually, if the water was temp-controlled, it would act as a temp moderator for the keg (removing heat if keg got too hot).
<i>Marmite slave</i>

Re: homebrew?
« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2013, 12:18:17 pm »
I've got a coil of copper pipe I use to reduce the temperature of the wort quickly so I can get the yeast in - it's simply a case of dropping it into the FV and clagging a water supply to one end and a drain line on the other. It wouldn't take much molishing to use it to cool the wort mid-brew. You'd have to keep the flow rate pretty low so as not to over-cool it though. It's potentially messy, so it might be better for an outdoor brewhouse.
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Re: homebrew?
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2013, 01:35:35 pm »
It's barely worth it - at the moment I'm doing about 2 brews a year, and I live in Scotland - water shortage, hosepipe bans and metering are alien concepts up here.
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David Martin

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Re: homebrew?
« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2013, 06:08:49 pm »
I was idly browsing in the local Range (like a super woolworths) and noticed that they had apparently very simple beer brewing kits available.  http://www.therange.co.uk/make-your-own-home-brew-ipa-bitter-kit//the-range/fcp-product/51086 for an example. I already have a mash tub and a barrel so was thinking it might be a good idea to try.

I presume temperature regulation is key? If I can get that sorted (peltier and pi?) then it should be fine to give it a go.

Edit: Merged threads as I hadn't seen this one.
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citoyen

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homebrew?
« Reply #15 on: December 14, 2013, 10:14:45 pm »
I'd say those look a tad on the pricey side for what they are - definitely too expensive at full price but better at the reduced price.

In terms of what you get in the kit, they're equivalent to the Coopers single can kits, which usually cost £10-£14 depending on where you buy them. Wilko's own brand kits are cheaper still.

I recommend the Coopers kits based on my limited experience but I don't know how the Range kits compare.

David Martin

  • Thats Dr Oi You thankyouverymuch
Re: homebrew?
« Reply #16 on: December 14, 2013, 10:48:38 pm »
Just found out that there is a HomeBrew shop in Dundee which stocks Coopers so I may pay them a visit.
"By creating we think. By living we learn" - Patrick Geddes

woollypigs

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Re: homebrew?
« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2013, 09:44:02 am »
I think have to start playing with a home brew.

- At least two shops in town are doing homebrew kits, one is around £65 and contains everything.
- PGtips gave me some bottles and various brewing kit, four gallons glass bottles etc.
- Neighbour is growing hops and brews herself, I didn't know that it would grow this far up north, I have to ask her if I could get a cutting.
- I have been talking about this for ages.
http://www.letusbeheard.uk March in London on October 19th and on the 12th Rally 4 Our Rights

Re: homebrew?
« Reply #18 on: December 15, 2013, 10:19:32 am »
Here's how I (and a work colleague I exchange ideas with) do it (I've read the posts above, bound to be some overlap) -

- normally only use all-malt kits, though using a single can and supplementing with brewing sugar still gives a 'real ale'-type end result and is slightly cheaper.  If there's no local shop then Ellie Claire from eBay is totally reliable and won't charge for postage if you spend enough.

- I use a brewing belt to raise the temp slightly, my house is minimally 10-12C in the winter; after primary fermentation (6-7 days) I rack it off into one of the Wilko large vessels under airlock.  It can take ages to ferment out but prevents off-tastes from the yeast getting into it (people recommended skimming the brew on a previous thread too).  The point is to try to rack it while fermentation is still active so it build up a layer of CO2 over the brew which keeps spoilage organisms out - if the airlock goes dead shortly after transfer you'll need to bottle it within a few days.

- sometimes I'll bottle it before it's quite finished and use slightly less priming sugar - about half a cup for a 5-gal brew is normal, which I dissolve into a small amount of water on the stove.  I usually rack it off back into the first container but do this with a tube (as I do for the first racking) to minimise the amount of oxygen getting mixed in by splashing around - I've bastled something with different widths of tubing and jubilee clips, held in place on the tap by laggy bands.  I've brought several German crates back and collect bottles from the recycling when I need them - some are a pain to cap when the neck is widely-flanged so try different sorts out.  This takes about 2 hrs from start to finish.  Then give as much warmth as possible for a few weeks; they're much better after about 2 months in bottle.

- if you like lager as AQ says use a special yeast and Pilsener enzyme, it will then ferment at a low temperature, I'm going to get one on shortly and anticipate it will probably take 2 months to ferment out, at least.  The end result is worth it, IMO, and in general I'd always rather have a pint of home brew because it's not pasteurised, much more wholesome.

- my colleague recommends a procedure called "Krausening" to get secondary fermenation going where you start off a new yeast culture instead of relying on what's left in the brew - anybody else tried this?
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Re: homebrew?
« Reply #19 on: December 19, 2013, 07:28:47 pm »
Rather good value atm given the brew kit is circa £22 upwards retail.

http://www.brewuk.co.uk/store/micro/complete-st-peters-starter-equipment-set.html
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citoyen

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Re: homebrew?
« Reply #20 on: December 21, 2013, 08:45:08 am »
Coopers kits back in stock in Tesco at £10.

I've bagged a couple of the Stout kits. Might try the APA too...

David Martin

  • Thats Dr Oi You thankyouverymuch
Re: homebrew?
« Reply #21 on: December 21, 2013, 07:15:14 pm »
I asked one of my colleagues and he insisted that I shouldn't bother with any kits but do  a full mash from scratch as it would make much better beer. Seems like a lot of work for a first try.
"By creating we think. By living we learn" - Patrick Geddes

Mrs Pingu

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Re: homebrew?
« Reply #22 on: December 21, 2013, 08:18:41 pm »
There are some perfectly acceptable kits out there. We find that bottling and then forgetting them for a few months makes for better beer.
I agree with you DM, do a few kits first and then see if you can be bothered with the added faff of mashing from scratch...


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woollypigs

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Re: homebrew?
« Reply #23 on: December 22, 2013, 08:54:47 am »
On reflection, making beer is 10% actual brewing and 90% cleaning. Hope you like cleaning :-)
arrggh why didn't anyone tell me this before! I didn't know I had to work that hard to get a brew going :)
http://www.letusbeheard.uk March in London on October 19th and on the 12th Rally 4 Our Rights

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
homebrew?
« Reply #24 on: December 22, 2013, 10:02:25 am »
I asked one of my colleagues and he insisted that I shouldn't bother with any kits but do  a full mash from scratch as it would make much better beer. Seems like a lot of work for a first try.

My long term aim is to get a proper brewery set up but there's nothing wrong with a decent kit, and it takes up minimal time, space and effort, so it's perfect if those are limiting factors for you.

Getting a kit right still requires care and patience, but can produce very good results. And Mrs P is right - the beer does improve with age.