Tips for Buying Home Brew Supplies

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home brew supplies

When it comes to buying home brewing supplies, there are a few things you need to think about. Things like ingredients you need to think about quality, cost and freshness. Equipment purchases mean thinking about how useful is it, practicality and price.

In this article I want to give you some tips on buying equipment and ingredients because (and I know) there are plenty of opportunities to spend money and end up with something you hardly use or is just not right for you.

Open Fermentation Without the Contamination

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I’ve read a lot of people making a big deal about open fermentation, especially home brewers thinking anything other than a carboy fitted with a bung and an airlock will lead to infected beer and spoiled brews. Open fermentation makes many people think of the sour beers brewed in Belgium or in quaint 19th century farmhouse settings.

On the opposite side of the coin though, if you walk into any number of breweries here in the UK, Belgium, Germany and even some in the US, all fermentation will be carried out in open vessels. I know this from personal experience because this is how all the beer I brew at work is fermented. So what’s with all the controversy with open fermentation?

Open Fermentation

So You Don’t Have To Keep Fermentation Airtight?

As a home brewer I have gone through stages of open fermentation and closed fermentation using demijohns and airlocks not once have I had an infection in one of my batches. Nor have I ever been that worried about it.

The first 4-5 batches of beer I made (probably 9 or 10 years ago now) I used a book published in the 1970’s that suggested you ferment in a bucket and skim the yeast off every day it didn’t actually say you can store the yeast for later brews. So this is what I did for all of my first batches of beer. It was only when I got more involved with home brewing and read further that I switched to closed fermentation believing that an infected beer was inevitable.

Since those early years though and many more years of practice and research I’ve learned that some of the best beers in the world are openly fermented and it’s not just because the breweries that brew them have any special conditions under which they ferment them.

Fermentation Under Sterile Conditions

Most breweries that I’ve visited here in the UK have fermentation rooms but there are no special environments just air filters to remove impurities and dust from the air, pretty much every FV I’ve seen on a brewery tour has been open although a lot of craft breweries now use closed tanks to aid kegging and carbonating the beer. I know many breweries around the world use open fermenters too and mostly under conditions the same as you would have at home.

Once the krausen has built up on top of the beer and CO2 is being produced no further protection from the air is needed

The Home Brew Scale Open Fermentation

Pretty much all of my fermentations now consist of racking the cooled beer into a fermenting bin (plastic bucket), pitching an adequate amount of yeast and setting the lid loosely on top to stop dust from getting in. No airlock or completely closed and airtight fermenters.

As long as you have aerated the wort properly and created a healthy amount of yeast to pitch then fermentation starts between 2 – 6 hours. The krausen builds up and the carbon dioxide sits over the top of the beer stopping any oxygen from contacting it.

It is only after the initial burst of fermentation (say a few days to a week) has completed I then move the beer to a closed container with an airlock fitted and allow it to condition. This process is very much like a lot of commercial breweries in the UK who use condition tanks to store the beer in before casking or bottling.

Leaving the fermentation open after until the krausen has sunk back into the beer allows you to do whatever you need to such as adding fruit, dry hopping or harvesting yeast and secondary fermentation can then be completed under closed conditions when less CO2 is being emitted to form a blanket over the beer.

What’s The Benefit Of Open Fermentation?

  • I believe open fermentation leads to more yeast character. There is less pressure on the yeast in an open fermenter and as beer ferments, the undesirable compounds that are produced can easily disperse which is less likely in a closed fermentation. If it leads to better beer, you will have to deciede for yourself.
  • Convenience, there is less equipment to sanitise especially if you have to use more than one carboy for a batch and an open fermenter with a wide neck is far easier to clean than one with a narrow neck
  • Adding fruit and hopping during fermentation is far easier both in terms of access and cleaning
  • As long as your fermenter is big enough you don’t have to worry about airlocks clogging or fitting blow off tubes. I’ve had numerous clogged airlocks but never had an open fermenter overflow.
  • Probably the best reason is to harvest yeast for reusing. It’s simply a case of skimming it off the top with sanitised equipment and storing. You’ll notice the earlier stages of fermentation will bring dark trub material to the surface which can be discarded but after this you have a plentiful supply of clean, fresh, healthy yeast and is one of the best ways to collect it, rather than from the bottom of the fermenter after primary fermentation.

Clone Beer Recipes – Recreate Your Favourite Commercial Beers

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When I started brewing my first few beers were commercial beers I’d tried to recreate. In essence, they were a clone beer. I would say that was somewhat of my motivation to start brewing in the first place, I wanted to recreate some of my favourite beers that I could buy in the shops. I still do brew the occasional clone beer but now it’s more of a case of brewing a beer I cannot otherwise get here in my corner of the UK and I think brewing these clones is a great way to learn your craft especially if you can compare them with the actual beer.

Clone Beer Recipes

Making Your Own Clone Beer

There is always something satisfying about cloning a commercial beer and measuring your efforts against those of a proper brewery. I have written about clone brewing before, but recently I came across the website for Deschutes Brewery and was pretty surprised to find a list of home brew recipes to recreate some of their most popular beers.

Deschutes Clone Recipes

Of course, they haven’t given you the exact recipe for all their beers, they have, however, listed all of the ingredients used in say their Obsidian Stout. Any home brewer that has that information is going to be able to make a fairly good approximation of Obsidian after a couple of attempts.

I think this is a great thing that Deschutes is doing and I’m sure most home brewers who have ever tried to clone a commercial beer will appreciate them connecting with the home brew community. If you have ever tried contacting a brewery about the recipe for one of their beers it can be a hit or miss affair.

Brewdog Clone Recipes

BrewDog has gone one step further and released all their recipe for pretty much every beer they have made. In effect, they have open sourced all their recipes and released them all in a book.

BrewDog have even scaled their recipes for a typical home brew setup, provided quantities and tips on getting a close clone of the beer. They have released all their recipes in a free pdf ebook called DIY dog and I think this is an unprecedented movement for breweries being open about their methods.

In a lot of cases, modern craft breweries start out as homebrewers who take their hobby professional. Giving their recipes away like this is great for the home brewing community and I am sure it has won BrewDog a lot of fans in the process.

Avery Brewing Clone Recipes

Avery brewing is another brewery that is completely open with their recipes. On each of their beers pages on their website, they have a home brew recipe scaled to 5 gallons and listing the quantity of each ingredient.
For a home brewer like me who has little chance of getting one of their beers here in the UK, this is a great way to be able to get an approximation of one of their beers and give me further inspiration for my own beer recipes.

What Are Your Experiences With Contacting Breweries?

Some breweries are completely fine with telling you what hops are used in their beers or the makeup of the grist, where as in my experience the majority of emails to a brewery receive no response. This is why, when I came across Deschutes home brew recipes I was slightly taken aback and excited they have chosen to be so open. Hopefully, more breweries will take a similar stance. Of course, now you’re going to go out and buy that breweries beer because they have reached out to you, plus to see what your clone is like.

If you have ever contacted a brewery and they’ve been only happy to help you out then let us know in the comments section.

Books on Clone Beers

The first beer I ever made was a clone beer, it was Fullers London Pride. I seem to remember it was a pretty good replica of the actual beer and this is what really spurred me on to learn more about home brewing. At the time I knew hardly anything about brewing, everything I did was following the instructions set out in this book:

Brew Your Own British Real Ale

Graham Wheelers – Brew Your Own British Real Ale. There are over 100 recipes in this book of British real ales and if you are looking to brew any clone beer from the UK then the best bet is to look here first.

Clone Brews

Next up is a book called Clone Brews. This is a book I have only flicked through briefly. I haven’t attempted any of the recipes in it but there are plenty there and some good commercial beers are included. If clone beer recipes are your thing then you need this in your library.

North American Clone Brews

Lastly, a book heavily referenced in forums is North American Clone Brews. With such a huge craft beer scene in the US at the moment this book has 150 odd recipes for brewing US and Candian beers, although some reviews are mixed it may be worthwhile for getting ideas on brewing a particular American or Canadian craft beer.

Forums

Forums are a great place to find recipes, there are so many people brewing recipes and trying to replicate beers you can get a good idea of the ingredients in a beer and then tweak to your liking. The first place you need to check out is the recipes section on Home Brew Talk there is more information on this forum alone than any of brewing website on the web.

If you are looking for British Beers then check out  The Home Brew Forum for good recipes. If you can’t find the beer you are looking for then post because I’m sure someone on the forums will have brewed it.

Podcasts

Lastly, I’m pretty sure most people have heard of the Brewing Network. There are some pretty detailed and in depth podcasts on cloning commercial beers. The Jamil Show/Can You Brew It is the one to look for and the whole archive is available for you to look through. So if they have covered the beer you are wanting to brew this is a must listen, however, if you want to brew something a bit more obscure they are likely to have not covered it.

Hopefully, you have found some of these resources helpful in brewing your own clone beer. Anything to add then put it in the comments.

NEIPA A Perfect Beer To Experiment With – New England IPA Recipe

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NEIPA or New England IPA, a tropical fruit laden, murky and silky smooth beer style has captured the hearts and minds of craft beer devotees for quite a while now. It is now gaining attention outside of this niche with coverage in the national press. NEIPA, however, is still very much a beer style in its infancy and one that is still evolving. It is the perfect candidate for home brewers to brew in small batches exactly for this reason.

NEIPA New England IPA Recipe

If you like clarity in your beers then NEIPA is definitely a no go, producing a good NEIPA involves intentionally boosting the haze or murkiness of the beer. I have seen the term “it looks like orange juice” used to describe the clarity of a NEIPA in a good way.

I know some consumers, especially in the part of the UK where I live (Cornwall) who would absolutely refuse to drink a beer that was murky some who would return the beer to the bar even at the slightest hint of haze.

The IPA Haze Craze

I am not in the slightest bit concerned about the looks of a beer. I love that we are still seeing radically different beer styles emerging. I have always been of the opinion that taste is the first and foremost criteria when judging whether a beer is any good or not. As a home brewer it doesn’t really matter what is available locally because should I wish to try a new style of beer, all I have to do is find a recipe or find out what ingredients are typically used for a beer and then make it myself.

We like NEIPAs so much we have a small batch all grain beer kit in the shop that we have been working on for a little while.

The great thing about new beer styles like NEIPA’s is that even commercial breweries are still experimenting with ingredients, hop combinations and techniques so as a home brewer with no limits or commercial concerns you can really push the boat out.

New England IPA Essentials

The profile of NEIPA is hop driven, not just any hops though, typically hops with a heavy tropical fruit aroma. The beer is often described as juicy which unfortunately doesn’t really describe the flavour but I think it relates to the flavour of overly ripe tropical and stone fruit. The flavour is mango, pineapple, passionfruit heavy and the level of bitterness restrained to give the impression of a “juicy” beer.

Hops are predominately new varieties and even experimental varieties of hops that don’t even have names yet. Citra, Galaxy, Mosaic and Azacca are all likely candidates. These hop varieties all have the character we are looking for and new experimental varieties are emerging that are ripe for trying out.

Excessive dry hopping with these kinds of hops is necessary to get maximum aroma into the beer as is normal with most IPA but the differences to say a west coast IPA comes to the bittering additions. The bitterness in NEIPAs is lower sometimes dramatically lower. The idea behind this is to fill the beer with huge amounts of aroma with a smooth flavour and fuller body to enhance the “juicy” character of the beer.

The malt for a NEIPA fades into the background, it’s supposed to be neutral. Predominantly pale malts or extra pale malts are used. Caramel malts are used in a very restrained manner if at all, often light special malts like Carapils are used.

Unmalted Grains

The key part of the grain bill is the unmalted grains, these along with the huge amount of dry hops are what causes the turbidity in the beer. Flaked wheat and oats are added in the grist in fairly large percentages which introduce starches and protein that boost the haze and create a smooth and full body in the beer.

Yeast strains are varied for the style both English and US ale yeasts are used and can range from neutral to fruity strains that produce more esters. A couple of choices are Vermont Ale yeasts, White Labs WLP095 Burlington or Wyeast 1318 London III if you want something specific you could always just use Safale US-05 for a neutral yeast profile should you wish.

New England IPA Recipe

[beerxml recipe=”https://homebrewanswers.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/NEIPA.xml” metric=”true” mhop=”true” download=”true” /]

A version of this NEIPA is available in the shop as a small batch all grain beer kit. If that is your kind of thing then check it out.

Small Batch Extract Brewing Kit Giveaway – Worth £70

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Brewing Kit Giveaway

Today we have something a little different, we are really excited to be offering one of you guys the chance to win one of our small batch extract brewing kits.

The whole purpose of Home Brew Answers was to help people understand how to home brew. Creating beer recipe kits that made the process of home brewing as simple as possible was the next logical step. The response to this endeavour has been great and I hope we have gotten a few more people into the hobby.

Keeping this in mind we have decided that what better way to thank you, the people who come and read this site than to give away one of the extract brewing starter sets and a beer kit of your choice.

Complete Beer Kit Original

We designed these beer kits to use minimal amounts of equipment and to be able to brew a beer in the kitchen on the stove. The equipment consists of the following: fermenting bucket, bottling bucket and filler, capper, caps, hydrometer, thermometer, airlock and syphon tubing. You can view the setup here.

Each beer kit produces 8 litres of beer and the range is gradually expanding as we introduce new beer styles and try to keep things interesting.

If you want to be in with a chance of winning the brewing starter set all you need to do is go to this page and register your details to sign up to our newsletter. The competition will run until 19th June 2017 at which point we will randomly select an entry and get in touch with you to confirm that you’ve won.

Enter Here!

Get over to the entry page now and register!

 

 

Lager Fermented At Ale Temperatures?

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Warm Fermented Lager

Fermenting a beer with a lager yeast at ale temperatures. There are probably a few purists that will say the beer will end up a mess of off flavours and fusel alcohols. I have bent the rules however and done this very thing, fermented a lager yeast at 18°C and the result, is quite simply, a fantastic beer!

The term lager is not really appropriate to a beer fermented at ale temperatures. One of the most distinguishing features of lager is that it is matured in cold storage (store/storeroom is the literal translation of lager). The other defining feature of lager however, is the yeast strain used to ferment it. Ales are fermented with top fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and lagers are fermented with a different species of yeast (Saccharomyces pastorianus) which are bottom fermenting.

It’s safe to say a lager made at ale temperatures cannot be called a lager at all, it is a hybrid beer. Will it taste like a lager, though? Or will it taste like a complete mess? Depending on your recipe and the lager yeast strain you use, it can taste just like a lager, there may be some differences in a side by side comparison but you get a lot of the same characteristics as well as a delicious beer in its own right.

If you would prefer a more traditional lager recipe you will find my go to Pilsner recipe here.

Warm Temperature Lager Yeast Strains

When choosing a yeast strain to use you have to do a little research. If you look at the note released with each strain provided by the manufacturer you can easily find suitable lager yeast strains that can deal with higher temperatures without producing a lot of undesirable flavours. It should be noted, not all lager yeast strains are going to make a pleasant beer if you ferment them warm.

Every yeast lab will give you recommended fermenting temperatures for each yeast strain they produce. As an example take the dry yeast from Fermentis:

Saflager W-34/70, it states right on the front of the packet the recommended fermentation temperature range is between 9 – 22°C, this is something I only first noticed from a post on Brulosophy, the range does seem incredibly wide.

Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager is another yeast strain I have experimented with. Bohemian Lager, this is another yeast strain that has the detail we are looking for right in the notes from the lab;

A versatile strain, that is great to use with lagers or Pilsners for fermentations in the 45-55°F (8-12°C) range. It may also be used for Common beer production with fermentations at 65-68°F (18-20°C).

If you spend a little time looking up various yeast strains it is possible to find something you can use in an unconventional way. These two strains just go to show that yeast can be a very versatile ingredient of a beer recipe.

Common Beer

In the quote from Wyeast above, you may have noticed the term Common beer. This refers to an American lager beer style like California Common or Steam Beer. One notable example of a common is Anchor Steam Beer. The defining features of these American Lagers are that they are fermented with lager yeast strains at higher than usual temperatures.

This quote from the BJCP guidelines gives us an idea why these lagers are fermented warmer:

Large shallow open fermenters (coolships) were traditionally used to compensate for the absence of refrigeration and to take advantage of the cool ambient temperatures in the San Francisco Bay area. Fermented with a lager yeast, but one that was selected to thrive at the cool end of normal ale fermentation temperatures.

Common beers are usually fermented around 14 – 18°C, which, as you can see is just in the ballpark of an ale fermentation temperature. This makes the case for using lager yeast at warmer temperatures even stronger, one particular yeast strain that is synonymous with steam beer is WLP810 San Francisco Lager yeast from white labs. The recommended fermentation range for this yeast is between 15 – 18°C.

California Common is not a beer that is widely produced in the UK, I’m not too sure why this is but there are many hundreds of examples brewed in the US that the British drinker may be familiar with, the previously mentioned Anchor Steam and Flying Dog Amber Lager are a couple of examples.

Designing A Warm Fermented Lager Recipe

Now we know there are some lager yeast strains that can turn out a beer when fermented warm then we can think of how to make a beer around them. I decided that there was not much point in following any particular style guidelines for this kind of beer. You could, of course, follow a particular lager recipe if you wanted.

I know that I wanted a beer that was light in colour like a pilsner but also that uses ingredients that were closer to home just like the early California Common brewers would do.

It’s for this reason I have chosen a grain bill made up of 50% Pilsner malt and 50% Extra Pale Maris Otter. Extra pale Maris Otter is a grain I’ve been using a lot recently and it provides some of the character of Maris Otter we all know while lending itself to lighter coloured beers.

The hops are a combination of Perle from Germany and a classic hop variety for lagers alongside East Kent Golding to give the lager an earthy and floral note.

The yeast strain in this beer is the most important part of the recipe. I chose Saflager W-34/70 and held the fermentation temperature at 18°C, there was plenty of sulphur notes coming from the fermenter on the nose but not very much at all, if any, in the taste when the beer was bottled. Whether you agree with me or not this yeast strain has made a delicious lager and I am in the process of experimenting a little more with these “common” style beers.

 

Maris Otter EP Lager - Dortmunder Export
================================================================================
Batch Size: 18.000 L
Boil Size: 21.000 L
Boil Time: 60.000 min
Efficiency: 70%
OG: 1.053
FG: 1.013
ABV: 5.2%
Bitterness: 22.3 IBUs (Tinseth)
Color: 6 SRM (Morey)

Fermentables
================================================================================
                   Name  Type   Amount Mashed Late Yield Color
 Pale Malt, Maris Otter Grain 2.300 kg    Yes   No   82%   6 L
     Pilsner (2 Row) UK Grain 2.300 kg    Yes   No   78%   2 L
Total grain: 4.600 kg

Hops
================================================================================
    Name Alpha   Amount  Use       Time Form  IBU
   Perle  8.0% 20.000 g Boil 60.000 min Leaf 17.9
   Perle  8.0% 10.000 g Boil 10.000 min Leaf  3.2
 Golding  5.0% 10.000 g Boil  5.000 min Leaf  1.1

Yeast
================================================================================
           Name  Type Form    Amount   Stage
 Saflager Lager Lager  Dry 11.000 mL Primary

Mash
================================================================================
               Name     Type   Amount     Temp   Target       Time
            Mash In Infusion 11.960 L 73.092 C 65.556 C 75.000 min
 Final Batch Sparge Infusion 11.031 L 87.450 C 75.556 C 15.000 min

 

Brewing Beers With A Quick Turnaround

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Quick To Brew Beers

Is It Possible To Go From Grain To Glass In 10 Days?

Brewing a quick turnaround beer or a “fast” beer is entirely possible and something I have done before in a pinch. Today we will look at some of the factors to take note of brewing a beer quickly.

You have just gone to get a bottle of home brew from the fridge, there are only a couple left. You check the keg you started a few weeks back and there is only a few pints left. Pretty soon you’ll be all out of beer. If you brew fairly regularly then you may have had the experience of getting caught out in a position like this. What you need is a home brew that has a quick turnaround. From grain to glass in as short of a period as possible. You want to get the fridge stocked and a keg filled.

Of course taking your time with each batch of beer is likely to yield the best results in the long term. There are ways, however, of making good beer that don’t require lot’s of time to be ready. It is a case of thinking about the way beer conditions and ages and then building your recipe around this.

How To Brew Quick Turnaround Beers

The length of time it takes for a beer to be ready is variable. A lot of factors can make affect the time from grain to glass. Trying to compress this period to get a beer ready to drink requires a little bit of thought.

There are definitely beer styles that you won’t be able to brew quickly and you can take off the list. High gravity beers and sour beers require a lot of time fermenting and conditioning to be contenders for a quick turnaround beer. The same applies to lagers which take much longer to ferment at low temperatures than ales fermented at warmer temperatures (although commercial brewers even turn lager out quickly).

Now we have excluded a few beer styles it gives us a bit more direction on what we should be looking to brew. A beer that has a low starting gravity will ferment quicker than a high gravity beer and a quick fermenting ale yeast to shorten the time it takes to get to final gravity.

The Importance of Yeast For Brewing Beers Quickly

When brewing any beer the biggest chunk of time from the brewday to getting the beer kegged or bottled is the fermentation and conditioning period. If you can shorten this phase of making the beer then the turnaround will be much quicker.

This fermentation and conditioning phase is all down to the yeast and the environment they have in the wort you produce. Producing a wort that has ideal conditions and pitching the right amount of healthy, viable yeast cells will mean they can ferment the wort and produce less undesirable flavours during the process. Reusing yeast from a previous batch is an ideal way to pitch enough yeast.

Choosing A “Fast” Yeast Strain

Selecting a yeast strain to ferment a beer quickly means you need to look for certain traits. The best strains will likely have the following characteristics:

High attenuation – High attenuation means the yeast will ferment out to a low final gravity and usually in a timely fashion

Highly flocculant – High flocculation will result in the yeast dropping out of suspension quickly so once fermentation is complete the beer clears a lot quicker. Although wheat beer strains are an exception

Tolerates higher fermentation temperatures – If you can ferment a beer warmer, around 22°C for example, the yeast will attenuate out much faster than at 18°C. Optimal ranges for yeast are always listed on the package, at these higher end of these optimal ranges the yeast will ferment quicker without producing undesirable compounds such as higher alcohols and phenols.

Picking yeast strains with these traits will usually result in faster fermenting beers and beers that condition a lot quicker than usual.

Utilising Bold & Strong Flavours

“Fast” brewed beers can suffer from being “green”. In other words, most beers take a little time for the flavours and byproducts created during fermentation to even out and round off. This is why we want to choose a yeast strain that limits the production of byproducts that will affect the taste of the beer.

Conditioning the beer for a period of a few weeks to allow the flavour to round out really isn’t an option if you want to brew a beer quickly and be drinking it in around 10 days. If however we make a lower alcohol, bold flavoured beer any potential undesirable flavours can be overwhelmed so you don’t notice their presence. Clean tasting or subtle beers are usually best avoided for quick to brew beers.

Choosing roasted grains and caramel malts with bags of flavour will fill the palate when you drink it, the same is true of using bold, fruity and citrusy hops. When you fill a beer with flavour any undesirable flavours that are a consequence of short brewing times get disguided.

A Couple of Examples

  • Make a 4% ABV Stout and the dominant flavour you are going to taste straight from the fermenter is toasty, roasty, chocolate and toffee notes. Big bold flavours will always shine.
  • A Session Pale Ale of around 3.8% with bags of hops added at the end of the boil. The main flavour will be these aroma hops even before the beer has been carbonated the flavours fill the mouth
  • A 3.2% Mild although being a really low ABV has complex malt driven flavour. Mild are a definite contender for being one of the best fast to brew beers.
  • A 4.5% wheat beer although it uses simple fairly neutral tasting ingredients has one of the boldest tasting yeast strains. Wheat beers are also hazy by nature so flocculation of the yeast isn’t really a concern.

Packaging & Carbonating Your Beer

A truly quick beer will need to be kegged and force carbonated, a process that will take far less time than bottling and waiting for the beer to carbonate over a week or two. Once the beer is racked into a keg you can add CO2 immediately by either shaking the keg or if you have one using a carbonation stone. This will easily carbonate the beer within 24 hours and you can start pouring straight away.

If you have no other option than to bottle the beer, you will have to wait at least a week to achieve any kind of carbonation. The process can be sped along a little by holding the bottles at around 26°C for 3 – 4 days. This is how many commercial breweries bottle condition beers by using warm rooms. After a few days, you can let the bottles condition at normal temperature and check the carbonation by opening a bottle. Once carbonated the bottles can be chilled and served as and when needed.

Our Malt Extract Beer Kits & What’s Coming Next

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As you may or may not be aware, there is now a shop here on Home Brew Answers primarily selling small batch malt extract beer kits. When I initially setup this website the whole point was to get more people brewing. When I tell people I brew they are always interested. It’s not always the easiest hobby to explain in a conversation so Home Brew Answers is where I try to direct people.

The first article I published here was “How To Make A Beer Kit”. It is still one of the most popular pages here. It seemed pretty obvious that I should do something to try and make beer kits a little bit better than the old “Kit and Kilo” (beer kits that rely on plain sugar) type of brewing kits that new brewers start out with.

That is why I chose to make all the core small batch beer kits in the range using malt extract, plus steeped grains, hops and quality dried yeast.

Beer Kits

Why Malt Extract Beer Kits?

Malt extract is a great way to make beer and that’s why we have chosen it for the core beer kits in our range. The quality of malt extracts available today is a lot better than a few years ago, plus the range of malt extracts mean you can brew a large range of beers without having to compromise or be limited on which styles to brew.

When we set about designing our malt extract beer kits the primary goal was to brew beers with maximum flavour, clean tasting with no undesirable characters. If we couldn’t do that using malt extract, we wouldn’t use it at all.

What Is Malt Extract?

All of our beer kits currently use dried malt extract. You can get both liquid malt extract (LME) or dry malt extract (DME). The beauty of dry malt extract is its stability is a lot better than LME which can pick up flavours in storage and dried extract is far easier to handle and package in the correct quantities.

The way any malt extract is made, is in a brewery. We use Muntons malt extract who have a commercial brewing facility. They take malted barley and add it to a vessel called a mash tun to convert the starches in the malt to sugar, a process called the mash. This is exactly what pretty much every commercial brewery in the world does to make a beer. The grain is separated from the liquid which is now called wort. After this the wort is boiled exactly the same as a commercial brewery would do. At this point, however, the wort is concentrated by boiling to create a syrup which is liquid malt extract or, alternatively, dried completely by spraying the wort into a heated chamber to make a powder which is dry malt extract.

Malt extract beer kits are just one step away from brewing beer like a commercial brewery would.

Malt Extract Beer Kits Are A Lot More Consistent

This process means one step of brewing is completed by a commercial brewery. The product we use, malt extract, is consistent every single time. It will produce the same results and therefore using it in a beer kit means you can consistently create the same beer no matter who brews it.

We spend a lot of time brewing and re-brewing each beer before it gets made into a beer kit to sell on Home Brew Answers. You could say we are well versed in what you can and cannot do with malt extract beers. The thing is there are far too many benefits to brewing with extract to not develop beers using it. If you have ever made one of our extract beer kits you’ll know just how easy it is to use.

First of all utilising malt extract as a base for our beers means you the brewer get a consistent result. All grain brewing has a lot of variables to control which impact the final beer, by removing the mash and using malt extract our beer kits are a lot more consistent when you are starting out, meaning you get a better tasting beer.

Secondly brewing a malt extract beer kit require less equipment and smaller size vessels than brewing an all grain beer. We want anyone to be able to brew and for it to be as accessible as possible meaning the cost to get started brewing is lower

Adding Special Malts To Our Beer Kits Builds Flavour

We use malt extract as a base for our beer kits. On top of this, we select grains for each of our recipes that add layers of flavour, colour and body. These speciality grains are steeped before the malt extract is added, the steeping extracts complex flavours and colours.

It’s these speciality malts that allow us to brew a stout that is almost black in colour and also a very light pale ale, both these beers use the same malt extract but 90% of the malt flavour comes from steeping these special malts.

Using a combination of malt extract and steeping grains gives you the best of both worlds, it makes brewing a lot quicker and simpler but also enables you to create complex and unique flavours and beer styles. Plus this method it so much more adaptable than pretty much every other beer kit on the market.

What’s Next For Home Brew Answers Beer Kits?

The range of beer kits is slowly expanding, there are plans for more beer kits in different styles. Each one we release is brewed multiple times and tweaked to get it just right so this process takes time. Eventually, we want to offer a wide range of beer styles and unique seasonal beer kits too.

All Grain Beer Kits

At the same time as developing more extract kits, we are shortly going to be releasing small batch all grain beer kits. These are going to make the same amount of beer, 8 litres, which will use primarily all the same equipment as the extract beer kits.

This means if you have bought the complete brewing equipment kit here then the only further item you’ll need is a mashing bag which we have sourced and are ready to stock.

 

Small batch German Wheat just hitting the boil #homebrew #wheat #smallbatch #beer #weißen

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All grain beer kits will open up the possibilities of which beer recipes we can create so the possibilities will be almost limitless. We have already developed a German Weissbier and a New England IPA that are ready to go.

Any Suggestions / Feedback

If you have any suggestions on the sort of beer styles, types of beer kits or just anything you would like to see available in the shop please drop a comment below or email. Cheers

 

 

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The Rise Of One Gallon Beer Making

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A new trend has emerged in the world of home brewing, the rise of the “One Gallon Brewer”.

It had to happen sooner or later, it is obvious to see that not everyone is going to want 5 gallons of beer at a time. It’s a large barrier of entry to invest both the time and money in producing 5 gallon batches in a hobby that should be easy to get started in.

one gallon beer making kits

Why The Small Batches?

I am a fan of making smaller batches, I’ve written a fair bit about why, here and here. I am pretty sure that if I started home brewing again today I would be looking at brewing one gallon brews or at least smaller batches than 5 gallons. To start with there is a lot less space and cost in getting all the equipment you need together. I am a fairly cost conscious person and to see that you can get started brewing small one gallon batches for less than £100 including the cost of the ingredients for your first batch is much more desirable than spending, say, £300 up to £600 or more to brew 5 gallon batches.

I believe it is also due to the way modern craft beer is marketed that has drawn home brewers to one gallon beer making. A lot of the marketing and branding of craft brewers focusses on the fact that small batch is better than macro brewing. Small breweries put more care, craft and thought behind producing their beers than big brewing corporations. It might not necessarily be true but it does emphasise the point that smaller is better somehow.

This is also reflected in the kind of people who choose to start with one gallon beer kits. Like craft beer, which has a younger, more mixed audience than more traditional real ales and beers one gallon brewers seem to be younger with more women getting involved. There is a lot more coverage by sites like The Kitchn whose audience is more mixed than one of the many home brew forums. This is great for home brewing as a hobby. A YouGov poll shows around 75% of people in the UK, interested in home brewing are male and I have to say I thought this percentage was going to be close to 90%.

One gallon brewing seems to be attracting a new demographic to home brewing. You don’t have to be exiled in the shed, garage or even just outside to make a one gallon beer. You brew in the kitchen standing by the hob just like you would if you were cooking a meal or baking a cake.

Baking is a hobby that seems to get increasingly popular every time “The Great British Bake Off” come on television. I’ve seen comments on social media asking for a home brewing equivalent, the problem is though, watching someone brew a beer is a lot less interesting than watching people make cakes. The point is, though, by making brewing more like cooking it will appeal to much wider range of people. One gallon beer making has the power to do that because it is exactly like cooking.

Start One Gallon Beer Making

Now that I’ve just gone on about one gallon brewing and how accessible it is I guess I should explain the best way to get started. What is the best method to go from knowing nothing about brewing to knocking out your first one gallon batch?

One of these beer making kits.

Brewing Starter Kit

I know I may have a vested interest in this but I created these beer recipe kits to make them as easy as possible and use a minimal amount of equipment. Technically they are not one gallon kits they actually make 1.75 gallons of beer. This is because they are malt extract you can squeeze out a little extra beer from the same size brew pot as you would need to make one gallon of all grain beer. The 0.75 extra gallons of beer is a bonus.

All of the beer kits you see here are based on recipes I have brewed many times, tweaked and perfected so I can guarantee they make great tasting beer. This is the perfect way to go from knowing nothing about brewing to brewing a beer that will be much better than any tinned beer kit you can get at the home brew shop.

If you do want to dabble with a one gallon all grain batch though I have luckily written a few guides to show you what can be done with only a tiny amount of equipment.

This beginner guide will tell you everything you need to make a one gallon batch or even a two gallon beer recipe. It is especially useful if you don’t know the first thing about malts, hops or fermentation and mashing.

This shorter guide shows the process I use to knock out small one gallon beer recipes on the stove, it does assume you know a little more about brewing.

Take a look at one of the guides above and you can see just how simple brewing small batch beers can be. It can be the foundation you need to get started home brewing and then progress onwards to making larger batches. A lot of new brewers will skip straight to 5 gallon batches immediately and then find actually perfecting the process of brewing is a little trickier when you end up with 40 bottles of home brew to store and eventually drink after each batch.

One Gallon Beer Recipes

The great thing about beer recipes is they are easy to modify to your needs. Pretty much all beer recipes published on the internet are formulated to make somewhere around 5 gallons. I have written a guide on scaling beer recipes here but it pretty simple so to scale a beer recipe just do the following:

Scaling a beer recipe by volume is easy. Take all of the ingredients in the recipe, this will include each type of grain, hop, yeast, spice, fruit or other flavourings listed. Divide by the volume listed for the recipe and then multiply by the volume you intend to brew. It’s that simple.
As an example If a 21 litre recipe calls for 3.5kg of Maris Otter and you intend to brew 15 litres simply do the following:

 

3.5 / 21 * 15 = 2.5 – so you would need 2.5kg of Maris Otter for the recipe.

 

You then work through each type of grain listed in the recipe to get the amounts used for each type and do exactly the same for each addition of hops as well as the amount of yeast to pitch and any other ingredients.

If you want to scale a 5 gallon beer recipe to brew a one gallon beer recipe take each of the ingredients and divide by 5. That is all you need to do to get the amount of each ingredient in your one gallon beer.

One Gallon At A Time

There may be some of you reading this who think brewing one gallon at a time is not enough. I usually make small batches when experimenting with something new. I don’t want to devote a whole keg or bottle 21 litres of experimental beer. If I like something enough after a small batch I can use it as a pilot and then scale up to a bigger batch so I know I’ll have some beer that is just how I want it ready to go.

Is one gallon brewing or one gallon beer kits going to make home brewing more popular? I hope so. It seems people are generally losing interest in home brewing compared to a few years ago, anything to rejuvenate the hobby is welcome in my book.

Minimum Amount of Equipment For An All Grain Brew

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The Minimum All Grain Brewing Setup

I spent last weekend brewing an all grain beer in the kitchen, using the minimum of equipment and I can tell you, it was the most relaxed brewday I think I ever had. It wasn’t by any means a demanding beer to brew, just a small batch of easy drinking German wheat beer. Rather than spending a day in the shed or outside (it was raining) I brewed in the kitchen on the stove watching the rain run down the window.

All the equipment I used would have fit into a space smaller than the cupboard under your kitchen sink. The batch size was a modest 9 litres, around 18 bottles. The ingredients cost £7.00 for everything, malt, hops and yeast. This has got to be the easiest way to get into all grain brewing, right?

When you first start all grain brewing you follow the advice of buying a 30 litre boiler or brewpot and burner, a mash tun that can hold up to 8 kilos of grain plus 20 litres of water, immersion chillers, sanitary valves and fittings. It’s quite a big barrier of entry and probably the reason why most brewers never start brewing all grain beers from the first batch.

I mentioned this quite recently, brewing can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it. I like to try and simplify as much of the brewing process as possible because I find there is less to worry about when making a beer. I don’t want to be rushing around trying to deal with lots of stuff happening at the same time, I prefer to relax and concentrate on making the best beer I can with the minimum steps necessary for that particular type of beer.

Smaller Can Be Better

It’s clear if you want to minimise the amount of equipment you have, or the amount of space you want to dedicate to brewing then you will be limited to making smaller batches. If the amount of space you have is limited, for example, if you live in a small flat/apartment then the setup we will go into below is a great place to start.

The other great thing about smaller batches is you can brew more often without having lots of beer piling up. If you are brewing 20 – 25 litres at a time you are going to have a big surplus of beer if you are brewing more than a few times a month, even if you are giving your beer away. A smaller batch around 8 – 10 litres means you could brew every week and have multiple beer styles ready to drink at all times without having a cases of beer all over the house.

Brewing more often gives you that practice that we all need in order to improve. The more often you do anything the better you get at it. The same principle applies brewing beer, smaller batches more often means you hone your skills and develop your craft. I have written about smaller batches before so check out that article for more of the virtues of small batch beers.

The Basic Brewing Gear You’ll Need

To brew all grain beers you’ll need to have the ability to mash your grains, sparge, boil wort, cool it and ferment the beer. In larger batches it makes sense to have separate vessels and chillers to do these things, and these are largest and costliest pieces of equipment to get started all grain brewing.

Brewing smaller batches means you can get away with a small brewpot of around 12 -15 litres which you will be able to heat on the stove, a mashing bag and a fermenter. This is what I use to make small batch beers and everything fits in a kitchen cupboard. I put the fermenter inside the brew pot and tuck it away.

So, you’ll need the following equipment for small batch all grain brewing:

  • 12 litre Brew Pot
  • 12 litre Fermenter
  • Mashing Bag

You will of course need items like a thermometer, hydrometer and airlock but all these items are inexpensive and take up hardly any space.

Small Batch All Grain Brewing Process

Mashing

Step 1: Put 6 litres of water in your stock pot and begin heating to strike temperature of 72°C. Put your grain bag in the pot and fold the opening over rim of the pot.

Step 2: Ensuring you are at 72°C turn off the heat. Pour the grain into pot and stir thoroughly to ensure there are no dry spots in the grain and everything is well soaked. Take the temperature again it should be around 65°C

Step 3: Put the lid on and leave for an hour. Make a cup of tea, watch TV, read a book all you need to do is maintain the temperature between 62°C and 69°C. Check every now and again and apply heat if necessary.

Step 4: Towards the end of the hour, heat another 6 litres of water to 80°C and put in the fermenting bucket. If you don’t have another pot big enough use a big pan and the kettle and add 4 litres of boiling water to 2 litres of cold water this will give you a temperature around 70-80°C.

Sparging

Sparging

Step 1: After the hour has elapsed carefully lift up the grain bag from the stock pot and allow as much as possible to drain back into the pot. Once you have drained thoroughly without squeezing the bag gently lower the bag into the fermenting bucket full of water. Again tuck the opening around the rim and stir the grains thoroughly again.

Step 2: Leave for 15 minutes.

Step 3: Lift the grain bag once more and allow to drain as much as possible. Put this to one side I would suggest in a bowl to catch any extra drips. Now carefully pour the contents of the fermenting bucket into the stock pot. Begin bringing to the boil slowly.

Boiling

Step 1: Now that it is boiling it’s time to add the hops. Again be careful the hops will add to the foaming so make sure it’s under control before putting them in.

Step 2: Keep boiling for 60 minutes adding hops when indicated on your beer recipe.

Step 4: Remove from the heat and begin cooling. The easiest ways to do this is place the pot in a cold water bath in the sink and replenish the cold water as the heat transfers.

Step 5: This cooling should take 30 or 40 minutes to get to around 20°C. It is now time to pour the beer into your sterilised fermenting bucket. Make sure you’re on the correct temperature ready to pitch the yeast. This will be written on the tube or packet. Pour it straight in the beer.

Step 6: Fit the lid on the fermenting bucket and fit the airlock in the hole with a small amount of water in.

Fermenting

Step 1: Leave for 2 weeks.

Step 2: All activity in the fermenting vessel should have finished. There should be no bubbles emerging from the airlock. If there is still activity then stay patient and wait a few more days.

Step 3: Package or bottle as normal.

The Cheapest & Simplest Way To Start All Grain Brewing

As you can see the process is pretty simple. I find that making small batches like this takes around 3 hours and then however long it takes to let the beer chill for. It’s a lot quicker than brewing 20 litres batches.

The beauty of brewing small batches like this is you can make pretty much any recipe you find. As you are all grain brewing there are no grains you cannot use and you can even do step mashes if you wish because the mash tun can be heated directly.

All you need to do is scale down any recipe you want to brew. This guide will show you how to scale down a recipe and adjust it for your needs.