* Prices may differ from that shown
If you are thinking about starting to make your own homebrew beer. Coopers make some great kits to get you started. They sell the most homebrew kits worldwide which says alot about the quality of their kits. I'm busy working my way through the different flavours at the moment.
If you just want to make beer similar to the stuff you buy in supermarkets like Carling or Fosters then it probably isn't worth making homebrew as you can buy these types of beer so cheaply in the supermarket anyway. You are better off using homebrewing as an opportunity to experiment by making slight amendments to the kit instructions and adding extra hops for flavour and aroma.
Homebrewers tend to make mostly ales, as lager yeast needs cold conditioning time which is difficult to do at home. Whereas ale yeasts are happy to ferment at room temperature, like 18 degress.
When I first set out on my quest to make homebrew about a year ago I began by buying a homebrew beer starter kit off an online homebrew shop. I made it exactly to the instructions but it turned out pretty horrible. So I thought that it might be useful for me to pass on my advice to improve on the basic kit with minimum effort. That way you are more likely to actually enjoy drinking the beer that you produce and find out how addictive this hobby can become.
Basic Equipment & Making First Batch:
You can either go to your local homebrew shop if you have one nearby or you can order from an online homebrew shop. Buying your kit from a homebrew shop will have the advantage that the usually have bigginers kits that include all you will need to get started. I suppose another alternative would be to go to car boot sales or anywhere you might be able to pick things up second hand such as Free Adds.
Either way, the basic homebrew beer kit that you will need to get started is:
1) 25L Plastic fermentation bucket (must be food grade plastic).
You can buy these with or without an air-lock. Mine doesn't have one and works great.You just need to leave the lid a bit loose on one side to let the gas out during fermentation. The carbon dioxide produced during fermentation will sit in a layer under thelid anyway so no nasties will get into your bucket.
2) Bottles. These can be either plastic or glass.
You can use any bottles as long as they are used for carbonated drinks and it's up to you what size of bottles you use. With my kit I got 25 x 1L plastic bottles. These are expensive from homebrew shops but if you go to Sainsbury's you can buy their own make of lemonade in 1L bottles and they are about 30p each and are exactly the same as from the homebrew shop.
If you get glass bottles you will need a bottle capper. The glass bottles I find the best are from Fullers such as their London Pride etc. These are nice and thick which will prevent any of your bottles from exploding (bottle bombs!) when you come to carbonate them. With plastic bottles, bottle bombs are not a concern.
3) Syphon tube and bottling stick for filling your bottles.
You will need a syphon tube to transfer the beer from your fermentation bucket into your bottles. An Auto-syphon is also very useful for this as it makes life easier. Also it means you don't have to suck on the syphon tube which can contaminate your brew with the germs from your saliva. If your bucket has a tap at the bottom you may not need a syphon tube, just a bottling stick to attach to the tap.
4) Beer kit. Beer is made from malted barley, hops, yeast and water. The `beer kit' is a can of pre-hopped concentrated malt. There is also a sachet of yeast included. Without getting into too much detail, this `kit' once diluted with water makes the wort (unfermented beer, pronounced wurt).
5) 1kg bag of Dried malt extract (DME) - Use this instead of the sugar suggested on the kit instructions for far better results. I made my first ever batch of beer using 1kg of sugar and it nearly put me off brewing again! Tasted aweful. If making a light coloured beer such as a lager or pale ale then use `Extra Light' or `Light DME'. Alot of Ales use `Amber/ Medium DME'. If making a stout you would use `Dark or Extra Dark DME'..
6) Hydrometer - Used to check specific gravity of your beer which will tell you the alcohol content.
7) Thermometer - If temperature is too high when you add your yeast you could kill it.
8) VWP Sanitising powder. Or a similar sanitiser. It's very important to sanitise anything that comes into contact with your beer. VERY IMPORTANT.
9) Brewing sugar. This is added to your bottles to carbonate your beer.
10) Stirring paddle or Spoon. To mix up your wort.
I think that's about it. That's the basic kit to get you started.
Just follow the kit instructions the first time as they will work fine and you'll get a feel for what you are doing. Make a couple of changes though. I would ignore it when they tell you to just add 1kg of sugar to your beer as this gives it a horribly, twangy almost cidery taste. Use 1kg Dry Malt Extract (DME) instead of the sugar. Or if you want to save a bit of money then use 750g of DME and 250g of sugar. Another alternative is to use `Coopers Beer Enhancer 2' which contains a mixture of DME and sugar. Also, don't drink the beer too early, let it mature. It's amazing how much difference every extra week of conditioning will make, so be patient. Leave the beer in the fermention bucket for 2 weeks, then once bottled, bottle age it for at least a month.
I only make the kit up to 20L (rather than 22-23L) to add more flavour.
Anyway, try a batch to get a feel. Then maybe try my method below which isn't much different, but will require an additional glass carboy.
Modified Beer Kit Recipe:
After plenty of trial and error I have now finally found a lovely tasting, easy to make beer without having to go as far as "All Grain Brewing". Although I will probably try all grain at some point soon.
This beer comes out tasting great and has a lovely hop aroma and light fluffy head. You don't usually get this with most commercial beers so I actually prefer to drink my own brew over canned lagers. It does not come out tasting exactly like the Coopers Pale Ale available in the shops but is still lovely. I also like to make mine moderately carbonated. If you don't like yours so fizzy then just add a bit less priming sugar.
My standard tipple is now the Coopers Pale Ale kit. I add 1kg of light dry malt extract or a 1.5kg can of Coopers Light Malt Extract to the kit.
The supplied kit yeast works great, but I prefer to reculture some yeast from the actual Coopers Pale Ale available from the shops, this will give you results closer to the original. But if you want to use the supplied kit yeast then igore the following sub-section on `Reculturing Coopers Pale Ale Yeast'.
Reculturing Coopers Pale Ale Yeast:
I buy 2 bottles of Coopers Pale Ale from my local Morrisons or Tesco's.
Drink the beer but leave a small amount in the bottom of each bottle with the yeast sediment (as the beer is bottle conditioned and has live yeast in it).
Quickly recap the bottles (they have srew tops). Then leave them aside to get to room temperature.
From these 2 bottles I reculture the yeast. To do this just boil up 500ml of water and once boiling add 60g of light dry malt extract. Leave to boil for 5 minutes to sanitise it. Then pour into a sanitised jug and put in the fridge to chill down to 24 degrees C.
Pour the liquid from the jug into a sanitised 1L plastic coke bottle or similar. Swirl the 2 Coopers bottles to mix the yeast and add them to the coke bottle. Leave the coke bottle for 4 to 5 days to ferment. You will need to open the bottle top slightly to release some pressure as the CO2 builds up in the bottle due to fermentation.
My Brewing Process:
Sanitise all your equipment.
Boil 2L of water and add to the fermentation bucket.
Stir in the kit contents and the Light DME.
Top up the fermentation bucket to the 20L mark with cold water.
I use bottled spring water. You can buy Campden tablets to remove chlorine and chloramine from the tap water if you want to. But generally your tap water should be fine.
Try to get as much oxygen into the wort (prefermented beer) as possible. This will help the yeast.
Check temperature is at 24 degrees which is ideal. But as long as it's under 30 degrees then add your yeast sachet. Gently stir in the yeast.
Cover the fermentation bucket (I use a bin liner) and put it somewhere with a stable temperature. 18 to 22 degrees is ideal really.
Leave to ferment for 7 days and then syphon into the glass carboy.
Add 25g of Saaz hop pellets to the carboy. This is called dry hopping and will give a lovely aroma and some flavour to the beer. I absolutley love this. If you like, prior to adding hops to the carboy you can put them in a hop bag and attach a bit of string for easy removal. But I prefer to add them directly into the carboy to allow more contact with the hops.
I have heard that Pride of Ringwood hop pellets are better as they are what Coopers use. But I've not tried them yet.
Add airlock and bung, keep somewhere dark, at same temeprature as before for 14 days.
Then syphon from here into bottles. You will need to add sugar to the bottles in order to carbonate them. The yeast would have used up all the available sugar already so you add a small amount of brewing sugar for them to ferment in the bottles which will create carbon dioxide. As this gas has nowhere to go in the sealed bottle it settles into the beer and carbonates it.
When bottling I like to bulk-prime. Meaning I boil up 500ml of water and add about 8g or 9g of brewing sugar per litre. I let this cool down and then add it to a bottling bucket and syphon the beer into here. Then bottle from the bottling bucket. This ensures an even mix of sugar in each beer bottle. Alternatively you can just add sugar directly to the bottles using about 1.5 teaspoons per litre bottle.
Store bottles in the dark for 3 weeks at room temeperature (This allows 1 week for the yeast to ferment the priming sugar and 2 weeks for the yeast to clean up the byproducts they make during the fermentation and for the beer to stabalise). You can drink the beers at this point but it's best to store the bottles for a further 5 weeks. This is well worth it as the flavour improves alot over this period.
Put the bottles in the fridge if possible for the last 5 weeks as this will help them clear.
I have found that after 2 months in the bottle the beer tastes great. But it would improve if left even longer. 3 months is probably ideal.
When you get around to drinking your beers remember there will be some yeast sediment on the bottom of the bottles that doesn't taste too good. I find it's best to pour the beers into a jug first, leaving the yeast sediment behind in the bottle. Then pour into a glass. To do this, try to pour the beer in one motion. Try to keep the bottle almost horizontal when pouring. When you see the yeast sediment rising up the bottle neck, stop pouring and tip the last bit of beer away.Then pour it into a glass.
Hope this helps.
Sit back and enjoy!!!!!
PS. I also post on CIAO under the name of BallisticSpin
I am keeping up to date info on my recent homebrew exploits. Check out my website. I have tried to keep it set out better and easier to read than here. http://www.tonyq.co.uk/
I love dogs and have always grown up around them. I volunteer at Rescue Remedies dog rescue and update the @Staffierescue page on Twitter. If you are on Twitter I'd appreciate if you'd follow my charity and re-tweet some of my tweets to your followers. Or even better give a donation at our website www.staffierescue.co.uk as we are only a small rescue and are really struggling to keep saving death row dogs. We have to turn dogs away daily.
You know how it is! You want to give a present, havent a clue what the recipient really wants, needs or might like, it has to be cheap to post. While searching you just happen to pass a little shop or a stall selling odd, unusual and inexpensive goodies. A little packet catches your eye! Ah, thisll do nicely.
So, here we are, on the receiving end. Its close to Christmas. A small carefully wrapped, well-sealed package arrives. Behaving properly, after all theres no point in spoiling the surprise by peeping before the day, the gift is taken out of the stout brown envelope (just in case theres a letter inside) and is popped under the tree, where it looks splendid in its Christmas paper. On Christmas Day, in between stuffing and eating the turkey theres a glorious lull, the ideal time to unwrap gifts from family and friends. The little package is opened to reveal ... a strong brown envelope!
OK! So it wasnt a plain brown envelope. Ive still got it. On the front are black line drawings and writing revealing the contents to be a Ginger Beer Plant. On the back are full instructions to make, apparently, about 35 pints of ginger beer. Just add water, sugar and lemons it says, and the resulting brew will make others exclaim, Gosh! Its super! and, Absolutely Smashing!
This kit, made by Tobar, contained a small cellophane pack of dried yeast and a much larger pack of ground ginger. The clear instructions for making ginger beer are printed on the back of the envelope. Greeted by Ooh, thats unusual! from hubby and me, and viewed with total suspicion by the pre-teen offspring, all too well aware that ginger beer comes from the supermarket, not Mum's kitchen! The pack was tucked away in a cupboard, perhaps to be used another day!
Somehow the brown envelope survived various cupboard de-clutters and stayed hidden away until last summer when it was given its last chance and I decided to have a go. Nothing lost to begin with except a little sugar, and everything to gain because our, now quite a bit older, children do indeed drink lashings of supermarket ginger beer during the warmer months. Hoping to continue in our quest to reduce e-number and flavourings, we saved a few two-litre fizzy drink bottles to wash, sterilise and use for our own home brew ginger beer.
I rarely follow instructions exactly and precisely. Ive made wine and beer so have a fair amount of experience of home brewing. Admittedly not always successful, but we learn by, and drink, our mistakes!
I decided to have a look around to find out a little more about Ginger Beer. The Internet is a very useful place to look for information and I found several sites with various Ginger and Root Beer recipes, they all seemed just about the same. So I decided to stick, almost, to the instructions I had, although I now do my own thing! The resulting recipe is further on in this article.
I used a large (400g) coffee jar, sterilised with just-boiled water because I hadnt got any sodium metasulphate, and anyway I dont like the way it smells! I made sure there was a long-handled metal spoon in the jar to stop it cracking. As instructed, I mixed all the yeast with a pint of cooled, previously boiled water, added two teaspoons of ground ginger and two teaspoons of granulated sugar. I gave it all a jolly good stir, popped the lid on tightly enough to stay put, yet loose enough to allow any gases to escape. Then waited, expectantly.
The next day, according to the instructions I added the same amounts of sugar and ground ginger. Err, nothing happened. No froth on the top, no bubbles, nothing. I wondered if the yeast had died, worried if the water had been too hot and had killed it. I decided to be patient, living things have the strangest way of surprising us.
Yeast is a single celled organism. At the right temperature it eats sugars, uses oxygen and divides to make more individual yeast plants. The by-products of growth are carbon dioxide and alcohol. We benefit from the gas; it makes dough rise and beers fizz and froth. The alcohol, in varying concentrations, enhances many popular drinks. Yeast occurs naturally as the bloom on plums and grapes. It is capable of surviving, dry and dormant, for many years, waiting for a suitable food supply to come along. This is what I think had happened to mine. After three days I noticed a bubble or two and on the next morning a lovely froth had developed on the top of the liquid. We were in business!
I decided to count the week from when the bubbles started appearing in earnest, carried on adding sugar and ground ginger daily and gave it an occasional stir, not because it said so but because I felt like it!
~ Whats next? ~
>> Filter the brew through muslin into a large bowl.
I hadnt got any muslin so used a coffee filter, resting it in the inverted cut off top of a lemonade bottle and strained the liquid into the bottom part of the same, sterilised, container.
>>In a second, sterilised, 8-pint container, place 2 pints of pre-boiled water and dissolve a massive one and a half pounds of sugar.
I bought some budget baby equipment sterilizing tablets and carefully cleaned everything I would need. I used a large plastic mixing bowl.
>>Then add the juice of two lemons and the strained liquid. Top up with a further five pints to make a gallon.
>>Pour into sterilized bottles and leave to mature for a further week.
Leave plenty of head room, the drink will fizz violently when the bottle is opened.
>>Put the yeast residue back into its jar and start the process all over again. After the next brew divide the yeast and give some to a friend or start a second plant
A week after bottling the family were still rather suspicious, it didnt look like ginger beer because it was almost clear, but they were willing to have a go. It was pleasant, fizzy, very sweet and lemony rather than tasting of ginger. Success! The whole lot vanished in a couple of days and they were eager for the next brew.
Since then Ive experimented quite a lot. I no longer use ground ginger, instead, while the brew is filtering, which takes ages, I grate a large chunk of scrubbed but not peeled fresh ginger into my largest saucepan, fill the pan with water, bring it to the boil and let it simmer until I need it. I sieve this, use some to make the ginger beer and the rest as the basis for fermenting. For us its nicer, adds a little more bite and makes the ginger beer cloudy.
~o~ My own Ginger Beer recipe ~o~
~ Starter kit ~
25 g (approx 1 ounce) of yeast
teaspoon cream of tartar (not essential)
100 g (around 4 oz) root ginger, washed and grated.
500g (around 1 lb) sugar
2 lemons, or equivalent bottled juice.
* You will also need *
A large, lidded jar
A large mixing bowl
A large saucepan
Fizzy drink bottles, smaller ones are best, to hold 5 litres (about 1 gallon) of liquid, with plenty of headroom.
Coffee filter papers or similar ( a friend uses a tea-towel folded double)
~ What to do ~
>Sterilise the jar.
>Add about half a litre of cooled boiled water
>Mix in the yeast and add a spoonful of sugar
>Add a teaspoon of cream of tartar (not essential)
>Stir, cover loosely but securely, and put to one side on a worktop or draining board.
The first day or so there may be a fairly violent reaction but it will calm down.
>During the following week continue to add a 5ml teaspoonful of sugar every day.
~ After a week, although you can leave it longer if you want ~
>Filter the yeast liquid through a coffee filter; this may take a couple of hours.
>Sterilise all glass and plastic equipment, including the bottle lids.
>Coarsely grate the scrubbed ginger, add to about 1½ litres (3 pints) of water in a large saucepan. Bring to boil, cover and simmer until needed.
>Sieve the ginger mixture and put 1 litre (2 pints) of hot liquid into the large mixing bowl.
>Dissolve about 500 g (1 lb) granulated sugar in this liquid.
>Add the juice of 2 lemons.
>Add the sieved fermented liquid
>Top up to make about 5 litres (1 gallon)
>Leave to cool, cover with a clean tea towel.
>Using a jug, pour into the sterilized bottles; make sure you leave plenty of air space and screw the lids on securely.
>Put the bottles to one side and leave for a few days to mature, a week is best. I keep them in a cardboard box on the larder floor.
>Put the yeast back into its jar; add 500 ml (a pint) of the now cooled ginger solution and a teaspoon of sugar.
After making two brews halve the plant, either start two new ones, throw one half away or give it to a friend.
~XX~ Beware ~XX~
The drink is likely to be lively, so open bottles with care.
If you leave it to brew for too long there will be some alcohol content making the drink unsuitable for children. To avoid this just leave it for a few days in a warmish place until it is fizzy and it will be just fine.
~*Some ginger facts*~
Ginger has been used as a successful aid for digestion.
Ginger tablets are taken by some to reduce joint inflammation and symptoms of arthritis.
Ginger beer was sold from barrows on London streets during Victorian and Edwardian times. This cottage industry offered safe soft drinks, an alternative to the unreliable and often impure drinking water.
Codd bottles, now collectable, were developed to keep the fizz in ginger beer.
The case of Donaghue v Stevenson, 1932, when Mrs Donaghue apparently drunk ginger beer containing a decomposed snail which made her unwell, was an important development in the law of tort and duty of care.
~~o~~ Happy brewing! ~~o~~
If you fancy making beer, here are a few tips and bits of advice that should help you to get started. Beer used to be the daily drink for everyone, back in the distant past. It's good drink, technically you can live on it! making it at home doesn't have to be too difficult and can be really good fun. I would recommend that you start by investing in a good ber making book - Camra can supply you with one. this will give you ltos fo detailed information about not only the history of beer, but different techniques and recepies. ************ Physical gear you will need: A big fermenting barrel - if you have one for winemakeing, you can use that. A pressure barrel - you will have to buy something dedicated. If you don't want to splash out, collect lots and lots of the plastic bottles that fizzy drinks come in - a fiddly solution, but it will do. A plastic tube - again you'll have one if you make wine. A thermometer. Measuring jugs. You will also need a special device called a hydrometer - a strange but very important device for emasuring. Don't ask, you just need to knwo that you need one. ************** Real beer. Real beer contains water, barley, hops, yeast,sugar and either gelatine (made from cow heels) of isinglass (made fom fish swim bladders0 these are used tohelp the beer settle out. Processing barely is a long and complicated job, you have to be really dedicated. Getting hops is hard enough - they used to grow quite commonly, but are hard to find these days. "Real" beer is made from these raw ingredients and the process, for a lone beer maker is a hard one. If you want to have a go, invest in a good book and do plenty of reading first. ***************** Cheating: if you are having a go at making beer for the first time, I strongly recomend that you cheat. There are specialist brewing shops here and there, or else go to
a Boots chemist. You can buy a basic kit for beermaking - this will include your yeast, dried hops, isinglass and processed barley extract. Using your kit, you can go through the beer making process - all of the later stages are very similar and it gives you a chance to elarn a few of the tricks and skills. beer amde from kits is surprisingly nice, although not real ale, by any stretch. Kits vary a lot so you can easily find something that will suit your tastes. Once you are feeling a bit more confident about using the gear and storing the beer, you might want to try the more complicated method. ********************** How it works with kits: You will have specific intructions, but generally, you erhydrate the ingredients, add them all and allow a week or so in your big fermenting bucket. You test with the hydrometer to find out when your beer is ready to be moved. Syphon the beer into a pressured container (Now you see why one big one is better than lots of little bottles) It will need to stand for a month or two. If you move the beer too soon, it may cause your pressure container to explode, which is not pleasant - better to err on the side of caution. Then ou get to drink it. Be warned, even beer from kits tends to be stronger than beer you buy in shops.