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Best Beer Kit for Beginners

OK, you made the decision to try and brew beer for the first time. Problem is when you did your search, the number of options were staggering. Because we are going to focus on beginner kits we’re not going to cover all the options. In this post I will focus on the best beer kit for the beginner.

Before you can choose the kit that will work for you; you have to decide on what is most important to you. While there are many things to consider there are a only a couple of things that you need to consider to drastically narrow down your choices.

  1. Cost: Cost is dictated by complexity and/or quality of the equipment. For example, a simple extract beer kit is bare bones. It will come with everything you need but the items tend to be plastic and have a short life. Extract kits are bridge kits that allow you to test the waters without going to deep. On the other end of that spectrum is a “show” kit. These have everything you need but the main intent of the kit is to be a show piece. Generally given as a gift. As you can imagine that comes at a price.
  2. Complexity: The Complexity is usually driven by the type of method used to make the beer. Extract beer kits are like microwave dinners. All the work is done upfront to reduce the complexity. All grain kits require more tools, instructions and ingredients to get to a final product. This causes more complexity and more time.

These two criteria will help you to drastically reduce your choices for the best beer kit but it still leaves a ton of options. For beginners I always ask one additional question to help narrow down the choices further.

Are you testing the waters to see if you like the hobby or do you want to really dive in and get the full experience?

Either way a kit is the best option but this question will help to narrow the option down to the best beer kit for you and your needs.

So lets say you want to test the waters. Your not really sure what your level of commitment is but you want to at least try. In this case a simple extract kit is your best bet. The investment and complexity is low and you can get a few batches under your belt to see if you to go deeper and move to more complex kits.

For this I recommend:

Mr Beer North American Collection Beer Home Brewing Kitbest beer kit - mr beer

This kit comes with absolutely everything you need in one box for under $40. Including 2 cans of extract for that will make you 4 gallons of beer in two styles. You really can’t beat that. It is by far the least expensive and easiest option there is out there.

Next in line for a beginner kit would be the more complex all grain kits. These kits are designed to give you full experience of brewing beer and give you everything you need with the exception of the kettle. This also tend to be more aesthetically pleasing. Well though out designs that make them a show piece for your counter. If your looking for a great gift, these are typically the ones that will get the most Oooo’s and Ahhhh’s.

For this I recommend:

All Inclusive – Go Pro 1 Gallon Small Batch Beer Brewing Starter Kit Equipment Set with Chinook IPA Beer Recipe Kitbest beer kit -All-Inclusive-Go-Pro-1-Gallon-Small-Batch-Beer-Brewing-Starter-Kit-Equipment-Set-with-Chinook-IPA-Beer-Recipe-Kit-0

Like the Mr. Beer kit this is an all inclusive kit but with one major difference. It uses the full grain mash technique so you get the full experience of brewing beer but in a one gallon batch.  You basically brew in the same manner as the big boys. Just on a smaller scale and at a fraction of the cost with will run you about $75. The small batch size significantly reduces the time and is a great way to start.

Just remember, the best beer kit is the one you will use and enjoy. These two options are by no means your only options but hopefully they will help you find the beer kit that will be the best one for you or someone you love.

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5 Critical Things You Need To Know for Micro Batch Brewing

Beer brewing is just like anything else. Once you have the basics down, it only gets better as you practice. Beer brewing needs essential skills to successfully formulate a quality one. So many people have the notion that beer brewing is very difficult and involves lots of task. For this reason, many people find it difficult to venture into micro batch brewing. This might be true yet with all the right tools, a little knowledge and a good recipe; you can easily produce a tasty product.

Be that as it may, before you begin , there are some tidbits of knowledge that can help to be successful from your very first batch. Keeping up great propensities and acquiring the rudiments can help the methodology to be less demanding and enjoyable in the long run.

Here are few tips on Micro batch brewing. 

  1. Make sure you always apply sanitation around your area you are brewing.micro batch brewing sanitation

Sanitation is an issue which should be noted. Before you begin, the wine containers, basins, and other equipments to use must be thoroughly cleaned before going on with the brewing process. The most essential stage for sterilization is immediately after you cool the wine, because microscopic organisms is most likely to occur while the yeast hasn’t fermented yet.

  1. Cool the wort as quickly as possible

Ensure that you cool off your beer quickly to prevent bacteria from contaminating it. You can prevent bacteria from spoiling it by initiating the fermentation process immediately. Different brewers are notwithstanding devised their own methodology by putting the beer fermenters in the ice baths, just to turn it cold quickly. Likewise, rather than making use of plastic or glass fermenter, use a brew pot since it will cool the brew speedier than using other specified materials.

  1. Fresh ingredients are necessary

-micro-batch-brewing ingredientsTo create the best beer, fresh ingredients are important just as you need to eat delicious cooked meals. High quality jumps, malt, yeast, honey and other required blends should be understood by brewers. In the same way, they should also know how to store them in the cooler without affecting their freshness. Remember that there are a few ingredients that can be stored in the freezer, however malt and grains can’t. This is on the grounds that they more often than not get oxidized and will just destroy the flavor.

 

 

  1. Boiling Process

Some crucial functions take place during the process of boiling the wort. The wort must be sterilized in light of the fact that there are lots of undesirable mixes to vaporize. The hops, proteins and tannins intense oils will be likewise discharged from the grains; they can fallout in the cooling stage. For the best bubbling procedure for lighter beers, the recommended temperature is 60 – 90 minutes.

  1. Consider darker beer

With its flavor and structure, darker beers can cover your errors in your first brewed batch. It can’t discdark-beers-micro batch brewingourage you. Try the stouts or doormen flavor. All things considered, dull brews are wonderful with its heaps of flavor.

Just remeber, micro batch brewing is a skill that is easy to learn but the more you know, and the more you practice the better the final product gets. SO what are you waiting for? Go brew some beer!

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Small Batch Brewing-Why it’s the Best Way for Beginners

When it comes to starting out in brewing beer there are so many options available to you. Everything from to elaborate full grain kits. If you’re just starting out your first reaction may be to jump in head first and buying a complete brewing kit but that can be a large investment that might possibly disappoint you and at the end turning you off to this great hobby. And we can’t have that!

So let’s talk about a new craze that has really taken off over the last year…small batch brewing. So why is it so great and why is it best for beginners? Well I’m glad you asked. Let’s first start by talking about the process of brewing. No matter what method you use there is a chain of events that have to happen. Let’s look at a normal 5 gallon full grain batch brewing process. The process looks like the image below.

how-to-brew-all-grain

As you can see there are many steps involved and there is special equipment required to go through the entire process. Not to mention time. A standard brewing process could easily take most of the day. So as you can see it’s a very involved process that for the beginner brewer can be very daunting.

Enter small batch brewing.

So with that said let’s talk about the advantages and benefits of small batch brewing. There are many but I’m going to focus on the biggies.

  • Scale

small batch brewing kitOne of the key advantages of small batch brewing is scale. Because you brew on a smaller scale, the required equipment almost disappears. You can easily use regular kitchen items and the few required items are very cheap and can be purchase easily either online or at a local brew shop. And for those that want super easy, there are ready made kits that come with everything you need to enter into small batch brewing.

  • Quality

If you are an avid beer person you cannot beat the quality of the beer you brew. You will be brewing beer in the same exact process that is used to produce the craft beer off the shelf. The big difference is freshness. It will be the highest quality beer along with ultimate freshness. No more questioning how long it sat on the shelf. For commercial craft brewers this is their benefit. They go and tap the tank before bottling for their own beer. You will be doing essentially the same thing.

  • Variety

Because you can scale ANY recipe you find small batch brewing gives you access to every beer style ever created. Think about that. Have you ever tried a beer while traveling or at a brew pub and thought it was great but knew your access was limited? Not anymore. Especially if you are at a brew pub. Most brewers are proud of their work and love to talk about their craft. Most of the time they are happy to share their recipes.

  • Simplicity

The process of brewing can be complicated (as you saw above) but as with small batch brewing the process is greatly simplified. Most of what you do is actually done in a single pot reducing the steps down to just a few. What takes hours for a full size batch reduces down to minutes, depending on the style.

  • Tradition

 Babylon brewingFor some, tradition may not seem like a benefit but taking part in a process that is over 9000 years old is pretty cool. Not too many people can say this. Not to mention the pride of producing something in the same manner that has been done for eons. There is a certain amount of pride that comes with that. When you crack that first bottle and pour your brew into a glass, go ahead and try not to smile. I dare you.

So, as you see, small batch brewing is an exciting and rewarding hobby. You get the freshest brew around, you get to experiment and try new things and you can share with friends and family. When it gets right down to it there really are not to many negatives to small batch brewing. Probably the waiting for you first batch but good things come to those that wait.

If this post inspired you to try it, or maybe it was a complete failure…tell me about it! Comment to the post. I love hearing from others on their adventure and others like to read it too. Till next time, I’ll save a seat at the bar for you.

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Understanding the Different Ways to Brew Beer at Home

Brewing beer at home can be a daunting task if you don’t know what is available to you. Yes there are different methods and they range from very easy to very complicated. The key is to understanding what methods of brewing are available to you and which will be best for you to brew beer at home.

In general, there are three basic methods.

Each one has a difficulty level and of course there are different degrees of difficulty that exist in each one. Let’s take a look at each one and I will point out the basic difficulty, cost and benefits for each when wanting to brew beer at home.

Brewing – Difficulty Level: EASY    Cost: $

Ways to Brew Beer at Home - extract brewing

Extract brewing is one of the simplest and easiest ways to brew beer at home. This is because most of the work has been done for you. All the fermentable sugars have been extracted from grains and the hops have been added to the sugar so all you have to really do is boil the extract (usually in syrup form) to sterilize the liquid and them ferment. These kits usually come with dry yeast that you put into the liquid once you cool and transfer to a bucket for fermenting. If you have heard of Mr. Beer kits then you know about extract brewing. Another great benefit is you can get extract kits in all sizes. Ranging from a manageable 2 gallon batch all the way up to 6 gallon batches.

So what do you need for equipment?

  • A pot for boiling -12 Qt will work for most
  • A food grade bucket with air tight lid and air lock– 3 to 5 gallons (size is dependent on the final batch)
  • Bottles (Either plastic or glass)

What is the process for extract brewing?

As stated before this is by far the easiest. The total touch time is about an hour and cleanup is very easy. The steps to extract brew are:

  1. Add required to water to pot and begin to heat up the water
  2. As the water is heating up open can of extract and pour into water. Bring to a boil.
  3. Boil for 30 minutes
  4. Pour into bucket and let cool to 75F
  5. Put in yeast, place cover on bucket, and air lock and let ferment for 7 to 14 days
  6. After fermenting is complete – stir in small amount of sugar, bottle and let age for 14 to 30 days in cool dark place.
  7. Drink and enjoy!

So, as you can see, there is not much to it. As with everything there are pros and cons to this method but depending on level of involvement you want to and overall investment this is the simplest and easiest way to brew beer at home.

PROS: CONS:
  • Very Easy
  • Recipe is Predetermined (Difficult to tweak)
  • Low Investment
  • Ingredients Can Be Expensive
  • Touch Time is Low
 

 

Partial Extract Brewing – Difficulty Level: MEDIUM    Cost:$$

Ways to Brew Beer at Home - partial mashPartial extract brewing is what it sounds like. You use a liquid or powder malt to make up the majority of the fermentable and add specialty grains and hops. This adds extra steps to the process, adds time and some additional equipment. There is also a much more involved recipe. This is the instructions for the grain bill and hop timing. To tweak the recipe or create a particular style you use the crushed grains to add the color and flavor. You also use separate hops in the boil to determine the hop profile with can be aroma and bitterness. And finally, you use specific yeast to create a flavor profile through fermentation. The advantage of a partial extract brew is the grain steeping is fairly easy and done on a very small scale as compared to a full mash. It’s amazing how little specialty grains you need to determine the flavor and color profile. Where the complication comes in is temperature and timing. In order to extract the flavor, color and sugars you have to bring them to a certain temperature (around 154F) and the grains need to sit in that temperature for a period of time.

So what do you need for equipment?

  • A pot for boiling -12 Qt will work for most
  • A food grade bucket with air tight lid and air lock– 3 to 5 gallons (size is dependent on the final batch)
  • A smaller pot for grains
  • Muslim bag or cheese cloth
  • Thermometer
  • Thick towel or cooler
  • Bottles (Either plastic or glass)

What is the process for a partial extract brewing?

Because you are now using grains and hops this adds a few more steps to the process. The total touch time is about 1 to 2 hours and cleanup is a little more but still easy. The steps to do a partial extract brew are:

  1. Prepare specialty grains by placing them into a muslin bag or wrap in cheese cloth and make a loose satchel.
  2. Start water by adding a couple of quarts of water to a small pot. Bring up to 155F.
  3. Take off heat, wrap pot in a blanket or add water to a cooler. Place bag of grains in water and cover. Let sit for 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Add required to water to the large pot and begin to heat up the water
  5. As the water is heating up add extract into water. Bring to a boil.
  6. Pull grain bag out of the pot or cooler and let all liquid drain. Add liquid to large pot.
  7. Boil as the recipe calls for and add hops to boil at the times instructed.
  8. Pour into bucket and let cool to 75F
  9. Put in yeast, place cover on bucket, and air lock and let ferment for 7 to 14 days
  10. After fermenting is complete – stir in small amount of sugar, bottle and let age for 14 to 30 days in cool dark place.
  11. Drink and enjoy!

If you do a quick comparison the differences from extract brewing are small but involved. This greatly adds to the time and does add a few more pieces of equipment to complete. The biggest benefit is the flexibility and your options in types and styles of beers available to go up exponentially. While this may not be the easiest way to brew beer at home it is the best of both worlds. A fair majority of home brewers use this method because of it.

PROS: CONS:
  • A ton of options in styles and types of beer
  • Adds significant time
  • Flexibility to tweak recipes to suit taste
  • Brewing process is a little more complicated
  • You get a better beer in the end
  • Requires more equipment

 

Full Mash Brewing – Difficulty Level: HIGH   Cost: $$$

Ways to Brew Beer at Home - full mash Full mash brewing is by far the most complicated and difficult way to brew. It requires a few special pieces of equipment and the process is very long. You have to carefully control water temperature for the conversion of starch in the grain to sugars and this can take some time. Also, the sparging process is a slow and careful process so as to extract all the sugars from the grain bed while trying not to pull bitter tannins. This is obviously a complicated that is not well suited to brew beer at home. So why would someone do it this way? Well, there are a few reasons. One reason is final product cost. If you factor out the cost of equipment the raw materials are very cheap when buying in bulk. Your total cost can be a third of what it cost you to extract brew.  Another reason is control. By full grain mashing you have absolute control of the final product. You can determine the final outcome by monitoring the whole process. And probably the biggest reason…pride. It’s not the easiest way to brew beer at home but it is the most rewarding. This process is well of 9000 years old. Being able to say you brew as other brewmasters have been doing for eons does come with a certain badge of honor.

So what do you need for equipment?

  • A pot for boiling –This general needs to be full size. Usually 26 quarts or larger.
  • A mash tun – This is a large vessel that has a false bottom and a port at the bottom for drawing off the wort
  • A food grade bucket with air tight lid and air lock– 3 to 5 gallons (While you can use a bucket most use glass or stainless steel fermentors when you get to this level.)
  • Muslim bag or cheese cloth – Typically used for hops
  • Thermometer
  • Hydrometer – used to measure starch conversion
  • Thick towel or cooler
  • Bottles (Usually 5 gallon kegs at this level)

What is the process for a partial extract brewing?

Because you are now using grains and hops this adds a few more steps to the process. The total touch time is about 1 to 2 hours and cleanup is a little more but still easy. The steps to do a partial extract brew are:

  1. Prepare grains by crushing and placing them in the mash tun.
  2. Bring water required up to strike water temperature. Usually calculated but generally around 165F.
  3. Pour half of the water into mash tun and stir thoroughly to make sure all grains are wet.
  4. Wrap mash tun in thermal blanket and let sit for 60 to 90 minutes for starch conversion.
  5. After conversion is complete slowly open bottom port on mash tun and let drain into boil pot.
  6. Take remaining water and trickle of top of grain bed to rinse out remaining sugar. (can take up to 3 or 4 hrs)
  7. Once sparge is complete bring liquid to boil.
  8. Boil liquid for the time the recipe calls for and add hops to boil at the times instructed.
  9. Pour into fermentor and let cool to 75F
  10. Put in yeast, place cover on bucket, and air lock and let ferment for 7 to 14 days
  11. After fermenting is complete – stir in small amount of sugar, bottle and let age for 14 to 30 days in cool dark place.
  12. Drink and enjoy!

Again, if you do a comparison, the amount of steps is not greatly increased, but these are also greatly simplified for illustration. The truth of the matter is the care that is needed and the significant time adder really makes this a long process that has complicated steps that must be followed in the right order. It’s not unusually for a brew day to take the entire morning and afternoon. Then there is the cleanup. Just bear in mind it takes time, commitment and desire to produce the best possible beer to get to this method. Not all who brew go to this extreme. It really is the final stop on one’s brewing journey but not a required one.

PROS: CONS:
  • Absolute and total control of the process
  • Very time intensive
  • Very cost effective for ingredients
  • Attention to detail is required
  • Taking part in an age old tradition
  • Significant cost adder for special equipment
 
  • Complex process

 

As you can see there are big differences in the methods used to brew beer at home. All these methods are ones, which if you decide this is the hobby you love, you will do. However, it’s not a requirement. The biggest thing about home brewing is doing something you love and being proud you made it. I know tons of people who have been extract brewing for years and see no reason to move on…and that’s OK! Find the method that works for you and start there. Even if you find out you don’t like doing it at least you can say you tried and you’ll have a great story to tell while lifting up a brew with friends and saying

“I brew beer at home! CHEERS!”