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Old 07-31-2009, 07:38 PM   #1
thor99
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Default Left scratching head after brewing from a kit

First of all let me say hello to everyone as this is my first post.

I live in a smallish town about 2.5 hrs outside of Seattle, WA. On a recent trip, I purchased two beer kits from a homebrew supply shop in Seattle and came home ready to brew. The two kits were Cooper's Australian Lager, and Muntons Connoisseurs Range Wheat beer.

After reading the instructions for these two brews, and flailing my way through the Cooper's Lager kit, I am left with some questions that I can't seem to find the answers to.

1 - The Cooper's Australian Lager kit's instructions say to ferment at 18 - 25C. That seems to me to be an ale temp range. So is it an ale, or a lager? My guess is that it is an ale that's meant to taste like a lager?

2 - The "Lager" kit called for adding 1kg of sugar, at the advice of the guy at the homebrew shop I used 2 lb. light dried malt extract instead. My wort is much darker than I had expected. Is this because of the malt extract vs. sugar, or just because I'm a noob? Am I going to end up with some weird pale ale / lager hybrid?

2a - If it is better to use malt extract, why doesn't the kit call for it, or for that matter come with it?

3 - For some reason, the homebrew store guy thought I needed sugar for the Cooper's kit, but not for the Muntons Wheat Beer kit. So, I only bought 2lb of malt extract, and have since used it on the batch of Lager. Turns out I needed it for both. Any advice on what I should use for sugar with my Munton's wheat beer kit?

3a - I was thinking of making invert sugar and using that as the sugar additive to the wheat beer. Am I an idiot?

3b - Since the closest homebrew supply place is 2+ hrs away, I'll probably be ordering online mostly. However, does anyone know where I might be able to find ingredients in a 50k person town? Do health food stores carry any of the commonly used ingredients? Does Wal-Mart have a super secret homebrew section between the fishing dept and women's shoes?

4 - Why do you add sugar to these kit's anyway? I know it is to give the yeast something to eat, but sugar is not a normal ingredient in beer is it? Is that why the store clerk recommended DME instead?

4a - Also, it seems to me that if you just boil the can of hopped malt extract formula in a pot with the sugar anyway, why couldn't the manufacturer just add some sugar to the can in the first place? I'm not complaining, the kit was really easy to follow and if it serves a purpose, by all means I'm fine with adding DME/sugar. I just want to understand the logic behind it. I have a sneaking suspicion that it is a way of getting you to buy the kit because it's only $17 or so, then selling you $12 of DME. So, is it necessary to the brewing process, or just a creative pricing scheme?

Thanks in advance for your answers and advice.

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Old 07-31-2009, 08:11 PM   #2
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The idea behind using DME is that it will provide the yeast with sugars. Sugar is normally obtained directly from the grain, but in extract brewing, DME or sugar can be used. DME generally provides a better end product.

Extract beer will generally be darker than all grain, which can be attributed to carmelization as well as other factors.

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Old 07-31-2009, 08:40 PM   #3
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Thor! welcome
Your lager is actually an ale with lager in the name. Ale vs. lager is just the type of yeast that you are using. Your "lager" came with an ale yeast.

Like digit says, your end product will taste a little nicer using DME instead of sugar. My suggesstion for your second batch is to hold off on brewing it. Get online and find a online store that you like (northern brewer, brewmasters warehouse, austin homebrew to name a few), order an extract kit there and while you're ordering, order another pack of DME to be used on the Mutons.

You add sugar to give the yeast something to eat / fart alcohol. Sugars are pulled from grains by heating the grain to certain temps, so yes, sugar is a normal ingredient in beer.

You will find that the some of the extract makers market their products for the individual that is curious about making beer the first time. Things like DME might be left out because you can use sugar, more folks will buy a kit that costs $17 as opposed to $30.

The directions that you received I'm sure tell you to ferment for a week, then bottle it up and drink as fast as you can so that you will buy another kit. If you leave your beer fermenting for 3 weeks, then bottle and don't drink it for 3 more weeks, you will have a much nicer tasting beer.

Have fun, and again, welcome

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Old 07-31-2009, 08:41 PM   #4
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1 - The Cooper's Australian Lager kit's instructions say to ferment at 18 - 25C. That seems to me to be an ale temp range. So is it an ale, or a lager? My guess is that it is an ale that's meant to taste like a lager?

Its technically an ale yeast so its an ale that tastes light like a lager

2 - The "Lager" kit called for adding 1kg of sugar, at the advice of the guy at the homebrew shop I used 2 lb. light dried malt extract instead. My wort is much darker than I had expected. Is this because of the malt extract vs. sugar, or just because I'm a noob? Am I going to end up with some weird pale ale / lager hybrid?

Malt extract should generally be used in place of the suggested sugar as it will give the beer better body - but using sugar will give a lighter tasting and paler beer if that's what you are going for.

2a - If it is better to use malt extract, why doesn't the kit call for it, or for that matter come with it?

You can pretty much throw away the kit instructions - it is an industry standard that these canned kits require an addition of fermentables.


3 - For some reason, the homebrew store guy thought I needed sugar for the Cooper's kit, but not for the Muntons Wheat Beer kit. So, I only bought 2lb of malt extract, and have since used it on the batch of Lager. Turns out I needed it for both. Any advice on what I should use for sugar with my Munton's wheat beer kit?

I would still suggest malt extract (wheat malt extract would be ideal) but you can get away with table sugar if you like.

3a - I was thinking of making invert sugar and using that as the sugar additive to the wheat beer. Am I an idiot?

No you are not an idiot but sometimes a little knowlege is a dangerous thing - there is no need to invert the sucrose, the yeast will do that automatically.

3b - Since the closest homebrew supply place is 2+ hrs away, I'll probably be ordering online mostly. However, does anyone know where I might be able to find ingredients in a 50k person town? Do health food stores carry any of the commonly used ingredients? Does Wal-Mart have a super secret homebrew section between the fishing dept and women's shoes?

If you go the all grain route one of these days then you will find the bulk food section of your large grocery or health stores very handy (you will also become a frequent traveler to your local hardware store)

4 - Why do you add sugar to these kit's anyway? I know it is to give the yeast something to eat, but sugar is not a normal ingredient in beer is it? Is that why the store clerk recommended DME instead?

Its the cheapest way to make a kit that tastes kind of like beer when you finish - remember these things have to be shipped (in the old days they all came from the UK or Australia)

4a - Also, it seems to me that if you just boil the can of hopped malt extract formula in a pot with the sugar anyway, why couldn't the manufacturer just add some sugar to the can in the first place? I'm not complaining, the kit was really easy to follow and if it serves a purpose, by all means I'm fine with adding DME/sugar. I just want to understand the logic behind it. I have a sneaking suspicion that it is a way of getting you to buy the kit because it's only $17 or so, then selling you $12 of DME. So, is it necessary to the brewing process, or just a creative pricing scheme?

Shipping Shipping Shipping.....

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Old 07-31-2009, 09:09 PM   #5
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wow, thank's everyone for the quick replies. That clears up most of my questions, but there are still a couple things that aren't clicking in my brain. From what I understand, which is admittedly not much, the difference between all-grain and extract are as follows.

In all grain brewing, you boil the grains (+ hops), which breaks down the starches into sugars, and leaves you with your wort (oversimplified I know). My assumption was that the way the companies made the can of extract was to boil the grains, creating the wort, then condense the wort by evaporating off the extra water. Hypothetically, this would mean that the can of extract would contain a bunch of fermentable sugars already.

So, are you guys telling me that the can I bought actually includes wheat, barley and hop extracts that have been extracted with an alcohol process like vanilla extract, so there are no starches left? Are all liquid extracts like this? So the dried extracts are made with a different method, and are basically the separated starches? I think I'm getting it now!?!?!

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Old 07-31-2009, 09:37 PM   #6
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almost there:

How to Brew - By John Palmer - Malt Extract and Beer Kits

keep at it.

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Old 07-31-2009, 09:38 PM   #7
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First, you don't boil the grains in all grain, you "mash" them at well below boiling. This makes wort, which is boiled with hops.

The can of extract is condensed wort. It can be either hopped or not. It's like starting with partially made beer rather than from scratch. Dried extract is the same idea, but water is removed.

BTW, sugar does play a role in Belgian beers and some others, but the overuse of it is suspect.

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Old 08-01-2009, 05:04 AM   #8
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Welcome Thor, I live about ten miles west of you, I sent you a PM. If you get to Spokane, go to Jim's Home Brew and talk to Bob. Time well spent, you'll enjoy the chat. They have a mediocre web page, but a nice store with knowledgeable help.

This forum is a treasure chest of knowledge that's made my home brewing experience much more enjoyable.

Enjoy the ride....

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