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Beer Kits vs. "your own recipe"

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Hey, I'm new to brewing; just started my second batch today using a two-stage fermenting process and having fun with it. Thus far it's been kits (none ready to drink yet :( )

I'm curious about purchasing recipe kits which seem to range in the 23-29+ dollar range vs. (I'm learning here...) buying your own ingredients separately and following your own or others recipe. I kind of understand the commentary on "all grain brewing" but haven't read much into that yet with my joy of home brewing book. I know there isn't anything wrong per se with kits but what is the advantage of doing your own thing? Is it cheaper? Far superior taste? You just want to challenge yourself and get closer to the brewing process? Fresher products? I'm going to stick to kits for a while longer until I get my feet wet but am intriuged by the various comments.

Thanks
 

rightwingnut

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Not sure, but I think kits are basically like buying your own ingredients, only with kits they choose the ingredients for you, right? As far as price, I couldn't tell you. Go to a couple HB supply websites and compare the kits to the separate ingredients. Besides that, I think it's more fun to "create your own" recipie, or adjust recipies. You're in control, you know? Experiment with different grains and hops and yeast and find out what you like and don't like. You may want to browse some standard recipies online, just to get an idea of what ingredients make what kind of beer, what goes well with what...etc. But in the end...it's all up to you! ;)
 

Janx

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As far as extract goes, a lot of kits seem to come with liquid extract, often hopped. I'm not a big fan of liquid extract, and in any event, hopping the extract will definitely not give the best hop flavor. Besides that, once you familiarize yourself with the process, you can usually make much better beer in a more "from scratch" method. There may well be exceptions, because I haven't brewed too many kits...maybe there are great ones. I do imagine kits are the most expensive method of brewing.

For extract beer, I'd try getting some light dry malt extract for the bulk of your fermentables in any given recipe. Add to that other fun grains (your homebrew store will probably grind em for you) like chocolate, caramel/crystal, victory, special b or whatever. Find a recipe or make one or get one worked out here. Steep grain in hot water to extract the flavor. Remove grain. Add extract. Boil. Get yourself some nice fresh whole hops and hop with hem. Ferment with liquid yeast. Your beer will be much better than most kits I have experienced.

On the most advanced side of it is all-grain brewing. It's not rocket science, and once you see it done, it's no big deal. Basically, you make your own malt extract, so it adds a few steps before the normal steps you're used to. Advantages are cost, better flavor, flexibility, fun. Honestly, I don't think you even start to compete with commercial beer cost-wise until you go all-grain. But, that's not the point anyway, or it shouldn't be. Disadvantages of all grain are you need a lot more space, time, equipment.

Give some of the recipes in your book a try that use extracts and steeped grain as described above. Dry extract. Fresh whole hops. Liquid yeast. I think you'll like the flexibility, have more fun, save some money, and make tastier beer :D

Janx
 

JEM Australia

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Hey Janx

This is the second time I've heard someone say that dry malt extract is better than liquid. I'll change to dry if it's better, but I'm interested to know a bit more.

Thanks
JEM
 
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Thanks for the good info Janx. My 1st batch ( a brewers best kit ) did use a liquid extract; bottled it today. My second batch/kit I just kicked off today as well. It's a different kit that came from my local brew store. It's a nut brown recipe and it came with dry malt extract and liquid yeast (pellets on the hops). The owner of this store is a retired brew master from coors (won't hold that against him) and he makes up his own kits which is the one I just bought. I'm expecting his kits are somewhat superior to a brewers best based on using dry malt then and liquid yeast for 'bout the same price as the brewers best. He seems to enjoy helping his customers as well. He holds monthly classes (begin/intermediate/advanced) for free also. I'll be attending those!

One batch at a time and the skills will grow further with each experience. Yep, not about saving $.... I needed a hobby besides just drinking beer. ;)
 

rightwingnut

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desertBrew said:
One batch at a time and the skills will grow further with each experience. Yep, not about saving $.... I needed a hobby besides just drinking beer ;)
My sentiments exactly.
 

richanne

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Desert,

Is that the Brew Your Own store in Tucson? Do his kits come with bottle caps and priming sugar, a la Brewer's Best? Same price as BB, but with liquid yeast? If so, that's quite a bargain.

FYI, Brewer's Best kits generally contain unhopped malt extract and pellet hops, but some include some dry malt extract as well. Most contain specialty grains.

I would stick with his kits for awhile and definitely hit the free classes. You will learn at the classes, I'd imagine, about such things as alpha acids, which affect how much bitterness you get from your hops. I would imagine that your homebrew shop owner knows the alpha acids of his hops and has adjusted his kits accordingly. If you start brewing with recipes, you'll want to get a recipe calculator so you can adjust the recipes based on factors such as this, to get your beer to come out right. After you've taken a few of his classes and brewed up a few of his kits, you'll probably be ready to plunge into recipe brewing.

Have fun!

Anne Brady
Phoenix
 

Janx

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I posted this in another thread, but for anyone curious about tinkering with recipes, go download SUDS (google it). It's THE way we concoct recipes, because you can just type in the actual alpha acids of your hops and see where it falls in terms of the style. Very handy tool.

Also, the kits from the beverage people look interesting, but I haven't tried them.

As far as dry vs liquid extract, it's just a subjective thing based on my experience with both. Liquid has more funky flavors than dry in my experience. I imagine dry is a much more stable way to store malt sugars, and the concentrated aspect of the liquid extract seems to make for a lot of caramelization and unfermentable sugars. But, hey, I really don't know. I just like the tast of dry a lot better, and I feel like it's a more "ground level" platform on which to build a beer. It's closer to the way I brew.

Janx
 
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richanne said:
Desert,

Is that the Brew Your Own store in Tucson? Do his kits come with bottle caps and priming sugar, a la Brewer's Best? Same price as BB, but with liquid yeast? If so, that's quite a bargain.

FYI, Brewer's Best kits generally contain unhopped malt extract and pellet hops, but some include some dry malt extract as well. Most contain specialty grains.
Yep, BYOB is the store. No caps, yes to priming sugar. Thought the price was fair as well. When I looked at their online $ however the price I paid was that of dry yeast. Maybe it was a special that day. Advertised 5.99 extra for liquid online.
 

richanne

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That would be a typical upgrade price for liquid yeast, maybe a dollar less than that. Sounds like you got a good deal that day.

We won't be participating in this forum anymore. Best of luck to you. Advise you check out www.howtobrew.com for lots of good free information on homebrewing.

Cheers!
 

NUCC98

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richanne said:
That would be a typical upgrade price for liquid yeast, maybe a dollar less than that. Sounds like you got a good deal that day.

We won't be participating in this forum anymore. Best of luck to you. Advise you check out www.howtobrew.com for lots of good free information on homebrewing.

Cheers!
That really is a great website that, in my case, gets read many times. Each time I read it, make another batch, read some posts here, go back and visit the site again...it makes more sense every time. Another great site to check out is http://hbd.org/recipator/ ....it not only has a recipe database, but the actual recipator is perfect for crafting your own recipes. I started out with kits, and it was perfect for a newbie, because they're almost foolproof. My 3rd batch was my first non-kit brew, and it came out pretty good. I'm going back to kits for a couple batches just to get a taste for what the different styles, grains, and malts will give you...then on to the "fancy" stuff like adding different flavors and such...

Desert...I'm interesting in knowing how that Nut Briwn Ale comes out, because I almost picked that kit up.....went with a California Common instead....unfortunately, that one won't get brewed for a while, I think...broke my elbow a week ago, so lifting brewpots is not in my future.....DOH!!!
 

rightwingnut

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richanne, if you read this, I hope you're not leaving because of Janx. Everyone's got their point of view, and some think their's is the only way. How about you guys just stop responding to each other's posts....or do it in a pleasant, "I'd have to disagree" sort of way? It'd be a shame to lose a member to petty bickering...I think you both have valuable information to give...even if it may differ. And having a homebrew store owner around is a great thing. Agree to disagree, but please don't stay away...(nice going Janx.) :mad:
 
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Ouch! :(

Will do on the nut brown. My wife and I both like Newcastle and it was their "clone" to it. I did notice that this batch started fermenting 4h into it and went nuts (no pun intended) for about 24h then has slowed down quite a bit. Quite a bit different than my 1st batch. I'd expect perhaps it was the liquid yeast and a bit warmer (76) than my 1st batch (70).

I quickly scanned http://www.howtobrew.com/ and interesting enough while reading some of the fermenting sections that a fast ferment doesn't necessarily mean a good ferment. I bookmarked this site for sure.

Jeff.

(Editorial note: The owner I was referring to did not work at coors; it was some AZ brewery... FWIW)
 

NUCC98

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desertBrew said:
Ouch! :(

Will do on the nut brown. My wife and I both like Newcastle and it was their "clone" to it. I did notice that this batch started fermenting 4h into it and went nuts (no pun intended) for about 24h then has slowed down quite a bit. Quite a bit different than my 1st batch. I'd expect perhaps it was the liquid yeast and a bit warmer (76) than my 1st batch (70).
That sounds awesome! I love Newcastle.......Sam Smith has a great Nut Brown Ale too...this kit might actually be exactly what I was looking for then...I want to brew a Nut Brown, with a hint of vanilla to it. I doubt it'd be the first time anyone attempted it, but I haven't found a recipe for it anywhere online...
 
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