making it taste better: the quest

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Dizavin

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okay.. so I'm two brews in and I'm now confident that I can make something that is recognizable as beer and isn't completely wretched to drink. my goal now is to see if I can get these drinks to taste better.

any tips like getting better quality pre-hopped malt or hopping it myself? or if there's different types of sugar I should be using or specific brands of spring water I should look in to?

any advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

Sigthor

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What are you brewing with now? Extract kits I'm imagining? I'm only one brew in, but I used light dry malt extract, hopped it myself, along with steeping crystal grains for color/flavor, and it really wasn't that difficult. While my brew isn't ready yet, I'm fairly confident from what I've seen so far it is going to be quite tasty.

Doing some research will go a long way. I studied homebrewing for about a year before I actually took the dive and tried it. I've read countless books on the subject. I would recommend looking around here for tips, advice, and recipes, as this site has given me more information than all the books I've read combined.
 

Indy418

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Using those actual ingredients instead of just hopped extract will go a looong way to better tasting beer. Like adding some hops during boil or steeping some specialty malts will help bring out those delicious hoppy and malty characteristics.
 

giligson

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I agree that the best and easiest first steps for a kit brewer is to start using unhopped malt and just hop it yourself. You'll be amazed at the jump in quality. Another fairly easy thing is to use the correct yeast. If you are buying unhopped malt (use 2 cans for 5 gal instead of cutting it with corn sugar - unless you are trying to make a light lager type beer) and your own hops you will also have to supply your own yeast. Plain old dry ale yeast is generally fine for any American Ale style but you may want to try liquid yeast for other particular styles.
 

StoutFan

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If your water is good enough to drink, it's good enough for beer. Sugar to me is only for carbonation, unless its an uber-high OG beer, or candi sugar. Hopped extract leaves you little option for flavors. And giligson was right, yeast plays an integral part in the flavor of your brew. Try a Brewers Best or Midwest/Norther Brewer kit, running through a couple of these will let you feel the process of how the ingredients work together.
 

snailsongs

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I think you should do some reading onthis site, and do yourself a huge favor and go and pick up How to Brew, by John Palmer. This book was my indispensable beginner's read, and it started me off on the right foot immediately. There is a version online, but it's truncated, and I think the guy deserves the profit from the book sale, because he, along with a handful of others, has helped move the modern homebrewer forward significantly, IMHO.

If you are using pre-hopped kits and cutting them with sugar then you are basically starting with the cheapest, lowest quality "kit" available, so the good news is you can only get better from where you are now. As others have pointed out, just hopping your beer yourself and NOT using plain sugar will dramatically improve the quality of your brew. Steeping some specialty grains, doing full-boils (vs. topping off with water), carbonating to style (or taste) and aging sufficiently will also net you great gains in quality.
 
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Dizavin

Dizavin

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hrmm. thanks guys! it would appear that the next step is to hop my own malt. I'm going to give that a try next time.
 

Homercidal

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Yep, read up all you can. I just read The Complete Joy of Homebrewing Second Edition again this weekend, along with a book with interviews from various homebrewers-turned pro-brewers from like 1998. Good stuff!

I'd recommend spring water if you don't like the taste of your own water. Hopping your own beer is the way to go! In fact, unless you know the liquid extract is fresh, I'd recommend going to dry malt extract (DME) for a maybe better taste, and also invest in an Immersion Chiller, and do late extract additions or even go Full Boils.

That's it for my advice on how to improve extract brewing... Oh, and watch your fermentation temps. Keep it even and on target.
 
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