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Maximizing "kit" beers

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mrkeeg

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I'm sure I will get into all grain and more specialized brewing eventually, but for now I don't have the space, time, money. I've enjoyed the handuful of kits I have tried so far.

Sooo... what can I do to maximize these hopped-extract (is that the proper term?) beers without adding much expense /trouble?

Some ideas:

- Using better/liquid yeast. Said to make a big difference? A $7 yeast package is half-again the price of a $14 kit... If careful about contamination (perhaps using a single carboy with blow-by tube instead of separate primary and secondarys?), you could at least reuse this.

-Boiling the hopped extract with the additional sugar and a volume of water for some period of time? No boiling is called for in the directions. Someone said this could destroy hop aromas (would any be present in an extract anyway?)

-If using the included dry-yeast packet - hydrate and create a starter

-Use DME instead of dextrose? (also adds significant cost.. $10 to a $14 kit). Maybe could go half and half?

-The standard things like washing bottles well, attention to sanitation

Thanks for any thoughts,
Keegan
 

ryser2k

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The easiest way to improve from hopped-extract kits is to move to unhopped extract and use fresh hops or hop pellets. There are a lot of extract kits from homebrew supply websites like Austin Homebrew which contain unhopped extract and hop pellets. There isn't much more work involved with using unhopped extract and fresh hops... just a little extra boiling time...

Other than that, I hear liquid yeast is a large improvement, but I can't speak to that just yet... I'll let you know after my next batch ;)
 

Janx

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Use liquid yeast and definitely you can reuse it several times to make it cost-comparable to dry yeast. It makes you beer much better.

Stop using hopped extracts, and for goodness sake stop adding additional sugar. I'm suprised you like the results if you have been adding sugar. It usually makes a beverage that tastes nothing like beer to me.

There is no hop flavor or aroma in hopped extract, which is a big reason not to use it. Hop flavor and aroma are key to most beer styles.

You MUST boil your wort or you'll get an infected batch soon. I can't believe your kits don't say to do that. Also you must boil them because you're going to stop using hopped liquid extract and switch to dry extract. Then you need to boil the wort to extract hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. I recommend whole hops, but pellets will do.

Seriously, don't use sugar, dextrose or otherwise. Use only malt extract. It's just not worth the cost savings.

I would recommend getting kits that use dry extract, not liquid. Use liquid yeast. And buy whole hops. I don't know what sort of beers you're making with no hop flavor or aroma, but you're pretty limited stylewise if you don't add flavor and aroma hops. You really don't even need to buy kits. Get a good recipe book and just buy the DME, hops and yeast called for in the recipe. Also read a beginner book like the Papazian book because you really do need to boil the wort.

It may cost a little more, but your beer will taste like beer, which is really what you're after. If I had to prioritize, I'd say switching to DME, not liquid, and boiling your wort are the most important changes to make.

Homebrewing isn't really going to save you a lot of money overall. That's not really what it's about. Sure, if you shortchange your beer by not adding hops and using sugar you can make a cheap fermented beverage, but I wouldn't call it beer by a long shot.

If you're happy with what you've been making, then by all means, change nothing. But I imagine you posted because you are disappointed with some aspects of these kit beers. These suggestions will make a world of difference.

Good luck! :D
 

uglygoat

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alot of these hopped extract kits/cans do just tell you to toss the extract into the fermenter and top with water, dump yer dry yeast in and close it up...

stuff like the munton and fission kits. you get two cans and a packet of yeast..... and directions printed on the side of the box.

get some grain (maybe a pound or two), have it crushed and steep it in a grain bag for forty five minutes or so.. do not boil it. then add your dried malt extract, bring it to a boil and toss your hops in.

it is night and day taste wise, from using just the hopped extract and dried yeast.

and when you go from dry to liquid yeast w00t!!! you will not be disapointed.
 

Janx

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t1master said:
get some grain (maybe a pound or two), have it crushed and steep it in a grain bag for forty five minutes or so.. do not boil it. then add your dried malt extract, bring it to a boil and toss your hops in.
That's a *really* good idea that I forgot. The difference between all-extract and extract with steeped grains is definitely night and day.
 
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mrkeeg

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Thanks for all the thoughts folks.

I will try a few changes and see what works.

I DO appreciate some of the elitist comments... I'm sure with time I will be there as well. One reality, though, is that I'm in University and MUST save money, and making 5 gallons of beer for under 20 bucks is acceptable to me... even if the beer is not GREAT.

One thing that the local brew shop recomended is a liquid kit ("brew house" I think?) that is supposed to be far superior - it is 3gallons (add 2), requires no sugar addition, and supposedly gives a much better taste, esp if you dry-hop a bit. It also costs more... about $35 for the box. That's about the cost of preparing a recipe, but simple-stupid. Anyone seen these?

Thanks,
Keegan
 

cbiegel

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I don't know if the "liquid kit you're talking about will make significantly better beer than you're making now.

My suggestions are going under the assumption that you are willing to sacrifice a bit of flavor for lower cost at this point in your life. I think we've all been there. :) I know I drank a lot of Knickerbocker in college and that was a LARGE sacrifice in flavor ;)

1) use your hopped kit but boil it for at least enough time to add some flavor and aroma hops. 20 minutes I'd say.

2) add some real hops for flavor and aroma (15 minutes and just as you turn off the heat) This should only add $2-$3 to your batch.

3) try whatever you can to add a few pounds of malt or honey instead of table sugar. (this is the biggest thing but also the most expensive) You can buy a whole extract kit with grains, hops, and liquid yeast for $25-$28 so a couple of pounds of malt should be pretty cheap addition to your $15 kit.

That's it. For a couple more bucks and a little time boiling I think you can significantly improve your hopped kit while keeping your costs down. Remember #'s 1-2 are the cheapest bang for you buck changes.
 
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mrkeeg

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BTW, here's the site of the brew house kits

http://www.thebrewhouse.com/index.htm

They are apparently all grain, created in a trad micro-brew setting, and packaged fresh.

dunno if it's hype or not... but it is sure easy to brew, and a resonable price. I'll let you know how mine turns out.

Keegan
 

homebrewer_99

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Definitely use liquid yeast, any amount of grains (1/4 lb or more) will change the beer for the better, fresh hops, and no sugar.

With liquid yeast I always get about 2 - 22 oz bottles of reusable yeast from each primary. Just make sure you use the oldest yeast first. :D
 

OBX

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homebrewer_99 said:
Definitely use liquid yeast, any amount of grains (1/4 lb or more) will change the beer for the better, fresh hops, and no sugar.

With liquid yeast I always get about 2 - 22 oz bottles of reusable yeast from each primary. Just make sure you use the oldest yeast first. :D

Being an real newbie - why do you want to reuse the sludge (yeast) from the previous brew? Is it strictly a cost issue or is there something else I am missing??

:confused:
 

ryser2k

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Yeah it's a cost thing... liquid yeast is $5 a bag usually. I'm going to try bottling the liquid yeast for the first time with my next batch... any tips homebrewer_99? I would have done it with the batch that is currently fermenting but I just didn't see me using a California Lager yeast that often in the next couple months :)
 
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http://cruisenews.net/brewing/kegging/page2.php
This guy takes a very simple approach to bottling / reusing his yeast from the primary. Others talk of 'flame sterilization' and other difficult procedures. I'm trying this one for the first time right now. If it is any more difficult than this, I will just buy yeast each time. I got six bottles half filled with slurry from one batch. These bottles are in my fridge now. If anyone knows of any problems with this method or considers this 'not sanitary enough' and thinks it will lead to problems, I would love to hear it before I use this stuff on one of my batches :)
 
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