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43North

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I’ve been brewing for one year I’m 2-2 due to bad, brewing instructions. For example, today I’m going to try and brew a partial kit from Northern Brewers. My last two BIB batches went bad. If this wasn’t my 5th time brewing, I would’ve been totally lost with the following instructions. I’ve read so many bad instructions I’m learning to read between the lines.

I’m no grammar teacher but whoever has typed these instructions needs a refresher course on outlining the brewing steps. This is just one example.
5750EF9B-8EFB-4AF8-A659-67BCBEB802BF.jpeg


Then there’s the Poor brewing explanations.
B69210A6-C282-4D41-90E5-F32F29779C6C.jpeg

The way it reads it looks like I put the grains in the cold water start bringing up to temp and when I hits 170° I take them out?

Also read through the recipe and if you can find the OG and FG targets let me know.
13555881-7300-4C5F-8385-4A7D9E52C6CE.jpeg

Why in the world isn’t there a standardize format for Brewing for beginners? I’m not just picking on northern brewers, I’m also talking about all the online recipe makers like BrewSmith3.

I did have one brew that turned out fabulous from a small company that outlined everything specifically, i’m not going to use their name because I don’t want you to think I’m writing this to Dog on the two companies above.

Brewing suppliers have got to start taking better care of their customers. Your procedures, steps, instructions have got to be clear and concise rather than just peddling your ingredients and forgetting about us.

I’ve bought most of my equipment from newbies that gave up because the instructions were so bad. If you are a brewing supply company and you’re losing Market Share it because other companies are out hustling you on the Brew instructions.

If one of you really smart Home brew Suppliers can come up with a template or standardization to the brewing steps for each style of brewing, I would hope that all these homebrew suppliers would adopt it as well. Brian instructions are like teaching kids sports, you have to do the fundamentals first before you get more detailed about the harder to brew recipes.

I would really like to go brew this beer but there’s no Specific or final gravity targets listed on the recipe?
Not even sure what the AVB is suppose to be?

-43North
 

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rburrelli

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I don’t have your issues when reading those instructions. Kit instructions give OG of 1.051. FG would be variable depending
upon yeast chosen.
When steeping one would generally assume a start with warmer water. You could start with cold and it would work.

I can sympathize with the beginner because if you have not done it before it could be confusing. Not as confusing as IKEA furniture building though.
 

kartracer2

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Hi @43North , I feel your frustration, The OG stated is 1.051, it is posted in the line after the first paragraph. As far as FG, well the yeast used could change that a little. Also the ABV of the vodka used to "stew" the coco beans would make a difference, abet a small one. I get (according to my BeerSmith2) a estimated FG of 1.019 using Safale S-04, prior to the nibs/vodka addition.
I agree some folks have better instructions than others and yes these are poor. For example, I put my extract in after steeping any grains and before I start the boil. Once boiling then add hops, watching for a boil over when you do.
If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask away. I have asked questions here and some of them have been quite dumb but at the time I didn't know the answer or just unsure of the procedure. We are not born with this knowledge. (LOL)
Hope things turn out well,
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.
 
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@43North : Northern Brewer includes "Getting Started" information with their equipment kits. This information is apparently also online:
We make it simple, so you can sit back and sip beer while you work. Included with your kit are printed instructions with step-by-step visuals to help you along your first (and every) brew day. [...] Furthermore, our online digital manuals and brewing videos can teach you how to make beer day or night. If you are looking for even more how to content, check out our home brewing video courses from Northern Brewer University.
-- Brew Share Enjoy Homebrew Starter Kit (If you have further questions about their content, ask them).

For those getting started in the hobby with used equipment, there are numerous books and countless video channels that will provide the same information. American Homebrewers Association also has free content for getting started.

With regard to the the quality of kit instructions, numerous posters here have ranted about kit instruction quality for as long as I've been here. Nothing has changed.
 
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(and one more thing ...)

The whole point of my rant is that we not only need to bring beginners into the art, but retain them.
Home brewing is one of the things I do in my "hobby" time.

"Attract and retain" sounds like a 9-to-5 job. So at the moment, I don't see a "me" in your "we".
 

madscientist451

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I’ve read so many bad instructions I’m learning to read between the lines hern Brewers. My last two BIB batches went bad. If this wasn’t my 5th time brewing, I would’ve been totally lost with the following instructions



-43North
Read the included instructions, but also watch you tube videos about brewing and read John Palmer's book: "how to brew". (free version available on line)
 

hout17

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Pkrd

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I hate it when they say "do this thing for 60 minutes". So I do that thing for 60 minutes and only then read the next instruction which tells me what I needed to do 30 minutes ago.

My only other gripe is they tell you to use a secondary.
 
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"how to brew". (free version available on line)
A quality book is an excellent snapshot of knowledge at a point in time.

The online version, published in 1999, is an excellent snapshot of home brewing in 1999.

A lot has changed, especially in extract brewing since then..

I hate it when they say "do this thing for 60 minutes". So I do that thing for 60 minutes and only then read the next instruction which tells me what I needed to do 30 minutes ago.
People often read all the instructions before starting.

My only other gripe is they tell you to use a secondary.
Based on some random sampling, it appears that the newer kit instructions (or recently revised kit instructions) have been updated in this area.



In one of my other hobbies, there is a discussion forum where a couple of people provide monthly updates to content on getting started inexpensively. I've seen similar ideas for home brewing written as a "one and done" -so the content is now out of date. All re-occurring rants seem to mention the idea of creating and maintaining a "sticky". Consider it mentioned ;)
 
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Chorgey

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I’ve been brewing for one year I’m 2-2 due to bad, brewing instructions. For example, today I’m going to try and brew a partial kit from Northern Brewers. My last two BIB batches went bad. If this wasn’t my 5th time brewing, I would’ve been totally lost with the following instructions. I’ve read so many bad instructions I’m learning to read between the lines.

I would have NB replace any bad kit that didn't turn out good. It looks like they guarantee them.
 

IslandLizard

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@43North. I fully agree with you, those instructions are crap. It contains errors, are confusing, has needless duplications, and no explanation why to do certain things, so you don't learn.

For example, instructions to use a "secondary fermenter" is still in there, while (mostly) unneeded* and likely even detrimental to your beer, especially in unskilled (novice brewers') hands. I was under the impression that a year or 2 ago they had started to change the instructions to using a "secondary" becoming optional.
* There is nothing to ferment in that "secondary fermenter."
 
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skeeterman

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I hate it when they say "do this thing for 60 minutes". So I do that thing for 60 minutes and only then read the next instruction which tells me what I needed to do 30 minutes ago.

My only other gripe is they tell you to use a secondary.
I have found it helpful to read ALL the instructions before beginning. I made a no-boil kit once where I didn't do that. The kit said to use a 10 gallon fermenter. I found this out later. Fortunately, I started this batch by putting the bucket in a sink!
 
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jerrylotto

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Amen. Go in with a complete plan, measure everything out and have it ready to be added. Read the directions in full, then rewrite it in your own words as you take notes. Always keep a record of what you brew. You might make something really good and have no idea how to repeat the process if you skip good note taking. A kit is no excuse just because somebody else did some of your measuring for you doesn't mean you don't have to plan it all out.
 

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Amen. Go in with a complete plan, measure everything out and have it ready to be added. Read the directions in full, then rewrite it in your own words as you take notes. Always keep a record of what you brew. You might make something really good and have no idea how to repeat the process if you skip good note taking. A kit is no excuse just because somebody else did some of your measuring for you doesn't mean you don't have to plan it all out.
With emphasis on GOOD. Limit abbreviations as much as possible. Anytime you do something with the batch, write it down. Check SG, check activity, check aroma, write it down. For the reasons given.
 

hotbeer

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There are lots of different ways to go about brewing beer. You have to decide which is for you and learn what advice applies to your methods and what applies to other methods.

Beginner kits don't really need OG and FG targets. That's advanced brewing! I did quite a few one-gallon all grain kits and didn't know what the yeast was or what the OG and FG were suppose to be.

They made good beer. I did have a hydrometer so I got to collect some info that made that experience useful. Wish I knew what the yeast was as I don't get the same experience now with the yeasts I'm currently using. Though my beers are just as good or better now that I select the yeast.

You might try some simpler or more basic recipes that have fewer ingredients till you get a better success record.
 

skeeterman

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@43North. I fully agree with you, those instructions are crap. It contains errors, are confusing, has needless duplications, and no explanation why to do certain things, so you don't learn.

For example, instructions to use a "secondary fermenter" is still in there, while (mostly) unneeded* and likely even detrimental to your beer, especially in unskilled (novice brewers') hands. I was under the impression that a year or 2 ago they had started to change the instructions to using a "secondary" becoming optional.
* There is nothing to ferment in that "secondary fermenter."
Many kits call for a double racking. Ferment 1 week and then rack. the purpose is to get the beer off the trub sooner. Makes for a cleaner product. Rack again in a week or so. There will still be yeast available later of the priming. Obviously. A friend neglected her 20-minute boil kit for 6 weeks. It still carbonated fine.
 
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visual +1 for using the word 'racking' rather than 'secondary'.



That being said, it should be noted that a well designed/engineered/executed transfer between containers can reduce / eliminate the risk of infection and oxygen ingress.



those instructions are crap
Meh. It's likely that 'crap' instructions will exist for the next decade.

If one wishes to 'advance the hobby', ignore what doesn't work and promote what does work.
 

oakbarn

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Baby steps first. Find a club or local home brewer and invite to help you. We started blind but our local Home Brew store was a lot of help. Unfortunately they are gone. Also helping other brewers is a good way to learn the process and equipment. When you said you were 2-2 brews. What was wrong with the 2 losses? Not meeting OG? Infections? Not Fermenting? All these are related but may have individual solutions. The #1 tenet of home brewing is Sanitize, Sanitize and then do it again!

I read the instructions and my only complaint with them would be that they do not say Sanitized Water in steps 8 and 9.

Also, If you are not familiar with partial grain (which this is), you are going to algebra while skipping long division. I would advise only doing your brews as extract only until you are successful 100% of the time. We brewed for a few on extract only kits like this:

Pre Hopped Extract Kits

Very easy and you get to make some decent beer yourself.

We then moved to extract only with hop additions.

We then got some Partial Grain kits.

Finally we went all grain.

We then did our own unique recipes because we had learned how to brew.

You also need to read about brewing. John Palmer (even with out of date stuff ) is a must read for any beginning brewer, He has revised it over the years and is a good book for understanding the process.

How to Brew
 

oakbarn

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And as to secondary, there are many threads about that, both pro and con people. I am generally on the con side, except that it does make for beers in kegs easier to transport when you ferment then secondary or lager in a keg, the finally transfer to a serving keg. I have left beer on trub without issues with todays yeast. I have always found some minor trub in a serving keg if you move from fermenter to serving keg and leave it. In fact, it is common to have to take the first pint and throw it away and not move kegs after you start serving unless you want it to settle and throw away another pint. Also some threads on this issue

 

IslandLizard

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Many kits call for a double racking. Ferment 1 week and then rack. the purpose is to get the beer off the trub sooner. Makes for a cleaner product. Rack again in a week or so.
I thought the consensus has been the past 5-10 years that, at least on homebrew scale, use of secondaries ("racking") has been debunked as they do not improve the beer, or make it "cleaner."

IOW, beer can easily sit on sedimented trub and yeast for several weeks (2-6 weeks), and perhaps longer, even up to 2-3 months without causing off-flavors (due to yeast autolysis, etc.).

But secondaries ("racking") do increase the risk of oxidation and infections, especially in novice hands, unless one uses specialized equipment and procedures such as bottled CO2, closed transfers, suitable containers, etc.
 

oakbarn

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I thought the consensus has been the past 5-10 years that, at least on homebrew scale, use of secondaries ("racking") has been debunked as they do not improve the beer, or make it "cleaner."

IOW, beer can easily sit on sedimented trub and yeast for several weeks (2-6 weeks), and perhaps longer, even up to 2-3 months without causing off-flavors (due to yeast autolysis, etc.).

But secondaries ("racking") do increase the risk of oxidation and infections, especially in novice hands, unless one uses specialized equipment and procedures such as bottled CO2, closed transfers, suitable containers, etc.
I would agree that a secondary is not generally a good idea and we do not do it. If you wait totally finished and transfer to a keg when the beer has been cold crashed, you will get minimum trub in your keg. We have never bottled but it would seem that that is always a "secondary" as there is some fermentaion going on. Once the wort is beer, your biggest enemy is oxygen. If you ever had a keg party and used a cheap hand pump rather than CO2 and did not float the keg. The next day you decided to have some of the left over beer from the keg and .......

We always close transfer if possible and use CO2 to purge prior to transfer.

O2 pre brew _ Needed!
O2 Post Fermentation - Avoid at all Costs!


I once went on a month trip and did not get a chance to move a beer that was done out of the fermenter. All told, it was in the fermenter for about 4 months before I got it moved. It was fine.

I also went on a 2 1/2 month trip and my kegerator failed while I was gone. Not sure how soon, but it was over 100 F in the kegerator (in my barn in Texas). All the beer was fine after a little chilling.

I have some kegs of beer were in a fire but not destroyed. They were in a freezer that somewhat protected them. They have been out for two summers in Texas. I plan to tap them at my winter brew party in February 2023 to see if they are still any good!

I had a Stout that aged for two years that was the best stout we ever made. I have the recipe but we drink it in about six months so have never got that aged beer again (Shame on us, but I love Black and Tans).
 
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43North

43North

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@43North. I fully agree with you, those instructions are crap. It contains errors, are confusing, has needless duplications, and no explanation why to do certain things, so you don't learn.

For example, instructions to use a "secondary fermenter" is still in there, while (mostly) unneeded* and likely even detrimental to your beer, especially in unskilled (novice brewers') hands. I was under the impression that a year or 2 ago they had started to change the instructions to using a "secondary" becoming optional.
* There is nothing to ferment in that "secondary fermenter."
Thanks
 

OakIslandBrewery

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After "primary" fermentation, transferring to a secondary might rouse up the yeast and ferment out some residual sugars. The use of a "secondary" is totally optional for most brewers. I use a secondary; transferring the finished beer to another vessel to add fruit for example. My reason is that I can then clean the main fermenter for another batch of beer while letting my first batch ferment some more if needed from the fruit addition.

We all have different ways to brew, fine tuning our process that works for our equipment and brewing needs, so a secondary vessel may work for some.
 

Bobby_M

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Just keep in mind that kit instructions are not really intended to be the full owner's manual of the entire brewing process and cover every type of equipment configuration possible. For the most part, they are guidelines to follow that are particular to that batch/type of beer. There are some assumptions that the user has some brewing experience, has taken a beginner class, or has some other basic instruction like a book or video.

No one's kit will ever have all the hundreds of best practices that you really need to develop contained in the kit instructions.

Some of the bad grammar and weird things you're seeing in the NB instructions are, in my estimation only, caused by their offering hundreds of different kits. The labor overhead to just manage these instructions must be insane.

My recommendations:
Join a club
Take a class
Buddy up with some intermediate/advanced brewers and shadow a few brew days
 

oakbarn

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I have written many “help” manuals over the years. It is always a balance on how much and some assumptions about your audience. If I ask you to write instructions on “ how to chop an onion”, you might have trouble doing that to someone that has never done it.

Even if you started with

1. Take an onion and peel it.
2. Cut the onion into slices with a knife.


There are many issues with such simple imstuctions depending on your level at expertise.

How big an onion ?
What type of onion?
What if there are green sprouts coming out?
Where do I buy onions?
I know how to peal an orange but there is no rind on an onion!



And so on.

And then I tell you it must fit on an 8 x 11 sheet of paper.

You can make them step by step to an nth degree where it takes you to page 4 when you find #1 above and then page 10 for # 2. It is a balance. I always find instructions terrible when I do not know how to generally do something. On the other hand, if they are over detailed on something I know, I also get frustrated with the details
 

skeeterman

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I have written many “help” manuals over the years. It is always a balance on how much and some assumptions about your audience. If I ask you to write instructions on “ how to chop an onion”, you might have trouble doing that to someone that has never done it.

Even if you started with

1. Take an onion and peel it.
2. Cut the onion into slices with a knife.


There are many issues with such simple imstuctions depending on your level at expertise.

How big an onion ?
What type of onion?
What if there are green sprouts coming out?
Where do I buy onions?
I know how to peal an orange but there is no rind on an onion!



And so on.

And then I tell you it must fit on an 8 x 11 sheet of paper.

You can make them step by step to an nth degree where it takes you to page 4 when you find #1 above and then page 10 for # 2. It is a balance. I always find instructions terrible when I do not know how to generally do something. On the other hand, if they are over detailed on something I know, I also get frustrated with the details
I recall a team building exercise. The assignment was to make a cup of coffee. It devolved in to chaos. My takeaway was, don't overthink the problem.
 

seatazzz

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Beer kits, particularly the Brewers Best kits, are big money items for LHBS. Around $50, and everything is included! Despite all precautions by the proprietor, they may not know how long that particular kit sat in a warehouse before they brought it in as inventory; stale LME, outdated yeast, and even more outdated instructions. I did three back in my beginner days; only one turned out drinkable. I wholeheartedly agree with the suggestions above; find a club, find a local homebrewer, find a LHBS, hell even find a local brewpub and get friendly with them. Ask questions, lots of questions. There are NO stupid questions in homebrewing, in my opinion. Ok maybe a few. And READ. How To Brew is a great resource; the online version is a bit outdated, but the newest version can be had on Amazon.

Too many people jump into this hobby with all four feet and not a lot of foreknowledge, i.e. studying; those are the people whose beginner equipment you find on craigslist. Too excited to have their own beer in two weeks. Not saying you did that, OP; proved you have read the instructions that came with your kit, and questioned them thoroughly.
 

Brew_Dude41

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First off, aways read the intsructions fully, before start to make the kit. Find your questions or sticking points while you have time chase down the answet to a question. Most the time there is a phone# to get help. Use it.

That being said,, writing a good work instruction (which is what these kit recipes are) is skill that takes alot of practice to do. It can be hard to break up process into concise, outlined steps when you have only a few variables that you control directly. Try to account for multiple variables outside of the control of the person making those instructions and things get sloppy. Now press it all to a single page. No Bueno.

What i think is the bigger challenge is that the person 'writing' the instructions is taking the document for say the Caribou Slobber kit, and trying convert it to a different recipe. Taking that kind of short cut can save time if the person doing the edit is good enough to catch everything that needs tweeked, but they often do not. It many times leads directly to incorrect instructions.
In a perfect world you could input your exact equipment and process needs, and out would come a custom recipe to follow for you.

Until then, we will have to deal with sub-par instructions and lean on other resources such as books, web sites, brew clubs/partners, and yes even YouTube to fill in those gaps.
 
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