You Got a Brooklyn Brew Shop Kit...Now What?

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TasunkaWitko

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Hi, all -

This post is based on things that I learned through my experiences while learning all-grain, small-batch brewing. It includes helpful links and resources, a run-down of helpful equipment or supplies, and helpful information and tips that will make brewing easier while promoting a better understanding of all-grain, small-batch brewing. In short, it is a lot of information that I wish I had when I started, as the circumstances that come with small-batch, all-grain brewing present issues and situations that are not encountered by brewers of large-batch or extract brewing.

I am posting this because I recently purchased a Brooklyn Brew Shop kit and some equipment for a friend and couldn't be there to brew it with him, so I sent him this information in order to give him as much help as possible on how to get the most from it.

The things that I have learned do not necessarily apply ONLY to Brooklyn Brew Shop kits and mixes, but that is what I learned to brew on, so this is written from that point of view. The information here should be useful for anyone who brews 1-gallon batches. I do not work for Brooklyn Brew Shop, nor have I received any consideration or compensation for presenting this information - I simply believe in their concept and their products.

I will state at the outset that if you have an LHBS nearby, the kits really aren't necessary; you can pick up all of the needed equipment for a lot less than you would pay for the kit. I do find the pre-packaged mixes to be interesting and handy, but once again, they are not totally necessary if you live near an LHBS, as you can purchase the needed grains, hops, yeast etc.

Having said all this, if you do get a Brooklyn Brew Shop kit, either through purchase or as a gift, I hope that this post is useful and helpful to you. Similarly, if you are a small-batch brewer, I hope that some of the information found here deals with issues that you might have encountered, as many of those issues are usually unique to small-batch brewing.

Some of the information is repeated once or twice throughout the post, just because I sent this information to my friend in three separate emails; nevertheless, it is good information, that is certainly not harmed by repetition.

NOTE - Many of you will notice the "glaring" absence of a hydrometer in this post. Use one if you want to, but for 1-gallon beer brewing, I don't - and I haven't missed it a bit. Your mileage may vary.

With that, here we go....


Helpful Links and Resources for Brewing with Brooklyn Brew Shop

Below are some links to information that will get you started and familiar with concepts, equipment and procedures.


The main website for Brooklyn Brew Shop:

https://brooklynbrewshop.com/


Brewing Timeline:

http://brooklynbrewshop.com/brew-timeline


Informational videos for many of the beer mixes and procedures:

https://vimeo.com/brooklynbrewshop/videos


How to Brew Beer:

[ame]https://vimeo.com/11354805[/ame]


Instructions for each beer mix:

http://brooklynbrewshop.com/instructions


About the mini auto-siphon:

http://brooklynbrewshop.com/accessories/mini-auto-siphon


Video on how to use the mini auto-siphon:

[ame]https://vimeo.com/53714072[/ame]


About the bottle capper:

http://brooklynbrewshop.com/accessories/bottle-capper


How to use the bottle capper:

[ame]https://vimeo.com/52867522[/ame]


Frequently asked questions:

http://brooklynbrewshop.com/faq


Lots of good information, including hop profiles, recipes etc.:

http://brooklynbrewshop.com/themash


If you want to get more beer mixes:

http://brooklynbrewshop.com/beer-making-mixes

Pro Tip - if you spend 45.00 or more, shipping is free.


Helpful Equipment for Brewing Small-Batch Beer

Following is a list of equipment needed (or helpful) in order to brew beer with your kit. Some of these things you probably already have. Anything else, you should be able to get at Wal-Mart or on the internet, if there isn't a brew shop close by.

I keep all of the brewing stuff in a large bin/tub - it works pretty well for keeping everything organized. Make sure the stuff is dry before going into the bin. I keep the stuff from the beer kit in its box.

Note - with the mini auto siphon, you will not need the racking cane. This is a good thing because the "gravity method" of siphoning is a pain-in-the-you-know-what..

Basically, brewing can be broken into these steps:

Mash
Sparge
Boil
Pitching the Yeast
Fermentation
Bottling

I'll break the equipment down by each step. On the day you brew your beer, the first 4 steps are done together, so I like to lay everything out - cleaned and sanitized - before I start, on a couple of tea towels. I pretty much lay it out in the order that I'll use it, and the whole process flows pretty well.

Here we go -


Mash

1. At least a 5-quart non-reactive pot or stock pot. I use a 6-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven that really holds the heat well. If you don't have an enameled cast iron pot, you can get a stainless steel stock pot from Walmart for almost nothing. I think it is a 6 quart, but it might be 8 (either works). A cover for the pot helps keep the temperature stable.

2. Liquid measuring cup. I use a glass 2-cup measuring cup, anything works, as long as it is reasonably accurate.

3. Long-handled spoon. I use one that is hard plastic for the spoon part and some kind of metal for the handle part with a rubberized end on the handle to keep from getting too hot. Anything should work - even a wooden spoon. If you use an enameled cast iron pot, you don't want a metal spoon, or it will scratch the pot.

4. Rubber spatula - for help scraping the grains off the sides of the pot when you stir them. Any works.

5. Thermometer - comes with the kit.

6. Some kind of spoon rest that is big enough to hold the spoon, spatula and thermometer - a plate will work just fine.


Sparge

1. Mesh strainer. Here's the one I use, and it is perfect for the job:

http://a.co/7W18nd1

2. Two more pots (in addition to the one for the mash above). You can get by with just one more pot, but two more will make the process flow a lot more smoothly, so that you have somewhere to set the mesh strainer while you are recirculating the wort.. The stainless steel stock pots from WalMart work very well, if you don't already have something at home. One should be 6 or 8 quarts (you will also use this pot for the boil) and the other should be I THINK 10 quarts. The main thing about the other one is that it needs to be wide enough across the top for your strainer. You lay the strainer across the top of it and pour the grains into the strainer and the wort will flow through to the pot below. While you're repeating this step a couple of times, the other two pots (the one you used for the mash and the other one that you will use for the boil) will help you rotate the wort so that you can pour it through again. It SOUNDS more complicated than it actually is....


Boil

1. The "other" pot mentioned above. 6 or 8 quarts is an ideal size because you don't want the pot to be too big/shallow or the wort will boil too hard and fast (too much evaporation).

2. Three or four small containers to hold the hops and any other ingredients you might need to add during the boil. Usually, you will just need three. Small saucers will work fine; I've got a set of four small enameled clay bowls that work, but anything is fine.

3. A digital scale that will measure grams or ounces to the 1/10th is nice but not totally necessary. You should be able to set your dish/container for hops on it and then zero it out to weigh your hops. The scale that I use is a lot like this one:

http://a.co/9AGEPEE

Once again, this is NOT necessary - you can eyeball it just as easily - but it's nice to have for small jobs.

If you want to make wine, you might want to also get a scale that measures more in pounds. The one that I use is an older version of this one:

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Professional-Electronic-Kitchen-Scale/38241740

4. Set of dry measuring cups - sometimes, you need to add things during the boil, such as honey or other ingredients. I have a set of metal measuring cups for this, but just the ones in the kitchen are fine.

5. Either a few ice packs or a standard bag of ice, to chill the pot with the wort in the sink after boiling.


Pitching

1. Fermenter - comes with the kit.

2. Funnel with a strainer. There are two ways you can go about doing this.

a) What I did for quite a while was use a regular medium-sized kitchen funnel with one of these mesh sink strainers:

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Home-Kit...Sink-Drain-Strainer-Silver-Tone-2Pcs/48405977

This worked pretty well, and there's no reason not to use it. You want a medium-fine mesh, but not super-fine, because it will get clogged up all the time. The medium one will clog up a bit too, but you can use a regular spoon or butter knife to push the "stuff" around and let the wort through.

b) After a while, I got a larger funnel with a mesh insert, like this:

http://www.eckraus.com/7-inch-funnel.html

I think mine was 8-inch, but the idea is the same. These come with coarse, medium and fine mesh inserts that are pretty handy.

3. A 38mm screw cap for the fermenter jug. This is not necessary, but is handy after you pitch the yeast and are shaking it in the wort to mix it up. You can hold the fermenter closed with the palm of your hand, but I like using a cap. They look like this, but you only need to have 1 and a spare:

http://a.co/b8uezjE

They are standard size, so you should be able to find them anywhere, or at a microbrewery if you get a growler filled.

4. 38mm cap with hole it in it - comes with the kit.

5. Tubing - comes with the kit.

6. Something to put the other end of the blow-off tube in - I use a vase filled about 1/4- to 1/3 full of sanitizer. You want something that is bottom-heavy so that it won't tip over.

7. Once you use up the sanitizer that comes with the kit, you will need more. There are many options, but here are the best two that I can think of:

a) The stuff I like to use most is just the sanitizer that you can get from Brooklyn Brew Shop - it makes 2 gallons of sanitizer and is no-rinse:

http://brooklynbrewshop.com/accessories/brooklyn-brew-shop-sanitizer

I usually order some if I am ordering anything else from them.

Helpful hint about ordering from Brooklyn Brew Shop: if your order is 45.00 or more, shipping is free. I often will buy a 15.00 "gift card" on a payday, then when I have three of them saved up, I will use them to order what I want, and the shipping is free.

b) The other sanitizer that is often used is called StarSan:

http://www.eckraus.com/five-star-san-sanitizer.html

This is really good stuff, but it is usually mixed 5 gallons at a time. One bottle lasts a very long time. If you order this, it might make more sense to mix a gallon at a time. I have the measurement ratio somewhere, so if you need it, just ask.

8. Spray bottle filled with sanitizer. This can be used for a lot of things - remember that everything your wort touches AFTER the boil needs to be sanitized. The spray bottle is handy to use at each step.

9. Measuring spoon set - This can be used to add different ingredients to the boil, if needed - but mainly it will be used to measure your honey, maple syrup or whatever sugar you are using to carbonate your beer, depending on the instructions. I use a set of metal measuring spoons that works just fine, but just the ones in the kitchen are fine, and really you only need the tablespoon, usually. Note that the instructions say to use 3 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup when bottling, but this is almost always WAY too much. 2 tablespoons is better, but is sometimes a little too much. I have found that somewhere between 1.5 and 2 tablespoons is usually best.


Fermentation

1. Airlock - comes with the kit

2. Place to keep the beer. It needs to be dark and have a fairly stable temperature at about 65 to 68 degrees. You don't want to be much lower than 60 and you definitely don't want to be much higher than 70, unless you are making a Belgian saison with Belgian yeast. I keep the fermenter in a bin in our bedroom closet, but you can keep it anywhere that works. You don't want sunlight to hit it, or it will degrade the hops and make a skunky beer. I use a space heater to keep the temperature steady. Cover the fermenter with a towel or blanket to keep temperature stable and to keep light out. You can also use the box that the kit came in. The insert at the top of the box keeps light out and lets the blow-off tube and airlock stick out the top. The main thing is dark and stable temperature. The instructions say 2 weeks for fermentation, but I usually go three weeks, just in case more time is needed.


Bottling

1. 10 bottles - chances are that you will only need 9, usually, but once in a while a batch yields 10 bottles. Any leftover wort after bottling can be used to sample the beer. It will be flat, but you can get a good idea of how it will taste. The Grolsch bottles with the swing tops work great, or you can use bottles that are non-twist-off and need a bottle opener to open. Twist-off bottles are no good.

2. Tubing - comes with the kit.

3. Mini auto siphon - Enjoy this handy tool, and just leave the racking cane in the box in case you need it someday.

4. Tubing clamp - comes with the kit. I strongly recommend picking up a "bottling wand" which is really nice because it has a spring tip so it makes bottling easier with less chance of spills. It looks like this:

http://www.eckraus.com/plastic-bottle-filler-3-8.html

If you get one of these, it will be your second-favorite tool, right behind the mini auto siphon, and you can put the tubing clamp in the box for the kit next to the racking cane and forget about both of them.

5. Bottle capper and caps - enjoy!

Once the bottles are filled and capped, they will need to sit in the same place that the fermenter did for 2 weeks. 68 to 70 degrees is best. I usually go three weeks and then refrigerate at least over night before sampling the beer, but a week is better, if possible. Note that most if not all beers will "mature" over time. Lighter beers and wheat beers are best when you drink them young. Brown beers, porters and stouts are best after a couple of months to age and mature. If any beer doesn't taste good or "quite right," it will usually improve a LOT after a month or so of aging and conditioning.


Helpful Tips for Brewing Beer

Following are some helpful tips that I have discovered as I learned to brew small-batch beer, one gallon at a time. Some of these tips came about naturally, while others I picked up along the way from other helpful homebrewers; a few more come from inquiries made to Brooklyn Brew Shop. Taken together, they've all contributed to a better understanding of the process; not only what to do, but why it is done and how to do it better, in some cases.

Some of these tips will make more sense after a couple of brewing sessions. It is important to familiarize yourself with the process before applying lessons learned. None of these tips are any substitute for gaining actual experience. The best tip or advice that I can offer is to stop reading about it, stop planning on it, stop getting ready for it, and simply, in the words of Brooklyn Brew Shop, MAKE SOME BEER.

These tips will be organized in much the same order as the brewing process itself.


Before you Begin

Wash and sanitize everything that you will use. A mild solution of OxyClean Free does a great job of cleaning. Rinse everything twice in very hot water. Avoid soap, which will adversely affect the quality of your beer. Avoid using bleach unless absolutely necessary. If you do use bleach, use a mild solution and rinse four times in very hot water, as any bleach left behind will affect your beer's flavor.

Lay all ingredients and equipment out in the order that it will be used. If using a pre-packaged mix, have the ingredients ready, but do not open them until you are ready to use them.

A spray bottle filled with no-rinse sanitizer is very helpful, and will be your friend throughout the brew.

Watch Brooklyn Brew Shop’s “How to Brew” Video here:

http://brooklynbrewshop.com/instructions

On that same link, you will find a list of instructions for all of their beers. Choose the beer that you are brewing, right-click on it and “open in new tab” to bring up your instructions. Have both the video and the instructions handy while you are brewing. If you are brewing off of a recipe, have the recipe on hand.

Have a notepad (or document program) ready to take notes of your brew; what you did, step-by-step, any noteworthy events etc. As you do this, you will learn something new each time; you also will be able to repeat good brews or avoid repetitions of bad brews.

Be prepared to clean as you go - it makes things a lot easier!


The Mash

I use spring water that comes from a regional source; in fact, I used to live just a few short miles from the spring itself. I would recommend using spring water - local, if possible - but this is not the only choice. Generally, if the water tastes good for drinking, it should be good for beer, too. If you must use municipal, chlorinated water, let it sit out overnight for the chlorine to evaporate off. Do not use distilled water, because the trace minerals needed for flavor and other character will be missing. As you advance in home-brewing, you may or may not decide to adjust the chemistry of your water in order to achieve a desired trait; I have never felt it to be necessary.

To brew an average 1-gallon batch of beer, you will need about 1.75 gallons of water total, so I always have 2 gallons on hand when I brew.

The timer on your iGadget is your friend during the mash. Keep your notepad handy to tick off each 10-minute time passage between stirring the mash (6 total).

Temperature control is one of the most important factors during the mash. I use an enameled cast iron Dutch oven for the mash, as this helps to keep the temperature steady. If you do not have one, that is fine - just keep a close eye on the mash temperature of the grains. Turn the heat on or off as necessary, and move the pot on or off the heat as necessary. Stir thoroughly to keep the grains constant in temperature, and check the temperature in multiple places.

You want the mash temperature to stay within a range between 144 and 152 degrees. I have found that the beer tends to have better body if you keep the temperatures at the upper end of that range. For some porters, stouts and other "heavier" beers, you can even go a couple of degrees over this range with no adverse effects.

You can cover the pot during the mash, in order to help maintain a steady temperature. Be sure that you do not cover the pot during the boil.

Take note of visual cues to help you monitor mash temperatures. I have found that if the grains look like they are getting sticky and dry, chances are it is cooling off too much. If they look wet and watery, chances are it is getting a little too warm.

I have not tried it, but I have read that you can pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees, then turn it off when you start the mash and put your pot of grains in there to help hold the temperature fairly constant. I will try this on my next brew.

During the last 10 or 15 minutes of the mash, you want to start heating your gallon of water to 170 degrees in the pot that you will be boiling the wort in after the sparge.


The Sparge

You can do this step with the original pot from the mash plus one other, but the procedure “flows” better when you use three pots. I set them up in a formation like this: The pot with the strainer over it (I think it is 10-quart) is directly in front of me. This is called the “lauter tun.” I dump the grains and wort from the “mash pot” into the strainer, then set the mash pot to the right. Meanwhile, the third pot (the one that I will do the boil in, 6- or 8-quart) is on the stove heating the gallon of water to 170 degrees. Once it reaches that temperature, I pour the water through the grains and the strainer, then set it behind the pot with the strainer. This will also be the “boil pot.” The result is a triangular formation on its side. Once the water runs through the grains and down into the lauter tun, I set the strainer back onto the mash pot so that it can catch any drips. Then, I pour the wort from the lauter tun into the boil pot, set the strainer back onto the lauter tun, pour any drips from the mash pot into the lauter tun, and then pour the wort from the boil pot into the lauter tun to recirculate the wort through the grains and extract all of the fermentable sugars. I then repeat the procedure, for a total of three pours through the lauter tun (the original plus two recirculations). This SOUNDS a lot more complicated than it actually is - it is really very simple, but difficult to describe in detail. I should do a short video to demonstrate, but our kitchen is always a mess.

Most of the time, you “should” be able to let the wort flow naturally through the grains and the strainer. If it gets stuck, you can use your spoon to gently turn the grains over a bit and press down on them. This will allow the wort to continue through the strainer. You don’t want to be too rough with it, but you do want to make sure you get every possible drop through the strainer.

After you recirculate the wort twice (three pours total), taste a few of the grains. If they are still very sweet, recirculate the wort one more time. If they taste more like cardboard than like sugar, then you are done and ready to proceed to the boil.

There are quite a few uses for the spent grains, when you are done with them. They can be buried in your garden or dried and used in recipes. You can even mill them into flour, if you want to. There are a lot of recipes out there for almost anything, ranging from bread to granola to dog biscuits.


The Boil

Measure out your hops while you are waiting for the wort to come to a boil; a scale is great, but you can also “eyeball” it with no troubles at all. I have three little dishes that I put the hops into, but any small, dry containers will work.

Getting a good “hot break” is important for a better end product. Heat the water on high to boiling, then allow the “foam” to rise up and “break,” settling down. Once this happens, you can reduce your heat to keep a slow, steady boil - more than a simmer, but not a constant, raging boil, either.

I stir the wort occasionally as it is heating up to a boil, then leave it alone through the hot break. After that, I give it a stir each time I add hops or other ingredients.

The timer on your iGadget is your friend during the boil. Set it for each addition of hops or other ingredients.

Some recipes call for the addition of fruit, nuts or other ingredients. I tend to add a little more than the instructions say to, but no more than double. Keep in mind that the sugars in the fruit will ferment out, so the resulting flavor in the beer will be a bit tart at first, but the flavors tend to smooth out and really come into their own over time.

Sometimes you will add some sort of sugar at the end of the boil (Belgian candi sugar, maple syrup, honey etc.). Make sure that you stir gently and thoroughly until it is all dissolved.


Cooling Down the Wort

Once the boil is finished, everything that comes into contact with the wort needs to be sanitized. Once again, your spray bottle filled with sanitizer is your friend.

When there are about 5 minutes left in the boil, fill your sink with any ice packs that you have and/or a standard bag of ice.Fill the sink about half full, keeping in mind that when you set the boil pot in it, the level of the water and ice will rise. You want the pot to sit on the bottom of the sink or float just above it; the level of the ice and water should be at about the same level as the surface of the wort.

Just as a hot break is important during the boil, a “cold break” is important during the cool-down. You want your wort to chill down to below 70 degrees as fast as possible. A lot of “break material” will drop out of the wort and settle on the bottom, so do your best to disturb it as little as possible.

Many people cover the pot during the cool-down, in order to reduce the possibility of contaminants in the wort. I do not do this, but maybe I should..

It is important for the wort to cool down to below 70 degrees, so that it is not too hot for the yeast. If it goes even a little lower, that is fine.

While the wort is cooling down, you can sanitize your fermenter, funnel, blow-off tube etc. I use a vase that is tapered in the middle to catch my blow-off tube; it can be filled about 1/3 full and pieces such as the fermenter cap etc. put in there so that they are sanitized for the next step. I also put a spoon or butter knife in there to push the “stuff” around in the strainer, if it clogs up while pouring the wort into the mesh/funnel/fermenter.


Filling the Fermenter and Pitching the Yeast

The wort is going to look very cloudy and could be any color from brown to green - or something else entirely. This is okay - remember that there is all kinds of “stuff” in it, including cold- and hot-break material, hops, proteins from the grains etc. This will all settle over time, although wheat beers should still end up somewhat hazy.

Using a small mesh strainer/filter in the funnel catches some of the “stuff” - but more importantly, it aerates the wort so that the yeast gets a healthy start. The funnel may get “gunked up,” but you can use a spoon or butter knife to push the stuff around so that the wort can flow. You can empty out the gunk into the trash as you go, but be sure to sanitize the filter/strainer again.

You want to fill the fermenter just past the “One Gallon” mark on the side; if you are a bit short, you can top it off with the same water that you used for brewing. If you are very short, top it off and remember to boil at a slightly slower rate next time. It is okay to be a little over the mark, almost up to the bottom of the neck. If you are over by more than that, remember to boil at a slightly faster rate next time.

After you pitch the yeast, you need to “agitate” the fermenter in order to incorporate the yeast into the wort. You can spray sanitiser on the palm of your hand and use your hand to hold the fermenter closed, but I have found that a better way is to use a 38mm screw cap for the fermenter. It is readily available online, or you can pick up an extra when you have a growler filled at a microbrewery. In either case, shake the covered fermenter a dozen ways ‘til Sunday, until the yeast is fully dissolved into the wort. This usually takes a couple of minutes, but can take as long as 5 minutes.

When setting up the blow-off tube, I have found it helpful to put a loop in the tube, in order to help it stay in the container of sanitizer. I use a vase that tapers in the middle, to help anchor the tube in place. Do not allow the tube to be kinked in any way.


Fermentation

Stable temperatures and darkness are two very important requirements as your beer ferments. Our house was built when Theodore Roosevelt was President, so it tends to be on the cool side in the winter and on the warm side in the summer. I have found that in our house, our bedroom closet is probably most stable where these required conditions are concerned. The closet is small, surrounded on three sides by clothes and other insulating things, and dark. I set the fermenter (or fermenters) in a bin/tub on an old, flat pillow and wrap an old blanket around it (or them) for an extra layer of insulation and stability. I use a space heater outside the closet door (when needed), which is kept ajar. Do not point the heater directly at the fermenter. The blow-off tube runs out the top of the fermenter to the vase that is sitting next to the bin on the floor.

The ideal temperature for most brewing of most ales is about 65 degrees. If it goes a few degrees on either side of this, I do not get too excited. I try to keep fermentation temperatures within a range of 60 to 68 degrees. For some types of beers, you can go higher; for others, you can go lower. As you begin to brew those types, you will learn about their ideal temperatures.

The fermentation process will cause all sorts of things to happen. Your wort will go through various color changes, there will be bubbles (and sometimes foam) coming out of the blow-off tube, and a thick layer of “krausen” will most likely cover the top of the wort. Everything will eventually settle down, and the krausen will eventually fall, leaving some traces near the neck of the fermenter.

I have found that the most active period of fermentation occurs within the first three days of fermentation after Brew Day. After three days, you can replace the blow-off tube with the air-lock. Some people say to fill the airlock with water or vodka; sanitizer makes the most sense, to me.

After switching to the airlock, do your best to ignore the fermenter and simply keep the temperatures steady until fermentation is finished. This should be 14 days after Brew Day, but it will not hurt to leave the fermenter alone for another week, or even two. If you see any signs of fermentation (usually bubbles rising to the top of the wort, or movement of the airlock), then you are not yet finished fermenting.


Bottling, Carbonating and Conditioning

Before bottling your beer, it is often beneficial to “cold-crash” it. This helps with your beer’s clarity and also helps to pack the sediment down tightly, keeping it out of your bottles. To do this, simply put your beer into the refrigerator for a time; 2 to 3 days is adequate, but a week would be even better, in my experience. Even if it is just over-night, it helps. If your beer will not fit into the refrigerator with the airlock on, you have two options: you can cover the fermenter with sanitized aluminum foil, or you can put on a 38mm screw cap, if you have one.

Chances are that you will only need 9 bottles for bottling, but have 10 ready, just in case. As with your brewing equipment,the bottles should be washed with OxyClean Free or some similar product, rinsed twice in hot water, and sanitized. No soap, no bleach. On the same vein, have 10 bottle caps sitting in a bowl of sanitizer, ready to go.

When transferring your beer to the table or countertop for bottling, be as careful as you can to avoid jarring it, so as not to disturb the sediment. If the beer has been cold-crashing in the refrigerator, it is not necessary to wait until it comes to room temperature; you can proceed with bottling as soon as you are ready.

In order to “prime” your beer for carbonation, Brooklyn Brew Shop has you use honey, maple syrup, agave nectar or other similar sugars. Their instructions recommend 3 tablespoons per gallon of beer, but I have found that 3 tends to be too much, and will most likely lead to over-carbonation. In my experience, 1.5 to 2 tablespoons works best, depending on the style of beer. If using carbonation tablets instead of priming sugar, follow the directions on the package.

I usually heat 1/4- to 1/2-cup of water in the microwave enough to get it quite warm but not really hot, then stir in my priming sugar to dissolve. I use the same spring water that I brewed the beer with. Once the priming sugar is dissolved, I pour it into the bottom of the “bottling bucket” (which is usually the pot that you boiled the wort in on Brew Day), then begin siphoning the wort into it.

The Mini Auto Siphon is your friend...use it! A demonstration video is on Brooklyn Brew Shop’s website.

When siphoning the beer from the fermenter to the bottling bucket, be sure to keep the racking cane as far as possible from the sediment (called trub). As the level drops down toward the bottom, you can gently tilt the fermenter, in order to get as much beer as possible into the bottling bucket. Chances are that you will always get at least a little bit of the trub into the bottling bucket, but this is okay. It will settle out during carbonation and conditioning.

Once all of the beer has been siphoned to the bottling bucket, give it a gentle stir or two in order to ensure that the priming sugar is distributed throughout the beer. You want to be very gentle, so as not to introduce oxygen into the beer; oxygenated beer tastes lousy.

Some people fill all of the bottles, then cap all of the bottles. I fill a bottle, then cap it, then go on to the next bottle, and so on.

I have a funnel on hand. As I bottle the beer, I fill the first bottle half-full with sanitizer, then shake it for a few seconds, then pour the sanitizer through the funnel into the next bottle before filling it with beer. I proceed this way as I fill the bottles until I am done.

It is helpful to have good light when bottling, so that you can watch and be ready as the level of the beer approaches the top of the bottle.

A spring-tipped bottling wand will be your friend and is good minimizing splashes and spills, but it is not absolutely necessary. In either case, you should fill the bottle with the tubing (or the bottling wand) all the way down at the bottom, in order to minimize splashing. When the level of the beer in the bottle reaches the top of the bottle, stop the flow (either by clamping or releasing the spring tip of the bottling wand) and pull the tubing out of the bottle. As the tubing leaves the bottle, the level of the beer will drop to exactly the right amount before capping the bottle.

After all bottles have been filled and capped, I rinse them in warm water, then put them in the closet in order to carbonate and “condition” at 68 to 70 degrees. The beer should be finished carbonating within 2 weeks, but once again, I give it 3 weeks, just because it never hurts and can help.

Once your beer is carbonated, it should be refrigerated at least overnight before sampling. A week will be even better.

In general, beer improves with age, up to a point, of course; the flavor will develop, the flavors from any fruit, nuts or other special ingredients will come out, and most off-flavors (if any) will back off. In general, wheat beers are best enjoyed young, while stouts, porters, dubbels and other “heavy” beers will benefit from a month or three of maturing.


Final Thoughts

Not everything will go perfectly every time, but unless you really screw up, you will always a) get good, drinkable beer, and b) learn from the process, in order to improve next time. Even if your beer is not to your preference or as you expected it to be, do not give up on it or dump it down the sink. Many times, a couple of extra weeks in the refrigerator will do wonders.

As you gain experience, you will want to experiment a bit; Brooklyn Brew Shop’s pre-packaged mixes are excellent for this. You can get a variety that you have brewed before and “tweak” it by adding, omitting or substituting ingredients that are added during or after the boil; for instance, you can add an orange peel to their Summer Wheat beer, or flaked coconut to their Oatmeal Stout. The possibilities are endless. You can also try different types of yeasts or hops that might be more appropriate for the style of beer; Bavarian yeasts and noble hops will really bring out the character of a wheat beer, while English yeasts and hops are very good for stouts. Once again, many possibilities. Do not be afraid to try something different!

You will also eventually want to experiment with recipes and will ultimately want to try coming up with your own recipes “from scratch.” Keep it simple, at first, and build on the fundamentals. Start with one type of grain and one type of hop (called a SMaSH for Single Malt and Single Hop), and explore the possibilities. Add an ingredient or two, next time. Learn the basic styles of beer and the characteristics of grains, yeasts and hops. Try a darker or lighter grain, to reach a desired result. Try varying only one ingredient (such as a yeast or hop) to see how it changes the final product. Once again, experimentation leads to success!

Above all, keep this in mind: RDWHAHB - Relax, Don’t Worry - Have A Home Brew!
 
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TasunkaWitko

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No need to apologise, KH - I wrote this for my friend, and then thought that it might be useful for some here, as well as to add to the knowledge base of the forum.
 

Lefou

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I've never tried a pre-packaged kit and probably won't, primarily because there's a well-stocked and reputable brew shop close by. I feel kit costs can be prohibitive, especially if it only yields only about ten 12oz. bottles..

That said, not everyone brews under the same circumstances or with the same goals in mind. A small kit would be an easy way to get going with the basics until you could expand and improve. I make gallon batches of wort stored in old Gallo wine jugs and cap them off in the 'fridge to drink later simply because I like malted grain tea as is, with no alcohol.
In my opinion, when making good beer, making more is always better.
 

violinguy

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I got a BBS kit for Christmas a couple years ago and while it got me into this awesome hobby, I wish I had started with an extract kit from somewhere like NB or the like. All-grain is more difficult and requires equipment and technique that are a little above and beyond a basic extract kit.

I didn't know what extract or all-grain were at the time and I just jumped right in. Then, my brother who is light years ahead of me in home brewing said I must be awfully brave to try all-grain on the first go. What did I know.

Knowing what I know now, I would say, "Thanks for the kit." and then go get some extract recipe kits and do those first.
 

kh54s10

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I got a BBS kit for Christmas a couple years ago and while it got me into this awesome hobby, I wish I had started with an extract kit from somewhere like NB or the like. All-grain is more difficult and requires equipment and technique that are a little above and beyond a basic extract kit.

I didn't know what extract or all-grain were at the time and I just jumped right in. Then, my brother who is light years ahead of me in home brewing said I must be awfully brave to try all-grain on the first go. x What did I know.

Knowing what I know now, I would say, "Thanks for the kit." and then go get some extract recipe kits and do those first.

It mostly depends on what you learn just before you brew and shortly thereafter. You can start off with all grain and continue... If you find the right information. If not the usual progression is extract, maybe partial mash then all grain. That is the progression that I went by, 4-4 then 90 brews.
 
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TasunkaWitko

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It mostly depends on what you learn just before you brew and shortly thereafter. You can start off with all grain and continue... If you find the right information....

I agree with this, very much. I started with all-grain, and haven't looked back. In fact, my dad gave me a 5-gallon extract kit (Brewers Best American Light), and I haven't even brewed it yet, although I should be able to soon, now that I have enough bottles rolling around.

Anyway, the saying is true: if you can make oatmeal, you can make beer. It can definitely be more complicated than that, if you want it to be...and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that; but it doesn't have to be.
 

violinguy

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It mostly depends on what you learn just before you brew and shortly thereafter. You can start off with all grain and continue... If you find the right information. If not the usual progression is extract, maybe partial mash then all grain. That is the progression that I went by, 4-4 then 90 brews.

I dove in without checking the water first ;) but now that I've read some, and brewed even more, I'm comfortable with either way to brew. I'm beginning to put together a few recipes of my own which I'll start as extract, but as I get better and learn more, I'll surely do both.
 
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TasunkaWitko

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I dove in without checking the water first ;) but now that I've read some, and brewed even more, I'm comfortable with either way to brew. I'm beginning to put together a few recipes of my own which I'll start as extract, but as I get better and learn more, I'll surely do both.

With your above post in mind, I strongly recommend this book:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1605291331/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20

I picked it up a while ago, and really enjoyed reading it. It is geared specifically for small-batch brewing, but the concepts, information and methods presented in it can apply to any brewing, really.

What I really like is how it introduces you to all of the common beer styles (pale ale, wheat beer, saison, Scottish ale, abbey ale, barleywine, brown ale, stout, porter, pilsner - not necessarily in that order) with good descriptions and interesting backstories to each style. The best part is that each style description also includes a basic, no-frills recipe for a brewer to try; stripped down from any superfluous fluff, so that one could learn the fundamentals and become a well-rounded brewer. There were also suggestions for experimentations, as well; within each style, the book described a few variations, such as hefewezien, IPAs, biere de garde. kolsch, old ales and so forth. This, to me, is a stroke of genius.

There also seems to be a lot of practical information in the book as well - fundamentals that a person can inadvertently miss out on, such as adding ingredients, grain, hop and yeast profiles, troubleshooting, equipment etc. I also like the old-school approach to label design, but that's just who I am....

I've got a couple more pre-packaged mixes from Brooklyn Brew Shop that I need to brew (Chocolate Maple Porter and Peanut Butter Porter); I also have ordered the ingredients for a couple of specific recipes, as well (a Blue Moon clone and Kentucky Common Ale). After I finish those, I think I will get started on brewing my way through each style as presented in this book, so as to give them all a try.
 
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violinguy

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I appreciate it!

I've read THIS twice and I'm reading it third time right now. Great book for the money. Tons of knowledge and information.
 
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V-Fib

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A lovely Brooklyn Brew Shop All Day IPA kit that was on clearance for $15 was what opened the door for me in to this lovely hobby. My wife calls it her worst purchase ever.
 
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TasunkaWitko

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It was Grapefruit Honey Ale for me - my wife got it for me for my birthday, and now she feels the same as your wife.... ;)
 

TonyKZ1

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My door opener was a Amber Ale 1G AG kit my youngest daughter bought for me from a local to her brew shop, it's similar to the BBS kits but just not as much variety. My wife doesn't mind me brewing and sometimes actually likes what I've brewed, her favorite is a Irish Stout at the moment.
 

Lefou

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My wife got me the Mr. Beer two gallon kit with American lager. It was the one and only kit ever purchased.
I thought they were too expensive and she thought, correctly BTW, that she'd inadvertently started a lifetime obsession with a well-intentioned gift.

I scrapped most of the Mr. Beer kit, bought my own carboy and bottles, and ditched the pre-packaged yeast. Bought S-05 and a bit of wheat LME and added steeping grains with honey. That was my first attempt at beer and it was fairly good. Needless to say that first 3 gallons didn't last long.
 
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