Today we are going to dive into a fun topic when it comes to making beer. And that is what are the best home brew kits on the market and do they really improve the quality of the homebrew you brew?
Oh ho ho’ homebrew! Say that word to a group of people and get ready for some mixed reactions.
Some will love it and others will turn their nose up at the thought of having to drink one.
It is always funny to me how dramatically different the opinions and reactions towards home-brew vary from person to person. And the reason for this obviously depends on their experience with it.
I was having a few pours just the other day with a few guys and the topic of home brewed beers came up and one guy immediately talked about how much he loved them and the other well you could tell he was not quite as enthusiastic as the first to say the least.
Why is that?
Well quite simply it is obvious to me that the first guy had some from a brewer who made a good beer; and the 2nd guy well he probably had the pleasure of drinking some crappy brewski’s from someone who just slapped some together real quick, and did not pay much attention to what he was doing and as a result ended up with a not so great beer.
Because let’s be honest… there is some nasty home-brews out there.
What Makes Some Homebrew Better Than Others?
So what makes one batch of suds turn out so much better than another?
Well there could be a whole host of reasons why someone’s batch turned out bad…
- Was it brewed from a good kit?
- did the brewer follow all of the steps he should have?
- was the equipment sanitized?
- and was the beer allowed to condition?
These are just some of the factors that play a part in making a home-brewed beer taste good. And in this post we will look at all of these and more..
If you implement what you learn today you can have confidence that your beer will be one that people will enjoy.
Some of the things we will cover today are:
- The ingredients aka Beer Kits you use play a major factor in the end result. We will look at my 2 favorite companies.
- The equipment you need to brew. Without the right set up you are doomed from the get go.
- We will discuss cleaning and sanitizing of your equipment (Major factor)
- The steps to take to brew a beer the right way.
- And how to go the extra mile. Anyone can make a beer, but making a good beer takes a little bit extra. Just adding water to the kit and hoping for the best is not going to get you to where you want to be. Taking a few extra steps and even adding a few more ingredients to the kit will improve your beer significantly.
The Top 2 Beer Kits
The first thing we are going to look at is the beer kit you use. Not all homebrew kits are created equal, not even close.
I hate to say it, but the fact is some of the companies who manufature them put out a crappy product.
And the beer suffers as a result… nothing worse than following all of the steps perfectly only to have the brew taste terrible. And in my opinion if you followed all of the steps we will discuss in this post then the problem was not you but rather the kit you used.
Now on the other hand some companies put out a really good product and if you make it properly using the steps I outline you are going end up with a beverage you can proudly share with friends and family and of course enjoy yourself.
There are two kits I have used that I have consistently had good results with.
Coopers DIY Beer kits have been around since the 1970’s and they have significantly improved over the years and really are the trail blazers of the home brew industry. They are the number one selling brand worldwide and the reason is obvious… they make a good tasting homebrew.
Mr. Beer was actually purchased by Coopers a number of years back and I believe the quality of their homebrew has gone up as a result. I find the taste of their kits to be just as good as the Coopers DIY.
So which one do you choose?
Easy… it depends on what size you want to brew?
Coopers kits produce 5 – 6 gallon batches whereas Mr. Beer kits produce 2 – 3 gallon batches.
So it really does come down to how many beverages you want to have on hand.
As for flavors or style of beer… both of them have a very large selection; pretty much any style you could ask for they have.
The Equipment You Need to Brew Beer from a Kit
One of the very cool things about making beer this way is that it is simple and easy and the equipment you need is not only minimal but extremely affordable.
At this level all you require is:
- A Fermenter (plastic)
- Bottles or Kegs (Link to kegging)
- Bottle caps
- Plastic spoon
- Bottling wand
That my friend is it. Very very simple and affordable set up.
Besides just the quality and taste; another reason I say that Coopers and Mr. Beer are the best home bew kits on the market on is they have both created a starter kit for beginners.
A kit that comes with EVERYTHING you need to get started making your first batch.
All of the Equipment I just covered, plus the recipe and ingredients all packaged up in a nice neat box waiting for you to tear it open and brew yourself some brews.
And I can confirm from personal use that their equipment is top quality, really good stuff.
To this day even when I brew an all grain beer instead of malt extract I still use a lot of the equipment I purchased from coopers and mr beer starter kits.
Cleaning & Sanitizing Your Beer Equipment
DON’T skip over this section.
If there is one main reason outside of using a product from a company I have not recommended that you end up with a bad batch it is because you did not clean and sanitize your equipment correctly.
Bacteria is not a friend of making good brew. It can hide in the nooks and crannies of your equipment if you are not careful. This will result in an infected batch. Not Good!
If it gets infected it will produce off flavors that will simply make the brew undrinkable. You will end up having to flush it all down the drain. There is nothing worse than having to flush 5 – 6 gallons of that beautiful nectar from the gods. I’ve only had to do it a couple of times in my life and I remember them each perfectly, a very traumatizing moment in the life of a brewer.
Bottom line… clean your equipment well after and before each brew day.
And once you are done cleaning you will want to sanitize all of your equipment very well. You will also want to sanitize your brew area each and every time you are brewing. Same goes for bottling day. Sanitize everything.
The only sanitizer to even think about using is StarSan. This stuff is a brewers dream come true.
To learn more about those cleaners and StarSan and the step by step process to Clean and Sanitize your equipment so you never lose a batch; you can Click Here to check out a post I did.
How to Brew the Beer
Although I am very much into all grain brewing these days, the appeal and big advantage of using a malt extract kit is how quick and easy it is.
Whereas an all grain brew day will take anywhere from 6 – 8 hour; you can be done brewing with a kit in as little as 30 minutes.
And if you follow my instructions the homebrew will turn out tasting good.
There are instructions on the Coopers or Mr. Beer can you purchase, but here is how a typical brewing session will go for you.
1) Clean and Sanitize everything
2) Add 3 liters of hot water into your fermenter
3) Add the contents from the can into your fermenter
4) Stir the ingredients and water until the malt extract is dissolved
5) Now add cold water to the fermenter. Add enough to bring the level of the fermenter up to the 18 liter mark.
6) Now check the temperature of the liquid (now called wort). We want to get it around 21 C or 71 F. This does not have to be exact. A few degrees either way is fine. But depending on the temperature of the liquid at this point will determine whether you need to add hot water or cold water to bring the level up to the 23 – 24 liter mark.
7) Once you have added either cold or hot water and brought the wort level up to the 23 – 24 liter mark, it is now time to pitch the yeast.
8) Sprinkle the yeast across the top of the liquid.
9) Now with your sterilized spoon, stir the liquid.
10) Put the cover on the fermenter and put the fermenter in a room in your home. Keep the temperature of the room between 60 – 70 F.
11) Let it ferment for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks fermentation will be over and you will have allowed it to condition (age) a bit.
12)Bottle it up. Bottling is easy if you use the Coopers or Mr Beer starter kit as they come with Carbonation Drops which make bottling a breeze. You put one carbonation drop in each bottle, fill the bottle with the wort up to the bottom of the neck and put the cover on. That is it. Put the bottles away for 2 weeks to carbonate.
Although kegging is a bit advanced, it is not difficult and can be easily done. If you want to learn about Kegging check out this post.
13) Drink and enjoy!
Ways to Make the Beer Better
Now what I just told you is the basics. And if you used coopers or mr beer and you followed all of those steps then you will have made an enjoyable beverage.
Having said that there are a few extra things you can do that will make the beer taste even better.
These slight tweeks are easy to do and will make the homebrew taste even better.
The following are 4 slight tweeks I would recommend you do:
Tweek #1: The 1st thing I would recommend is adding Coopers Brew Enhancer to your fermenter at the same time as you add the contents of the can. The enhancer adds body, mouth feel and head retention to the beer.
It just gives the beer just a little extra fullness. They have two options when it comes to the enhancer you can get:
Brew Enhancer 1 which is for lighter beers such as lagers, pilsners and their draught
Brew Enhancer 2 is for maltier beers like reds, ambers, ESB’s etc.
When I make a homebrew from a kit I always use one of these to make it better.
Tweek #2: The 2nd thing I would recommend is that you do not use the yeast that comes with the kit. Instead, pick up some quality dry yeast.
For European style homebrew I recommend either Nottingham or SafAle S-04
For American style homebrew I recommend SafAle S-05
Those 3 are my favorite yeasts and pretty much all I use. I used them in my microbrewery brew pub I owned and I use them in my homebrewing.
Yeast plays a major factor in the taste of your beer. Either of these 3 yeasts will improve your beer significantly.
Tweek #3: The 3rd thing I recommend you do is cold crash your beer when it is done fermenting. Cold crashing is simply a matter of putting the fermenter into a fridge and letting it sit there for 48 hours.
Cold crashing allows the yeast and other sediment suspended in the beer to drop out before you bottle it. This makes for a cleaner looking and tasting beer, not as chewy in my opinion. It’s easy to do, however you do need the refrigeration space to do it. So this may be something you do down the road as you add to your brewery.
Tweek #4: And the 4th tweek you can implement is learning how to condition your beer.
All beers except the super hoppy beers taste better with age. And that is really all conditioning is.
There are two points in the brewing process where you can condition your beer. The first is by letting it sit in the fermenter. Most people when they brew are in a hurry to get the fermentation process over with so they can bottle it up.
This is why I told you to let it ferment for 2 weeks. In reality the fermentation process is pretty much over and done with in 5 – 7 days. You could take hydrometer readings daily and when the brew has reached its final gravity or the gravity stops moving after 2-3 days the fermentation is over.
However by letting it sit in the fermenter for 2 weeks you are also letting it age some. And it will taste better if you do. You could leave it there for up to 4 weeks if you like.
The next point in the process where you can really improve the taste of the homebrew by aging it is after you bottle it. Let that brew sit in those bottles my friend. I know this is a very hard thing to do, but if you let it age in the bottles the taste improves drastically.
Let it age in the bottles for at least 1 month. 4 – 6 months even better! I know I can hear your groans already. But once you get on a regular brewing cycle this becomes easier as you are always making new beer and putting it away to age and after 1 month of this you will always have some ready to consume.
Where to Get the Best Home Brew Kits
Well I hope you enjoyed this post.
If I can help you then by all means reach out to me in the comment section below, I will respond and I am always happy to help out a fellow homebrewer.
If you are ready to start brewing, I would greatly appreciate it if you picked up your kits etc from the places I recommend on this site. At no cost to you they provide me with a referral fee for sending you their way. And I never recommend a product I don’t use myself and love. I appreciate the support.
Thanks again my friend. Happy Brewing.
Big Robb is out!