I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to start brewing my own beer. I want to have a proper go at it when the garden jobs have wound down for the winter but I’m not quite there yet getting the stuff together and having the time to give it the right level of attention. So against my better judgement I thought I’d give one of the cheap kits a try. Now I’ve been warned off them but with a weekend away with some friends from uni looming I thought it was a good opportunity to get some cheap homebrew on the go. Then I can see for myself whether or not these kits are any good.
Rather than waste my money on one of the more expensive kits between £20 and £25 I went for one at £12, an English Bitter kit, made by an Australian company, Coopers, one of their International Series. Uhhm not sure that was a good idea but what’s the worst that can happen? A few hours wasted and £12 down the drain.
First I sterilised the bucket, spatula and hydrometer in baby sterilising fluid. About an hour later I gave it a good rinse out and started the brew. I dissolved the contents of the can and a kilo of sugar in 2 litres of boiling water and then topped up with cold water to the 20 litre mark. Not sure about whether I should have added the sugar as the instructions just say dissolve contents of the can and any additional fermenting sugars. Oh well, I’ll soon find out if that’s right. Then I gave it a mix and checked the temperature which should ideally be between 21 and 27 degrees centigrade. It was 17 so I then topped up to 23 litres with hot water (got to 25 degrees), took the specific gravity reading (which is the original gravity, OG) and bunged the yeast in. The OG was 1030, is that good? I have no idea…….
According to the instructions temperature control through the fermentation process is important so I’m keeping mine between 21 and 27 degrees with an electric heating wrap (when my friend finds his, for the meantime an ordinary blanket will have to do). The bucket is covered with a clean cloth and the lid sat on top, not sealed, to allow the gas to escape but hopefully nothing nasty to get inside. The bucket went into the outhouse with a blanket wrapped round it to try and keep it warm enough for the yeast to do its thing.
Then I’ll leave for 5 days and check the specific gravity readings for a couple of days to see if I have a steady reading which will be the final gravity (FG). Well that’s what the instructions say anyway!
The formula for working out the final alcoholic content of the brew is (OG-FG)/7.46 + 0.5 = % alcohol by volume (ABV). I’d hope to get somewhere around the 4 % mark. Adding 0.5 into the formula is to reflect the addition of priming sugar for secondary fermentation (the bit at the bottling stage). So if I have an FG of say 1006 that means I should have an ABV of 3.7%.
So there it is, one brew on the go in about an hour. It should make around 40 pints, fingers crossed it won’t be 40 pints of cat pee!
This morning I knew virtually nothing about brewing beer, now I know a tiny bit more. The next step will be to get this lot bottled up and see what it’s like in a month or so. Then I want to move away from kits and onto better things when I have a bit more time on my hands. I’ll let you know how I get on!