Summary of my first homebrews

 

My first homebrews are ready, all three of them came out drinkable and the third – I would even say – is a good IPA. If you have read my blog before, you know those are not made fully by me, I used beerkits and only added some ingredients to 2nd and 3rd batch, but I still consider those to be my first homebrews. The reason for using beerkits was the goal of my first homebrews – learn the basics of beermaking, starting from fermentation phase. This goal was fully achieved – none of the batches went bad, all beers came out as was promised on kits instructions and according to ingredients added and most importantly – I feel that I know how to handle fermentation process, how important is cleaning and sanitizing and what effects different techniques have. So I’m ready for my next step – partial or “mini” mashing, but before that I will give a brief overview of how I made my first brews from beerkits.

Muntons Gold India Pale Ale kit

Brewing from this kit was my first step into the homebrewing world and I did it mostly “by the book”, ie as instructions advised (only replaced the yeast, as the one provided together with kits is usually considered low quality) .

Muntons Gold

Muntons Gold IPA beerkit

Ingredients: Muntons Gold India Pale Ale kit (2 cans), Safale US-05 yeast, regular white sugar (bottling)

Schedule: Fermentation time – 13 days (should have been longer); bottles kept at room temperature – 2 to 13 days (tested differences in carbonation, read this post for results)

Notes: bottled directly from fermentation bucket, added sugar to bottles with teaspoon (this was the first thing I changed in my next homebrews, keep reading); didn’t keep a brewing manual (I did write articles about it in my blog, so I can recover most of the process, but a manual would have been better)

Results: My neighbor (not a craft beer fan): “tastes like a homebrew, not bad”, a friend (likes craft beer): “better than a regular beer, but definitely  not an IPA”, me (craft beer drinker): “drinkable, but not enough taste”. In conclusion I can say that it was a great experience and it is not a bad beerkit, just need to add ingredients to get more out of it.

I have written more about this in my previous posts in the category The very first

St. Peters IPA + Muntons enhancer

For next step I should have used the same kit (Muntons IPA), but I took the risk and switched to St. Peters IPA (read some reviews and thought this would be more like what I was looking for). This time I decided to add Muntons beerkit enhancer, a a blend of spray dried dextrose and spray dried malt extract , to improve head formation and head retention, overall flavor and increase the resultant body of the beer – things I missed in my first homebrew.

St Peters IPA

St. Peters IPA beerkit

Ingredients: St. Peters IPA kit (2 cans), Safale US-05 yeast, Muntons beerkit enhancer, unrefined organic sugar (bottling)

Schedule: Fermentation time – 15 days (almost ok); bottles kept at room temperature – 1 week

Notes: bottled using second bucket. Procedure: 1. made syrup (360 ml of water + 92 g of sugar, boiled for 13 minutes, cooled down); 2. poured cooled syrup to 2nd bucket; 3. transferred beer from fermentation bucket to second bucket using silicone hose; 4. bottled the beer

Results:  Good, much more taste, more body, good head, but for me still too little hops. After tasting the second batch, I can recommend for beginners, that you can skip my first step (brewing only using a beerkit) and add either Muntons beerkit enhancer or similar to your first homebrew. The brewing procedure is almost the same (one additional step – mixing the enhacer to the wort before adding cold water), but the result is much better.

Beerkit enhancer

Muntons beerkit enhancer

St. Peters IPA + enhancer + dryhopping

As my second homebrew was only missing some hops flavor, I decided to redo it, but this time together with dry hopping. As dry hopping doesn’t add bitterness to the beer (that was ok in my 1st brew), but only flavor and aroma (flavor was missing a bit), dry hopping was the exact thing I needed to make it better. I didn’t go in detail while choosing the hops  and picked hop pellets labeled as “suitable for dryhopping” from my local brewing supplier.

hop pellets

Hop pellets

Ingredients: St. Peters IPA kit (2 cans), Safale US-05 yeast, Muntons beerkit enhancer, hop pellets: Galaxy, unrefined organic sugar (bottling)

Schedule: Fermentation time – 22 days; dry hopping (pellets added directly to fermentation bucket) – after 16 days (5 days before bottling); bottles kept at room temperature – 6 days

Notes: bottled the same way as 2nd batch (bottling bucket, sugar syrup a bit different: 114 g of sugar, 400 ml of water, boiled for 16 minutes). Amount of hop pellets added – 60 g. I was aware that adding hop pellets directly to fermenter could have some side effects, but I did it anyway and it worked out fine.

Results: Good, now this was what I had in mind when started to make my own beer. Maybe not exactly the greatest IPA I’ve ever tasted, but certainly an IPA I can drink and offer to others without the need to use excuses like “its one of my first tries”, “I’m still learning” etc.

 

Suggestions based on my first homebrews

Before I go and start preparing for mini mashing, here are my suggestions to all who are just starting their 1st homebrews or are wondering if its doable:

  1. It is doable and if you are happy brewing from a beerkit, it is also relatively easy.
  2. Consider skipping my first test (brewing using only standard beerkit) and go directly to adding an enhancer. The result is much better and the procedure is practically the same.
  3. Do not use the yeast provided with the kit and buy better. Safale US-05 is a great yeast for ales and for beginners.
  4. Use a secondary bucket for bottling and add the sugar the way I did in my 2nd and 3rd brew. Much easier, more exact and definitely safer (equal carbonation, cleaner).
  5. You can also use dry hopping in your 1st batch, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you know how your beer tastes without it. It would be hard to add flavor, if you do not know what it misses.
  6. Don’t buy too expensive equipment, but start with simple stuff. The minimum needed: fermentation bucket (or carboy) either with or without tap, but airlock has to be, the rest you can probably find at your house (something for stirring, thermometer, measuring cup(s) etc). Very important is to keep the equipment clean and sanitized, so here I suggest to spend the money and buy a good cleaner and sanitizer, do not use regular stuff here! I’ve written a bit more about equipment here.
  7. Don’t be hasty 🙂 Fermentation time varies, depending on temperature and other factors, trust your eyes and see what the airlock is doing, measure the density. I was too hasty with my 1st and even with my 2nd batch I should have waited a bit more and it took some time for the yeast taste and smell to leave the bottles.
  8. And final suggestion – if you bothered to read my post this far, you obviously are in to homebrewing, so stop reading and JUST START BREWING 🙂

I will now open one bottle of my first homebrews and start learning how to use use this nice thing I just got:

Boiler for brewing