Making kit beers

The instructions given with the beer are loosely followed with a few variations. One is I add more sugar the other is I transfer the brew to a clean fermentor after around a week.Geordie This is done in the main to reduce the sediment found in the bottles but was first adopted after reading John Palmer’s on line instructions. It does mean careful timing as only have two fermentors so a delay in bottling with one brew also means a delay in transfer of the next brew. There is as a result always at least a week between starting brews even if the fermentor is free before that time. I now buy my kits from Morrisons and the price varies from around £7 to £10 with the Geordie and Brewmaker range among the cheaper options. My local brew shop however has a different range so with them it was the Young’s range I was using. Odd one out was Coopers Ginger Beer the only one to cause any problems. Three cans were tried every one failed to start, and extra yeast had to be added. So good kits it would seem come from between 52 degrees 10 minutes and 52 degrees 25 minutes latitude in the UK. In spite of names like Geordie, Scottish Heavy and Yorkshire bitter they all come from the same place.   

"A head of foamy krausen will form on top of the beer. The foam consists of yeast and wort proteins and is a light creamy color, with islands of green-brown gunk that collect and tend to adhere to the sides of the fermentor. The gunk is composed of extraneous wort protein, hop resins, and dead yeast. These compounds are very bitter and if stirred back into the wort, would result in harsh aftertastes. Fortunately these compounds are relatively insoluble and are typically removed by adhering to the sides of the fermentor as the krausen subsides. Harsh aftertastes are rarely, if ever, a problem.

As the primary phase winds down, a majority of the yeast start settling out and the krausen starts to subside. If you are going to transfer the beer off of the trub and primary yeast cake, this is the proper time to do so. Take care to avoid aerating the beer during the transfer. At this point in the fermentation process, any exposure to oxygen will only contribute to staling reactions in the beer, or worse, expose it to contamination." This is taken from How to Brew by John Palmer Fermenting it continues to explain how yeast works, but for this all that is needed is to say because of reading his on line book, I swap the fermentor, both to improve taste and to remove sediment so once bottled less sediment ends up in the bottle.

The Wort or concentrate.

One empties the contents of the can into the plastic container, and adds of sugar mixes up then checks temperature, and if interested as to alcohol level measure the specific gravity then add the yeast. Temperature is likely the biggest problem. Too high and off flavours and in the extreme kill the yeast and too low and the yeast stops working. For kits 16ºC seems to be lower limit at which point very little happens. 24ºC is normally considered as upper limit yet the hydrometer needs 28ºC to get accurate reading and it would seem it can stray that high without killing the yeast. Varying the wort, water, and sugar ratios will clearly alter the alcohol by volume (ABV) of final brew but it is rather an approximate value as we can only guess how much of the wort will turn to alcohol and of course it will also effect the taste. The manufacturers do suggest altering water added to adjust alcohol level and will also give between 1kg and 1.5kg of sugar to be added. Adding different sugar will clearly also change the taste so one has to adjust to taste. Normally I used 25 litres with 2kg of sugar start s.g. 1.046 meaning AVB around 5.5%. As a result normally a little longer in fermentor and also needs to mature longer. I use sugar plus concentrate divided by 2.5 all divided by 20 all divided by water used in grams and litres to give approx ABV. 

Brew s.g. and ABV compared with sugar added
Specific Gravity Protential % vol alcohol Grams sugar / 22 liter with 1.5kg concentrate.
1.012 1.35 Zero
1.015 1.6 105
1.020 2.3 415
1.025 3 750
1.030 3.7 1030
1.035 4.4 1340
1.040 5.1 1645
1.045 5.8 1950
1.050 6.5 2260

Interestingly the instructions and the can label fail to give approximate ABV level. The hydrometer does show an alcohol level, but again to get accurate readings it needs both before, and after readings and even then there are problems before in ensuring fully mixed and correct temperature before taking reading and after as it may continue to ferment after bottling.

Fermentation

The yeast is either sprinkled direct on the brew or pre-mixed and as said I transfer part way through to remove excess sediment. I use the air lock as primary indication as to when ready to bottle the hydrometer is only to check this is correct.

Bottling

Put ½ a level teaspoon of sugar per pint into each bottle. Without disturbing sediment, siphon off beer into bottles, leaving 1½” of space at the neck. Screw or press caps on tightly and shake to dissolve sugar. Remember non-returnable bottles are not suitable. If using a five gallon pressure barrel, put 2½ oz of sugar for a 40 pint kit, dissolved in about a pint of your beer, then siphon in the remainder (for 30 pint kits only use 2 oz of sugar).

Maturing

Store at room temperature for four days, then put in a cool place for at least 10 days, to mature and clear (3-4 weeks for barrels). The beer will continue to improve for some time after this vital 10 days, so further patience will be rewarded. As a result I hold a large stock so likely one to three months before being drunk. Inspecting is always worth while. Either too much pressure, always have one in batch in plastic pop bottle, so I can test without opening, and also where corks are used these do something pop out.

Records

Unless one keeps some records with brews often 3 months old before drinking one will have no idea what went wrong. I take photos of the hydrometer reading this helps with dates as well from meta data. I keep a list of brew start, transfer and bottling date with s.g. ABV or sugar used. I also print labels always black and white as use laser printer so ink will not run stick them on bottle with Sellotape. Some bitters it has been found take the full 3 months before they taste good. Because shed is not heated beers in the winter take longer to mature than in the summer. But reverse is true with house as central heating maintains house at around 18ºC in winter but in summer may fluctuate between 14ºC and 26ºC. At 14ºC the fermenting stalls.

Serving

The secondary fermentation in the bottle causes a small deposit to form, so remove the caps quickly and smoothly, then pour carefully into a large jug, leaving the sediment undisturbed in the bottle. In hot weather this is more easily accomplished if you've chilled your beer for up to two hours before serving. Well that’s what the instructions say. If bottled a little early removing the cap you may either find it troths up or worst stays dormant until you try to lift the bottle and then troths up the natural reaction is finger over the neck which normally means spraying beer everywhere. Plastic bottles allow one to feel how turgid the bottle is first if it feels very hard release pressure and leave until next day. As soon as pressure is released any sediment seems to immediately mix. With 2 litre pop bottles often have two on the go as first pint OK but second will have sediment so once opened leave until next day before pouring next.