Kit Brewing Instructions
Brewing beer from a beer kit is easy and fun, and will yield excellent results. All you need to do is to follow these instructions.
The short version
- Clean and sanitize all your equipment using the powders provided with the starter brewery kit.
- Add about 4 liters of hot water to the fermenter. Add the liquid brewing concentrate syrup from the tin to it, as well as the brew blend and/or brewing sugar(s) and stir to dissolve.
- Fill up the fermenter with cold water to a total volume of 23 liters. Stir thoroughly.
- Sprinkle the packet of yeast into the fermenter, put the lid on and fit the bubbler airlock.
- Let the fermenter sit undisturbed for a few days while the yeast takes care of the fermentation. Try to keep the temperature in the low twenties (Celcius). Fermentation will typically take about 5-7 days in summer and 7-10 days in winter. If your beer kit comes with finishing hops, add these to the fermenter after the third day of fermentation. The airlock will stop bubbling after a few days, but fermentation will continue. If you have a hydrometer, take a gravity reading. When the gravity of the beer is constant for at least 2 days, fermentation is complete.
- If desired, add beer finings (to clear your beer) and let stand for 48 hours.
- Bottle your beer into clean and sterilized bottles. Add carbonation drops to each bottle (one for a dumpie, two for a quart) and cap the bottle with a sterilized crown seal.
- Allow four weeks of bottle conditioning at room temperature for the beer to mature and the carbonation in the beer to develop.
- Chill, then pour, leaving the yeast deposit behind in the bottle.
- Drink, and brag to friends as desired. Cheers!
Your beer will continue to mature for months in the bottle. Try to save a few bottles for half a year or longer. You will be surprised how much it will improve over time.
The excruciatingly detailed version
1. Clean and sanitize your brewing equipment
Since beer is a food product, cleanliness is crucial to a good result. Dirt particles can contain bacteria, wild yeasts or other foreign substances, all of which could lead to off-flavours and other problems. Unfermented beer (which is called "wort") is a concentrated sugar solution, in which bacteria can grow quickly, causing beer spoilage.
First, make sure that the fermenter's tap is closed, pour about 5 litres of cold or luke-warm water into your fermenter, and add half the packet of Brewer's Detergent. Close the packet and store it; the other half of the detergent will be used for bottling your beer after fermentation. Use your brewer's paddle to dissolve the detergent, which will also clean your paddle. Clean the handle of the paddle using your hands or a sponge. If you use a sponge (which will be helpful in removing dust etc. from the inside of the fermenter if it is particularly dirty) make sure that you do not use your normal dishwashing sponge, as this can contain traces of oil or fat, bacteria and other undesirables. Rather use a new sponge and exclusively dedicate this to cleaning your brewing equipment from now on. Note: if your sponge has a scrubbing pad on one side, avoid using that side, as it can create small scratches on the inside of your fermenter in which bacteria can collect and grow more easily. Rather only use the soft side of the sponge.
Once you have cleaned your paddle, take it out of the fermenter and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, close your fermenter, put your thumb over the hole in the lid (where the airlock bubbler will go) and give the fermenter a good shake to coat the inside with detergent. Put the fermenter back upright, run some of the detergent solution out of the tap (to clean the inside of the tap) and let stand for 10 minutes. Give it another shake, run some more of the detergent solution out of the tap, then open the fermenter, pour out the detergent solutions, and rinse the fermenter and paddle with luke-warm or warm water to remove any residue detergent.
Fill your fermenter with about 5 litres of luke-warm water, and dissolve half the packet of No-Rinse sterilizer powder in it, once again using the paddle. Wet the handle of the paddle with the sterilizer solution and put it aside so that the coating of sterilizer solution can work on the surface and handle of the paddle. Meanwhile, close the fermenter, shake it to coat the inside with sterilizer solution, and run some sterilizer solution out of the tap. Let stand for about 10 minutes so that the sterilizer can work on the inner surface of the fermenter and tap. Open the fermenter and stir again using your paddle (to give it a second coating of sterilizer) and put the paddle aside again.
Take your airlock bubbler and run some sterilizer solution into it from the fermenter's tap, until it is about half full. Put the bubbler aside, keeping it upright so that the sterilizer solution doesn't run out. (This step isn't crucial. Filling the airlock bubbler with sterilizer solution instead of water is an added safety measure, in case some of the bubbler's contents accidentally end up in the beer.)
Pour the sterilizer solution out of the fermenter, but do not rinse this time.
Your equipment is now ready for brewing.
2. Mix the ingredients
Remove the plastic cap and label from the beer kit (i.e. the tin of concentrated brewer's wort). Remove the packet of beer yeast from the top of the tin (it may be glued onto the tin) and set aside. Put the tin into a pot of warm water for about 10 minutes and let it stand. This will make the contents easier to pour out. (A good time to do this is while you are cleaning and sterilizing!)
Add 3 litres of hot (but not boiling) water to the fermenter. Open the tin and pour the syrup into the fermenter. Rinse with some hot water (70°C or more) to get the last of the syrup out of the tin.
Open the bag of brew blend. Note: the powder tends to go everywhere, and can become sticky quite quickly. Remove the silvered foil packet of hops and put it aside. (You will need this three days from now.) Add the contents of the bag of brew blend to the fermenter. Stir thoroughly to dissolve both the syrup and powder, using your sterilized brewer's paddle. It is normal for the powder to form a few lumps; this is no problem as the lumps will disappear during fermentation.
Add 18 litres of cold water to your fermenter. Along with the three litres of water, syrup and brew blend already added, this will bring the contents of the fermenter up to 23 litres. Ideally the water should be "splashed in" (i.e. poured in from some height) in order to aerate it, which will give the yeast some oxygen to work with. Stir thoroughly. Your wort (the mixture of water and fermentable sugars before fermentation) is now ready.
3. Take a gravity reading
Alcohol is produced during fermentation, when the yeast converts sugar into alcohol, carbon dioxide gas and flavour compounds. In other words, the alcohol percentage of the finalized beer is determined by the amount of sugar that is converted by the yeast. In order to know what the final alcohol percentage will be, we need to know the amount of sugar in the beer before and after fermentation, and calculate the alcohol percentage from that. The first step in this process is to take an "original gravity" (OG) reading, by using a hydrometer to measure the density of the wort.
Run a small sample of wort into your hydrometer trial tube until it is about 1/3 full. Discard this sample, as it will contain an excess amount of syrup and sugars that ended up in the tap and did not properly dissolve, which would result in an erroneous gravity reading.
Fill the trial tube again, this time filling it for about 80-90%. Gently lower the hydrometer into the trial tube until it floats. Note where the surface of the liquid intersects with the scale on the stem of the hydrometer (for a plain kit beer this will typically be around 1.038 or so). Check the temperature of the wort from the stick-on thermometer on the fermenter. If the temperature is above 20°C, add one gravity point (0.001) for every 3°C over 20°C, if the temperature is below 20°C, subtract one gravity point for every 3°C under 20°C. E.g. if the gravity reading is 1.036 and the temperature is 26°C, add 2 gravity points, i.e. 0.002, so your corrected gravity reading will be 1.038. If the temperature is 17°C, your corrected gravity reading would be 1.035.
Write down the original gravity reading and save it.
4. Add yeast and let the beer ferment
Open the packet of dried brewer's yeast and sprinkle the contents into the fermenter (This is known as "pitching the yeast".) Close the fermenter firmly in order to obtain an airtight seal. Insert the airlock bubbler firmly into the rubber grommet in the lid of the fermenter. The airlock should still be filled with sterilizer solution. If it isn't, put some in.
Let the fermenter sit at room temperature. The yeast will work across a temperature range between about 18°C and 28°C, however these are the yeast's outer limits. A temperature in the low twenties (ideally around 22°C) is ideal. Try to avoid temperature fluctuations. If the temperature drops below 18°C or so, the yeast will go dormant, sink to the bottom of the fermenter, and struggle to get going again once the temperature of the wort is brought back up. This may result in incomplete fermentation and off-flavours. If the temperature exceeds 28°C, off-flavours may also be produced. If this should happen, don't panic. Usually a few weeks of extra maturation in the bottle will rid your beer of most or all of these.
A good way to control the temperature in cases where the room temperature fluctuates too widely, is to wrap a cover around the fermenter during the night (in winter, to help it keep it warm) or during the day (in summer, to help it keep it cool). During cold winter nights a heating pad will help.
It will typically take 3-4 hours for the first bubbles of carbon dioxide gas to escape from the airlock. By the next morning, fermentation should be well underway. During summer it may take as little as 5 days for the initial fermentation to complete, while during winter it typically takes a few days longer. However, when the bubbling stops, fermentation is not necessarily complete. The speed of fermentation will taper off and eventually proceed too slowly to produce more bubbles through the airlock.
After three days of fermentation, open the bag of hops. The contents may be either pellets or powder, depending on the type of beer you are brewing. Carefully open the fermenter and add the hops to the beer. Stirring is not necessary. Close the fermenter and let the fermentation continue.
5. Take final a gravity reading
About three days after the airlock has stopped bubbling, it is time to take a final gravity reading. Run a sample of the beer into your hydrometer trial tube. Make sure to run it out slowly, to avoid drawing the contents of the airlock bubbler into the fermenter. You will note that this second gravity reading will be much lower than the original gravity reading, typically around 1.010 or less, depending on the style of your beer. Don't forget to correct for temperatures below or over 20°C!
Write down this Final Gravity (FG) reading. Wait 24 hours, then take another reading. If the second FG reading is identical to the first, that means no more sugar is being converted, i.e. fermentation has ceased.
The basic formula to calculate the beer's alcohol percentage by volume (ABV) is:
For example, if your Origial Gravity (OG) reading, corrected for temperature, is 1.038, and your Final Gravity (FG) reading is 1.008, the alcohol percentage of your beer will be:
( 1.05 x ( 1.038 – 1.008 ) / 1.008 ) / 0.79 x 100 = 4%
A much simpler, but slightly less accurate, formula, is:
Some hydrometers come with a table that give you a approximate ABV percentage based on the OG and FG readings. While these tables can give you a rough indication of your alcohol percentage, they are often quite inaccurate.
When fermentation is complete and you have taken your final gravity readings to ensure that the gravity of your beer no longer changes, carefully open the fermenter and sprinkle in the packet of beer finings. Close the fermenter again and let it sit for another two days, during which the beer finings will act as a flocculant and help settle the yeast and other solids into a layer of sedimentation that will be deposited onto the bottom of the fermenter. Some additional bubbling may occur during this stage, but this can be ignored. The beer finings will continue to work in the bottle, so don't worry if your beer is cloudy during bottling; after a few weeks of maturation your beer will be clear. If you are brewing a wheat beer which is supposed to be naturally cloudy, you may skip the beer finings.
Two days after adding the beer finings you are ready to bottle. Fill a container with 5 liters of cold or warm water, add the second half of the packet of Brewer's Detergent, and stir to dissolve. Wash your bottles inside and out, using the bottle brush. Rinse the bottles with hot water to remove any residual detergent.
Empty and rinse the container, refill it with 5 liters of luke-warm water, and add the second half of the packet of No-Rinse Sterilizer. Stir to dissolve. Submerge each bottle and each crown seal in the sterilizer solution, letting some of the solution run into the bottle. Put the crown seal on the bottle and hold it down. Shake the bottle to coat the entire inner surface of the bottle with sterilizer, then remove the crown seal, empty the bottle into the container, replace the seal, and put the covered bottle aside. Repeat this for each bottle.
Take the filler tube and soak it in the sterilizer solution for about 10 minutes, then pour out the residual liquid from the tube.
Place the fermenter at the edge of a table, kitchen counter or similar surface, so that the fermenter's tap can be turned downward. Insert the filler tube, touching the lower portion as little as possible. (This is the part that will be inserted into the bottle.) Open the fermenter tap. The valve at the bottom of the filler tube will prevent the beer from running out.
You are now ready to fill your bottles.
Open the packet of carbonation drops and place it nearby.
Take a bottle, remove the crown seal, pour out any residual sterilizer solution, and drop one carbonation drop (for a dumpie) or two carbonation drops (for a quart) into the bottle. Put the end of the filler tube into the bottle and lift the bottle until the bottom of the bottle opens the filler tube's valve. The bottle will fill up slowly from the bottom. When the bottle is full, lower it so that the valve at the bottom of the filler tube closes again. Remove the bottle, place the cap on top of it, and put aside. Repeat.
Once you have filled several bottles (or all of them, depending on your preference) it is time to cap the bottles. Take the capper tool and open it. Carefully place the capper tool on top of the bottle, so that the bell is positioned on top of the crown seal. The magnet inside the bell will attract the crown seal which reduces the chances of the crown seal falling off the bottle. Alternatively, you can stick the crown seal onto the magnet and use the capper tool to place the crown seal on top of the bottle. Use the handles of the capper tool to close the collar around the neck of the bottle. Holding down the capper tool firmly, press down the levers until the bell slides down over the crown seal, pushing it closed.
Label or mark your bottles, noting the date on which they were filled.
7. Let the beer mature
Store your bottles upright at room temperature, preferably in a dark place. Ideally the beer should be allowed to mature for at least four weeks. However, after two weeks you will very likely have your first tasting, because your patience will have run out by then.":-) The beer you will taste after two weeks is still a very "green" beer: it will not be properly fizzy, will not have a proper head yet, and still taste very much of sugar and unfermented wort. However, this is no reason for concern. After another two weeks (i.e. four weeks in total) the beer is ready to drink. If stored in a dark, cool cupboard it will have a shelf life of at least a year.
When pouring the beer into the glass, make sure that the yeast deposit that has settled to the bottom of the bottle stays behind. A yeast deposit is normal for a bottle-conditioned beer. The trick is not to tilt the bottle back while pouring. If you need to pour more than one glass, tilt the bottle back just enough to stop the beer running out and, keeping the bottle horizontal, take the second glass and continue to pour. When the yeast reaches the neck of the bottle, tilt the bottle back to vertical before the yeast runs into the glass. Cheers!