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Hi there, I am new to this forum and have only just scratched the surface.

I brewed kits for decades for consumption rather than perfection. I got a taste for it sure but it was allways just home brew and never came close to anything off the shelf. Friends would drink it as well and after the initial taste shock could slosh back a fair bit. It was allways not bad for a home brew.

I started getting interested again, after 7 or 8 years not brewing, while talking to a nephew who boils in a bag and gets it " just like the real thing". I visited a couple of brew shops and was blown away by the array of stuff there is now. so I brought a barrel and a sachet of Mangrove jack pale ale and a bag of Copper Tun brew enhancer ( dextrose ect ). Read some online John Palmer and away I went.

I gave the brew a couple of weeks and then bottled. After 1 week I sampled one. It was very clear and the head was very good but it still has that home brew "ping". Sure it was only 1 week. There is another one brewing, blonde with some craft series yeast for cool temps.

Basically what I would like is a beer that doesnt have the home brew taste tag. Is there such a thing? Can I get a decent beer with extracts/kits? I am happy to try things to enhance the quality but I dont really want to have to become a scientist to achieve it. There must be hundreds of people like me out there. Has anyone got any ideas that could help me on this mission or am I doomed to be a ' not bad for a home brew ' brewer?

Thanks for any suggestions and keep up the good work.

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6 weeks is fine, though I would say 3-4 is plenty. Although I have had some beers that had dodgy temp control and took 5 weeks to clean up. Definitely if you can't cold crash a long primary will do just as/almost as much as a secondary to drop the yeast into a nice firm pack and clear the beer. 

Re priming: I usually ended up using 100-150g of sugar for 20L, using this calculator and aiming about the middle of the style http://kotmf.com/tools/prime.php . I would usually stir in the boiled water (I think boiling it at least 5 mins is probably a good idea) then do as you do: stir on the top while adding the syrup slowly. The one time I didn't stir most of the sugar syrup dropped straight to the bottom (i think) and I ended up with very inconsistent carbing. I usually wait 30 minutes for the syrup to dissolve in the beer, then start bottling. So it sounds to me like you are overshooting your priming sugar by at least 50g.

However, I'm not sure what leaving it to start 'fermenting' again would do, this will happen in the bottles anyway...are you saying that you think this reduces carbonation time because the yeast in the fermenter have already started chewing away at it? Certainly it might reduce your 250g sugar to more like 150-200 actual after 6 hours...not sure though. I think you might be better propping your sugar slightly and just waiting an hour.

Thanks for your reply Mike, will take your thought on the priming quantity and lead time on board.

My theory with lead time was really that the CO2 given off helps integrate the prime :-)

(now if I could just reduce that 6 weeks).

Reducing primary time while still getting a clean, *clear* beer is pretty simple if you can get the beer cool at the end of fermentation (in summer waterbaths/fridges are necessary anyway!). I usually do around 2 1/2 weeks primary with a 1-4 day cold crash (either with ice or in a fridge) adding dissolved tsp of flavourless gelatin in boiled 75C water (to pasteurise - but don't worry too much about it, key is to not boil the gelatin though) to the chilled fermenter. Stir well in small kitchen pot at around 75C, add to chilled beer, wait 24-48 hours, yeast/hops will drop clear. I had minimal lees in the bottles just with fridge cold crashing and using a siphon with the red trub-block on the end rather than the fermenter tap to bottle... (this is pretty key too - as is not moving the fermenter close to bottling time). The gelatin will just work with the cold crash to reduce the time required/make it not matter so much if you only have an icebath. Gelatin is pretty much compulsory with kegs too...only downside for some people is it's non-vegetarian...but many commercial beers use either isinglass (fish) or gelatin to fine so it's not usually a huge issue.

Again, Mike, thanks for your insight.

There're some edges in there I've not given thought too - thinking cap on...

Cheers.

I'm only new here, this is my first post. I joined looking for answers to a recent problem; haven't asked the question yet.

Bit puzzled by what I'm reading here. All good advice I've little doubt, but absolutely don't swallow everything I'm reading, as a home brewer of kits for more years then I want to admit.

Don't get me wrong, I've said I've little doubt,  however I feel there is something of an 'elitist' factor crept in here?

My 'obviously' home brew  days past a long time ago.

Hey James, if I've come off as elitist it was not my intention...just trying to get across as clearly as possible how easy it is to brew commercial quality beer from kits, and the fact that the kit instructions do put you wrong - this isn't easy for people to accept if you don't back it up with lots of examples and links. I was brewing kits for a good few years using the can instructions (and my old man before me) with mixed results (sometimes good, sometimes not) and since moving to all grain and reading more about fermentation from John Palmer, Jamil, Realbeer and American homebrew forums have just been trying to spread these it as much as possible to my kit brewing mates. Most of this stuff is pretty common knowledge in the US homebrew community, but I know I wished this information was easily available online when I was starting out (it was, I just didn't look hard enough!).

In no way is there a right and wrong way to do homebrew, in fact a kit and kilo by an older gentleman came 3rd place in the last blues and brews homebrew comp. But too many people have came to me again and again with the same complaints that Nick raised about their beer not tasting any good, or at least wanting it not to taste like homebrew. It's the main reason people give up after a few kits and it's surprisingly easy to make things a lot more foolproof for beginners - eg: If you don't have temperature control in summer using 5-7g unrefrigerated kit yeast you will have trouble making good beer. If you use 11.5g US-05 from a homebrew shop you've got a much wider margin for error. Think of these as the troubleshooting tips. By all means take the advice given here by myself and others with a grain of salt, some of it IS just based on personal experience (ie long lager primaries), go onto american homebrew forums and check out their discussions etc. 

What specifically is puzzling/hard to swallow? If it's just the wordy/stream of consciousness delivery you'll have to forgive me :)

No Mike, you didn't come over that way and I'd like to be clear on that.

The advice you're imparting is all extremely sound advice but a novice who for example does all their shopping at the local Paky yellow barn, by applying patience could improve their brew a hell of a lot even if they use the yeast supplied with the kit, sugar and follow the instructions.

Time, both in the fermenter - let the ferment go to the end - and in the bottle - let it age - is the most important factor I have found, learned over many years.  

Home beer making doesn't seem to be exempt from price hikes, more's the pity, so I'd just like to point out that something that doesn't cause the taste buds to pucker, can be achieved. And doesn't need much forethought or hurt the household budget.

All you have advocated are tweaks that I've promised myself many times I will try, as I've stuck with kits a long time and need to move forward. I just haven't got there yet. FWIW though, even kits, Paky bought and an inventive mind can give pretty outstanding and satisfying results.

I hope I haven't trod an anyone's toes here as that was not my intent. If I'd used the wrong thread to post in too, I apologise. :-)

Time, both in the fermenter - let the ferment go to the end - and in the bottle - let it age - is the most important factor I have found, learned over many years.  

I would say temperature control is as important, probably harder to achieve then waiting 2-3 weeks.   In winter that means a heat pad, in summer a fridge, in both cases a temperature controller.      Its just not good to cycle the yeast through a 6-8 degree range every 24 hours, it stresses them and they react by releasing the odd flavors.   My fridge was $10 off trademe and the temp controller $20 from ebay.   Heat pad from brewers coop.

Nah mate, all good! And that's totally right too...a kit and kilo of dextrose fermented cool for 2-3 weeks will taste miles better than one hot and bottled after 5 days. Using two kits and both 5g yeast packets is even better. One other easy, cheap thing I've told people to experiment with (and done myself) is 1 kit, 17-18L instead of 23, and only 500g of dextrose/brew enhancer. Malt/simple sugar ratio is higher and yeast have less to ferment.  So your ingredients stay the same, you just end up with slightly less, but better beer. I'd definitely stay away from table sugar, you can buy dextrose cheap  at pak n save (if you don't already) it's usually around either sugar or sports supplements.

There's heaps of simple things you can do to improve the beer at little extra cost, lower ferment temps and longer ferment times are the most important of these. But I'd still definitely reccomend ditching dextrose/brew enhancers and going 2x lager kits...or 1x dark 1x lager for 23L, kits from pak n save are only $10-11, so it still works out as someone mentioned $1 a litre or 33c a stubby. Bonus is you get twice as much yeast, take both kit yeasts and rehydrate them in boiled cooled water for 30mins (i just do this in a pot with a thermometer, sterilise thermometer in the boil) and pitch that instead of pitching dry, again, easy cheap way to make sure the yeast goes further.

Ideally though, you'd buy one $6 pack of US-05 (which as I said is used by 8 Wired and other pro breweries), save the spare 5g packs that come with the kits in the fridge then pitch like 3-4 of them in the next batch. That would give you enough cells. Better yet, harvest and reuse the US-05 slurry from the bottom of the fermenter (assuming the hydro sample tastes good and the ferment was clean). Simplest way to do this is bottle a batch, pour out about half of the yeast cake at the bottom and pitch on that. For those who find the idea of this too nasty simply pour the required amount of yeast slurry in to a sanitised jar, re-clean/sanitise the fermenter and pitch that. I've had good results with both methods, esp with lagers and higher gravity beers. You don't want to pitch onto the entire yeast cake as you will overpitch.

The 'pitch onto half a cake' method doesn't work so well with kits as you need boiling water, but some of my mates mix the brew in a 5L stock pot and then cool the stockpot in the sink, I guess you could add the cold water first as well. Gives me the heebies adding tap water directly onto yeast but when you think about it it's no different to adding yeast to unboiled tap water when you make kits usually. The harvest/repitch from jar method is definitely better and you can control the amount of slurry, but the yeast will only last 2 weeks in the fridge - you're better off using it immediately (ie bottle/keg, then make up a kit beer straight away, or the day/few days). But this way 1 $6 pack of US-05 can and does ferment 3-4 batches. It lasts longer in professional breweries (7-8 generations or more) but with home harvesting it's best to call it earlier as sanitation isn't as good, and it's only $6 to buy another pack. Again sorry for the long reply...

Hi there James, I have to say that I have been so grateful for the advice that these guys have given me. Because of this forum I am trying new things and c/o the interweb, learning a lot more than I ever knew when I used to kit brew. I must have brewed the stuff for 20 odd years and it was only ever home brew and some of it was pretty good for home brew. I found that I got a taste for it to the point where I could justify the taste. Maybe blown out taste buds or something. There were friends that had a go at brewing from time to time but the product was never good enough to keep them interested. It never crossed my mind that the yeast may be past its use by date, it was dried right! I thought I was brewing a lager when it said lager but it was an ale yeast. Every week I put another brew kit down with sugar and the kit yeast, gave it a week and bottled because thats what the instructions said Now I just want to up the game a little. Please dont frighten them off. They have been a lot of help.

Don't worry mate, we don't frighten that easily. Must be all the alcohol dulling the responses... :) But seriously, other opinions are welcome and suggestions/debate would be great, I have this kit brew file up in our homebrew clubs page and every now and then someone will suggest some great tip and it'll get added. Collaboration! In the spirit of this, there's a great r/homebrew Q&A every thursday (US wednesday) which is definitely good value http://www.reddit.com/r/Homebrewing/search?q=Wednesday+Q+A&rest... you have to sign up though, and everything's in pounds and Fahrenheit. But great if you've got a specific question and google isn't helping: getting 5 identical responses from 5 different homebrewers is a pretty surefire way to know you're on the right/wrong track.

Hi guys,

so here I am 6 or so weeks later. I have had 2 barrels going hard over that time.

After trying M84 yeast and turning out a beer that will be undrinkable till the day it dies ( tomorrow - plug hole ) I tryied S-04 c/o Smiffy and a lion dark/lion lager. This was quite drinkable but the dark was over powering to the point where it tasted a little like fizzy port wine.

Smiffy, as a Coopers expert can you please give me some ideas here. Something that tastes like an ale or similar would be good.

After that I have stayed with US-05 yeast and tryied Australian pale ale, Real Ale and a lager or two.

I have used Lion lager for extra malt and no simple sugars other than priming the bottles 2 times bulk priming c/o Mike.

I sample often and the beer is bitter and hard to drink. Sure I know it is early. But. It is just home brew!

I challenge you to give me a kit brew recipe that doesnt cost $50-60 to brew and tastes like any beer you can buy including Tuis.At the moment I would be happy if I could make Tui beer. Put your cards on the table and prove it can be done. I will brew anything that you suggest and post results here. Cost is a factor as there are many people that brew because they are on a budget or just like to drink a lot and keep the price down. I also think that some people will pay any amount of money to be able to say that I made that. 'Still only $1 per liter' means nothing if no one can drink it.

Lay it on me!

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