Home brewing has become one of the fastest-growing activities in the United States since the mid-1980s. This is in large part due to an increase in brewing-products retail stores and websites that allow beer-making fans to shop and purchase online. For beginners, beer kits are an easy choice, because everything is already measured and included, and they come with instructions. However, if there is one thing that can bring down a batch of beer made from a kit, it is when the ingredients are past their prime. Add this to my Recipe Box.
1. Visit any local store that carries beer-making ingredients or kits. Normally, kits for beginners are all-liquid products with added grain and yeast extracts. These are fine to use, because they are derived from the real products; they just don’t leave much of a window for experimentation. When first starting off in the world of brewing, it is best to get a kit that has all the necessary equipment to make your first batch, such as a fermenting bucket, fermenting lock, bottling bucket, bottling spigot, tube for siphoning, bottle filler, bottle brush and bottle capper. You will also need a boiling pot, but you can use a large stockpot from your kitchen.
2. When picking out beginner kits, ask a store owner or employee if he recommends any additions to the kit. Occasionally, a fermenting bucket or jug from a kit may be too small, which can inhibit the yeast growth. A 6-gallon fermenting bucket is typically fine for 5-gallon batches. If you have never brewed before, it’s easiest to go with a complete kit, but as you gain experience you can replace pieces with bigger and better equipment.
3. Look at the rows of canned extract. Extract is the liquid form of hops and barley grain. Using the actual ingredients, rather than the extract, not only requires more equipment, but also leaves less room for error. It is best to experiment with the liquid extract form first, before making the switch to grains. Beginner kits provide everything you need to make a good, solid beer your very first time.
4. Check for dust on the cans, a sign they’ve been on the shelf for a while and something you want to avoid, and look for expiration dates. If the date is anywhere from a few days to a few weeks away, stay clear. Unless you plan on making a batch that very day, the product will most likely expire before you can use it. Even if starting the beer right away, it’s best to find cans of extract that still have at least a few months of shelf life left. You can purchase several and store them at home for future batches.
5. If you can’t find an expiration date, ask a store clerk when the beer kits were purchased. She should be able to tell you, even if it requires looking it up. Take a few minutes to check, because you don’t want to wait several weeks for your beer to finish fermenting, only to discover you used past-prime extract. If the kits were recently shelved, you can feel confident about purchasing your fresh beer-making kit.