Going back to kits...

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BlackRegent

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...but not for good.

When I went from kits to AG I had a kit left over - Courage Best Bitter. It's just been left abandoned and neglected in the cellar whilst I've built up knowledge and experience on mashing, boiling, fermenting and packaging and all the other rabbit hole topics that go with it.

I decided to brew it up, partly so it doesn't go to waste, but mainly to see if the knowledge and equipment I've acquired since (yeast choices, water chemistry, proper temperature control and kegging) will lead to a better product. My old kit efforts were, with retrospect, pretty s@%*. I think the main reason for this was the dreaded pressure barrel and my complete inability to overcome their faults. Also, because they were one can kits and I didn't appreciate that sticking a load of brewing sugar in will probably lead to a poor beer.

It was an absolute pleasure to brew up - a half hour job I could do while giving the kids their tea, rather than the usual 6 hour ordeal that sees me sequestered away from the family. I swapped out the dried yeast (still in date but I thought I could do better) for a starter of London Ale III. Added brewing salts and campden to the water before mixing. I've got it hooked up to the inkbird. I plan on putting it in a keg and because it's a shot to nothing and I have other things on tap, I can just leave it for some proper conditioning in a way I never do with my other stuff because I get on with the important business of drinking it quicker than I should.

I actually hope it's going to turn out well - not because I'm fed up with the effort of AG, but it would be nice to know I can bang out a basic bitter reasonably quick, especially if I have friends coming round (whenever that will be).

Has anyone else gone back to kits and been pleased with the end results (in the sense it was much better than they were expecting)?
 

Griff097

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Funniy enough, I jumped straight in with AG after reading lots on forums and recently two friends who have been doing kits for years tried my first batches and were blown away by the taste.

On questioning them on their process with kits I couldn't believe how simple it sounded and how quick they could drink it and brewing an Impy yesterday with a massive grain bill and a Porter today which was the limit of my equipment and stuck sparges constantly and foam boiling over and all the clean up I was thinking it may be worth a try of a kit to see how they taste Lol
 

obscure

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I mostly do 9L BIAB batches but every now and then do a kit. I must admit being done in 30 minutes instead of four hours does have its appeal, and I do find the Festival or Youngs American kits can produce some pretty good results (I have a Youngs Mocha Porter kit and my plan is to do a 9L batch of Mild with Wyeast London III ale then use the slurry in the Mocha Porter). I also recently did a Youngs one can barley wine kit but subbed the dextrose for 2.5KG of Maris Otter and the yeast for left over Wyeast West Yorkshire slurry from a batch of Yorkshire Bitter.

Actually on the whole I find kits for Stronger beers (above about 5%) can often be rather good but where kits seem to fall down is on lower abv beers, bitters, milds and while I have had some acceptable results I have yet to find a bitter kit that is superior to a basic all grain batch fermented with S-04 or similar.
 

fury_tea

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I do Wilko kits as a time saver but I never brew them as they were intended. At the bare minimum I'll change the yeast and dry hop them. Sometimes i'll do a partial mash or add some extra ingredients to an AG brew day so I can make 2 beers at once. The last one I did was an American pale ale made from a lager kit: I brewed to 11 litres used only the one can (no extra sugar) and some left over wort from an all grain brew, boiled it all up in the same kettle as the main beer (before cleaning) and added some extra hops to the boil and then a big dry hop. It came out really well.

I'm currently fermenting a Baltic Porter from another Wilko lager kit, with a few extra hops, some cold steeped dark grains, cold steeped coffee and some better yeast, brown sugar and light DME. It smells pretty great already and should be good to keg in the next few days. I'll just leave it in the garage or ferm fridge to lager for a few weeks.
 

dwhite60

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If I could get the same deals on kits here in the states you people across the pond seem too get I'd be tempted to do more kits.

Average Coopers can here is $21 USD, about 16 pounds.
 

AnimatedGIF

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I've started doing AG, currently upsizing from 5L stovetop to 23L batches, having done 10 or so kits to begin with. I have no intention to ditch kits any time soon. As has been said, knocking out a kit is quick and easy, and sometimes that's all I have time to do.
I see it as less of an either/or.
 

MartinHaworth

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I recently did a kit - the first one in 5 years. I was fortunate enough to be given one of the new 2 can kits Muntons are launching this spring.

The cans were a mix of LME, Liquid malted rye extract and isomerised hop oils. There were 2 packs of hops for dry hopping, and a full pack of US05.

As has been said upthread, it took 30 minutes to get on.

I mixed it with Ashbeck water and fermented it in my brew fridge at 19C prior to kegging and force carbing.

No homebrew twang, no off flavours. A really nice beer at a sessionable 5%.

Kits have come a long way. No problem for a newbie to make good beer within 6 weeks (inc bottle cond).

However, it is the keg that is going down slowest. On this completely non-representative sample size of one, I think the kit lacks the depth of character that a well made AG beer can offer. It lacks the malt depth of the AG Northern Brown in the next keg, the hop hit of the AG Citra Smash two kegs along, the summery profile of the AG BlueMoonclone on the end.

But, as I say, no off flavours, and good (not great) beer with very little effort.

Cheers

Martin
 

Covrich

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I actually think the London Ale III will helpreally give it a huge lift.

Whether you are brewing all grain or a kit or extract and hops I think using a yeast like that makes a significant difference to the style.
 

BlackRegent

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I see it as less of an either/or.
I agree. The purpose of the post wasn't to suggest AG = good, kits = bad, but rather whether some knowhow built up from AG brewing can help me improve beer from a kit as I'd love to keep the stocks topped up with beer that didn't take me the best part of a working day to brew.
 

Rodcx500z

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I normally brew outside but it's freezing, so i got 4 simply kit's and a wilko kit, i have a load of dme i need to use as well as hops that need using up, should keep me going for a while
 

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I'd be interested in how it turns out. I've considered doing a Wherry again as an experiment which was my kit of choice before starting all grain. But returning to kits lacks the excitement for me of creating a beer from scratch however if i was short of brewing time would like to give it a go.
 

BlackRegent

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@Honk I'll let you know. The London Ale III is currently doing its thing - a full on creamy krausen that is just starting to subside. It might be a while before I report back because I plan on giving it some proper conditioning time in the keg.
 

BrewMeHappy

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I've always fancied going the AG route but I just don't have the time, so have always done kits for well over 10 years - on and off at times.

Some kits are a bit and miss as you will probably know, but definitely going for the 'two can' kits in my option is money well spent and definately some really good ones around. Sure, you can pimp the one can kits up too which is always good to experiment👍
 

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I must admit, I've only done 'kits' since i started 10+ years ago, but it wasn't until recently that I even heard about LME that includes hops. I question if the flavors of those extracts that come pre-hoped are true to the effect of the hop?

The commercially compiled kits I've used have always had the hops as separate (dry) ingredients, and of course a wide variety of choice. In the last 5 years I've migrated to using only LME rather than a mixture of LME & DME, but that's mainly because I've been using 'kits' compiled by local craft brewer supplies rather than the Brewer's Best box-kits I was weened on.
This way I can experiment with substitution, addition, or subtraction of ingredients rather than be prisoner to three manufacturer of the box.

As several have said here, I find using kits keep the required time for having good brew to drink to be manageable. I hope to eventually try AG, but as a parish pastor in a new parish in a new geographic area, I need the time for the flock.

My challenge since coming to the Arizona desert has been the ugly water that is here. I got spoiled living in the delta of central California, and now is the first time I've had to seek a professional lab to find out what the water makeup is.
 

MartinHaworth

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I must admit, I've only done 'kits' since i started 10+ years ago, but it wasn't until recently that I even heard about LME that includes hops. I question if the flavors of those extracts that come pre-hoped are true to the effect of the hop?

The commercially compiled kits I've used have always had the hops as separate (dry) ingredients, and of course a wide variety of choice. In the last 5 years I've migrated to using only LME rather than a mixture of LME & DME, but that's mainly because I've been using 'kits' compiled by local craft brewer supplies rather than the Brewer's Best box-kits I was weened on.
This way I can experiment with substitution, addition, or subtraction of ingredients rather than be prisoner to three manufacturer of the box.

As several have said here, I find using kits keep the required time for having good brew to drink to be manageable. I hope to eventually try AG, but as a parish pastor in a new parish in a new geographic area, I need the time for the flock.

My challenge since coming to the Arizona desert has been the ugly water that is here. I got spoiled living in the delta of central California, and now is the first time I've had to seek a professional lab to find out what the water makeup is.
The LME that I have used with hops, has only every contained isomerized hop oil - that is the bitter bit of hops that is usually obtained by boiling hops for an extended period. In this useage, there is not that much difference between ibus from one hop and another.

I have not come across any LME containing hops for aroma/flavour purposes. Rather, kits have included dry hops for this purpose.
 

obscure

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I must admit, I've only done 'kits' since i started 10+ years ago, but it wasn't until recently that I even heard about LME that includes hops. I question if the flavors of those extracts that come pre-hoped are true to the effect of the hop?

The commercially compiled kits I've used have always had the hops as separate (dry) ingredients, and of course a wide variety of choice. In the last 5 years I've migrated to using only LME rather than a mixture of LME & DME, but that's mainly because I've been using 'kits' compiled by local craft brewer supplies rather than the Brewer's Best box-kits I was weened on.
This way I can experiment with substitution, addition, or subtraction of ingredients rather than be prisoner to three manufacturer of the box.

As several have said here, I find using kits keep the required time for having good brew to drink to be manageable. I hope to eventually try AG, but as a parish pastor in a new parish in a new geographic area, I need the time for the flock.

My challenge since coming to the Arizona desert has been the ugly water that is here. I got spoiled living in the delta of central California, and now is the first time I've had to seek a professional lab to find out what the water makeup is.
I think this style of kit is fairly standard (and what most Brits mean when saying kits) I.e. cans of pre hopped LME which are simply mixed with water and fermented can make some quite drinkable beers.

Would I be right in thinking that when you say kits you mean packs of malt extract plus hops and that a boil is still needed.
 

Griff097

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I do Wilko kits as a time saver but I never brew them as they were intended. At the bare minimum I'll change the yeast and dry hop them. Sometimes i'll do a partial mash or add some extra ingredients to an AG brew day so I can make 2 beers at once. The last one I did was an American pale ale made from a lager kit: I brewed to 11 litres used only the one can (no extra sugar) and some left over wort from an all grain brew, boiled it all up in the same kettle as the main beer (before cleaning) and added some extra hops to the boil and then a big dry hop. It came out really well.

I'm currently fermenting a Baltic Porter from another Wilko lager kit, with a few extra hops, some cold steeped dark grains, cold steeped coffee and some better yeast, brown sugar and light DME. It smells pretty great already and should be good to keg in the next few days. I'll just leave it in the garage or ferm fridge to lager for a few weeks.
Why would you change the yeast, would you want something that alters the final taste, attenuates at a different temperature or somethink else?

If you blend some wart with the extract how long do you boil for, I like the sound of your mixing and matching.
 

fury_tea

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Why would you change the yeast, would you want something that alters the final taste, attenuates at a different temperature or somethink else?

If you blend some wart with the extract how long do you boil for, I like the sound of your mixing and matching.
Yeah exactly, I'll often save those yeast packs from the kits and pitch 2 together though, because they are usually not even enough to make the 4% beer the kit is for and I usually aim for 5-6% with my beers (or I use a single pack in a 10L ginger ale or cider. It's not bad yeast it's just often under pitched.

How long you boil for is completely up to you, I just did 20 minutes because it was the end of another brew day, I had everything set up already so I just disolved the syrup, threw some hops in, topped up with water and boiled and transferred. In this instance it added almost no time to my brew day and got me 10 more litres of beer in my keg.
 

Covrich

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Why would you change the yeast, would you want something that alters the final taste, attenuates at a different temperature or somethink else?

If you blend some wart with the extract how long do you boil for, I like the sound of your mixing and matching.

A good yeast can have a huge impact on the final result but it does depend on what you are making
 

Worf

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I think this style of kit is fairly standard (and what most Brits mean when saying kits) I.e. cans of pre hopped LME which are simply mixed with water and fermented can make some quite drinkable beers.

Would I be right in thinking that when you say kits you mean packs of malt extract plus hops and that a boil is still needed.
When I first started, the only supplier in town (Indiana) had Brewer's Best which didn't use pre-hopped extracts. The also sold ingredients in bulk. The kits included all necessities: both types of extracts, various hops, yeast, bottle caps, etc.

Yes, a steep one of grains before adding extracts, then appropriate timing for hoops in a boil.

It wasn't until coming west (4 yrs after starting) that I stopped using pre-packaged kits and went to selecting my own ingredients in local shops.., but kept using extracts. Until I started using 'mail order', I'd never seen hopped extracts. I still don't use them.
 

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