Top of the range Beer Kit v All Grain

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Scottyburto

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I am convinced homebrew twang is down to how the shop stores the kits. Meaning the yeast is baked under aggressive AC or lighting! Even different wilko stores fall foul of this! It's like wine, im convinced sinfin derby asda have a greenhouse out the back where they keep All their bottles of wine, u can buy the same brand from anywhere else and it's guaranteed to be better.
 

Clint

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I'm guilty of being a Top hat and not stocking up on AG ingredients and keeping my stock up after Christmas...resulting in me ordering a couple of Festival kits and a bit of crushed malt off Brew2Bottle. The kits will be easy to thrash up in a couple of hours and set things going again and the malt will enable me to get a couple of AG brews on. I've done the Festival kits years ago and know they're good..just a bit quicker. I recorded no off tastes from these kits...
 

GhostShip

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I've only been home brewing for around 3 years and haven't progressed beyond kits as yet. Whether I will, I really don't know. As I'm still working I'd probably struggle to find the time to spend a whole day doing an AG brew, but as long as I'm getting decent results from kits, then I'm happy for now.

My first few brews all suffered from 'twang' and I was on the verge of giving up, but things have improved considerably now due to gaining more experience (thanks to the advice found here) and acquiring a brew fridge (which I think is a big factor in making better beer from kits). I tend to stick to the premium kits - I'm not going to quibble about a pint costing me a few pence more to make if it's a better pint!

If I had to pick three things that have improved my beer I'd say 1) the fridge, 2) being really careful when I transfer from the FV to the barrel before bottling for batch priming - I now start with the barrel almost laying down so that I can rest the end of the tube on the inner side of the barrel, meaning the beer flows without any splashing and therefore putting minimal oxygen into the beer, and 3) (a great tip from @terrym) - as I use PET bottles, once the beer is in the bottle I gently squeeze the bottle to bring the beer nearly to the top and then cap. It leaves the bottle looking slightly distorted but within a day or two, it's filled out completely and I have less oxygen in the beer. This is obviously not something you can do with glass bottles!

EDIT: Actually, there are four!!! 4) Give everything time - you simply cannot rush a brew and expect to get good beer at the other end!

For anyone who feels they're not getting decent results from kits, if you haven't done so already, I'd say try a much darker beer. These seem much less susceptible to any twang. I followed a recipe on here for St Peters Stout, which included adding freshly brewed coffee and priming with soft brown sugar. I'm not normally one for darker beers, but this is superb (I'm still drinking it) and it's easily to pub standard.

I have Mangrove Jack's Pink Grapefruit IPA secondary fermenting at the moment and it was one of those brews where everything just seemed to go right. No issues at any stage so it will be interesting to see if this is reflected in the beer quality! I'll post a review in the appropriate thread in a couple of months.
 

terrym

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When I started brewing many years ago there was no such thing as kits, so it was either extract, partial mash or AG. I did the first two helped by the availability of diastatic malt syrup, which sadly is no longer available. Then after a number of years time became a premium for me so I tried kits which were simple one cans. The result were rubbish so I stopped brewing. About 5 years ago I stumbled back into brewing helping a friend out and found the results from simple kits were much improved from before and with re-learning, variation on what I did and this forum got back to making some good beers. I mainly stuck with Coopers kits which usually deliver good results especially with extra hops, a grain steep or a minimash. I tried several premium kits but had mixed results. And I also found that Muntons kits for me were more likely to give twangy beer whereas I never had that with any Coopers kit. But like most others on here I have to say the quality of beer kits is far superior to the bad old days
I have now moved on to partial mashes, using a grain mash and hop boil with DME, and the occasional stove top BIAB small volume brew Time is not a major consideration for me and the main reason I do this is because I can try all sorts of things. The quality of the beer is certainly better than when I did kits but not orders of magnitude, and if my circumstances changed again I would revert back to kits.
There's sometimes a snobbery in homebrewers about doing kits, as occasionally seen on this Forum. A minority who do AG look down on kits, feeling smug that they believe they are in an elite band of brewers and all kits are rubbish. Well kits certainly used to be rubbish but nowadays most can deliver a good beer and sometimes one to rival something down the pub. And what they conveniently forget is that like everything brewing has a learning curve and if you started on kits your first beers are not going to turn out like the ones you brew later when you get to know what you are doing. Plus not everyone has half day to spare, or a large budget to buy shiny, or even a garden or outhouse in which to brew.
So to anyone reading this and just starting on beer kits persevere for a few brews to get your technique right. You will find the results slowly improve. And then with some knowledge of brewing you can then decide how you want to progress given the time you have available, the space to store or install your kit, your budget, how often you intend to brew, and importantly how interested you have become in your new hobby.
 

An Ankoù

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I did the first two helped by the availability of diastatic malt syrup, which sadly is no longer available.
have now moved on to partial mashes, using a grain mash and hop boil with DME
brewing has a learning curve and if you started on kits your first beers are not going to turn out like the ones you brew later when you get to know what you are doing.
So to anyone reading this and just starting on beer kits persevere for a few brews to get your technique right. You will find the results slowly improve. And then with some knowledge of brewing you can then decide how you want to progress given the time you have available, the space to store or install your kit, your budget, how often you intend to brew, and importantly how interested you have become in your new hobby.
A whole pile of wisdom here. I think I must have started when diastatic malt extract was available and this is what I used. I do remember kits being available, too- like Geordie and the like. They were crap, especially the lager kits. If a new brewer comes to me for adv ice I ask him or her to think about starting with extract. In that way he/she can learn about sanitation, hopping rates, the boil, yeasts, fermentation and conditioning. When he/she has mastered this lot, then it's time to consider water chemistry, mashing, use of adjuncts, hot and cold break etc. So it means that there are two learning curves, but each one is not too steep.
Haven't tried modern kits and not really likely to, but if my circumstances changed I could just about bear going back to extract brewing.
I don't hear many reviews of Mangrove Jacks kits, by the way. Are they any good?
 

Summer Lane Brewery

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A whole pile of wisdom here. I think I must have started when diastatic malt extract was available and this is what I used. I do remember kits being available, too- like Geordie and the like. They were crap, especially the lager kits. If a new brewer comes to me for adv ice I ask him or her to think about starting with extract. In that way he/she can learn about sanitation, hopping rates, the boil, yeasts, fermentation and conditioning. When he/she has mastered this lot, then it's time to consider water chemistry, mashing, use of adjuncts, hot and cold break etc. So it means that there are two learning curves, but each one is not too steep.
Haven't tried modern kits and not really likely to, but if my circumstances changed I could just about bear going back to extract brewing.
I don't hear many reviews of Mangrove Jacks kits, by the way. Are they any good?
I was given a MJ blueberry cider kit which I brewed about 9 months ago. I don’t drink cider very often and I’m not very keen on the fruit ciders but the friends I have this brew to thought it was lovely.
 

Braufather

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I did my first kit about 6 weeks ago after jumping straight into all grain 3 years ago.

i did a kit because I had an infection in two kegs and didn’t want to waste a days Labour if I had to dump again.

problem is that the is a slight twang to this brew and I am not sure if its because it’s a kit or to do with the previous infection! It’s MJ american pale!!
 

An Ankoù

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I did my first kit about 6 weeks ago after jumping straight into all grain 3 years ago.

i did a kit because I had an infection in two kegs and didn’t want to waste a days Labour if I had to dump again.

problem is that the is a slight twang to this brew and I am not sure if its because it’s a kit or to do with the previous infection! It’s MJ american pale!!
Give us some details about the infection and what you've done to clear it.
 

Lawrence22

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I did quite a few kits before moving to all grain. I am really enjoying the all grain brewing but I have certainly made a few poor ones. Best kit I ever did was the Festival razorback, I would quite happily drink that beer at any time. If I were stuck for time I would have no issue going back to kits, but I have plenty of time to brew at the moment. I enjoy trying to design my own recipes and I'm constantly tweaking them to get a desired result for me.
 

Braufather

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two 9litre cornies, had a harsh nail polish smell Last time, so I took them apart boiled everything, washed with vow and rinsed a lot, then Tried again with this kit.

I split this time, into a fresh keg and that tastes the same, so it might be pack or infection may have spread. It’s defo not as strong but there is an after taste
 

Cheshire Cat

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I just looked on Amazon for a Cooper stout as Mrs Cat likes stouts I've made with extract. Some guy is selling Coopers kits for £75 each plus £4.45 postage. Talk about taking advantage of the supply issues disgusting.
 

dillz2003

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I started off with kits and still think the better quality 2 can kits produce great beer. For me though it's a hobby I enjoy, so when I was made redundant I moved on to all grain and treated myself to a grainfather.

Yes it's time consuming but I love the process of researching, planning and designing my beer in beersmith and the freedom to brew any beer style at any strength I want and to try different hop varieties from around the world. I've since got into water chemistry, liquid yeasts and yeast harvesting.

It's a fascinating hobby and there are always new things to learn and try.
 

An Ankoù

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two 9litre cornies, had a harsh nail polish smell Last time, so I took them apart boiled everything, washed with vow and rinsed a lot, then Tried again with this kit.

I split this time, into a fresh keg and that tastes the same, so it might be pack or infection may have spread. It’s defo not as strong but there is an after taste
If you've boiled and sanitised, then whatever it was have been eradicated from your vessels. The smell you describe sounds like ethyl acetate which is an precursor of acetic acid or vinegar. Note, that not all sanitisers- Campden tablets or metabusulphite are effective against acetobacter so use a chlorine based sanitiser and rinse with a metabisuphite solution to get rid of the chlorine.
So where is the vinegar infection coming from? It could be any other part of the kit that comes into contact with your beer after it has been boiled and coooled. It could be airborne, if you store fruit and veg in the same place as you make beer, there are little flies which carry it. Acetobacter can only work in the presence of oxygen so even if your beer is infected, it won't get any worse unless there is oxygen present. You might look at ways of limiting contact with air after fermentation or you might try adding an antioxidant like vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to your beer before kegging/bottling.
Another sources of ethyl acetate is the yeast itself, which can produce a whole range of esters including this one if the fermentation temperature is too high.
 

Grizzly Notations

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I've been doing kit brewing for about a year and tend to for the pricier ones. They do a great job and genuinely taste better than most AG brews I've tasted.
 

terrym

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I just looked on Amazon for a Cooper stout as Mrs Cat likes stouts I've made with extract. Some guy is selling Coopers kits for £75 each plus £4.45 postage. Talk about taking advantage of the supply issues disgusting.
Try this. Irish Stout Not a bad price. Get in quick, allegedly only 5 left.
 

stevey

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I think your expectations change the longer you brew. I started with a kit bought for me as a xmas present. I think it was a lager kit. I was pleasantly surprised that I could make something with an alcohol content that left me alive the next day and that started me off. I went through all the lager kits trying to find something like fosters (yeah I know 🤫), then progressed to IPA's and bitters and premium kits, then to BIAB, and finally I bought a grainfather and brew mainly bitters although I still fall back on kits when I need to brew quickly.
I will say I didn't really take any notice of the "twang" until I read about it on here. I think kits are better than they were years ago, (I 1st dabbled in the 80's) and produce drinkable beers, but for me all grain makes a better quality product at a far cheaper price.
 

samale

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I've been doing kit brewing for about a year and tend to for the pricier ones. They do a great job and genuinely taste better than most AG brews I've tasted.
Really and you judged the dark beer month. Your telling me that your kit beer is better than most of the beer entered in that competition
 
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Druncan

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I usually do both BIAB and big kits(?) - 25kg Muntons/Brewferm HLME + Steeped grains + dry hop/Hop tea. Tastes the same to me, but big kit saves so much time and cleanup. I do love a lazy afternoon BIAB though with plenty lubrications:beer1:
 
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