Home brewing is all about experimentation. It’s partly why we all got interested in this hobby in the first place. Not all of us have time for brewing beer using the all grain or even extract methods but all is not lost as even beer kits can be customised to create unique, flavoursome, custom versions.
Beer kits contain pre hopped, concentrated wort. These have been created in the same way breweries produce wort producing a mash, extracting the sugar then boiling with hops. Most of the water is then removed to make it stable and easy to handle. These are designed to be ready to go. Making them easy, fast and reliable but it doesn’t mean that they cannot be pimped. Here are some ideas on pimping kits to get you started in the right direction.
Reduce/Increase the water:
If you want to make the beer slightly stronger you can alter the ABV of the finished beer. Increasing or decreasing the volume of the water you add to the kit with achieve this. To calculate the new starting gravity just calculate the proposed gravity points by the proposed volume in litres then divide this by required gravity points and you will get the new starting volume.
For example the kit is for 23L at 1.054 starting gravity and you to make a beer that is 1.060 starting gravity.
Multiply 23 x 54 = 1242 then divide that by 60 = 20.70.
Therefore if you make the kit up to 20.70L instead of 23L you will get a 1.060 starting gravity.
Note that bitterness is often paired with ABV and therefore it’s not advisable to change the starting gravity more than 10 points otherwise you risk having an out of balance finished beer.
Want to add some fresh, aromatic, hop character to the beer then simply add some fresh hop pellets once fermentation is complete. The amount and type of hop is completely subjective and is really driven by the end product. If you want "in your face" citrus character try adding 50 – 100g of a variety like Citra. If you want something more subtle then something 20g of Mandarina Bavaria would be a great start. There’s no rules here so throw some in and see what happens. It’s best to wait until fermentation is slowing or complete then add the hops for around 3 days which should be enough time to extract all the wonderful hop character.
Like dry hops, fruit and other adjuncts can be easily added towards the end of fermentation and bring a whole new character to the finished beers. If using an usual ingredient either do a small scale trial before scaling up for the whole batch or start with a small amount and see what happens. It's easy to add more but usually impossible to remove flavours so exercise restraint.
- Add 2 Vanilla pods and 100g of lightly crushed coffee beans to a stout.
- Add 250g of frozen raspberries to a wheat beer
- Add 250g of peach puree to a IPA
- Add 500g lactose, 2 x vanilla bean and 100g coffee beans to an IPA
- Add 100g of Elderflowers to a lager or wheat beer
- Increase the ABV, add 100g of whiskey oat chips, 2 x Vanilla pods and 200g of chopped toasted almonds to a stout kit
Change the yeast strain
Choice of yeast strain can have a huge impact on the final character of the beer. Most beer kits come with a generic dried ale yeast so changing the yeast can really make a difference. There are a wealth of new yeast strains now available to the home brewer including some really interesting varieties like Kwiek. These are highly flexible being very adapted to performing in low and high temps and suitable for a massive range of beer styles.
- Use a Belgian yeast strain in a pale ale kit.
- Use a Steam beer strain in a IPA kit.
- Use a lager yeast strain in a porter.
Really the possibilies are endless. Liquid yeasts can be expensive so there are lots more tips and advice on how to get the best out of them in this previous blog post.
We are always here to help so drop us a line if you have any further questions on this post or any brewing related issues.