Mixing Up Your Beer Kit: For Beginners
“Good” brewing is done at a much cooler temperature and slower pace than most kit instructions tell you. The hotter you ferment (eg 26-30C), the quicker the brew will finish but you’ll get more home-brew taste and smell in the finished beer, think yeast and sulphur, especially when the beer is being drunk too “young”. We want to encourage you to brew at the cooler end of the yeast’s abilities to reduce off taste and bad smells, we’re going to aim for around 20C (or showing 18,20,22C on your stick on thermometer strip).
After draining out your sanitiser solution you are ready to mix the brew immediately, don’t rinse or dry off the equipment. Open the beer kit can/pouch and put aside the yeast (and any hops if supplied). Pour the contents of the kit (malt extract) into the fermenter. Then add a small amount of boiling jug water to the can/pouch (eg 1/4 litre) and
using your sanitised stirring spoon swish the hot water around to dissolve the last of the extract, add this to the fermenter. Next, add the other brew ingredient you need to balance the alcohol and flavour with the kit. This will generally be a 1kg Dextrose sugar OR 1kg Enhancer Pack OR an (unhopped) Malt extract. If you’re making your Mangrove Jacks Starter Brewery kit then you’ll have a 1.2kg pouch of malt extract, dissolve this the same way as the beer kit with a small amount of boiling water.
Then start adding cold tap water to this mix, using the can/pouch to pour it in, and start stirring. Continue to top up with cold water and stir, top up and stir. The intention is to reach 23 litres in volume (for a standard brew mix) and have the final temperature around 20C. If you are under this temperature as you’re topping up you can use a bit more boiling jug water, in winter you might use 2-3 litres of boiling water in total but in summer you can use only cold water if you’re willing to stir harder to get the malts etc dissolved up.
Make sure you’ve stirred the brew really well to oxygenate nicely for
good yeast growth. Open the yeast and sprinkle on the surface of the brew. Seal the fermenter.
After adding the yeast the brew will be in an “aerobic” phase where you grow the yeast colony that does the main fermentation. This phase lasts an average of 6-12 hours but this is affected by temperature, oxygenation levels and yeast strain. Once this phase is finished it will start the “anaerobic” phase which is where alcohol and CO2 gas is produced. To make the CO2 gas visible to us we want to make sure the fermenter is correctly sealed up and under “air lock”.
When sealing the lid down you need to make sure the top is on correctly. Most new brewers over tighten the lid and squash the black o-ring seal too much. Gently tighten it down until the water in the airlock’s chambers remains unevenly distributed. When the water remains uneven the fermenter is deemed sealed, if the water remains level (ie evenly distributed) in the airlock’s chambers then the fermenter is not sealed 100% correctly.
the water and not “see” the gas as its released. Don’t panic.
In this situation you will not “see” the gas as its released. Don’t panic. Your airlock isn’t intended to (accurately) tell you when the brew has started and most definitely does confirm the brew has finished. That’s what we use a Hydrometer for.
If you want to see the CO2 gas you need to make sure the fermenter is sealed correctly to allow the gas to only exit the fermenter by passing through the airlock’s water as a bubble. Otherwise the gas is quite happy to escape out from under the lid or around the grommet. The brew is still fermenting. Leave the fermenter to sit in a coolish place, around 20C to ferment.
Brewing time is quite unpredictable, lower temperature brewing does take longer and different yeast strains and ingredients also affect the time. Expect to leave the brew at least 1-2 weeks if room temperature is moderate, eg around 20C. If the room is quite hot eg over 25C it may ferment out in under a week. In cold winter months it will take a lot longer and you may wish to get a low wattage heat belt to help you maintain 18C.