Why It May Be Time To Move Away From Kits And Make Your Own

September 12, 2012

General posting

I’m a huge advocate for making your own recipes and not going by recipe kits.  I have many reasons and honestly, one post would not do enough justice (but I’ll keep it to one).  So I’ll try to keep this short and sweet.

It’s best to start this off by knowing what I see in the homebrewing culture.  There are 3 different types of brewing as of today: 1) Extract brewing 2) Extract brewing with specialty grains 3) All-grain brewing.  There are also a variety of different kits that you under each category.  Also you can make a variety of different sizes from kits, some make 1 gallon, some make 2 gallons, others make 5 gallons.

If you are getting into brewing, it can seem confusing on where a good starting place – there are a lot of options. This is my ten cents on the matter, anything less then 2.5 gallons of beer is a lot of labor for a little fruit.  The juice really doesn’t seem worth the squeeze.

Moving on from that you might be thinking, “Should I do recipe kits, or use a recipe book or make my own?”.  This is where I kinda get disturbed by the chatter that’s on the internet.  The reason is, a lot of people think that following a recipe from recipe book is harder then getting a kit.  I see this as a major problem.  Just read that again, following a recipe is harder then just getting a kit… Homebrewing is moving towards, paint by numbers.

Why do I find this odd, well it’s probably because of my personal history with brewing.  When I first got into brewing we really didn’t have a big variety of homebrew kits, in all honesty before having a shop I never even did a beer kit. Now I’m not saying this to thump my chest or anything but that’s just my background, I never really understood why people did kits ever.  To me the natural progression of brewing was make different styles of beer from recipe books, then know what styles you like, then make my own recipes based off the style of beer that you like.

The best part of homebrewing is that you can be creative, you can make what you want and do your own thing.  Buying recipe kits to me makes just about as much sense as this analogy, you know someone that said, “I want to get started in making cakes.”, you would most likely say, “Oh that’s pretty cool – sounds like fun.”.  But then you find out that every time that they make a cake they just go over to safeway and buy a cake recipe kit from mccormick.  Would your reaction be the same?

Sorry to say, but in my opinion – the same goes for beer and beer kits.  I can understand that the first couple times that you do a beer recipe there is the urge not to screw anything up and a beer kit is the safer way to go. With that said, if you continue to only make beer from beer kits, doesn’t that get old?  It just seem like the, “paint by numbers” route. But that’s my personal opinion.

So rather then just sit hear and be critical, I wanted to give some suggestions.  First off, buy a book.  There are plenty of homebrewing books out there and a lot of them tell you how to build your own recipes or give you different recipes in general.   The book that I would recommend to any homebrewer is, “The Joy Of Homebrewing”.   It goes from really simple to more complicated and has great recipes in there as well.  If you decide to get that book, you’ll actually learn the process of brewing and why you are doing certain things.  It’s not a hard read at all, and by all means if you are currently in homebrewing or are interested in homebrewing this is probably the only book you NEED to read to become a very good homebrewer.

If you don’t feel like reading a book just check out some blogs.  I say blogs and not forums because there are many things that forums can provide, a common voice is not one of them.  Also if you don’t feel like having a recipe book go and try free recipes on the internet.  There are plenty of websites that have great ones, one of my websites is, www.beertools.com.

Once you start doing your own recipes you’ll see that every beer has the same format.  This format is the same with pretty much every beer unless otherwise specified.  The format is,  Heat 2.5 gallons of water up to 150, then steep your grains for 30 minutes.  Take them out.  Add you malt extract in, bring to a boil.  Then add your hops when they are specififed to be added in the boil.  Afterwards, cool down, fill up to 5 gallons pitch yeast.  Every single time that is going to be the process unless it is otherwise told.

When looking at recipes on the interent, they tend to not be so wordy because they assume you know this format. So here is an example

The grains for this are: Pils, melandoidin, and aromatic.  So you would steep those in 2.5 gallons of water for 30 min at 150 degrees.  Take them out then.

It calls for 6 lbs of malt extract.  You would add that into the pot then bring it to a boil.

Now the hops for this have numbers next to them, that referes to the boil times.  60 minutes means that it is a 60 minutute boil and the hops are added in the begining of the boil .  20 mintues means hops are added with 20 minutes left in the boil.

Afterwards you end up cooling down, filling up to 5 gallons and pitching your yeast.

Conclusion

I really think that it’s a good idea for homebrewers to leave the kits behind and start doing there own recipes if you want to stay excited about homebrewing.  Don’t be scared to start messing around with beer ingredients or doing your own recipes either.  If you go to a homebrew shop just run the recipe by someone that works there and I’m confident that they can help correct it or give some suggestions.  But in my opinion, you really don’t learn that much by just ordering a kit or getting a kit.  Have fun with the hobby, it’s suppose to be a hobby where your creativity shines.  Also finding recipes on the internet or recipe books, the possibilities are endless rather then confined to just a few different recipes.

 

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5 Comments on “Why It May Be Time To Move Away From Kits And Make Your Own”

  1. John Says:

    My first brew was from a kit but after that I moved onto all grain, using the brew in a bag method. If I was starting now I wouldn’t bother with the kit again.

    As you suggest, a lot of the joy of brewing comes from inventing your own mix of ingredients and your own beer. Although kits brew well, they’re just not as satisfying.

    If you’re planning to stick with brewing for a while it’s worth experimenting. It doesn’t really matter if a couple of beers along the way turn out bad – the excellent ones more than make up for it.

    Interesting article!

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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