Choosing a Home Brew Starter Kit

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Complete High Quality Starter Kit with Bottles

Bottles or Barrel?

There are many styles of home brew starter kits to choose from, often deciding how you would like to store and dispense your brew is a good starting point, either bottles or a pressure barrel. There are a couple of main factors here,  often lagers and ciders will be chilled so bottles can easily be put in the fridge, whereas beers are not always chilled. Bottles are simpler and have less things to go wrong, but barrels are easier to fill and clean although they do require maintenance and must be checked that they are sealing airtight. If opting for bottles then there are several styles to choose from, there are a couple of things to bear in mind, but whatever you choose shouldn't affect the taste: If using plastic bottles they should be PET (food grade) plastic to ensure that they are suitable. Whether using plastic, glass or a barrel, they must be fully sterilised to ensure they are clean so as not to spoil the brew (with VWP or similar, and well rinsed with clean water). Traditionally it is often said that glass is best, and different people have their own preference, but one advantage of plastic is that they will not shatter if accidentally dropped.  Once sealed up your brew will store from six months up to a year just keep them away from UV light. 

Which Starter Kit?

Starter kits generally are available as either 'Equipment Only' or 'Complete', if you want to choose your preferred equipment pack based on budget you can then add a beer lager or cider ingredients of your choice. Often the 'Complete' versions work out better value, and being complete you should only need to add tap water and brewing sugar to brew and store your beer or lager. It is always best to buy from a reputable specialist supplier to ensure your starter kit really is 'Complete' and that all the items included are fit for purpose. 

They can sometimes cost a little more, but if bottling your brew it is recommended to choose a starter kit with a 'little bottler' or 'bottling stick' included, these great devices are fitted to your fermenting vessel and make bottling your brew quick and easy. Traditionally the brew was syphoned over from the fermenting vessel to the bottles using a length of syphon tube, but this is harder and can be messy and time consuming, a little bottler leaves the sediment behind and makes filling each bottle a quick and easy one-handed method, making the bottling process quick and easy. 

Which Beer or Lager Ingredients?

There are generally two styles of beer ingredients (referred to as 'beer kits'), the smaller 1 tin/pouch kits usually need sugar or brew enhancer adding to them to make, the larger and more expensive 2 tin/3kg ingredients kits usually include more malt extract so just need water adding to brew. Whichever you choose they include a suitable yeast in the pack or under the lid, and instructions for the brewing times and any special instructions for that particular brew. 

There are many brands to choose from and the quality is generally very good, even with the cheaper ingredients, but you do tend to get what you pay for with them, some of the most popular are  Festival and Coopers  beers and lagers. 

Some beer and lager ingredients now even include the 'priming sugar' - this is the small amount of sugar needed to prime the barrel/each bottle before sealing them , and good starter kits with bottles include 'priming drops' which is an easy way to prime the bottles. A barrel or bottles must be primed with some sugar to produce the pressure within them and carbonate the brew, the dosage amounts vary depending on the brew and vessel and can be altered to give the required amount of carbonation - often lagers and ciders are preferred with a bit more fizz, whereas beers tend to be lightly carbonated.

How Long Will It Take?

As a guide to brew a beer, lager or cider from kit ingredients takes around a week at around 20 degrees C or so, then once bottled or barrelled a minimum of 2 or 3 weeks to carbonate, clear and condition, but ideally leave for longer as the flavours continue to develop and improve, experienced brewers usually try and leave for a good few months and this is made easier by having a couple of batches so they can be stored for longer.

Can Anybody Home Brew?

Home brewing from kits is very simple and quick, most people find it easy and fun, the most important thing is to clean all your equipment to ensure it is sterilised and to follow the instructions, the vessel can be heavy once filled with beer or lager, but by carefully positioning it often it will not need to be moved once filled. Lots of help and advice is available from experts who are always happy to help, Home Brew Online have an active forum, and questions are quickly answered by email or phone. Home brewing is surprisingly easy and produces beers and lagers of a fantastic quality, the hardest part is waiting for it to condition once made but patience will pay off.
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