Over Thanksgiving I listened to JZ's show on brewing kits: http://thebrewingnetwork.com/shows/698
and was inspired.
Wednesday I urgently needed to brew but didn't want to go through the hassle of AG or a full boil. So a trip to the LHBS and while picking up some supplies a kit and extra extract were included.
My overall goal was to approach this as a first time brewer following good advice and see how the kit performs.Munton's Connoisseur Extra Stout:
One kilogram prehopped kit to which I added 1 kilo of fresh Golden light liquid extract instead of cane-sugar. The date on the bottom of the can read BBE Jan 2012.
Anyway back to the experiment.
Collect 5 gallons of RO water. Fill stockpot with one gallon of unsoftened city water. The extract is supposed to have minerals in it already but I've found the extra calcium/minerals from the city water helps in fermentation and flocculation. Bring this gallon to a boil, turn off the heat and dissolve extract into the hot water. Then the pot goes into a water bath in the kitchen sink to cool to the low 70's.
Meanwhile sanitize the fermenter.
After 30 minutes or so the cooled the wort went into the fermenter and the pot rinsed of any residual sugars with the unboiled RO water and fermenter topped up to 6 gallons and aerated/mixed with a paint-stirrer and drill.
Meanwhile the yeast... I used 3/4 cup of city water boiled in microwave and cooled to mid 75 into which the yeast packet was sprinkled. Yes- the yeast that came with the kit. The directions suggested 115F as an upper temp into which the yeast should be hydrated. This was ignored. After 15 minutes I swirled the yeast to make sure it was completely dissolved and pitched into the fermenter. The fermenter was then placed into the fermenteezer at 65F.
About 10 hours later the yeast were going at it and 24 hours from pitching the krausen is sticking to the lid of the fermenter. Good thing I sanitized it...
Total actual prep time is less than 30 minutes of labor- took me a couple hours in real time because of breaks to watch TV and I forgot to start the yeast proofing earlier. But this was dead simple. Did a Cooper's or Muntons' kit (Bitter) about three years ago by following the instructions exactly and the result was a cidery lackluster beer. Hoping this one will be different- On Wednesday I tasted a kit stout made by one of the LHBS employees and honestly it tasted great. I would never have known it was from a kit if I hadn't been told first.
Kits have such a stigma attached to them. But I think they are a great time saver and if approached properly they a good thing for the new and veteran brewer alike. If this works out maybe a kit from Morebeer or the like is in the offing.