How To Brew Better Beer From a Kit

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Making homemade beer is relatively easy. It is simply a case of following the instructions on the can. But making really great tasting beer is a different matter. I always think the beer you get out of the basic kits has that homebrew taste. They can be quite sharp and lack a bit of body. Luckily there are a few tricks that you can use to give the beer that little extra and create a beer that is as good, if not better than most beers you get in a pub.

Using Glucose and Malt Extract

The first thing to change from the original instructions is to not use table sugar. Ordinary table sugar, the stuff that goes on your cornflakes, should not be used. Using ordinary white sugar can give the beer a cidery/ vinegary taste. It is used in the cheaper kits to give the finished beer more alcohol. The better type of sugar too use is pure glucose, some call it brewing sugar and is generally available from all good brewing shops. Glucose fully ferments and doesn’t leave the off flavours in the beer that normal table sugar does.

Glucose Powder
Glucose Powder

Alternatively, instead of using sugar use spray dried malt extract. This comes in a variety of different grades. Pale malts that can be used in all beer types, to extra dark which are great used in stouts and really dark bitter. I generally use pale to medium malts in ales.

Spray Dried Malt Extract

A good starting point is to use a mix of glucose and malt. The simplest is to mix pale malt and glucose in a 50-50 mix, the resulting mixture then replaces the sugar weight for weight. The next step is to start blending malts, I’ve had good results by using a blend of medium malt and pale malt, 25% medium, 25% pale and 50% glucose.

The advantages of using malt over pure sugar are, the malt is not fully fermentable so it increases the final density of beer. This gives it mouth feel, it gives the beer better body. The addition of extra malt also aids head rentention, keeping the head on the beer until the end of the pint. Adding sugar adds nothing to the flavour of the beer, using table makes it worse, adding malt adds a richer malty flavour to the beer.

Using Hops

Adding hops to your beer kit is a great way to really improve the flavour. There are many varieties of hops. Hops usually come either dried and vacuum pack in a foil bag, or in pellet form, which again are dried and compressed in a pellet form.

Hop Pellets

Because we are basing our beer around a simple beer kit the hops don’t need to be boiled for long periods. A good starting point is 1oz(25grms) of fuggles hops steeped in 1l of hot water for about ten minutes, this adds extra hops flavour to any ale or bitter. The method I use is to boil 1l of water in a saucepan, take the pan of the heat stir the hops, cover and leave stand for ten minutes. After ten minutes or so, strain of the liquid adding the to the ferementer.

Remember, before you start, it is important to thoroughly sanitize all of the equipment you will use using a santiser such as the ever-popular Star-San.

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Carla Lauter was the founder of The Beer Babe and has been a beer blogger and expert for several decades. She's been interviewed in beer publications and podcasts about her favorite brews and the craft brewing scene. While she's ceased her involvement with The Beer Babe, her legacy remains in the various reviews and articles she has written.