Newbie Question

Grains, malts, hops, yeast, water and other ingredients used to brew. Recipe reviews and suggestions.

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Newbie Question

Postby axslinger » Mon Nov 11, 2002 9:56 am

Hi all. I'm somewhat new to brewing and have some basic questions.

First of all, I see some beer "kits" which are basically 3.3 lb. tins of hopped extract. For example EDME makes a Red Ale. 3.3 lbs. is not much fermentable so what would you normally add to it? If you used two cans for a 5 gallon batch, would it be an acceptable beer or would it be too strong or hoppy?

What are the basic ingredient amounts for a basic beer? In other words how much hopped extract, unhopped extract etc.

I know these are basic questions but I'm just a little unsure as to what is acceptable and what is going to be a disaster.

Do some brews use ALL unhopped extract with hops added in the form of pellets etc?
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Chop hopped

Postby jayhawk » Mon Nov 11, 2002 10:22 am

I have never used kits before, but I have done quite a few extract brews. I always used unhopped extract, and I have heard that hopped extract is bogus. No hop aroma, little flavour, just hop bitterness. I would skip the hopped extract, go for the unhopped and add your own hops.

For my brews (23 L, 6US gal) I used 7 to 8 lbs of liquid malt extract. This gave me enough fermentables to make decent beer.

For a 5 gal basic beer, I would go for 7lbs unhopped extract, a pound of specialty grains for steeping (these add malt character to the beer) and hops. Check out some recipe books or the recipe database at this site to see what kind of proportions people are using.

Good luck
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Your on the right track.

Postby Brewer2001 » Mon Nov 11, 2002 2:55 pm


You are right about the ratios. I also agree with Chris about kits. I made my first four batches using hopped kits without the aid of a hydrometer(that would have helped, as I will explain). I switch to unhopped bulk extract doubled the amount of extract and added a pound of DME.

The kit ales were good but thin (I used the dry yeast that was packed with the kit). The bulk batches had more body and a little more flavor (higher gravity and alcohol content). I started experimenting with hops (East Kent Goldings and Fuggles) and started using liquid yeast (no starter batch). During this time I was working on my signature Irish Red ale, hence the Goldings and Fuggles.

It wasn't until batches later (10th or 11th) did I realize what you already know, my malt/water ratio was out of whack. I boiled all of my extract in a 2 gallon pot and topped up to 5 gallons with cool filtered water. I didn't buy a hydrometer until my eighth batch.

So here are your options:
Kits will guide you a little if you feel you need the help. If you use one kit make a smaller batch. If you want to brew a 5 gallon batch use 2 kits. Get a hydrometer and sample tube to measure your gravity (RECORD ALL YOUR READINGS). Use the largest pot that you have and boil all your wort.

If you decide that you don't need the help and want more freedom 'build' your own recipe using unhopped extract and hops of your choice. I agree with Chris about the malt (7-8 lbs for 5 gallons is a good rule of thumb, I went a little overboard). The hydrometer will allow you to hit your target gravity (my Red is about 1.046-1.048 pre-boil and 1.056 post-boil, I now boil all of my wort). Make your first batch and adjust the next one.

I like whole hops, so I put my hops in a bag and boil them with the wort for 60 minutes (bittering) and 10 minutes for aroma/flavoring. Don't over hop, Red is usually mild. I use an ounce (+ or -) depending on the Alpha and age.

Don't worry this batch will be good! You will learn, refine and adjust to brew exactly what you want. The one thing that will kill your brew is contamination! Three words you need to remember is SANITIZE, SANITIZE AND SANITIZE!

Keep your first brews simple, log all of you readings, taste the brew at different stages and have fun.

Good brewing,

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Postby axslinger » Tue Nov 12, 2002 3:12 am


Thanks for the detailed answer. I guess I never realized that the all-in-one kits were just that. I have always done 2-gal batches with about 3 lbs. of fermentables. 1.5 lbs of hopped malt and 1.5 lb. of unhopped. Then I would throw some lemon zest and juice in the wort while boiling (I like a tangy, zesty beer as opposed to a sweeter, softer beer, usually).

Anyway, the batch I have going now is my first of my 5-Gal. batches. I used 3.3 lbs. of Tripel hopped malt extract and a 2-lb. bag of Muntons Plain Amber unhopped. In addition I had a left over bag of Mr. Beer "Booster" laying around so I threw that in for good measure (Mr. Beer describes their Booster as being refined malto-destrines that add body and alcohol content without giving you the cidery taste associated with too much plain sugar). I started with a reading of 1.042 on my hydrometer. We shall see.

Thanks again for your help!

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