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How to make home made gin

making home made gin with a kit
One of my favourite TV shows as a kid was M.A.S.H. Even as a young kid I could pick up on most of the seriousness of that show, comedy aside.

One of things that always amused me was how Hawkeye and his doctor buddies were always distilling alcohol in their tent and having a few drinks after performing harrowing surgery on wounded soldiers.

It wasn't till I was an adult, had actually drank alcohol and understood its effect and also had a comprehension of the true reality of war that I understood by Hawkeye would need to have a few drinks in him.

Because war is hell.

Lucky for us though, most of us just want to make our own alcohol and have a quiet evening drink before we retire for the night, and our choice of poison?

Gin.

Home brewed gin.

So let's make some using this kit!

Gin is never just gin. It is always made from a base of alcohol and that's why this why The Homemade Gin Kit has all the necessary ingredients and materials - you just need to supply 750 mls of vodka. 

The vodka is the starting point. 

So what does this gin brewing kit actually come with?
  • Includes: Two 375ml Glass Bottles, Fine Stainless Steel Strainer,Stainless Steel Funnel
  • Includes: One tin of juniper berries & One tin of botanical blend
  • Made in USA so you're helping Americans keep their jobs.
Essentially what the kit is helping you do is soaking the berries and spices in the alcohol.  Because we using the historical soaking method, we're more likely to get more solids and some color (potentially like amber).

So how to use the kit? 

  • Sterilize the bottle bottles. You could boil them or using something like sodium percarbonate.
  • Add your botanicals to the jar
  • Add your vodka, then leave to infuse in a cool dark place for 24 hours or so
  • The next day, taste your infusion – it should already be beginning to taste like gin. That's the juniper taking hold. If you're feeling fancy add some fresh peel orange peel and any extra botanicals whose flavour you want to boost.
  • Leave for up to another 24 hours. Give the bottles a shake a couple of times during that time. 
  • You are done. Use the strainer to get rid of the sediment and bottle. 
  • Enjoy with friends (and food!)
Here's a handy tip. If you want a stronger juniper flavor, and most gin drinkers prefer this, you can crush the juniper berries before adding them to the vodka.  If you want to add even more juniper berries, they're usually available at the spice counter at any major grocery store.

So am I making gin or not?


Now, we'll say this upfront just in case some naysayers tut in with,' this is not how you make proper gin!' 

We are not making distilled gin, we are making infused gin.

Because gin by definition is an alcoholic drink where juniper berries are the main ingredient. 

And that's the most basic part of it.

The economics of making your own gin


What you are doing here is not making gin to make a cheap gin. 

You are making gin for the experience of it. While the infusion method is not difficult at all, there's some reward in taking the time to follow the instructions and making your own gin. 

The reward will be the same any home beer brewer gets, the satisfaction of having made the thing you are drinking. 

If you are trying to make a fine gin, this method is not for you. You could try setting up a still but that's for keen enthusiasts only. 

So, are you ready to order then? The Homemade Gin Kit also have refill options so you can reuse the bottles and make over 2 litres of homemade gin!

To your good health Hawkeye!

How and when to use gelatin for clearing homebrew

clearing beer with gelatin

Whenever I think of gelatin, I think of horse hooves.

That's right horse hooves.

From the knacker's yard. Gross right?

Well I say jelly is jelly, food is food, and if I need to use the foot of a horse to clear my beer and reduce sediment in the bottle I will!

So, here's the guts of using gelatin to clear your beer.

Basically gelatin acts a fining agent. It combines with the 'leftovers' of the beer brewing process and they fall to the bottom of the fermenter thus clearing the beer.

So how much gelatin should I add to my beer?


Many beer brewers have found that between half and a whole teaspoon per 23 litres or 5 gallons will be a sufficient amount. You will probably get diminishing returns if you use much more.

When do I add the gelatin?


You can add it any time after fermentation and word on the street that it actually works best when the beer is quite cool.

A common timing is to add it a couple of days before you intend to bottle your beer.

How do I add the gelatin?


A good trick is to dissolve it in a half a glass of hot water. You then open up the fermenter or carboy, add the liquid and then shut the fermenter back up.

Do I need to use gelatin if I'm making an ale?


For many people, clarity of beer is important to them. If you are making a dark ale, clarity may not be so important to you.

However, finings do remove leftovers that can impinge on the taste of the beer too. The gelatin helps remove the unneeded proteins and polyphenols from the beer.

Where do I get gelatin from?


Most specialist beer shops will stock fining agents such as gelatin. You can also try your local supermarket as it's used in many cooking recipes. You can totally order it online from Amazon for speedy delivery too.

Gelatin can come in powdered form and sheets.

As Robby the Robot would say 'Beware Will Robinson!'


Make sure you buy unflavoured gelatin.

If you use Jello because you know it has gelatin in it, you might be in for quite the taste surprise. That said, we've been known to use gelatin jelly beans from time to time...

Of course, if you don't wish to use gelatin (maybe because you're trying to make vegan beer?) you can try to use other kinds of finings to clear your beer.

What is the best beer brewing kit for beginners?

Did you ever hear your dad tell the story about how he tried to make homebrew in his glory days at university and it was just rubbish?

It was probably because the beer kits in his day were not really up to scratch. There was this strange stigma about making beer at home and there seemed to a 'turn your nose up' attitude to it.

Don't let this 30 year old stigma concern you.

Thankfully, the standard of beer kits is pretty good in this modern era and there's a massive range to choose from. We've been brewing with beer kits for a few years now, and frankly we've yet to have a dud kit.

So with that in mind, what is the best beer kit for beginning beer brewers?

There's a couple of things to think about.

The first is what kind of beer you may want to make. Our judgement is that if this is your first beer, you will want to get in there and just make beer.

Which is the point, we get that.

However you might not know that lagers are harder to get right that ales due to temperature and storage issues. For this reason (so to avoid any disappointment) we would recommend you do try an ale. 

That said, the difference in ale from lager quality isn't something to worry about too much. 

Ales are good tasting beers and there are plenty of beer kits that you can choose from. 

We are personally really into brewing nut brown ales. This is an old English style beer that originates from the dank and dirty pubs of London and beyond. 

Arguably one of the original working man's beers, a well brewed nut brown ale is a worthy beer for anyone that appreciates a cold beer after a hard day's yakka.

We recommend the Black Rock Nut Brown Ale kit for the beginner's choice beer kit. We've used this kit many times and it always produces a handy drinking beer.

You could also try out the Munton's Connoisseur Nut Brown Kit. Its reviews on Amazon suggest that it is an ideal brewing kit for beginners if prepared with some DME or dry malt.


So, maybe you're still of the mind to try your hand at brewing a lager?


In our view, lagers are what the make the world go round. 

There's not much better than after a hot day in the sun mowing the lawns that raising a glass of cold lager to your mouth and emptying its contents down one's throat. 

It's even better if it's your own beer!

So what's a good first lager to brew?

Lagers can be a challenge to make as they need lower temperatures during fermentation to achieve the desired result. 

Since lagers are light in body it is very easy to tell a lager that has been fermented at too warm a temperature as they may taste too fruit or spicy due to too much ester production. This is why we suggested early that you may wish to try your hand at an ale first. 

But whatever, we say learn lagers by brewing lagers.

The very first lager I ever made was a Black Rock Lager with beer enhancer and Dr Rudi Hops. I have no idea who Doctor Rudi is but he sure helped make a good beer! 

You could think of this kit as being your 'standard brewing' kit - nothing too fancy or ambitious but you can be confident they will help you produce good beer.


You’ll also find that Cooper’s DIY Lager is well worth a crack – we do recommend you add some hops of course! We did a great brew of a Cooper's larger with the combination of both Moteuka and Saaz hops. Here's our review of a Coopers' Kit.

If you want to try a beer kit that could be perceived as having a bit more quality, you could consider brewing with the Williams Warn Bohemian Pilsner beer kit

This kit is described as having “a rich, complex maltiness and a crisp finish”. Our brew largely lived up to this claim so we would be happy to recommend this kit to the learner brewer.

A handy thing about this kit is that if comes with a yeast that is tailored for the beer (being the Fermentis Saflager W34/70 lager yeast) whereas some of the kits like the Black Rock range have the same yeast across their whole range. 

The choice is of course yours. 

And the end of the day, you just need to start brewing. We all need to start somewhere and grabbing a quality beer kit for your first batch of beer will help give you a great insight into the beer making process. 

Our brewing guide has plenty of tips and tricks to keep you on the right path to brewing delicious beer. 

We offer you one piece of advice that you would be very wise to heed, always, always sterilize your fermenter and beer equipment

What is the PBW cleaner that homebrewers seem to keep talking about?

PBW for cleaning homebrew equipment
PBW cleans beer equipment very well

PBW stands for Powdered Brewery Wash.


This cleaning product is widely used in commercial breweries but countless home brewers across the country have cottoned on to how they can use it for cleaning their own brewing equipment.

It was originally used by the Coors brewery!

PBW is a trusted brand among most American home brewing communities. If you are looking for some guidance about how to clean your brewing equipment, they will probably say use this powdered wash.

It really is an amazing cleaner for beer brewing equipment.

Don't believe me and you think I'll say anything to make a sale?

Go onto any beer brewing forum and you will find season beer makers raving about this product. Go on, google it now and you'll quickly find we are not exaggerating about how good this cleaning product is.
 

The benefits of using PBW are many:


  • If you've ever used a 5 gallon stainless steel boil pot after homebrewing sessions you'll know how crusty the remnants on the bottom of the pot can be. A round with PBW will sort them out easily. All you have to do when cleaning with hot water, add just a little bit of PBW, mix it up, and let it sit. in the pot. All of that burned-on garbage comes right off
  • Stainless steel never looked so clean after an overnight soak!
  • PBW is environmentally friendly, biodegradeable, and will not harm septic systems
  • You can also clean your dish washer with it! In fact you can clean any stainless steel utensils and equipment with it - that's why it's so versatile as a cleaner for home brewers.
  • If you need to remove an odour that is coming from some organic substance PBW will remove the substance and the accompanying odor. So it's great for cleaning up old brewing equipemnt that might need a bit of love before it's used again
  • Doesn't burn skin as other chemical agents can (like say Sodium Hydroxide) or create a strong pungent smell like other heavy duty cleaners

But wait, that's not all!

PBW has plenty of uses that might not seem so obvious for home brewing


Say you've been a little bit lazy and you haven't cleaned your beer bottles and the sediment has dried out at the bottom of the bottle.

Have you ever tried getting that crap out?

It's a real bitch to do, trust me. 

Why waste time with a bottle brush that just can't reach everywhere when you can soak all your bottles in Powdered Brewery Wash.

It's also handy for removing pesky labels from beer bottles that you want to use for homebrew. Give them a good soak and those labels will come off in no time. 

You can also clean your carboy or fermentor too! And we all know how easy is to think, heck, I've bottled my beer, I'll clean the fermenter next weekend...

That weekend becomes a month and suddenly all the brewing scum is as impenetrable as Fort Knox. A soak with PBW will sort that for you.

Odds are, if you let that fermenter soak overnight in the solution, you won't need to do any scrubbing, simply rinse it off with the hose and you'll be sweet. 

It's really easy to use PBW! 


The instructions are simple. It's just three easy steps:
  1. It's best used to soak your brewing gear over night to easily remove stubborn, caked on organic deposits without scrubbing.
  2. Use 1 - 2 ounces per gallon for cleaning boil kettles, or an ounce per gallon for fermenters, kegs, carbouys and other brewing equipment. 
  3. A quick rinse in the morning and you are ready to get brewing again!

So what do other users say about this cleaning agent?


The average review for PBW by Amazon reviewers is 5 out of 5. That's 100 percent of reviewers believing this cleaning agent does the business, and that's what you want. You don't want to muck around, you just want clean and sanitized beer equipment!

Powdered Brewery Wash is not a sanitizer!


Let's get this super clear. PBW is for washing and cleaning your brewing equipment. It will not necessarily kill the bugs that might linger. Before brewing, and after ensuring you have clean gear, you must sterilize the fermenter and any gear you are using including any spoons, funnels or other utensils. 

Many home brewers often use Star San. Like PBW, Star San is highly rated in the home brewing beer community as a sanitisation agent. A great thing about is that it is a no rinse agent. You spray or briefly soak your gear with it and you are good to go. Star San is very well priced on Amazon.

What are the active ingredients found in PBW?


The main ingredient is about 30% Sodium Metasilicate. It's chemical formula is Na2SiO3 and it's what kicks grease and beer smega to the curb. If you want to be brave and buy the main ingredient in bulk, there's plenty of value on offer on Amazon.

Another key component is sodium percarbonate. Don't get confused with sodium bicarbonate which is sued for things like baking and cleaning! The percarbonate is a really excellent cleaner of beer gear, and we use it often. 

Want to know a secret about percarbonate?

It's laundry soaker.

That's right, the powder you use to get your whites whiter and brights brighter is sodium percarbonate! So if you want a cheaper substitute for PBW, you could use the second active ingredient in it and simply go into your laundry and grab the soak. Napisan, Oxiclean, many of those common and generic brands have percarbonate in them.

So, I'm convinced, where can I buy this wonder cleaner?


How to prevent home brew beer gushers!

beer gusher explosion

Have you ever opened a home brewed beer and it just gushed out like a pent up volcano that just had to blow its load?


It's hugely disappointing.

You've put in all that effort to may you brew and then it literally just splashes all over the kitchen sink or worse in front of your mates you're having some beers and BBQ with.

So what can you do about bottle gushers or 'bottle bombs' ?

There's a couple of ways to prevent gushers and they are pretty simple.

Clean your brewing equipment to prevent gushers


The first one, which isn't a solution but a warning, is to ensure that you have maintained excellent santization practices with your brewing.

There is nothing more disappointing than realizing your brew has been contaminated with infection when you open bottle after bottle and be confronted with a mass of foam that gives Old Faithful in Yellowstone park a run for it's money.

You've set off a beer bomb!

So the lesson here is clean your brewing equipment!

The second way to prevent beer gushers is dead easy:

Don't put so much sugar in your bottles! 


I've learnt this one personally the hard way. If you place too much sugar into your bottles, the yeast will go to town on it as part of the secondary fermentation and produce an excess of CO2.

When that happens, you're on a trip to gusher town.

So, it doesn't matter if you are placing sugar in the individual bottles or priming the whole brew, cut down on that sugar.

My personal rule of thumb is that for a 750 mls bottle, a FLAT tea spoon of sugar is more than enough to get a great level of carbonation.

If you want to employ a quicker method, you could try using carbonation drops. If using those, put two in a 750 mls bottle and one for a 500 mls bottle.


You were not a patient grass hopper


If you bottled your beer before primary fermentation had finished you run the risk of gushers.

If this is the case, you can simply vent your beer by opening the beer cap very slightly letting the CO2 escape. You can then re cap the bottle.

It's getting hot in here...


I also have a theory about gushers but I don't have any proof or evidence that I'm right but I think that if you open 'warm' beer, it is more likely to gush. When I say warm beer, I simply mean beer that hasn't spent a day in a fridge chilling out. 

I did an accidental experiment the other week when I noticed I had a couple of gushers in a recent brew. It was the first opening of a new batch so I was a bit disappointed. The next night I put two bottles in the fridge and had a cracked one open the after work the next day. 

And no gusher!

I suspect warm beer temperature allows the carbon dioxide gas to escape quicker than cold beer. 

So it's hardly scientific proof but I'd be open to discussion on it!

Be careful


Several brews ago I walked into my 'man shed' where I keep my beer and I thought a nuclear 'beer bomb' had been set off. There was green and brown glass every where and the smell of beer in the air. 

What had happened was my beer had actually become infected and the CO2 build up from a run away yeast had caused a beer to explode. 

I suspect that the explosion caused a minor chain reaction of sorts and the bottles closest to the the original exploding bottle blew up due to the fragments of glass that flew their way at presumably very hostile speeds!

Two instructions on the beer kit can you can safely ignore

Two instructions on the beer kit can you can safely ignore

Rules are meant to be broken and so are the beer making instructions that you will find on a beer kit.

Think of an ordinary cake recipe.

If you follow its instructions to the letter, you'd likely get an OK tasting cake.

But a cake making expert will see that same cake recipe and see room for improvement and change things up and make a great tasting cake.

And it's the same with the instructions that come with an extract beer kit. If you make your beer following the can's instructions, you will simply make beer.

When a beer making expert sees those same instructions, they see opportunity to basically ignore those instructions and apply some tried and true beer making methods instead!

Let's have a look some of the things that standard set of instructions might say something like.

bottling beers

Bottle when the specific gravity is the same after two readings



If you are a first time brewer, you could be forgiven if you were wondering what specific gravity means. It's the reading taken with a hydrometer that demonstrates that alcohol is displacing water. If you have two readings the same a day a part, no more displacement is occurring and thus, fermentation is finished.

Right?

No.

While the yeast may have stopped making alcohol, the yeast is still doing it's job. It is cleaning up what we will call the 'left overs'. Here's the instructions your beer kit does not give you. Let your beer 'chill out' in the drum a bit longer.

While the bubbles may have stopped coming out the airlock, some pretty handy chemical reactions are still occurring and they will help make your beer taste even better.

Bottling too early (such as immediately post having two consecutive identical specific gravity readings) deprives your beer of this vital part of the secret to making good beer.

Don't drink your beer after a week, no matter what the instructions say


And here's the second reason to ignore your beer kit's instructions. They often suggest you can drink your beer after a week!

What?

Have you ever actually done this?

I have and I can tell you that a beer that has been conditioned for only a week is the roughest beer around.

What happens when you bottle beer is that a secondary fermentation takes place.

This is when the beer is carbonated for the second time, the difference being, the carbon dioxide is trapped inside the beer bottle. 

While that is happening, the yeast is once again cleaning up the beer for you. Let the beer sit for a minimum of three weeks so that it is at its best for drinking.

So there are two reasons to ignore the beer kit's instructions and they basically come down to time. There is no need to rush your beer making experience. Let the beer sit for a week after fermentation has obviously finished and then let your beer condition even longer than what the instructions suggest. 

You can of course always choose to ignore the advice in my step by step guide to brewing beer!