>> What are the best beer kits to use for brewing?

best home brew beer kits to try

There is a great range of beer kits to use for home brewing

The best thing about beer kit selection is that it all depends on what kind of beer you want to make. 

So the choice is up to you.

No one wants to screw up their beer, they just want a great tasting beer that they can share with their mates.

Or drink it all themselves while watching the Footy. 

But you gotta make that choice.


Are you after a hearty ale or a light lager? 

Maybe ever something more fancy like a 'saison' which seems to be all the rage at the moment?

There are many kinds of beer kits from all kinds of sellers. They are all intended to be used to make great tasting beer so let’s review a selection of the best beer kits and see if we can find the best one for you.

Things to consider first when buying a beer kit

What kind of beer do you want to brew?

Beer kits are made to cover just about every beer style that there is. 

If you are a beginner brewer we would recommend that you go for a more darker beer like an ale or stout (we love nut brown ales with some fuggle hops ourselves). 

This is because it's more likely you will get a better tasting beer, especially as most first time brewers will not be patient enough to wait for their lagers to properly age!! 

Speaking of lager...

Is the kit reasonably fresh?

If it’s been sitting under the kitchen sink for three years the ingredients may not be in an optimum state and the condition of the yeast will certainly be questionable.

You want your beer kit to be in the best state so as they say, fresh is best. When making your purchase feel free to inquire with the seller or check the batch data.

If it’s old, show the kit the door.

If you are buying from a popular beer specialty store or online site, chances are you will be buying a product of an appropriate age and there should be no reason for you to wonder.

One handy trick brewers often do is discard the yeast pack that comes with the beer kit and instead they add their own fresh yeast they have sourced elsewhere, the Safale yeast is a popular choice with homebrewers.

Many brewers believe that the yeast in beer kits are not as good as specialty yeasts. We say each to their own, and if you can afford it, go for it.

Lager beer kits

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

Since lagers  are generally 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 fruity or spicy due to too much ester production.

So what are some good beer kits to use to make a lager?

Getting the malt ready
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! 

I’ve used plenty of Black Rock Kits and they are just the best for basic home brewing and produce very drinkable beers. 

You could think of these kits as being your 'standard' kit - nothing to fancy 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

Cooper’s kits have been reviewed by drinkers as being “a great beer to start with for new brewers and veterans alike. The flavor is very smooth, has a creamy head and ends with a slight bitterness.”

Another popular choice in the American home brewers market is the Munton’s Premium Lager Kit, which has a 5 star review on Amazon

What are the popular ale kits? Is IPA the way to go?

Some of the tastiest beverages around are ales. There’s something about them that just makes you feel good when drinking them (other than the obvious alcohol effect!).

They are hearty to drink, and pair well with many food dishes.

A well-crafted ale can explore all kinds of taste sensations and they are certainly a great session beer where you can just get on them.

Also, the best ale kits are pretty forgiving to brewing mistakes and they are also able to be brewed at warmer temperatures than those pesky and pernickety lagers ;).

So what are the best ale kits?

We are going to focus on the IPA, the good old Indian Pale Ale.

A style of apparently that was apparently invented by the British during their efforts to colonize India, the IPA is a hoppy style beer from the pale ale family.

There are three kinds of IPA’s American-style, English-style, and Double or Imperial. All have good things going for them, especially Mr Beer’s Diablo IPA.

It is a very popular beer kit. It has been described as being “a very nice dark ale with subtle hints of winter spices, and takes kindly to many different yeasts.”

Get your thrills from your pils (kits)

Let’s have a think about Pilsner beer kits.

Hand tip - use a hydrometer to check the gravity
The pilsner style is arguably the most successful beer style in the world with some counts suggesting that 9 out of 20 beers comes from the pils family or a style derived from it.

Take that with a grain of malt, but there’s no doubt as to the popularity of a good pils (if you ever get the chance, try the Three Boys Pils, it’s one of our personal favourites).

The pilsner has a long history coming out of Germany. The modern pilsner has a very light, clear colour from pale to golden yellow. It will usually have distinct hop aroma and flavour.

Pilsner beers have become nearly synonymous with the four so called 'noble hops'. These are varieties of hop called Terrnanger, Spalt, Hallertauer and Saaz.

So what are the best pilsner beer kits? 

Here's a handy selection of the popular sellers on Amazon:

Stout beers are... strong!

You may always want to try a stout.

Stouts are not for the shy beer drinker, they are a full on ‘meal’ in a glass. A dark beer, they are often 7 or 8 percent ABV and have been around as a beer style since the late 1600s.

The stout, like most beer families, comes in a variety of styles. Milk stouts, Irish, Porters and oatmeal are popular versions.

The most well-known Irish stout is the Guinness Draft, the mostly drunk beer around the world on Saint Patrick's day!

There’s even a method of brewing stout that uses oysters but we recommend the home brewer stay away from adding some of Bluff’s finest export to their brews!

Stouts will often use East Kent Goldings hops but the classic Fuggle hop is used, as are several others.

So what are the best stouts to homebrew from a kit?

Here's a handy selection of popular options from Amazon.

So there you go, there are plenty of quality beer kits to choose from. What to choose depends on what kind of beer you want and how much you want to spend!

We would recommend you go with popular beer kits when you are starting out.

This way you can have some confidence that many brewers have been there before and voted with their wallets as to the quality and taste of the kits.

Always bear in mind that having a good kit is not a guarantee of success – attention to good brewing technique and adhering to the mantra of sanitizing your equipment are also fundamental to the chances of brewing a tasty beverage! A good choice of hops will go a long way too - our Riwaka hops experiment was a great success.

↠ 33 tips and tricks for home brewers (have a look, you don't know everything!)

tips for brewing beer

Moar tips for making good beer

Let's face it, you don't know everything but even Han Solo had room to improve so here's some brewing tips.
  1. If you're a kitchen based brewer, bottling beer over your dishwasher door; clean up is as simple as closing the door.
  2. Clean out your 'Boil in a Bag' brew bag by first shaking it out, then turning it inside out and holding it under the shower.
  3. Pour the contents of the bag into a bowl and use that to pour into boiling water. It is MUCH easier to scrape extract out of a bowl.
  4. The importance of brewing with fresh ingredients cannot be overstated. The quality of home brewed beer can only be as good as the quality of the ingredients going into the brew kettle.
  5. Be wary that if using dry malt extract, the steam from boiling water causes significant amounts of extract to cake onto the sides of the bag. If this is an issue for you, we suggest you put the DME in first before you add the water.
  6. Re-hydrate dry yeast that you've saved by pouring it into a plastic bottle of water (of the correct temperature of course), capping it, and shaking. Burp any excess gas by gently opening the bottle (as you would a bottle of soda). When it comes time to pitch the yeast, simply pour out of the bottle into your wort.
  7. Placing a packet of silica gel in your hydrometer case can help absorb any residual moisture that may be left after using it (we think this is a flight of fancy in some ways and not necessary).
  8. Use a ph Meter to test your mash.
  9. There are plenty of different kinds of hops, and for best results match the kind of beer you are brewing to the hops known to best compliment that style.
  10. Try to match your hops to well-known lager hops - Saaz hops, in particular, are associated with the brewing of lagers as well as the classic German hop, Hallertauer. We've discovered the New Zealand derived Green Bullet hop is also very handy.
  11. When making a yeast starter, place the flask inside of a plastic grocery bag, and then place it on the stir plate. Should the starter overflow, the mess is contained within the plastic bag.
  12. 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.We love this idea. Put a book or other wedge under the back of your fermenter after sealing it up. On brewing day, gingerly slide the book/wedge to the front of the fermenter and you'll have a slanted yeast cake and a nice "deep end of the pool" in the back side of the fermenter to rack from.
  13. You can use a hydrometer to work out the alcohol content of your beer
  14. 60 carbonation drops, will be enough drops for one 23 litre brew.
  15. A few marbles, glass beads, or large SS ball bearings will reduce the risk of boil over dramatically. It works by providing nucleation points at the bottom so that large bubbles rise up and pop and less small bubbles are available to form foam. Of course, if you use foam inhibitor such as Fermcap-S, you probably don't need any other hacks! 
  16. Cool the Wort quickly -Doing this will increase the fallout of proteins and tannins that are bad for the beer.
  17. Using a spray bottle of Star San solution seems like a good hack. Doesn't waste time with dunking everything in a bucket when you can just spray it liberally and get good coverage.
  18. Put spigots in all of my fermenting buckets, so you need to use an auto syphon.
  19. When transferring out of a fermenter into a keg, fill 1 pint mason jars with the slurry, and refrigerate them so that you can use it as a yeast starter for another brew.
  20. Using sodium percarbonate is our preferred method to sanitize as it works well, no rinse is required and it's very easy to order in bulk online.
  21. You can make a 'hops tea' to ensure the hop flavours get into the beer.
  22. Buy hops in bulk to save money. Make sure you are going to use it though! You can store excess hops by keeping it frozen.
  23. Don't bottle your beer too early or you will suffer the rage of Darth Vader, cursing you out for not being patient. So when doing your first brews, make sure it can be done in a warmish area and one that's going to keep that temperature fairly constant - A very rough guide is that you should aim to brew lagers between 10-14 degrees, and get those ales done between 18-21 degrees.
  24. There are two ways you can add the sugar to your beer - you can prime the whole batch in one go by adding your liquid sugar into the fermenter or you can add sugar to each bottle individually.
  25. To get a creamy mouth feel, use more ‘unfermentables’ in your beer. In effect this is malt. The more malt you add, the 'creamier' your beer will be. This is in the sense that your beer will be more viscous, making it feel thicker in your mouth. Instead of hand cleaning your bottles and dunking them in sanitizer put them in the dishwasher bottom rack. USE NO DETERGENT, and put the dishwasher on the hottest cycle. The temperature is hot enough to kill the nasties that could infect your beer (we also add the dish washer is handy for removing bottle labels).
  26. You can add extra fermentables like DME, on top of what your recipe asks for, to increase the ABV of the beer.
  27. When we say clean we actually mean clean AND sterilized. Sterilize the heck out of everything you use. If you're starting out as a home brewer, your kit should contain a cleansing and sterilizing agent.
  28. Don't rush in like a schoolboy - leaving your beer to sit for a bit longer will allow such characteristics to fade and largely disappear - which leaves you with a great tasting and smelling lager.
  29. When bottling, you may wish to give the successfully bottles a gentle tip or two to make sure that all the sugar is in the liquid and has a chance to dissolve. This is also an opportunity to inspect for broken seals. You don't need to bottle straight away, just because the fermentation bottle has stopped bubbling - If the bubbles in the airlock appear to have finished, this is not necessarily a sign that the fermentation process has halted. It's quite likely that there's still some fermentation quietly happening in the plastic fermenter drum or carboy.
  30. Batch priming is a great way to get the sugar levels for bottle carbonation correct and to reduce the chance of beer gushers.
  31. Get the bigger kettle or pot, in the long run, you’ll save money  - for many first homebrewers the purchase is a starter equipment kit. Once they have that, all they need is a brew kettle or pot and ingredients. So they get the cheap, smaller size kettle – and then suddenly they find they want to keep going with beer making and so need to purchase the bigger kettle or brewing pot.
  32. At a pinch, you can use baking yeast to make beer
  33. Try the odd jelly bean as a substitute carbonation drop!

How to pitch yeast correctly into beer wort

adding yeast to the beer wort

How to pitch yeast into homebrew beer

Newbie beer makers may have heard the expression “pitch your yeast” and wondered what the heck it meant.

I myself was horribly concerned that I had missed a trick when making my first brew after learning this phrase.

Had I missed out a step?

Had I ruined my beer?

Nope, of course not (but there are ways to do that).

Pitching yeast’ is just homebrewer lingo for adding yeast to the wort.

Without yeast, your wort will not turn into beer. The yeast is an active living organism that feeds on the oxygen and sugars in the wort and as a bi-product produces carbon dioxide and the sought after alcohol.

Yeast is a sensitive cell based life form and needs the correct conditions in which to thrive and help make really good beer.

That’s why pitching your yeast is more than simply adding it to your beer – it needs to be done at the correct time in the brew so that it can activate properly.

What temperature to pitch yeast into the beer wort?

The short version is if you pitch your yeast when your brew is too hot (say you’ve just boiled it), you will kill the yeast with the heat and fermentation will not occur. Which would be a waste of time and money.

This is why the cooling process can be so important.

That said, pitching yeast too cold means the yeast won't start its job.

Your fermenter might have a temperature gauge on the side, else you might need to get your hands on a thermometer.

Ale fermentation temperatures commonly range from 68 to 72 °F (20 to 22 °C) Lager fermentation temperatures will range from 45 to 55 °F (7 to 13 °C).

If you are using a beer kit, the ideal temperature should be written on the can or pouch - trust what the manufacturer brewer says!

I’ve noticed that some brewers can be super sensitive about yeast and the preparation and pitching of it. There are arguments about the best method but the casual homebrewer should not get caught up too much in it.

If you follow some good beer making instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems with the yeast.

The easiest way to pitch your yeast is by 'dry pitching'

If you are like me, once you have prepared the wort your the 30 liter drum, you are ready to add your dried yeast. The easy way is to simply open up the packet that came from the beer kit, and drop it into your wort. I like to cut the packet open so that the yeast cells and efficiently exit the packet.

I also like to give it a shake to pack the yeast on one side and cut on that side.

When you do this, you are pitching your yeast 'dry'.

Maybe give it a gentle stir with a clean spoon. Close off your fermenter securely and place your beer in a good spot for a week or two to let the yeast do its job.

Of course, make sure the temperature is OK. It probably is but check it anyway.

If you want to give the yeast the best chance to do their job really well:

Re-hydrate your yeast before you pitch it

A handy method that many earnest brewers follow is to hydrate the dry yeast in water before pitching. The reasoning behind this is that it gives the yeast a good chance to get started properly.
Rehydrating yeast in a glass

The theory is that there can be a concentration of sugars in the wort which means it is difficult for the yeast to absorb water into its membranes so that they can begin to activate/metabolize and thus commence the fermentation process.

Based on that, I imagine that if you have made a high gravity wort that's full of sugar and fermentables for the yeast to eat, hydration is a good step to take.

In my experience I’ve never had the yeast fail with a simple beer kit but if you are keen to cut the potential problem out, feel free to re-hydrate your yeast.

Do this by boiling some water and letting it cool. You can then add your yeast packet (or two!) to the water and let it begin to absorb – you shouldn’t do this too far apart from when it is time to pitch the yeast.

Cover and leave for about 15 minutes and then inspect. It should have begun to smell like you are making bread and 'bubbled' a bit (see the above picture). If so, it’s ready to be pitched.

Once you've added the yeast to the wort, there will likely be some left in the glass - I have a 'waste not want not' kind of view so I add some water to the glass, give it a swirl and add it to the yeast as well.

If there is no churning or foaming or sourdough or bread like smells, it could be your yeast has died from old age or environmental damage such as being left in the sun.

You may need to use a new packet of yeast...

How many packets of yeast should I use?

Generally speaking, brewers will use one packet of yeast however if you a trying to make a very high alcohol beer where the yeast is expected to do a lot of work, you might want to consider using two packets.

You may want to use two packets if your yeast is fairly old as the older it is, the less potency the yeast will have as the yeast cells will have slowly died off over time.

The 'denser' or thicker your wort, the more yeast you will need.

There's also a difference when making an ale or lager. Yeast becomes slow to ferment when it’s cold. Given lager ferments at a much lower temperature than ale, it's reasonable then to use more yeast with the lager to finish the job properly.

Some brewers use the rule of thumb to pitch about twice as much yeast for a lager as for an ale.

Using liquid yeast for brewing

If you intend to use a liquid yeast it should really be pitched to a starter wort before THEN pitching to the main wort in the fermenter. Here's a handy guide to making the starter from one of the true industry legends, John Palmer. 

That said, many liquid yeasts can simply be pitched as normal so check the instructions that come with your unit.

What are some good yeasts to brew with?

If you do not wish to use the yeast that comes with the beer kit you have, you could try what a gabillion brewers use, the American ale yeast, Safale -05. I've used it personally and it goes great guns and is tried and true.

The Safale - 04 is a handy English ale yeast too.

A quick summary of pitching yeast 

  • Pitching yeast is simply adding it to the beer wort.
  • Add it when your wort is the recommended temperature – check your beer kit’s recommended temperature.
  • You can pitch dry yeast straight into the wort.
  • Or you can add it to water just prior to pitching.
  • Dry yeasts have a longer storage life than liquid yeasts. 
  • Liquid yeasts must be stored by refrigeration means.
  • The older the yeast, the more of it you will need to use. 
  • Once done, sit back and read some cool trivia about Star Wars
  • You can even use baker's yeast to pitch into your beer!
Extra for experts: should you use a ph Meter?

Image credit to Justin Knabb via Creative Commons Licence

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.



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!


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 to drink 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!

↠ Best Grain Mills crusher || 2020 Review

best grain mills for malt and barley

Best mill for crushing beer grains

Have you ever heard the expression, "that's grist for the mill?"

Its origins relate to corn being the grist that was taken to the mill. In the more modern use, grist is something that is useful for a particular purpose. 

This is just an excuse to talk about the best grist mills to mill grain with so that you can brew fabulous beers!

There's a little bit to think about when buying a mill and you should ask yourself the following kinds of questions
  • Can the mill handle the volume of grain you want to run through?
  • Can you adjust the mill gap to ensure the grains are cracked and not crushed?
  • Can you upgrade it as you go along?
  • How does it get mounted? Does it need or come with screws?
  • How affordable is the unit? 
  • Do you plan to use it long-term, what are quality considerations?
Or you can just have a look and compare between these top-rated units:

Here's some specifications of these three handy mills.

The 'Barley Crusher'

barley crusher malt mill
The Malt Mill 'Barly Crusher' is Northern Brewer's most popular mill due to it being a high-quality mill that is clean, durable and most importantly, it's hop will help you crush 7 pounds of grain.

  • Solid base fits easily on a standard 6.5 gallon fermenting bucket.
  • Adjustable rollers with a .015 to .070 range.
  • Materials that will last a lifetime: 1018 Cold Rolled Steel for the rollers, 6061 Aluminum for the mill body and hopper, tool steel for the axles with oil-impregnated bronze bushings.
  • 5-inch rollers have a 12 TPI knurl that pulls grain through while leaving the hull intact to form an excellent filter bed for sparging.
  • Large hopper holds approximately 7 pounds of grain.
  • Includes a hand-crank but no adapters are needed to use a 3/8 drill motor; using a 3/8 drill motor at 500 RPM gives a throughput of 6 pounds a minute.

Genuine Amazon reviews left by happy grain millers:

  • "This mill pounds through grain like a champ. There's no going back to my old Corona mill."
  • "The malt was nicely crushed, with husks moderately broken up, and endosperms exposed and cracked. My efficiency got a big boost- I got roughly 81% compared to the 63 to 73% I was getting before."
  • "Far more than looks, this thing consistently and smoothly grinds my grains. I run the grain through twice and have the husks beautifully unbroken and ready for mashing."
  • "Great barley crusher, very fast. This is great for increasing your mash efficiency."

Check the price on Amazon

Kegco KM7GM-2R Grain Mill 

The Kegco KM7GM-2R Grain Mill is a sturdy mill with an aluminium hopper that can hold up to 7 lbs of grains.

Featuring an alloy block frame that houses two steel rollers on stainless steel ball bearings. The drive shaft and all axles are integral to the roller, which makes it possible to drive the mill clockwise or counter-clockwise. 

A traditional hand crank is included, but a handy feature is that the mill can be easily motorized with a drill. No extra parts or attachments are required, you simply attach the drill as you would a drill bit. Charge your drill battery well!

Stainless knurled knobs allow a gap spacing adjustment range of .070". 

This unit is designed to crack grain, not flour.

Adjusting is simple - just loosen the adjustment screws, adjust the gap and tighten the adjustment screws. You will need to supply or build a base to set the mill over a grain bin or 5 gallon bucket. Sounds like a deal!

Ferroday Stainless 2-roller Homebrew Grinder

ferroday grain mill
The Ferroday is a no-nonsense mill is made of hardened stainless steel, The roller size is 5" long and 1.25" in diameter and the crank shaft has a 3/8" diameter.

The roller is adjustable so you can select your crush settings. The unit weighs 6.6 pounds.

If you've got some questions about using mills, we've got the answers:

Why do I need to mill my grain?

A beer mill allows you to crack your grains right before you brew so that you can retain freshness. Possession of a mill will allow you enable you to purchase more affordable unmilled grain in bulk thus saving you money in the long run.

When should I mill the grain?

It's best to mill your grain as close as possible to brewing day. Many brewers do it a couple of days beforehand so that they don't have to do it on brewing day. It's a long process which just adds to the length of brew days - and those brewers who don't have eight hours on a Saturday to play around with, shorten the process by milling earlier.

If you are unable to actually mill your grain,  you may want to delay your purchase as long as possible so that you can be confident that you have the freshest grains. If you are happy buying milled grain, then you may want to consider investing in a wort chiller or decent mash tun as they are crucial to brewing success.

Coarse or finely milled grain milling?

A grain mill that is appropriate for crushing barley for a mash is usually referred to as a 'grist mill'.

The mill needs to be set 'open' enough that the husk of the barley seed will crack open, but will not be torn apart. The goal of milling is to crack the grain kernels open, rather than pulverizing them into dust. By leaving the husks intact they serve as a filter bed during the sparge process.

Should you grind the grain much too finely, you run the risk of developing a stuck sparge, where the wort will not flow as intended through the grain.

Where should I mill grain?

Most brewers choose to mill outside, over a big bucket. The mess can begin when you dump the grain out of its sack - and that alone can justify your decision to mill outside!

Can I mash grain without a mill?

If you find yourself without a mill, you can try using a rolling pin. The rolling pin should at least crack the grain open. You might try crushing the grain on top of a thin towel.

The towel will stop the grain from rolling around while you try to crush it. This 'rolling pin method' is very time consuming so I'd personally discount it as a method for the long term. 

Many a brave brewer has used a food processor and you can give it a whirl but be wary of over-processing the grain.

Can I use the KitchenAid grain mill attachment? 

The electric KitchenAid mixers are a very popular family based home appliance - and a separately purchased mill attachment may be used to mill grain. It is however designed to mill flour for baking.
kitchenaid grain mill review

Does it work is the real question?

The answer is that results may vary but you can use it.

Common brewer complaints about the Kitchenaid attachment are that is has a small hopper so it can be a timely exercise and it can be difficult to arrange a bucket under the attachment to collect the milled grain. Brewers who successfully use the item advise that one should not set the grain too fine and set it so the malt is barely cracked.

We the attachment will work best with the 600 watt Kitchen Aid mixer rather than the 325 watt unit. 

How can I hook my drill up to the mill?

It's a simple trick to use your ordinary handyman drill to get the mill turning over. Here's a great example of how to set up the drill - et voila you suddenly have an electric mill:

how to connect a drill to a mill

Can I interest you in a ph Meter or the best burner for brewing with?

Hey, if it's been a long day, we get that, chill out some with 501 amazing Star Wars facts.

How to make 'prison hooch' (AKA pruno)

how to make prison hooch

Making an alcoholic brew out of juice is a classic cliche of many a prison movie or television show - but it's based in reality that you can make 'prison hooch' out of fruit juice with a bit of yeast thrown in.

Did you ever watch the trainwreck of a show that was Orange is the New Black on Netflix? The character Poussey made her prison hooch in a plastic bag using fruit...

Fun fact before we get into it, some elephants have been observed to bury watermelons, come back once they have fermented and get drunk. So clearly nature intended us all to drink fermented juice at some point...what is wine after all?

Prison hooch has plenty of interesting slang names - toilet wine (because it is hidden in toilet tanks while fermenting) and buck, raisin jack and one form of it called pruno, is extremely popular - it got its name from the use of prunes as the sugar base.

What are the ingredients of prison hooch?

In prison, you're probably going to juice all the fruit you can such as oranges, apples, plums, and apricots. Prisoners can't magically get their hands on baker's yeast but they can up their odds by throwing in a couple of pieces of bread (yes, yeast survives the baking process). There can also be natural yeast found on fruit too... it's every where in nature!

Extra sugar is very helpful and prisoners have also been known to throw in packets of tomato sauce, jelly crystals, hard candy, basically any sugar that can be fermented!

In the real world, you can simply add baker's yeast or brewers yeast to a bottle of orange or apple juice, softly cap the lid and then wait for the yeast to work its magic.

One thing to consider is that some juices contain preservatives that will kill off the yeast. Fresh juices and products that contain sulfur dioxide, benzoate, potassium sorbate, and dimethylpyrocarbonate may be fairly difficult to ferment.

If you intend on using pineapple, consider that it contains enzymes which can be hazardous to yeast, though some yeasts are stronger than others and you can always boil your juice before pitching your yeast.

How to make this fruity prison pruno cocktail?

In prison, it's done with a plastic bag that can be sealed. The fruit is pulped up, bread added and then sealed. It's then placed somewhere warm, such as a toilet where it can ferment for 5 - 7 days (depending on if the guards find it). Else whatever is available is used - buckets & bottles.

In the real world, you seriously probably just want to make a nice homebrew cider. If you want to give it a crack though, by all means, use the plastic bag but we suggest you simply use bottled juice and you ferment in the bottle itself. This will also prevent spills and mess!

If using the bag technique, any vintner will remind you that fermentation produces CO2, so you will need to burb the bag each day to release this gas build up.

If brewing from a bottle, you can use a balloon  or condom with a small hole pricked in it as a release valve of sorts:

prison hooch with balloon release  blow off valve

How long does it take to make 'prison hooch'?

5 - 7 days is a pretty standard length of time but the more time the better. Once fermentation is complete, your pruno juice is now ready to drink - you may wish to chill this overnight in a really cold fridge to help let any sediment fall to the bottom of the bottle. In the brewing vernacular, this is called cold crashing.

What is the alcohol content of prison hooch?

Conditions, ingredients and time of fermentation are some genuine variables that will determine the ABV of pruno or prison hooch can range from as low as 2% to as high as 14% which is similar to strong wine. A batch that high will knock you for six, which is exactly want you to do in prison right... it all depends on how much sugar is available to ferment.

orange juice prison hooch

Can you make prison hooch out of Gatorade?

I get what your thinking - if you drink, you get a hangover but if you drink a brew made of Gatorade then the electrolytes will help you wake up as fresh as a daisy!

You actually can ferment such sports drinks but you need to change the game a bit - pitch a high amount of yeast and add additional sugars. I've heard use of honey can make an OK wine.

Whatever sports drink you choose to use, you should boil it to try and kill and preservatives present,

It's probably not really worth your time...

How safe is prison hooch to drink?

You may have heard the stories from US prisons where prisoners have suffered from botulism which has been attributed to brewing alcohol in prison. If the botulism was involved, it would have been caused by unhygienic and un-sanitized conditions, rather than the process itself.

So if you using clean brewing equipment and sanitizing with cleansers like sodium percarbonate, you'll be just fine.

For the record, you can't get methanol poisoning from homebrew either.

Why is my home brew beer flat?

Why is my home brew beer flat? Can I fix it?

Ah, there can be no greater disappointment as a home brewer to flick a beer opener up on a bottle to crack the brew and you hear the sound of silence.

It’s actually an experience sadder than most Simon and Garfunkle songs.

Flat beer means something has gone wrong in the brewing or bottling process and you will need to trouble shoot it to figure out what went wrong.

So first, what is this flat beer? 

It means your beer has not carbonated in the bottle and hence your brew has no fizz. 

So, the first thing one can do is check if this was a single instance of a dud by open a second bottle.

If you hear that fizz of C02 escaping, you know that first bottle was just a dud. This was probably due to user error when bottling the beer. Did you properly cap it it? You’ve got to make sure your capper really makes a firm seal. Other wise your beer will carbonate but the CO2 can escape and no pressure builds.

Sometimes this has happened to me, mistakes will happen to the best of us right?

What I do, especially if it’s a really good beer is I will mix the beer with a properly carbonated beer - this way, I don’t have to dump the flat beer and I get to drink two beers.

I call that #winning.

But, if you opened two beers and they were flat, then you’ve got a problem.

So, here’s some things to consider: 

Did your beer ferment in the first instance?

  • Where there bubbles coming out of the airlock for three to four days at least?
  • Was there some gunk at the water level - which is a strong sign fermentation has occurred?
  • Did you take readings of your beer using a hydrometer - did you see a change and obtain a final gravity?

If you did observe any of that, you probably achieved primary fermentation. This is good as it means your flat beer will have alcohol in it.

So what might be happening here is that secondary fermentation has not occurred.

Beers need to condition properly at the right temperature for secondary fermentation to start. If a bottled beer is too cold, then the yeast will go so sleep and not eat the sugars in the beer - and thus you’ve got no bubbles.

So, if you are certain primary fermentation has occured and that you properly capped your beers, then ask yourself, was your beer stored in a suitably warm place?

This has totally happened to me once before - I left a crate of beers to condition in my outside shed in the middle of winter - and sure enough, it was too cold for the yeast. The solution was to bring the beers inside and leave for another week. Sure enough, the yeast warmed up, started fermentation and my flat beer became bubbly beer in a week.

It’s clear then that when you bottle, your beer needs to be warm - so the yeast can activate. 

It’s OK to place it in a cooler place later (but don’t make it an extremely cold environment!) - so to give your beer it’s best chance of fermenting - let your bottles condition for three or 4 days in a warm place. They can then be conditioned for another few weeks elsewhere.

But what if primary fermentation did not occur? Why could this be?

You know the cliche of when your computer goes bung and won’t turn on and you call the helpline and they say, is it plugged in Sir? 

And you feel like a real jackass because your laptop was not plugged in?

Not pitching your yeast into the wort is the equivalent.

So ask yourself, did you add your yeast to the fermenter?

A secondary question, did you pitch the yeast at the right time?

If you add the yeast when the brew is freshly boiled, the hot wort will kill the yeast and you will not have fermentation.

If you have realized you’ve done this before bottling, you can add some new yeast to your now properly cooled wort and see if it will rejuvenate it - there should still be plenty of sugars for the yeast to eat

It just means you’ve delayed your brewing schedule!

If you’ve already bottled, you may want to dump your beer or open them all up, dump them in a fermenter, pitchy yeast and try your luck. If you go this route, try and introduce as little oxygen into your new mix as possible as beer hates oxygen past primary fermentation.

Not enough sugar?

Sugar content is intrinsic to the success of your beer

Another reason why your beer may be flat is that you under primmed the sugar.

If you put too little sugar in your bottled beer, then not enough bubbles will be produced as there’s not enough food for your yeast.

Batch priming your wort with sugar is an easy way to get sugar into your beer (as opposed to individually adding it to each bottle) and it saves time - but make sure you add enough sugar!

If you are trying to make a low calorie beer, then you need to reduce sugars at the primary fermentation stage, not bottling.

Corn sugar, cane sugar, and dried malt extract (DME) work best for priming beer.

If you used old yeast, or primary fermentation did not occur, a bit of a hack to fix is to open up each bottle by hand and add a few grains of yeast to each one. Do not add too much as the yeast may over fermenting, leading to gushers. Accordingly, your results may vary with this trick!
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