Brewing with a Mangrove Jack's Stout Kit Review

mangrove jacks irish stout review
After my relatively successful effort with the Mangrove Jack's Dutch Lager kit (review), I thought I'd have a crack at their Irish Stout.

Brewed in the normal good manner of proper sanitization, careful cleanliness and a half-assed attempt to keep the brew warm during these winter months by wrapping it in several sheets, I am expecting a stock standard stout but I'm quite keen to compare it to Black Rock's Miner's Stout as I've brewed a fair few of those in the past year and found them to be excellent brews.

I'm keen to see how creamy the kit is.

I prepared the kit and added a beer enhancer that was specifically tailored to a stout and then left the unit in my shed outside to ferment.

During fermentation in the shed, we had our first winter frost. Not ideal for an ale but whatever.

I waited 10 days before conditioning at which point I batched primed with 70 mls of sugar that I dissolved in boiling water.

Honestly, batch priming makes it so easy to get a consistent brew across the batch and reduce the chances over an over-sugared bottle doing a gusher. I don't know why I was so reluctant to do so!

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So it's now been over a week since I bottled condition, so I'm going to have a sneaky sample. I left the beer in the fridge overnight so the ale was nice and cold. It felt like it had a good body and it tasted like an ale but one that clearly needed to condition a fair bit longer.

So we wait.

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Week 2. A wee sample after a nice chicken korma proved to be an odd, but a rewarding combination. The stout has settled somewhat.

Detected a hint of coffee which I expect will be gone in a week or two.

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Week  3. This beer has turned out OK, I've made enough beers to know that if I give this batch another month to the condition it will be fine but nothing to write home about. I suspect I over sugared the batch as the beer gets quite the head when being poured. I'd say 50 to 60 grams probably suits.

The slight coffee notes remain.

Given this was actually the cheapest beer kit I've ever bought, the resulting beer is pretty fair. I do however prefer the Black Rock Miner's Stout over this.

How to use Whirlfloc tablets when brewing

whirlfloc tablets brewing
It's always amused me that people think it is OK to add moss to beer.

I mean really, how the heck can Irish Moss clear beer?

It's not even real moss, it's an algae from the sea!

Which makes m then wonder who the heck discovered that adding Irish Moss as a fining agent for beer?

Anyways, work the moss does.

A popular form of it is the Whirlfloc tablet which is a blend of Irish Moss and purified carrageenan ingredients. Carrageenan is another extract from seaweed that is used for gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties. This is because it bonds to proteins which means it is just perfect for brewing and removing proteins and so-called 'beta-glucans' (sugars) at the end of the boil.

You can use Whirlfloc tablets as a clarifier for both extract and all grain brewing.

Your instructions for use are simple.

If you are doing an all grain boil, you add one tablet per 10 gallons when you have 5 minutes left in your boil. If you add any earlier, the boiling of your wort will destroy the ingredients ruin their effectiveness.

If you are using an extract kit for either beer or cider, you can add the Whirlfloc when fermentation has completed.

If you are wondering whether Whirfloc tablets actually do work, here's an experiment which proves they do improve beer clarity.

There are plenty of other ways to clear beer with finings. There are other fining products such as Chillguard and Polyclar and silica gels like Kieselsol but if you are a bit of an expert, you can actually filter your beer but you'd need to be kegging it.

Cold crashing is always a good way to get rid of proteins from beer as well. 

How to easily batch prime your homebrew

how to batch prime homebrew beer

Batch priming your beer with sugar


After about 2 years of brewing beer in my man shed I was getting a little bit tired of dropping sugar all over my workbench as I bottled my beer.

There's nothing more annoying than picking up your hammer to realize it's all sticky. My own bad, of course, I should stop dropping the spoon and spilling sugar everywhere.

But also because: ants.

So I decided to do something I'd always thought about doing but never got around too.

I primed my beer batch with sugar.

And what the heck is that?

In short, priming the batch is when one adds the entire amount of sugar needed to the fermenter so that when you fill each bottle, you don't need to add sugar as well, it's already in the beer wort.

So, that sounds simple, right?

On the face of it, yes, but there are some things to consider!

How much sugar do I need to prime a batch or beer?


Batch priming benefits from some simple calculations that can be made to get that sugar just right.

I usually brew in 23 liter (5 gallon) batches so my focus on my first batch priming was working out how much sugar I needed to use. 

My intention was to use even less than I normally would as I feel I tended to over sugar my bottles which has resulted in my fair share of bottle bombs and even then, just brews which produce too much head (which means waiting time before drinking as the beer then needs to settle).

So first up, different beers need different levels of sugar. Advice from people who have brewed many beers suggests that ales need less sugar than lager style beers.

This is because many drinkers prefer a lager to have more carbonation and ales are quite drinkable with less.

So, here's what may I analysis of beer brewing forums suggests are the common amounts of sugars to use for priming:
  • Dextrose (Corn sugar) 3/4 cup or 4 or 5 oz / 95 grams
  • Cane sugar 2/3 cup or 3.8 - 4.8 oz / 86 grams
  • Dry Malt Extract - 130 grams
Regards the sugar amount, it's my personal experience that using 60  - 70 grams results in less gushers and less over-fizzy beer.  

I suspect that it might be a case of horses for courses in that some beers do better with more or less sugar, so expect that results mayvaryy. That said, I have found 80 grams just perfect for my Irish Miner stouts.

Basically, I'm saying results may vary, experience and personal preference will guide you.

If you are priming with a different volume of beer, I suggest you try this priming calculator.

Some beers go better with different CO2 levels - using a nomograph


I think we mentioned above that some beers just feel better when they have the right amount of carbon dioxide in them.

Too much fizz and that mouth feel doesn't work, too little and that lager might seem flat. 

priming beer nomongraph sugar levels
This nomograph can help you work out how much sugar you need for your particular kind of beer.

The advice on using it is from howtobrew:

"To use the nomograph, draw a line from the temperature of your beer through the volumes of CO2 that you want, to the scale for sugar. The intersection of your line and the sugar scale gives the weight of either corn or cane sugar in ounces to be added to five gallons of beer to achieve the desired carbonation level."

Here is a list of typical volumes of CO2 for various beer styles:
  • British ales 1.5-2.0
  • Porter, Stout 1.7-2.3
  • Belgian ales 1.9-2.4
  • American ales 2.2-2.7
  • European lagers 2.2-2.7
  • Belgian Lambic 2.4-2.8
  • American wheat 2.7-3.3
  • German wheat 3.3-4.5

How to prepare the sugar to add to the batch


There are a couple of ways to do this. 

You could simply add sugar to your fermenter and wait for it to dissolve. It's a pretty simple method but not very efficient and may take some time to ensure an even spread.

I suggest you mix some up with hot water in a sterilized pot (maybe even boil it) and let it cool a bit.

You then open up the fermenter and gently stir it in, without disturbing the sediment.

Leave it to sit for 10 - 20 minutes and then begin your normal bottling process. Indeed, you could sanitise your bottles while you wait.

I suspect you could also use icing sugar as well as that's just finely cut up sucrose so it should dissolve easily.

Try not to stir up the sediment!

Using a 'secondary' or bottling bucket


There's a fair argument to be made that when batch priming your beer, using a secondary fermenter or bottling bucket is the way to go.

The concept is that you siphon the beer from the original fermenter into a second vessel.

This way you are able to bottle without disturbing the yeast and other brewing bi-products that have fallen to the bottom of the original fermenter. 

The idea is that this improves beer clarity and further reduces the amount of sediment that will form in the conditioned beer bottles (and on pouring from those, again reduced the chance of sediment going into the beer glass).

If you are siphoning into a secondary, I suggest you have your sugar solution all prepared and in the secondary, before you add the beer as this will help ensure the sugar dissolves properly in the brew.

This will also help ensure that your batch brewed beer will have a consistent sugar volume and each beer should behave the same - i.e. produce the same amount of fizz and head with each pour.

Don't over prime!

home brew too much sugar explosion
Try to avoid over sugaring beer!

I'm trying to avoid using too much sugar in my beers as I don't want them to be too fizzy or explode in a mess all over the kitchen. So, beer this in mind.

If you add too much sugar, you will cause these problems so we recommend you consider the numbers above.

Priming with other flavours


Dextrose and sucrose do not add any flavours to the beer. They simply are eaten by the yeast and converted into more alcohol and CO2 which goes into the beer.

You can prime with other things such as honey and brown sugar. Some brewers have been known to use brown sugar with stouts. Honey can be used with hefeweizens and blondes. I have found that using too much honey can leave a beer feeling a bit 'dry'.

You could even melt down some jelly beans if you want to give your beer a really sweet flavour!

You can also use molasses. If you're brave...

Remember, temperature can affect CO2 production


Once you have bottled your beer, you need to consider storage temperature. 

It's best to initially store your beer in a warm place. 

This will encourage secondary fermentation to commence (this is sometimes described as bottle conditioning). The ideal temperature range is between approx 18 - 25°C for 5 to 7 days. 

After that period, you should leave them in a much cooler place with a temperature range between approx 8 - 12°C. 


And then as per standard conditioning practice, we recommend waiting three weeks before having a wee sample.

Can you use dextrose instead of sugar for priming?


Corn sugar and dextrose are the same thing! Dextrose is actually the most popular priming sugar, so feel free to use it with your priming.

Success!


Very happy to report the ale I primed is very drinkable, with no bottle bombs occurring and a very consistent level of bubbles! 

Can I cold crash outside, in the cold, in winter?

cold crashing beer outside

Cold crashing.

It's a great way to make your beer to stand to attention and free itself of the particles that make your beer cloudy.

Many brewers cold crash in a fridge for a day or three.

But what if you have no beer fridge but only the cold?

Can you cold crash outside, overnight if it's cold?


Well, yes you can but your results may vary.

Generally speaking, cold crashing can take up to 24 - 48 hours to be effective to precipitate out the unwanted proteins so one night in the cold of winter might only get you 12 hours (say 7 pm - 7am) but that's assuming New Zealand conditions.

If you're in America, Canada or the Baltic states or the like, it's damn cold with all that snow so yes, you can cold crash outside for a couple of days and the job will be done but as we said, results may vary.

You may want to crash at night and then place the fermenter somewhere out of the sunlight during the day and then have another crack the second night. Be careful to not disturb the trub too much as you are trying to clear the beer, not stir everything up.

Can it be too cold to crash outside?


The colder the better and it will help precipitate out more yeast, however, you don't want to freeze your beer as that's kind of a disastrous result. So, if you are confident the overnight temperature won't go below freezing point (32F or 0C),  you should be OK. 

The amount of alcohol in your beer will play a factor as well - higher strength ABV beers can resist colder temps a little more but it's not necessary for cold crashing.

Can I just leave my beer in the shed for a week?


You sure can. Brewing is a timing game, so giving your beer an extra week in a cold shed will help lager it and let the yeast do its job. 

Remember you can also add finings shortly before bottling to help clear your beer.

Catalyst Fermentation System Starter Kit Review



The Catalyst Fermentation System: Conical Fermenter 6.5 gallon


If you're starting to get serious about brewing but are not quite ready to step up to buying a lot of 'steel' such as a conical fermenter then this  Catalyst brewing system may be for you.

The Catalyst’s tank is made from medical-grade, BPA-free, polymer which basically means it is food safe and good to go for brewers concerned about leakage from plastic. The polymer provides the clarity of glass but with the durability and handy convenience of plastic.

The best thing about it is it dishwasher safe and withstands temperatures of up to 230º Fahrenheit which means not only is cleaning a doddle, the heat from the dishwasher will also kill any bugs.

The Trub Trap features a 3 inch butterfly valve and is compatible with pretty much any wide mouth mason jar so you can remove kettle trub and fermentation trub, pitch a yeast starter, harvest yeast, and bottle without disturbing or oxidizing that precious beer.

Which is a pretty and tidy option for hassle-free brewing.


The Catalyst Kit comes with the following items:

  • 6.5 Gallon Tank with Lid
  • Stand (Base, 2 Legs, 2 Support Beams, 8 Screws)
  • 3” Proprietary Butterfly Valve
  • Bottling Attachment
  • Transfer Tubing
  • Tubing Clamp
  • Rubber Stopper
  • 16 Oz. Wide Mouth Mason Jar
  • Allen Wrench
  • Caper with 100 tops

Here are some reviews from actual users of the starter kit:

"We have brewed close to 20 batches now. The system is very easy to set-up and use. The design allows for easy trub removal and if you're experienced, yeast collection. Bottling is a snap as well. Adding dry hops is easy and seeing what your beer is doing through the various stages is both fun and informative as well."

"My first batch of beer was delivered seamlessly as a result ordering this starter kit. If you are a home brewer or are thinking of taking the plunge into home brewing this is the fermenter you need to buy. So far it has produced 7 delicious batches without issue. Love it!"

"The thing that kept me away from home brewing was seeing all of the equipment that was required. That was eliminated when I found the Catalyst. It is a straightforward, simple process that culminates in great tasting beer that you made yourself. I just bottled my first batch with ease and can't wait to get another batch going. A must-have item for home brewers!"

If that's a good enough review from actual users, check out the price on Amazon.

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