Thursday, February 6, 2014

First Cooper's IPA Kit

Back in Time

Looking back through my brewing notebook, I notice I haven't done a straight-up "kit & kilo" beer kit since my very first big batch back in 2012.  After that first batch, I immediately began, with the help of my local Iowa homebrew shop owner, to experiment with fresh grains and hops.  I have yet to do a real all grain batch, or even a mini-mash, but I tinkered with many small batches of plain malt extract flavored with specialty grains and my own hops selection.

Back to that first kit in the brewing notebook, I used a Munton's IPA can, 1 pound dry malt extract, and 1 pound corn sugar (dextrose.)  These kits are usually known as "kit & kilo" by brewers, and they are generally thought to be the easiest first steps in brewing. The large can comes with liquid malt extract that has already been infused with hops.  The brewer need only mix this can with 1kg or 2 pounds(ish) of other fermentables, mix the whole thing with 23L (5 gal.) water, sprinkle on the included pack of yeast, and let 'er rip.  The "other fermentables" can come from nearly anything sweet and sugary- even table sugar, but the cans generally recommend dextrose, dry malt extract, or liquid malt extract- and these are not included in the price of the can.  Hence, my first batch was augmented with one pound of dry malt and one pound of (cheaper) corn sugar.  

Reading (and laughing at) my tasting notes, I was wanting for some body, head retention, and that malty sweetness imparted by those fresh grains.  My next batch (and every batch since) have been constructed from plain malt extract with fresh grains and hops for color, body, head retention, and malty balance.  

When I was ready to start my first batches of beer here in Ireland, readers will remember I found a stout kit with plain malt extract, chocolate malt grains, and (frustratingly unlabeled) hops.  It was on clearance and expiring quickly, so I made it right away. We have been enjoying it thoroughly for a few weeks now, and I was ready to start the next batch.

Back to the Can

Now... Pre-crushed grains, as stated before, are very perishable.  They begin to lose their fresh flavor immediately after crushing, much like coffee beans and whole spices.  Knowing this, I couldn't order all of my ingredient kits with fresh grains- cans would be inevitable.  Luckily, Homebrew West offers nice package deals with the kit can AND the extra fermentables in the form of 1.5kg of liquid malt extract, at a nice package rate.  Needing Wanting to save on shipping charges, I ordered the clearance stout grain kit and two different can kits.  Now, I was ready to dive back into the world of kit & kilo brewing.  I've heard from other online brewers that Cooper's kits are of very good quality, and the use of the liquid malt instead of the sugar will make a nice product- I have no doubt.

Cooper's IPA, 1.5kg LME, yeast packet, and brewing notebook
Everything I Needed
Because these are so simple, the whole process takes only minutes.  I gathered all the ingredients, such as they were- two cans and a packet o' yeast.  My trusty brewing notebook, lovingly and stubbornly still kept in pencil and paper, was ready to record the whole process.

I rehydrated the yeast packet in some warm sugar water to kickstart the fermentation when I was ready to pitch it in.  I used a sanitized and rinsed mayonnaise jar.

Yeast is rehydrated in a mayonnaise jar
Yeasty Mayo
Of course, my hard-and-fast rule of brewing applied, even when brewing in the morning.  I even got to use the whiskey glass I found on Grafton Street last month.

Hard apple cider enjoyed while making a batch of beer.
Previous batch enjoyed while making the next batch
Even with a simple kit, clean and sanitary equipment helps prevent beer infection from unwanted wild yeast and bacteria.  Everything I needed went into my bleach and vinegar sanitizing solution- 1600 mL water, 2.5mL each bleach and vinegar, mixed in the water, not directly with each other!

Hydrometer, can opener, ladle, and airlock sanitizing before brewing
Sanitizing Equipment
On a whim, I remembered an old trick with these cans.  The liquid malt extract is incredibly thick and sticky stuff.  Remember the phrase, "Slower than molasses in January." It flows and pours more freely when warm.  While my equipment was sanitizing, I soaked the cans in some very hot water to help with pouring later.  

Soaking Cans
Because I was brewing by myself, the photos take a break here while both of my hands were busy pouring, rinsing, mixing, aerating, and pitching.  See the "methods" section below.

23L of IPA ready to ferment in a plastic fermenting bucket
Ready to Ferment
I stuck on the lid and airlock and laid the bucket in the corner, covered with two T-shirts to ferment.  Now we just wait for the magic.  Note- The foam on the surface in the above photo is not from fermentation, it is from my vigorous whisk aeration just before mixing in the yeast.


Brew no. 040 
Jan 30 2014

1.7kg Cooper's IPA (Best Before date 20/09/15)
1.5 kg Brew at Home LME (Best Before date 11/2014)
7g Cooper's dry yeast 21113 IPA

-Rehydrated yeast in water/muscovado sugar at 22 deg. C
- Mixed the cans in bucket w/ approx 2L boiling water
-Rinsed and added residual extract from each can w/ hot water
-Topped up bucket to 20L with cold water
-Temp @ 20L = 20 deg. C (which is safe but just about two degrees warmer than the target)
- Topped up to 23L with cold water (to bring it down to about 18C)
-Pitched yeast and aerated with whisk
-OG (original gravity) 1.044 thumbs up! (1.044 is right on target)

Brewing notebook log of Cooper's IPA, brew no. 040
Brew Notebook Entry 040

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