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A couple questions on modifying extract kits

A few times in the past I’ve looked into brewing my own beer but never quite pulled the trigger on it since I wasn’t really sure what to get and where to start. But that all changed when my brother got me a kit for this past Christmas. He picked up the Brewers Best (can I say that on here??) deluxe kit and an extract kit (chocolate milk stout) plus a case of 12 oz bottles and two cases of 22 oz bottles. He was up for a week for the holidays and during that time we got the first batch started. This past Wednesday I racked it to the secondary and to my inexperienced eye, it looks like it’s doing good. IG was 49 (actually the highest that the kit is supposed to produce) and when I racked it to the secondary it was at 22 (supposed to finish at 10-15, IIRC).

After careful consideration, when I get to bottling day, I’m thinking of mixing a big batch of sanitizer and just do everything (bottles, bottling bucket, primary, kettle, etc) and starting a second batch of brew. After looking around (I’m not ready to try my hand at full grain yet, I’d rather get a few extract kits under my belt so I can get myself accustomed to how it all works), I’m planning on getting the Caribou Slobber and the Dry Irish Stout kits. Since I have a problem leaving things alone (my trucks are testament to that - there isn’t a stock one in the bunch), I was thinking of modifying things right out of the gate… at least with the Irish Stout. I might mess with the Caribou Slobber too, I haven’t decided yet.

From the reviews it seems that the Dry Irish Stout will come out somewhat like Guinness. But nobody says if it comes out more like the Draught (canned) or the Stout (bottled). I didn’t care all that much for the drier and more bitter Stout but I love the Guinness Draught. So my first impulse since I suspected it will be more like the Stout was to just order a pound of Briess Dark DME and throw that in with the brew when I add the DME from the kit. Then the thought occurred to me when I was reading about adding sugar or honey to boost alcohol levels last night on here that maybe I should gather some input before I go just throwing things in the brew pot. If things work out well with the Dry Irish Stout, that will probably become my regular brew for the time being. I’m looking for a nice dark well-rounded brew, it can be slightly sweet but not overly so since I’ll probably consume it with food and ideally between a 5-8% alcohol.

The Caribou Slobber will be a more sit back and relax brew. Probably to be enjoyed with a fine premium cigar in the medium or full flavor profile. Not sure where the brew will be out of the box, but it would be nice if it was strong enough to hold up to a stronger cigar.

If anyone wants to throw out any suggestions for someone new to the brewing world, I’d be happy to listen. At some point before the end of this year I hope to be kegging my more commonly produced beers, to have a full sized brew pot and a propane burner, and be experimenting with at least partial mash kits. For now though, since there has been a distinct lack of enough snow to make money, diving in with both feet is going to have to wait until work (hopefully) picks up in the spring.

Brewing back-to-back batches can be a little more efficient in terms of equipment setup (don’t have to drag out the equipment twice) and sanitation (you only need one batch of sanitizer.) But it can also get to be a long day and/or complicated as you try to juggle two different recipes. In 2013 I tried to bottle a batch while another one was brewing and got my priming sugar amounts mixed up - not fatal but still a mixup.

When I made the Dry Irish Stout kit it was a pretty close match for the bottled Guinness. Depending on what you like, a pound of dark malt would round out the body a bit. (Sometimes Guinness tastes thin and watery to me.) You could add it at the same time as the rest of the malt, or you could add it 15 minutes before the end (late malt addition). I definitely wouldn’t add plain sugar to that stout kit just to get more alcohol, it would thin it out even more.

The old-timers in here will tell you to get your technique down (temperature control, sanitation, etc) before you start making too many modifications. It adds another set of variables into your beer. If you have variances between your results it will be very hard to tell if you have a problem with your technique or a problem with your recipe mods. The Dry Irish Stout kit is pretty drinkable right away, the Caribou Slobber is good at 4 weeks and keeps getting better over time.

And as far as sanitation - you don’t need to sanitize your brew kettle as it will be boiling for an hour. Or your brew spoon.

[quote=“twdjr1”]Brewing back-to-back batches can be a little more efficient in terms of equipment setup (don’t have to drag out the equipment twice) and sanitation (you only need one batch of sanitizer.) But it can also get to be a long day and/or complicated as you try to juggle two different recipes. In 2013 I tried to bottle a batch while another one was brewing and got my priming sugar amounts mixed up - not fatal but still a mixup.

When I made the Dry Irish Stout kit it was a pretty close match for the bottled Guinness. Depending on what you like, a pound of dark malt would round out the body a bit. (Sometimes Guinness tastes thin and watery to me.) You could add it at the same time as the rest of the malt, or you could add it 15 minutes before the end (late malt addition). I definitely wouldn’t add plain sugar to that stout kit just to get more alcohol, it would thin it out even more.

The old-timers in here will tell you to get your technique down (temperature control, sanitation, etc) before you start making too many modifications. It adds another set of variables into your beer. If you have variances between your results it will be very hard to tell if you have a problem with your technique or a problem with your recipe mods. The Dry Irish Stout kit is pretty drinkable right away, the Caribou Slobber is good at 4 weeks and keeps getting better over time.

And as far as sanitation - you don’t need to sanitize your brew kettle as it will be boiling for an hour. Or your brew spoon.[/quote]

Thanks for the input!

I had thought about how easy it could be to get mixed up trying to do multiple things at once. My plan was to mix up the sanitizer and get everything that needed to be clean, clean. Then while it’s all set aside to dry, fire up the brew pot. Once it’s done, chilled, and in the primary, then I’ll do the bottling. At least that was my plan… I’m sure we all know how plans work out sometimes!

Sounds like I was on the right track from the start thinking of adding some dark DME. Will one pound be enough? I’m not opposed to it coming out richer in flavor than Guinness (as you said, sometimes it does taste a little too watery). What would be the difference between adding the extra DME when I put all the rest in or doing a late malt add?

And yes, I am a little concerned about making some modifications right away without having a few brews behind me to work out a technique. I considered it a few times and I think that if all I’m doing for now is throwing some extra DME into the mix, I should be ok since I was a bit anal on hitting the mark for everything with the first brew I did.

Good point on the brew pot. My brother pointed that out to me when I did the first batch. I guess I’m just being a little paranoid on the sanitization aspect.

And not to start a war, but is there really anything wrong with using IO Star for sanitizer? I got some to get started and so far I’m content with using it but I’ve heard it can be a problem for people that are sensitive to iodine…

According to the 5 star website tech sheet IO Star needs to be prepared daily. I have always been a star san guy. With star san you can make a batch, whether it be big or small, and save it in a sealed container. As long as the pH remains below 3 it will be effective.

One suggestion I’d make when using extract is to stick with dry or DME. Also, use the lightest you can find, like Pilsen Extra Light DME. Darker extracts contribute a lot of unfermentable sugars in your wort, so your final gravity will be on the higher side. Same goes for LME (liquid malt extract) compared to DME. You also get more bang for you buck out of DME compared to LME. DME will up your gravity more than LME.

To get darker colors and flavors in your beer, go with steeping grains like darker, roasted malts and roasted barley.

So, use light or extra light DME to add gravity and use steeping grains to get color and flavor.

I know they say “don’t fear the foam” but I’m still a little skeptical of having it on everything. My main concern though is with the glass carboy, I heard someone say in a review that they didn’t like using it on that because it made the glass slippery. Have you had any issues like that?

[quote=“dobe12”]One suggestion I’d make when using extract is to stick with dry or DME. Also, use the lightest you can find, like Pilsen Extra Light DME. Darker extracts contribute a lot of unfermentable sugars in your wort, so your final gravity will be on the higher side. Same goes for LME (liquid malt extract) compared to DME. You also get more bang for you buck out of DME compared to LME. DME will up your gravity more than LME.

To get darker colors and flavors in your beer, go with steeping grains like darker, roasted malts and roasted barley.

So, use light or extra light DME to add gravity and use steeping grains to get color and flavor.[/quote]

So would the extra unfermentable sugar from using a darker extract make the beer sweeter? Or am I going to get more of the sweetness and flavor from the steeping grains?

Maybe I should skip the Caribou Slobber for now and just do a couple kits of the Dry Irish Stout and try a couple different things to see what is going to get me closer to where I want to be since I want to make something along those lines my standard brew…

If you are afraid of the foam sanitize your carboy in advance. Pour the star san in, coat the entire carboy, then invert to allow to drain out. The carboy will remain sanitized because bacteria falls, not rises. For the record I have NEVER had an issue with the foam.

As far as adding DME. It has a higher level of unfermentables (all DME/LME have a higher percentage of unfermentables). After all, it is wort made fro base malt and specialty malt, then dehydrated. Therefore, when you add additional steeping grains you are adding even more unfermentables. This results in a higher FG and thus a sweeter beer and more body.

Thanks for the help guys!

I decided to order two of the Dry Irish Stout kits, got some Briess Sparkling Amber DME (after looking at what sort of flavors each said it added, the amber sounded good with caramel flavors) and got some crushed Franco-Belges Kiln Coffee grain to use for steeping. The plan is to brew the batches back to back about a week apart. I’m thinking that the first batch I might just add a pound of the DME. For the second I’ll try steeping some grain and maybe adding some DME.

I know I’m probably crazy for kitbashing right out of the gate, but hey… as long as it turns out like beer…

:cheers:

So… the stuff made it here today… and the box prompted the UPS man to inquire as to if I was actually brewing beer (as I balanced my cigar and microbrew in one hand and restrained my GSD with my other). :cheers:

Of course, this morning I realized when I woke up that I had failed to consider the need for another airlock. :oops: But I may be able to remedy that on my way home from work tomorrow which means a possible brew date of Wednesday for my next batch…

I also took the liberty of playing around trying to enter my alterations into a calculator that I came across after someone on here posted a link for an IBU calc (turns out there is also a free recipe calculator on that site). I had to kind of guess at what I needed to enter for the extract since there is no option for “gold” LME (which came in the kit). From what I gather it’s basically a blend of light and amber but I’m not really sure. At any rate, I took a stab at things and I’m content with the % alcohol it is predicting but I’m not really sure how to interpret the rest of the numbers to see if my idea of changes is going to put me on the right track for what I want to end up with…

I’m starting with the NB Dry Irish Stout extract kit. Includes 6# gold LME, 2oz Cluster hops (60 minute boil), and 1# English Roasted Barley. Yeast is Safale S-04

For brew #1 the plan was to add 1.5# amber DME (Briess), the results are as follows for the numbers:

OG: 1.057 FG: 1.016 ABV: 5.35% IBU: 33.16 SRM: 39.58

For brew #2 the plan was to add 1.5# amber DME (Briess) and steep 1# Franco-Belges Kiln Coffee:

OG: 1.059 FG: 1.017 ABV: 5.59% IBU: 31.93 SRM: 40.00

I’m looking for something around a richer Guinness Draught or a not-so-bitter Guinness Stout.

Are you fermenting in a jug or carboy? If yes, a piece of clean, strait off the roll aluminum foil works great to let CO2 escape while keeping infection agents out. Just wrap it over the mouth.

Are you fermenting in a jug or carboy? If yes, a piece of clean, strait off the roll aluminum foil works great to let CO2 escape while keeping infection agents out. Just wrap it over the mouth.[/quote]

Unfortunately I’m using a bucket since my only carboy is tied up at the moment with my first brew. Next Wednesday is the anticipated bottling date for that…

Of course, I suppose I could steal the airlock off of that and cap it with foil…

Turns out that one of the local smoke shops who’s humidor I’ve visited numerous times sells brewing supplies. Somehow I managed to walk past all of the brewing stuff to get to the humidor countless times and never noticed it. So I got my airlock on Tuesday. Wednesday I ended up working late, so I brewed yesterday. At the last minute I decided that I should probably use the extra grain I got for steeping while it was still fresh instead of waiting a couple weeks to use it, so I reversed the order that I had planned on brewing the kits in. I got done and cleaned up at like 10pm last night. This morning the airlock was doing it’s thing and I peeked in on it a little while ago and it’s still going strong, so I’m happy.

I did somehow goof up and instead of my anticipated boil of 3 gallons, I had over 4 gallons at the start of the boil and ended the boil with just under 4 gallons. Which of course proved difficult to chill in a simple ice bath.

When I set the primary next to my secondary carboy last night though, I noticed that it looked vaguely like a bit of cobwebbing on the surface in the secondary so in a bit of a panic, I bottled it all today (chocolate milk stout). I hope I don’t have any bottle bombs… it’s been in the secondary almost two and a half weeks but the gravity reading I took came out at 1.020 instead of the predicted 1.015. I sampled some (naturally), and found that while it didn’t taste bad (actually tasted kind of like draft Guinness), it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Hope it improves some with bottle conditioning.

So for anyone interested in how things are progressing…

My original plan got thrown out the window.

Batch #2 (Dry Irish Stout kit with extra steeping grains of kiln coffee and 1.5# amber DME) spent two weeks in the primary before I racked it to the secondary yesterday. Smelled absolutely awesome and looked nice and dark, can’t wait to try it. I’m aiming for two weeks in the secondary before bottling but we’ll see. OG of 1.058.

Batch #3 (Dry Irish Stout with modifications) got brewed yesterday. Steeped the grains (kit), added the LME (kit), added .5# of dextrose (additional), added .25# of lactose (additional), tossed one ounce of Cluster pellets (kit) at 60 and the other ounce of Cluster (kit) at 30 for the boil. Did a late addition of the 1.5# of amber DME (additional) at 15. Put the lid on the pot and set it out in the snow while I filled the stationary tub with well water and snow, then stuck it in there while I delivered a load of firewood. It ended up a little cold when I pitched it on the yeast cake (57*). Right now it’s sitting at about 67* but no airlock activity yet. Hopefully I didn’t make a mistake pitching it that cold. OG was 1.060 (adjusted for temp).

Guess I just can’t leave well enough alone… :cheers:

I did decide to sample a bottle of my first batch (Chocolate Milk Stout) while brewing this last batch. It was a little under-carbed but tasted very good (much better than the warm, flat sample I had after bottling). It’ll be interesting to see how it tastes after a little more bottle conditioning.

My first brew, the Chocolate Milk Stout, seems to be getting better with some age, but I’m not sure how much longer they’ll stick around - down to 4 bombers and ten 12oz bottles, lol.

Bottled my second brew last night, the Dry Irish Stout with coffee steeping grain. Got 8 bombers and 39-12oz bottles out of it. Tasted the last bit from the bottling bucket and oddly enough it tasted a lot like the chocolate milk stout did - like a warm, flat Guinness.

Planning to brew #4 today, supposed to be an English Brown Ale, but when I plugged the recipe into a calculator, the results that come out don’t match the brew sheet in the box. Guess I’ll have to play with things a little in the calculator, I didn’t see a selection for Maris Otter LME in the calculator so I just went with light LME, guess that might be throwing things off a little.

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