How to brew 20 to 22 litres of beer using a tinned concentrate or kit as a base with 2.5 kg of grain

This is a really nice way to brew. You get a good beer without needing a lot of equipment, or effort. With about half of the fermentables coming from the grain you can control the degree of sweetness or dryness in the beer with the mash temperature.

To get the best results from this method, invest your efforts in fermentation.

You will need the following equipment

  • 15 to 20 litre stock pot. Stainless stock pots this size are available at K-Mart, Big W, Target etc for around $20
  • Grain bag to fit the pot
  • Thermometer
  • Four or five bull dog clips
  • Jug of 1 to 3 litres
  • Your usual brewing/fermenting gear

You will also need access to the kitchen stove and laundry sink for several hours. The entire process should take 3 to 4 hours - most of this is hanging around time.

The basic method

1. Half a day before brewing pre-chill 6 or so litres of water in several large PET bottles.

2. In your pot heat 13 litres of water to 3 degrees above the mash temperature in summer, 4 degrees in winter. Turn off the heat, stir the water and check the temperature.

3. Line the pot with the grain bag.

4. Mix in the grain, making sure there are no clumps. Check the mash temperature.

5. Put the lid and leave the mash to rest for 15 minutes. You can cover the pot with an old sleeping bag, blanket etc to help maintain the temperature. Open the pot, stir the mash and check the temperature. If the mash temperature has dropped by more than 3 degrees add some 90 degree water. Now leave the mash for another 30 minutes. Total mash time is 45 minutes.

6. Heat another two litres of water to 85 degrees.

7. Open up the mash. Gently pull up the grain bag and lift it out of the pot and into your fermenter. Clip the grain bag to the rim of the fermenter so it hangs well clear of the bottom. Try not to break up the grain bed. Set the fermenter on a bench, or milk crate so you can collect the wort from the tap.

8. Turn on the heat to boil the wort in the pot. Keep a close eye on it to avoid a boil-over.

9. Gently pour the two litres of hot water over the grain. Do it in two or three goes. Collect the runnings and add back to the wort in the pot. DO NOT WRING OUT the grain bag because you can extract tannins and silicas from the husks and they will make the beer taste harsh. Similarly do not use more than 6.5 litres of water per kg of malt.

10. Boil the wort for 15 minutes and then add any hops called for at 30 minutes. Total boil time is 45 minutes. The times given for hop additions are from the end of the boil, it is the length of time the hops are boiled for.

11. At 15 minutes to go, add the kettle finings, either Whirlfloc or Irish Moss.

12. Add any more hops specified by the recipe.

13. Turn off the heat, put the lid on the pot and place it in a sink of cold water.  With a no-rinse sanitiser spray around the sink and the rim of the pot. At this point do not use chilled water or ice – it won’t be very effective. During this time clean and sanitise your fermenter and mixing spoon.

14. As the wort cools give it an occasional stir with a sanitised spoon. Stir the cooling water. When the water is hot, change it. In summer you may need to change the water again to properly cool the wort. On the last batch of water you can add ice or use freezer brick, or chilled water.

15. When the wort is cool stir it with a sanitised spoon to create a whirlpool. This will cause the spent hops and other solids to settle in the middle of the pot. Allow about 15 or 20 minutes for everything to settle.

16. As the wort is settling, add the can kit to the fermenter and rinse out the can with some warm water – not too hot.

17. Take the pot and gently pour the cooled wort into the fermenter.  Keep pouring until the spent hops become visible and start to move. Keep pouring until you think the wort in the pot is too mucky – you can recover the wort afterwards.

18. Stir  the wort and add the pre-chilled water to about 20 litres. Check the temperature and pitch the yeast.

19. You can recover the wort from the kettle slops by pouring them into a jug and letting all the solids settle, pour the clear wort off into a small saucepan and boil for 5 minutes to sanitise, force cool in a water bath and add back to the fermenter.