Beer kits, packaged in cans with all manner of beer styles to choose from, are a welcome introduction to home brewing for many. They are simple to use and require minimal processing. They are designed so that they do not intimidate a new home brewer with overwhelming procedures or concerns. A good beer can be made from many of them. However, if you want to make better beer or you want to help others improve upon their own kit beers, here’s some advice that will result in major improvements in beer flavour. Whenever a beer kit calls for the addition of sugar in a recipe, substitute the sugar for light malt extract or dextrose. You will end up with a beer that tastes like something you would want to pay money for. The sugar is in there for one purpose-to bring the alcohol level up to full strength, that is, around 5%.  It adds very little flavour to the beer, although alcohol itself is a flavour enhancer, rather like salt on your potato chips. However, because of biochemical reactions that are a mystery to me but which greatly exercise the minds of brewing chemists, the use of such large amounts of sugar leaves the finished product with an acidic, cidery  flavour. I don’t know about you but I can’t take too much of this flavour, after one glass, or maybe even two, the acidic, cidery effect becomes unpleasant.



The use of  fresh whole or pelletized hops in a knowledgeable manner can immensely improve the quality of your home brewed beers. It is relatively inexpensive and the procedures are virtually worry-free. Most kit beers are designed to have relatively low bitterness. Many are flavoured with hop extract, which contributes bitterness but none of the other often desirable hop characteristics to the beer. Along with substituting light malt extract or dextrose for the sugar that many kit instructions call for, adding a small amount of bittering hops will help balance the flavour. For a 23litre batch,12-14g of low to medium bittering hops such as Hallertauer, Cascade

Goldings or Willamette  boiled for 10-20 minutes will make a positive and noticeable contribution to your kit beer. Adding 12-14g of low to medium hops that are noted for their flavour during the last 5-10 minutes of the boil will contribute a complex hop flavour that will otherwise be lacking if hop extract is listed as an ingredient of the kit beer. Fuggles, Willamette, Hallatuaer, Mt Hood, Cascade, Goldings, Tettanger and Saaz are among the more popular aroma hops. Finally, to add aromatic finesse to any beer, add 5-10g of aroma hops during the last minute of the boil, then immediately strain, spurge and transfer to your fermenter. By including this step in your brewing process, you will create a balance, complexity and depth of character in your beer that is missing from most kit beers. For those who choose to continue their brewing endeavours with simple kit beers, these three hop infusions may provide the complexity and satisfaction you have been seeking in your homebrewed beer.

The beautiful marriage of hops and craft beer ...click on this link




Yeast Re-Hydration

If you are using dried yeasts you may have had trouble with slow-starting fermentations. These can be a worry because the unprotected, room-temperature wort can easily pick up infections from wild yeasts and bacteria while it is waiting for the yeast to go to work. One way to get round this is to re-hydrate the yeast. This is a simple technique which ensures that the yeast is alive and ready to go the moment you pitch it.

Boil 250mls of water for 5 minutes then pour it into a sterilized glass jar and cool it down to approximately 26/28 degrees C. Tear open your sachet of yeast and sprinkle it into the liquid. Leave the jar for 15 to 30 minutes, by which time you will see signs of bubbling and other activities. By now you should have a very cloudy looking jar of liquid. Simply put this into your cooled wort and it will go rapidly to work

Yeast Starters

Another way of getting your yeast off to a quicker start, and also checking that it is alive and kicking, is to make a yeast starter from a little bit of malt extract. Use the same technique as for re-hydration, except for two things. Add one tablespoon of malt extract to your 250ml of water before bringing it to the boil. Then, cool the solution down to 25 degrees C rather than 30 and add your yeast. Leave it aside for at least 30/40 minutes, preferably longer, until you see strong signs of activity, then pitch it into your wort. If there are no signs of yeast activity in the starter within one hour, it may mean you have a poor quality sample of yeast. In that case, throw it away and start again with another batch.


One way of getting a commercial yeast is to culture one from a bottled beer. Not many beers are suitable for this as most of them have been pasturised before being put on sale, killing off any yeasts in them that filtration hasn’t taken out. However, here in Australia, Coopers Sparkling Ale, Pale Ale and Extra Stout all contain yeast sediment which can be cultured and used to brew your own beer. It will take usually take two or three days to do, so plan ahead.

Once again, make up a starter solution and cool it down. Take a 750ml bottle of Coopers, making sure it is clear and the yeast sediment has all sunk to the bottom. Gently pour off all the beer but the last inch or so in the bottom of the bottle (into a couple of glasses preferably), then pour in your yeast starter on top of the sediment. Shake well, fit a cork with an air lock, and wait for the yeast activity to start. When it is foaming like a glass of carbonated beer and the air lock is showing movement, pitch it into your wort.

If you're not ready to use your culture at that point, put the whole thing in the fridge until you are ready to pitch it. It should keep for at least a week.




Your first step to becoming a better brewer has to do with adding more and better ingredients to your homebrew. The second is about conditioning your brew differently, and fittingly for a second step, it’s called “Secondary Fermentation”

Secondary, or two-stage, fermentation is all about conditioning your beer. At the beginner’s level, you put the fresh wort in the primary fermenter, let the yeast do its thing, and then bottle the beer. The beer has about two weeks to condition in the bottle before you start sucking it down. That’s the right thing to do when your equipment and expertise are limited, but you can do better.

Taking the freshly fermented beer out of the primary fermenter is necessary in the beginning process not just because the initial fermentation is over but also because all those little yeasties, fresh from a gluttonous feast, are about to start consuming themselves. That’s right: Given the opportunity, sugar-crazed yeast will cannibalize. This horrific event is called yeast autolysis. Autolysis can impart a sulfury, rubbery stench and flavour to your beer. Leaving your fresh, young beer sitting on that bulging layer of self-destructing yeast dregs is akin to letting your child wallow with pigs in the mud – and you wouldn’t want to smell either one of them when they were done.

Now that you are introducing more ingredients to the brew, more flavours and textures in the beer, it needs to blend, and for this melding process, time has no substitute.

By allowing the beer to undergo a secondary fermentation – by expanding the fermentation’s time – you are promoting a mellowing process, one that will make a noticeable improvement in your beer. Because most of the consumable sugars in the wort have already been eaten, secondary fermentation yields very little yeast activity and rarely produces a measurable amount of additional alcohol. This stage is just an opportunity for all the beer’s ingredients to acclimate and establish a tasty relationship.

Secondary fermentation isn’t worth the effort unless you allow the beer to mellow in the fermenter for at least one week; two to three weeks is the norm, and a month or more may be needed for barley wines, Imperial stouts, and other complex and high-gravity beers. Thus, bottling will be delayed considerably.

One final vote in support of secondary fermentation: Using this procedure, not only do you have nothing to fear regarding unfinished primary fermentations (and exploding bottles), but you can actually cut the primary fermentation time by a day or two and rack the beer over to the secondary fermenter at your convenience. Racking is possible only after the peak fermentation activity subsides. Usually after the 4 - 5 day

(click the link above to see)  

Dissolve 75g of sugar in 300mls of boiling water. Pour this into your sterilized second fermenter (R&B bin). Transfer the beer from your primary fermenter to your R&B bin as described in “Bulk Priming”.

Refit the lid and air lock on your R&B bin making sure the lid is on securely and there is water in the air lock. Now put your R&B bin in place where it will not be disturbed, and allow the beer to condition for a minimum of 10 days. The addition of sugar to the beer in the R&B bin is to cause the beer to start fermenting again and produce a  thin layer of carbon dioxide over the top of your beer which will help stop infections and stop your beer from oxidizing. (it is not for carbonating your beer)

Remember: No phase of homebrewing is exempt from cleaning and sanitizing.                     Adding another fermentation phase means disinfecting all the equipment that goes along with it. Might as well get used to it and stop complaining.

(click  the link above to see)

I have used the 2 methods Racking and Bulk Priming with great success.     You will be amazed at the difference it makes to the quality of your homebrew.


Individually priming each bottle before filling is a time consuming, messy and potentially inaccurate method of conditioning (carbonating) your beer.

This is how to go about bulk priming using your R&B bin (racking & bottling bin)


1 EXTRA FERMENTER- (R&B bin) the same size as your primary fermenter.

1 LENGTH OF TUBING- about 2m in length.


1 EXTRA TAP- for your R&B bin.


It goes without saying that the first step is to thoroughly sterilize all the equipment.

Next, place your fermenter (the one with your brew in it) on the bench and position your R&B bin on the floor below it. Fit the length of tubing onto the tap of your fermenter with the brew in it, using the adaptor if necessary, then run the other end of the tubing through the grommet hole in the R&B bin lid pushing  the tubing right to the bottom of the bin, keep going until the tubing is curled at least a half circle, this will ensure the brew is moved gently into the bottom of the bottling bin helping to eliminate the introduction of oxygen to the  brew, it also mixes the priming solution.

The priming solution is simply 220g to 230g Dextrose dissolved in 400ml of boiling water, have this prepared in a covered container.

OK, you’ve got your R&B bin in position and ready to go, tip the priming solution into it and put the lid back on, next release the seal on the fermented containing your brew,

With screw top  fermenters simply unscrew the lid and leave in position, with clip lid types just unclip one section, doing this will stop the liquid in your airlock being sucked back into the brew, alternatively, pull the airlock out of the lid.

Turn on the tap, get yourself a glass of HomeBrew, essential for the next step, bottling.

As soon as the tap starts to suck air, either turn it off or tilt the fermented to pick up the last litre or so. Now gently stir the brew, about 6 revolutions is ample.

It is now time to bottle – of course you have your already sterilized bottles waiting to be filled. Lift the now filled R&B bin onto your work bench, leaving the tubing attached if you can, now change the tubing from the fermented tap to the R&B bin tap, withdraw the tube from the R&B bin and attach your brewers bottler to it. You can fill your bottles by lining them up on the floor and going from bottle to bottle with the flexible tube. Better still arrange things so your R&B bin is up above your bench work surface then you can bottle your beer in comfort at about waist height.

The reason I started bulk priming was the same reason the Yanks do, I wanted to bottle my brews into stubbies (in the US they don’t have 750’s) and priming 60 bottles is bad enough but I usually do a couple of batches at a time hence my interest. What I didn’t anticipate was the improvement in the condition of the beer. It seems that the use of dextrose, which we already knew was a faster and cleaner fermentable, greatly enhances the beading of the beer. That is it quickly produces a finished beer with very fine bubbles, this presents as a fine creamy head which provides excellent lace on the glass – just what the home brewer ordered!



Measurements of various sugar for Bulk and Bottle priming.


Dextrose………………….. 210g-23 L    7g-750ml bottle
Honey………………………278g-23 L     9g-750ml bottle
Maple Syrup………………347g-23 L    11g-750ml bottle
Molasses…………………..278g-23 L     9g-750ml bottle
Cane or Beet Sugar…….180g-23 L      6g-750ml bottle
Brown Sugar……………..180g-23 L     6g-750ml bottle
Dried Malt Extract………347g-23 L     11g-750ml bottle

Also See "Bottle & Bulk Priming Calculator"


 Home Brewing Log

It's a good idea to keep a log of all the homebrews that you make.
Click HERE to see a sample of the Brewers Log Sheet that I use.


 Alternative Brewing Sugars

Click HERE to learn about Alternative Brewing Sugars




Kegging plus forced carbonation can save your waiting  and bottle washing times!

Indeed, the best beer you can make is a two-stage fermentation process, including the bottling and waiting... waiting...

One downside is a circa 4 week time from the batch start to a ready-to-drink product, supplemented by a nightmare bottle washing process repeated every noun again. I guess, many who tried were disappointed with those 30+ plastic bottles coming with kits. Flip tops are miles better, but anyway...

The secret of success here is going for 2x kegs, one kegerator fridge and a CO2 bottle. Such a kit can cost $1000+, but the luxury of having beer on tap at your alfresco will likely pay it off. Going even smarter: you can keg following the primary fermentation, add hops oils, blanket with CO2, chill the keg to 4-6deg C (in approximately 24 hours for basic kegerator).

Say: hold on - something is missing here! Carbonation! No one wants a flat beer, right? Indeed, when the keg is cold your beer will gratefully absorb CO2 - and so you do: Put your cold keg horizontally on a carpet, connect the CO2 post only, give it 30 to 40 psi pressure (using pressure regulator), and... roll the baby, roll! Force-carbonate it!

Just roll the horizontally laying keg with your foot for 5-10 minutes (you will hear the intensity of carbonation - this will tell you when to stop), and let it sit back in the kegerator for few hour hours at least.

Holding time in kegerator influences the beer clarity and carbonation quality - the longer - the clearer - the finer are the gas bubbles. Generally, 1 week is enough for having a descent looking and feeling beer, especially if you add more hops prior to kegging. In my taste, the results are not much worse than a properly fermented (e.g. primed) bottle beer. Another benefit - forget about bottle washing.

Even if there is no patience at all, you can tap your beer even in 1 hour after the forced carbonation - it will be drinkable already, although quite muddy yet.

To sum up on the process timing: 7days primary fermentation + 1 day keg chilling + 1 day after-cooling = 9 days from making wort to drinking off tap. This is a record time compared to 3-4 weeks of a two-stage bottled fermentation.

This technique works for simple ales, I never tried it with lagers, stouts or pilsners. What I do is a Coopers Draught kit and a kilo of dextrose, plus some additional hopping. This mixture works reliable at aussie temperatures and never fails, spoils or deviates from typical results. Additional hopping to your taste facilitates experiments. Quick and quite a descent beer.

If you are new to kegging - there are plenty of educational texts and videos over the internet - these may explain some the above terminology and nuances. In fact, it is very simple.

Article by Yury Sokolov  (A Brisbane Homebrewer)