Once you have your equipment and you’re ready to start brewing your own beer, you may be looking through the ingredient kits wondering, “What is this stuff?” With words like “extract”, “hop pellets” and “yeast” being thrown around, you may be feeling a little hesitant towards drinking a beer made from such things.
The truth is, all beer is made from 4 essential components, and these ingredients, or a variation of such, are what you can expect find in a typical beginner’s ingredient kit.
Main Ingredient 1: Malt Extract
Extract kits use either a dry or syrupy liquid malt extract as the base for the beer instead of grain. Both the dry and liquid malt extracts are developed from a process called malting. This process extracts sugars from the grains creating a concentrated extract. Liquid malt extract is often referred to as LME and likewise dry malt extract is often referred to as DME.
The major difference between the two is the amount of water left in the end product. Due to the difference in water content, dry and liquid malt extracts cannot be interchanged. If you’re using a recipe that calls for dry and you have malt, you can use this simple conversion to convert from one to the other: one pound of dry malt extract is equal to approximately 1.2 pounds of liquid malt extract.
Main Ingredient 2: Yeast
Yeast will be included in each of the extract recipe kits as well. Yeast is crucial to the brewing process as it converts the sugars into alcohol. The yeast may come in either a dry or liquid form. Since yeast is a living organism, it is arguably the most important ingredient in terms of care and attention. You must be sure to not allow the yeast to get too warm or too cold.
Main Ingredient 3: Hops
Each kit will also include the hops, which is one of the four main ingredients in beer. Hops contribute bitterness to the beer and balance the sweetness.
Bittering hops are used in the beginning of the boil process. Flavoring hops are also included and are added in the early stages of the boil. As the name suggests, these hops add flavors to your brew. Depending on the style, aroma hops may also be included. They are added later in the boil process and contribute an extra layer of aromas to the beer.
Main Ingredient 4: Water
This may seem obvious, but water is arguably the most important ingredient in your beer. It is best to use filtered water rather than just water from the tap. We go more in-depth about different types of water for brewing in this linked article.
Situational Needs: Priming Sugar, Grain Bag
Priming sugar is an ingredient that will always be included in extract kits, but isn’t always needed. Priming sugar is added to your batch prior to the bottling process. Adding the priming sugar ensures that the bottles will all be carbonated the same. The amount of carbonation can be controlled by the amount of sugar used.
Careful, though, too much priming sugar can lead to a bottle full of foam or even bottle bursts. If you plan to keg your beer instead of bottling, then no priming sugar is necessary.
A muslin bag may also be included in some specialty kits. This bag is used for holding the hops or special ingredients during the boil. The bag ensures the flavor is captured without the ingredients being completely submerged into the brew.
Special Extras: Specialty Grains and Powders
In addition to the malt extract, some kits may also include specialty grains, which can be actual crushed grains or milled grains. These grains allow you to add depth and complexity to the color and flavor of the beer that you won’t get from the extract alone.
A few examples include chocolate malt, biscuit malt, malted rye, etc. Some of the kits will also include additional special ingredients such as oak chips or oak powder, which add even more depth to your beer’s flavor profile.
We hope this provided a good overview as to what you can expect from your ingredient kit. Good luck and happy brewing!