Having been brewing basic kits for a while I had been thinking it was time to move on to dry malt extract. So when Séan kindly offered a dry malt extract kit it seemed like as good a time as ever to start, with a California Common Beer.

Compared to most kits we are used to here it provides incredibly in-depth instructions and lots of useful tips for the less experienced brewer (the last kit I did said something along the lines of: open tin, pour contents into bucket, add boiling water and 1kg sugar, leave for a week, bottle then drink). Obviously with a kit there is less control over the overall outcome but this one was definitely a great way of learning more and making the step from the basic kits to using DME in a gentle manner.


Ingredients:

  • Light DME with Northern Brewer bittering hops combined
  • Crystal Malt
  • Cascade finishing hops
  • Irish Moss
  • Yeast: Saflager S-23
Method

The crystal malt was put into a bag and allowed to steep in about 7 litres of water for about 30 minutes at 70oC.

After this the grain was removed and the DME added and stirred until dissolved. This being my first time using dried extract I was a bit surprised as to how long it actually took to dissolve, but in the end it got there (and if you look at the instructions you will see they are quite useful and that they in fact mentioned this).

 



This was a boil of one hour as per usual. The only additions were the Irish Moss at 45 minutes and the Cascade hops for the last 5 minutes.

Trying to get the temperature down as quick as possible proved more difficult as I don't have a wort chiller but with lots of cold water it eventually got there.


The wort was strained into the fermenter and topped up to the 19 litres with pre-boiled and cooled water.

The OG was 1.040

Fermentation
Because of the heating (or lack of) in the house I decided to try the lager yeast. It was fermented at 14 o C ; the lower end of the temperature scale recommended on the packet. The temperature was kept fairly constant during fermentation. Primary, for 2 weeks, was fairly slow going I thought and then secondary for 3 weeks at 8 o C. I’m lucky in that there is a cellar here so it's never much above 10 o C and with the use of a little ice it was easy to bring the temperature down another couple of degrees.

I bottled with an FG of 1.012, so ABV of about 3.9%.

Conclusion
I imagine this article is really a re-hash of stuff already covered in the Extract Brewing knowledge base article, so I thought a bit of comment on the kit itself and what I learned from it might be in order.

A couple of things I would mention here as minor criticisms would be that no OG or FG value ranges were given and that perhaps with a lager yeast 2 packets would definitely be better than one! The OG seems quite low to me and not really within the range for a California Common, but having put the recipe into BeerTools it seems I might not be so far off after all (but the weight of DME was an estimate).

   Predicted   California Common Beer   Actual 
 Original Gravity   1.042  1.048 - 1.054  1.040
 Terminal Gravity
 1.010  1.011 - 1.014   1.012
 Colour  11  10.00 - 14.00 °SRM  ?
 Bitterness  ?  30.00 - 45.00 IBU
 ?
 ABV %
 4.3  4.5 - 5.5
 3.7


As for the final taste? Well I’m not sure about it. Some bottles taste great with a citrusy grapefruit tang but others are just odd! I'm not sure if it's from oxidation, yeast autolysis, my fermenters or is it just the flavour of the beer but the latter I think not! Apart from that the colour is good but the head retention is poor.

And here is the final product:


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