What I Drink At Home > Home Brewing > Coopers Home Brew Kit Review

Coopers Home Brew Kit Review

coopers kit box opening
This review has been sitting on my computer for about a year now so I finally decided to get off my butt, format it (sort of) and put it on the site.

About a year ago I started to wonder how home brewing works so I started reading about it. I read home brewing blogs, forums, websites and I even got a few books, but every time I went to a suggested online store to get equipment, I was held back by the extremely high cost of shipping the items across the border and even within Canada. At one place the entry level set of equipment was around $130, which seemed very reasonable, but the shipping was estimated at $220!!! I understand that most of the equipment is heavy and bulky and therefore costs more to ship, but I was discouraged

I then started to look around for local stores, but every place I found near me focused on wine making and the ones that advertised themselves as “home brew” stores simply made the beer for you at their location.

Eventually I found a place in Hamilton, a quick 1 hour drive, which offered the Coopers Home Brew kit for $99. I thought this might be a great place to start since you get some basic equipment and some extracts and the work for a beginner is light and easy.

When I got there I picked up a box and decided to get some additional extracts to make an IPA after the lager, which was included in the kit. The owner was kind enough to suggest switching out the extracts so I got what I wanted and not what was in the kit. I thought that this was a great idea and opened the box to swap the contents. I paid and was on my way home to make the stuff.

One thing neither one of us thought of on the spot was that the malt extract was lager-specific and was not recommended for an IPA. Well, it was too late for me to drive back and get a different malt extract since everything was open and ready to go. I decided to press on and just make the stuff because I was so excited to try it.

Side note: malt is the backbone of a beer. Not using the right malt for the beer style is like using the chassis from Yugo with the engine from a tank.

Kit Contents

Well, you get a pail, a lid, a bunch of plastic bottles, caps, extracts and a CD with instructions…and a pen.

I didn’t like the idea of bottling beer in plastic bottles, but since the store I picked this up from didn’t have a capper in stock, I had to use them. I even drove to all stores in my area that specialize in preserves, but just couldn’t find a capper in a week.

Instructions

The instructions are pretty straight forward and are everywhere. The kit comes with a booklet and a CD with videos. The extract also comes with its own instruction booklet, which repeats some of the steps, but tosses in some beer-specific instructions which vary from style to style.

Preparation

Very simple – you just boil some water, dissolve the malt extract and warm up the can with the liquid extract.

(dissolving the malt extract)
(adding the hopped extract)

Then you combine the two and add water until you hit the 23L mark.

(adding water one pitcher at a time)
(filled to the 23 L mark)

Of course there is a specific temperature range in which you must be in order to pitch the yeast. I found the instructions lacked information on how to get to this range. The only listed instruction was to add cool/cold water until you get there.

What I found was that adding cold water, filtered from the tap, does not get you into this range, but very close to it. Why? Because already there is BOILING water in the pail.

In hindsight, I should have filled various vessels with cold water and put them in the freezer to cool them down to near 0 degrees. I could have also used clean ice to get the temperature down.

Well, this was one step I sort of missed. But, never mind, I moved on. I waited for about 30 mins until I saw the beer reach the desired range and then added the yeast and sealed the pail.

I later read that you shouldn’t wait for too long to pitch the yeast or else your batch might get contaminated.

After Pitching (Adding the Yeast)

Once the yeast was pitched, a plastic sleeve was inserted into the pail and the container was sealed (sorry didn’t take any photos of that).

As per the instructions, a few days later, I removed the sleeve and resealed the container.

At the end of the week, the container smelled like an IPA and so did the room it was housed in.

After checking the SG for several days in a row and finding it to be constant, I prepped things for bottling.

Bottling

The best thing about the container which comes with the kit is its spout, making bottling very easy. Other kits that one can buy only come with a carboy or a pail. You can always buy a bottle bucket/pail, but because this kit already comes with one, it does make things a bit easier the first time around.

The kit comes with a bunch of 750 mL plastic bottles, caps and tablets to carbonate the brew. Prior to filling them up with the brew, I rinsed each one and let them air dry for a while.

Filling the bottles is very easy thanks to the bottling extension which is plugged directly into the spout. The extension is inserted all the way into the bottle until it touches its bottom. With the bottom touched, a small plastic pin is pushed into the extension tube and lets the beer flow into the bottle. This made bottling a very quick exercise that one can do in less than an hour.

As per the instructions, I left the bottles to carbonate for a week before putting them in the fridge to chill. The reason for that is that room temperature promotes bottle conditioning, while refrigeration keeps the chemical reactions to a minimum.

The Beer

After a week of bottle conditioning, I put a few of the bottles in the fridge overnight.

The end result was not a great beer…not at all. It had a fantastic IPA aroma with a ton of hops and fruits, but its backbone was lager-based which gave it grassy/cereal notes and made it a bit sour. Also, the beer was a bit sour due to, what I assume, is contamination at the yeast pitching stage.

As I mentioned earlier, the malt I used for this was the malt intended for the lager, not the IPA. The IPA required a completely different type of malt. If I had known that earlier, I would have swapped that too.

I didn’t throw the beer out, though. I kept it in the fridge and started cooking many beer-based meals. Once we used 2 bottles in a chili, which turned out great. Beer ribs consumed another 1.5 bottles.

Final Words and Opinion

In my opinion the kit is pretty decent for starters who do not wish to go into more serious home brewing, but I do advise you to not repeat my mistakes as they will cost you some time and the initial batch. Also, I would not pay more than $99 for this kit. Since I bought this kit, I have seen it other places for as much as $140.

Once I saw a Mr. Beer kit at Winners for $40. That is a similar kit, but will only yield about 12-14 bottles. Also, the container is great for small batch brewing.

I have since learned a lot and have applied this knowledge to the rest of my home brewing sessions, which have produced some excellent beers from scratch. I am still using the Coopers pail as my bottling bucket and will be for quite some time.

Check out the “Home Brewing” section of the site as I am planning on slowly (emphasis on the word slowly)  adding recipes, instructions, tips and my mistakes as an amateur home brewer.

7 comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    I appreciated this post thank you, really good to hear the end-to-end process for a beginner. You’ve pretty much sold me on that kit (I was doing a bit of research on it – now to find it for <$150 😉

    • slavster says:

      No problem. If you want to try brewing on a smaller scale to experiment, you can try the Brooklyn Homebrew kit. I have seen some in my area for $50 and you get everything you need, including grains, to make a gallon. I have their book and have brewed many of the recipes with equipment I have picked up from homebrew stores or made it myself. All recipes are pretty good so there is no way the kit will be bad.

      I will be getting one out of curiosity when I have a bit of free time.

  2. Anonymous says:

    From my experience so far with a home brew kit. You really have to give it more time in the bottle to condition. My pilsner beer needed a minimum of 3 weeks before the taste was right. (the can advised upto 3 months!) This is on warm days too. Lager beers in particular need more time in secondary and cooler temps. Especially to ‘Lager’ which means to store apparently.. i am tempted to try a coopers kit on for size, they come fairly highly recommend.

  3. Anonymous says:

    1 week is way too early to drink. The malt you added is just to replace brewing sugar and isnt as significant as you make out.. it adds body to the brew and only some taste, most of the important malt base is in the extract.
    Sourness is infection, apple smell is due to a beer being too young.

    And seriously, you cant work out how to get to a desired temp using hot and cold water? you dont need ice lmao its called varying quantities

    • slavster says:

      It is easy to make mistakes the first time you are doing it when you are way too excited. Also the instructions say to try it after a week and see if it needs more time.

      Also, the problem with adding cold water to get to the desired temperature is that you have only a limited volume to work with until you get there. Tap water usually goes down to about 10 degrees C or higher depending on the ambient temperature and your geographical location. Obviously in the summer the temperature of the cold water is higher than in the winter when I first tried the brew. So if you are starting with a high temperature and the required temperature cannot be reached within the volume you have, you could use ice. Or if you plan ahead you can refrigerate some filtered or treated water in advance. If you are more experienced and do this often, you will use a chiller, like I do now.

      Next time instead of snide remarks, just provide a solution to what you are critiquing.

  4. Denis Law says:

    I’ve just bought my Coopers kit here in the UK for £67.00. (May 2013) I considered the issue of getting the temperature balance correct too – without affecting the liquid’s volume and also considered using ice if need be but your tip regarding pre-chilling some water was very helpful.

  5. Markb says:

    Yeh mine tasted rubbish after a week. Hoping after a month it will be better

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