My main goal here at Cryptobrewology is to introduce people to the wonderful world of craft beers and home brewing, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t explore the possibilities for those who just want try making their own beer at home once or twice, and don’t necessarily have the intention of taking it to the next level. In this case, I’m talking about the hobbyist who might give a Mr. Beer home brewing kit a whirl, just for fun.
In many conversations that I’ve overheard, or have been a part of regarding Mr. Beer, the comments are pretty much the same, usually something like “it tasted bad.” Sometimes, when they give something a try and it doesn’t turn out as expected, people are all too willing to blame the product or the system they used, and not evaluate their methods, or take a little more time to wait for the result.
Mr. Beer home beer making kits sometimes get a bad rap. Prior to sitting down to write this I actually tasted a Mr. Beer West Coast Pale Ale I had made, and it tasted pretty good. Not yeasty, not sour, or sweet. It was mildly bitter, with a fruity and slightly floral hop nose. It had all the hallmarks of a commercial ale that I may have bought at the store. No kidding.
The key factors that led to this great tasting batch of Mr. Beer are proper cleaning techniques, yeast pitching temperature, fermentation temperature, water quality, and patience. Ignore these and you’re destined to make a lousy brew, so don’t blame Mr. Beer!
Key Factor One: SANITIZE
I can’t stress it enough, clean, clean, clean! Make sure your kitchen counters are clean, use Clorox Wipes to clean the place up! Make sure your hands are clean, and make sure you use the One Step no-rinse cleanser — included with every kit and refill — to clean the keg and your tools. Before bottling make sure you follow the directions and thoroughly clean the bottles.
No rinse means “NO RINSE!” There is absolutely nothing left behind by One-Step that can harm you or your home made beer. If you rinse with tap water you risk contaminating everything you have just cleaned. Don’t rinse, just drain.
Key Factor Two: PITCHING and FERMENTING TEMP
The Mr. Beer instructions advise us to use cold water in the fermenter prior to pouring in the wort, and then topping off with cold water before pitching the yeast. There are three reasons it is done this way:
1) The wort is very hot and you don’t want to compromise the plastic, PET, keg fermenter, so put cold water in first, as a buffer.
2) The yeast should not be added to the keg until the temperature is just about 70 degrees fahrenheit. 85 is not just about 70. You can monitor the temperature with a clean Thermometer, that’s what I do, or buy a Brew-O-Meter from Mr. Beer that sticks onto the fermenter. If the keg feels warm to you it’s too warm for the yeast!
3) Topping off with cold water brings the brew up to the full fermenting volume, which will yield about 2 gallons of finished beer.
After topping off and pitching the yeast place the keg somewhere out of direct sunlight, and where the temperature is consistent, somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees fahrenheit. Temperature is critical for proper yeast performance. Too hot or too cold and you can kiss your beer goodbye.
Key Factor Three: WATER
Bottled water or filtered tap water are recommended because they are filtered to remove contaminants and will ensure a decent quality beer. I watched in horror as a YouTuber demonstrating Mr. Beer demonstrated how to top off the keg with cold water using his sink sprayer! Aside from not being cold enough to bring the wort temp into the proper range, unfiltered tap water from a sink sprayer can contaminate the beer. To be safe, it’s better to just buy a few gallons of bottled water and stick them in the fridge.
Key Factor Four: PATIENCE
Cleanliness, temperature and water quality are critical components to producing a good batch of Mr. Beer — well, ANY home brewed beer actually — but another important factor, something many of us DIY-ers struggle with, is patience.
Sure, you can have drinkable beer in as little as two weeks with any home brewing process. That’s because the fermentation process is usually complete in about 7 days, and it only takes 7 days for the beer to carbonate after bottling. It’s drinkable, but it can be a lot better.
What make beer better is proper aging. Beer left alone in the fermenter for two weeks, instead of just one, will settle and clear out a lot more, minimizing the yeast sediment in the bottles. After bottling, keep the bottles in a cool, dark place, and let them sit another two weeks before putting them in the refrigerator to chill. They may still improve after this point as some chemical processes are still ongoing in the bottle.
Patience is a must! Don’t pour out your beers after only giving them a couple of weeks to mature. Most commercial craft brewers let their beers rest, or age, in the bottles for three or four weeks before they hit the market. The full flavor of the beer needs that much time to develop.
To summarize, don’t knock Mr. Beer. You can get good results making your own beer. Do it right, do it clean, and be patient. You’ll find that the product isn’t the problem, it’s technique and patience.
* I read somewhere that it’s a good idea to chill the beer to halt carbonation, but if the beer has fermented fully before adding priming sugar and bottling, the yeast should have only enough to carbonate and will stop on its own. Also, this trick might work for ale yeast but lager yeast will continue to ferment at lower temps if sugar is present.