Author Topic: [Review] The Homebrew Company's All Grain Mash Kit - Bavarian Hefe Weizen  (Read 7387 times)

pob

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Thanks to TheHomeBrewCompany (& Lord Eoin for organising) this kit. This is the initial review of the kit as delivered. A photo study of brew day will follow.

https://www.thehomebrewcompany.ie/all-grain-mash-kits-c-194.html

This is one of 18 different kits that TheHomeBrewCompany produce to allow you to try All Grain without having to construct your own recipe. Ideal for when you are starting All Grain (whether steeping up from Kits or Extract) or  just looking for an easy and quick beer to brew.

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"All the grains, hops and yeast supplied in the correct quantities, and with full brewing instructions, to produce a full mash beer."

https://www.thehomebrewcompany.ie/hbc-bavarian-hefe-weizen-beer-mashkit-23lt-p-1581.html €17.00

"Bavarian Hefe Weizen is cloudy from wheat proteins and suspended yeast. It has a thick, white and long lasting head. The nose carries strong hints of bananas and clove. The flavour carries the same banana and clove characteristics with barely perceptible hops bittering. The mouthfeel is full and soft. Contains all the grain, hops and yeast required with full instructions. These kits are perfect for those looking to start producing beer using the all grain method. Equipment for producing beer following the all grain method as well as basic brewing."

Ingredients:

Grain: Pilsner, Wheat - Crushed

Hops: Hallertauer Hersbucker - Leaf

Yeast: Brewferm Blanche - Dry,   "This is a dry wheat beer yeast from Belgium, perfect for Belgian Wit and other European wheat beer styles. Ferments very clean with very little sulphur but will leave desired cloudiness and hint of spice. Try this in our Belgian Wit kit! 12 gram package is perfect for a five to seven gallon batch. Recommended 65 to 75 F (18 - 23C) fermentation temperature range." Use by 01/04/2015.

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This pack seems a good way to create a known beer style with somebody else having done the homework for you on and then packing it into an all inclusive kit.

This is where we run into one of the problems of this kit:

1. Packaging: The bag that it is supplied in, looks the same as if it was a standard 5kg of any crushed malt (so much so, that when it was delivered with other ingredients, it was assumed it was just more crushed grain). There is a pack with the yeast & instructions in it and embedded into the grain, the bag of hops. It looks like everything has been thrown into the bag and then sealed. This is a lost opportunity for TheHomeBrewCompany here.



I had to open the sealed bag to get access to the instructions, not very good as I wanted to have a read of what was supposed to be done and to whether I had all ingredients & equipment. Now the bag is opened and the crushed grain is exposed to air.





A solution to this could be to use, either a specific cardboard box, or a customised logoed heavy duty plastic bag, with a product sticker on it (nothing special, destop printer sticker with kit details would be fine) and the ingredients in their individual bags within. It could then be sealed for retail/transport at that point.


2. Poor instruction page: Where’s the HBC logo, or even printed on headed paper? The first half of the page is a print out of the description as per the web page. A better layout and ingredient check list would be preferred, i.e. have I received everything? A good starting point might be the MoreBeer-style template (http://morebeer.com/products/german-hefeweizen-grain-beer-kit-advanced.html), with Necessary Equipment, Recommended Equipment & Supplies and Ingredient list.

3. No Ingredient breakdown: If you want to do a similar one again, there is no breakdown of quantities for you to check off & make sure you have everything and to allow you to adjust it for the next time, e.g. want to use a different hop, what AA% & weight is it. For the grain bill this is more of any issue, say I want to add more Wheat next time, well how much do I have in the pack? What is the mix? There are no finings (Irish Moss, Whirlfloc, etc) - not sure if this could be considered basic brewing equipment. There should have been a link on the website with suggested equipment/ingredients, e.g. campden tablets, fining agents (Irish Moss, Whirlfloc, Protofloc, etc).

4. Use by date: There are no details to when this was packed or should be used by.

5. Sparging information: Whereas they is volumes for Batch Sparging, I would have though that volumes for BIAB (Brew in a Bag) might have been included. A lot of brewers are now starting to use BIAB as their entry into All Grain, so for a pack aimed as a starter into AG, the missing ingredient information and volumes required could be stumbling block. As BIAB is my weapon of choice, I will have to either weigh out or contact HBC to enter into Beersmith or an online calculator to work out my water volumes, defeating the convenience element of the kit. This isn't an issue for me as its really not too difficult to weigh it out, but for somebody starting off, it could become a bit of a stumbling block.

So, while appearing to not like the product, I really do love the idea. I do appreciate its convenience and think with a few minor changes could become a very good product range, with a lot of brewers choosing it to start AG. And then later when they have gotten used to it, slightly tweaking it, e.g. dry hopping, different speciality malts, as they would have previously with kits and extract prior to this. (I'll email Shane in TheHomeBrewCompany a copy of this.)

The brew day write up & photos will follow shortly, once space in brewing calendar is freed up.

Ciderhead

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Ouch, but obviously room for improvement in the presentation.
Their recipes are great, well researched and formulated and for that reason confidential. :(

pob

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We were asked for an honest review. If feedback is used positively, a version 2 of the packaging would give a product, as good as, if not better than a lot of the kits out there currently.

I do believe that research, development and effort went into this product, but if it doesn't follow through to the user interface (packaging & instructions) it falls down and could prevent repeat purchases. I do want this to work as I think it is an ideal way into AG, and indeed could be used as the base kit for people to use for their goto/house brew.

I've no issue with keeping their recipe secret, however a check-list on what should be included would be good, e.g. 1 bag of grain, 2 bags of hops (60 min & 20 min), 1 pkt Yeast, etc

When I opened the bag to retrieve the instructions/yeast packet, I also took out the Hops packet to pop into freezer until I needed them. However without rummaging through the grain, how do I know if there is a 2nd pack of hops without a checklist. The packet I picked out was for 60 mins addition, the instructions just say "adding the hops as labelled at the appropriate times". When  planning a brew, having a schedule worked out beforehand helps prevent mistakes, you don't want to be pouring the grain into your mash tun or BIAB bag and another bag of hops to fall out for you to realise "Oh there's another hop addition to do".

As said I want this to work and think that the feedback could be used positively, remember I have suggested solutions, not just said it was bad and left it at that.

Anyway once brewed, I'm sure it will stand up for itself and as I said in the review it doesn't need a big spend to improve, I would definitely spend an extra 50c - €1 per kit for decent packaging, instuctions & finings.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2014, 11:42:41 AM by pob »

Garry

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I got one of the extract kits. The bag of grain is much smaller (obviously), and the instructions are inside in the sealed bag of grain too. I would like if the instructions were outside so I could have a read off them without having to open the sealed bag. So I agree with you there.

The recipes are secret but if you go to HBC's website there are sample recipes there. I'd assume that these are the same as the kits?

https://www.thehomebrewcompany.ie/weissbier-p-779.html

Garry

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In relation to finings, most of the kits do come with a whirlfloc tablet. My American Brown Ale Extract did. I assume yours didn't because of the style?

Quote from: https://www.thehomebrewcompany.ie/hbc-bavarian-hefe-weizen-beer-mashkit-23lt-p-1581.html
Bavarian Hefe Weizen is cloudy from wheat proteins and suspended yeast.

irish_goat

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I take it we going to have retrospective editing of the review if the issues are resolved?

Danny(00833827)

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I have had a pale ale kit from here with whirlfloc so i suppose it could be a style thaaang -

Ferm.: Pear Wine
Cond.: Cider
Bottled: Helles Lager, Pumpkin Ale
To Brew: Ginger Ale

LordEoin

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That's what I was thinking too about the whirlfloc.

Regarding the packaging, it's all relevant feedback. First impressions are important, and if the main flaw of these kits can be resolved by simply adding another plastic bag, a few edits on the instructions and a flashy sticker, then that's something that can easily be fixed :)

Thanks pob, it's very informative so far and I look forward seeing your BIAB setup!

pob

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In relation to finings, most of the kits do come with a whirlfloc tablet. My American Brown Ale Extract did. I assume yours didn't because of the style?

Quote from: https://www.thehomebrewcompany.ie/hbc-bavarian-hefe-weizen-beer-mashkit-23lt-p-1581.html
Bavarian Hefe Weizen is cloudy from wheat proteins and suspended yeast.

I have had a pale ale kit from here with whirlfloc so i suppose it could be a style thaaang -




Quite possible, I'd forgotten about that, haven't brewed a AG Hefe Weizen yet, (Cooper's Wheat was 2nd brew over 3 years ago).

Ingredient checklist would have solved that.

pob

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That's what I was thinking too about the whirlfloc.

Regarding the packaging, it's all relevant feedback. First impressions are important, and if the main flaw of these kits can be resolved by simply adding another plastic bag, a few edits on the instructions and a flashy sticker, then that's something that can easily be fixed :)

Thanks pob, it's very informative so far and I look forward seeing your BIAB setup!

I reckon it would cost well less than 50c (retail pricing could easily take increase for a better product) & a couple of hours typing, to fix and turn it into something really good.

Then it would be something you would be confident with to recommend to new brewers, to get started.

pob

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Re: [Review] The Homebrew Company's All Grain Mash Kit - Bavarian Hefe Weizen
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2014, 12:57:56 PM »
I take it we going to have retrospective editing of the review if the issues are resolved?

There will be a full write up of brew day and the review will definitely be updated if any changes are made.

Indeed I am more than happy to provide Shane with any more feedback or a review of new packaging if need be (I did email him a copy of the review as courtesy, as I posted this up).

pob

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Re: [Review] The Homebrew Company's All Grain Mash Kit - Bavarian Hefe Weizen
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2014, 04:57:33 PM »
Brewday with pics

Finally got around to brewing this kit on Thursday. This kit will be mashed & boiled, BIAB (Brew-in-a-Bag) style in a converted 50L stainless steel vessel. A custom fitted/sewn polyester bag (a couple of metres of curtain material & wifey's sewing machine) is used to hold the grain for the mash (with a s/steel cake stand used to keep bag up off the elememts). It is then removed to allow the wort to boil as per any 3 Vessel setup.

Its using two Tesco/Argos kettles elements, with a new Mk1 Ikea/Stainless mesh hop filter (A Damo/Pob production ;)) draining to a 1/2" ball valve tap. There is removable insulation (double layer of Thermowrap & sleeping bag mat, held on with velcro strapping) and the BIAB bag is help in place with a webbing strap.





(Copper link pipe has been replaced with longer length to centre the hopfilter to base of keggle)

A quick call beforehand to TheHomeBrewCompany to confirm grain weight (5.2Kg), to allow me use Beersmith to calculate strike temperature & volume for the water.

So the night before I filled the keggle with 31.7L of water. (This was treated with one Campden tablet to remove any Chloromines which can potentially give you unwanted TCP aromas/flavours in the final beer.) I also ran the grain through my (modified) Corona mill, as with BIAB you can go finer on the grain crush, which can help efficiency.

Next morning I took the yeast out of the fridge & the hops from the freezer. Both kettle elements were switched on to bring water up to 71.9C.



Once strike temperature is reached, the grain is slowly added into water and mixed in with the mash paddle, this is to prevent 'doughballs'.



Once all the grain has been mixed in, it is given a good stir to mix through and the temp is checked.



Once it is at mash temp (a minute of stirring brought it to correct temp), put lid on and a bit more insulation to keep mash happy.



The temp is read with a STC1000 probe, close enough, eh? (Beersmith is very good for calculating strike temps once you have used it for a few brews and update your Equipment/Mash profiles).



A hour in, the temp is still within 1C of required Mash temp. A refractor is used for gravity reading from this stage and thereafter. A mash out (76C) for 10 mins is started by switching the two elements back on, while stirring continously to keep even temp in keggle. After mash out the bag is slowly lifted out of the keggle, allowing the wort to drain from the bag. The bag is then tied to a rope & hook to further drain into a bucket. After a good squeeze of the bag, a further 2 litres are collected and added back into the keggle. With BIAB, there is no additional or active sparge with the grain, once it is removed from the keggle after mashing (although some people do it, to improve effeciency), there is a passive sparge due to the grain/water volume ratio as part of the BIAB process.



The cakestand is removed, the two element are switched on for the boil. The hops are now added as a First Wort addition (personal preference, instructions have them as the 60 min addition).



A nice rolling boil. One of the elements is connected to a Voltage Regulator and power is turned down to give the equivalent of 1.5 elements in use (2 elements were too much, 1 not enough).



15 mins to go, immersion chiller & a Whirfloc tablet (not included in kit, used to aid hot/cold break coagulation, wheatbeer yeast will give the cloudiness in final beer) added.



Wort then chilled down to mid 20s (forgetting again !!, to remove the keggle insulation for the first 10 mins of cooling); the immersion chiller was then removed. It was then given a good whirlpool and left for 20 mins to help breaks settle out. The yeast was hydrated with 100ml water at 30C and given a stir.

The tap was then opened to allow cooled wort flow into sanitised fermentor. The yeast was then pitched at approx 23C (as per instructions). The wort was then stirred vigourously, to aerate it to help give the yeast a good start.



The fermentor was then wrapped in insulation with an thermostatically controlled immersion heater (set to 19C, wasn't plugged in until temp had dropped to 19C), with a temp probe attached to outside of FV to monitor ferment (it's been left in shed, so can get cold at night).

Within 4 hours there was good activity with a nice healthy krausen by the next morning.



Overall with a 60 min mash & 60 min boil, time from starting to finalling putting everthing away, was approx 4.5 hours (that last 1/2 hour goes so quick, when your looking for the last bits to put away), not bad for an AG day.

This will be left for a good 2 weeks, than bottled after that.

From a useage perspective, these types of kit are definitely a good idea to start with or even to use as your go-to-brew (As from my notes earlier in the thread, a few alterations to the packaging and instruction sheet would majorly improve a very good product).

Note:
(1) The mash/pre boil gravity I got (1.040) was 0.003 below the suggested target of 1.043. This was due to a volume calibration error with my keggle, after new hop filter went in, some time recalibrating my measuring stick is required. Due to this I actually got 25L of wort into fermentor at 1.047 rather than 1.049. So the effeciency was actually better than expected, considering target volume was 23L. This will be corrected for future brews.
(2) A MK2 version of the Hop Filter will have a bit of split narrow Silicone tubing acting as a gasket around the edge to help better seal the imperfactions in the bottom of the keggle.
(3) Remember to clean & sanitise all equipment before use and to give everything a good clean afterwards. It's a lot easier to get rid of wort and crud when its wet rather than letting it dry out & become sticky and worse, when it then becomes a major pain in the a$$ and can mess up future brews.

Time will tell, to how it ferments out and to how it tastes.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2014, 05:14:59 PM by pob »

LordEoin

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Re: [Review] The Homebrew Company's All Grain Mash Kit - Bavarian Hefe Weizen
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2014, 06:08:51 PM »
Nice one.
I've got a mashkit sparging at the moment and I'll be boiling with 2 argos elements too.
What are you using for the voltage regulator? Do you think a light dimmer switch would do?

pob

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[Review] The Homebrew Company's All Grain Mash Kit - Bavarian Hefe Weizen
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2014, 06:27:41 PM »
When the 2 elements are on, the boil is too vigorous - the elements crud up, potentially caramelise the wort and increase boil off.

The eBay voltage controller is rated to 4000w, whereas a dimmer switch is probably only <200w - a kettle element would kill it, similar principle though.

When using it you keep one element on, then turn up the controller to keep the boil rolling without going overboard.

Big thanks to CH in pointing me to these controllers, although mine aren't as fancy as his with digital displays ;-).

LordEoin

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Nice to hear it worked out well.
Don't worry too much about hitting your final volume. You'll learn from experience what volumes you need to compensate for soakage and evaporation etc.