I’m a very inexperienced home brewer – the only beer I’ve made was in a simple kit from Cooper’s (review coming soon), so when UPS delivered this kit from MoreBeer.com, I was undeniably shocked.  Whereas the aforementioned kit consisted of a single medium sized box, this kit was FOUR boxes, weighing seventy eight pounds – it was like a home chemistry kit for beer.

And it was beautiful.

Because of the grand scale of the kit itself, and because of the work involved in brewing, I’ve decided to actually do this review in three parts.  The first part (what you’re reading now) will consist of me talking about the contents of the kit, the quality of those products, and the ease of the first day of brewing.  There won’t be any traditional “star score” yet here, as it’s not the final review.  Part two will have me discussing the bottling process and all that goes with it (again no “star score” yet).  The third and final part will be my wrap up, and there will actually be TWO “star scores” given here – one for the kit and the overall experience, and one for the flavor of the recipe that came with the kit.

The Bottling Super Deluxe kit is MoreBeer.com’s most expansive (and expensive) home brew kit for bottling your beer – there is another kit that’s bigger, but it’s only useful if you’re going to be kegging your beer.  As long as you’re just sticking to bottles though, this has pretty much everything you could possibly need.  The contents are as follows:

  1. A 4oz bottle of “Star San Sanitizer” – this an acid sanitizer to clean everything
  2. A copper wort chiller with tubing attached – 25′ of copper tubing is amazing
  3. A plastic bottle filler
  4. An 8-gallon heavy duty kettle with a ball valve, notched lid, and barb – this lets you do a full boil
  5. A 1/4 pound bag of bottle caps
  6. 24 (two cases) 22oz glass bottles
  7. A bottle capper
  8. A “light ale” ingredient kit with the brewing instructions
  9. A packet of dry brewers ale yeast
  10. A reusable mesh steeping bag
  11. A reusable mesh hop bag
  12. A 5 inch dial thermometer
  13. A long metal spoon
  14. A sterile siphon starter – it has a racking cane and tubing, a carboy hood, and an air filter
  15. A funnel
  16. 5 feet of vinyl transfer tubing
  17. A book on home beer making
  18. A hydrometer
  19. A hydrometer jar
  20. A bottle brush
  21. A plastic carboy
  22. A package of PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash)
  23. A plastic bucket for bottling and sanitation with a spigot
  24. An airlock
  25. A rubber stopper (with hole)

That whopping list of 25 different things comprises the whole of this kit (there was also an issue of Imbibe there, but I’m not sure if that’s standard).  Seeing all of that laid out on the dining room table at once made my head spin.  Thankfully the instructions they sent along were clear and concise so I was able to quickly get my bearings and get started.  I’ve taken a LOT of pictures to document pretty much everything I’ve done as well – so you can see the fun that was to be had (lol).

I started out just like the directions said – putting six gallons of cool water into the giant kettle, then steeping the barley (in the nylon pouch) until the water hit a temp of 170.  I have to say, my entire house smelled great right now, and I really wanted to just get a cup of “barley tea” – but with the stove still chugging away I didn’t have the time.  As soon as the water started to boil, I turned off the gas for a minute to put in the malt.  For those that haven’t done this before (like myself), the malt is a very sticky and viscous fluid – almost the consistency of sap (and stickiness).  If you want to make it easier on yourself, I would let the pouch of malt sit in some hot water for about ten minutes beforehand to make it flow a bit better.  I didn’t see any directions to do this, but I think it would help (I ended up pouring boiling water into the pouch to get all the malt out).

You turn the gas off to make sure none of the malt burns in the bottom of the kettle, so after you stir it in you need to remember to turn the gas back on – otherwise everything will be all screwed up.  After adding the first portion of hops (the “bittering” portion), you let it all boil for 60 minutes.  I actually made the mistake of walking away for a few minutes at this point (I was cooking on the grill), and I had a small amount boil over – it wasn’t really a problem though after that, I just left the lid askew.  After a long 55 minutes I dropped in a tablet of Whirlfloc, which helps in the clarity of the final product – four minutes after that I tossed in the last part of hops (the aromatic hops” to boil for one more minute.

That was it on the “cooking” portion then – 60 long minutes salivating over the great smells coming from the kettle.  Next step was using the wort chiller – I had already put it into the wort twenty minutes prior to sanitize it, but when I went to hook it up I realized I should have checked it out before I started.  While the wort chiller fit in the kettle right, and looked like it was going to do what it was meant to do, there was ONE small problem.  The fitting on the end of it was for a garden hose, and I was using my sink.  It wasn’t that I don’t have a garden hose, it’s that whoever built my house was slightly retarded and the garden hose runs hot water.  Definitely not good for what I needed.

Duct tape, however, can fix any problem.

That’s why you see in the pictures that I have a wad of the stuff on my faucet – and it worked marvelously.  I wish the kit would come with an adapter , but I know you can buy one after the fact; I’ll just have to do that next time.  With cool water running through the chiller, it took an unbelievable 17 minutes from full boil to make the wort cool to the touch.  I let the water run for twenty more minutes to make sure it was cool enough, but I could have probably put it in the carboy a bit sooner.  It never hurts to be extra careful though.

Once the wort was in the carboy, my day of work was almost at an end.  The last step before putting the stopper and air filter in it, was to rehydrate the yeast (done in a glass of water for a few seconds), and then pour that in with the beer.  After that, all that was left to do was wait (and as it’s only been two days, I’m still waiting).  I did tape a brown paper bag around the carboy to protect it from sunlight – it’s not a requirement, but sunlight can ruin a perfectly good beer (why do you think so many bottles are brown).  Oh one more thing, since you need to monitor the temperature of your brew, I went and spent $1.17 on an outside thermometer for a fish tank – you could keep sticking the thermometer they give you in every day, but that requires a lot of work and I’m all about the easy solution.  Just stick it on, and every now and then glance at the carboy to make sure it’s all good.

All in all, this kit was pretty amazing; it had everything I could need (minus the fitting adapter and the stick on thermometer) – I can’t wait until it’s time to bottle (the 18th can’t come soon enough).  I expected it to be a lot of hassle and work, but in reality it was all pretty easy and only took three hours to get done.  As long as the rest goes as smoothly as the first day (and as long as the flavor is good), I have no problem recommending this kit to anyone that’s thinking of brewing their own beer.  Yes, it may cost a bit more than other kits, but you won’t have to invest in other things in the future (and I looked into it, those kettles are expensive).

You can pick up this kit (and a TON more) from the MoreBeer site.

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