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For my fourth batch of home brew, I wanted to try something a little bit different from the kits I’d been using.  My local home brew store has several options for pre-hopped beer kits.  I wanted to see what differences there were in using one of these kits.  I decided on the Cooper’s Mexican Cerveza, which I had falsely assumed would be a cheaper route to take, as the can of malt was only about $18.  When I went to make the purchase, though, the guy at the beer store talked me into buying another two pounds of Briess Dry Malt.  I’d bet without the addition of extra malt you’d probably end up with a pretty ‘thin’ or weak beer.

The process for this prehopped can is a little different than the kits I’d been using.  When the malt is already hopped, you don’t have to spend an hour on the boil.  You basically just get the water to a boil, add and dissolve your malts, and you’re ready.  This almost felt like cheating.  I felt a little bit robbed of some of my favorite parts of the process – including the great smells.

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Once my ingredients were dissolved, I filled my sink with ice and cooled the wort.  It’s not the fastest process, but I’ve had pretty good luck just using my sprayer to move some water around the outside of the pot.  Then as the ice is melted, I’ll spin the pot in my sink ( which is a perfect size ).  The spinning keeps the outside of the pot a little cooler, at least in my mind.  I don’t spend a ton of time cooling the wort, as I have 3 gallons of cooler water ready and waiting in my fermenting bucket that’ll balance things out.  At this same time I’ve added the yeast to a glass of water to get it ‘activated’.  I don’t know if that really makes any difference, but the package says to do it…

Once my wort was cooled, I poured the contents into my fermenting bucket.  Before adding the yeast, we took a quick measurement with the hydrometer.  Then, we added in the yeast, gave it a good stir, and put on the lid!  Now the waiting begins.

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Bottling the Beer

I let this batch sit in the fermenter for 15 days.  During the course of fermentation, I had something happen that was a first for me.  In the first few days, the yeast was so active that the krausen ( the foamy, rocky head of yeast that forms at the peak of fermentation ) had overflowed out through my airlock.  I’m using a 6.5 gallon bucket, so that’s a LOT of foam that was created.  It usually only rises a few inches above the level of the beer.  This wasn’t a big deal, though, as the airlock still had enough water in it – and it’d be tough to contaminate the beer when gasses are fighting that hard to get OUT.

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When it came time to bottle, we popped the fermenter’s lid and took a quick sample for the hydrometer.  I forgot to write it down, but the reading came back in the range the instructions suggested.  At this same time, we dissolved the Priming Sugar in boiling water.  As this wasn’t a true kit, I had to purchase Corn Sugar for priming at the homebrew store.

Now… here’s where we made a huge rookie mistake… We were working fairly quickly, and sometimes you should think before you act – in this case I did not.  Usually the transfer of beer from the fermenter to the bottling bucket would be done with a siphoning hose.  From what I understand, you do this to prevent over exposure to oxygen AND to keep from transferring the trub (the layer of sediment that appears at the bottom of the fermenter after yeast has completed the bulk of the fermentation – composed mainly of heavy fats, proteins and inactive yeast).  For some reason, on this day, pouring the fermenter into the bottling bucket seemed like a good idea.  Luckily, this pre-hopped batch of brew had almost no trub in the bucket.  The leftover yeast was a slight film at the bottom of the fermenting bucket – so we didn’t completely kill the batch.

Bottling went pretty standard.  I’ve included pictures of my bottling setup – which involves placing the bottling bucket over the dishwasher, using the dishwasher door as a drip tray.  Also, the freshly dishwasher sanitized bottles are in within arm’s reach.

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Final Results – Mexican Cerveza

The Cooper’s Mexican Cerveza is pretty decent beer. It ended up being very similar to the Weizenbeer I made for my second batch.  After a week in the bottle it was very sweet.  After two weeks it had mellowed out considerably, but was still pretty sweet.  As weeks passed, it mellowed even more – to a point it’s pretty darn good.  Similar to the Wheat beer, this one just needed time.

This beer is sweeter than I’d expected.  I think the addition of 2 lbs of malt might have been excessive.  I’d like to try this without adding any, then adding only one to see how the results vary.  Not for a while, though, I have WAY cooler beers to brew!

Next up – India Pale Ale
Previous batch – Red Ale

If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them!

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{ 6 comments }
  • ryan July 12, 2010, 7:30 pm

    hey thanks for the rundown. i’ve only ever brewed with full on multiple ingredient kits and recipes. been thinking about doing one of these hopped extract deals. seems like a deal and a half. and knowing it’s easy and cheap is pretty rad. might cruise down to the local homebrew supply store and pick up a kit. did you brew it at ale temperatures? i always thought mexican cerveza style beers were lagered. how in depth were the directions? thanks again.

  • Jeremy July 15, 2010, 10:20 am

    It’s been about a year since I brewed this kit, but I don’t remember the directions being overly specific. I just fermented it at regular room temps and it worked out just fine. The misleading thing about these pre-hopped kits is that they aren’t quite as cheap as they seem. It’s often suggested that you add additional DME to boost the alcohol content (and probably the flavor).

    I just purchased the stuff for the Coopers IPA kit this week. I’m adding an additional 3lbs of Amber DME to that one. Again, probably don’t have to, but should make it a better beer. That MakeBeer.net site sells the complete Coopers kids with everything you’d need. They come out a little cheaper than a Brewers Best kit, but not much. The process is much easier, though. Great when you’re pressed for time.

  • Raymond July 28, 2010, 8:49 pm

    If it was too sweet it sounds like your fermentation didn’t complete. It could be a problem with the water your were using. Did you filter the chlorine out?

  • aidan January 16, 2011, 2:11 pm

    how are you doing mate,
    im brewing a batch of this cerveza beer at the minute for my first ever brew. i was just wondering while it was fermenting in the bucket, did the gas that was coming out through the airlock have an odour to it. mine does. its not a rotten smell, but as a newbie to this im just a bit paranoid its not going to turn out properly…. cheers

  • Jeremy January 16, 2011, 2:19 pm

    Hi Aidan. I wouldn’t worry to much about odd smells yet. I generally enjoy the smell of fermentation, but I think yeast can produce certain off smells as they ferment, too (most commonly found in lagering). Make sure your fermentation temps are within the range the yeast or kit suggested. My only fermentation issues up to this point have been related to having the beer ferment warmer than it should.

    With homebrew it’s always best to just be patent. The good news is that the yeast are doing something! I’ve had dead yeast more than once… Once your week or two in the primary is up, crack it open and see what you’ve got. If there’s no mold, etc., floating on top, I’d be willing to bet you’re okay.

    Good luck with your first batch! Even if you run in to issues, don’t give up. If you did run in to a problem, it was likely due to sanitization, so just pay a little extra attention to that on round 2.

  • Dennis June 22, 2011, 4:08 pm

    I’m brewing the Mexican Cerveza as I post. It’s going on it’s 8th day in the fermentor. I drew a sample today for a taste and it was on the slightly sweet side. Will give it another week or so and try again. I’ve brewed 6 batches of Coopers and they all turned out wonderful. My favorite so far is the Canadian Blonde. I’ll probably do that one again after this batch. Great stuff.

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