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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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