There are millions of homebrewers in the world. Most of them are interested in making good beer. Lots of them are not interested in spending 6 hours in the kitchen with three pots, a flame-thrower of a burner and $600 of stainless steel. Beer kits are all about making good beer as simply and easily as possible. Revel in its simplicity and by all means, follow the directions. The best beer kits are essentially concentrated wort. The producer of the kit mashed various grains, sparged, added hops, boiled and then reduced the liquid down to a syrup. The types and amounts of grains and hops are generally dictated by the type of beer the producer intends the finished product to be. Based on the instructions, all that is left to be done is to re-constitute, add additional fermentables, pitch the yeast, and ferment. No mashing, no sparging, no "pre-hopping", "dry-hopping", "first-wort hopping" or "bunny-hopping". And no boiling. Quick, easy, fool-proof.
Instructions for making great no-boil beer from a beer kit:
1. Bring 2 quarts of water to 160-180 °F (71 to 82 °C), basically steaming but not boiling. Then remove from heat.
2. Add your beer kit and additional fermentables according to the directions. Suggested fermentables include brewers sugar, dried malt extract, liquid malt extract, rice syrup, demerera sugar, Belgian candi sugar or any combination of the above. Each will impart its own unique flavor profile. Ask your local shop owner for advice on how to get what you want.
3. Stir aggressively to ensure that everything gets dissolved. Put a lid on the pot and let it sit for 10-15 minutes on the lowest heat setting. This should keep your temperature in the 1160-180 °F (71 to 82 °C) range you need to ensure that you achieve sanitation.
4. Add the contents of your pot to 4 gallons (15 L) of water already in your fermenter. Mix well, at least a minutes or two. This helps aerate your wort prior to your yeast addition. If you take hydrometer reading you will need to mix aggressively for a good 4-5 minutes to get even consistency throughout the wort. If you have any questions about proper sanitization techiques for your equipment, definitely consult your local homebrew shop.
When the side of your fermenter feels cool to the touch, it is safe to add your yeast. Some authors recommend re-hydrating your yeast in water first. I have never been able to discern a difference when doing side-by-side comparisons with good quality yeasts, and I don't care for the additional contamination risk.
Ferment as close to recommended temperature range as possible.
When activity in the airlock drops to a bubble every 1.5-2 minutes, fermentation is pretty much done. If this has been completed within 2-4 days, leave in fermenter for an additional 2-4 days for clearing.
When you are ready to bottle, put all your clean bottles upside down in the bottom rack of your dishwasher and allow it to run through the rinse and dry cycle. Be sure the "heat dry" option is on. It is the steam that sanitizes your bottles. Boil 1 cup of water with 3/4 cup of corn sugar for a couple of minutes. Allow to cool then add to your sanitized bottling container. Transfer your beer to your bottling container, give it a couple of gentle stirs and bottle.
All beer kits need additional fermentables added to them. There simply is not enough fermentables in the can to make 5 gallons (19 L) of beer. What are the various additional fermentables that can be used with a beer kit, how much do you use, what do they bring to the table?
Corn Sugar - The most common fermentable added to beer kits. Also referred to as "brewer's sugar". Advantages: widely available, easy to use, relatively inexpensive. Allows brewer to produce light bodied, light colored beers. Disadvantages: use too much and your beer will take on a "cidery" flavor. Recommended usage: 1-2 lbs.
Unhopped Malt Extract - Dry unhopped malt extract (dme) is probably the most common fermentable used by American kit brewers. Advantages: will give beer more body and mouthfeel. Can be used in greater amounts, thereby increasing gravity of beer. Disadvantages: moderately expensive compared to alternatives, more likely to increase body and color beyond what is desired. Recommended usage - 1-3 lbs of dme, or 3.3 lbs liquid unhopped malt extract.
Rice - Available in both dry and syrup form. Advantages: Will give beer body without significantly increasing color. Disadvantages: relatively expensive, not as widely available, contributes little to the flavor. Recommended usage: 1-2 lbs.
Invert Sugar - A derivative of cane sugar. Highly fermentable. Commonly used by British commercial brewers. Advantages: similar contributions as corn sugar with less "cider" effect. Disadvantages: not widely available. Recommended usage: 1-2 lbs.
Other Sugars - Belgian Candi Sugar, demerrera sugar, brown sugar. All similar to corn sugar in usage and advantages. The disadvantage of Candi Sugar is cost. Each contributes its own unique flavor profiles.
Experience shows that when working with non-malt based fermentables, best results are achieved by not exceeding recommended usage, and by mixing-and-matching. Experiment! Have fun! You will be surprised with what you can achieve with a pound of rice and a pound of brown sugar.