The most popular homebrewing equipment kit is a Mr. Beer. The basic homebrewing kit might get frowned on and made fun of by many homebrewers. However it’s also the way that many people have gotten their start homebrewing because using a Mr. Beer is affordable and easy. Easy doesn’t always equal good. I’ve made some pretty bad beers with Mr. Beer, but here’s a few tips to improve the quality of your next beer.
- Don’t use their booster. The booster is their version of malt. It doesn’t add much to the beer, so you’re a lot better off using another can of their malt, or going out and purchasing dry or liquid malt extract from a homebrew shop.
- Don’t use their yeast. Their yeast will get the job done, but it’s fairly generic. You’re better off buying dry or liquid yeast that matches the style you’re brewing from a local homebrew shop.
- Don’t over tighten the lids on their fermenter kegs. They need to be on tight, but if they’re too tight, the gasses that the yeast produce will build up until the keg literally explodes and makes a huge mess.
- Their recipe instructions say that you should ferment your beer and bottle condition out of direct sunlight. I would go a step further and put it in a completely dark place. Also make sure that you keep it at the right temperatures based on t he instructions.
- Don’t use the table sugar like they recommend to carbonate your beers. Instead, using corn sugar (or a malt extract) to prime your bottles.
- When you’re adding the priming agent, whether it’s table sugar or something else, boiling it in a cup of water first. Then once that water cools down, add it directly to fermenter with your beer. The results will be a lot better than adding it directly to each bottle.
- The official recipe instructions say that you should let the beer ferment, then carbonate for 7-14 days during each stage. Fourteen days or longer is a safer bet to give the yeast enough time to do their work.
That’s a handful of tips to make good beer, but what would you suggest Mr. Beer homebrewers?
As a person who got my start on Mr. B and have now moved on to AG brewing, I agree with most everything you said. It is a nice starter kit, and if it wasn’t for that little brown keg, I likely wouldn’t have gotten into this hobby.
I will point out a few things, though. Booster is not Mr. B’s form of malt. Much like Coopers Enhancers, it’s a mix of maltodextrine and some fermentable corn sugar. It is fine to use in limited quantities (though I think their standard kits are way heavy in it), but it is an adjunct, not a malt. The cans of HME and UME are their version of malt, and I agree that they should be used in most cases (or DME/LME from the LHBS).
Their yeast is simply S-33. If S-33 can get the job done, then their yeast can as well. The single biggest problem with their yeast is that it is in 2g packages when it should be in 5-6g packages.
I don’t think you can overtighten the lid. Their fermenter is made with airlock notches that can’t be blocked by simply tightening the lid. However, if you have an active ferment, those notches can be blocked by krausen, so it’s good to keep an eye on them.
You are so right about the fermentation time. Without a hydrometer to gauge, recommending seven days seems way too short. It always read to me as a bad marketing ploy to say ‘beer in 14 days.’ It really hurts their product, as their beers are generally much better after 6 weeks than 2 weeks.
Also spot on on your other points. I would add one other one. They recommend fermenting from 68 to 76. That’s way to high, in my opinion, and likely leads to some off-flavors (again, the bad rap). 64-68 is my target for AG, and it was my target for extract brews (incl. Mr. B) before that.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting Patbattle, I think a lot of homebrewers started out with Mr Beer, I even know some pro brewers that did.
I’ll admit that it’s been a while since I’ve done a batch with my Mr Beer, so thanks for filling in some of the holes in my research.
I think the temperature and fermenting times are the two things I would change in the instructions. You’re right on about the “make beer in 14 days.”
Good pointers in the article, and 100% agree with everything Patbattle added.
I started with MrB and now do AG. I most likely would not have started without getting MrB as a gift.
No idea why they only give 2g of yeast – if it’s penny-pinching, then I think it’s a poor ROI.
That is a good question.
And thanks for stopping by and commenting Skydvr.
i have made some great beers using the Mr Beer system. I will use the Mr Beer HMEs as a base and then I usually add DME, steep some grains and do a hop boil for my favorite recipes. I also do all grain by the BIAB method using the Mr Beer fermenter, and extract recipes using DME. Since I am the only beer drinker in my home, the 2.5 gal batch size is just right for me
I agree with the booster and yeast comments. You get much better results with yeast specific to style. The best straight up Mr Beer recipes are their seasonal limited edition refills.
I also ferment for at least 3 weeks, and then wait till the beer has been 4 weeks in the bottle before tasting. I have done 45 batches so far and have only had one that I didn’t like.
I think you have some good points here, and I agree with the addendums below.
I too got my start in home brewing when I was given a Mr. Beer kit as a gift. I had an interest in brewing for quite a while and this catapulted me in head first. I brewed about 25the batches last year, the majority of which were basically tweaked MB recipes.
I long ago gave up on booster as an ingredient, but wound up with several pouches and have since used it to carbonate my beer. I calculate it like you would if you were using honey or SMELL for batch priming. I have had pretty good results for the most part.
As for the yeast, I find it is a decent yeast if you want something that will not contribute any major yeast flavors. You simply need to use at least 3-5 packets at a time. Otherwise, I throw the surplus packets into the boil for nutrients.
Another main issue I have with the system as a whole is that it basically takes the same amount of work to make a 5 gallon batch as it is to make a decently tweaked batch of MB. This can be a bit frustrating, but I now use my LBKs (Little Brown Keg, the term affectionately given to the MB fermenter) for small experimental batches. You can also easily brew a larger batch and split it between 2 LBKs.
Finally, the other point I wanted to add is that the MB kits contain some decent base ingredients, but I find they often lack sufficient hop bitterness when compared to the current average American craft beer palate. With a decent hop boil, many of the kits will yield tasty brews.
All-in-all, I am thankful for my experience with MB. It has taught me many do’s and don’ts about brewing. I say that some of the most valuable lessons in life may not be “do this” but “definitely don’t do that”.
Sorry, when talking about booster, that’s supposed to say “honey or DME” not smell. Stupid spellcheck.
how much water do you use to boil the priming sugar so that you don’t dilute your beer?
For a five gallon batch I use a pint, so if I was going to do a Mr. Beer kit, I would use a cup of water.
Many good points. I use MrB as it is easy and wife friendly. No Smell, no mess, no long boiling. Agree with generally under hopped but that is easily remedied. I like using Briess extract with their cans. The other thing is you DO need to let them sit a while. Even professional breweries let the beer mature for months. Their Diablo IPA dry hopped with 1 oz cascade for last week in keg is awesome. I sanitize religiously using their packet and no issues. All beers are drinkable although maybe not exactly like description :-). Still, experiment and see what you get. At 2 gall a try it is not tough.
Mr Beer uses a lot of specialized yeast, mainly making sure they will start fast and has wide temperature range. I see nothing wrong with that considering their target customer.
Their booster is just that…a sugar booster, except they use better ingredients than sugar. Yes, paying more in any batch to replace the “sugars” with real malt will make it better. Instead of replacing their “sugar”, adding honey or better yet LME to their existing formula will increase their unusually low alcohol levels (often 3%) to something more acceptable.
Priming is a small percentage of total sugar, so replacing that with a better sugar will not have much effect.
Completely dark is not going to matter, especially since their keg and bottles are dark amber.
4 days at air temp is usually sufficient for carbonation.
While I understand that there are many style that are malt dominate and really need a specific grain build, MOST of the beers that get their dominate flavor from hops can use malt extract. Brulosophy has done the side by side of extract vs AG in double blind and its basically undetectable.
Additionally, booster really does have its place if you know the kind of beer you want. Whenever I make my 6.5% APA, I always use booster because I don’t want malts covering up all the hard work I put in to get an amazing hoppy flavor.
You know my problem with Mr Beer? Their prices. A 2 gallon recipe will cost you $20 to $27. You can pay the same thing and make 5 gallons of beer of better different recipes. You want to make 6 gallons of MB? Sure you can order that right off their site, for $60…
Most people drink their beer before it’s ready and then complain the kit makes bad beer. I’ve found Mr. Beer kits take a minimum of four weeks bottle conditioning. Be patient and you’ll be rewarded with an excellent beer.
Mike, how much priming sugar for that 2 gallon of beer?
Am I to understand, then, that to improve Mr Beer’s brews it would be best to NOT use the carbonation drops, using the corn sugar or malt extract instead, and place that into the fermenter keg instead of the individual bottles? When do I do that? After the fermentation is finished and just before I bottle?