How long a brew takes, how easy it is and the exact flavours produced will vary depending on each individual brewers approach, tap water and equipment. As various brewers pose questions to me the answers will be posted up here in the hope they are of use to other brewers:
Q. How long should the wort take to reach boiling point?
On my cooker, from the end of the mash, I normally achieve a rolling boil in 30-40 mins. However, this may take much longer on a different cooker. If you are finding that it is taking longer than expected, don't worry, just check the temperature every five mins. As long as the temperature is steadily increasing then it should achieve a boil. You just need to be a little patient. If, however, the temperature stops rising for more than 10 mins, you have a problem. Either obtain a more powerful hob, or contact us for further advice.
Q. What temperature does wort boil at?
At around 102 degrees centigrade.
Q. Do I need the wort to boil before adding the hops?
You definitely need the wort to boil and it must maintain a rolling boil for around 60 mins. This allows off flavours produced by the malt to be driven off. If you accidentally add the hops too soon, don't worry - it won't ruin your beer - but start all your other timings from when you do achieve a rolling boil.
Q. What does a rolling boil look like?
Please check out this video.
Q. I'm not 100% sure my halogen hob will bring 13.5L of water to a rolling boil, it is a little underpowered?
99% of the time you will easily obtain a rolling boil but, just to be on the safe side, on receiving your kit - please check with plain water before committing to a boil using the ingredients. Then, if you are unable to obtain a rolling boil and don't want to try the 'work-arounds' detailed below, we can offer a full refund on the kit.
Q. Have you got any advice for me if I can't obtain a rolling boil but want to keep using the kit?
Yes, this has occurred to two other customers who had old and seriously underpowered electric hobs. In one case removing 4 litres of the wort and boiling it in a second pan (then re-combing it at the end of the boil phase) solved the problem. In the other case, the customer was unable to bring a sufficient amount of liquid to the boil and needed to purchase a halogen hob to make the kit work. In his case we were able to exchange his electric pan for an induction pan. If you run into similar problems please contact us.
Q. Do I need to worry if my outer cardboard box is damaged in transit?
Unless the damage is extensive, no. Small rips and tears can be fixed with any kind of sticky tape and will have no effect on the mash efficiency. The WoolCool insulation is so effective that even without the box it maintains an effective mash temperature range. The box is primarily there to prevent draughts impacting on the WoolCool liner's effectiveness. If you're box is so badly damaged that you cannot use it for this purpose we will gladly send you another.
Q. My beer tastes a little sweeter and fruitier than I would like. Can you advise?
Q. My beer tastes too dry and hoppy. Can you advise?
If your beer is a bit sweeter or drier than you expected and/or would like, it is probably to do with your mash temperature. In the range 62⁰C to 70⁰C, a higher temperature produces a sweeter beer (i.e. a wort with less fermentable sugars), whereas a lower temp produces a drier more alcoholic beer (from a wort with more fermentables). NB outside 62⁰C to 70⁰C mashing doesn't work properly.
Fermentation temperature will affect the fruitiness to hoppiness ratio of your beer. A cooler fermentation can be a good idea for a Pale Ale. Fermenting at 16-17⁰C will produce a less fruity more hop forward beer (yeast ester production - which gives a fruity flavour - increases as temp increases). However, there is a greater chance of stuck fermentations - hence the advice to try 18-20⁰C first. The biggest problem with fermenting craft ales is not keeping them warm enough... it's keeping them steady and cool.
High fermentation temperatures can be achieved by fermenting in a warm room, or by getting a waterproof container (large enough to hold your fermenting-bucket) and an aquarium heater. You sit the fermenting bucket in your container, fill up the dead space with water and then pop the aquarium heater in the water. Thus you heat your fermenting-bucket without risking infection. Sadly, this he doesn't really help with Pales and IPAs as aquarium heaters generally produce a minimum temp of 18-20⁰C, however it is very useful for Saisons and other fruity styles where you want to get the temperature to between 25 and 30⁰C rapidly in order to produce their classic fruity flavour.
Flavours do develop over time. Hop flavours, though, are generally more pronounced in a young beer (max 3 months in bottle for max hop).
To get a more pronounced hop flavour and aroma you can dry hop. I can sell you finishing hops for this purpose - have a look at the article here: http://us8.campaign-archive2.com/?u=5af727fafe80b2f0eb253ab05&id=a1c4543395&e=eefccd2818. I don't include dry hopping in my basic kits as: they can be excellent without them; they would add to the initial cost and they add a little complexity for first time brewers. But they do really add a special something to Pale Ales and IPAs.
So, for a drier hoppier more alcoholic beer: mash a degree lower than in the instructions, ferment at a steady temp of about 16-17⁰C and dry hop.
For a sweeter fruitier less alcoholic beer: mash a degree higher than in the instructions and ferment at a steady temp of about 19-20⁰C. You can still dry hop this style, if you like.