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The Great Decoction Experiment

I wrote this article between 2004 and 2006. Some of the details may be out of date.

I spend a lot of time and effort making my own beer, and people who've tried it usually like what they see, but they find that it's too much of an effort to do it themselves. I can't disagree: I often wonder how to make things easier.

One way is obvious: go to the supermarket and buy a “Home Brew Kit”. I know many people who have tried it, and only some were happy with the result. The general feeling is that home brew kits are of poor quality.

In fact, the problem with the home brew kits are the instructions, not the quality (with the possible exception of the yeast). To quote David Stewart of Goliath brewing:

In my opinion, it's first time brewers following the instructions that give brewing at home a bad reputation. Additionally, there are sheds all over OZ with fermenters in them that have been used 2-3 times then left because the results were not what was promised on the packaging.

In previous version of this document, I described one way of improving the quality of the beer. Since then, I've tried this way and realized that it's only one of many ways to improve the beer. So this page now describes how to brew the beer more or less as the manufacturers should have intended it; I describe alternatives on the page improving kit beers.

How much work is brewing from a kit?

Before we start, you should know what you're letting yourself in for:

WARNING: home brewing is addictive. Even if you like this recipe, you probably won't make more than two or three brews of it before moving on to even better beers. At some later point you'll then realise that you don't like commercial beer any more. You will have passed the point of no return.


The equipment you need lot depends on whether you're going to continue, in which case it's worth investing in some better equipment. You can start with things you have round the house, but if you want to do it on a regular basis, it's worth getting better equipment. Here's an overview:

As mentioned, you don't absolutely need any of the equipment mentioned above, and it won't make your beer any better. It will, however, make life easier, and it reduces the risk of infections. It is often available in kits from reputable home brew suppliers. For example, Grumpys (currently, as of 17 February 2007) offer all the equipment mentioned above for $130, along with a brew kit and a number of other useful things. That's less than the price of 4 slabs of beer; your break-even point would be somewhere after the second brew.

Note: Grumpys have dynamically generated URLs. It's possible that the equipment URL above will change; follow the “Brewshop” link from the home page (and inform me) if it's broken.


A myriad of different organisms love malt, and some love alcohol. Many live in your domestic environment, and all will attack your beer if they get the chance. You much ensure that they don't. Here are a couple of ways:

What to do

If you follow these instructions, you'll make a reasonable beer, comparable with many commercial beers, for about 40 cents a litre or 15 cents a stubby.


Why do I say “ignore the instructions”?

Again, there are a number of reasons. Here are some typical instructions:

What next?

The insidious thing about this page is, of course, that once you start you'll probably not want to stop. But with relatively little effort you can improve on the beers. I've put alternative suggestions on the improving kit beers page.

This is just a brief introduction; when you're done, you'll probably want to look at other places. I have a list of links, but another good start is the Australian CraftBrewer's web site. And of course your local home brew shop will be able to give you both the ingredients and the advice that you won't get at the supermarket. Good luck!

What do you think of this page?

This page and its companion get a lot of hits on my web site. I'd be very interested to hear what you think of them. I welcome feedback via email.

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