Love beer but want to cut down on all those trips to the pub, or feeling adventurous and want to try a new skill? Well, using a home-brew kit could be your solution. We’ve tested out three of the latest beer-making kits for home-brewing that will help you produce tasty beers at home and impress all your mates.
There are different styles of beer-making kits to choose from. We tried two ‘traditional’ kits, meaning that they include all the parts and you just add water, malt extract and hops and test as you go along. You allow the beer to ferment for several days, dry-hopping when and where the comprehensive instructions in the pack tell you. The third kit from Pinter is something of a market disruptor, which claims to produce a drink of draught quality that you dispense from your own mini pump vessel.
Once your beer is ready to drink, why not continue getting creative with it? Our collection of quirky beer cocktail recipes include a classic shandy recipe to show off your beer, or try a tropical-inspired beer mojito. You can also cook with beer: beer can chicken is a barbecue classic, while our beer mac ‘n’ cheese recipe is the ultimate comfort food.
Still feeling thirsty? We’ve reviewed the best beer subscription boxes to get top-quality ales, lagers and more delivered direct to your door. We’ve also tested the best vegan beers, best gluten-free beers and best low-alcohol beers to find a bottle perfect for you, whatever your requirements may be.
How to choose the best beer-making kit
Factors to consider when buying a beer-making kit:
- How much money you want to spend
- How much time you have to prepare the beer
- Length of time you want to ferment the beer – it can take up to 24 days, depending on the kit
- The amount of space you have in your home (for example, the Pinter requires fridge space)
Each of the kits on test have very detailed instructions to guide you through. You have one job: stick to the guides and follow some of our pro tips, and you’ll produce drinkable beer to enjoy in the comfort of your own home. Start with the basic kit, then buy your own beer style kits at your leisure.
Top tips for traditional-style beer-making kits
The Love Brewing and Brew UK models on test are both in the ‘traditional’ style. These have a few more steps in the process before you get to taste the fruits of your labours, including dry-hopping, testing with a hydrometer, priming a barre or bottles and syphoning into that barrel or those bottles. There’s a lot more kit to clean and sanitise, too.
- Dirt is the enemy of producing good beer, so your cleaning regime must be robust to make the whole process a success. It helps to have some kitchen scales to measure sanitiser, and you’ll need slightly warm water to dissolve it. I find it easier to make a bit more sanitiser than needed for cleaning the bucket, because you’ll also need to sanitise the thermometer, hydrometer and air lock. I fill a bowl with sanitiser and put those items in for whenever I need them during the process.
- You’ll need a large cooking pot to warm up the pouches of malt extract. This helps the extract flow, as it’s thick and viscous at room temperature. When transferring malt extract into the bucket, rinse the pouches with warm water to ensure you get every drop out.
- You’ll need a strong arm to stir in all the malt and ensure it’s dissolved.
- Don’t forget that there is already hot water in the bucket from dissolving the malt extract, so the trick – which I find tough to master as a first-timer – is getting the temperature correct when topping up to 23 litres (five gallons). You’ll need to reach between 20-25C. So, keep taking the temperature as you top up with cold water and stir. If it drops too low, add some boiling water from the kettle.
Best beer-making kits at a glance
- Best no-fuss beer-making kit: Pinter, £85
- Best overall traditional beer-making kit: Beerworks Golden Rocket strong pale ale, Love Brewing, £47.90
- Best premium beer-making kit: Festival Summer Glory, Brew UK, £83.99
Best beer-making kits in 2021
Best no-fuss beer-making kit
- Available from Pinter, £85
The Pinter is a market disruptor in home-brewing. It’s an all-in-one, no-mess system that enables you to drink homemade beer in a week, plus it’s unique in look and production.
The Pinter unit itself is available in a range of colours and comes with two Pinter ‘Fresh Press’ packs that contain everything you need to get started. There’s a wide variety of ‘Fresh Press’ packs that enable you to try different styles of beers, lager, IPA, stouts and even cider. The unit is priced at £85 and comes with two packs, making a total of 20 pints – so, the first batches work out at £4.25 per pint. There’s also a range of subscription levels that allow you to receive between one and four packs each month, with prices starting at £12 a month.
The functionality of the Pinter is easy to follow as a beginner and is a simple system. The box arrives in impressive, branded packaging. It comes with a comprehensive step-by-step video guide that you can watch on your smartphone or tablet as you go, and includes all instructions as well as safety information – we feel in capable hands every step of the way. Every element of the box is clearly and informatively labelled.
The Pinter system doesn’t give you the opportunity to indulge your inner science geek, but everything is provided. The ‘Fresh Press’ packs contain liquid and a small bottle of yeast. To get started, all you need to do is clean and sanitise, add the Fresh Press liquid, water and yeast and let the Pinter do its thing.
However, the downside of the Pinter is that it’s extremely bulky to store. The ‘Fresh Press’ recipe on test needs to condition in the fridge for three days, and in our standard seven-foot-tall fridge, we have to take out the fruit and vegetable chiller box and the glass shelf just to fit it in. Then, when we take it out of the fridge, we have to find convenient surface space for it to sit for dispensing.
You also have to be seriously strong to operate the Pinter: we struggle with the brewing dock. It’s horrendous to attach and remove for the process. And, beware: when disconnecting the dock at the end of fermentation, it’s a heart-stopper! Certainly not the gentle release of pressure shown in the video guide.
You can be drinking beer from your Pinter in a week: four days brewing time and three days conditioning. The Pinter produces a bright, clear beer that’s slightly lacking in flavour and palette interest. We miss the balance of sweetness and hop bitterness usually expected from an IPA beer.
Overall, the Pinter is a sleek choice for someone who doesn’t want to fuss with the science of brewing and just wants to make beer with as little effort as possible.
- Available from Pinter, £85
BeerWorks strong pale ale kit
Best overall traditional beer-making kit
- Available from Love Brewing, £47.90
The BeerWorks strong pale ale kit is available from Love Brewing. Classed as a complete starter bundle, the kit says you can make 25 litres of beer. For the price, it works out at about another 40 pints, making your beer a pocket-pleasing £1.19 per pint. There are lots of styles of beers to choose from online.
This is a traditional-style kit: functional and not hugely aesthetic, but instructions are comprehensive. The kit is large (including a five-gallon bucket), so you need some serious room in your home. Everything you need is provided, including hops for dry-hopping, malt and yeast. Instead of a classic beer barrel, the kit includes two boxes of plastic bottles and an easy-start siphon to transfer the beer into the bottles. These all have to be rinsed, sanitised and primed with priming sugar before you add the beer. We also rinse the bucket and lid, and meticulously sanitise all areas that will come into contact with the beer with a clean cloth. You’ll need to store the kit somewhere that isn’t too warm, between 20-25C.
The kit requires 10 days of fermenting (including dry-hopping on day five) plus a secondary fermentation of seven to 14 days (in bottles) after you’ve primed and transferred the beer from the fermenting bucket. To make sure you get crystal-clear beer, let the bottles sit in a cool place for a further three weeks to clear and condition fully.
You’ll take hydrometer readings at the start of the process and after fermentation to calculate the final strength of the beer. The more sugar in the wort, the higher it floats. Love Brewing ask you to take three readings to get them right.
The priming of the bottles takes some doing, but it’s worth going the extra mile. This tastes lovely: malty and sweet with a pronounced bitterness, which offers a more than decent ‘pub-at-home’ experience. Definitely the most drinkable of them all.
- Available from Love Brewing, £47.90
Festival Summer Glory, Brew UK
Best premium beer-making kit
- Available from BrewUK, £83.99
From Brew UK comes the Festival Summer Glory 5% kit from Woodforde’s Microbrewery. Brew UK also offers a wide range of other beer kits, along with homemade cider kits and presses. The Festival Summer Glory 5% package is a 40-pint kit, meaning the resulting beer is going to come out at £2.12 per pint. The kit includes Youngs five-gallon pressure barrel, a siphon, instructions, malted barley extract, hop pellets, yeast and priming sugar.
The traditional-style brewing kit is similar to the Love Brewing kit, with a five-gallon bucket that you’ll need space to store at a steady temperature. Again, the kit is functional and not hugely aesthetic. Instructions are comprehensive and hops provided. All the equipment can be reused after you’ve completed your first brew (making the cost of future pints even cheaper), but you must be sure to thoroughly re-sanitise all equipment between uses.
As with the BeerWorks kit above, this traditional kit takes 10 days to ferment. The finished beer comes out with some carbonation from the five-gallon barrel. The hops and yeast do not settle as much as expected, sadly. This one has a slight tingle on the tongue, but is lacking in any strongly distinguishing ale flavours.
- Available from BrewUK, £83.99