My introduction to home brew

So I’ve been very quiet recently, for 3 main reasons:

  1. Work has been insanely busy, I may have an update on that in the coming months.
  2. I’ve been studying for my Chartered IT Professional (CITP) certification,I  should have an update on that in the coming weeks.
  3. I’ve been making cider! (And perry, and beer, and wine!)

As you can tell by the title, the last point is what I shall write about today…

So those who know me are aware that I’m a big cider fan. Every year I attend the Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival in Cardiff, I’m always buying different ciders to try myself

and whenever anyone goes anywhere near cider-country (typically Somerset or Devon) I 

ask them to bring me back some scrumpy. For a while, though (probably around 2 years), I’ve been planning to make my own cider. I figured it could be a nice little project and I may make something I like. Well I finally got around to it, along with my mate Kris Marsh.

Ritchies "on the rocks" pear cider kit

For my 30th birthday this year I received a cider making kit with a pack of Ritchies “on the rocks” perry – we thought this would be a good place to start as it would allow us to get a feel for the process, even though the ingredients was all from a tin. It was very simple to make, we essentially followed the instructions on the tin which went something like:

  1. Sterilise your equipment (using something like Ritchies Steriliser and Cleaner).
  2. Crack open the tin and empty the contents in to a fermenting tub (such as Wilko Fermentation Vessel Screw Top 25L).5 gallon fermentation vessel
  3. Mix in about 10 litres of hot water and stir, then fill up to the 5 gallon mark with cold water.
  4. Add in around 1.25kgs of sugar (we just used plain granulated sugar from the shop) and stir again.
  5. Measure the specific gravity (density) using a hydrometer (such as Stevenson Wine/Beer Hydrometer and a plastic hydrometer jar) – you’d be expecting to get a measurement of around 1040.
  6. Add in the supplied yeast and pop in your bung (such as Rubber Bung for Demojohn Bored (with hole)) and your airlock (such as Bubbler Airlock) with some water in it (it doesn’t need to be much, enough to up to half way on both sides is plenty).
  7. Leave in room temperature for about a week (ideally around 22 degrees Celsius – it’s best to have this a constant temperature but not essential, just don’t let it drop too low or get too high).
  8. 5 gallon barrel with cap, vent and tapWhen you are sure fermentation is complete (less than 1 bubble a minute) check the specific gravity again and you should find it’s around 1000 or below, if it isn’t then put it back as fermentation isn’t complete. If it is (the alcohol percentage can be calculated using the original specific gravity – or the original gravity – and the current specific gravity)  then you will need to syphon in to your barrel (such as a 5 gallon plastic barrel with vent cap and tap), add about 250g of sugar and then leave it somewhere cool for 3 months.

5 gallons of perry

That was pretty much it for our first shot. It took us a few hours because we were being extremely meticulous (sterilised everything) but the more we have made the less careful we have been (in actual fact the key thing for getting good taste is apparently a steady fermenting temperature). The end result was a perry that tastes ok up to 3 months, but beyond is actually quite decent – for the price of it you really can’t go wrong!

5 gallons of beerAfter this we made some Beaverdale Chardonnay (1 gallon) and a beer kit (I’m not sure which as this belonged to another friend) – the wine took a little extra effort due to the finings and other chemicals required to make it clear but the end result was nice, if a little cloudy. I’m not in to beer so can’t comment myself but those who have drunk it have said it’s ok despite it not being fully matured yet.

On that note I would just like to add it’s really worth giving around 3 months to mature before drinking – though I do recommend having a taste every couple of weeks to taste the difference, especially if you are new to home brew.

So that’s it for my first attempt at home brew. In the next couple of days I will write another article about my foray in to cider making from real apples, and I’ll share some of my learnings which will hopefully help anyone else who is interested.

NOTE: I’m not affiliated with any of the websites I’ve linked to in anyway, nor do I get any commission – I’ve used these as examples as they were the closest I could find to what I have and I’ve also happened to have purchased most of my stuff from www.the-home-brew-shop.co.uk so that’s what I know.

About Stephen Pickett


Stephen Pickett is a programmer, IT strategist, project manager, RightNow and telephony expert, information security specialist, all-round geek. He is currently Professional Services Director at Connect Assist, a social business that helps charities and public services improve quality, efficiency and customer engagement through the provision of helpline services and CRM systems.

Stephen is based in south Wales and attended Cardiff University to study Computer Science, in which he achieved a 2:1 grading. He has previously worked for Think Consulting Solutions, the leading voice on not-for-profit fundraising, Fujitsu Services and Sony Manufacturing UK as a software developer.

Stephen is the developer of ThinkTwit, a WordPress plugin that allows you to display multiple Twitter feeds within a blog.

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