Bit of a Caveat, resurrecting an old review here but a worthwhile review all the same!! I first tried the The Brew UK Stove Toppers – Small Batch Starter Kit back in June last year and it was a great kit and at £29.99 plus p&p good value too. The kit I got was the Vanilla Porter but there are many to try, and having tried a few other Brew UK kits, are easy to follow and have good results.
My brewing has moved on a bit since my initial review back in 2015 but as testament to the quality of the kit I have recommended it to others and as my brewing has scaled have passed on bits to help get others into brewing, including some of the smaller pans, demijohns etc.
My brewing started out with a Coopers starter kit, which has served it’s purpose, but I soon grew bored with adding tinned extract to hot water and wanted to move to all grain, once I’d saved enough cash to upgrade kit etc. The Stove Toppers – Small Batch Starter Kit comes with nearly everything you need to start and the instructions are clear and easy to follow and at £29.99 inexpensive to get a flavour of the all grain brewing process.
Included in the kit is:
- Beer kit containing grains, hops and yeast to brew the first batch.
- Full brewing instructions
- Glass Thermometer
- Glass Demi John with stick on thermometer
- Bung and Airlock for above
- Syphon with sediment trap and flow restrictor for bottling.
Items not included but required:
- 8 L Pan with lid – it’s really useful to have a couple of these and bigger too 10-12l.
- Fine Mesh Strainer – Voil, fine netting, nylon tights would all work well
- Bottles or easy keg for storage of beer once produced. – Find a local bar or bottle shop and ask for any empties, often they have to pay for collection so it’s a great way to save them money and a cheap way for you to get some good quality bottles.
- Hydrometer can be useful to tell if fermentation is complete. – These are pretty inexpensive so worth while getting one anyway.
As mentioned this starter kit has pretty much all you need apart from two large pans, any cheap large pans will do, Ikea stock big ones but also my local tat shop unexpectedly had a big selection of pans in that fitted the bill, in addition a funnel and a filter or a colander lined with cheap voil or nylon stocking as a filter. My colander was just big enough to hold all the grain from the mash.
From start to finish the brew day took me 3 hours (my 23l brews now take around 5-6 hours depending on how prepared I am), the small amount of water means that getting the liquid up to mash temp and the subsequently reaching boiling took no time at all. Compared to an extract kit which used to take me just under two hours with sanitising and clean up etc, the extra hour is well worth it for the quality of the finished product.
I probably mashed a little differently to most people on a small-scale and but the mash pot into a thermal bag, in hindsight leaving it on the stove and giving it a little blast of heat every few minutes may have helped the mash efficiency.
The important bit… how did it taste, the description the kit comes with sums it up pretty well, I really enjoyed it. It had a strong vanilla nose and to me it had some of the underlying flavour characteristics of Anchor Porter which isn’t a bad thing in my opinion.
As is also customary I took a couple of bottles to the Macc Homebrew meet up (19:30 on the last Tuesday of the month) and despite some brewing critique (it had only been in the bottle for 5 days so hadn’t fully carbed) the feedback was positive, comments like anchor porter, cream soda, strong vanilla nose and it was very much enjoyed.
I really can’t fault this kit and if I had been aware of it before i started getting into brewing it would have been my preferred route to start, firstly being cheaper than the usual starter kits, secondly a more immersive way to get into brewing, thirdly having brewed both liquid extract and all grain all grain is more fun and tastier.
Subsequently i’ve scaled up 23l batch and now keg most of my beers but this is an excellent starter kit and a great affordable way into brewing, and i really need to try to brew this again on a bigger scale.