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This is the small print where I deny everything and refuse to take any responsibility for anything. Any opinions given should not be taken as facts & any facts given should not be taken as opinions. As an extra precaution all the really small print is in white text, this is copyrighted .

E. & O. E.

Copyright www.petespintpot.co.uk  2008. First published 17 October 2008, last updated  20 January 2018.

Pete’s Pint Pot is dedicated to the home production & sensible drinking of beer, wine, cider & meads plus a little bit of china painting & a few bits of photograph tampering.

If you are affected by any of the articles on this site or any of the issues raised in them, I truly feel very sorry for you.

Finally the sanity clause: As Chico Marx

famously said to brother Groucho,

  “Everybody knows there ain't no

     Sanity Clause!”


Some pages may contain music!

Do not enter this site if you are allergic to nuts!

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Mainly For Beginners
Or For Those Who Maybe Thinking about Home Brewing. #Home1 #Time

A Question of Time

            Let us be honest, we are all learners, so do not feel that this page is condescending in any way, & there is no such thing as a stupid question, but there are plenty of  stupid answers!

If you are competent with a tin-opener, can boil a kettle & are au fait with the kitchen scales, then you can home brew. Another very desirable quality is patience, as generally it takes weeks, usually months, before the finished product is at its’ best.

The language of the home brewer will need to be learnt, it has just a few words & expressions in its’ lexicon, many of which sound very dubious, the majority of these words & their explanations can be found at www.yobrew.co.uk/glossary.php or in my Glossary section.

To save too much repetition I give lots of links to various bits on Pete's Pint Pot & possibly on other sites, hopefully you won’t find them too tedious.

Your local home brew shop should be a good source of advice but remember, it is their job to flog you as much expensive stuff as possible, it is your job to be a cheapskate. My “Home Brew Economics” section may help here.

It is easiest to start with making kits, many people have no desire to progress any further from here as they get good results & lots of satisfaction with the minimum of fuss, if I ever get a kit that doesn’t give better results than the expensive swill served in most pubs then I am disappointed. As expected, the more expensive beer & wine kits, the ones that need no additional sugar, tend to give the best results, they are also easier to make as there is no need to fiddle around with any sugar. BUT, for your first attempts at least, you may feel safer with products at the cheaper end of the market. Read a few relevant kit reviews before buying, there are several web sites that give this information & remember that the reviewer’s tastes will probably not be the same as yours.


Time is an important factor to consider before starting out in this hobby, although in the case of kits, the manufacturers have done a lot of the time-consuming & hard work for us & so all we have to do is make & consume the stuff.

Beer & wine kits that need no extra sugar can be easily made in less than 1½ hours, including the mopping & cleaning-up during & after production, for a recipe that calls for the addition of some sugar we can safely allow an extra ½ hour. We can virtually forget about our brew until fermentation ceases, typically this takes around 4 or 5 days for a beer & a couple of weeks for a wine. If an intermediate racking stage is added following fermentation then allow an hour for this. If this additional stage is omitted then the bottling takes place now, but if it is performed we cam leave the beer for a about a week for the some of the sediment to settle or for a wine we can keep it for a month or three to mature. Bottling, to me, is very tedious & seems to drag on for hours but in reality 1½ hours would normally be be more than enough. Adding this lot up gives three or five & a half hours in total to produce six bottles of wine or around 37 pints (21 litres) of beer assuming that a 40 pint kit losses about 3 pints in the making (they never tell you about that!).

The biggest time problem is the long wait between making & supping your stuff, this can be several months but drinking it too soon could put you off for life.

The man shown hanging around wasting time in the icon for this section is Harold Lloyd in a still from his film “Safety Last”, released in the USA in the 1st of April 1923.

Home (Brew) Economics

(A cheap-skates guide)

A Few Sums                     The Next Step                   Running Costs                     What Next?

When I first seriously contemplated making my own beers, wines & ciders I had four main concerns:-

1) How much will it cost to produce the goods?

2) Will the taste be acceptable?

3) Would I need lots of expensive equipment?

4) What if I get disheartened & pack it all in?

For the moment we will just consider kits, my answers the above questions are:

1) Cheap beer kits are available for around £10, these need about 1Kg sugar, usually costing less than £1, they will initially produce 23 litres (40 pints). This equates to less than 28p a pint. “All malt” kits (no sugar required apart from the “primer”) cost around 50p a pint.

Wine kits start at around £8 for a 4.5l (1gall); these normally require up to 500g sugar, total cost: less than £1.45 a bottle. The best wines come from the better kits available around £12, or about £2 a bottle.

2) It is very hard to find a bad kit to-day. If you read the YoBrew Reviews page you will see that the main reasons for buying one product rather than another is largely a question of personal taste & value for money. There are quite a few internet sites that review kits, read these as well for a more balanced overall opinion.

3) Six bottle wine (4.5 litres) “starter kits” are available from around £20 including a can of grape concentrate (wine kit). As far as I know, all you need to provide are bottles, corks, sugar and, most importantly, a tub of sterilizing powder.

40 pint beer “starter kits” (23 litres) start around £30 including a malt extract kit.

If you buy both a beer & a wine kit you may find that you have some equipment duplication. You may wish to buy your equipment separately.

NOTE: I have never seen a “starter kit” & so my information is automatically very limited. Your friendly neighbourhood home brew shop is a good place to seek further information but be warned, it is their job to sell stuff to you & could take advantage of your vulnerability & flog you £100’s worth of clobber when all you needed could be obtained for £25.

4) Don’t rush into anything; seek advice from the internet, friends & homebrew shops. Buy the minimum of equipment & buy not only a good kit, but a suitable kit, I saw a complete beginner buying a Woodforde’s Admiral’s Reserve kit, nothing wrong with that, an admirable kit, but it is very bitter, I would personally have recommended the Wherry or Great Eastern. For a first time kit I think a lower priced kit may be advisable, just in case anything did go wrong, not that it should, just follow the instructions & you will enjoy the results. Should you not persist with the hobby there are plenty of charity shops willing to re-cycle your old gear, that’s where a few of my demijohns came from, a couple more were kindly donated by friendly ex-brewing/wine making neighbours.

A Few Sums

If you wish to start from scratch, the table below shows what I consider to be the minimum equipment to start your own beer & wine making, it assumes that you have basic kitchen equipment such as weighing scales, a measuring jug & a few assorted spoon sizes. The prices given are approximately correct during May 2015 & are generally rounded up to the nearest 50p.

NOTE: Where alternatives are given, only one item is required.





Fermenting bin (23l)

Beer paddle


   (PET recycled “pop” bottles)






A new, unused white plastic bucket

Sterilizer (100g)

             or (400g)

Plastic tube (2000mm)


Siphon tap

Funnel 125mm dia. or so

Total (cheapest option)










Demijohn (4.5l) glass


Airlock & bung

6 Glass wine bottles (recycled)

    (for cider use PET bottles)

Bottle stoppers (25)

    (better than corks)

Total (cheapest option)






By adding up the totals from the relevant columns we can see that for about £23.00 (£11.50 + £11.50) we can start brewing beer (plus the cost of the kit & any required sugar). Similarly we can do wines & ciders for around £20.50 (£11.50 + £9.00) & the whole lot for about £32 (£11.50 + £11.50 + £9.00). To put this in perspective, if we made 40 pints of beer using an all malt £20 kit, the total outlay would be £43 (£20 + £23) which is less than £1.08 a pint (compare that to pub beer!). A second or subsequent similar batch would cost only £20 or 50p per pint as there is no more new equipment to buy.

The “mailonline” beer page quotes “Homebrewing equipment is not expensive and you shouldn’t need to spend more than £75.” Approximately four times my estimate (2009 prices) & a beer kit or sterilizer is not included. The (dodgy) instructions include “COOKING THE BEER”! The accompanying photo depicts a glass of murky, almost lifeless beer. Are they trying to put people off home brewing?

Visit www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1080305/Your-step-step-guide-home-brewing.html for a snigger sorry, for more details but once again, we have a case of “journalists” writing about something they don’t understand.

With the "essential equipment" mentioned in the above table, you should be able to make almost every kit available and lots of your own recipes, the beers however, will be limited to those made with hops, malt extracts, crystal, black & chocolate malts & roast barley (this is nowhere as near restrictive as it sounds).

Once you have gained confidence & wish to continue/improve brewing/wine making activities further equipment can be bought:





Additional fermenting bin (23l)




Additional demijohn - glass



With the additional fermenting bin, a beer that is nearing the end of its initial fermentation, can be racked (siphoned of all the debris) into the second bin & left for about a week, this allows the beer to “rest” & lets a lot of un-wanted yeast to settle out before bottling, resulting in less sediment in the bottles.

The hydrometer measures the Specific Gravity of your brews & is a good indicator of when fermentation is complete (amongst other things).

A wine that has finished fermentation can be racked into an additional demijohn & allowed to "mature in bulk" for about 3 months, this improves the taste & helps give you "star-bright" wines. Alternatively, if you only have one demijohn, rack the wine into your clean, sterilized bucket while you clean out your demijohn, the wine can then be transferred back for maturation.

The Next Step

The natural progression in beer & wine kit making, assuming of course that you want to take this step, is to make your own “brews” from readily available ingredients. Initially the brewer would probably use malt extract & the winemaker use supermarket fruit juices &, possibly, some tinned or fresh fruits. Cider can easily made from cartons of apple juice but it may be better to try making 4.5 litres initially rather than 23 litres. Our "essential equipment" will be perfectly adequate but a hydrometer will be of great use &, for the beer a colander or sieve (200mm or greater diameter) will be needed for straining the hops, you could possibly find something suitable if you search your kitchen cupboards. The following table is based on "typical" recipes & prices; they may be rounded-up for simplicity.





*1.8Kg Malt extract (wet)

1 Kg sugar

   (inc. primer)
50g Hops

   (depending on the type)



(Less than 46p a pint or 41p per 500ml, allowing for losses!s







3 litres fruit juice

600g sugar




(Less than 85p a 750ml bottle!)






3 litres apple juice

200g sugar

   (inc. primer)



(Less than 94p a 500ml bottle!)






*    1.5Kg of dry un-hopped malt extract could be used.

** “Incidentals” covers the cost items such as Campden tablets, Bentonite, acids & pectic enzyme etc. wherever used. They are usually bought in small tubs & so it is not really practical to give actual costs.

Running Costs

Apart from the bottles, most of the equipment should last for years but our plastic bins & demijohns will get scratched with normal use & may want replacing say every two years. The plastic tubing gets discoloured with use &, whilst perfectly clean after sterilization, you may wish to replace it after six months or so. A tub of sterilizer will last around a year & the “incidentals” will probably work out at less than £3 per annum.

What Next?

? ....  Changing the font colour/size will not help!


DON’T tell your mates that you intend to do any home brewing, they will tell you boring tales about “mates of mates” who brewed the strongest beer in the world or that their Granny made wine that was used to fuel the Russian space mission rockets. Worst of all the freeloaders will want loads of free samples!

DO go to your local library & read as many books about the subject as possible but keep an open mind as quite a few would be of more use if all their pages were blank. Visit a few charity shops to see what they have in stock.

DO be careful when buying kits, avoid damaged goods, bulging tins & those that are out of date (a little bit past its’ date should not normally be a problem - use your discretion).

DON’T be tempted to add extra sugar to make stronger brews: the results may put you off home brew for life! If, after a making a couple of beer kits, you wish to modify your next brew then read my Kit Modification page.

DO read all instructions carefully, it’s better than pouring £10 - £20’s worth of slops down the drain.


Here are typical instructions provided with wine & beer kits.


(4.5 Litres or 6 bottles)

Read thoroughly before making.


1.  Clean & sterilised all your equipment before starting. Mark your fermenter at 4.5 litres as you will need this in instruction 2, do this using water.

2.  Add the grape concentrate to your fermenter. Rinse the container with warm water & add this to your fermenter. Continue adding water (which needs to be between 18-25°C) until the level is just over the 4.5 litre mark. The liquid temperature in the fermenter should be approximately 20-25°C. Make sure the contents are completely mixed, by shaking the container vigorously. If you have a hydrometer take a reading, it should be between 1075-1080.

3.  Add the sachet of Bentonite & any oak chippings supplied (optional) with your kit to the fermenter & gently swirl the contents.

4.  Sprinkle the sachet of yeast into the fermenter, swirl gently then fit an airlock half-filled with sterilised water.

5.  Leave to ferment in a warm place (20-25°C). The best quality wine will be produced at temperatures nearer to 20°C. The fermentation time is dependant on the temperature & should be approximately 8-10 days for whites, 12-15 days for reds.

6.  Fermentation will be complete when hardly any bubbles are going through the airlock (less than one per minute). Check the wine with a hydrometer; it should give the same reading for two consecutive days, if in doubt leave for a day or two longer to make sure. The final gravity should be:-

Red wines     992-994                    White/Rose wines     992-996

7.  When the fermentation is complete add the sachet of stabiliser (this gives off a gas when mixed with the wine, do not inhale), shake the fermenter for 3 or 4 minutes to remove the carbon dioxide gases. This should be repeated several times (at least 3 times a day for the next 3-4 days) to aid the wine clearing process.

Note:- I do not “degas” my wines as any air (oxygen) entering the wine can spoil it.

8.  Add the sachet of finings to the fermenter, shake for 10 seconds to mix, replace cap & leave for 24 hours. Leave in a cool place to clear, this normally takes 3-7 days.

9.  When clear, the wine should be carefully siphoned off the yeast sediment using a siphon tube & plastic tubing, either directly into wine bottles or into another 4.5 litre container. The latter is preferable if you need to sweeten your wine. Wines can be sweetened by adding & dissolving in either sugar or a proprietary wine sweetener. Sugar should be added in 10g stages, tasting between additions until the desired sweetness is achieved.

The wine is ready for drinking immediately, but will improve if matured for several months in a cool place.



1.   A food grade plastic or polythene container with a lid & large enough to hold 23 litres. A 25 litre fermenting bin is ideal.

2.   About 2m of plastic siphon tubing to siphon the fermented beer into bottles or a barrel.

3.   A pressure barrel or bottles sufficient for 23 litres, PET pop bottles are suitable or brown beer bottles with crown corks.

DO NOT use non-returnable glass bottles or any that are cracked or chipped.

4.   1 Kg of white granulated or brewing sugar.

5.   A proprietary cleaning agent to sterilise your equipment.


1.   A hydrometer is useful for checking the final gravity.

2.   A thermometer & a heat tray or BrewBelt.


1.  Clean & sterilise all equipment with a proprietary sterilising agent then rinse with clean cold water. DO NOT use household detergents & cleaners.

2.  Remove the can label & stand the can in hot water for 5-10 minutes, this helps soften the contents.

3.  Pour the can contents into the fermenter, rinse the can with warm water & add this to your fermenter. Add 1Kg sugar to the fermenting bin & carefully add about 3 litres of boiling water, stir to dissolve the sugar.

4.  Add cold water to bring the volume up to 23 litres & thoroughly stir to make sure all the contents are fully dissolved. If you have a hydrometer the specific gravity should be 1040-1044 & the temperature should be 18-24° C.

5.  Sprinkle the sachet of yeast into the fermenter, loosely fit the lid & leave to stand for 4-7 days in a warm place between 18-20°C.

7.  Fermentation will be finished when the bubbles cease to rise & the beer starts to clear (if you use a hydrometer, when the gravity will remain constant below 1008). It to important to make sure that fermentation is complete before bottling; otherwise there is a danger of the bottles bursting.


This "priming” process carbonates your beer, giving it life & a sparkle. Siphon the beer into bottles or a pressure barrel, add a level teaspoon of sugar to each 500ml bottle, or a maximum of 85 grams per 23 litre pressure barrel. Dry malt extract may be used instead. Stand bottles or barrel in a warm place for a few days to condition the beer then allow 14 days in a cool place or until the beer has cleared.

More comprehensive information about making beer kits can be found at the Colchester Homebrew & Brewferm web sites.

The above are typical of “good” instructions supplied with kits, they are designed to be comprehensive yet easy to follow. Any claims that the end product is ready for consumption immediately or in a few weeks are, in my opinion, exceedingly optimistic.

For more comprehensive instructions about brewing beer kits see www.colchesterhomebrew.co.uk/brewingwithbeerkits.html

As your knowledge & experience increases you will, no doubt, adapt your own preferred methods of production, options include:-

1.  Re-hydrating your yeast before adding it to the brew or even making a yeast starter.

2.  Rather than mess around with sample jars, always leave your hydrometer in the fermenting wine or beer, it’s much easier.

3.  Fermenting beers produce lots of surplus yeast on top of the brew, this can be skimmed off with a brewing paddle/large spoon, especially the mucky, oily looking stuff that forms in the later part of ale fermentation. You can utilize some of wasted yeast in a subsequent brew - see PIGGY-BACK BEERS, WINES & CIDERS.



                                     For racking & bottling beers, wines etc. you will require a siphon fitted with  

                                     sediment trap, a piece of suitably sized bore plastic tubing about 1.5-2 metres

                                      long &, ideally, with a plastic tap inserted, more or less 500mm from the open end.

                                      I like to replace the last piece of tubing, after the tap, with a smaller tube, &,

                                       once the siphon is filled to the tap, the original Piece is refitted, thus avoiding

                                      contamination with my DNA.

                                      I use a home-made stand to get the minimum of losses for the wines; with beer

                                      I similarly place a block of wood at one side to tilt the fermenter.

                                     The end of the racking tube should always be below the liquid to prevent

                                      possible oxidisation.

It is very important to store your drinks in a cool, draught-free & dim please. The only time to put the in a cold place is in the ‘fridge door two or three hours before consuming, this of course dose not apply to red wines. For details of drinking temperatures, see the “YoBrew Annual 2015” pages 25 (“Goldilocks” www.yobrew.co.uk/magazine.php).

The usual choice for bottles is limited to two types, plastic (polyethylene terephthalate or PET or even PETE) or glass. The former has health concerns such as cancer in humans & is recommended for one use only before recycling. Intact glass has no known health hazards.

Brown bottles are best as they seem to be inert to sunlight & florescent lighting, clear & green bottles are not, when affected in the way, our American cousins refer to this as being “skunked”.


Racking beers into a secondary fermenter to “rest” isn’t necessary but if you do, ensure that is still fermenting, as any air that has entered the beer can then be replaced by the inert CO2. The fermented beer if then left undisturbed for about a week with the lid loosely in place in a cool (not too cold) place before bottling & priming.

I like to prime my beers with granulated sugar at the rate of:-

3.15g/litre (1 level 5ml tsp) for (British) ales

4.725g/litre (1.5 tsp) for porters/stouts

6.3g/litre (2 tsp) for Trappist/Abbey ales & lagers.

For dark ales, Demerara sugar can be used for example, adding a little subtlety.

Each level 5ml tsp priming sugar per litre (3.15g) adds just over 0.17% ABV.

The beer is kept somewhere warm & dim to get its fizz or “condition”, at least one bottle should a plastic (PET) bottle in order to check on the state of this. Glass bottles should be chosen to handle the high pressures. Choosing one colour for a specific brew may help in identify different brews, especially when more than one beer is done at a time.

After “conditioning” your beer, transfer to a cool, dim place (not a ‘fridge) to mature for 2 or 3 months. Age improves wine & beers etc. considerably.

Place the bottles inside the ‘fridge door for a couple of hours before drinking.


Ignoring malolactic re-fermentation, a fully fermented wine cannot re-ferment in the bottle, even if yeast is still present, but do not add any sugary substances or fermentation will start again, with possible disastrous results. Always check the FG.


A few days after the wine becomes crystal-clear, rack the wine into a clean demijohn, top up to 4.7 litres & gently swirl in a crushed Camden tablet. Please note, this should be the only time you rack off the lees. Cover the demijohn neck with Clingfilm with a rubber-band retainer. Bulk mature in a dim, cool place, for at least three months before you bottle (a longer may be necessary - depending on the wines contents, see www.petespintpot.co.uk/fruit&veg.html).

750ml glass bottles are used for wines & can have corks fitted or use plastic top stoppers or metal caps fitted, the last two are reusable. As always, hygiene is of the utmost importance so always give them a good soaking in a warm sterilizer solution.

Some people like to lay their wines down during storage, I personally can't see the point as I have kept some wines, upright & fitted with corks without ant problems.

                           The ‘photo on the left shows a device I made for corking, the

                            stainless steel  wire is inserted in the top of the bottle, the cork  is

                           hammered home & the wire gently pulled out of the bottle thus

                            releasing most of the internal pressure.

Sparking wines use much higher sugar dosages/pressures than beers or ciders & so they must have proper, sound “Champagne” bottles & have their corks wired down using a muselet (the name is derived from the French verb

museler, meaning to muzzle). If 11g (3.5 level 5ml tsp) per litre is used approx. (this equates to about 50g per 4.5

litres) or 8.25g per 750ml bottle (2.62 level 5ml tsp) the resultant pressure is about 48psi!

Each level 5ml tsp priming sugar per litre (3.15g) adds just over 0.17% ABV.

If you see a recipe that says a sparkling wine etc. should be bottled during the fermentation when the SG falls to a certain specified gravity, throw the recipe away. The must must (this is not a typo – I cannot miss the opportunity to do this play on words) reach it’s FG & then cleared but not stabilized, primed with a appropriate quantity of sugar & bottled.


For still ciders, treat as a normal wine, for sparkling ciders, I treat as a sparking wine but limit the priming sugar to 1–2 level 5ml tsp per litre for ciders, I personally prefer the higher end but do not use more.


Bottle pressures are generally are given in “volumes of CO2”, 1 litre of beer primed with 1 level 5mm tsp (3.15g) at room temperature will eventually have 1.7 litres of CO2 dissolved in the beer, the priming scale is not linear as 2 level 5mm tsp (6.3g) will give over 2.5 volumes CO2 & an un-primed beer will have 0.88 vols. The corresponding bottle pressure for 1 tsp priming sugar is about 15 psi (or 1 Bar or 1 Atmosphere), for 2 level 5mm tsp it will be about 28psi (or about 1.91 Bar or 1.94 Atmospheres).

As you can see, priming beers, ciders & wines is potentially very dangerous, that is why I always prime my drinks after the have finished fermenting completely (always check with a hydrometer) & don’t use sugar to sweeten a wine without adding potassium sorbate first (unless sugar-feeding to a FG of much higher gravity than 1000, but, as they say, that is another story).


A basic overview.

The hydrometer is a simple device that can tell you, amongst other things, the state of a fermenting liquid &, by calculation, the % ABV (Alcohol By Volume) of that liquid. The hydrometer is not essential for beer/winemaking etc. but it certainly does help.

It simply works by measuring the weight of a liquid compared with pure water, usually at room temperature, 20°C or 68°F (older models may be calibrated at 15°C or 65°F). (Incidentally, the weight of pure water is 1000Kg/cubic metre or 1000, some older hydrometers show 1.000, you may still see this in old, & some not so old, books & recipes.)

Personally I prefer to use the centre hydrometer; I find the coloured bands distracting & unnecessary. On the reverse, two other scales may be found, the “Sugar Content” (g/litre or oz/gall) & the “Potential Alcohol”, I never use them & the latter scale is fatally flawed, it assumes you always end up with a reading of “1000” after the fermentation ends, whatever the “brew”.

How to take a “gravity” reading.

You put the hydrometer in the liquid you want to measure & give it a quick spin to dislodge any air or CO2 bubbles (“By some magic property, hydrometers always seem to stop spinning in the wort* so that the scale you want read faces the other way!” - Dave Line, 1942–1980).

*Wort (pronounced to rhyme with “skirt”) is the technical for un-fermented beers.

All readings are taken at eye-level; use the bottom of the meniscus as the datum point.

A general gravity is known as the SPECIFIC GRAVITY (SG) or just the “gravity”.

The ORIGINAL GRAVITY (OG) is the gravity at the commencement of, or prior to fermentation. A beer wort is usually 1035-1080, a wine must is typically 1075-1090 & ciders are usually somewhere between 1040-1060.

A wine must is the technical for un-fermented wine.

PLEASE NOTE: The measured gravity of a must containing fruit will be too low as most of the fruit sugar will be contained in the pulp. The same problem arises with titration or the use litmus papers to determine the must acidity. Fermentation adds approx. 1.5% acidity to the finished wine.

The FINAL GRAVITY (FG) is taken when the fermentation is completely finished, for beers the FG is in the order of 1005-1015, wines are about 993-994 (sweetened wines are higher) & ciders just below 1000.

Gravities are often shortened (especially with brewers) by leaving out the “1000”, e.g., in the example in the diagram shown above, the SG can be quoted as just “68”.

Working out the % ABV.

To calculate the alcohol level you need to know both the Original Gravity (OG) & the Final Gravity (FG) of the liquid in question.

An approximate method is               % ABV = (OG - FG) / 7.54

Example: If a cider has an OG of 1068 & an FG of 996 then its alcohol content is:-

                                                              % ABV = (1068 – 996) / 7.54 = (72) / 7.54 = 9.55% ABV (strong stuff!)

The figure of “7.54” is fairly arbitrary, only correct for an SG of 1055 but I consider this to be “near enough” estimation, suitable for beer, wine & ciders. For beer & ciders only, a figure of 7.6 is more accurate, based on an OG of 1040, for wines & meads only use 7.45, based on an OG of 1080. Different people use differing numbers, just about all are acceptable.

A more accurate method is            % ABV = (OG - FG) / (7.75 - (3 x (OG - 1000) / 800))

Example: If a beer has an OG of 1068 & an FG of 1012 then its alcohol content is:-

                                                           % ABV = (1068 – 1012) / (7.75 - (3 x (1068 – 1000) / 800))

                                                                         = (56) / (7.75 - (3 x (68) / 800)) = (56) / (7.75 - (0.255))

                                                                         = (56) / (7.495)

                                                                         = 7.47% ABV (again, a strong brew.)

Other things to consider.

The hydrometer reading is only true if the liquid is at the “calibration temperature” of the instrument. If, for example, you were measuring the gravity of a must at 25°C with a hydrometer calibrated at 20°C you would have to add “1” to a more correct gravity; warm liquids expand, thus giving a lower, incorrect reading.

Annual 2015

Kit Reviews




For a hydrometer calibrated at 20°C/68°F



















Subtract 3

Subtract 2

Subtract 1


Add 1

Add 2

Add 3

Add 4

For a hydrometer calibrated at 15°C/59°F



















Subtract 2

Subtract 1


Add 1

Add 2

Add 3

Add 4

Add 5


Many beginners to the brewing/winemaking hobby initially make a cheap kit; if it goes wrong, well it is not the end of the world. Others may choose to spend more, knowing that they will produce a good quality product. I think both schools have valid points, a good cheap kit would be ideal. For kits I have made, both beer & wine, see www.petespintpot.co.uk/kits.html for my honest personal opinions, bear in mind that your tastes will very possibly not be that same as mine. If you would like methods of modifying wine & beers kits, see www.petespintpot.co.uk/kitmod.html but it is advisable to make & sample a kit before making modifications to a new kit of the same type.


I shall assume that “cheap” means a price of below £11 for 6 bottles or £24 for 30 bottles.

This mainly concerns most of the cheap (especially the falsely named “7 Day”) kits, the 30 bottle kits are far worse than the 6 bottle regarding the (lack of?) contents. The kits concerned are typical of the available lower end priced stuff & I have not made them & so I cannot give an opinion on their taste etc.

Wine kits contain grape concentrate &, if the grape is named in the title of the wine, I think at least 51% of the concentrate should be the “named” grape. A lot contain other fruit concentrates as well, all contain added acids to get the correct pH & some tannin, both are required to compensate for the dearth of conc. & they are not a problem. The kits are packed out with sugars under various names, THEY prefer glucose & fructose; this is basically household sugar which has been has been broken down (expensively) thus enabling them to ferment a little quicker.

Preservatives can be a problem as well as artificial colouring; artificial sweeteners are not nice along with potassium sorbate. Normally fermentation takes about three weeks, a turdo style yeast speeds thing up. I consider an absolute minimum of two months bulk maturation is requires for wines, for short maturation in the bottle, chemicals are added to mask the short comings.

I went to a well-known seller of beer/wine kits, amongst other things. There I found three Chardonnay kits:-

Kit 1

Kit 2

Kit 3

Content  wt. g

Cost £

Sugar g (brewing)

To make

Cost/bottle £ (approx.)  

% Grape conc.

Grape conc. g/bottle

Grape conc. % ABV/bottle




6 bottles (4.5 litres)






20 (inc. demijohn etc.)

450 (included)

6 bottles (4.5 litres)








30 bottles (23 litres)





For my grape based wines, 5.3% ABV is the amount supplied by the fruit/juices etc., for my apple juice based wines, this falls to a minimum of 3.7%. Incidentally, I normally use 3 litres of juice per 4.5 litres of wine.

I find the Beaverdale kits excellent & the California Connoisseur kits very good in both quality & taste, both require no added sugar, here a few statistics (at the time of writing):-

A Beaverdale 6 bottle (4.5 litre kit) weighs approx. 2Kg & costs about £13 (about £2.17/bottle).

A Beaverdale 30 bottle (23 litre kit) weighs approx. 10Kg & costs about £40 (about £1.33/bottle).

A California Connoisseur 6 bottle (4.5 litre kit) weighs approx. 2Kg & costs about £13 (about £2.17/bottle).

A California Connoisseur 30 bottle (23 litre kit) weighs approx. 9.6Kg & costs about £39 (about £1.30/bottle).

Both contain over 50% grape concentrate, giving at least 7.4% alcohol to the wine.

I will leave any conclusions up to you dear reader.


I shall assume that “cheap” means a price of below £12 for an original volume of 23 litres.

The main difference in price between kits is the amount of malt extract use in the kit. They are normally for & require 1Kg of granulated sugar, brewing sugar can be used as an expensive substitute. The malt extract supplied with the kit is usually in the liquid form (LME - Liquid Malt Extract) as opposed to DME (Dry Malt Extract). The weight of the extract is typically 1.5 to 1.6Kg & no unessential additives are included.

As usual, some kits are dire & some kits excel, thoroughly beating 1.7Kg kits costing 2 or 3 quid more. I find that these kits produce better beers than most commercial brewers. On a purely personal note, I find that the cheap beer kits far better than their wine counterparts. Once again, for kits I have made & reviewed, see www.petespintpot.co.uk/kits.html.

For those who wish to “improve” their kits by adding expensive sugar &/or additional malt extract &/or an expensive yeast etc. see A simple matter of economics? But who are the simple ones?


A lot of so-called “cider” kits should be renamed as “apple flavoured beer” kits as they contain malt extract with some apple concentrate. This enables the production of a much cheaper “cider” with a sweeter finish & most contain artificial sweeteners along with other chemicals, at least the dreaded potassium sobate cannot be used in sparkling ciders.



To be honest, all of us country wine makers will have made at least one duff wine along the way. That is why I

started making the “YoBrew Beer & Wine calc’s”, since then, only my bad choices of the ingredients has been my

downfall. But, however, you do not require any calculators to spot most dodgy wine recipes.

Here is what to look out for, but do not dismiss such recipes out of hand, this is where a wine can calculator come

in handy.

1) Some very old recipes use a slice of toast “buttered” with yeast! Speaking of yeast, always use a proper wine

that comes in a sachet & use it all at once, do not save it for another wine you are making next month.

Bread yeasts are good for making bread.

Beer yeasts are good for making beers.

Wine yeasts are good for making wines.

Beer & wine yeasts are good for making beers.

The wine yeasts generally have higher alcohol tolerances, & after fermentation, the lees settle  down well,

leaving a clear brew, they also can come in handy for making high gravity beers. Avoid “turdo” yeasts as they

are for producing high alcohol quickly but the quality suffers.

2) Again, some old recipes literally use bags of sugar, for 4.5 litres of wine, 1Kg is about the maximum to use

(excluding flower/vegetable wines & any sugar used to sweetening wines). Use granulated (household) rather

than castor sugar, the latter easier to dissolve but is more expensive &, other than that, they are identical.

A recipe calling for much over 1Kg sugar probably uses the alcohol to hide its faults.

3) Most wines, apart from flower/vegetable wines & meads do not need any additional acid, tannin (or tea)

added, especially in a well-designed recipe.

4a) If any acid is required, use tartaric, as if too much of this acid is used it comes out of solution in the form of argols. This does not happen with citric, it remains in the wine & can cause off flavours by the action of  bacteria. If acid is needed, I would use tartaric for this reason. “Acid mix” is a complete waste of time & money.

4b) Recipes calling for lemons or oranges to supply the required acidity give no indication of the amount of

acid actually needed.

5) Modern techniques recommend that very ripe bananas should be peeled & chopped into thin slices or mashed with a fork before adding to the fermenter, NO BOILING & DEFINITELY NO SKINS! The skins contain some compounds which are bad for us humans if eaten/drank. I’m not too sure about other primates.

6) A lot of modern recipes use the degassing technique, this practise seemingly comes from America & rids the wine of most of the natural CO2 which is present. This allows air (containing oxygen) to enter & can thus lead to oxidization & possible infection. Water @20°C, naturally contains 0.88 volumes of gas. One of the main reasons given for degassing is that your wine clears much faster, I do not believe it! Incidentally, do degasses also degas their beers?

7) Rack off the lees only once when the wine has cleared as racking leaves wines open to contamination & watering down of your precious liquid.

8) Wines are best bulk matured for at least three months (inc. kits) before bottling.

9) I, rightly or wrongly, tend to dismiss recipes using the horribly outdated pounds, ounces, quarts & gallons. Speaking of America (again), the US gallon is smaller than the Imperial gallon (well, a least we have one thing that is bigger here!). I have often seen recipes on the “Wine & Beer Making Homebrew UK”, the senders are unaware of any problems caused. The “gallon” problem will also affect our American cousins when they see old British beer & wine recipes.

Please, use Kg, g & litres, not forgetting temperatures in °C.

Incidentally, 1 litre = 0.22 UK gall. (approx.) =  0.26 US gall.(approx.) = 1 liter

                   & 1 litre = 1.76 UK pt. (Approx.)    = 2.11 US pt. (Approx.)    = 1 liter

I trust that this makes things clear.


The first recipe is my design, it is simple to make & it is made on a regular, basis, the second is an actual recipe, published in an actual book.

DRY APPLE WINE (to make 4.5 litres of “finished” wine)


3 litres apple juice       

650g sugar

5g (1tsp) pectic enzyme      

5g (1tsp) Bentonite      

2.5g (½ tsp.) yeast nutrient       

1 sachet good wine yeast      

Water to 4.7 litres          

1pt apple juice

4lb sugar

1 tsp pectic enzyme

1 tsp tartaric/citric acid

1 tsp tannin

1 tsp yeast nutrient

1 tsp Bentonite

1 tsp wine yeast

Water to 1 gallon

Note:- here, 1 level 5ml tsp is assumed to contain about 5g or about 0.176 oz.

You may to wish gloss over the technical stuff which is written in brown.

“But,” you ask, “Are the two recipes any good?” “Possibly/doubtful” is the reply (always the optimist). “How do you know?” You then ask. “Well, without making & trying these wines we cannot know for sure, but, by analysing the ingredients we can get some idea as to the balance” is my answer.

Take the first wine, the ingredients, which are made up to an initial volume of 4.7 litres to allow for spillage & waste, contain the following approximate weights of these important substances.

Wt. g

Sugar g

Acid g

Tannin g

Apple juice





NOTE These figures will vary slightly depending on the constitution of the juices used.




Fermentation acid







This assumes the juice contains 11g sugar per 100ml, for the same quantity there is 0.69g acid & 0.1g tannin, then, by calculation, our finished wine will be around O.G. 1078, F.G 993, 11.3% ABV, 0.59% acid & 0.01% tannin, the volume should be close to 4.5 litres, sufficient for 6 x 750ml bottles.

For the second apple wine, made up to an initial volume of 1 UK gallon (4.54 litres)

Wt. g

Sugar g

Acid g

Tannin g

Apple juice





NOTE These figures will vary slightly depending on the constitution of the juices used.




Tartaric acid




Fermentation acid







By calculation, our finished wine will be O.G. 1155, F.G 988 (assumed, if all the sugar is converted to alcohol), over 23% ABV, 0.35% acid & 0.11% tannin. In practice such a wine would not ferment out to more than around 20% using high alcohol yeasts, the unfermented sugar would make it sweet & the small amount of juice would give little flavour.

Again, from our table, 0.35% acid is very low & the added tannin is too much as 0.11% is far in excess of what we need for a white wine, 1g would give 0.02%, which is adequate.

You may have noticed that only 2.5g yeast nutrient is used in the first recipe. Most musts will contain sufficient nutrient but the ½ tsp added will ensure this. Excess nutrients remain in the finished wine &, once again, could provide food for unwanted organisms. Unfortunately the second recipe nutrients are sadly lacking by a factor of over three, a good fermentation require sufficient vitamins, they are also sadly lacking, the must need the addition of half a vitamin B complex tablet.

When we finally bottle our wine we could possibly end up with our last bottle (750ml) containing only 590ml or so wine owing to our losses. What do we do? The options include nothing, topping up with some existing wine or filling our 6 bottles equally & topping up with water, thus diluting our wine to around 95%. We could always top up with grape or apple juice, the advantage(s) of this is that the body will not be thinned & our wine will be slightly sweeter by a couple of degrees. If we ever do top up a finished wine with with some other wine or water or fruit juice or add sweetening sugar, it must be stabilised with potassium sorbate first to prevent a dangerous re-fermentation inside the bottles, but not with sparkling wines as they would end up flat!

So, beware of (old) recipes advocating lots of sugar, use a good sachet of yeast, do not use toast as some old books tell us, or yeast from tubs as moisture & wild organisms can infect these after opening.

Bentonite (both recipes) is not essential but it certainly helps a wine to clear.

By the way, did you manage to spot the duff wine recipe?

I used to make “GRAPPLE” (GRAPe & apPLE) wines regularly, they were one of my favourites. The recipe typically consisted of 2 litres of grape juice (white, red or 1 litre of both) & litre of Tesco apple juice with about 550g sugar, Bentonite, a “dash” of nutrient & yeast. When Tesco ceased selling their own brand of grape juices I tried the Asda stuff. Unfortunately the wines were a complete disaster, they tasted horrible &, I think, the grape juices were very low in acid, as, when fermenting, the Tesco grape juices used to leave argols in the demijohn, the Asda rubbish did not.

Some Typical Wine Parameters:-

Wine Type

% alcohol   

% acid  

% tannin.

Adapted from "Must" by Professor Gerry Fowles. The parameters quoted are “typical” rather than “essential”.

Dry White Table      German                                      Others  

Dry Red Table


Sweet White Table   German


Dessert (fruit)

Dessert (Port)

Dry Aperitif  


























The usual problems associated with these recipes is too much sugar or too many

or too few hops being used.

Most of the cheaper 23 litre kits use 1.5Kg of LME (Liquid Malt Extract) & 1Kg

of sugar in the recipe.

In reality, this means that for every Kilo of LME used in a recipe, approx. 670g

sugar can added but this should be considered as the absolute maximum of the

sugar used (for the weight specified).

For 1Kg DME (Dry Malt Extract), about 785g sugar can be added.

For 1Kg malt grains, about 485g sugar can be added.

In practice, I would consider using no more than about 60% of the sugar figures

for my own recipes.

For the hops, a beer calculator (see www.yobrew.co.uk/calculators.php) is almost mandatory for the hop weights given in the recipe will probably not have the same bitterness, the packet will gave the bitterness printed on, quoted as “% AA” or “% Alpha Acid”, they can vary from year to year & place to place.

Just like wines, “units” are a problem, most of the recipes are obtained via the internet & most are just recycled rubbish. A decent recipe may be found using Imperial or US units but if you don't which system is used you may end up with a strong or weak brew. A 4% ABV, 30EBU, 23 litre beer could end up as 4%, ABV, 30EBU, 23 litre or 4.8%, 36EBU, 19 litre or 3.3%, 25EBU, 28 litre brew!

If Imperial or US units must be used, ALWAYS give the metric equivalents.

You cannot always tell a duff wine or beer by just looking a the recipe.

The ultimate test for a beer or wine etc. is your palate.


How to Spot Duff Recipes


Wine & Beer



Home (Brew) Economics


Racking & Bottling