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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.

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Beer & Wine Kit Modification
Variations on a theme #Home #Beer-mod

Beer Kit Modification


Wine Kit Modification






           Invariably, most of the advice about beer & wine kit modification is “dump the yeast & buy a better one”. I generally disagree, I think the majority of yeasts supplied with kits are least “adequate”, some are exceptionally good. I have purchased assorted yeasts from a well-known supplier that have definitely been inferior to that supplied with the kits & can add 15% or more to the cost.

See “Piggy-Back Beer, Wines & Ciders”.

A simple matter of economics? But who are the simple ones?

When I buy 1.5 & 1.8Kg kits, the only modification made to them is reducing the amount of sugar used. This does not generally apply to the superior Brewferm kits.

Many people seem to buy inferior 1.5Kg kits – nothing wrong with that but then the buy the expensive extras such as brewing sugar, as opposed to normal granulated, Spraymalt & poncy yeasts etc. Incidentally, I have found that most beer & wines kits come with decent yeasts.

So, doing the sums:

1 x Coopers beer kit (1.5Kg)                          £13.50

2 x Munton’s Spraymalt (500g) @ £4.50       £9

1 x Yeast                                                            £2.50

                                                                 Total £25

And there is always “Carbonation Drops” to expensively prime your brew.

Or you could by a very good 3Kg kit such as

Woodford’s Norfolk Wherry                         £22

Primed with “normal” sugar at the rate of 1 level 5ml tsp per litre.

(Porters & stouts 1½ level 5ml tsp per litre, Trappist, Abbey biers & lagers 2 level 5ml tsp per litre.)

Beer Kit Modification

You buy a beer kit, you make it &, after a few weeks or so you enjoy the results of the manufacturers expertise & your (not too hard) labours. Do you ever think that even a very good kit would suit your palate better if it were only a little bit hoppier or a touch stronger/weaker etc? Here are a few suggestions how you can modify a kit although most of the items are only suitable for those that require additional sugar. Quite a few manufactures give directions in modifying some of their kits & so it is occasionally beneficial to read the instructions & not just when things go wrong! Munton’s give a typical analysis of their beers on the labels, this can prove very useful to us little tinkerers who want to tailor kits to suit our tastes better, to make bespoke beers.

1.   Replacing all or half of the added sugar with an equal weight of dry malt extract will produce a maltier & darker beer (depending on the malt extract colour), a hopped extract would also add more bitterness to your beer. Liquid malt extracts could also be used, 500g sugar is equivalent to about 610g liquid extract. Note that it may be cheaper to buy an all malt kit in the first place! Granulated sugar can also be wholly or partially replaced with an equal amount of brown sugar, brewing sugar or Golden Syrup (treacle) can also be used but you may then want to increase these quantities by 25% to keep a similar alcoholic strength to the original designed value. Black treacle is also useful if you want to add “character” & colour to your beers.

2.   Using malt extract or Demerara sugar etc. for priming can make subtle changes to a beer. Demerara sugar is particularly effective in porters & stouts.

3.   Reduce the actual volume of a 23litre (5 UK gall) kit to 18.5 litres (4 UK gall) & halve the amount of added sugar. The resulting brew will have a similar strength to the original but will be almost 25% darker, maltier & hoppier.

4.   1.5 & 1.8Kg can be modified be “doubling-up”, a practice suggested by Roy Maybank, a visitor to this site who regularly uses this method (his favourite “double” kits are Munton’s Mild & Wilkinson's Dark Velvet Stout kits). The “double” process simply entails buying two kits & using them in a single 23 litre brew with no added sugar, apart from the primer.

In practise, for a 1.5Kg kits, the “finished” beer will probably have an OG of around 1040.5 & 4.2% ABV. For 1.8Kg kits, the beer should end up around 1048.5 & 5% ABV. NOTE:- The beer will have twice the bitterness & twice the colour.

5.   Deduct the estimated amount of priming sugar from the quantity of added sugar specified by the manufacturer. Note that the % ABV quoted by most manufacturers ignores any priming sugars, Cooper’s is the only kit manufacturer I know who mention this effect.

6.   Add extra sugar or malt extract to a kit to increase the alcoholic strength, this can be the downfall of many novice brewers who just want to get smashed & end up with a terrible headache the following morning.

7.   Unless specifically instructed to the contrary, you can boil the wort with some water for 10 or 15 mins, this will supposedly make your brew keep longer (not normally a problem) & may also produce a slightly darken the beer.

At the start of the boil you could add a handful of aroma hops to add aroma & hoppiness to your beer. Ensure you use the correct type of hops for the style of your beer, e.g., Fuggles for an ale & Hallertauer for a lager style. To significantly increase the bitterness, the hops must be boiled for longer periods (30 mins or more).

Crystal, black & chocolate malts & roast barley may be added to the boil thus darkening the brew & adding flavours, there will be a slight increase in the original & final gravities. A good example is to boil say 50-100g of crushed roast barley in some water then add it to a 23 litre kit of  Irish stout to enhance the burnt flavour. Personally I would try the with the lower figure first.

8.   Edme & Munton’s have data panels on their labels giving useful information such as typical colour & bitterness. If you shove these parameters into the “Beer Kit Modifier” at the top of the “Beer Calc.” page of my free downloadable YoBrew Beer & Wine Calculators you will be able to see the approximate physical effects of modifying a kit. The main calculator will give you more options.

9.   Dave Line, in his excellent book “Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy”, give a recipe for making a San Miguel style lager from a 1.8Kg Edme lager kit. Dissolve the kit with hot water in your fermenter, add 908g (2 lbs) of Golden Syrup (known colloquially as “treacle”). Simmer 15g Hallertau hops in 2 litres of water for 10 mins & strain the liquid into the bin. (Because the hop water has a gravity of 0 or 1000, this will add a few degrees of bitterness as well as some aroma.) Make up to 20 litres & add yeast. Ferment & bottle as normal.

10.  For hoppier beers you can throw a handful of (“aroma”) hops into your fermenter, you may wish to boil them for a minute or two in a small amount of water to sterilize them.

11. Simmering a few hops, as in item 7, will add a slight, possibly indiscernible bitterness to your beer but the aroma should be noticeable, especially if aroma hops are used. The bittering effect is dependant on the hop’s alpha acid content, the amount used & the boil time, it is reduced as the boil gravity increase, alternatively you can add a few drops of isomerised hop extract to your fermenter to add bitterness. 1ml of Ritchie's hop extract in 1litre of beer increases the bitterness by 69EBU’s.

12. To noticeably increase the bitterness, use “bittering” or even “dual-purpose” hops, choose a variety that will suit your beer (see the Hops page). 5g of  7.5% alpha acid hops boiled in 0.5 litres of water will add about 4.5EBU to your brew.

13. For a beer that is too hoppy you could compensate this the next time around by diluting the kit. A 10% increase in volume would give a disproportionate 9% (approx.) decrease in bitterness so if a 23 litre kit has a bitterness of 40EBU, adding an extra 2.3 litres to the fermenter will reduce the bitterness to about 36.4EBU. Unfortunately the beer will also be “thinner” in taste & have around 9% less alcohol, the latter can be rectified by adding extra sugar to the wort, 210g will add about 0.5% ABV to 25 litres, this is not really recommended for 1.5Kg & 1.8Kg etc. kits that need additional sugar.

Increasing the initial volume is best for beers that you find just a bit too strong in taste & alcohol.

NOTE:- Many home brewers would consider this to be tantamount to sacrilege!

14. Higher OG brews tend to have more “character” than the lower gravity beers & so some brewers deliberately reduce the brew volume from say 23 litres to 18 litres & add the “missing” water just prior to bottling or kegging. The proper Newcastle Brown used to be made by blending an “Amber Ale” (around 1030) with an “Old Ale” (1064-75 - not sure). The resulting beer was 4.7% ABV & considered by many to be a “classic”. Unfortunately “Newkie Brown” is now manufactured (by an industrial process?) in one single process, & it shows!

15. The addition of fruits like raspberries (Framboise/Frambozen) & cherries (Kriek) can add distinct flavours & aromas to beers. Choose a light coloured ale that is fairly lightly hopped, brew as normal, & just as the fermentation is slowing down as it nears the FG, sling in some (puréed) fruit. Ferment out & rack into a secondary fermenter to rest for about a week before bottling. Try adding 150-200g raspberries per litre or 100- 150g cherries (stones may be included), note that the % ABV will also be affected.

16. Some Belgian breweries (brouwerij) add a little coriander &/or orange peel to their (usually strong) ales. A good starting point for both is to add 7-14g/23 litres for light coloured beers (0.3-0.6g/litre) & 8-16g/23 litres for dark beers (0.35-0.7g/litre). Boil the added ingredient(s) in a little water for 10-15 min. before adding to the wort.

17. To get a sweeter beer add a proprietary sweeter (Dave Line’s recipes nominally use Saccharin at the rate of 4-5 tablets per 23 litres). Another way to achieve this goal is to employ an inefficient yeast, this produces a sweeter beer an the expense of lower alcohol. Conversely, a relatively efficient yeast will produce a drier beer with more alcohol. Lactose (a form of non-fermentable sugar) will add colour & sweetness to beers. 500g will typically add to the beer 7 EBC & 8° to both to OG & FG for 23 litres (the alcohol content remains the same).

DO NOT ADD SUGAR TO SWEETEN A BEER. If sweetening a wine, cider etc. Please read the SWEETNESS section very carefully.

18. Give your beers plenty of  time to mature. I don’t care if the instructions say a beer will be ready in 7 to 10 days time, experience has taught me that the minimum time could be 2 months or more, longer for the stronger brews. Incidentally beers made with proper hops seem to mature more quickly.

19. You could consider reducing the alcoholic content for “all malt” kits, for any beer dry beer enzymes (amylase) can be used to alter the alcohol/calories & carbohydrate levels &, of course, make a dryer tasting brew.

20. Serving your beers at the correct temperature certainly helps. Too many idiots think that all beers should be ice cold!

See www.yobrew.co.uk/beer.php#_Some_typical_beer_drinking_temperat

21. Modify your water! This verges on the extreme in home brewing (in my humble opinion). The YoBrew Calculators have a page dedicated to “Water Treatment” where, with the help of your local water company; you can download the mineral content of your water by entering your postcode, put the figures supplied in the calculator & compare it with you “ideal” water for that brew. You can add different minerals but removing them is a completely different matter! Ideally if you want to make the ideal pilsner lager you should re-locate to Plzeň (Pilsen in the Czech Republic). It is, as “they” say, as simple as that!

22. Replacing the yeast supplied with “SuPer TurDo Yeast” is not generally considered an improvement.

Wine Kit Modification

Some very cheap (& not so cheap) & very nasty kits taste, quite frankly, full of chemicals. These kits are prime targets for modification. Obviously the easiest modify to a wine kit is to alter the volume but that is not really practical for bottling purposes.  

1.   As with beer (item 1), give your wine plenty of  time to mature, a wine is much better after keeping after a few months than straight after bottling. I like to mature my wines in bulk for 3 months before bottling & then I wait another 2 or 3 week before serving. For maturing non-kit wines see the Fruit & Veg. page.

2.   Again, as with beer (item 15), different wines are better at different temperatures.

See: www.yobrew.co.uk/wine.php#_Some_typical_wine_drinking_temperat

3.    If a sweeter wine (or cider etc.) is required see the SWEETNESS section.

4.   You may like to add a little “oakiness”, oak chippings are available from home brewing shops.

5.   One simple way of improving a wine kit, using NO additional ingredients, is to make say 3.5 litres of your wine (for a 4.5 litre kit) & hold back, say 20% of your concentrate. When the gravity falls to around 1010, add the remainder of your concentrate & top up with water, ferment as normal. This procedure will add extra aroma & flavour to your wine.

6.   For kits with 100% grape concentrate you could consider reducing the alcoholic content.

7.   Replacing the yeast supplied with “SuPer TurDo Yeast” is not generally considered an improvement.

8.   Below are some ways to modify wine kits but adding too to much sugar (or anything else) can be a bad thing.  

Typical Wine Parameters

(For 4.5 litres of  “finished” wine - all figures are very approximate.)

O.G. 1070-1096°

ABV 10-14%



Red Tannin    < 0.09-0.3%

Rosé Tannin  0.04-0.09%

White Tannin < 0.04%


Effect on OG°

Effect on  % ABV

Effect on % Acidity

Effect on % Tannin

Increasing/reducing the sugar by 100g

Adding 250ml of RED grape conc.

Adding 250ml of WHITE grape conc.

Adding 1 litre of RED grape juice

Adding 1 litre of WHITE grape juice

Adding 1 litre of apple juice

Adding a 410g can of fruit (typically)

Adding 1 tsp precipitated chalk (calcium carbonate)

      OR 1 tsp sodium bicarbonate

+/-  8








+/- 1.12















- 0.100









Some time back I purchased a CWE Country Classic Elderberry kit (unfortunately these cheap but very good kits are no longer available). I wanted to make a Port style wine & modified it in the following ways:-

A banana, “Summer Fruits” conc. (a cordial), 1 litre apple juice, 1 litre red grape juice, 600g sugar, 2 tsp sodium bicarbonate (to reduce the acidity) & a few oak chippings were added to the kit although the sugar was gradually “fed” to avoid a stuck fermentation. The yeast performed excellently to give over 17% ABV (est.). The wine was racked once again during its 11 month bulk maturation. Another 10 months or so in the bottle were needed before it became EXCEPTIONALLY DRINKABLE. A very full taste & a different aftertaste, it too you on quite a “journey” of flavours.

You may ask “Did it taste like a Port?”

“NO!” is the short answer, but I did not care!

In conclusion, modifying rubbish wine kits is not a great idea, it is best to buy a better kit (not necessarily more expensive). See Cheap Kits or visit www.yobrew.co.uk/reviews.php#WinesKits

Pete’s YoBrew Beer +

Wine & Jam Calculators

Annual 2015

Kit Reviews


A simple matter of economics