Steeping the grains

Adding extra hops, bitterness and flavour to the Coopers Northwest Pale Ale

By more coincidence than good planning, the Pale Ale I brewed back on 9th July was bottled today, on appropriately enough, International Beer Day. I’ve left it more than long enough in the fermenter, but that hasn’t hurt, and may actually have improved it. It tastes great today, albeit flat as hell straight out of the fermenter on a cold winter’s day in Kendenup, WA where we’ve parked our camper at Leonie’s sisters farm.

I’ve made the Pale Ale before, using the Coopers/Mr Beer Northwest Pale Ale Hop Malt Extract recipe by the book, but this time I wanted to make it more bitter, more like an American India Pale Ale and getting some more flavour from the added Cascade hops. Taking the hydrometer reading today, it’s Specific Gravity is 1002. The Starting Gravity was 1042, so about 5.4% ABV. I have no way of measuring the International Bitterness Units (IBU) because of the malt extract used, but my guess is around 50 as it’s fairly bitter.

Here’s the recipe I crafted: (pun intended!)

You’ll need:

  • 500g Pale Ale Malt grains. I used Briess 2 row – 7 EBC – 3.5 Lovibond. I actually purchased 1Kg of this but only used half
  • 33g Cascade hop pellets. I purchased a 100g bag so only used a third
  • Kettle (e.g. Stainless Steel) that can boil at least 5L comfortably, so about 8L
  • Nylon Mesh Bag large enough to hold the grains
  • Thermometer that can be used to measure the temperature of the water (I used a meat thermometer)


  • Heat 5L of water to 70C/158F
  • Use a rolling pin to crack the grains open in a strong plastic sandwich bag (a handful or two at a time depending on the size of your bag) and put them in a nylon mesh bag
  • Put the mesh bag containing the cracked grains into the kettle (which is now at 70C/158F)
  • Leave the bag in the water for 30 minutes at 70C. This is called steeping the grains and makes Wort. Wort contains the sugars that will be fermented by the brewing yeast to produce beer. The extract is obviously a wort as well and we’ll be adding that into the boil shortly
  • Remove the grain bag and let the excess drip off into the kettle. Pour some boiling water over the bag to release maximum flavour for your wort. Discard the grains from the bag or you can munch on them or make porridge. They do taste good! Or feed them to the birds
  • Bring water to the boil
  • Add the Coopers hop malt extract that has been in hot water to make it runny and pour easily. Use a cooking spatula to scrape out all of the extract. Stir it around in the kettle
  • Stir in 13g pellets of cascade hops for bitterness
  • Boil for another 45 mins
  • Add 8g pellets of cascade hops
  • Boil for another 15 mins
  • Take off boil
  • Add 12g pellets of cascade hops
  • Wait 5 mins
  • Cool down to about 30C/86F by placing the kettle in icy water
  • Pour the contents into your 8.5L fermenting vessel. Do not pour all the hop sediment in that has accumulated at the bottom of your kettle
  • Fill the fermenter with water to top up to the 8.5L mark
  • When at around 22C/71F add yeast and let sit in a warm place to keep at around 22-24C (71F-75F) for at least 2 weeks. For this brew, I left it 3 days short of 4 weeks

I did not dry hop during fermentation, leaving that to try after this one for comparison. I’m thinking of using Galaxy hops for that.

Bottling Day – Brew #5

I would have bottled it a week or two ago, but I had a cracked lower molar which needed to be surgically removed in Hospital yesterday. So in honour of that, this brew is called Molar Pale Ale (MPA).

There was a fair degree of sediment in the brew so I filtered it out into another vessel first, using my grain mesh bag, then cleaned the fermenting vessel and poured it back before bottling.

I only bottled 11 x 740mL PET bottles. Let’s leave them for a month then give them a try, if I can wait that long!

Now let’s have a local brew to celebrate the day. It’s a drizzly cold 12C here today so that calls for a Lost Sailor Dark Ale from Wilson’s Brewing in Albany. A micro brewery that is growing quickly, and with good reason. Their beers taste great and they recently won People’s Choice Award for best brewery at the prestigious Perth Royal Beer Awards in July.

Cheers, Vic

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Previous Brew

Vic opening his Coopers Craft Pale Ale on the Nullarbor

Brewing beer on the road

Using the Coopers Craft Beer Brew Kit

A friend of ours (thanks Mike!) kindly gave Vic a Coopers Craft Beer Brew Kit so he can brew beer on the road and keep costs down. If you haven’t picked up on the fact, Vic loves beer, especially craft beer.

The craft beer kit makes only 8.5L of beer as compared to 23L from the normal Coopers brew kit. But this amount and size of kit is perfect for our setup as this makes one dozen long neck PET bottles (740mL) or a carton (24) of 375mL stubbies from one brew. The PET bottles are also reusable, lightweight and shatterproof, so perfect for travelling.

Cost per carton is under AUD$20

The cost to make one brew is just under AUD$20, taking into account the cost of the malt extract, sugar carbonation drops and sanitiser used to clean the bottles. The kit is only AUD$62 from Coopers online DIY Beer store if you’re a Coopers Club member or $69 if not. Joining the club is free, and you get specials emailed to you and new recipes to try out. The Coopers Community Forum is also a great place to exchange ideas with other home brewers and get useful information and tips on brewing.

Vic made four brews while staying at Leonie’s mother’s house in Gumeracha. So strictly speaking while we are technically on the road, he didn’t make it at a campsite, but that’s our aim. Vic took over the pantry for fermenting the beer and storing the bottles during second fermentation. She wasn’t that impressed but seemed to turn a blind eye.

It’s easy to do

The process of brewing is very straightforward and illustrated well in the Cooper’s video below.

One tip is to immerse the hop malt extract in hot water to get it runny so it mixes well with the water. Also make sure you sanitise your bottles, fermenter and tap well to avoid infection. When buying your extract, if you can, check the Best Before date on the bottom of the tin when you buy it to make sure it’s not old and brew before that date.

The FAQ on the Mr. Beer website recommends to brew using fresh yeast to ensure that the brew ferments thoroughly if you want to brew a beer past its Best Before date (out of curiosity or otherwise).

The four brews Vic made were using the Coopers/Mr Beer (Coopers purchased Mr Beer in 2011) malt extracts Bewitched Amber Ale, Diablo IPA, Northwest Pale Ale and Churchill’s Nut Brown Ale. All were drinkable but the standouts were the IPA and Pale Ale.

We left Gumeracha with 18 long necks. Was this enough to cross the Nullarbor? Surprisingly, yes, but only because Vic had some stocks of canned beer left.

Brewing at a campsite is our next challenge. This would use valuable water for sanitising your equipment and bottles and 8.5L water added to the malt extract in the fermenter, so probably around 12L. It would also rely on ambient temperatures being in the low twenties as you need to keep the fermenting temperature in the high teens or low twenties for about a week, depending on the beer style. This could work if you have an RV with air conditioning but we don’t so we need to pick our places carefully to brew. If you had enough water to spare and these conditions it could be done. We’ll see how we go. If anyone is doing this on the road, please leave any comments or tips below and let us know how your brews taste.

In our next brew, we took it to the next level by adding extra hops and bitterness.

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Next Brew


Glamping with Big Brews and Beers in Berwick

From Lake Eildon, we arrived in Berwick on Tuesday 14 Nov. The next day, Vic dropped Peggy off at one of AAMI’s premium repairers, Capital SMART in Carrum Downs to have her new tail gate fitted. (See this post to bring you up to speed with the broken tail gate). He was told she would be ready to collect on Monday, in five days time. The excess cost $650, but AAMI pay for the cost of a taxi there and back from where ever you are, about $65 each way for us.

Glamping in Berwick

Our good friends Kim and Leo in Berwick kindly accommodated us for a week. This is camping, or should we say glamping at its best. We better not get used to this cozy life. Instant heated shower, toilet, fridge that doesn’t need solar, wow! Leo also crafts a mean home brew using his all grain Grainfather brewing system and has three 19L kegs in his Kegerator. One of which is a Pale Ale which he says isn’t his finest work. He’s being a bit critical, but Vic loves it. So he’s set him the challenge to finish off the keg before we leave, as the keg is needed for a new brew currently fermenting. Keep reading to see if Vic finishes it…

A few bottles of wine and glasses of beer are consumed over the week with daily culinary delights served up by our hosts. Leo being Argentinian makes an awesome Tortilla! Friday night we turn it up a notch or two with another couple of close friends, Lu and Dean joining us. The night erupts with music and song, with Leo on classical guitar and Lu mesmerising with spanish and gypsy ballads. The three compadres all share a passion for craft beer and Dean delights by bringing cans of Dainton Brewery’s Insane Uncle IPA. This is currently Leo’s favourite IPA, especially from the tap at the brewery. Vic is in hop heaven as well as trying to finish the Pale Ale. Dean’s a good mate and offers to help. However, they don’t seem to be making a dent to the Keg as Leo has set a lofty challenge.

It’s all about the R&D…

For Research and Development purposes only, Leo and Vic decide it’s a good idea to head to Dainton Brewery, co-incidentally also in Carrum Downs where Peggy is getting repaired and also right next door to an outdoor gazebo retailer which Kim and Leo wanted to visit. How convenient! Dainton craft extraordinary beers and they went down easily. This glamping life is getting too comfortable!

On Monday Vic is collected by a taxi to take him to Capital SMART to collect Peggy. The door frame is new, and they’ve fitted the old window and inside plastic panels. On top of that, she has been washed and tyres painted black, which would have taken some effort from the amount of insects we’d collected along the way. Thank you Capital SMART and AAMI, the service we received was excellent. Someone will have to learn about closing doors!

By Monday everyone agrees they’ve indulged maybe a tad too much and in need of a week of recovery. It’s a bitter sweet end to a great week. We need to head off on our journey, but also know it’ll be a while before we see our good friends again. Did Vic finish the keg? No, he had just one job and couldn’t do it. Mind you, he gave it a fair crack!

We pack up Tuesday morning. We need to be in Adelaide on Saturday for a family get together, so we decide to head to a free camp at Fitzroy River Reserve near Tyrendarra we’ve found on WikiCamps near Portland, Victoria.

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