For decades Coopers Home Brew has been one of the world’s most beloved brands in the beer world. They are easily the most recognisable name in home brewing and Coopers starter brewing kits have been toiled over in garages around the world. Many brewers never make the jump to biab or all grain brews because Coopers Home Brew Extracts do exactly what they say on the label. They produce a decent, drinkable beer with minimal work in the brewing process for peanuts (around $6-8 for a case of stubbies).
The only downside to your Coopers Home Brew (if you're happy with the quality of the beer) is bottling day. Bottling quickly becomes a full-time occupation. You find yourself collecting and washing every left over stubby you see and getting annoyed at anyone who uses a bottle opener on a twist top cap. Your garage and shed become stacked with boxes of bottles in various stages of reclamation for your brew, some rinsed, some with labels scrubbed off, some ready for sterilisation.
Then it comes to the actual day and the real work begins. Every bottle needs to be cleaned, inspected for chips or cracks, sanitised and somehow stacked without touching anything that will re-introduce bacteria. You end up with giant Christmas tree like creations with brown and green glass leaves hanging off them everywhere. Then each bottle needs either dextrose measured into it or carbonation drops added. Alternatively (hot tip, this is much easier!), you need to rack your brew into a bottling bucket with a sugar syrup to bulk prime your brew. This brings the added risk of contamination and oxidation during the transfer though.
A standard Coopers brew usually makes 23L so you now need to bottle 72 stubbies, individually filling them carefully to the correct level with a siphon or racking cane, capping them and moving them to where you will store them to age for a month or so to carbonate.
Usually after a while home brewers start to look towards kegging. Who doesn’t love the idea of fresh beer on tap at home? Unfortunately, the start-up price of a kegging kit can be a major sticking point, especially if there is a Financial Control Officer looking over your shoulder! The kegs themselves are reasonably priced, you can get a brand new 19L keg for under $140 and second hand coke syrup kegs for about $75 (I don’t recommend this, I got one and after scrubbing and doing 3 brews it still smells like syrup).
The problem is that you then need all the other parts.
To force carbonate, you need to chill the keg (the second-best thing about kegging, after fresh beer on tap, is not having to wait for it to carbonate naturally). For that you’ll need a separate fridge that fits the keg in it (or to take all your food out of your fridge for a couple of days).
You’ll also need a CO2 bottle, regulator and beer lines, possibly a manifold or second regulator if you want to pour one keg while carbonating a second one.
You’ll need taps, and, unless you want to drag the keg out of the fridge every time you want to pour a beer, you’ll need to install fonts on the fridge or fork out for a kegerator.
All up you are usually looking at around the $1300 mark to be ready to keg your 1st brew.
This is our basic 23L kegging kit. It includes everything you need to keg, carbonate and dispense 23L of homebrew for $349 using basic components. You can buy it here.
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