Adding hops and grain

Once you've become comfortable with making simple kit beers from a can of concentrate, adding hops or grain to your brews is great way to enhance or change kit beers with little effort.

Most cans of concentrate lack much of a hoppy aroma and taste, so for many brewers adding extra hops is a logical progression from a simple "kit and kilo" beer. Grains can add colour, body and taste, and improve the head of your beer. Adding both hops and grain can transform the beer into a different style altogether or enhance the characteristics already present in the can of concentrate.


Different varieties of hops can impart vastly different flavours, aromas and levels of bitterness. The stage in the brewing process at which the hops are added affects what characteristics they impart.

Hops boiled for long periods impart mostly bitterness, hops boiled for 15 minutes or less impart flavour, some bitterness and some aroma, and hops added at the end of the boil or to the fermenter add mostly aroma and no bitterness. You might decide to boil hops to add some extra bitterness, then add some to the boil for 15 minutes and add yet more right at the end of the boil for aroma. To find out more about how hops are used in beer visit the Hops page and for information on different types of hops see Hop varieties.

Step by step: Adding hops

With all the processes below you can strain or seive the hop liquid into the fermenter and discard the hops. While this isn't necessary, the hops may block the bottling tube when it comes time to bottle. An option for dry hopping is to use a hop bag, which is a small bag into which the hops are placed so they don't spread through the beer.

Kettle hops

These are added if you want your beer to be more bitter than the can of concentrate is going to make it. Small amounts of hops can add significant amounts of bitterness, so it's a good idea to know what bitterness you're aiming to achieve (usually based on the style of beer) and how much bitterness the hop variety you are using and the quantity will add to the can of concentrate. While you can do the calculations long-hand, brewing software can do it in an instant. The Secrets of successful brewing page has a list of some paid and free brewing programs.

  1. Bring two litres of water to the boil.
  2. Dissolve 300g or so of liquid or dried malt in the water. While you can use some of the malt concentrate from the can instead of malt extract, you will lose most of the hop flavour and aroma from it.
  3. Add the hops.
  4. Boil for at least half an hour. Up to about an hour of boiling, more bitterness will continue to be extracted from the hops.
  5. Turn off the heat and dissolve the rest of your ingredients in the liquid.
  6. Continue brewing as usual.

Late hopping

Late hopping is the process of adding hops near the end of the boil to extract aroma and flavour. The process is almost the same as that for steeping hops (see below). Hops added at much more than 20 minutes will lose all their flavour and aroma, while those added at the very end of the boil will contribute almost exclusively aroma.

  1. Follow steps 1 & 2, above.
  2. If you're using kettle hops for bitterness, add them and bring the liquid back to the boil.
  3. Between 15 minutes from the end of the boil right up to the end of the boil, add the late hops. You may choose to make several additions to achieve different results, say at 15, 10 and 5 minutes from the end, and when you turn off the heat.
  4. Turn off the heat and dissolve the rest of your ingredients in the liquid.
  5. Continue brewing as usual.

Steeping hops

Steeping hops is mainly done to add aroma, and won't add any bitterness.

A common method of steeping hops is to soak them in boiling water then add the whole mixture to the fermenter. It can be done at the time you add the rest of the ingredients and top up the fermenter, or after fermentation has begun, in a process similar to dry hopping (see below).

  1. Boil a cup or so of water and tip it into a mug or cup.
  2. Add the hops and make sure they are all wet.
  3. Cover and leave to steep for a few minutes minutes.
  4. Tip the lot into the fermenter.

French press

This is a variation on the steeping method, and involves using a coffee plunger to make a "hop tea" that is then added to the fermenter. Many people feel that it's an excellent way of extracting aroma, and is more effective than dry hopping.

  1. Pour two cups of water into a coffee plunger.
  2. Add the hops and swirl them to make sure they're all wet.
  3. Fit the lid to the plunger but don't "plunge" it yet.
  4. Wait a couple of minutes.
  5. Press down the plunger.
  6. Tip the liquid into the fermenter and discard the hops.

Dry hopping

With dry hopping, the hops are added directly to the fermenter as the brew is fermenting. There is negligible danger of infection adding unsanitised hops at this stage because the alcohol in the brew and the hops themselves have antiseptic properties and act to protect the brew.

Dry hopping can also be done after racking a beer. See the Fermentation page for information on racking.

  1. Brew as usual and pitch the yeast.
  2. A couple of days into fermentation, as fermentation starts to subside, add the dry hops directly to the fermenter. The hops are added as fermentation slows because some of the hop aromas are driven off during the fermentation process.
  3. Reseal the fermenter.
  4. Proceed as usual.


Ordinary malted grain such as barley or wheat needs to be mashed to extract its flavour and colour. These grains cannot be steeped and added to kit beers. Instead, you must use grain such as crystal malt (also known as caramel malt) or specialty malt such as dark roasted malts. Generally, such grain is used in fairly small quantities. Even 50g of roast barley will give a light-coloured beer a copper-like hue, while using more than about 200g of crystal grain risks adding a cloying sweetness to the finished brew.

Refer to the Grains section for information about the effect different grains have on a beer and which can be used in a kit brew to add flavour and aroma.

Step by step: Steeping grain

  1. Add the cracked or crushed grains (your homebrew shop can crush the grain for you) to cold water in a saucepan and mix them to make sure all the grain is wet. There should be enough water so that the grain can mix quite freely.
  2. Slowly heat the water to about 70°C, stirring occasionally. Ideally, use a thermometer to monitor the temperature. Do not boil the grain or heat it much above 70C, because this will extract tannins from the husks of the grain and adversely affect the taste of your beer.
  3. Once it's reached 70C, turn off the heat and put the lid on the saucepan.
  4. After 15 minutes, strain the mixture through a sieve, colander or gauze.
  5. Some homebrewers rinse the grain with warm — about 70C to 75C , not boiling — water to extract more of the flavour and colour from the grain, although this is not necessary if you used plenty of water at the start.
  6. Discard the grain (chooks love it).
  7. Return the liquid to the saucepan and boil it for five minutes or so to kill any bacteria, enzymes or other nasties that were on the grain.
  8. Use the liquid to boil or steep hops, if you're using them, or to dissolve the other ingredients.
  9. Continue with the rest of the brewing process as usual.


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