Let's Talk Beer and the Best Beer Making Kit for Beginners (and why I chose the one I did)

Update: I posted this in 2013. It's now November 2016 and although my husband went on to brew with a little more advanced version kit, he still uses this one as well. He loves it and yes, it's still in use! Thumbs up for a kit that has more than paid for itself. The only thing I don't like about it is the refills are rather expensive. If you get a good deal on refills; buy up!

Mr. Beer Premium Gold Edition Beer Kit
Today's post over morning coffee is coming from my very overwhelmed, scrambled brain.  It comes from spending numerous nights and more hours than I probably should have, studying all the options for a beginner beer making kit.

Originally I was thinking of getting my husband this for Christmas, but at that time my brain was still scrambled from all I was learning, and I had spent enough on gifts anyway.  I decided to continue 'thinking about it' until his birthday in February.

Everyone will have a different opinion on a good starter kit and why they feel the way they do.  And everyone is entitled to it.  However, after spending all this time debating, I finally made my decision and purchased a starter kit for my husband.  Because it was such an overwhelming process and made my head hurt, I wanted to share my experience of decision making, and why I ultimately chose the one I did.  Perhaps it will help another reader out there who is also looking for a basic, affordable kit.

My husband loves beers.  I use the plural form because loving beers and not beer means he enjoys taste-testing, reading about new beers, trying beers from around the world and enjoying them.   Not just throwing back a few beers on the weekend to get buzzed.  He loves stout ales and Belgian beers the best I think, but by the beach or poolside, he'd opt for Kalik and for a night sitting and talking with the guys he'd grab a Guinness.  Me?  I don't like beer.  I don't drink beer.  I have no interest in beer.  So, you can see why my head was spinning when I was trying to choose a beginner's beer making kit!

After reading through hours of posts on beer connoisseurs' message boards and reviews, I learned of some of the best equipment and ingredient companies.  I read hotly debated discussions about quality, size, brand, ingredients and more.  Every ingredient, brand, kit, supplier or equipment item that someone loved, someone else hated.

In the end I did find 3 'kits' I was seriously considering.  They were for beginners and intermediate brewers and usually included 'everything but the pot, bottles and caps'.   (Like this; Brewers Best Beer Home Brewing Equipment Kit)

Here is actually one of the kits I was almost ready to order;  knowing I also needed to invest in a good stock pot, decent thermometer, bottles, caps, and a couple other items.  A good starter kit I (he) could build on as he got better at brewing.

 Brewing Starter Kit

Then I had a moment of clarity.
  • I don't have much money to spend
  • I don't know if he will LIKE brewing his own beer
  • I don't know if he will have the time to take up another hobby
  • I don't want to waste money purchasing a good kit he may never actually use
  • These beginner/intermediate kits have items he doesn't really NEED and still are missing a few he does

In the end, I went with the Mr. Beer Premium Gold Edition Beer Kit.
  • Includes 2-gallon fermenting keg with lid and tap assembly, two standard refill brew packs, eight reusable plastic 1-liter bottles
  • Includes eight reusable plastic caps, eight labels, Brewing with Mr. Beer brewer's guide, and 4-step brewing instructions
  • Lightweight, shatter resistant keg is made from FDA compliant plastic and imparts no taste or flavor migration
  • Brew pack offers two distinct and popular beers for 2 batches (4 gallons) of home brewed beer
  • Keg's wide mouth allows for easy cleaning; hand wash only; avoid using scouring pads or abrasives during cleaning; keg measures 9.5 x 13 x 9 inches
Why people didn't like it
I researched the reasons people didn't like it and there were only a few reasons;  mainly, sometimes people had leak issues, others complained it didn't make a full 5 gallons like other standard kits made (I think this is a good things for beginners!  Who wants 5 gallons of bad beer?), and lastly; some didn't like the flavor of the beers.  Interestingly enough, those that didn't like the flavor usually were drinkers of uh, less than highly thought of beers to begin with or had been 'crafting their own beers for years' and were snubbing their noses at such a basic kit.  One complaint I thought held merit; the beer was sweet.  Others suggested this was because regular baking sugar was used. 

Why I liked it
Affordability!  Not knowing if this was something my husband wanted to continue or would have a strong interest in, this little hobby kit is the perfect introduction!
The size is great because if he was to brew a standard 5 gallons of beer and it was really, really bad?  What a waste! The smaller size of this kit was a plus.
The kit sells for $35 - $64 depending on where you purchase it.  For roughly $40 I don't have to feel bad if he used it once, didn't care for it or didn't have time for it and it was sent to the back of a closet.
On the other hand, if he found he was interested in this process and wanted to go from the 'Easy Bake Oven' style brewing to 'a real kitchen' style brewing, we could THEN purchase the better kit for beginners and intermediate brewers, knowing it was a smart investment.
Again, 40 bucks wasn't much to be 'out' to see if this was something he might be interested in.

My total for the kit (which comes with 2 beer ingredient packs) and an extra Irish Stout Refill pack came to a grand total of $61.  Basically I chose a quick and easy beginner brew kit to 'test the waters' and hopefully spark an interest in what could become a life-long, enjoyable hobby for him. 

Mr. Beer Classic American Light Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer American Porter Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer Patriot Lager Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer Octoberfest Lager Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer American Ale Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer Bavarian Weissbier Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer Canadian Blonde Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer Aztec Mexican Cerveza Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer Czech Pilsner Refill Brew Pack
Mr. Beer St. Patricks Irish Stout Refill Brew Pack

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Over 1300 positive reviews can't be wrong, right? Contigo AutoSeal West Loop Stainless Steel Travel Mug

Each morning I come to my website, (sipping my coffee), and I get to decide what I'm going to ramble about for the day. This morning I had just responded to an email from my parents regarding a bunch of baby tree's they were sprouting in the garage in anticipation for planting this spring. Not that that has anything to do with coffee, but stay with me here. I'm explaining how today's topic came to be.

So with my parents still on my mind as I logged in; the cross reference between my parents and coffee is the last time they visited us from out of state, my Dad showed me his travel mug and gave me a 15 minute sales pitch as to how great it was, why I should buy one and how it kept coffee hot longer than any other mug he's ever tried.

I actually have no idea what brand it was, what it looked like, nor anything else about it, but that is what was on my mind when I went to Amazon and did a basic search for a good travel mug.

  • I wanted to find one that kept the beverage hot.
  • Sealed well and wouldn't spill.
  • Held enough coffee to make it worth while without being too big.
  • Looked cool.
Well, over 1300 reviews and an almost perfect 5 out of 5 is a good place to start, right?

Contigo AUTOSEAL West Loop Stainless Steel Travel Mug

  • 16-ounce stainless steel travel tumber in black for both cold and hot beverages
  • Patented AUTOSEAL lid automatically seals between sips to ensure no spills
  • Vacuum-insulated technology keeps beverages hot for 4 hours, and cold for 12 hours
  • Contoured body makes this travel mug easy to hold; fits most standard car cupholders
  • Hand washing recommended; lid is dishwasher safe
Designed to be 100-percent leak-proof, this vacuum-insulated 16-ounce Contigo travel tumbler lets you take beverages on-the-go without the risks of a messy spill. The patented AUTOSEAL lid is what makes the mug leak-proof and spill-proof, yet it also makes drinking easy. A contoured body and a soft rubbery grip at the top make this mug easy to hold. This sleek, elegant design also fits most car cup holders. This version comes in black, and it's available in an assortment of colors.

Stays Hot and Cold The 100 percent spill- and leak-proof AUTOSEAL lid automatically seals between sips, making it impossible to spill. There's no lid to remove or spout to open, so it's great for one-handed, on-the-go drinking--whether commuting, hiking, or just dealing with a busy day. Simply press the button to drink and then release to seal between sips. And because the lid system is always closed unless activated, your beverages will remain hotter and colder for longer periods of time.

Contigo AUTOSEAL Travel Tumbler

Made from durable stainless steel, the mug has a double wall and is vacuum-insulated, ensuring that hot beverages stay hot and cool beverages stay cool. Vacuum-insulated technology keeps beverages hot for up to four 4 and cold for up to 12 hours. The double wall construction not only retains temperature, but also prevents external condensation from forming so table tops are free from moisture. It measures 2-1/2 inches round by 8 inches tall, and it weighs approximately 8 ounces.

By using this Contigo product, you're both helping the environment and also saving money by taking your water, coffee, tea, or juices on the road in a reusable container instead of buying water bottles on the go. And research shows that coffee drinkers can save nearly 23 pounds of paper cup waste by toting around their own reusable mug.

Caring for Your Contigo

For easy care, the Contigo lid is top rack dishwasher safe. It is recommended to hand wash the mug body to protect the finish. Always store with lid removed to prevent moisture from becoming trapped in the body or lid after washing. Do not keep liquids that spoil easily, such as dairy, in the mug for prolonged periods.
For use with hot or cold beverages.

About Contigo

Knowing that on-the-go beverages can be messy and complicated to use, Contigo developed a line of simple, yet functionally innovative drinkware to help people face life's daily challenges. The products are stylish, yet resilient; sleek yet strong--the perfect combination of performance and grace. Contigo products give you the confidence you need to face the day and pride in knowing that you bought the best of the best. Contigo is passionate about the products they create and believes you will be pleasantly surprised by the array of helpful innovations it offers.

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Eight O'Clock Coffee - K-cups

This weekend I bought groceries and on my list was my current budget-friendly option of the Colombian blend of Daily Chef k-cups at Sam's Club (because the 54 count Starbucks was not in the budget this trip).  Since I can't get all our groceries at a membership club, I then always stop at the grocery store on the way home to get items I don't need a large size of, or there is a better price.   As I went through the coffee aisle I made sure to stop and price my favorite Sumatra blends... but alas, they were $12.98 for Starbucks (10 count at that!) and even the Green Mountain and other brands were still $11.  Nope.  But wait, what is this?  Eight O'Clock k-cups were now available at my local grocery store.

I've been looking for the Eight O'clock brand for about 3 months - but they hadn't made it to my local area yet.  And, here they were.  And on sale!  $6.98 for a 12 count.  I was happy to see my grocer would now carry them, but my first choice (Colombian) was out of stock.  The only blend they had left was Italian.  No problem.  I usually like the dark Italian blends as well.

This morning I'm on my third cup of Eight O'Clock Coffee Dark Italian Roast and I am giving it a thumbs up.  I like my coffee strong, hot and black.  It comes out of my Keurig brewer at 192 degrees and sipping it straight, I'd say the flavor is just bold enough to taste good, but not overly roasted so it does not have any of the bitter or burnt taste you can sometimes get with Starbucks and other brands.   Even as it cooled to room temperature, I still continued to sip it without problem.  Admittedly, there are many 'good' coffee's I won't' sip once they have cooled as the cooler temperature changes the flavor.  This one was still enjoyable.

As it is roughly half the price of Starbucks, and still a few dollars cheaper than the Green Mountain, House Barista and other brands, it is an affordable option when the budget is tight.  True story:  if I'm not concerned about the food bill upon check out I'd probably buy my Sumatra, but when the budget is taken into consideration, this coffee will happily find a place in my cart.

Products related to this post available through Amazon links;

Eight O'Clock K-Cup Coffee Variety Pack 48ct Original, French Roast, Colombian Peaks, Dark Italian Roast Sampler - Bundle of 4 Flavors  
Eight O'Clock Coffee Dark Italian Roast Keurig Single-Serve K-Cup Pods, Dark Roast Coffee, 72 Count (6 Boxes of 12 Pods)
Eight O'Clock Dark Italian Roast K-Cups (72 count)



Birthday Cake Coffee may be difficult to find, but boy, it's easy to find German Chocolate Cake Coffee

I wasn't looking for Cinnamon Pastry coffee but doesn't it sound delicious?
This afternoon I am taking a coffee break and decided to update my page while I sipped.  What was on my mind is "Birthday Cake Coffee" - a topic I had blogged about some time ago, but it's back in my head.  Part of the reason, I'm sure, is because we've just finished celebrating 2 daughter's birthday, 1 Aunt and 1 Dad... and then 2 friends had kids with birthdays this week and of course our two puppies turned 1 year old this week.  That's a lot of Birthday's on the brain.

So there you go.  Now, I typically link back to Amazon, so that is where I began my search.  Years ago when I wanted Birthday Cake coffee I found about 6 or 7 different brands there to choose from. Yeah, well, not so much anymore.  One.  That's what I found.  One brand!  La Crema Coffee was the only one offering Birthday Cake flavored coffee today. 

What is funny is that if you wanted German Chocolate Cake flavored coffee, well there was more than enough companies offering that one!

Since I'm not a fan of chocolate, (even though I have had the Timothy's brand mentioned above, and with a little sweetener in it to bring out the 'cake' flavor, wasn't bad)  I have to admit that my eyes skimmed over them all.  But I hesitated on this one;  Timothy's World Coffee CINNAMON PASTRY & GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE Flavored Variety Pack 48 K-Cups for Keurig Brewers I think that one sounds good.

But, Birthday Cake flavored coffee?  Looks like it's getting harder and harder to find.