Friday 15 October 2021

What is a Fresh Wort Kit (FWK)?

Fresh Wort Kit's (FWK's) are a relatively new concept in the world of homebrewing and are an excellent way for home brewers of any skill level to quickly and easily make great tasting beer at home.

First of all, what is "wort"? Pronounced as "wert", it is essentially unfermented beer. A mixture of water and the sugars and other proteins that have been extracted from malted grains through a process called "mashing". This mixture is then boiled for 60 minutes (in most cases) and hops are added at different times throughout the boil for bittering and flavour/aroma. The wort is then cooled and packaged into a plastic bladder/bag which becomes a fresh wort kit. You then ferment this wort at home by pouring it into your fermenter and adding yeast which converts the sugar to alcohol and magically creates beer!

A fresh wort kit will typically be around 15L in capacity - and can sometimes be diluted with a further 5L or so of fresh water to make a total capacity of around 20L - capacities can vary from kit to kit but these are the general capacities most kits work to. To put this into perspective, a case of 24 x 375ml cans comes to 9L.

FWK's are similar in principle to the tins of malt extract that most people have seen and associate with homebrewing - also known as "kit and kilo" brewing. The difference with the malt extract tins though, is that the wort in these tins has had the majority of water removed from them, leaving behind a thick, sticky syrup. The process of removing this water (dehydrating) also takes some of the nutrients and other flavours with it, leading to a compromise in quality and taste of the end product when it's rehydrated by adding water back into it. A beer made with a tin of extract will never taste as good as one made with fresh grains, or with a fresh wort kit.

Fresh wort kits are generally made by large, professional breweries - and this is what the benefit of a these kits are - you can make brewery quality beer at home, at a fraction of the cost. Also, since wort itself contains no alcohol, it is exempt from the large taxes that are applied to ready-made beer making it much more cost effective. 

They are also a great alternative for more experienced brewers who are time poor (or feeling lazy). They're an easy way to compare how your own brews made from scratch stack up against a professionally made one. They can also provide a way to ensure your cold side practices and fermentation methods/procedures are working well.

You only need a few pieces of equipment to get started with a FWK;

  • A fermenter (plastic bucket fermenters are cheap and easy to source)
  • A fresh wort kit (obviously)
  • Yeast
  • Bottles or a keg to package your beer into once it's been fermented
  • Additional water to dilute the FWK (depending on the FWK)
  • Hops (depending on the FWK)

Don't be intimidated by some of these things - any FWK that you buy will recommend what yeast to use, if any additional water should be added (and how much), as well as any additional hops that are required for dry hopping.

"What is dry hopping?" I hear you ask. That is simply the process of adding more hops to the wort during or after fermentation - this adds additional flavours and aromas to the beer depending on what type of hops (and how much) are added.

So how do you actually make a fresh wort kit? The process is incredibly simple and takes no time at all.

  1. Pour the FWK into your cleaned and sanitised fermenter
  2. Pour any additional water into the fermenter as recommended by the FWK
  3. Add the yeast to the fermenter - this would typically be dry yeast that is simply sprinkled into the fermenter
  4. Wait for the magic of fermentation to begin and end - it will usually take 7-10 days to fully ferment
  5. Add dry hops during or after fermentation as recommended by the FWK
  6. Once fermentation is complete, package your beer in bottles or a keg

Depending on what type of beer you're making you will likely need to have the water and wort within a certain temperature range for optimal results. Ales are the easiest as the yeasts used to make ales typically have a recommended temperature range of 17 - 22C which is room temperature in most climates.

A popular brand of FWK in Australia is "All Inn Brewing Co" who make a large variety of kits and also release limited edition seasonal kits. We've made a couple of their kits ourselves with excellent results.
Have you ever made a fresh wort kit? Or are you keen to give one a try? Let us know in the comments below!

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