Homebrewing is a fantastic hobby for all beer lovers. It allows you to understand how the brewing process works, and it also allows you to experiment to find your taste preferences. If you are new to homebrewing and not sure where to begin, there are homebrewing kits that you can purchase to point you in the right direction.
All homebrew kits expire, but it is a matter of the ingredients inside. The various contents within the kit all have individual expiration dates. These different ingredients need different forms of storage, and some can be used beyond their best by date.
While brewing your beer at home, there are different factors to take into consideration when it comes to storing ingredients and the different expirations. This article will discuss if homebrew kits expire, if out of date kits are safe to use, and how to store ingredients properly.
Do Homebrew Kits Expire?
A homebrew kit is made up of yeast, hops, pre-milled malted grains, liquid malt extract, priming sugar, and other things needed for home brewing.
All home brewing kits will have an expiration, and the ingredients inside the kit will have different expiration dates.
The expiration of these kits will depend on how they are stored and how long their ingredients typically last.
The freshness of the ingredients will determine the quality of the brew.
An older homebrew kit will create a lighter color beer, and the bitterness and taste of the hops will disappear.
The longer it is expired, the less fresh the beer will taste.
Reasons a Homebrew Kit Expires
The ingredients in a homebrew kit have a certain length of freshness where time after that date will cause your brew to have an unpleasant taste.
There are two main reasons as to why a homebrew kit will have an expiration date:
After a year, the yeast will begin to lose its viability (sooner if it is a dry yeast).
Once it loses its viability, it is not able to ferment as well, and eventually not at all.
There are two things you can do about this – buy new yeast or make a yeast starter.
Often, companies that sell yeast will still sell it past its sell-by date.
They’ll change the date and then mark the price down and do this again if it still doesn’t sell. This is because, even though yeast is expired, there are still living organisms that are willing to reproduce.
To make a yeast starter, you will need a DME (dry malt extract) that creates a small wort that allows the yeast cells to grow.
You will need one gram of DME for every 10 milliliters of starter.
The purpose of the expiration date of the malt is to preserve its color.
If the malt is a year or two past the expiration date, the beer will be darker than what you would typically want it to be.
This is only a problem if you want to brew a light-colored beer, if you are brewing a dark beer, you won’t even notice the difference.
The expiration also serves the purpose of preserving the freshness of the hops in a hopped malt extract.
After a certain amount of time, the flavor and bitterness of the hops will go away. Having this known hoppy taste be absent in your brew may result in a beer that doesn’t taste very well.
If you don’t want this for your brew, it is best to get a new malt extract – you can experiment and see what the outcome is.
How Long do Beer Kits Last?
How long a beer kit lasts depends on how long the contents inside the kit lasts.
The different ingredients that make up a homebrew kit all last a different amount of time, as long as they are being stored correctly.
General guidelines for the expiration of homebrew kit ingredients are:
- Liquid yeast – 1 year
- Dry yeast – 3-6 months
- Un-milled grains – 1 year
- Milled grains – 2-4 weeks
- Liquid malt extract – 1 year. Liquid malt can last longer than one year, but the oxidation will increase.
- Dry malt extract – 1.5 years
- Hops – 1 year. The longer they are stored, the more bitter they can become.
So if you have a homebrew kit, it is best to use it before the ingredient with the shortest shelf life expires.
This will be if the kit has milled grains or dry yeast.
Typically, a kit would last one year.
If the kit just barely past its best by date, then it most likely is still good to use.
But if it is 1-2 years past its date, you should consider replacing some of the ingredients.
Is it Safe to Use Out of Date Kits?
It is a pretty disappointing feeling to come across a homebrew kit just to find out that it has expired. But the good news is that you can still use a homebrew kit that has expired!
The outcome may, however, not be what you were hoping for – with a change of color and taste. But the good news is it will not make you sick.
If you do choose to use an expired homebrew kit, there are a couple of things to keep in mind, such as the ingredients being used and how it was stored.
If the kit ingredients were stored correctly, it is worth giving it a shot. Some of the ingredients, mainly yeast, can degenerate over time, but won’t be deemed unsafe, just less viable.
If the ingredients in the kit were not stored correctly, you might want to replace those items.
Proper storage for homebrew kit ingredients is:
- Grains should be stored in a dry, cool environment. Storing them in a container can help preserve their freshness.
- Liquid extract should be stored in a cool, dry area but is best in the refrigerator. Just look out for mold.
- Hops can be stored in the fridge, but freezer storage can help prolong their life.
- Liquid yeast should be stored in the fridge as soon as it is purchased. Yeast can survive at room temperature, but only for a few days. Dry yeast can last longer than liquid yeast at room temperature but does better in the fridge.
Because yeast becomes less viable over time, it won’t be able to ferment appropriately, leaving you with a beer that lacks alcohol. If the yeast in the kit is well past its expiration date, you should get different yeast to use or try to make a yeast starter.
There are a few home brewing kits that claim you can use their products past their date.
Mr. Beer is a popular home brewing brand that claims their hopped malt extracts last longer because they are in a condensed form.
Other popular homebrewing kits are:
Homebrewing kits are typically stocked fresh every week and have a shelf life of one year.
Ingredients past the due date are still usable, but for a fresher taste, replacing some of the ingredients is best.
Homebrew kits usually last about a year because that is the average length the ingredients within the kit last.
After a while, the yeast loses its ability to work, and the malt extract can alter the color and bitterness of your brew.
It is still considered safe to use an expired kit; you just may not like the taste or looks of your beer.
If you are concerned, you can just replace some of the ingredients with fresh ingredients and give it a whirl.