Ok, here’s my review for an online ordering experience for homebrew supplies from Midwest Supplies. It might seem harsh but read the entire review for my overall impression (yes I’m picky as hell when it comes to MY expectations when spending MY money). Normally I pickup all my homebrew supplies/ingredients from my LHBS (Local Home Brew Store). I’m very lucky to have Brewmasters Warehouse as my LHBS and rarely need to order online. However there are times when they are simply out of something and have no ETA for getting it back in. This was the case when I inquired about some hops needed for an upcoming brew day. What was needed that my LHBS didn’t have? Sorachi Ace and Motueka hops. After searching the internet for online stores that carried them AND had them in stock I finally found Midwest Supplies had both of the elusive hops in stock! I quickly added them to my shopping cart and proceeded to checkout. Everything up this point went very smoothly.
During checkout I was given the option to create an account with Midwest. I chose that option and filled out the form and proceeded with my checkout. $5 worth of hops with a $6.35 shipping fee. OUCH! I did opt to get their FREE Brewing DVD and catalog so that might have bumped the price on shipping but I doubt it. For simplicity and buyer protection I opted to use PayPal to make my payment. Everything went smooth right? Not really. The account I created during checkout never got created. I had to go back after the fact and create a new account using the same info I used before. Sadly my order was NOT connected to my account and there was NO WAY to check on my order status.
I did receive an email (to the address used for PayPal and not the one I thought was being used in the account I thought was created) confirming my order, complete with an order number. The email confirmed I had paid through PayPal and said I would get an email in 24-48 hours with a tracking number. That was the ONLY communication I had from them. Since my order was placed on a Friday afternoon, I waiting until Tuesday afternoon to even start to contact them. I sent them a PM on Homebrew Talk since they are fairly active there. No reply.
Wednesday morning my mail carrier pulled up outside my house and brought a package to my door. It was the hops I had ordered from Midwest. Thankful to have my hops I quickly took them out of the box and stuck them in the freezer. I checked my email, nada from Midwest. Not that it would matter at this point to get a tracking number but I’m wondering how long it’ll take or IF they’ll ever contact me about the order.
The following are MY feelings about the DVD. I do applauded Midwest for even making it and offering it for FREE to their customers.
I popped the DVD into my computer and well, it didn’t want to play right (I use Linux and the DVD didn’t like the player I was using) so I took it into the other room and played in my DVD player. The video is a simple video that gives the basics. It has Extract brewing covered, All Grain Brewing covered, making Wine from juice and making wine from fruits. It also has a brief section on soda and liquor. There were a few things in the brewing DVD that kind of hit me wrong. In the extract version, when talking about water. They use the old standard of if it tastes good it’ll make good beer. That’s not bad info but to say that if you use well water that you’d be better off using store bought water is just flat out WRONG. At least well water doesn’t have CHLORINE or CHLOROMINE in it. They didn’t mention that at all. Again it was a basic explanation of how to brew.
The All Grain section of the DVD really needs to understand that a mashout isn’t to prevent a stuck sparge but to make the sugars’ more fluid and more easily rinsed. It would have been nice if they included a little acknowledgement about BIAB brewing but that’s just nit picking. Another thing that they should have mentioned is.. you don’t need to collect exactly 6 or 6.5 gallons of water. You might need to collect MORE if your boil off rate is higher. there is no set in stone number for boil off. it WILL be different for each setup.
The wine sections are pretty straight forward on wine making showing the different equipment needed if you want to press your own grapes. They also cover a recfratometer in this section. They do mention a hydrometer in both brewing sections and both wine sections. They however only say it’s used to determine how much alcohol is present. It’s really used to record the Starting Gravity and Final Gravity (SG and FG). I understand that their main goal here is to give the BASICS and to hopefully increase sales. Maybe one day I’ll do an in-depth brewing video just to cover as many bases in brewing as I can and then I’ll do it my way and open myself up for criticism like this.
Pros and Cons for shopping with Midwest Supplies:
Pros: If it’s in stock it says so on their website. Prices are about average. They offer several shipping options. They use a 3 person QC on the order. one for the picker, one for the auditor and one for the packer. They were quick to get the order packed and shipped. My order was accurate and complete. They offer a FREE DVD on the BASICS of brewing. It might not be the greatest but at least they do offer it. Big thumbs up to them for that.
Cons: Complete lack of communication. In this day and age there is no excuse for poor communication. The checkout option to create an account obviously didn’t work. With no account I was unable to see status updates for my order. If they are going to drop the ball on communication at least provide a way for a customer to enter an order number and get an update without needing an account. If you offer an option to make an account, make sure it works. Shipping rates are a little steep.
Overall impression: Overall I’d recommend them to others. I would tell them to create and account BEFORE ordering that way they can check on order statuses in the event that they don’t get any emails. If I need to order online in the future I’ll consider ordering from Midwest again. I know my comments above may have seemed like I was unhappy with my shopping experience and I truly wasn’t. I was just unhappy with the lack of communication that probably would have been avoided if the account creation during checkout had worked. Thanks Midwest for having the hops I was looking for in stock and getting them to me in time to brew this weekend.