The bad news is that Cooper's mixes didn't produce very tasty beers, so I decided to give all-grain brewing a try. Using a kit (extract brewing) versus all-grain brewing is kinda like baking a cake from a mix versus from scratch. There's a local store in the area, Homebrew Headquarters, that sells the grains and other ingredients and supplies for all-grain brewing.
I chose a nut-brown ale to start.
Mashing. 152 F degree water extracts sugars from 7.5 lbs pale malt, 1 lb crystal malt, and 0.3 lbs chocolate malt.
Boiling wort with hops added in hop sacks.
Cooling the wort (beer without yeast or fermentation). Cool to 70 degrees F before fermenting.
Hydrometer reading of pre-fermented beer after sealing in fermenter with air lock. 1050 original gravity reading...perfect, water is 1000. So final gravity should be around 1005 to 1015, equating to about 5-6% alcohol.