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How to use Sodium Percarbonate to clean and sanitize beer brewing equipment


sodium percarbonate cleaning beer bottles


Using Sodium Percarbonate to clean and sanitise your beer brewing equipment


The first mantra of beer brewing goes something like this:

Make sure your equipment is clean and sanitized!

There are many ways of going about this and today we are going discuss our preferred method which is by using sodium percarbonate.

Usually provided in powered form, it is very soluble in water which makes it very handy for quick preparation and an easy soak of your equipment and fermenter.

This is our preferred method as it works well, no rinse is required and it's very easy to order in bulk online.

If you've ever tried to buy sodium percarbonate from a specialist beer brewery shop, you'll know that you can get a small bottle or container of it that will cost you a small fortune.

If you can buy it in bulk from an online supplier, you'll do well to nab some as using it will effectively bring down your cost per brew.


How to use sodium percarbonate?



To use sodium percarbonate you simply add it to water.

Be generous with it.

I like to add hot or even boiling water to the fermenter drum so as to get the action of the chemical happening pretty quickly.

sodium percarbonate to clean brewing gearThe boiling water also helps kill off any nasties hiding about as well.

I close the drum so the vapour gets up the sides and then when things have cooled, I give it a pretty good shake.

Or fill the drum all the way to the top and leave to soak.

Don't confuse 'cleaning with chemicals' as 'cleaning your beer gear'


Don't confuse 'cleaning' with sodium percarbonate as cleaning your bottles and equipment or the fermenter.

For me, that is a very different process.

Your equipment needs to have as much gunk and much removed as you possibly can before you use the cleaner.

Get struck in with a soft brush and some really hot water and make sure your fermenter is really damn well cleaned and clear of any residue from your last brew. Pro tip - you can use PBW cleaner.

That line of scum that forms at the top of the water line?

You don't want to see it before you use the sodium percarbonate.

In my view, it's job is the final part of the cleaning process.

Once you are ready, give your beer making gear a really long soak.

I've seen people say a quick dip of ten minutes is all you need but I say at least half an hour and frankly If I remember before brew day, I soak the fermenter in the percarbonate solution over night.

My thinking is the longer you leave it, the more bugs that will be killed, in addition to the good oxidisation cleanse that will happen.

But an oxidisation clean is not sterilization right?


Fair question.

So if percarbonate is just a cleanser, do I need to sterilize as well?

You may wish to consider using a sterilizing agent like Star San but in my experience, if you have cleaned your equipment and then soaked it very well, you shouldn't really need to use a sterilizer. This is because the sanitiser should have killed most of the bugs, especially as there's argument that the percarbonate does all you need to provide excellent brewing conditions.

The choice is yours.

If you can get cheap steriliser and have the time, go for it.

You might already have sodium percarbonate in your laundry as a laundry soaker!


Here's a handy trick, this chemical is basically what you might know as Tide or Napisan or any product with a brand name that tries to use the word 'oxy' as in oxygen cleaning or oxidization agent. 

That's right, most of the fancy laundry soaking products have sodium percarbonate as a key ingredient!

Chances are you already have some in your home laundry so feel free to use that.
I have done so several times with no problems whatsoever.

Non scented house brands are awesome.

If you do use a scented brand, your fermenter might smell like some lovely lavender field so be wary of that and rinse with copious amounts of water if need be.


If in doubt about home cleaners, ask for the mandated information safety data sheet


If you are really worried about what's actually in your laundry soaker, you can ask your supplier for the information.

It's law in many countries that such documentation is available.

In New Zealand for instance, all such products must be registered by law and a safety data sheet be provided on demand which contains the ingredients used in the product.

You can then use that knowledge to decide if you wish to use it.

The Caustic Soda option


As an aside, if you've got say a really stubborn fermentation scum ring that just wont seem to wash off, you could consider using caustic soda.

Beer in mind that it is an extremely strong cleaning agent and it needs to be used with necessary precautions such as gloves and eye protection.

Do not get caustic soda in your eye, that agent will literally give you a chemical burn.

Believe me, when I was a young lad I worked in a chicken restaurant and while preparing a solution of caustic soda to clean gear, I drop got in my eye.

It burnnned so bad.

A hospital visit and eye patch for a week followed.

So clearly, you will need to do an excellent rinse after. Just be bloody careful.

Most beers shops or hardware stores stock the soda - it's commonly known as sodium hydroxide.

So is it safe to use every day laundry cleaner products with my beer?


If the thought of using what gets your 'whites whiter', Oxyclean or whatever Oxy style product you've found in your laundry freaks you out, take a step back and have a Kit-Kat.

These products are designed for washing clothes and yes, the percentage of sodium percarbonate is far less than buying percarbonate by itself in bulk.

So why do it? 

Because it's cheap and it works.

It really does.

If you are concerned that your 'off the supermarket shelf product' will leave strange smells or residues, you can do two things.

You can chose to not use it and get a 100% percent sodium percarbonate product (New Zealand brewers should check out Trade Me), or you could just rinse after the soak.

Flush your equipment and fermenter out with a lot of cold water. A trick I then do is boil the kettle and finish off the rinse with boiling water.

I'm not sure if it's a mental thing but I consider this to be the final thing that kills any lingering bugs.

I have used home brand sodium percarbonate laundry soaker products myself many times and have never had a problem.

Not once.


You could also consider using this next magical chemical: Star San


If you've ever read any internet forum about beer making and noticed that any time a keen beer brewer talks about cleaning or sterilising, along comes a dude claiming that Star San is the best product he's ever used!?

But what is it really and is it effective?

Star San is a bactericide and fungicide. It can be used without rinsing under the proper concentrations. Star Sans' main ingredients are a blend of phosphoric acid and dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid.

That's a long way from Kansas, Dorothy!

Many beer brewers swear by this product for their kill bug killing needs, so if all the other chat about percarbonate has put you off, you might want to consider this product.

If you can't find any Star San at your local beer shop or supermarket, it may be purchased online at Amazon.

What about the satchets that came with my home brew kit. Should I just buy more of those?


Your standard home brewing kits will come with a satchet of cleaner, and it's probably advertised as no rinsing required, the so called 'no rinse'. It is quite simply likely to be a sachet of sodium percarbonate.

Don't get sucked into buying a sachet at $1.50 a pop.

If you are going to continue to brew in the long term, like many of your ingredients, you'll want to consider buying in bulk.

One final tip for expert beer makers - Don't confuse sodium bicarbonate for percarbonate - you're not making a cake!

So there you have it, a brief summary of how to use sodium percarbonate and the ways to buy it online and also to find it in your home laundry.

If you're in the States, consider buying some sodium percarbonate from Amazon. 

5 mistakes EVERY beer maker should watch out for


5 mistakes EVERY beer maker should watch out for


Beer brewing can be a thankless task at times and no one will thank you if you serve them a horrible tasting home brew when you host your mates for a 'BBQ and Brews' evening.

Here's 5 mistakes that home brewers should bear in mind before they even begin to open the can of malt extract from their kit.

If you follow them well, you'll be sure to produce some delicious tasting brews.

1. Wash, wash away your sins.


We actually mean santise. Sanitise the heck out of everything you use. If you're starting out as a home brewer, your equipment and kit should contain a cleansing and sterilizing agent.

You NEED to make sure that at the very least your drum is fully clean and sterilized before your start your brewery process.

There is nothing more disappointing that going to bottle your brew and recognizing the scent of a bad brew that has been contaminated by nasty bugs.

2. Temperature 


It would be a mistake to think that home brewing is basically a 'set and forget' process.

It's not.

Well, it can be and a key part of that is making sure that where ever you leave your beer to ferment that it's a place that has the desired temperature and that it is a constant temperature.

Don't leave your beer outside on the back porch to do it's thing! Too muhc heat will kill the yeast. Too much cold and it will go dormant. Leave it wrapped in blankets in your garden shed if you have to, but make sure it's in a generally constantly heated place.

My work colleague leaves her beer brewing in the bath tub!

3. Those bubbles...


Just because the bubbles have stopped bubbling through the airlock, it doesn't mean the fermentation process is complete.

It would be a real shame for your bottled beer to start exploding if you haven't given the beer a chance to finish the process.

Use a hydrometer to ensure the fermentation is finished before you at least consider getting that beer into glass bottles.

Hint, more experienced brewers tend to let the batch sit in the fermenter for at least a week longer than normally recommended on beer kit cans or after fermentation is complete. In the sense that the yeast has stopped feasting on the sugars and making alcohol, fermentation has finished however there's a 'tidy up' phase where sediment falls to the bottom of the fermenter which helps clear the beer.


3. Running before you can walk



Get the basics of beer brewing down first.

Before you run off and try and make the most fanciest beer you can that features some imported yeast from England and three different kinds of hops, learn the principles of beer making.

You will enjoy your first few brewing experiences if you keep them simple. Then you can start to branch out into more complicated recipes and practices.


4. Not keeping records



If you write down what you did, what you used, when you did it and why you'll have a good basis on which to make judgement about your beer brewing failures and successes.

If you find that you've pulled off a stunner of a beer, you might be able to figure out just exactly how that happened.

It could be the difference between remembering that you used a certain kind of hops in your brew!

5.  You drink your beer too early


Patience my young Padawan.

It is a mistake for sure to drink your beer too early.

Post bottling, your beer needs time to carbonate. It also needs time to chill and do its thing. The fermentation process is in a sense a simple chemical reaction but there is a complex relationship going on with the beer's ingredients that need time to sort themselves out.

The patient beer drinker who leaves his beer at least three weeks before indulging will be a better beer maker for it. If you can make it to 5 or 6 weeks before you taste, the better your beer should taste.

Image credit Bruno Girin as per Creative Commons Licence

Do I really have to sanitise all my beer brewing equipment?

sanitization of beer brewing equipment

Yes you do bloody have to clean, sanitize and sterilize your beer brewing equipment, right down to the bottle caps and stirring spoon.

There are plenty of tricks and cheats you can do to product quality tasting beer but the one thing you can't escape from is the proper cleaning, sanitizing and sterilization of your beer gear.

There's a difference between sanitizing and sterilizing

Sanitizing is a technical term that means a certain allowable amount of microbes to survive on the surface of your equipment.

Sterilizing is like sanitizing, but it removes all the microorganisms (the bugs and germs that will ruin your beer).

 Do I have to sanitize my brewing equipment every time I make beer?Think of washing your hands with hot water and soap as sanitization as it kills a few bugs but not all and is an acceptable means of cleaning your hands.

If you want to kill all the bugs on your hand so the skin is sterile with no bugs on it anywhere, then I suggest you boil your hands in water...

For the most part, the typical home brewers doesn't need to sterilize, only sanitize. The chemicals commonly used for homebrew brewing are made to sanitize.

Now we've got those definitions clear, there are several methods that you can try to 'sterilize' your gear. We'll note a couple in detail:

You can drown everything in bleach

A cheap and cost effective way to get your gear free of bugs is to drown your gear in bleach.

But what is bleach?

Bleach is usually a solution of  chemicals such as sodium hypochlorite or hydrogen peroxide and they act as an oxidizing agent. They are great for all kinds of things such as removing bad smells, making your whites whiter and your brights brighter and for home brewing.

A popular American brand of bleach is Chlorox but there are hundreds of brands of bleach you could use.

As with all these sterilizing methods, you simply soak your equipment in the solution for a good length of time. A quick dip of ten minutes is the bare minimum.

We try and do several hours of soaking if possible.

The trick with bleach is to remember that you need to rinse everything off with clean water after. This is done to ensure that no yucky flavours left over from the bleach make it into your batch of beer. 

Use sodium percarbonate as a sanitizing agent

Using sodium percarbonate is our preferred method as it works well, no rinse is required and it's very easy to order in bulk online.

If you've ever tried to buy sodium percarbonate from a specialist beer brewery shop, you'll know that you can get a small bottle or container of it that will cost you a small fortune.

If you can buy it in bulk from an online supplier, you'll do well to nab some as using it will effectively bring down your cost per brew. 

To use sodium percarbonate you simply add it to water. I like to add hot or ever boiling water to the drum so as to get the action of the chemical happening pretty quickly. The boiling water also helps kill off any nasty bugs hiding about as well. 
using sodium percarbonate to steralise beer equipment
A home brand with sodium percabonate.

Here's another trick, this chemical is basically what you might know as Tide or Napisan or any product that's brand name tries to use the word 'oxy' as in oxygen cleaning or oxidization agent.

Chances are you already have some in your home laundry so feel free to use that. I have done so several times with no problems whatsoever.

Non scented house brands are awesome.

Other methods to sanitisation and sterilization
  • Applying heat - use your oven for a good dry heat.
  • Boiling in water
  • Use an autoclave or pressure cooker (this seems like a bit of over kill though)
  • An ordinary house dishwasher machine can be used for sanitation
They key goal here is to make sure that your equipment is nice and clean and that it has as few microbes on it is possible. You can use whatever means you like to achieve this but you have to do it and you must be consistent.

You cannot take a break from it. If you want good tasting beer that's not contaminated then you just have to take the plunge. 

Image credit Anna L Martin as per Creative Commons License

Why does my beer smell like rotten eggs?

Why does my beer smell like rotten eggs?


Who likes the smell of rotten eggs in their beer?

No one.


There was a time last year when I went to bottle my beer. I'd just sterilized the bottles within an inch of their lives and I was ready to get the precious amber fluid into them.

And with that first pour into the green glass bottle I got the most rank smell.

It was like I had cracked open a rotten egg and fanned it up my nose! It was disgusting like some kind of vile hydrogen sulphide bomb had been let off.

My brew was contaminated and I was gutted

There could have been a couple of reasons why the rotten egg smell was happening. That rotten egg smell can usually be identified as the gas hydrogen sulfide.

It's the most obvious symptom that your beer has gone bad.

It is the bi-product of the yeast strain or bacteria that have snuck into your brew (did we ever mention you've got to sanitize your equipment?).

All is not necessarily lost however.

If you are brewing a lager is possible that the taste of the sulphur will reduce or disappear during the lagering process. So basically all you have to do to fix this is let the beer stand for a few more weeks.

The news is not so good if you have a bacterial infection 

When is such news ever good?

In my case I think it was clear that the beer was infected. The smell was pungent and a wee taste test suggested worse things were on offer.

But I was a stubborn bugger and bottled anyway on the off chance a bit of time conditioning would let everything sort itself out.

How wrong was I.

The beer I tasted after two weeks was probably the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth and I once lost a beer drinking game involving a kitchen cloth....

 I reckon this bad beer would have made me sick if I had of drank a whole glass.

The rest of the brews were opened and tipped out. What was very interesting was there was a massive amount of CO2 / bubbles foam released when each cap was removed. They were giant gushers.  I imagine this was due to the unwanted bacteria continuing to work it's own magic on the malt.

Either way, the lesson here as always is to do your absolute best to ensure that you have clean equipment and that you've done your best to sanitize it, and kept it clean during the beer brewing process.

Skunked beer


While we're here talking about ruined beer, let's talk about skunked beer. This is when a chemical reaction happens in the bottled beer due to exposure to sunlight.

So named after the smell a skunk can release, lightstruck beer is caused by the UV radiation in light from the sun and retailer's lights. The so-alpha acids in the beer (which come from hops) are broken down and form a new compound in the beer by joining with any proteins floating around. This compound stinks!

Brown glass is pretty handy at preventing this from occurring but not so much green bottles or clear glass. So, the trick to avoiding skunked beer is clearly to store your beer in the dark.

In summary:
  • If you are brewing a lager, the smell could be 'normal' and may disappear after the beer has been conditioned
  • It could well be your beer is contaminated by bacteria, in which case nothing will save it. Head to the pub for a self pitying pint.
  • Lightstruck or skunked beer can happen when bottled beer is left in sunlight too long.

How to make your own beer enhancer

How to make your own beer enhancer


The key goal of any brew enhancer is to help the beer have more body, a great taste and good mouth feel

If you just use sugar for the yeast to feed on, you will get a thin, weak beer. 

Of course you do not need to buy brew enhancer, you can make your own. There is no right way to prepare the enhancer as different ratios and different ingredients can produce different effects on your beer.

If you are going to make your own enhancer, here’s some ingredient ratios which you could use as a guide:


Beer style
Dextrose
Maltodextrin
DME
Light Beer 
60%
40%
0%
Ale, more malty beer
50%
25%
25%

The quantity to make is is 1Kg per 23 litre brew.

The beauty of using the dextrose is that it is apparently a more favoured food of the yeast when compared to ordinary sucrose sugar and so fermentation will commence more quickly. 


Whether that makes a difference to the end result, I don't know. 

You do not have to follow the above guide - you could simply make a 50/50 split of DME and brewing sugar (which is simply corn sugar).

Many beer supply shops will carry the ingredients you need. That way you can get the advantage of buying in bulk so to reduce your brewing costs. 

Check out the price of DME on Amazon.

Black Rock Nut Brown Ale Beer Kit Review

After my successful crack at a bohemian pilsner, I turned by beer googles to Black Rock’s ‘Nut Brown Ale’ beer kit. Like WilliamsWarn beer kits, it also made in the famous New Zealand Speights Brewery.

review nut brown ale beer kitThe kit is pitched by Black Rock as a “malty, deep amber coloured beer with a balanced harmony of crystal malt and hops to create a notably clean taste with a malt accented flavour.”

So shall we see if what I brew gets anywhere near that carefully crafted piece of PR spin?

The preparation of this beer is very standard.


Santize your gear thoroughly. Add the kit and a beer enhancer. You will certainly need anenhancer else, your ale will be to thin and have poor mouth feel.

After pre hydrating it, I added the bog standard brewing yeast that comes with the kit. I understand that every yeast packet from the Black Rock contains the same  yeast which they call ‘Premium Dry Brewing Yeast Sachet’.

I could have got a yeast that was more properly matched to make an ale (such as may be the Nottingham) but I’m keen to see what the kit delivers.

And now I did something a little hypocritical.

While the Nut Brown Ale kit comes with green bullet and pacific gem hops, I added goldings hops to add a lil delight. They key thing for this beer is that it should be fairly light on hops so to not over bitter your beer.

Then I wrapped the fermenter in sheets and left it in the shed for a 9 days where it bubbled away quite nicely.

Let’s talk about this kind of beer for a moment.

The Brown Ale style originally gained popularity in the down and dirty pubs of England, where beer guzzlers expressed a need for beer that was both flavorful and complex, but at the same time mild enough to be a session beer.

Bottling day came and the beer was duly bottled.

And then I waited a whole two weeks before even trying my ale. For me that’s an eternity but this is what a patient beer brewer must do if he wants to make quality tasting beer.

So, how did the ale taste? Did it reach lofty heights of flavour as suggested by the PR spin?


I made a simple beer. It tasted earthy and brown. 

I can’t say that the goldings hops did anything amazing for the beer but they certainly helped leave a nice after taste on the tongue. One could certainly appreciate the malty flavour of the beer so the description of the product bears out somewhat.

The verdict: The Nut Brown Ale kit from Black Rock is a handy example of the beer. It’s not flash in the pan but for the home brewer that’s conscious that some beer kits can be ludicrously expensive, this particular kit gives good value for money.

Review of William Warn's 'Bohemian' Pilsner beer kit


I decided to try the Williams Warn Bohemian Pilsner at the suggestion of a keen home brewer.

Williams Warn’s version of a traditional Bohemian Pilsner is touted as having “a rich, complex maltiness and a crisp finish”.

So that’s the challenge for this home brewer, can I produce a beer as described?

What is a bohemian pilsner?


There are basically two kinds of pilsners, the German and Bohemian. The difference between the two is often the  geographicsource of their ingredients.

Bohemian brews are said to have a more malty character that the German version and so I guess that's why WilliamsWarn is mentioning it in their product description.

Let’s talk about the actual kit


The kit includes a 3.75 pound can of pre-hopped Premium Bohemian Pilsner liquid malt extract, designed by Ian Williams and crafted at Lion Brewery in New Zealand. 

Lion is of course famous for producing it’s own world conquering beer, Steinlager.

I combined the beer kit with WilliamsWarn’s own DME pack which I think from memory was 1250 grams or about 3 pounds.

The yeast was the Fermentis Saflager W34/70 lager yeast which is a popular brewing yeast for lagers that originated from where else but Germany.  

Brewing the kit


The brewing was a pretty standard affair following the usual beer brewing practices, the only thing of note was I added some cascade hops. I should more properly use a noble hops such as sazz but the cascade was all I had!

I suspect this combination may give me a potentially fruity taste which could contradict the intended crisp taste that’s sought but we’ll see.

Let’s talk about the yeast


The first thing I noticed about the yeast packet was that it had approximately twice the amount of yeast of any other beer kit that I’ve ever used.

So I was not surprised when less than two hours after pitching the yeast I walked back into the man shed and heard the barrel happily bubbling away quite strongly.

I looked into the yeast a bit further and learned that the Williams Warn claims 'When you pitch these yeasts into your wort, you’ll see activity within hours.'

So their claims were true and that totally gives me confidence that this beer kit comes from a brewer who actually knows what they are talking about.

Good stuff.

The brew carried on bubbling very strongly  for three full days at a pretty good rate and then it slowly wound down.

Into the bottle goes the brown liquid


Bottling day came 6 days later.

The beer smelt and tasted good. 

I bottled into a variety of 750 and 500 mls bottles.  

I also tried to use as little sugar as possible as I’m quite conscious that I’ve had a few too many gushers of late.

That’s just a waste of beer and money eh?

So what's the verdict on the beer?


The pilsner proved to be quite a tasty drop. It had a nicely balanced body and left a great after taste.

Despite the addition of cascade hops, their effect was quite minimal. I perhaps should added more.

Being a pilsner it was drunk nice and cold, which is just what you need for some summer drinking. 

It also gave good head, which is always pleasing... 

How did the beer compare to Williams Warn's description? Did it have a “a rich, complex maltiness and a crisp finish” as touted by the brand?

Kind of!

The beer certainly did have a malt taste that I would not expect of a pilsner but that could be the effect of too many years drinking mass produced pilsners.

As for a crisp finish, I would not describe my brew as having one, none-the-less it was a very drinkable beer. 

And what of the beer's look?

Indeed, I made a fine, deep golden beer.

I would happily brew this beer again!

If you want more than my word for this beer kit, check out the reviews for it on Amazon.

If you don't want great beer, then don't cool your wort with a chiller

how to cool a beer wort with a chiller
When making beer, the key part of the whole exercise is getting fermentation occurring as quickly as possible once the wort has been prepared.

The trouble is, the wort is usually bloody hot and if you add yeast to the wort, it will die a miserable death.

Like the T-100 in Terminator 2.

So what can you do?

It’s simple.

You may wish to consider investing in a wort chiller.

That’s not the only reason you’d want to by a chiller though. The use of one can improve the quality of your beer in several ways.

The first is to protect the beer against infections.

While the wort it is still hot bacteria and wild yeasts are inhibited from toying with your beer which is a good thing but it is very susceptible to oxidation damage as it slowly cools.

An efficient cool down can prevent this damage from occurring.

It also prevents the production of dimethyl sulphide. This compound can produce off flavourings in the beer so obviously, you’d want to remove the risk of this being produced as much as you can.

Ideally, the conscientious brewer should aim to get the wort to below 80°F ( 27°C) before oxidation or contamination has a chance to occur. The use of a wort chiller will get you there in no time.

The ‘cold break’ and ‘chill haze’


You may have heard of ‘chill haze’. This is a really common cause of beer cloudiness where the wort has been boiled and the cooling process has not generated enough ‘cold break’.

The cold break is the proteins from the beer that are precipated to the bottom of the beer by the cold temperature.

Using a copper wort chiller allows for an effective way to get more cold break forming and thus reduces the chance of chill haze in your finished beer.

The less crap in your beer, the better it will taste.

A tale of two chillers


There are actually two basic types of wort chillers: immersion and counter-flow.

Immersion chillers are the simplest and work by running cold water through the coil which immersed in the wort. The heat of the wort is transferred via the copper into the water which is quickly is carried away 

Counterflow chillers work in an opposite manner.

The hot wort is drained from the pot via the copper tubing while cold water flows around the outside of the chiller.

What does the garden hose have to do with chilling beer?


You should look to buy a wort chiller that has your standard garden hose connection. 

This allows for brewing outside on a nice summer's day or connecting to a laundry sink faucet as your chilling water source. 

That can give you some room to breathe outside rather than managing all kinds of cooling shenanigans in the kitchen!

Go for quality

You get what you pay for so look for wort chillers that cool efficiently, don’t leak and will last many brews.

Just as you should always get the bigger brewing kettle, go for the quality wort chiller. 

In the long run, it will be wort(h) it.

Our featured wort chiller - Copperhead Immersion Wort Chiller


copper head immersion wort chiller

The two stand out features of this chiller are that it comes with 25 foot copper coil for efficient cooling and its vinyl tubing comes with the standard garden hose connection that we mentioned above.

It also features:
  • All copper coil construction is easy to clean and will conduct heat better than other metals.
  • Ensure secure tubing with proprietary barbed fittings. Eradicate shooting streams of water that make a mess in your brew cave.
  • Drop-angle connections provide insurance against contamination.
  • Dimensions: 9 inches wide, 16 inches tall to the bend, 3/8 ID tubing
Check out the pricing on Amazon.

My unsurprising beer making success with Te Aro's Obligatory fresh wort pack


Brewing an Obligatory Pale Ale

My unsurprising beer making success with Te Aro Brewing Co's 'Obligatory' fresh wort pack


I was lucky enough to catch up with Nathan from Te Aro Brewing Company (we used to be workmates at a fairly well known internet company some years back) and to meet the brewery's founder Karl Kayes.

The brewery has a front-of-shop known as Brewtopia, wherein they shared with me a taste of some of their wares.

Nathan offered me a sample of their Oligatory pale ale beer. A fine tasting beer, I offered my compliments. He then blew my mind by offering me one of Te Aro Brewing Company's 'Obligatory' fresh wort packs to try out and review.

Obligatory fresh wort packSuch is my sophistication when it comes to beer making, I'd never heard of a fresh wort pack before but soon enough I was lugging around 20 litres of ready made Obligatory wort back home.

On arrival my wife looked at me with some suspicion.

What had  I brought home in this mysterious black container.

Petrol? Insecticide?

No darling, beer!

So, I grabbed the fermenter and gave it a clean and then sanitized with some sodium percarbonate.

I was extra particular about this process and I rinsed it all out with boiling water. There was no way I was going to let this special treat from Te Aro get ruined by poor preparation! This took me about 10 minutes.

Before I started this cleaning process I actually got the yeast going by adding it to a glass of warm water. The yeast was the popular home brewer's choice of Safale US-05.

So, now it came time to prepare the beer.

I emptied the 20 litres of wort into the fermenter, making sure it splashed around quite a lot to ensure the wort got some oxygen into it (this helps with fermentation).

It was a nice light drown colour and not as thick as I imagined it would be (probably as I'm so used to making brews with beer kits).

And then less than a minute later, I was ready to pitch the yeast.

It was almost too easy.

I put the lid on the fermenter and added the airlock.

I did not add any hops at this stage. Not my normal approach, but I intended to follow Nathan's instructions as best I could so I added the hops at day 5.

So straight away I was able to see the benefit of using a pre-made wort - you save a lot of time, there's no need to go and buy a beer enhancer or DME and it's a lot less messier than dealing with a beer kit.

Indeed, there's no mess with a wort pack!

You can actually recycle the wort pack container by taking it back to Brewtopia on a brewing day for a new wort and a wee discount as you are using your own storage device!

Nathan recommended that the brew be stored in a dark place with an average temperature of between 14 to 22 degrees centigrade and that 16 - 20 is best. I'll be frank, I have no idea what the temperature was but I left it in my warm kitchen for 48 hours.

I then transferred it to my man shed outside and covered it in a whole pile of old sheets and towels.

Classic move eh?

At this point I noted that no bubbles were coming out of the air lock, nor did I observe any scum or residue lining the inside of the fermenter, early days though and the lack of bubbles after two days does not mean I have a brewing disaster on my hands!

At day 5 I added the hops - a combination of some delicious smelling Nelson Sauvin, NZ Cascade and Motueka. On opening the fermenter's lid I was now able to see a great layer of bubbles and scum so clearly something good had been occurring.

So now it was a waiting game to let the brew do its thing.


Bottling day


I prepared the Obligatory on the 27th of September and bottled two weekends later on the 9th of October. This was a couple of days shy of the time recommended by Nathan but whatever, close enough!

Bottling was a straight forward exercise and I was very diligent with sanitizing the bottles.

Now it's an even longer wait!

So while I wait, let's talk about ingredients of the beer and whether fresh wort packs are worth it.

Wort pack ingredients


Malt: Gladfields American Ale Malt, Gladfields Pale Crystal, Gladfields Toffee Malt,
Hops: Nelson Sauvin, NZ Cascade and Motueka

I gotta tell ya, that combination of hops was one of the most delicious smells. I kept them in the fridge until it was time to add them and everytime I opened the fridge, I got the most delightful whiff of them.

Pricing and whether a fresh wort pack is wort(h) it


So what's the cost? Let's be clear, this is not a cheap product. It's a quality product so expect a quality price of $70 for the wort.

This also includes the Safale yeast and the hops which should make your wallet feel a bit better.

There is no need for an enhancer because Te Aro Brewery has made the wort such as they would make their Oligatory to sell to their keen punters and the local Wellington bars which want quality craft beers to serve their fickle* patrons.

If you compare that to a using a beer kit, fresh yeast, extra hops and an enhancer, you're looking at approximately $40 a brew (that is if you use a lower range beer kit). So that $30 odd dollar difference is buying you a beer quality well above what may be achieved with a standard beer kit.

It's also buying you time.

It took only a few minutes to get the fermenter clean and the yeast pitched into the wort. And that was the longest part of the whole brewing exercise.

So if you are time sensitive, a fresh wort pack is the way to go.

Let's be clear, I'm not knocking beer kits, I think they are great!


The verdict. How did the Obligatory taste?


I'm not a patient man, I could hardly wait a week, let alone three to try the Obligatory.

So, I tried one a week after bottling.

I gotta tell you, I had some high expectations around this brew and I was not disappointed.

This was a most excellent tasting beer, even only after a week of conditioning. It possessed a bold, hoppy taste.

It felt oakey in some way, which sounds pretentious but it's not.

It has an excellent mouth feel with some good body.

It's a very easy drinking beer and I look forward to enjoying it further with the first BBQ of the summer season.

I firmly recommend this to any beer maker who is looking for a quick way to make genuine quality home brew beer.

Update - after a two week conditioning period I had another crack and the flavours were even more amazing. This is probably the best tasting beer I have ever brewed. 

I'm sold Jimmy, where can I buy the wort kit?


Brewtopia sell their wort online, so grab yourself one today - you can always visit and have a yarn with the brewing team.

You can also sign up to Te Aro's Wort Pack email list so you'll be in the know when batches are ready.

*fickle, yes I said that. Beer drinkers can be the worst snobs. 

How to stop cloudy home brew from happening


Cloudy beer can suck visually, but why does it happen?


I did a batch of beer and nicely conditioned it and on pouring, it came about cloudier than usual.

It looked like a wheat beer that had been mixed with saw dust.

Tasted alright though, but I wondered what had caused this to happen? Usually my brews look deliciously golden.

  • Was it because I made a mistake brewing?
  • Did I get the temperature wrong?
  • Was my yeast off?


Well, the truth is cloudy home brew beer is a common thing and it can occur for various reasons.

First up, as you are bottling your beer, you may notice that beer can be cloudy. This is a very normal part of the process as the beer hasn’t fully become beer yet.

As you bottle, you add some form of priming sugar. The residual yeast in the bottle will feed on that sugar and carbonation war occur. As the sugars are consumed by the yeast, the yeast will fall to the bottom of the bottle and the beer will go "clear".

You’ll obviously be able to tell this has happened as your beer will not be cloudy AND there will likely be some sediment at the bottom of the beer bottle.

Leaving the beer in the fermenter a bit longer than you might usually do so gives your beer time to clear even more.

By letting the yeast do its thing for a longer time, your beer will taste better too.

Do you know what the best trick is to avoid cloudy beer is? 


A careful pour from the bottle will usually avoid stirring up the sediment which causes a cloudy glass of beer. 

This is especially so if you have got a perfect level of carbonation – an over sugared beer means more bubbles which increases the chance of the sediment being stirred up into your pour.

If opening your beer causes the beer to go cloudy because the bubbles stir the sediment up too much, I've found cooling the beer in a fridge for 24 hours can help prevent this quite well.

You can also use finings to 'clear' your beer of unwanted proteins what can also cause cloudiness.

Cooling and refrigeration


One of the reasons why beer does go cloudy is due to improper refrigeration timings and techniques.

The process of storing beer is called laagering (sounds like lager eh?). Lagers are lagers because they are best stored cold.

Nordic Vikings learned this method years ago when they laagered their beer barrels in cold caves over the winter or something...

Refrigeration of storing beer in a cool place helps to clear beer rapidly.

The science behind this is at lower temperatures it is more difficult for the yeast, tannins and proteins in the beer to remain suspended.

Cold stored beer will clear much more rapidly than beer stored at a normal room temperature.

If you intend to laager your beer you must wait until carbonation has occurred. If you cool your beer too soon, you run the risk of disrupting the yeast from its secondary fermentation process and carbonation may not occur (or it will be very slow to do so).

Fining agents can reduce cloudiness


A number of fining agents can be added to the finished beer that will aid in clearing the beer quickly.

These agents work by attaching themselves to the yeast, tannins and proteins to help them precipitate to the bottom of your fermenter or bottle more quickly.

Plain gelatin can be used quite well. Dissolve it in a warm sterile water and add it to your fermenter a few days before bottling.

Polyclar is also a popular product to use.

I also have a sneaky suspicion that gelatin in jelly beans also works to help clear the beer.

Chill haze and the 'cold break'


You may have heard of ‘chill haze’. This is a really common cause of beer cloudiness where the wort has been boiled and the cooling process has not generated enough ‘cold break’. 

The cold break is the proteins from the beer that are precipated to the bottom of the beer by the cold temperature.

Using a copper wort chiller allows for an effective way to get more cold break forming and thus reduces the chance of chill haze in your finished beer.

German wheat beers are often cloudy and that's just the way it is

If you are making a German style wheat beer, it is natural for a wheat beer to have an element of cloudiness.

Some beers, like German Hefeweizens, use yeasts and ingredients that make the beer cloudy no matter what you do.

So how do the big breweries avoid producing cloudy beer?


It’s a simple trick.

Commercial brewers filter their beer. From it they take all the live yeast and basically bottle a “lifeless” product. The beer you brew and drink still contains live yeast so there’s a much more likelihood of a cloudy home brew happening.

The beer like Steinlager that you buy from commercial brewers (and even craft beer breweries) will have been be filtered.

Another handy trick that the home brewer can do to improve their beer is to use a fining agent. 

The agent is usually a form a gelatin or moss (!) and it binds to the yeast and other particles in the beer and drags them down to the bottom of the beer to take their grave as sediment. 

A cloudy beer isn’t the end of the world but hopefully this will give a little insight into why your beer is cloudy and how you can try to clear it up the next time that you brew.

5 brewing beer mistakes you can easily avoid

5 brewing beer mistakes you can easily avoid


While beer brewing is often touted as serious business, it's actually a fairly simple process but mistakes can be made.

Here's 5 brewing mistakes that can happen if you take your eye off the boil.

Sanitation is not just the job of the Sanitation Department


If you think that you can just grab your beer making equipment from the back of the closet and start to brew, you’re probably in for bad batch of beer.

You need to sanitize everything bit of equipment you use. If you're starting out as a home brewer, your kit should contain a cleansing and sanitising agent.

You must ensure that at the very least your drum is fully clean and sterilized before your start your brewing.

There is nothing more disappointing than recognizing the scent of a contaminated brew when you bottle your batch!

You pitch your yeast when the wort is too hot


Cooling your beer down is not just to assist with removing nasties from your beer and reducing the risk of any infection, it helps with ensuring that your yeast finds itself in a hospitable environment - that is to say if you pitch your yeast too early, you run the risk of killing it (it’s a living microorganism after all).

No yeast means no fermentation.

And well, that just sucks right.

If you want to get really fancy, you might want to invest in a wort chiller.

Your yeast is older than the hills


Yeast is a living breathing organism. It’s job in the beer making process is to feast on the sugars and beer wort and ferment them into alcohol.

If your yeast is too old then you run the real risk of fermentation not occurring.

If you are brewing from a beer kit, it’s often recommend that you discard the yeast that comes with the kit and purchase some fresh yeast.

But in saying that, I've never had a problem with yeast from a beer kit.

You drink your beer too early


It can most definitely be a mistake for sure to drink your beer too early. Your beer needs time to carbonate and most importantly, it also needs time to chill out and finish the fermentation process.

A patient beer drinker will let his beer sit in a quiet part of the garden shed for two - three weeks at least before indulging.

He knows that his beer will taste better for it and be worthy reward for his efforts.

Storing your beer at the wrong temperature


We’ve already talked about temperature once but we’ve got to do it one more time. The storage of your beer is very important. The yeast does different things at different temperatures. 

So during the fermentation stage, the beer needs to be kept at a constant temperature that's appropriate for the yeast.

Same goes for the storing of the beer.

If you leave freshly bottled beers in your shed in the middle of winter, they might not carbonate so leave them somewhere warm for short time. 

Lager beers love the cold, so can be stored in the shed, where as your ales may benefit from being kept in a warmer environ.

These are some easy mistakes to avoid - have fun with your brewing but keep in mind you've got to keep it clean and warm! Or cold…

Here's even more tips on brewing beer.

Beer caps and cappers - how and what to use when bottling beer

Beer caps and cappers - how and what to use when bottling beer

Beer caps and cappers - how and what to use when bottling beer


Once I was bottling beer I got about 10 bottles into capping them and I remembered that I hadn’t added any sugar for carbonation.

I quickly opened the beers and added the sugar and got back to it.

But what if I had forgotten to add the sugar?

That’s a beer bottling horror story right there.

NE this is a nice point to talk about what kind of bottle caps you can use to put on your carefully crafted home brew.

The answer is that you can use pretty much any crown seal on your beer but you just need to remember that some crown seals are better than others. 

In my experience is best to go with a branded bottle cap rather than the cheapest you can find. I've found the cheaper ones tend to be less forgiving when using a bottle capper and they are more prone to being rendered unusable if you make a mistake. 

The ever popular beer company, Mr Brewer has a handy pack of 144 crown metal caps for a fair price. There is actually plenty of caps to chose from on Amazon - compare the prices and options

What do I use to cap beer bottles with?

You need a beer capper! Beer cappers come in two forms being the hand held and the bench capper.

The 'wing' hand held capper

For some reason cappers often come in red
The hand held capper is a popular way to cap your beer. Often called 'wing' or universal Rigamonti cappers or Red Baron, they are pretty handy and durable to use.

They do have a couple of draw backs - they can sometimes be hard to separate from the capped bottle if you've applied too much pressure and if you do apply to much force, then you can break the glass bottle.

Overall, they are pretty good units to use. It's actually very satisfying getting a cap on a bottle properly, there's this sudden 'thump' moment when the crown bends down and forms the seal.

Bench Capper

The bench capper can be easier to use because it's a simple pull down lever that can be used with one hand whilst the other hand holds the bottle in place. It's hard to make a mistake with such a method!

It's a good idea to buy a bench capper that can accommodate different sized bottles. The Ferrari model does exactly that which can be quite handy if your bottle collection is all kinds of different shapes and sized.


The Ferrari capper has the following specifications:

  • Spring loaded
  • Caps bottles quickly, cleanly, and accurately
  • Has a magnetic Bell to hold cap in place
  • Self-adjusting spring-mounted capping mechanism
  • Easier to adjust for different size bottles


These are the characteristics you should bear in mind for any bench capper that you might be thinking of buying.

We'll leave with this final tip:


Do I need to sanitize the bottle caps?

As always, before capping your beer, the bottle caps need to be santized before doing so. The best the best way is to soak them in sanitizing solution. That way the whole cap gets santized.

You can use a Star San solution or some sodium percarbonate to kill the bugs.

The best way to properly store opened beer hops




What is the best way to store opened beer hops?


Today I brewed an ale. After I added the deliciously smelling Cascade hops, I wondered if my my trick of storing the left over hops in the freezer was actually a good storage method.

You see, when I first used hops with a brew, that's the first thing that came to mind to do (maybe I was thinking about coffee or batteries) and I've done it ever since without a further thought. 

Is this an OK way to store the hops?

Are there better ways to care for hops?

Do different hops need different storage methods?

These are the questions that I started to ponder.

So, to save you the hassle, I've done some research into the best ways to store beer hops. And when I say research, I meaning I just did some reading on the internet.

Because beer brewing only needs to be simple and not over thought.

But first we need to take a moment to discuss why the home brewer wants to preserve their hops.

It's because they lose their bittering qualities over time, and their essential oils degrade and this means you might not get the desired brewing flavours if you used hops that have deteriorated.

Fresh is best as they say.

So what's the answer to storing hops then?


Turns out freezing hops is actually a popular trick with beer brewers!

This is what you can do and pretty much all you need to do.

Take your left over beer hops and place them in a zip-lock bag. Remove the excess air, seal and place in the freezer until required.

If you want to go all 'professional' you could use a vacuum sealer to remove all the air.

In such cases, you might not need to freeze the hops if the sealing has been done properly, but it wouldn't hurt.

You can also refrigerate the hops. Again, put them in a zip lock bag and remove as much air as possible. I read that hops can stay fresh for up to a year this way.

That trick would seem to rely on there being hardly any air in the bag!

Extra for Experts:

How to dry hop your beer
How to add hops to the beer kit's wort
Where to buy beer hops online

7 reasons why as a home beer brewer, you’re allowed to be smug. But just a little bit.


7 reasons why as a home beer brewer, you’re allowed to be smug. But just a little bit.


Just a little bit smug though. No one likes a smug ass, no matter how good their beer tastes.

1. You’ve put in the damn hard work, and dammit Jim, your’re a beer brewer not a doctor! That’s right as a brewer, you’ve slogged and sweated over your beer. You’ve

2. You’re a back yard pioneer. Yes, you invented that stout based, Fuggles hopped, honey and raspberry recipe by hard graft of experiment. Yes, you found a way to convert your fridge into a keg dispenser.

3. You’re like a beer wizard, Harry. You make the magic happen. You got the yeast choice just right. You found a way to keep your wort fermentation at just the right temperature and you are the one you added that secret ingredient that gave your beer that hallowed by thy beer drinking experience.

4. You can be smug because suddenly your partner who hardly ever drinks beer suddenly starts ‘tasting’ your beers more frequently.

5. You can be a little bit smug because you are part of the beer revolution. You are sticking it to the corporate beer brewer who for years has refused to change. They have awoken from their stupor.

6. No longer will young men and woman learn to drink mass produced beer that was marketed to them on the television by some big hot shot sports star. No, they will know that the key to a great beer drinking experience is by discovering delicious craft beer beverages – and your demand for quality beer has driven this sea change.

7. You made beer. Enough said.

The 4 easy steps of making beer

4 easy steps of making home brew beer

The 4 easy steps of making home brew beer

I reckon you might agree with me that making beer is actually pretty easy.

If elephants can figure out to bury watermelons underground so they ferment and then eat them to get drunk on, then humans can figure out how to easily make a genuinely good tasting home brew beer!

Here's how YOU can make home brew beer in 4 steps.

Beer brewing consists of four  simple stages, 5, if you count the drinking of your tasty beverage!

1. Brewing the beer

Quality pale malt extract and hops are boiled together with water for about an hour to sterilize the extract and release the bittering qualities of the added hops.

Often grains are steeped in the mixture prior to the boil to add additional color and flavor to the beer. 

If you're pretty series about making beer, you'll probably follow a recipe which gives you timings on when to add your choices of hops.

You will have of course used sterilized brewing equipment

2. Cooling of the wort and the commencement of  fermentation 

easy steps to brew beerThe wort that you have made is then is cooled to room temperature and siphoned or transferred to a fermenter where it is combined with additional water to achieve the desired batch volume. This is often 23 litres into a 30 litre drum. 

When the wort drops to room temperature, yeast is added to start the fermentation process, that is to say to turn your mixture into beer. 

The drum is sealed airtight and an airlock is used to keep the fermenter sealed and allow for the release of carbon dioxide. Fermentation will take one or two weeks. 

3. Priming your beer with sugar and the bottling of it 

Once your beer has completed fermentation (you can tell by checking for scum residue or by using a hydrometer) it can then be siphoned to another container to prepare for bottling.

This is when the beer is primed with sugar.

Sucrose or corn sugar may be used and the correct measurements are simply mixed with your very flat beer. Once the mixing is complete, the beer is transferred into bottles and each bottle is capped with a bottle capping device.

This is often done by siphoning or holding the clean and sterilized bottle to the tap of the drum. 

4. Time to let the bottled beer sit and age

Now the beer has been bottled, it needs to age so a secondary fermentation may occur. Given there is no way for the carbon dioxide that is produced during this fermentation to be released, the beer is carbonated. 

During this time sediments such as excess yeast and proteins will drop out of the beer and fall to the bottom of the bottle.

It is vital you let this process occur - if you drink your beer to early it's flavour will not have come to the fore and it may smell slightly.

Better to let your beer nature for a minimum of three weeks and even better six.

If you can wait that long, you will be rewarded with a delicious tasting home brew.   

5. Time to open those beers

The final step is of course the drinking. Drink cold, poor the beer carefully to avoid stirring up any of the sediment and have a great drinking experience!