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How to save time and make beer bottling easier


There's no doubt that the care and maintenance of beer bottles to ensure a good brew can be a pain in the ass to keep up and get right.

From cleaning the bottles, removing label, sanitising, filling and capping there's a lot to take care of and it can take a fair amount of time to get bottling done.

The obvious answer to save time is to keg your beer but for many brewers, that's a step too far both in the scale of their brewing and expense.

So for those keen beer bottlers, here's 5 ways to cut down on bottling time and getting your beer in the bottle more easily

Sanitize all your bottles at once in a big enough bucket


Sanitizing your beer bottles is a key element of beer brewing to keep those bugs at bay. A trick I like to do is dump all my bottles in a giant plastic washing basket, drop in some sodium percarbonate and fill it all up with the garden hose.

It's a pretty efficient way of ensuring you have healthy clean bottles ready because of you are bottling 23 liters of beer, a 30 or 35 liter bucket will be enough for all the necessary bottles to be covered in percarbonate solution.

The beauty of the sodium percarbonate is that it's 'no rinse' so you just need to empty the bottles and you are good to begin bottling.

So, now your bottles are sanitised, you may now wish to consider batch priming.

Batch Priming Beer to save time


In short, priming the batch is when one adds the entire amount of sugar needed to the fermenter so that when you fill each bottle, you don't need to add sugar as well, it's already in the beer wort. 

It saves you time as you don't need to add sugar to each individual bottle and it also saves you mess as we all know how sugar can end up everywhere when bottling!

This sounds simple right?

It really is. Here's how to do it but for this easy, the consideration of how much sugar to use is really important because if you add too much sugar you will suffer the terrible fate of beer gushers!

How much sugar do I need to prime a batch or beer?


Batch priming benefits from some simple calculations that can be made to get that sugar just right.

If you're using a kit, you've probably used 23 litres (5 gallons) so the focus is on how much sugar you need to use. 

So first up, different beers need different levels of sugar. Advice from people who have brewed many beers suggests that ales need less sugar than lager style beers.

This is because many drinkers prefer a lager to have more carbonation and ales are quite drinkable with less.

Our analysis of beer brewing forums suggests these are the commonly used amounts of sugars to use for priming for a 23 liter brew.
  • Dextrose (Corn sugar) 3/4 cup or 4 or 5 oz / 95 grams
  • Cane sugar 2/3 cup or 3.8 - 4.8 oz / 86 grams
  • Dry Malt Extract - 130 grams
If you are priming with a different volume of beer, I suggest you try this priming calculator.

There's a reason Cinderella's Fairy God Mother used a wand


A bottling wand can help make bottling beer so easy. You stick the wand into the tap. You can then bottle without the need to turn the fermenter tap on and off because the wand's automatic foot-valve can control the flow of beer into the bottle when you touch the bottom of it to the bottom of the beer bottle!

Using a bottling wand also very handily keeps too much oxygen from entering your beer!

Capping your beer - two tools to do it


Beer cappers come in two forms being the hand held and the bench capper, one is easier than the other.

The 'wing' hand held capper


The hand held wing capper is a popular way to cap your beer. Often referred to as universal Rigamonti cappers  or the 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, which is something that really bugs me.

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.

If you get into a good rhythm, you can cap bottles very quickly, especially if you line them up with the caps on the top and go down them like a factory line.

The bench capper method of bottling

The bench capper can be easier to use because it's a simple pull down lever action that one does with one hand whilst the other hand holds the bottle firmly in place. 

If you think a bench capper is for you we suggest that you buy one that accommodates 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.

Any decent beer cap should have a magnet where the cap goes so that it doesn't fall out just as you go to clamp it down!

So well done, you have easily bottled your beer and hopefully saved yourself some time. 

Your work is not finished 


No, you need to properly condition your beer and that doesn't mean you hide it in a under a tired blanket in an old swap-a-crate box and forget about it for a few weeks. 

Well actually you can do this if you want to be a reckless beer brewer, but it you want beer that you would be proud to share with friends,  there's a few things to think about when storing beer.

Here's some things to think about when storing your beer.
  • It's really good to have a storage place where the temperature is maintained at a steady rate.
  • Ales are condition best at lower temperatures
  • Lagers are happier to condition under higher temperatures
  • The middle of your house is probably cooler than nearer the outside. That could be a factor where you store beer.
  • If you find your beers are in too hot a place, move them!
  • Whatever you do, keep them away from direct sunlight. 
Now let that beer rest quietly for at least three weeks. Before you enjoy that first taste test, refrigerate your beer for at least a few hours. 

Mistakes I've made brewing beer and how I made better beer as a result

Mistakes I've made brewing beer


When you drill it down, the concept of beer is deed easy. The Germans nailed it with their purity laws - beer comes down to water, hops, malt and some yeast to make the action happen.

Get it right, and you have beer.

Get it wrong and you can have the most rancid tasting thing you have ever put to your lips which was...

kinda like that time I made two kits and got two infections.


I'd prepared two beer kits together at the same time, in a fermenter each. Both had become  infected and the bottled results were completely undrinkable.

The fact that each bottle I opened spewed forth like an overshaken bottle of champagne suggest to me fermentation continued to occur in the bottles but with something else other than beer yeast doing the carbonation.

I made a mistake somewhere, presumably with the tools and utensils I used not being clean, and suffered the cost of losing 40 odd liters of beer, the expense of producing it, and my time.

It was crushing.

Given that error, I've never done two batches on the same day again, to hopefully cut out such user error mistakes.

But there have been other mistakes made!

Not sanitizing beer bottles


Related to the above incident is that time I chanced my arm one times to many on not sanitizing my beer bottles.

Bottling beer can become a drag and that's why so many backyward brewers turning to keg operations. Well, I don't have the time or patience for that so I continue to bottle.

I mentioned that time and patience thing right?

So even though I am fairly scrupulous with ensuring I have a well cleaned and sanitized fermenter, when it comes to bottling, I often do not sanitize my clean glass bottles.

And then I started to get the odd infected bottle and I knew it was time to go back to the ways of the wise and properly sanitize my beer bottles.

This one seems kinda like a no brainer of what not to do but there you go.

Handy tips - to clean bottles use the dishwasher and use sodium percarbonate to santize (though if bottling straight from the dishwasher, the heat should have done the trick killing those pesky beer bugs).

Getting the bottle conditioning storage temperature wrong


Let me share with you a tale.

In the middle of a cold and desperate New Zealand winter I bottled a lager brew and left it in the man-shed for about a month. It was damn cold and the sun didn't warm the shed at all. 

I could have happily used the shed as a morgue it was that frigid.

So I think to myself, these beers are ready bit when I when to crack open the first beer, I did not hear that usually reassuring hiss of CO2 gas as it escapes from the bottle.

The silence was cold news to my ears.

The beer was flat.

So I opened another bottle and had the same result. 

And again for a third.

Fark. 

My beer been left in a place where it was to cold for the yeast to begin secondary fermentation. 

What a noob mistake?!

If you intend to lager your beer you must wait until secondary fermentation has begun and 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).

So the lesson is clear.

So, just like when you did the first round of fermentation, the yeast does its best work at a warm temperature. So, to properly store your beer so that it is carbonated, the beer needs to be kept warm for a few days. 

In my situation that means bringing the bottles inside the house for a few days just to give the yeast a chance to start doing it's thing. 

Then it's straight back out to the shed with them.

There's a good benefit to this as well. Keeping your lagers cold will result in the production of fewer esters and fusel alcohols, giving your beer a better taste balance. And that's basically why lagers are 'lagered' or conditioned over winter. 

No more green bottles for me


I love drinking Steinlager as it is an excellent beer and one I would recommend to any discerning beer drinker.

I'd collected a few fair green bottles and began using them regularly. However they soon refused to easily cap as the grippy bit at the top of the bottle neck cracked.

You see, as the pressure of the bottle capper comes down, the glass simply gives way.

This then makes it harder to cap so one applies a little bit more pressure and then snap! The neck of the beer bottle snaps, sending glass shards everywhere and most importantly, wasting good beer!

So now I have a firm no Steinlager bottle policy and that's that.

Drinking your beer too early


It's my view that it's a mistake to imbibe 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.

Sure you can drink it earlier but you are wasting the opportunity of having a much better beer than you are actually drinking.

It's for this reason that brewers will often have a cycle of beer going though so that they always have a brew brewing, a set or three conditioning and a batch ready for drinking.  

Pitching your yeast into a hot wort has the same effect as throwing Frodo's ring into the lava of Mount Doom! 


Yes, I once absent mindedly pitched my yeast when the wort was too hot, right after mixing the ingredients with boiling water. I knew what I'd done the moment I'd done it but what a waste of yeast.

A genius moment in my beer making career for sure. 

No yeast means no fermentation.

And well, that just sucks right.

Lucky I had a spare packed of good old Safale US-05 and was able to pitch that when my wort was properly cooled. 

Cooling your beer down is not just to assist with removing nasty bugs 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).

As an aside if you want to get really fancy with cooling your wort, you might want to invest in a wort chiller.


Here's some other things to do to avoid bad outcomes


Not that I've necessarily made them myself...
  • Give your wort a chance to aerate. Still it, shake it. Whatever. Give it a chance to get some oxygen so the yeast has something to work with. 
  • Conversely, when bottling, avoid getting oxygen in your beer. Using a beer bottling wand thingy can help with this as it helps with a smooth poor from the fermenter into the bottle. If you are racking into a secondary, try to avoid stirring up the beer to much at this point as well. 
  • Sanitize. Sanitize. Sanitize.
  • Don't allow fermentation to occur at too high a temperature. A standard, consistent temperature allows for a well made beer. A temperature that is too high will cause the fermentation to result in beer that tastes too fruity.
  • Adding to much sugar will cause your beer to over ferment and of course leave it with a sugary taste. We know beer enhancers can add to the cost of making beer but we think they are totally worth it and use them with most beer kit brewing combos. 
  • The quality of the water you use will have a direct bearing on the quality of your beer. I live in clean green as New Zealand so our water quality is mint so I simply fill up from the garden hose. For those not so lucky, you may want to consider filtering your water if you are able. If your water quality is poor, you could make some heavy ales which could help mask tell tale chlorine and the like.

How to work out the alcohol ABV of your home brew beer

work out alcohol content of beer

How to use a hydrometer correctly to determine the alcohol content of your beer

A trick of the home brewer's craft is to keep a hydrometer handy. This tool will help any beer brewer to make great beer.

What is a hydrometer?

At its most basic scientific purpose, a hydrometer is an instrument that measures the specific gravity of liquids, that is to say it measures the ratio of the density of the liquid to the density of water.

Did you get that?

Why would a home brewer use a hydrometer?

A home brewer uses the hydrometer to monitor the fermentation progress and measure the alcohol content of his produce.

Hydrometers can measure specific gravity, potential alcohol and the approximate sugar per litre content.



So the big question then, how does one use a hydrometer?

If you float the hydrometer in a test tube of water you will find it gives you a gravity reading of 1.000. This makes sense as there is no water displacement occurring.

Not let's assume we are at the point where you have prepared your beer wort. It's time to add the hydrometer to the beer wort in a test tube. Not only is there water in the wort but other mixed in ingredients including sugar, thus meaning some displacement can occur.

Spin the hydrometer around in the tube - this will dislodge any bubbles that are helping to float the hydrometer above what should be the actual reading. 

Take note of the reading which is where the hydrometer crosses the water / air line and write it down as you will need it for your equations later on. It's called the starting or original gravity. 

Let the brew ferment.

When you think fermentation is complete, take a reading. Then wait 24 hours and take a second reading.

If they are the same, you have your final gravity measurement.

A handy rule of thumb to beer in mind is when the final gravity is approximately a quarter of the starting gravity you’re done with fermentation. 

Let your beer 'chill out' in the drum a bit longer. While the bubbles may have stopped, chemical reactions are still occurring and they will help make your beer taste even better.

How to work out the alcohol content of your beer using the hydrometer's specific and final gravity readings

It's a crude or rough measurement but the equation is simple:

(starting reading minus final reading ) x 131 = alcohol by volume (ABV)

Given that hydrometers are calibrated to be used at specific temperatures one needs to use the taken readings a guide rather than a wholly accurate value. For example if your hydrometer is calibrated to be used in an environment of 15 degrees centigrade but it's warmed to 20 degrees, there's a chance your readings will be slightly out.

To be frank, for the average home brewer, it hardly matters if you 5 per cent beer if actually 4. 8 per cent!

And there you have it. Well the simple version anyway. There's quite a bit of science behind how the units are calibrated but provided your readings are semi accurate, you shouldn't need to worry about it too much!

A single caution though. You shouldn't feel the need to take readings all day every day as you wait for fermentation to finish. Exposing your beer to the atmosphere does raise the possibility of a contaminant getting in so beer that in mind.

Order a hydrometer from Amazon now!

Image credit to Daniel Spiess via Creative Commons Licence

Coopers Lager beer kit review - any good?

Coopers extract lager review
If you were forced on threat of being made to drink warm parsnip wine* to name one beer brewing kit brand, I think that Coopers would probably be the first one to come to many brewers minds. 

Even non-brewers will probably heard of Copers as the the kit that their' dad made a few brews with it back in the day'.

While I’ve been giving the Williams Warns and Black Rock kits a go of late, a chance find of a Coopers Lager while doing the supermarket shopping has led us to brewing one of their lagers.

Coopers is a large Australian owned brewery known for great sparkling ales and their original pale ale. They are also almost synonymous with home brewing and their brew kits are very popular.

So this extract kit we are brewing comes with a good reputation for quality and I'm are going to assume a great taste!

So is there anything special I need to know about brewing a lager from a kit?


There’s a general rule of home brewing that’s often stated as an absolute so take this with a great of grain of salt when I say that it’s easy to make an ale than a larger.

Or perhaps more accurately stated, it is easier to hide anything brewing mistakes with an ale than a larger. This is largely due to the strength of the beers’ flavours.

The first thing to consider is that the word lager is derived from a German word, lagern. It means ‘to store’. This should be a strong clue on how to make a good lager – they were originally stored for a long period in cold caves – and thus the lagering process was born. 

Patience is an absolutely needed virtue here. 

Due to lager yeasts operating best at lower temperatures, they actually ferment the beer at a lower rate than compared to ales which often ferment at higher temperatures.

This can mean that to get a lager brewed from a kit to be at its best for drinking, you may need to let  it‘lager’ for more weeks than you normally let an ale sit. So hide it in a dark corner of the garden shed.

And maybe brewing it during winter.

While I will be using the yeast that comes with the Cooper’s kit, when making a lager one could always use a yeast that is a true lager yeast. If you're feeling adventurous, you might want to order the Lager YeastWL833 - it's a popular yeast for lager brewing.

There’s plenty of more things to think about brewing lagers but I need to move on.

So to the actual preparation of the Coopers Lager kit


To get the true taste and worth of this extract kit, I'm are not adding any flavours and we used dextrose only. No beer enhancer and no additional hops were added.

This might be somewhat of a mistake but for once I felt the need to try the kit on its own merits where the true flavours and characteristics of the beer come out to play.

This is a standard brew. I'm are not doing anything special and I'm are basically following the instructions on the can. Not that you necessarily must do this.

As usual, I sanitised the heck out of our fermenter drum to make sure that no sneaky microbes were lurking. First up we added one KG of dextrose to one litre of freshly boiled water and made sure it was mixed well – easily enough to do when the water is that hot!

I then added the contents of the kit.

Before I actually poured the malty goodness into the fermenter as well, I boiled the kettle. I then added the kit’s contents. I then added the boiled water into the can nearly all the way to the top. This way the extract would melt and I would be able to get all of it out from the can. 

Be careful though, the can will get very hot so I transferred it with a tea towel.

I then added 23 or so litres of water from the garden hose. This cools the wort to the point where the yeast has an environment to do its thing. If I added the yeast to the wort without the cool water, it would probably die.

Speaking of yeast, I should mention that before I did anything during this brew, I added it to a glass of warm water to activate it. The theory is that doing so gives the yeast more of a chance to compete with the wort itself. If that makes any sense.

Then I put the lit on the fermenter and placed it in the man cave covered in several sheets.

And then I waited.

 I waited for 10 days and then I bottled. And then I waited three weeks. Which felt like an eternity but I had some bohemian pilsners to keep my throat wet so it wasn’t such a hardship….

So what’s the verdict on my Cooper’s lager?



I made a decent homebrew beer! 

This was a no nonsense brew. No hops, no beer enhancer. To my mind this meant I got to get to try the true characteristics of the beer. Featuring a nice clear gold colour, it tasted like a standard beer. 

It had an OK head but fairly little body but no worse than some other beers I have made without enhancer (Coopers do their own enhancer if you're in the market for some). While this was not an amazing brew, I have produced a genuinely good drinking beer, if not one that needs some body.

This will be best served quite chilled and to that end, would be quite nice to drink at the end of a long hot day. 

I figure if you were going to add hops you would not going wrong with a combination of both Moteuka and Saaz hops.


* Having actually tasted parsnip wine, I can confirm it to be one of the most horrid liquids in existence. 

What is a Nut Brown Ale and is it good for home brewing beer?



What is a nut brown ale and is it good to homebrew with?



Coming from the 'brown ale' family of beers, the nut brown ale is a great beer for the keen home brewer to have a crack at making.

Do you believe me?

You can answer that question soon but first a short history of the nut brown ale.

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.

Words like Newcastle ale, English Style ale, 'All English' are bandied about when it comes to the brown ale. It's drank in many a London pub.

The style has a long history and if you see a reference to 'Northern ale', this is what historically is meant by a nut brown ale.

In reality, the style of nut brown ale may just have been a unique marketing movement promoted by the burgeoning beer companies in the first half of the 20th century.

At its most basic, a nut brown ale is a way to describe a variant of the standard brown ale.

Does a nut brown ale actually have nuts added to it?


A key thing to point out is that a nut brown ale recipe doesn't contain nuts! The reference to nuts is for the beer's colour, not necessarily it's taste. You could also describe the colour of the ale as a deep copper. There's nothing wrong with using nutty as a taste description if that's the case!

So what are the taste characteristics of the nut brown ale?


The taste of nut brown ale is obviously subjective. Some say it would have an 'obvious earthy' character. It may have faint traces of some flavor like molasses or possibly something like maple stripped of sugar.

You could almost say the ale has a mild bread like taste with that classic ale bite in the back of the mouth.

If brewed well, the taste offers a malty sweetness, with the slight presence of caramel. If properly balanced with a medium to low level of hops (as it's traditional for ales for be low in hops), the nut brown ale is a deserved beer to drink on a hot day. 

Is a nut brown ale a good for for homebrewing? What do I need to make a good one?


So if the above romantic descriptions of the beer, tempt you, we strongly suggest you try your hand at brewing one. I did, here's my review of the kit I used.


What hops can be used in a nut brown ale?


Traditional English ales are lightly hopped as the preference is for a low bitterness levels. Hence classic English hops choices such as Goldings, Fuggles, and sometimes Tettnanger could be made.

American brown ales have evolved differently and feature a higher level of bitterness and thus Cascade and Williamette hops are common.

So if you are going for the more traditional English nut brown ale style, you may want to favour the English hops.

They key thing to beer in mind is that your brew recipe should be light on hops so to not over bitter your beer.

So don't throw in the whole hops packet.


What's a good nut brown ale recipe? Here's some ideas of what you could use


There are many ways to make your own version of a nut brown ale. Here's two brief versions that you could go for if you were putting together your own recipe.

Version One:

Malts - lager,crystal,black malt
Hops - Green Bullet, Pacific Gem

Version Two:

Malts - brown, chocolate malt, caramel
Hops - Willamette both bittering and aroma


The call to action!


If you are going to brew a nut brown ale, we suggest you get a beer kit by way of Northern Brewer, a popular American supplier of beer product and equipment. 

They've a pretty good reputation!

What is the 'krausen' in home brewing?

A massive krausen!
I learned a new brewing word the other day.

It was 'Krausen'.

Which made me immediately say to myself "Release the Krausen!"

But enough with the bad jokes, let's talk about what a krausen is.

The krausen is the foamy head that constitutes on top of fermenting beer as it sits in the fermenter.

A healthy head of krausen is an ideal goal of the home brewer because it's a sign that your beer is fermenting just as it should.

Knowing this can be quite handy because if you are not seeing or hearing bubbles escaping from the airlock, the presence of a krausen build up is proof that the yeast is doing its job and fermentation is occurring.

And just the same as the presence of krausen shows fermentation is occurring, it's disappearance (but not initial lack of) is an indicator that fermentation is complete (or halted if brewing conditions are too cold).

But sometimes these things see the movie The Blob and decide they want to grow...

Preventing a krausen 'blow out' with tubing


Occasionally brewing conditions mean that the yeast is so active, the krausen behaves like it is a kraken released from the gates of hell and it foams up like a fiery tempest and blows out the airlock, just making a heck of a mess all over your brewing equipment!

These beer explosions typically occur with glass carboys which allow pressure to build.

krausen blow off tube
A solution to krausen 'blow out' is a using a blowoff tube. One replaces the standard carboy airlock with the tubing.

The tubing can then release into a bottle, bucket or whatever to help with reducing any blow off mess.

Check out the image to the right for an idea on how to set up the blow off tubing. This example uses a steel tube.

If you're not convinced this tubing is worth the effort, consider this.

A common krausen issue is that the the airlock can get clogged with foam and any added hops. This leads to a strong pressure buildup in the fermenter which when is it great, the barrel lid, bung or airlock blows off, spewing stuff everywhere and making for a very messy and frustrating cleanup.

There's even the potential for damaging your equipment.

We suggest if you have brewing conditions where this has happened more than once, you may wish to consider grabbing some tubing from Amazon!

Make sure you get a suitable thick pipe, nothing too narrow as that will work against you.

One more thing.

We've not done it ourselves but we have read that some punters fill that bottle or bucket the tubing goes into with water so as to further help retard the foaming krausen!

Have you ever heard of Fermcap-S?


You could also try and prevent too much foam by using an anti foaming agent like Fermcap-SIf you wish to use it in your carboy or fermenter to prevent the krausen from escaping, the dosage is only 2 drops at the start of fermentation. 

Krausen the line....


When you have bottled your beer, it's time to get cleaning that fermenter right? And if you've done everything right, there will be a ring around the line where the krausen rose from.

I call it the Krausen line.

If you don't immediately clean your vessel, it will harden and be a right monster to remove. A good soak with PBW or sodium percarbonate should sort that line of scum out PDQ.

How to use foam inhibitor to avoid boil over or krausen explosion when brewing

pot boil over prevention


A watched pot never boils right?


This rule doesn't apply on brewing day.

Even though you are paying keen attention to your boil, it takes but a second for a boil over to happen, making a mess and causing you to lose wort.

But what if there was a way to stop boil over?

Some pundits recommend that you add marbles or ball bearings to the brew to help boil over. Or use a spray bottle of cold water when ever the foamy beast raises its head.

But if you want to make sure you don't suffer a boil-over, try using a foam inhibitor!

Foam inhibitor or 'defoamer' is a handy trick to keep your your beer from boiling over.

A popular product is 'Fermcap-S'. A fancy way to described it is that it is a "silicone based food-grade emulsion".

There are two main ways to use it - during the boil and during fermentation.

If you choose to use 'Fermcap-S' to prevent boil overs on the hot side, add 2 drops per gallon for a nice rolling boil.

If you wish to use it in your carbouy or fermenter to prevent the krausen from escaping the fermenter, then the dosage is only 2 drops at the start of fermentation. If you didn't know, the krausen describes the foamy head that develops on top of fermenting beer.

If you have added your inhibitor during the boil, there is no need to add any to the fermenter as it will carry over.

When used in the fermenter, 'Fermcap-S' increases the bitterness of your beer (retained ibus) by about 10 per cent.

This sounds dandy but why should I use an inhibitor?


Boil-overs are more likely to be a problem if you are using a smaller pot. Users of fermcap have reported being able to make a 5.5 gallon batch in a 7 gallon pot.

While mess is annoying, the real reason you want to prevent this is that the foaming can cause any top-fermenting yeast to be expelled from the fermenter before it can do its job in the wort. 

This then requires the rest of the yeast to work harder to achieve the final terminal gravity which will not necessarily occur if yeast lost has been significant.

Beer is supposed to be foamy! This seems an odd product to use?


At first thought, using anti foam may seem to be a counter-intuitive idea. It would seem fair to consider that putting something in wort or fermenting beer to control foam will also kill the head on the finished product.

However, when anti-foams are used properly, quite the opposite is true!

Using vegetable based demoamer


Instead of silcone based products , you can also try vegetable oil versions.
Vegetable oil is a known yeast nutrient and will be consumed by the yeast during fermentation of beer before bottling or kegging.

Commercial breweries use it


Big commercial breweries often use defoamers and anti-foamers as part of their beer processing but given that it's not really within the spirit of purity brewing, it appears not many commercial operations will freely admit to adding silicone based products to their beer!

Simple hacks for home brewing from Reddit brewers

beer brewing hacks

Here's some random as tips we found on Reddit that keen home brewers have shared so that we can all become better backyard brewers.

Remember these are just ideas and tricks and ways of doing things, they may not all be suitable for your brewing needs. As with all brewing, one learns by doing and experimentation!
  • If you're a kitchen based brewer, bottling beer over your dishwasher door; clean up is as simple as closing the door.
  • Clean our your 'Boil in a Bag' brew bag by first shaking it out, then turning it inside out and holding it under the shower. 
  • Pour the contents of the bag into a bowl and use that to pour into boiling water. It is MUCH easier to scrape extract out of a bowl.
  • Be wary that if using dry malt extract, the steam from boiling water causes significant amounts of extract to cake onto the sides of the bag. If this is an issue for you, we suggest you put the DME in first before you add the water.
  • Re-hydrate dry yeast that you've saved by pouring it into a plastic bottle of water (of the correct temperature of course), capping it, and shaking. Burp any excess gas by gently opening the bottle (as you would a bottle of soda). When it comes time to pitch the yeast, simply pour out of the bottle into your wort.
  • Placing a packet of silica gel in your hydrometer case can help absorb any residual moisture that may be left after using it (we think this is a flight of fancy in some ways and not necessary).
  • When making a yeast starter, place the flask inside of a plastic grocery bag, and then place it on the stir plate. Should the starter overflow, the mess is contained within the plastic bag.
  • We love this idea. Put a book or other wedge under the back of your fermenter after sealing it up. On brewing day, gingerly slide the book/wedge to the front of the fermenter and you'll have a slanted yeast cake and a nice "deep end of the pool" in the back side of the fermenter to rack from.
  • A few marbles, glass beads, or large SS ball bearings will reduce the risk of boil over dramatically. It works by providing nucleation points at the bottom so that large bubbles rise up and pop and less small bubbles are available to form foam. Of course, if you use foam inhibitor such as Fermcap-S, you probably don't need any other hacks! 
  • Using a spray bottle of Star San solution seems like a good hack. Doesn't waste time with dunking everything in a bucket when you can just spray it liberally and get good coverage.
  • Put spigots in all of my fermenting buckets, so you need use an auto siphon.
  • When transferring out of a fermenter into a keg, fill 1 pint mason jars with the slurry, and refrigerate them so that you can use it as a yeast starter for another brew.
  • Buy hops in bulk. 
  • Instead of hand cleaning your bottles and dunking them in sanitizer put them in the dishwasher bottom rack. USE NO DETERGENT, and put the dishwasher on the hottest cycle. The temperature is hot enough to kill the nasties that could infect your beer (we also add the dish washer is handy for removing bottle labels).

Using 'finings' to clear homebrew beer

clearing beer with finings



If you've ever bought a beginner's beer kit it may have come with a sachet of 'finings'. That's basically how I was introduced to them when I got a brewing kit for Christmas.

So this (then!?) inexperienced homebrewer naturally had to ask:

What are beer 'finings' ?


Finings are substances that are usually added at or near the completion of brewing beer.

Their purpose is to remove unwanted organic compounds to help improve the beer clarity - as no one likes cloudy beer.

They are also used for wine and non alcoholic drinks such as juice.

The finings act by precipitating and binding with compounds that reduce beer clarity. They they then fall to the bottom of the brewing fermenter drum or carboy and so are effectively removed from the beer.

How do I use beer finings?


If you have made a batch of beer in a drum or carboy, just add in the sachet to the beer, about 3 days before you intend to bottle the beer.

Do it quickly and reseal the drum so that there's no chance of infection occur by way of a stray spider or sneaky germs.

If you have done a boil, you can simply add the finings at the end of that process.

That's all you have to do!

What are finings made from?


Finings can be made from all kinds of things. 

Isinglass (biofine) is a clearing agent made from the protein called collagen. It is extracted from the swim bladders of fish!

Ordinary gelatin is an effective fining agent as it will remove proteins and polyphenols. It's similar to isinglass in that it is also collagen agent but the key difference is that gelatin is made from hooved animals.

That's right, if you use gelatin to clear your beer, you are adding horse feet! 

You can use unflavoured gelatin by add one tea spoon to a cup of hot water, mix and then add gently into the fermenter.

Add the finings a couple of days before you intend to bottle to give the fining time to do its thing.


A very popular fining is Irish Moss. It seems to be a bit of a misnomer as Irish Moss is actually derived from seaweed! Irish moss is added in the last 10-15 minutes of the boil and not generally used with beer kits. 

Whirlfloc tablets are also very similar to Irish Moss and can be used in the same way.

There are other fining products that you can use such as Chillguard and Polyclar and silica gels like Kieselsol.

How do finings actually bind with unwanted compounds?


Fining products usually have large molecules that are 'positively' charged.

Think back to your science class days at school!

These molecules attach themselves to negatively charged contaminants (opposites attract remember) and then precipitate them out of the finished beer - and by that we mean they fall to the bottom of your fermenter.

Silica gels like Kieselsol are actually negatively charged! They are basically silicon dioxide products.

So do I actually need to use finings?


The choice is yours and it depends on how much you care about beer clarity.

If you are after clear or cloud free beer, then using finings is one very easy trick to help you with that goal.

If you are adding hops to your beer, you may want to consider it. This is because hops leave polyphenols in the beer which can cause a lack of clarity. Finings will work on the polyphenols as per usual.

Malt also produces polyphenols so finings can take care of any the malt in your beer may produce.

Finings definitely work however it would be fair to say that it's not a necessary part of the brewing process for ordinary home brewers.

If you are intending to enter your beer into a competition where the clarity of beer is considered an important criteria, you'd be silly not to employ this method. 

One thing to beer in mind is that the use of finings does add to the cost per bottle ration of your beer.

It's the same argument for using beer enhancers. You don't need them but they really do improve your beer's mouth feel and all round taste performance. 

How to pitch yeast correctly into beer wort

adding yeast to the beer wort

How to pitch yeast in your homebrew beer


Newbie beer makers may have heard the expression “pitch your yeast” and wondered what the heck it meant. I myself was horribly concerned that I had missed a trick when making my first brew after learning this phrase.

Had I missed out a step?

Had I ruined my beer?

Nope, of course not. ‘Pitching yeast’ is just homebrewer lingo for adding yeast to the wort.

Without yeast, your wort will not turn into beer. The yeast, is an active living organism that feeds on the oxygen and sugars in the wort and as a bi-product produces carbon dioxide and the sought after alcohol.

Yeast is a sensitive cell based life form and needs the correct conditions in which to thrive and help make really good beer.

That’s way though pitching your yeast is more than simply adding it to your beer – it needs to be done at the correct time in the brew so that it can activate properly.

The short version is if you pitch your yeast when your brew is too hot (say you’ve just boiled it), you will kill the yeast with the heat and fermentation will not occur. This is way the cooling process can be so important.

Your fermenter might have a temperature gauge on the side, else you might need to get your hands on a thermometer.

I’ve noticed that some brewers can be super sensitive about yeast and the preparation and pitching of it. There are arguments about the best method but the casual home brewer should not get caught up too much in it.

If you follow some good beer making instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems from the yeast.


The easy way to pitch your yeast is dry pitching



If you are like me, once you have prepared the wort in the 30 litre drum, you are ready to add your dried yeast. Simply open up the packet that came from the beer kit, and chuck it into your wort. This is called pitching your yeast dry.

Maybe give it a gentle stir with a clean spoon. Close off your fermenter securely and place your beer in a good spot for a week or two to let the yeast do its job.

Re-hydrating your yeast before you pitch it


A method that many earnest brewers follow is to hydrate the dry yeast in water before pitching. The reasoning behind this is that it gives the yeast a good chance to get started properly.
Rehydrating yeast in a glass

The theory is that there can be a concentration of sugars in the wort which means it is difficult for the yeast to absorb water into its membranes so that they can begin to activate / metabolize and thus commence the fermentation process.

In my experience I’ve never had the yeast fail with a simple beer kit but if you are keen to cut the potential problem out, feel free to re-hydrate your yeast.

Do this by boiling some water and letting it cool. You can then add your yeast packet (or two!) to the water and let it begin to absorb – you shouldn’t do this too far apart from when it is time to pitch the yeast.

Cover and leave for about 15 minutes and then inspect. It should have begun to smell like you are making bread and 'bubbled' a bit (see the above picture). If so, it’s ready to be pitched.

If there is no churning or foaming or sourdough or bread like smells, it could be your yeast has died from old age or environmental damage such as being left in the sun. You may need to use a new packet of yeast...


A quick summary of pitching yeast

  • Pitching yeast is simply adding it to the beer wort
  • Add it when your wort is the recommended temperature – check your beer kit’s recommended temperature
  • You can pitch dry yeast straight into the wort
  • Or you can add it to water just prior to pitching
Image credit to Justin Knabb via Creative Commons Licence

10 questions about using hops one way or the other

what bear hops to use with beer

If you know a thing or two about beer, you'll know that the hops plant is so crucial to making good beer that the Germans made it the law for it to be an ingredient of beer.

There's a bit of mystery and magic about hops. They are like the secret ingredient that make everything taste and smell so delicious. 

Honestly, having a sniff of a freshly opened packet of hops is one of the best smells in the world.

It smells like...victory. 

While you can't go terribly wrong with hops, you can go even better when you learn all the tricks and tips of using them. And that means questions need to be answered about how and when to use them. Questions like: 

What kind and where from? 

What's a hop tea?

What is dry hopping? 

We have the answers!

Let's start with one of the most common questions about hops, what kind you might want to use.

What kind of hops should I use with my beer?


using beer hops with homebrewDifferent hop varieties suit different kinds of beer. After hundreds of years developing beer, there are now some well established rules of thumb for what kinds of hops brewers should use. 

Here's a wee guide for what hops to use.

  • The English Golding hop has become the signature hops of English ales. The popular Fuggle hop is another popular hop used for ale beer. 
  • Saaz hops are closely aligned with the brewing of lagers, mostly for the delicious aroma that has become associated with the beer. Saaz hops are an excellent choice of hop for the enthusiastic homebrewer.
  • Pilsner beers have become nearly synonymous with the four so called 'noble hops'. These are varieties of hop called Terrnanger, Spalt, Hallertauer and of already mentioned Saaz. As an aside, pilsner beers are known as traditionally coming from the Czech Republic.
  • If you're looking for hops that might help your beer taste a bit like the classic New Zealand beer, Steinlager, you might buy Green Bullet hops. 
  • America, the land of the free beer drinker, has become a home for hop production and many new varieties from old favorites have been developed. American hops are recognized and appreciated all around the world for their bold, and often intense flavors they imbue in beer. American hops are often described as being citrus like, however that's a most elementary description. Cascade hops are a very popular choice.
  • Chinook is another popular 'north western' hop.

What is a 'hops tea'?


Sometimes when making homebrew, beer makes also like to make a cup of hop tea!

Why would we do this?

The idea here is that the great hops aromas and oils have been removed from bullets due to the boiling and will then mix easily with your wort brew.

How to make a hops tea for homebrewing


Put the hops in a muslin bag (or tie up a square of it) and then boil it for several minutes. During the boil, have a good smell and enjoy the aromas as it wafts around the kitchen. That's the deliciousness you want to impart into your beer.

When you've boiled the hops for long enough, turn the pan off but leave everything right where it is to cool.

If you have already prepared your wort, so now put everything you've boiled - the whole muslin bag and the tea that you've made into the primary fermenter.

You can also drink your own hops tea too! It's done slightly differently to the above method for beer - you let the hops steep as you would any other tea and then drink when cool enough.

When should I add the hops pellets to my beer?


Typically the beer wort is boiled with the hops added at crucial moments before it is cooled down to begin the fermentation process. The timings of when to add the hops in the boil can be critical as the different timings can cause the hops to work differently on the beer.

If you are making your own wort (that is you are not using a beer kit) then it's best practice to follow a tried and true recipe, at least as you start out.

If you're at that point,  you'll want to understand that the process is sometimes known as the “hop schedule”. A hop schedule will lists the length of time that the hops should be in the boil, not the amount of time you should wait to add the hops.

This allows you to making your timings correctly.

The rough guide is the longer you boil the hops, the more bitterness they will impart. The shorter you boil them, the more flavour will be added. It depends on how you want your beer to benefit from the hops addition.

If you are using a simple beer extract kit then you can add the hops when you are preparing the batch of wort. Just throw it with your wort and nature will do the rest.

Some people like to delay adding the hops until a few days later. This is fine, but in our experience of using brewing kits, it makes little difference to the end result in the hop aromas and taste your beer will have. 

What's the best way to properly store hops?


It turns out that turns out freezing hops is actually a popular trick with beer brewers!

If you've purchased a vacuum sealed packet of hops and have some leftover, then we do firmly recommend that you freeze them.

Quite simply, take your leftover beer hops and place them in a zip-lock bag. Remove the excess air and then seal. Grab a Sharpie and write on the name of the hops on the bag so you don't forget and then 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 or something airtight and remove as much air as possible if you can. I read that hops can stay fresh for up to a year this way but I know specialty brewing shops off load older hops much more regularly (handy trick, follow brewing specialists on Facebook - the ones I follow often announce that they are giving away their old hops stock because they have a fresh order coming in).

I reckon that as long as your hops has not been exposed to too much oxygen, it will keep well enough for the average homebrewer to not have to worry about hops going stale.

I've made a very hoppy beer, how long should I let it bottle condition?


We would recommend you start drinking your beer when it's ready to be drunk rather than saving it for a rainy day. Bottle conditioned beer starts to become very drinkable from around the 3 week mark, depending on the storage conditions so any time around then would be a good time to start drinking your beer.

Go on, you deserve it!

The longer you wait beyond this period, the strength of the hops begins to dissipate. Your beer of course will not be ruined, it will just be less hoppy than you may have expected.

What is the practice of dry hopping beer?


It sounds like a fancy technical term but 'dry hopping' is simply the moment when the brewer adds hops in (dry) pellet form to the fermenter after the wort has been prepared.

The brewer is of course using hops to improve the aroma of the beer and to add some bitterness to the brew (bitterness is best produced by the boiling of hops though).

This ‘dry’ practice is often done later in the fermentation cycle of the beer. The thinking behind adding the hops later is that the hops aroma is more likely to stay with the beer brew through to the bottling process.

This is because the bubbling process and emission of carbon dioxide via the air lock allows the aromas to escape.

Bearing in mind that one should leave one’s beer to sit quietly for a couple of weeks before brewing to ensure that the yeast has had a chance to do it’s thing, this is a great opportunity for the oils and bitterness of the hops to also transfuse into the beer. It’s for that reason why dry hopping is a popular practice.

So if that's dry hopping, what is wet hopping?


wet hopsWet hopping is simply adding in freshly grown hops into the primary. Homebrewers have been known to grow their own hops, harvest it and then add it to their beer. It's the natural way to use hops.

Turning hops into pellets has become popular as an easy means of distribution and serves as a way to preserve the life of the hops - it's a plant after all and just like when you don't eat the carrots in the fridge, they become rotten.

You can actually grow your own hops in your backyard garden too. All you need is to get your hands on some rhizomes, get your green fingers out and plant them in a spot that will let them grow like crazy. A good source of hops rhizomes is from local Facebook groups. Home brewers often sell them to one another quite cheaply or just for shipping costs.

My hops is just floating in the primary fermenter. Is this normal?


Yes, when you first add hops to your wort it breaks apart from its pellet form and generally just floats at the top of the wort and this is normal. Given a few days, it will impart its wondrous qualities to the beer and then fall to the bottom of the fermenter, its job done.

If you don't want this to occur, you could think about placing your hops in a muslin bag and dropping them in. Maybe put a glass marble in the bag so it weights down.

Can I add hop pellets into the beer before bottling?


If you've ever wondered if you could simply add a hop pellet to each bottle of beer when bottling your batch, think some more.

You're setting yourself up for a potential disaster. While it can work, you are at serious risk of causing beer gushers. If it merely foams you are likely to experience your beer head to suffer from hop stuck in the head and floating in the beer.

Ideally you want the hops to fall to the bottom of the fermenter so that when you fill your bottles you do not get the residue.

That said, if you leave your beer to condition for long enough so the hops drops to the bottom and becomes part of the sediment that usually forms, you might just get yourself a fairly hoppy beer. That said, leave your hoppy beer too long and you will lose the hoppiness.....

At the end of the day, if you're cool with your beer being a bit messy and prepared to run the risk of bottle bombs, you might get good result.

Where can I buy hops?


There's two ways to buy hops - in person or online. If you are going to do it in person, you need to find a local specialty beer brewing shop. I love going into specialty beer shops as the owners and staff are usually beer enthusiasts and give the best service and advice. 

Seriously, if you live close by to one, using a specialty store can save you delivery and postage costs and it's worth it to get that personal contact and ask any questions too! My personal favourite in Wellington is Brewtopia and the lads at The Brewhouse have been very helpful too. 

However if you're a busy brewer or live in the outback somewhere, shopping for hops online is a breeze. If you live in New Zealand we recommend Brewshop as they have fair prices and a very impressive delivery time.

For you Americans wanting to drowning in cascade hops just order hops from Amazon. There are plenty of reputable beer brewing equipment experts on there and between them, they have a large selection of the best hops to buy.

Review of 'Dry Stout' Kit by Williams Warn

williams warn dry stout review
Having had a fairly good experience with the WilliamsWarn's 'Bohemian Pilnser' homebrew kit, I thought I'd give their 'Dry Stout' a go. If you think Guinness or Murphy's brands of beer, that's the ballpark we are in.

The product maker makes this claim:

"Our Dry Stout has a black appearance from the crystal malts, roasted malts and roasted barley employed in the grain mix. The result is a great Dry Stout that has liquorice, roasted coffee and chocolate flavours dominating."

dry stout beer kit
Getting ready on the kitchen bench!
Will I be able to make a beer that matches this claim?

Let's find out!

I did the basic preparation as you do for kits. Basically I followed my own beer making guide!

I left the wort to sit in the fermenter in the garden shed. Winter's just creeping into my end of town so I wrapped it with a few old painting sheets and let it be for exactly a week.

The fermenter started bubbling within 24 hours and stopped doing so around day 4 or 5.

I bottled 8 days after getting the beer down. I didn't taste it but it had a nice smell, perhaps one more noticeable than many other brews I've previously done. 

And now we wait.

So while we wait for the stout to bottle condition, let's shoot the breeze about a few other things.

What was the yeast used for the stout?


The yeast that came with the beer kit was a 11g pack of Fermentis S-04 yeast.

This yeast is often used with English ales. It's an adaptable yeast that actually suits a range of ales (you could use it with a nut brown ale for example) and is known for its ability to form a compacted sediment at the bottom of the fermenter. This is awesome as when bottling there's less chance of sediment getting into your finished beer, giving you the oft prized clear beer.

Fermentis recommend that that their yeast should be added to the wort when it is above 20 degrees centigrade. Frankly after I filled the fermenter with water from the garden hose, I just pitched in it!

I've read that the kit also sometimes comes with the Danstar Nottingham ale yeast.

With the kit and same branded Light Dry Malt Extract, I paid 44 dollars which is a bit on the steep side, if you ask me. The DME cost 20 bucks! Nearly as much as the kit as it self (though that had 20 percent off, cheers Nathan at Brewtopia!).

So I guess the idea is that WilliamsWarn is supposed to be a 'premium beer kit' producer. Actually, the prices on Amazon are about the same as what I paid so go figure.

But to be frank, when I made the Bohemian Pilsner I didn't notice any real difference in quality say compared to a Mangrove Jacks or Coopers kit. I'm actually pretty sure that most kits on the market these days are quite suitable kits for brewing with.

But enough of this 'chit chat'.

The tasting results are in.

First up, I brought a few bottles in from the shed after a couple of weeks conditioning and left them in the fridge for two nights.

I then opened and slowly poured into a long glass. The beer smelled really good and was a nice dark colour, just the kind one would expect. A small but creamy looking head formed which bode well for the taste test.

And I got say, this was a pretty good darn beer. It had some thick body and it felt like it was heavy enough to count as a stout. The Williams Warn kit had delivered.

But did it deliver on the promise of making beer in which "liquorice, roasted coffee and chocolate flavours" dominate? It's a romantic description but in a sense it's true. While I certainly haven't detected any liquorice notes, coffee and chocolate are fair assessments but they are not pronounced.

Review Verdict: Recommend you have a crack. Order the kit from Amazon today