Two instructions on the beer kit can you can safely ignore

Two instructions on the beer kit can you can safely ignore

Rules are meant to be broken and so are the beer making instructions that you will find on a beer kit.

Think of an ordinary cake recipe.

If you follow its instructions to the letter, you'd likely get an OK tasting cake.

But a cake making expert will see that same cake recipe and see room for improvement and change things up and make a great tasting cake.

And it's the same with the instructions that come with an extract beer kit. If you make your beer following the can's instructions, you will simply make beer.

When a beer making expert sees those same instructions, they see opportunity to basically ignore those instructions and apply some tried and true beer making methods instead!

Let's have a look some of the things that standard set of instructions might say something like.

bottling beers

Bottle when the specific gravity is the same after two readings



If you are a first time brewer, you could be forgiven if you were wondering what specific gravity means. It's the reading taken with a hydrometer that demonstrates that alcohol is displacing water. If you have two readings the same a day a part, no more displacement is occurring and thus, fermentation is finished.

Right?

No.

While the yeast may have stopped making alcohol, the yeast is still doing it's job.

It is cleaning up what we will call the 'left overs'. Here's the instructions your beer kit does not give you.

Let your beer 'chill out' in the drum a bit longer.

While the bubbles may have stopped coming out the airlock, some pretty handy chemical reactions are still occurring and they will help make your beer taste even better.

Bottling too early (such as immediately post having two consecutive identical specific gravity readings) deprives your beer of this vital part of the secret to making good beer.

Don't drink your beer after a week, no matter what the instructions say


And here's the second reason to ignore your beer kit's instructions. They often suggest you can drink your beer after a week!

What?

Have you ever actually done this?

I have and I can tell you that a beer that has been conditioned for only a week is the roughest beer to drink around.

What happens when you bottle beer is that a secondary fermentation takes place.

This is when the beer is carbonated for the second time, the difference being, the carbon dioxide is trapped inside the beer bottle. 

While that is happening, the yeast is once again cleaning up the beer for you. Let the beer sit for a minimum of three weeks so that it is at its best for drinking.

So there are two reasons to ignore the beer kit's instructions and they basically come down to time. There is no need to rush your beer making experience. Let the beer sit for a week after fermentation has obviously finished and then let your beer condition even longer than what the instructions suggest. 

You can of course always choose to ignore the advice in my step by step guide to brewing beer!

↠ Best Grain Mills crusher || 2020 Review

best grain mills for malt and barley


Best mill for crushing beer grains


Have you ever heard the expression, "that's grist for the mill?"

Its origins relate to corn being the grist that was taken to the mill. In the more modern use, grist is something that is useful for a particular purpose. 

This is just an excuse to talk about the best grist mills to mill grain with so that you can brew fabulous beers!

There's a little bit to think about when buying a mill and you should ask yourself the following kinds of questions
  • Can the mill handle the volume of grain you want to run through?
  • Can you adjust the mill gap to ensure the grains are cracked and not crushed?
  • Can you upgrade it as you go along?
  • How does it get mounted? Does it need or come with screws?
  • How affordable is the unit? 
  • Do you plan to use it long-term, what are quality considerations?
Or you can just have a look and compare between these top-rated units:


Here's some specifications of these three handy mills.

The 'Barley Crusher'


barley crusher malt mill
The Malt Mill 'Barly Crusher' is Northern Brewer's most popular mill due to it being a high-quality mill that is clean, durable and most importantly, it's hop will help you crush 7 pounds of grain.

Features:
  • Solid base fits easily on a standard 6.5 gallon fermenting bucket.
  • Adjustable rollers with a .015 to .070 range.
  • Materials that will last a lifetime: 1018 Cold Rolled Steel for the rollers, 6061 Aluminum for the mill body and hopper, tool steel for the axles with oil-impregnated bronze bushings.
  • 5-inch rollers have a 12 TPI knurl that pulls grain through while leaving the hull intact to form an excellent filter bed for sparging.
  • Large hopper holds approximately 7 pounds of grain.
  • Includes a hand-crank but no adapters are needed to use a 3/8 drill motor; using a 3/8 drill motor at 500 RPM gives a throughput of 6 pounds a minute.

Genuine Amazon reviews left by happy grain millers:

  • "This mill pounds through grain like a champ. There's no going back to my old Corona mill."
  • "The malt was nicely crushed, with husks moderately broken up, and endosperms exposed and cracked. My efficiency got a big boost- I got roughly 81% compared to the 63 to 73% I was getting before."
  • "Far more than looks, this thing consistently and smoothly grinds my grains. I run the grain through twice and have the husks beautifully unbroken and ready for mashing."
  • "Great barley crusher, very fast. This is great for increasing your mash efficiency."

Check the price on Amazon


Kegco KM7GM-2R Grain Mill 



The Kegco KM7GM-2R Grain Mill is a sturdy mill with an aluminium hopper that can hold up to 7 lbs of grains.

Featuring an alloy block frame that houses two steel rollers on stainless steel ball bearings. The drive shaft and all axles are integral to the roller, which makes it possible to drive the mill clockwise or counter-clockwise. 

A traditional hand crank is included, but a handy feature is that the mill can be easily motorized with a drill. No extra parts or attachments are required, you simply attach the drill as you would a drill bit. Charge your drill battery well!

Stainless knurled knobs allow a gap spacing adjustment range of .070". 

This unit is designed to crack grain, not flour.

Adjusting is simple - just loosen the adjustment screws, adjust the gap and tighten the adjustment screws. You will need to supply or build a base to set the mill over a grain bin or 5 gallon bucket. Sounds like a deal!


Ferroday Stainless 2-roller Homebrew Grinder

ferroday grain mill
The Ferroday is a no-nonsense mill is made of hardened stainless steel, The roller size is 5" long and 1.25" in diameter and the crank shaft has a 3/8" diameter.

The roller is adjustable so you can select your crush settings. The unit weighs 6.6 pounds.


If you've got some questions about using mills, we've got the answers:

Why do I need to mill my grain?


A beer mill allows you to crack your grains right before you brew so that you can retain freshness. Possession of a mill will allow you enable you to purchase more affordable unmilled grain in bulk thus saving you money in the long run.

When should I mill the grain?


It's best to mill your grain as close as possible to brewing day. Many brewers do it a couple of days beforehand so that they don't have to do it on brewing day. It's a long process which just adds to the length of brew days - and those brewers who don't have eight hours on a Saturday to play around with, shorten the process by milling earlier.

If you are unable to actually mill your grain,  you may want to delay your purchase as long as possible so that you can be confident that you have the freshest grains. If you are happy buying milled grain, then you may want to consider investing in a wort chiller or decent mash tun as they are crucial to brewing success.

Coarse or finely milled grain milling?


A grain mill that is appropriate for crushing barley for a mash is usually referred to as a 'grist mill'.

The mill needs to be set 'open' enough that the husk of the barley seed will crack open, but will not be torn apart. The goal of milling is to crack the grain kernels open, rather than pulverizing them into dust. By leaving the husks intact they serve as a filter bed during the sparge process.

Should you grind the grain much too finely, you run the risk of developing a stuck sparge, where the wort will not flow as intended through the grain.

Where should I mill grain?


Most brewers choose to mill outside, over a big bucket. The mess can begin when you dump the grain out of its sack - and that alone can justify your decision to mill outside!

Can I mash grain without a mill?


If you find yourself without a mill, you can try using a rolling pin. The rolling pin should at least crack the grain open. You might try crushing the grain on top of a thin towel.

The towel will stop the grain from rolling around while you try to crush it. This 'rolling pin method' is very time consuming so I'd personally discount it as a method for the long term. 

Many a brave brewer has used a food processor and you can give it a whirl but be wary of over-processing the grain.

Can I use the KitchenAid grain mill attachment? 

The electric KitchenAid mixers are a very popular family based home appliance - and a separately purchased mill attachment may be used to mill grain. It is however designed to mill flour for baking.
kitchenaid grain mill review

Does it work is the real question?

The answer is that results may vary but you can use it.

Common brewer complaints about the Kitchenaid attachment are that is has a small hopper so it can be a timely exercise and it can be difficult to arrange a bucket under the attachment to collect the milled grain. Brewers who successfully use the item advise that one should not set the grain too fine and set it so the malt is barely cracked.

We the attachment will work best with the 600 watt Kitchen Aid mixer rather than the 325 watt unit. 

How can I hook my drill up to the mill?


It's a simple trick to use your ordinary handyman drill to get the mill turning over. Here's a great example of how to set up the drill - et voila you suddenly have an electric mill:

how to connect a drill to a mill

Can I interest you in a ph Meter or the best burner for brewing with?


Hey, if it's been a long day, we get that, chill out some with 501 amazing Star Wars facts.

How to make 'prison hooch' (AKA pruno)

how to make prison hooch

Making an alcoholic brew out of juice is a classic cliche of many a prison movie or television show - but it's based in reality that you can make 'prison hooch' out of fruit juice with a bit of yeast thrown in.

Did you ever watch the trainwreck of a show that was Orange is the New Black on Netflix? Character Poussey made her prison hooch in a plastic bag using fruit...

Fun fact before we get into it, some elephants have been observed to bury watermelons, come back once they have fermented and get drunk. So clearly nature intended us all to drink fermented juice at some point...what is wine after all?

Prison hooch has plenty of interesting slang names - toilet wine (because it is hidden in toilet tanks while fermenting) and buck, raisin jack and one form of it called pruno, is extremely popular - it got it's name from the use of prunes as the sugar base.

What are the ingredients of prison hooch?


In prison, you're probably going to juice all the fruit you can such as oranges, apples, plums, and apricots. Prisoners can't magically get their hands on baker's yeast but they can up their odds by throwing in a couple of pieces of bread (yes, yeast survives the baking process). There can also be natural yeast found on fruit too...

Extra sugar is very helpful and prisoners have also been known to throw in packets of tomato sauce, jelly crystals, hard candy, basically any sugar that can be fermented!

In the real world, you can simply add baker's yeast or brewers yeast to a bottle of orange or apple juice, softly cap the lid and then wait for the yeast to work its magic.

One thing to consider is that some juices contain preservatives that will kill off the yeast. Fresh juices and products that contain sulfur dioxide, benzoate, potassium sorbate, and dimethylpyrocarbonate may be fairly difficult to ferment.

If you intend on using pineapple, consider that it contains enzymes which can be hazardous to yeast, though some yeasts are stronger than others and you can always boil your juice before pitching your yeast.

How to make this fruity prison pruno cocktail?


In prison, it's done with a plastic bag that can be sealed. The fruit is pulped up, bread added and then sealed. It's then placed somewhere warm, such as a toilet where it can ferment for 5 - 7 days (depending on if the guards find it). Else whatever is available is used - buckets & bottles.

In the real world, you seriously probably just want to make a nice homebrew cider. If you want to give it a crack though, by all means, use the plastic bag but we suggest you simply use bottled juice and you ferment in the bottle itself. This will also prevent spills and mess!

If using the bag technique, any vintner will remind you that fermentation produces CO2, so you will need to burb the bag each day to release this gas build up.

If brewing from a bottle, you can use a balloon  or condom with a small hole pricked in it as a release valve of sorts:

prison hooch with balloon release  blow off valve


How long does it take to make 'prison hooch'?


5 - 7 days is a pretty standard length of time but the more time the better. Once fermentation is complete, your pruno juice is now ready to drink - you may wish to chill this overnight in a really cold fridge to help let any sediment fall to the bottom of the bottle. In the brewing vernacular, this is called cold crashing.

What is the alcohol content of prison hooch?


Conditions, ingredients and time of fermentation are some genuine variables that will determine the ABV of pruno or prison hooch can range from as low as 2% to as high as 14% which is similar to strong wine. A batch that high will knock you for six, which is exactly want you to do in prison right... it all depends on how much sugar is available to ferment.

orange juice prison hooch

Can you make prison hooch out of Gatorade?


I get what your thinking - if you drink, you get a hangover but if you drink a brew made of Gatorade then the electrolytes will help you wake up as fresh as a daisy!

You actually can ferment such sports drinks but you need to change the game a bit - pitch a high amount of yeast and add additional sugars. I've heard use of honey can make an OK wine.

Whatever sports drink you choose to use, you should boil it to try and kill and preservatives present,

It's probably not really worth your time...

How safe is prison hooch to drink?


You may have heard the stories from US prisons where prisoners have suffered from botulism which has been attributed to brewing alcohol in prison. If the botulism was involved, it would have been caused by unhygienic and un-sanitized conditions, rather than the process itself.

So if you using clean brewing equipment and sanitizing with cleansers like sodium percarbonate, you'll be just fine.

For the record, you can't get methanol poisoning from homebrew either.

Why is my home brew beer flat?

Why is my home brew beer flat? Can I fix it?

Ah, there can be no greater disappointment as a home brewer to flick a beer opener up on a bottle to crack the brew and you hear the sound of silence.

It’s actually an experience sadder than most Simon and Garfunkle songs.

Flat beer means something has gone wrong in the brewing or bottling process and you will need to trouble shoot it to figure out what went wrong.

So first, what is this flat beer? 

It means your beer has not carbonated in the bottle and hence your brew has no fizz. 

So, the first thing one can do is check if this was a single instance of a dud by open a second bottle.

If you hear that fizz of C02 escaping, you know that first bottle was just a dud. This was probably due to user error when bottling the beer. Did you properly cap it it? You’ve got to make sure your capper really makes a firm seal. Other wise your beer will carbonate but the CO2 can escape and no pressure builds.

Sometimes this has happened to me, mistakes will happen to the best of us right?

What I do, especially if it’s a really good beer is I will mix the beer with a properly carbonated beer - this way, I don’t have to dump the flat beer and I get to drink two beers.

I call that #winning.

But, if you opened two beers and they were flat, then you’ve got a problem.

So, here’s some things to consider: 

Did your beer ferment in the first instance?

  • Where there bubbles coming out of the airlock for three to four days at least?
  • Was there some gunk at the water level - which is a strong sign fermentation has occurred?
  • Did you take readings of your beer using a hydrometer - did you see a change and obtain a final gravity?

If you did observe any of that, you probably achieved primary fermentation. This is good as it means your flat beer will have alcohol in it.

So what might be happening here is that secondary fermentation has not occurred.

Beers need to condition properly at the right temperature for secondary fermentation to start. If a bottled beer is too cold, then the yeast will go so sleep and not eat the sugars in the beer - and thus you’ve got no bubbles.

So, if you are certain primary fermentation has occured and that you properly capped your beers, then ask yourself, was your beer stored in a suitably warm place?

This has totally happened to me once before - I left a crate of beers to condition in my outside shed in the middle of winter - and sure enough, it was too cold for the yeast. The solution was to bring the beers inside and leave for another week. Sure enough, the yeast warmed up, started fermentation and my flat beer became bubbly beer in a week.

It’s clear then that when you bottle, your beer needs to be warm - so the yeast can activate. 

It’s OK to place it in a cooler place later (but don’t make it an extremely cold environment!) - so to give your beer it’s best chance of fermenting - let your bottles condition for three or 4 days in a warm place. They can then be conditioned for another few weeks elsewhere.

But what if primary fermentation did not occur? Why could this be?


You know the cliche of when your computer goes bung and won’t turn on and you call the helpline and they say, is it plugged in Sir? 

And you feel like a real jackass because your laptop was not plugged in?

Not pitching your yeast into the wort is the equivalent.

So ask yourself, did you add your yeast to the fermenter?

A secondary question, did you pitch the yeast at the right time?

If you add the yeast when the brew is freshly boiled, the hot wort will kill the yeast and you will not have fermentation.

If you have realized you’ve done this before bottling, you can add some new yeast to your now properly cooled wort and see if it will rejuvenate it - there should still be plenty of sugars for the yeast to eat

It just means you’ve delayed your brewing schedule!

If you’ve already bottled, you may want to dump your beer or open them all up, dump them in a fermenter, pitchy yeast and try your luck. If you go this route, try and introduce as little oxygen into your new mix as possible as beer hates oxygen past primary fermentation.

Not enough sugar?

Sugar content is intrinsic to the success of your beer

Another reason why your beer may be flat is that you under primmed the sugar.

If you put too little sugar in your bottled beer, then not enough bubbles will be produced as there’s not enough food for your yeast.

Batch priming your wort with sugar is an easy way to get sugar into your beer (as opposed to individually adding it to each bottle) and it saves time - but make sure you add enough sugar!

If you are trying to make a low calorie beer, then you need to reduce sugars at the primary fermentation stage, not bottling.

Corn sugar, cane sugar, and dried malt extract (DME) work best for priming beer.

If you used old yeast, or primary fermentation did not occur, a bit of a hack to fix is to open up each bottle by hand and add a few grains of yeast to each one. Do not add too much as the yeast may over fermenting, leading to gushers. Accordingly, your results may vary with this trick!

Can I get methanol poisoning from home brew beer?

methanol poisoning from beer

Can I accidentally make methanol when home brewing beer?


From time to time I see potential brewers ask if they will accidentally make methanol when foraying into beer production.

This is because methanol is quite a dangerous alcohol.

It is toxic to the human body and can have some very nasty effects - ranging from blindness to the worst of which is death.

Everyone has heard the stories of some Russian sailors on a fishing boat going blind from drinking homemade spirits right? Drinking this kind of 'rocket fuel' is just a hazard of the job eh?

First up, the answer to the question is that the ordinary beer home brewing process makes the alcohol called ethanol - not methanol. So you can't get methanol poisoning, no matter how much extra sugar you add.

That's in general though - some methanol can be produced but at such minor levels that have no effect on the beer or effect on the body when consumed.

Fruit beers that contain pectin could have slightly higher levels of the spirit but the effect is still negligible.

So from that perspective, there's no risk of making a beer batch of methanol and going blind. It's more likely that you will just get blind drunk or meet Darth Vader!!

There are however some genuine risks if one is distilling alcohol - backyard operations can indeed produce batches where the methanol content can be lethal (or more sinisterly methanol is added deliberately and sold on the bootleg market). It's for this reason, most countries in the world have made the distillation of spirits illegal - plenty of stills can be bought on Amazon though!

It is allowed in New Zealand but only for personal consumption.

The science of distillation is quite complicated and there appears to be an of myth around methanol production. The key point to understand that if you are homebrew brewing beer, there's no risk of making a killer brew.

Distillation on the other hand... stay away from that unless you've been properly trained.

What is the treatment for methanol poisoning?


Methanol toxicity is the result of consuming methanol.

The horrific symptoms may include a decreased level of consciousness, poor coordination, vomiting, abdominal pain, and a specific smell on the breath. The famous effect of decreased vision or blindness may start as early as twelve hours after exposure.

The blindness is caused by the methanol being broken down by the body into formic acid when then has a debilitating and damaging effect on the eye's optic nerve.

Is there a cure for methanol poisoning?


There is a cure!

The sooner the antidote, fomepizole, is taken, the increased likelihood of a good outcome for the victim.

Other treatment options include dialysis and consumption of sodium bicarbonate, folate, and thiamine.

This is of course, not medical advice. If you have a consumption incident, seek medical services assistance immediately.

I saw a query from a gentleman who decided to drink a glass wine after having left the bottle opened for 2 months. The wine was disgusting, he burned his throat and he described that he felt like he had a headache. He wondered if the wine had turned into methanol so as to explain his condition.

It's more than likely that the wine's ethanol had not converted to methanol, instead, it was probably oxygenated and had become a vile vinegar!

How to brew ginger beer

how to brew alcoholic ginger beer

A guide to brewing alcoholic ginger beer


Despite what many recipe sites on the internet may claim, ginger ale and ginger beer are completely different drinks.

Ginger ale is basically fizzy water that's been flavored with ginger. Ale is not brewed.

Alcoholic Ginger beer is a more 'involved' drink that is created by the fermentation of ginger spice, yeast and sugar.

Sounds like making ginger beer is a lot like making beer eh?

The most basic way to make ginger beer is pretty simple:

Ferment a mixture of water, brewer's or baker's yeast, ginger, and sugar; this is kept for a week or longer, with sugar added daily to increase the alcohol content. When ready, this concentrated mix is strained, diluted with water and lemon juice, and then bottled.

How to make alcoholic ginger beer


Here's a stock standard recipe:

  • 2kg ginger
  • 1 kg brown sugar
  • 1/2 kg castor sugar
  • 2 limes
  • 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • Use an 'ale' yeast

This DIY recipe will make 5 gallons of hard ginger beer - simply add the ingredients to your water (which is in a clean, sanitized vessel, a standard beer brewing fermenter or carboy is fine!).

You'll want to shred the ginger in a food processor and then juice your lemon and limes if you're adding them.

Feed the brew a little sugar twice a for three days to feed the brew and allow the yeast something to feed on. The more you do this, the higher the ABV your brew will be.

If you want to 'brew' your ginger beer in a more traditional beer-making sense:


You need to bring your ginger to the boil in a boiling kettle - add the ginger and sugar when the 5 gallons of water is boiling. You can put the ginger in a mesh bag if you like - this will mean fewer bits of it in your final product, making for a clear poor.

Boil your ginger wort for about 60 minutes, watching to ensure you don't get a boil over (this is less likely than with a grain boil, however).

While you're doing the boil, take the time to sanitize your carboy or fermenting drum. I like to use sodium percarbonate, it's cheap and does the job well. Many brewers will use tried and true Star San.

If you are serious about ginger beer clarity, then add some Whirfloc tablets (Irish moss) into your wort just before the end of the boil. Don't add it early or the effectiveness of the Whirlfloc will be reduced.

If you have the equipment, it's time to cool your wort using a counterflow or an immersion coil - this is good for the beer how, if you don't you can simply transfer your wort to your fermenter and let it cool naturally to room temperature.

When your wort is at a room temp, you can pitch your yeast. It is important that your ginger wort is cool as a hot boiling wort will kill the yeast, meaning fermentation will not occur.

You can then let the ginger beer ferment for at least a week. If you are keen, taking readings with a hydrometer so you can work out the final gravity and thus ABV of your ginger beer.

After that week, you can bottle but as with making beer, we'd let it sit for a bit longer to let the yeast do its thing. This increases the chances of any odd off-tastes lingering in your ginger beer.

Before you bottle, you may wish to sweeten your ginger beer. If you do not, it's quite likely that it will be extremely dry, making for a tough drinking experience.

root ginger


If you want to bottle and cap for the long term, pasteurize your ginger beer


Many a brewer has learned the hard way about over carbonation of bottled beer - gushers and exploding glass bottles. The same can happen when brewing ginger beer - so many brewers will use plastic bottles with loosely tightened tops to ensure gas release or tin foil over the top. 

But if you want to bottle and cap for a long term storage solution.

Once you've done your boil up of the ingredients, and pitched your yeast, bottle & cap and let it brew for 2-3 days.

If you let your ginger brew continue to ferment longer than that, you're probably going to get some exploding glass bottles.

So, you need to kill the fermentation process.

Bring a large pot of water to 180F, turn the heat OFF, and add your bottles to the hot bath. Make sure your water level is high enough that it will reach the top of your ginger beer level inside the bottles. What you are doing is pasteurizing your ginger beer. Let the bottles stand in the hot water for at least 10 - 15 minutes. Remove from the bath and let cool.

Your brew is now pasteurized and shelf stable, meaning you can store it without fear of exploding bottles.  

Your beer will probably have a minimum alcohol content given it fermented to only three days.

If you are really worried about exploding ginger beer, condition in plastic bottles, you can also use campden tablets to halt the fermentation process. This does mean your beer will be quite flat as no secondary carbonation will occur in the bottle.  

What yeasts can you use to brew ginger beer?


To make ginger beer you can use brewing yeast or baker's yeast. That said, many homebrewers tend to use the well respected 'Safale US-05', ale yeasts or champagne yeast.

How to make a ginger bug

  • Add 20 grams of grated ginger (leave the skin on) and 30 grams of granulated sugar to a mason jar. Add 300ml of water, and place a cheesecloth on the lid. Store in a place where it will not get disturbed.
  • Over the next 2-4 days (until you see yeast activity in the form of bubbles), keep adding the same amount of grated ginger and sugar. Stir with a clean item to mix up.

Fun facts about ginger beer

  • Used in cocktails like Dark 'n Stormy and the Moscow Mule
  • Brewed ginger beer originated in the Yorkshire region of the UK during the Victorian Era
  • The ginger plant is sometimes known as "bees wine"

Eight pH meter use mistakes (that you can totally avoid)

errors made when using ph meter -probes

How to prevent pH meter use mistakes from occurring


pH meters can be a wonder for brewers, chemists, scientists and acid enthusiasts and kombucha makers alike but they sure can be finicky things to use and manage correctly.

Calibrate this, calibrate that. 

Storage solution this, store in that.

Given the complexity and the science around their use, it's no wonder that user error can creep in an ruin a good reading. In the case of quality pH meters, it's always good to follow the user instructions!

Here's a list of the most common user errors and mistakes that people sometimes make when using and storing their devices.

Storing the electrode 'dry' rather than in a storage solution


Electrodes are the sensitive parts of the pH meter, they do the hard work and are pretty complex scientific constructions.

Basically, they are designed to be kept wet because something-something science - the electrode will dry out, and be most likely rendered unusable if kept dry too long.

This is because a pH electrode’s sensing glass is generally composed of three distinct and discrete glass layers: a hydrated outer glass gel layer, a dry middle layer, and a hydrated inner layer.

The hydrated layers are responsible for giving the electrode the sensitivity needed to detect changes in pH.

If you fail to store your electrode in a fresh storage solution, you totally reduce the device's sensitivity.

This will mean drifting pH values can drift, you may be frustrated by slow response times from the unit, and obviously, you will get incorrect readings which means any judgment you make about your beer or solution will be founded on a lie.

A lie!

That said, there's many a chance that you can revive a dried out electrode.

If you finally place the bulb and junction in some pH storage solution and leave for at least an hour, you may be able to revive it.

Assuming that works and you then want to use it (naturally!) remember to calibrate your pH meter before you test your sample.

Wiping the sensing glass


original Beckman ph tester
An original Beckman ph tester
Your pH probe needs to be very clean to ensure that your measurements are accurate, so it's natural that you might thus clean it.

What you use to clean and how you clean the unit is very important.

The electrode works by sending a voltage to your meter that is based on the pH of the solution is has been placed in.

If you clean the glass probe by wiping it, say with a clean paper towel, the pH glass can produce a static electrical charge. This charge interferes with the probe's reading of the voltage which means the meter will give an inaccurate reading.

So, do not wipe the probes, let them soak in distilled or deionized water.

You can probably blot excess moisture off with a paper towel or cotton material how do not wipe it!

Not properly cleaning the electrode


If you do not clean your pH electrode regularly a coating known as the 'hydrated layer' may develop on the glass bulb. Once this layer settles in, it will cause your unit to display inaccurate readings.

Which just defeats the whole point of using a meter! So clean your electrode with a proper cleaning solution.

(in) frequency of calibration 


A failure to regularly calibrate you meet will result in inaccurate readings, and the longer you leave it, the more likely you will get incorrect numbers.

Depending on the amount of use a unit gets, daily calibration may be ideal.

If you are an infrequent user, then you should probably consider calibrating prior to using your meter. 

Having a low electrolyte fill level


Refillable electrodes allow you to replenish the electrolyte in the reference compartment once it begins to run down. If the electrolyte is not replaced as this occurs, your pH measurements will go awry.

The problem of 'erratic electrode response' is a common problem caused by inadequate electrolyte levels.

It's good practice then to ensure that your electrode is replenished and functional by maintaining the fill solution level at less than a half-inch from the fill hole cap.

Storing the electrode in deionized water


Never ever, ever store your electrode in water, even if you have run out of storage solution.  It will render it useless.

In this case, it's all about the ions. You may remember them from chemistry class back in the day.  is 

An ion is a molecule that has a non-zero net electrical charge.

Got that?

Deionized water contains pretty much no ions. Your pH electrode is full of ions, both in the filling solution and in the hydrated part of the pH sensing glass.

So when an electrode is submerged in a solution that has no ions, the ions in the electrode will want to move out into the solution in an attempt to attain a new equilibrium.

Gradually the electrode will be spent of its ions and it will be unable to complete its task

If for some insane reason you have done this (might why you've found this page....) there's a way you can try and fix the probe. If it is refillable, replace spent fluid with a potassium nitrate fill solution. Then place the electrode in the storage solution.

Give it a chance to do its thing.

You will then need to calibrate the unit before testing again.

Using an old electrode


It's odd that we have to state that it's a mistake to use an old dried up electrode but there you go. A dry electrode will not have enough ions present to do the job and you won't get any useful readings.

Best, you get a replace probe - one that means the job - the round head style for testing with a beer wort or hydroponic solution and a conical head for 'solid' items such as soil.

Not fully submerging the probe in the solution


This is a pretty simple error to avoid. Make sure the whole pH sensing component and reference junction are submerged in your water, wort or other solution. This is so enough ions can be measured to enable a good reading.

In the market for a quality meter?

We recommend the Milwaukee MW102, a tried and true unit that suits the needs of beer brewers.

If you think all this is too much, you can always do a simple test with a pH strip
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