How Cryo hops & 'lupulin powder' can replace the need for traditional hop pellets

How lupulin 'Cyro Hops' are changing the beer brewing industry 

The concept of making beer hasn't changed much in several hundred years but the methods recently have. While hops have been used for many a year, one company in America might have found a way for a genuine step change in hop use with their innovation of collecting lupulin powder.

You might already know that lupulin is the part of the hops that brewers utilised to make beers hoppy as that's where the good alpha acids for brewing come from.

using lupulin to make cryo hops
In case you didn't know, the alpha acids are converted into bitter iso-alpha acids during the brewing process, and essential oils and are what give beers their varying hoppy qualities.

YCH Hops, a grower-owned hop supplier based in Washington, America has created a new process where the lupulin is extracted from the hops and is collected in powder form and marketed as Cyro Hops.

You might well ask, what's the point of this?

Efficiency gains in making beer are the short answer.

Beer hops are often made into pellets form for distribution and preservation. The process of making the pellets actually breaks down the acids and oils meaning the effect on the beer requires more hops than one perhaps needs. Enter lupulin powder which has the superior percentage of 'herbs and spices' over hop pellets meaning that less quantity is required.
Ekuanot hops are quite popular

YCH boasts that their product "offers twice the resin content of traditional whole-leaf and hop pellet products" which basically means you only need to use half as much.

YCH Hops initially started to market their powdered 'Cyro Hops' with the brand name "LupuLN2" to commercial brewers in America.  The reviews are in and breweries switching as result.

How is lupulin powder made into cryo hops?

The powder extraction process is simple in concept. The collected hops are subjected to cold temperatures inside a nitrogen atmosphere. This limits any oxidation of the sensitive resins and oils in the hop. The hops are 'chilled and milled' and the lupulin is forced from the lupulin gland.

The little guy has not been forgotten though - a small home brewer, you can buy the powder from Amazon!

How to use Cryo Hops

It's dead simple - you can simply dry hop the Cyro hops as you would with your ordinary pellet hops. You don't even need to make a hop tea!
cascade cryo hops

What variety of cyro hops are there?

YCH Hops have produced Mosaic, Ekuanot, Citra, Simcoe and Cascade versions of LupuLN2. 

The benefits of using Cryo Hops

You can see the appeal for commercial brewers - less volume means better storage and transportation costs.

The other benefit of the powder is that their use in place of traditional hops means less 'green material' is left in the beer, improving clarity by reducing sedimentation and better beer brightness.

You can see why home brewers who don't have commercial means of clearing beer will love using the powder!

I haven't found any information how long the powder can be used before it loses its potency.
Given the apparent early success of lupulin powder with the American brewers that have used it, we expect that its popularity will slowly begin to spread across the Continent and then the rest of brewing communities the world over - provided it's sold at a cost-effective price relative to the economics of using traditional hop pellets it should do well - indeed the prices on Amazon seem pretty fair.

What's the difference between dry malt and liquid malt (extract)?

Is there any difference between liquid malt extract and dry malt?

The short version is there is no massive difference but a key difference is perhaps obviously the water content.

The effect of the difference between LME (syrup) and Dry Malt (sometimes referred to as spray malt) is that due to the different water content, they differ in sugar content.

So, if you are following a beer recipie to the letter, you cannot subsititue LME for Dry Malt if you want to stay true to that recipie.

Unless you apply some maths. 

The keenest beer brewers can use a simple formula to determining the conversion rate from one to the other.

The general ratio for use between the dry and liquid forms of 'malt extract' is thus:

1 pound of dry malt extract equals roughly 1.2 pounds of liquid malt extract. Likewise, 1 pound of liquid malt extract would roughly equal 0.8 pounds of dry malt extract.

However, it is not a case of never the twain shall meet.

If you are happy enough with good enough, you and use LME for DME and Dry Malt Extract for Liquid Malt Extract. 

Your results may vary but if you dose your beer in hops, the average punter will not even notice. 

If you are a new brew, say using extract kits rather than a boil, then you probably don't need to worry too much about what you use. 

It's my view that adding a little something extra to a malt kit will make a better beer and the most common thing to add is a 'beer enhancer' which is usually based on... now wait for it:

Dry Malt Extract.

Here's some pros and cons and tips for using DME or LME:

  • As soon as the DME is exposed to air it begins taking in moisture which in turn causes the powder to clump and become a hassle to work with.
  • This is why some brewers use a whisk to whip the DME into warm water before adding it to the wort.
  • LME is said to have a shelf life of up to two years under ideal conditions (cool, dark and dry)
  • Rember you ratios: 1 kilo or pound of DME will raise your original gravity more than 1 pound or kilo of LME.
  • A handy way to remember the ratio: 4 pounds of dry is 5 pounds of liquid.
  • Some brewers have reported that LME will produce a boilover but DME produces a hell of a boilover...
  • LME tends to wind up darker than DME. For this reason, it's hard to produce a true pale ale using LME alone.
  • DME tends to have a better shelf life without the darkening issues of light malt extract as it has less water.

How to make 'prison hooch' (AKA pruno)


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

how to make prison hooch

Making alcoholic fruit hooch - Prison Pruno

Did you ever watch the trainwreck of a show that was Orange is the New Black on Netflix? The 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 its 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 can survive the baking process). 

There can also be natural yeast found on fruit too... it's everywhere in nature!

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 diethylpyrocarbonate may be fairly difficult to ferment.

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

How to make fruity prison pruno cocktail AKA hooch?

In prison, it's often 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

What does this homemade cider or orange hooch taste like?

In my personal experience, it will often turn out quite bitter, or tart. 

If you've an iron cast stomach, give it ago. I could only manage half a glass before I mixed a glass with a 50:50 split with a lemonade, so becomes a kind of fruity seltzer.

A hand trick to account for the taste is to add some artificial sweetener or Stevia. 

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.

There's nothing stopping you from using a hydrometer to take a gravity reading - when you have a few daily readings the same, then primary fermentation is complete. 

What is the alcohol content of prison hooch?

Temperature 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 what you want it to do in prison right?

That will all depend on how much sugar is available to ferment. It will also be hard to drink. 

orange juice prison hooch

Can you make a prison hooch out of Gatorade sports drink?

I get what you're 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 the use of honey can make an OK wine.

Whatever sports drink you choose to use, you should boil it to try and kill any 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 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.

Making hooch is a 'cheap' and effective way to make some alchohol. Understand that there's a variety of reasons as to the quality of booze you may make. Rember, results may vary and you make have to experiment somewhat before you settle on the kind of hooch you fancy. 

How temperature plays a role in homebrewing

best - measuring the temperature of beer with a thermometer

Why temperature control is crucial to brewing a good beer

If you know the story of Goldilocks and the Three Beers, you'll know that she eats the bear's porridge and she finds it:

Too hot!

Too cold!

And then just right!

Which is how the temperature of beer works in determining that beer tastes just right. 

A beer that is brewed at too high a temperature may produce unwanted fruity flavours (esters) or excessive diacetyl traits.

In other terms, it comes out like paint thinner -  the beer in my shed recently suffered a mini summer heatwave while wrapped in blankets that left it tasting like turpentine.

I had to dump 23 litres of beer!

Conversely, a beer that's too cold won't even brew at all. And that's just no fun, even for Goldilocks.

So, if you know that the beer you are making needs a certain kind of temperature, how does a brewer work the temperature out?

The classic tool is known as a thermometer.

Easy huh?!

But let's cut to the chase. The Etekcity Lasergrip Laser Infrared Thermoeter is the bees knees and well worth a trial.

Pitching Yeast at the correct temperature so you don't kill yeast

'Pitching yeast’ is just homebrewer lingo for adding your yeast to the wort.

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 and begin fermenting. 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.

Hence, brewers should use a thermometer to ensure the correct pitching temperature has been achieved.

The benefits of using a glass thermometer

glass thermometer for home brewing
Many home brewers will be quite familiar with the standard floating glass thermometer that seems to be supplied with some many beer kits (historically at least).

These glass thermometers generally are designed to measure a temperature range of 0-100 Centigrade (32-212 Farenheit). A great benefit of using them is that it is there use is so simple - it can be simply dropped in your pot or mash tun. It will of course float and be able to be read whenever you like.

Another benefit is that glass thermometers are an entirely enclosed system so you should have no issues with their operation and are rarely inaccurate so you can rely on them

Being glass, they are of course susceptible to breakage more easier than some of the heavy duty temperature measuring devices.

Storing beer at the correct temperature

Generally speaking, it's good practice to store your beer in a warm place. This will encourage secondary fermentation (this is sometimes described as bottle conditioning).

The ideal temperature range is between approx 18 - 25°C for 5 to 7 days.

HOWEVER after that period, you should leave them in a much cooler place with a temperature range between approx 8 - 12°C. Three weeks a good length of time at that temperature range before you crack open a bottle.

Behold, the Bi-Metal Dial Thermometer (and how to use one!)

A step up from a floating unit, a bi-metal dial thermometer is a more robust measuring device that will give you a quick reading when checking the temp of the mash tun. They are some times called kettle thermometers.

These dial thermometers are also fairly easy to calibrate and they need to be as they can become inaccurate easily, especially when brewers use them frequently regularly. Dropping them once or twice certainly does not help so their calibration should be checked often.

The use of the bi-metal thermomter is pretty simple - the have a clip that fastens to the tun or kettle. The 9 inch probe they have extends into the wort to take the measurement. 

A good quality dial thermometer will be welded with a stainless steel housing and corrosion resistant to most chemicals. Like this Tel-Tru 42100909 Model from Amazon!

This is why the cooling process can be so important.

Cold Crash and temperature

When cold crashing beer you want the beer to be really cold so the yeast becomes flocculent and falls to the bottom of the beer.

You don't want to freeze your beer but you want it pretty cold so using a thermometer to measure the coldness of your fridge or unit you are doing the crashing in is pretty smart.

The commonly recommended range varies from 33 degrees Fahrenheit to 40 degrees F, with 38 degrees F being a fairly popular temperature point. 40 F is about 4.4. Centigrade.

Just remember a 5% ABV beer can start to freeze at 28F.

Now here's the big daddy of getting a read on temperature:

Using Infrared Digital Thermometers when brewing

An infrared thermometer might be pretty handy to help you take the temperature of your brew. You do not dip the unit in the beer wort you use project a laser at an object (such as beer) and the device then measures the temperature based on the infrared reflection.

So basically to use it you just point and shoot it at the surface of the water and it will give you the surface temperature reading. One reviewer on Amazon noted, "I found it to be quick and accurate for measuring water, the temperature of the pot itself, and external temperatures of fermenters."

So, let me introduce you to the:

infrared scanner to check brew temperatureEtekcity Lasergrip 1080 Non-contact Digital Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun

Pew !

Pew !


  • It features a versatile design: Infrared Technology makes this thermometer handy to use when cooking and barbequing, performing auto maintenance, doing home repairs, and of course brewing beer. Measure all the from -58℉~1022℉/ -50℃~550℃
  • Better accuracy: the distance to spot ratio is 12: 1, meaning the Laser grip 1080 can accurately measure targets at greater distances compared to most other ir thermometers
  • Target quicker: a built in laser gives you the precision to hone in on the exact space you want to measure. 
  • Added function: the LCD screen is backlit, also has an auto-off function to extend the battery life, and features a low battery indicator so you never accidentally run out of juice (battery included, booya!)
We say the real benefit of using this device is that you don't need to get even close to hot water or wort - you can keep your distance.

I've seen it reported by brewers that when working with an all grain mash tun infrared devices can have some trouble. The foaming and grain on top of the mash tun can interfere with the laser which can give incorrect readings.

How to fix 'flat' homebrew beer

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

You have a flat beer. 

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 - there is a fix or two!

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

What is this flat beer and how can I fix it?

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

So, the first thing one can do is check if this was a single instance of a dud by opening 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? Y

ou’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?

So the fix in this example is to mix the flat beer with a properly carbonated beer - this way, I don’t have to dump the flat beer and I get to drink two beers.

Two beers!  

I call that #winning.

But, if you opened two beers and they bptj were flat, then you’ve got a problem and you're back to:

...hello darkness, my old friend.

What's the play to fix this?

Consider first:

Did your beer ferment in the first instance?

  • Were there bubbles coming out of the airlock for two to four days at least?
  • Was there some thick gunky residue at the water level where the wort sat inside the drum - this is a strong sign fermentation has occurred properly
  • Did you take readings of your beer using a hydrometer - did you see a change in readings 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 to sleep and not eat the sugars in the beer - and thus you’ve got no bubbles.

So, if you are certain primary fermentation has occurred 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 and commence secondary fermentation. 

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 its 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?

So you did them. Fine. Let's move on.   

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 occur.

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, pitch a new 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 during 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!

How to tell if your brew is infected by bacteria

There's a really simple way to tell if your beer is contaminated

Ready for this life changer?

Drink it. 

If it tastes like the scummiest thing you've ever put in your mouth, it's infected.

If it makes you vomit, it's infected.

If it smells like someone set off a sulfur bomb, it's infected.

If you open the cap and the beer explodes like it has been shaken up a thousand times, it's probably infected. This happens as rogue yeast or bacteria has over carbonated your beer, resulting in too much pressure building.

Such an explosion should not be confused with a beer bomb caused by the addition of too much sugar when you primed the beer.

Basically, a good rule of thumb is that if you really have to ask if your beer is infected, then the chances are it probably is.

You can, of course, do a visual inspection of your beer before you bottle it as well. What you are looking for at the top of the wort is the formation of 'pellicle' (or a yeast raft)- which is a collection of microbes hanging out on top of your beer.

This may not happen with every infection, however.

The pellicle formation can look a bit like this:

pellicle infection of beer

or even this:

beer infection

Which is a real shame because it's not just the fact that your beer is ruined by bacteria or wild yeast commonly referred to as brettanomyces, it's that you've lost your time - it doesn't matter if you've used a kit or done a diligent boil, you have lost those precious minutes.

You've also lost a bit of cash, which can hurt a little, especially if you've gone and sourced that special wheat yeast from the brew shop or those homegrown hops that you drove 45 minutes to get from a brewing mate who swears they are the best he's ever grown.

So what did you get out of this?


It's quite likely that user error caused the infection to occur so maybe there's a lesson here for you that you can learn:








I learned from my screw up and have never had an infected batch of beer again and that was like three years ago.

Sure, it can be a pain to do the job right but if you want to have a beer that's right to drink, you gotta clean.

So let's talk about the causes of infection.

The most likely cause is as you've probably understood if you've got this far is that uncleanliness leads to infection. By giving bacteria something to feed on or hide in, you open yourself up to a higher chance of infection occurring.

So, clean your fermenter, brewing spoons, pipes, spigots, taps, mash tuns and whatever else you use on brewing day. There's many kinds of cleaning agents you can use (such as the famous Powdered Brewery Wash) but a bit of elbow grease with damn hot to boiling water will do you justice.

Then, sanitization is key. We have promoted sodium percarbonate many times on this site as we think it just does wonders and since we have adopted it, we've never had a problem.

The best part about using sodium percarbonate?

You’ve probably already got some as it’s found in ordinary laundry soak!

So on brewing - clean and sanitizing everything. Don't be lazy or your beer will be hazy!

The next time you'll want to think about bacteria is bottling or kegging day.

Yep, it's almost a case of literally rinsing and repeating.

Your keg and bottles must be free of any gunk and residue yeast. Given them a damn good clean and then use your sanitizer of choice.

In the case of bottles, my favourite trick is to run them through the dishwasher on the heaviest setting. First I rinse them with water to remove all the sediment etc and then they go in. At the Heavy Duty setting, the dishwasher will use the hottest water it can and that kills the bugs. I then store them in a clean drum under a blanket.

Then on bottling day, a quick soak in some sodium percarbonate solution makes things just right.

You can always tell if you haven't done this part properly because if in your whole batch of bottled beers one or two do not taste right but the rest do, you can reasonably assume the issue was with the individual bottle and not the batch as a whole.

mega pellicle for an infected beer batch
This "mega Pellicle' was from a beer brew that was found to be infected.

That Rotten Eggs smell from beer

We mentioned that rotten eggs can be a sign of an infected beer. That may well be true but it is not true in every case.

If you have used a yeast strain that produces this kind of smell your beer is OK. If you open a bottle conditioned beer too early, you might be able to get those eggy tones.

If you let your beer condition for long enough, that smell will go away as the yeast will have continued to work everything out.

If your beer's water is high in sulphate such as that water source infamously discovered at Burton-on-Trent, England then your beer may naturally have this smell as well - the so called 'Burton Snatch'.

If however, your beer has bacteria that has contaminated your beer, THAT 'smell' is a sign your beer is ruined. 

How can you tell? 

Do the taste test and that will give you a big indicator.

If you are making wine or cider, there is another risk vector for your brew. That is the natural yeasts that can be found in fruit that can wreak havoc.

Many cider makers will use campden tablets to kill off any wild yeast and then substitute their own yeast more suited to the kind of wine or cider that they wish to make.

↦ Using calibration buffer solutions to calibrate a pH meter

How to calibrate a pH meter using a buffer solution

While beer making can be a bit of a science, taking the pH level of your beer or water is like some kind of advanced astrophysics lesson because it seems so complicated, what with all the calculations and formula.

Some guy called Nernst apparently had a lot to do with it.

While a pH reading can be complicated because a serious brewer needs to properly calibrate their pH meter - the actual 'maths' involved is straightforward - especially when a proper reading is taken which then means the brewer can make an informed judgment call about how their beer is going.

using ph buffer solutions

And to calibrate your meter, you need calibration or buffer solution.

What is a calibration buffer solution?

A calibration or buffer solution is a chemical solution that is used to calibrate a pH meter.

A buffer solution is one that resists changes in pH when small amounts of acid or alkali are mixed with the buffer. Acidic buffer solutions are commonly made from a weak acid and one of its salts - often a sodium salt.

The buffer is used to develop a calibration curve. This a scientific method for determining the concentration of a substance in an unknown sample by comparing the unknown to a set of standard samples of known concentration

In the case of calibrating a pH meter, at least three 'standards' are needed.

Without the standardized pH buffer to calibrate the meter, the results will not be accurate and thus give you the wrong impression.

pH meters tend to 'drift away' from their calibrated settings, it's just their nature due to the way science works!

It is thus very important to calibrate your pH meter often so that the accuracy of your results is maintained.

Devices other than pH meters need calibration with a solution too, such as refractometers and conductivity meters.

What are standard buffer solutions?

The definition is that standard pH calibration solutions should have an accuracy of +/- 0.01 pH at 25°C (77°F) and come usually in seven different pH values from 1.68 to 10.01.

The most popular and commonly used buffers are (4.01, 7.01, and 10.01). Good brands are dyed different colors so they can be easily identified by the brewer and thus used in the correct order.

Standard buffer solutions can be used to calibrate almost any common pH meter so you don't need to fall into the trap of say, for example, using a Hanna brand buffer for a Hanna meter.

The Milwaukee MW102 is pretty popular too! And let's not get started on how big a seller the Apera is!

This does mean that you can look at price and value per mls when deciding what brand to use.

There are two other kinds of calibration standards - Technical and Millesimal

Technical solutions come with a certificate of analysis (COA) which affirms that the solution will absolutely perform to the standard as described.

Millesimal calibration solutions are used in labs where accuracy down to three decimal places is required, think along the lines of municipal drinking water plants, and medical research facilities where readings can be absolutely crucial to good human health outcomes!

Homebrewers generally just stick with standard calibration solutions which they often order online from Amazon.

Why you need to use fresh calibration solution for pH testing

Brewers and testers should always use fresh calibration solution when calibrating one's pH tester electrode. 

All pH measurements are based on the pH calibration solution as a reference point so the solution needs to be pure and not contaminated. 

Think of this like contact lens solution, when it gets old, you don't use it to clean your lenses, you bin it and go with a fresh batch.

It's generally recommended then that opened bottles of buffer solution should be dispensed with after they have been opened for 6 months. The higher the buffer's pH ( from  > 7 ), the quicker it will degrade.

If you are calibrating fairly infrequently, you may wish to consider using single-use solution sachets rather than bottled.

using buffer solution to calibrate ph meter

How do I use a calibration solution?

Your meter's pH electrode should ideally be cleaned in purified water before placing it in your pH calibration buffer. This reduces the chance of contaminating the solution

A good practice is to be to use two beakers/containers for each calibration buffer that you will use.

Your method would be to clean the pH electrode with purified water then rinse the probe in one of the beakers with the buffer then place the probe in the second beaker with buffer.

Repeat this practice for multiple calibration points.

For best results, the user must ensure the pH probe has been cleaned and that it is rinsed with clean water between calibration solutions to reduce contamination of the pH solutions.

Here's a handy video guide on how to use your meter with the buffer:

If your solutions are clear, make sure you mark them out before you begin calibrating! You could leave the bottle or sachet close to the beaker as a reference. 

To obtain a correct pH calibration reading, the unit's accuracy is very dependent on the accuracy and age of the calibration solutions used, and the condition and cleanliness of the pH probe tip. You will get a calibration error if the unit is not properly maintained as per the instruction manual.

Never reuse calibration solution

Once you have calibrated your device and then tested beer wort, you should dispose of the reference calibration solution.

Given it has been exposed to the environment and has had equipment placed in it, there's a fair risk of contamination - so adding that to your original sample can risk ruining all your fluid!

The same applies to reusing the test sample at a later date. Just don't chance it.

Check out these common ph testing mistakes for other ways to avoiding screwing up. 

Making homemade calibration solutions

While some brewers can try to make their own DIY solutions to save money, the results prove to be homemade buffers that are not accurate or stable. This is a wasted effort as the buffer can be guaranteed to interfere with the accuracy of the test results.

Thus, we don't recommend you try to make your own! Check out the options available on Amazon.
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