When to add 'rice hulls' to the mash

Have you ever had a stuck sparge when there's simply no wort exiting the tun? 


What a way to slow down your brew day! 

Sure, you can give your mash grain a bit of stir and try and remove the blockage and get going again but what if you could add something to the mash to prevent another stuck sparge?

Enter the use of rice hulls to prevent a stuck mash.

Rice hulls are the exterior layers of grains of rice.

When rice is harvested, the hulls are cast off because they are not for eating.

Once the hulls have been washed and dried (which removes flavor and color) they can be used as a filtration agent for getting the wort out of the mash.

They work by creating some space around the gritty and grisly mash particles so the wort can flow out of the mash tun. Given they do not add any flavour to the wort and are pretty cheap to buy, rice hulls are an excellent solution to a brewer's need to prevent a stuck sparge or lautering process.

Rice hulls offer a natural, easy way to help prevent a stuck mash!

rice hulls add to the mash

Use rice hulls when sparging a high gravity beer


It is a good idea to use rice hulls when you're brewing a high gravity beer with a big grist. This applies especially to beer recipes that demand high percentages of speciality malts and wheat and rye beers.

This is because these grains have higher levels of protein and beta-glucan than compared with barley grains and these elements cause the wort to be more viscous than other brews.

How much rice hulls should I add to the mash?


Many brewers seem to use hulls at a percentage no greater than 5 per cent of the total grain bill. In reality, a common measure is 1/2 lb per 5 gallon batch.

When do I add the rice hulls to the mash?


You can simply mix them into your dry grains before you infuse them with hot water.

Can I sparge with oat hulls instead of rice?


You sure can. 

Like rice hulls, oat hulls are the shell of the oat grain. 

Given they are pretty much inedible and no good for making porridge with, they have found other uses as filters. They act in just the same manner as rice hulls and do not any impart anything into the wort.

They are commonly used when brewing rye or wheat beers, the same as rice hulls.

Do I have to worry about rice hulls absorbing water?


Worry? 

Perhaps that's the wrong word but if you are the kind of brewer who likes their beer exactly as the recipe demands, then yes, the hulls can absorb water. 

So, what do to? Soak them in water prior to use so you don't have to even think about it.

Given there can be the odd bit of dust in them, give them a rinse in a colander before soaking.

Do I need to sterilize the rice or oat hulls before adding to the mash?


Some people do but I really can't see the point as the wort is about to be boiled within an inch of its life in the brewing kettle on top of a gas burner with masses of BTU which should kill any bugs that were hiding on the grains or hulls. 

What now? Go read the Star Wars crawl or something.

How to make 'prison hooch' (AKA pruno)

Hooch.

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

It's that simple...

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 but chemical love?

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 brewer or 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). I have no idea how this happens, it seems counterintuitive to this author... 

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 fermenting 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 alcohol. 

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 do I tell if my beer fermented properly? (I really want to drink it)


How to tell if beer brew has fermented?

Fermentation is the name of the game when making beer.

If you don't have fermentation taking place, you simply don't have beer.

You have just have a 23 liter bucket of watery malt.

Homebrewers can face fermentation stage issues and a common problem is that fermentation has not begun. A typical sign is that there are no bubbles coming through the airlock.

how to tell if beer fermented

But is no bubbles in the airlock really a sign of a lack of fermentation?


The first thing to bear in mind is that it can take at least 15 hours of your Earth time before the CO2 bubbles start gurgling through the airlock. 

So don't go drowning your sorrows just yet if the bubbles haven't started. If you think that your beer hasn't started brewing there's some problem-solving you can do. 

If you are using a glass fermenter you can look for a dark scum that rings around the water level mark. You can probably see it through the standard white fermenter drum as well.

Or check for signs of foam or the krausen as it is affectionately known. Give it 20 - 48 hours before you start to worry.

If using a plastic drum you might be able to see through to check for the scum. Another trick is to take out the airlock and try and peek through the whole to identify scum or foam.

Also, did you firmly seal your fermenter? If not, the CO2 is possibly passing out via the lid and not the airlock meaning the pressure build-up is not sufficient for gas to pass out the water trap.

We're going to assume your fermenter is in a warm place and not in some shed where the temperatures are approaching zero degrees centigrade. Your yeast will go to sleep if this is the case.

You could also check the gravity by using a hydrometer.

I'll assume you know how to use one.  The beer has usually finished fermenting if the final gravity reading is  1/3 to 1/4 of the original gravity. This, of course, means you took an original reading when you first prepared your beer.

You did do that right?

If you have the same reading 24 hours apart - that's your final reading and an indication that the fermentation is finished. 

Don't bottle your beer just yet, let it mellow for a bit longer.

The longer the better your brew will probably be. If you are a beginner brewer, trust me on this. Let you brew rest up just a little bit longer than you may have the patience for.

Brewing is a game of patience, and those who wait are rewarded with good-tasting, clear beer

So why weren't there any bubbles in the airlock? 

That's a fair question to ask.

It could be that there was a leak that allows the CO2 to escape (to teach you to suck rotten eggs, those bubbles in the airlock are carbon dioxide gas, the by-product of fermentation).

You may have not tightened the drum enough or possible not screwed in the tap properly.

It's a good idea to check this is the case before you worry too much.
  • If you didn't see any signs of fermentation it could be that it's too cold to brew.
  • Is your batch of beer in a warm enough place?
  • If you're brewing during summer months, it's probably not too cold.
If you've left your beer in a cold place in the shed, then it may be too cold. If it's too cold to brew in your 'man shed' - say it's the middle of winter, you might want to bring your brew inside the house.

You could consider wrapping it in blankets or old sheets (I do this all the time just because that's what I learned to do at University in the cold, windy town of Palmerston North, NZ. This is a handy trick and will help to keep the chill off your beer. I think this trick works best if the beer is already warm enough to brew. 

Maybe leave it in the laundry if it's a warm place?

When I brew in winter I will often leave the fermenter our the warm kitchen or living room at least overnight so that the fermentation process has a decent chance to start. My wife hates that but still drinks the beer so go figure. 

Some brewers like to use heat pads (try the Mangogrove Jacks one) or panels to keep the beer at a consistently warm temperature. If you do wish to use a pad, you'll need to be able to store your brew close to a power socket so the heat pad can operate.

Yeast issues?

Another more serious reason for beer failing to ferment is yeast failure.

This may occur if the yeast has become dry. This is why you will hear a constant refrain from expert beer users to only use fresh ingredients.

In the case of a beer kit brewer, this means to not purchase old stock as the yeast could be too old (I do suspect however this is a bit of a housewives tale - as stock should rotate fairly regularly). 

However, in our experience, we haven't had this problem with a beer kit yet. 

A key trick is to add (pitch) the yeast at the appropriate temperature - if using a beer kit you will be well off to generally follow the temp instructions - you especially do not want to add the yeast if the solution is too cold as it may be hard for the yeast to get traction - and whatever you do, don't add yeast to boiling water (if that's what you are using to mix everything together) - as that will almost certainly kill the yeast and ruin any chance of your beer successfully fermenting.

So in summary here are some problem-solving tips:
  • Check for leaks that allow the CO2 to escape - tighten the fermenter drum
  • Look for foamy residue - if you see it, you're OK
  • Look for scum residue - if you see it, you're OK
  • Make sure the temperature is appropriate for the kind of beer you are making
  • Consider using a heat pad to ensure a consistent brewing temperature
Image credit to Quinn Dombrowski via Creative Commons Licence

How to make homebrew hard cider

Brewing apple cider guide


When I was a lad, I lived in a place called 'the fruit bowl of New Zealand', that place being Hastings.

There were apples everywhere, in the orchards, on the farms, on every corner. 

Open the newspaper and four or five would fall out! 

And never once did I think about making them into cider.

And now that I live miles away from the orchards of home, a good cider reminds me of years ofapple picking and thinning and driving a hydra-ladder around an orchard to help pay for university fees.

But you came here to learn how to brew an alcoholic (hard) cider, so let's get on with it. 

If you've brewed beer before, it's the same concept of fermentation but with some slight variations to the preparation of the basic ingredients and the addition of a few handy remedies to augment the cider's flavor. 

As always when brewing, it's very important that all your equipment is exceptionally clean and properly sanitized.

how to brew apple cider


So what do we need to begin making hard cider?


If you think the first thing on the list of things you need is apples or pears, well, you'd be right.

But it's not that simple.

When brewing cider, not all apples are created equal.

Ideally, you'll have been able to harvest some late-season apples, maybe even some which have naturally fallen from the tree. This is because these apples have high amounts of sugar in them, and as any brewer knows, sugar is great for fermenting!

Having a mix of different kinds of apples is very useful for taste preferences as well. 

Mixing Red Delicious with Granny Smith in a 1 to 2 ratio will produce a dry cider whereas 1 to 2 ratio of Macintosh to Cortland will produce a sweeter cider.

Another way to get the mix right is to use a mixture of 70% dessert apples and 30% cooking apples. 
This should give a good balance of sweetness and acidic taste.

Preparation of apples for brewing


First up, wash your fruit of dirt, bird shit, leaves and twigs and the like. Cutaway any rotten fruit as well. If your apples are a bit bruised, this is not a concern. 

Your immediate goal is to turn your apples or pears into a pulp. Some players may use a scratter but chances are you're gonna have to do this the hard way by using a bit of elbow grease and pulp them into what's called a 'pomace'.

What you do is pulp the fruit in a large bucket by simply pounding it with a piece of clean wood in the form of a 4 x 4 post. Or the end of a baseball bat, or whatever's handy for pulping.  Things will work out best if you quarter your apples or pears before starting this process.

You can always use a blender to speed the process along, but you are not trying to puree the fruit so go easy with the blender. 

Bear in mind, that you're not trying to go all Charles Bronson on your apples. 

Your mashed apples should have some substance to them, and they should certainly not be liquefied. If that's the case, you've over pulped. 

How many apples do I need to make cider?


A very rough rule of thumb is that 2kg of apples or pears can be turned into 1 litre of juice. If you are thinking in gallons, you'll need 20 pounds or just under 10 kg per gallon. So, if you want to fill your traditional 23 beer fermenter, do the maths and you'll find you need 46 kgs of apples.

Which is a lot of apples!

When crushing, be careful not to overdo it. The finished apples should have some substance to them, and liquid juice should not be present. 

If it is, you have pulped them too much.

brewing cider tips


It's time to press your apples and extract the juice


Seasoned pros will venture that using an apple press will save a lot of time and efficiently produce a lot of juice. 

Make sure your apple press is nice and clean. Make sure you have a clean bucket properly positioned to collect the apple juice. 

Then load your quartered apples or pears into it. 

As you turn the press, you will start to feel some real tension. Don't be tempted to keep going, this tiresome part requires a dedicated application of slowness and patience. Leave the press in this position for a couple of minutes and the juice will actually begin to flow.

Turn the press down onto the fruit until you feel some real tension. As soon as you do, don’t keep turning but leave this in position for a few minutes. You will see the juice will start to run. When the juice stops then tighten the press again and leave to repeat the process again until your apples are fully pressed. 

You should now have all the juice you need to make your cider with but first, it's time to add a campden tablet or two.

Adding sodium metabisulphite to kill off wild yeast


Producers of cider know full well that a batch of juiced apples can easily succumb to acetobacter bacteria contamination which causes the classic turn-to-vinegar spoilage of the apples.

Acetobacter is easily killed off, hence treatment with an agent like a Campden tablet (sodium metabisulphite) is important in cider production.

Using approx one tablet per gallon will also see off any 'wild yeast' that might have traveled with your apples. 

Experienced cider conjurers may also take the opportunity to add pectolase or peptic enzyme to the juice. Pectolase aids in the break down of pectin in the fruit giving you more juice and of great importance, this facilitates a better fermentation and a clearer cider as it helps reduce pectic haze. The amount of enzyme to add is approximately one teaspoon per gallon of juice. 

It's also used in winemaking for the same reasons.

It's recommended that you give this new solution 48 hours before you pitch your yeast to commence fermentation. Given this time, you should cover your apple juice will a towel or some such item to prevent foreign particles from getting in. You may wish to give it a stir once in a while as well.

Actually, stir the heck out of the juice every 12 hours to make sure everything is coming into contact with the metabisulphite

Adding yeast to the apple juice


Having let your juice rest with the Campden tablets for at least 24 hours, you are now at a fork in the road somewhat. You can take your chances with any benign yeast taking their opportunity to ferment the juice or you can pitch a yeast that is well suited for brewing with apples or pears.

If you didn't already transfer the juice into your fermenter, now is the time to do so. Make damn well sure it is properly sanitized.

You might want to take a reading with a hydrometer to get the gravity of your juice so you can work out the ABV. 

It's time to add the yeast but what kind should you add?

The classic, traditional yeasts to use are commonly referred to as Champagne yeast as they produce what is often described as neutral flavors but there are some great wine and beer yeasts out there to try as well. 

Here are a few selections:

Specific yeasts for cider

  • Mangrove Jack’s Cider Yeast M02
  • Safcider from Fermentis
  • WLP775 English Cider Yeast from White Lab

Champagne yeasts for cider

  • Prise de Mousse, EC1118 from Lallemand. A popular choice for those who wish to have a high alcohol content (and you can encourage this by adding extra sugar to your cider batch).
  • Pasteur Blanc from Red Star
  • VQ 10 yeast from Enartis
  • Enartis Ferm WS

    Beer yeasts for cider

    • Saflager S-23 from Fermentis
    • WLP565 Belgian Saison from White Labs
    • Wyeast 3711 French Saison
    Here's a demonstration video of how the professionals do it:

    How long to leave the cider to ferment?


    Fermentation should start within the week, or a few days if the temperature is ideal. You'll want to let your brew do its business for about two weeks AND then give it another to let the yeast begin to settle out of the solution to improve clarity.

    You can get away with quicker times for brewing beer but apples and pears need this time if you want to make a quality brew.

    What temperature do you ferment cider at?


    As with beer making, sound temperature control will improve the odds you will have a good tasting beer. The extremes apply here - too cold and the yeast will hibernate and not ferment. Too hot and the yeast will be overworked and will produce fusel alcohols which will impair the taste of your cider. 

    The ideal temperature is considered to be about 15 degrees Centigrade or 59 Fahrenheit. Nudging to 20 is acceptable but anything over will produce unwanted side effects. 

    A steady temperature is also ideal. Too much fluctuation can through the yeast off its game. If you have a brewing fridge / fermentation chamber with a thermostat, your cider is ideal for a run in it. 

    When to add malic acid to cider brew?


    Malic acid occurs naturally in apples and plays a part in the pH level of your cider and most crucially taste. If your pH level is too high, then adding extra malic acid will reduce the pH level (remember the lower the pH level, the more acidic a solution will be). 

    Conversely, if your pH level is too low, then you'll want to add a base such as precipitated chalk.

    So then, your next question surely then is what is an ideal pH reading for cider? Many brewers aim for a range of 3.2 - 3.8. If you're nudging over four, you'll want to add malic acid as given it is already present, it matches the profile of the cider. 

    If you're interested in using a digital pH meter for checking the level of your cider, check out our pH tester buying guide.

    Do I need to add tannins to my cider batch? 


    Tannin is a yellowish or brownish bitter-tasting organic substance that can be found in plant material such as tea, rhubarb, grapes and apples. Tannins are acids, a well known one being gallic acid. Tannins give an astringent, drying bitterness quality to cider. 

    Some kinds of apples have high tannin levels so the addition of them is not really necessary. Where brewers are using applies which naturally make a sweet cider, that brew may need some added tannins. 

    A ¼ teaspoon of tannin per gallon of cider is a commonly recommended amount to add. The exact amount can be a bit of a science, this dude has some great advice on how much to use.

    Tannins can be sourced online from Amazon or from your local brew shop.

    bottle conditioned apple cider


    How long do I bottle condition cider for if I'm carbonating?


    Cider takes a lot longer than beer to condition to an optimum drinkable state. It can take up to two months for carbonation to fully occur and even longer for the cider to reach peak performance. That said, some brews will be carbonated within 2 - 3 weeks. 

    It's very important to only bottle when you are sure fermentation is complete as if you cap those bottles before the yeast has done its job, you'll run the risk of bottles blowing up especially if you've added sugar to promote bottle carbonation. 

    A bottle explosion can send a big foamy mess everywhere and littering the place with sharp glass. 

    Trust me, I've made this mistake before and it's a massive pain to clean it all up and worse, it's a waste of time and energy and money!

    If you want flat cider, without carbonation, you'll need to add an additive such as more Campden solution to prevent any residual yeast from fermenting in the bottle. Like when you were preparing the apple juice, leave the Campden to sit for a whole day before bottling to help ensure any yeast present is accounted for.

    Remember to store your bottles in a cool spot, free from direct sunlight, especially if you used green bottles. 

    I should mention that before bottling should taste your brew as this is the time to 'back sweeten' if wish. 

    If you want to do this, you can add a non-fermentable sweetener such as stevia. This is in place of using extra sugar and it will mean you won't over carbonate.

    Making cider from store bought Apple Juice


    Making cider from store-bought apple juice is a very simple process as the hard work has been all done for you. Try and use a juice that doesn't have preservatives as theoretically this can hamper fermentation from commencing but don't overthink it.

    [The short version is you just add yeast - kind of like making Pruno]

    You might want to start with a gravity reading. If it is below 1050, then you may wish to consider adding a bit of sugar so the yeast has something to start working on.

    The process of fermentation is the same so fill your clean and sanitized fermenter with the desired juice. Give it a bit of a shake to aerate and then pitch your yeast - maybe Lalvin EC-1118. You could also add some yeast nutrient as well.

    Some brewers split the juice in half and once they are satisfied fermentation is occurring, they add the second half.

    Seal your fermenter with an airlock and leave it be for 2 to 3 weeks at a minimum. When you feel your cider is ready for bottle conditioning, you can batch prime with dextrose in the normal manner.

    You will want to condition your cider for a minimum of two months - cider brewers need to be more patient than beer brewers if they want a good tasting cider!


    What is a Demijohn?


    A demijohn (or jimmyjohn) is a particular kind of glass fermenter that is popular with cider and winemakers. 

    They come in all kinds of sizes from 5 litres through to 23. The smaller sizes allow for experimentation. 

    Their long necks can make them troublesome to clean.

    hard cider beer kit


    What about brewing with a cider kit?


    There are plenty of cider kits out there, just as there are for beer. We've taken a fancy to the Brooklyn BrewShop's Hard Cider Kit:

    A perfect kit for beginners, it makes fermenting hard cider at home simple and fun. The kit has enough ingredients to makes 3 batches of hard cider.

    It includes 1 gallon reusable glass fermenter, 3 packets yeast, vinyl tubing & clamp, racking cane & tip, chambered airlock, 3 packets cleanser, and screw-cap stopper. 

    You'll need to supply your own apples or juice.

    You'll be able to produce 3 batches of 7% ABV of hard cider (9-10 12-oz bottles). Brooklyn BrewShop describe that this kit will help you make a cider that is tart, bubbly and dry. 

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

    sanitization of beer brewing equipment

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


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

    There's a difference between sanitizing and sterilizing

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

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

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

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

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

    Now we've got those definitions clear, there are several methods that you can try to 'sterilize' your gear.

    We'll note a couple in detail:

    You can drown everything in bleach

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

    But what is bleach?

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

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

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

    We try and do several hours of soaking if possible.

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

    Use sodium percarbonate as a sanitizing agent

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

    And it does not smell like chlorine does.

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

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

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

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

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

    Non scented house brands are awesome.

    Other methods of sanitization and sterilization
    • Applying heat - use your oven for a good dry heat.
    • Boiling in water with your camping stove or burner
    • Use an autoclave or pressure cooker (this seems like a bit of overkill though)
    • An ordinary house dishwasher machine can be used for sanitation but remember it's not likely to clean the inside of the bottles as well as you might wish, rather you are using the heat of the dishwasher to kill any microbes. 
    The key goal here is to make sure that your equipment is nice and clean and that it has a few microbes on it is possible. You can use whatever means you like to achieve this but you have to do it and you must be consistent.

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

    If you are looking for a product to CLEAN your brewing equipment then we suggest you consider using PBW:

    PBW stands for Powdered Brewery Wash

    PBW cleaning product by Five Star is widely used in many commercial breweries but countless homebrewers across the land have cottoned on to how they can use it for cleaning their own brewing equipment.

    If you've ever used a 5 gallon stainless steel boil pot you'll know how crusty the remnants on the bottom of the pot can be. A quick round with PBW will sort them out easily. All you have to do when cleaning with hot water, is add just a little bit of PBW, mix it up, and let it sit in the pot. All of that burned-on garbage lifts right off. Ideally, a good burner will not cause this problem!

    PBW is also excellent for cleaning the inside of your beer bottles, it can really clean out the beer's sediment. 

    The main ingredient is about 30% Sodium Metasilicate. Its chemical formula is Na2SiO3 and it's what kicks grease and beer smegma to the curb. If you want to be brave and buy the main ingredient in bulk, there's plenty of value on offer on Amazon.

    Image credit Anna L Martin as per Creative Commons License

    ↠ What is dry hopping (and how you do it)

    How to 'dry hop' homebrew beer 


    Simply speaking, dry hopping is when the brewer adds hops in pellet form to the fermenter after the wort has been readied.

    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 airlock 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 its 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 that dry hopping is a popular practice.

    That said, we’ve thrown extra hops into our brews at the start of the fermentation process and haven’t experienced any taste disasters.

    what is dry hopping in beer making?

    Beware the sediment factor

    A point you might like to consider is that dry hopping can increase the chances and amount of sediment settling in your bottled beer. You may wish to think about placing the hops in a nylon mesh bag or muslin wrap.

    Shortly before bottling your beer, remove the muslin back of hops with a sterilized instrument and you’ll be fine. 

    I’ve read some brewers raise concerns that this method may reduce the chances of the hops being exposed to the beer. If you do share those concerns, you may want to make a tea of your hops!

    If you are worried about infecting your beer with hops, don’t worry about it – indeed hops have been found to assist yeast with fermentation by having an anti-microbe effect on any nasties in beer!

    The classic hops choices for brewing are popular for dry hopping: Cascade, Crystal, Fuggle, Saaz, Willamette, Golding, Hallertau, and Tettnanger. You can of course dry hop with whatever variety you wish! It’s your beer, you can make it any way you want. 

    We would encourage you to match the kind of hops to the kind of beer you are making. E.g. Goldings hops are a popular choice for ale brewers.

    How much hops to add to the fermented wort drum?


    The question of how much hops should be used when dry hopping is fairly easy to answer. 

    Anywhere between 30 – 60 grams is considered normal, however, you can add as much or as little or as you want. It's all about taste and experimentation to find your personal preference.

    If you double that 60 grams to 120 you will be more likely to get a very strong hop aroma from your beer.

    Any greater amount and you will probably suffer diminishing returns (and hops are expensive!).

    Did you know you can grow your own hops?

    Using fruit with your home beer brewing

    Brewing with fruit is all about exploring what works for you


    What are your personal tastes? 

    How adventurous are you?  

    Are raspberries your favourite fruit in the world? Then try making a raspberry stout! 

    Got some more eclectic fruit preferences? How about an elderberry ale? 

    That's the beauty of brewing with fruit - there are some many arrangements, styles, and combinations that there's a fruit brew for everyone. 

    The fruits most commonly used in fruit beers are raspberries, cherries, apples, and citrus fruits. 

    The point is you can use any fruit you like, it's your beer. Some fruits of course work better with certain beers but the world's your oyster in that regard - brewing is your hobby, after all, you can do whatever you like. 

    making fruit beer

    So the first question would be fruit brewers often ask is:

    Should I use fresh fruit with my home brew?


    You might have heard the expression "fresh is best" when it comes to using cryo hops but when making a fruit beer, you need to consider that fresh fruit can have some issues

    Taking the fruit right from the orchard or vine without some form of treatment makes some brewers nervous  - as they are trying to avoid wild yeasts. This has meant several practices have been developed to treat fresh fruit.

    So the options which we will now examine are:
    • boiling
    • freezing
    • pasteurization
    • and being brave

    Should I boil the fruit in the wort?


    There are two schools of thought about adding fruit to the boil.

    Many brewers will do it to ensure that any bacteria present are destroyed because nothing is as disheartening to discover your beer is infected and ruined!

    And in that sense, it will work but there are certainly a few drawbacks.

    Boiling fruit releases the pectin in the fruit and that will likely cloud your beer, giving it a cloudy haze that many brewers wish to avoid. It can also be attributed to off-flavors (despite irony of the intention of boiling to release flavour).

    Soft fruits like cherries, grapes, and strawberries contain smaller amounts of pectin than other citrus fruits like pears, apples, guavas, quince, plums, gooseberries, and oranges so you can way that up in your decision to boil or not.

    If you insist you need to add fruit during the boil what you can do is steep your fruit in the hot wort, or add it directly to the fermenter at the right time. If you are going to steep your fruit, place whole, fresh fruit in a nylon or muslin bag and place it in.

    So if you have decided not to boil your fruit what can you do?

    Should I freeze the fruit before using it?


    If the thought of boiling your fruit is too much you can totally freeze the fruit. It's a really common and trusted practice in the beer brewing community.

    The night before you think it's time to add it to the batch (post-primary fermentation), begin to slowly thaw it out in the fridge. It will then be ready when you need it. 

    Freezing the fruit is not a complete guarantee against no contamination, but it will reduce the potential risk of infection occurring.

    Oddly, freezing can also help with getting the fruit's flavors out of the fruit and into the beer. This is because the water inside the cells of the fruit crystallizes and expands. This process bursts the cell walls and in a sense, it mashes the fruit from the inside out. You can compare this to the freeze thaw action of ice on rock!

    How to pasteurize fruit for brewing


    In most civilized countries, the law requires that milk is pasteurized prior to sale to prevent bacteria such as salmonella, e. coli, and listeria from harming the general population. That suggests that fruit could benefit from pasteurization before it is added to the beer.

    Basically, you use low heat to kill the bugs. Puree your fruit so that it is nice and smooth (so it can be cooked through). You pasteurized it by heating it on the stove in a pot at 80 Centigrade for 30 minutes at a constant temperature. 

    That should take care of the bugs - it's now time to add the fruit to your beer.  

    If you make the fruit too hot, you will have the same effect as boiling and pectins will be released.

    Being fearless and chucking the fruit it the fermenter


    There's certainly nothing wrong add your fruit in sans boil or freezing. If you are adding it post-primary fermentation, the alcohol present can protect against infection.

    I guess you could always give the fruit a quick soak in some Star San or similar for a short while.

    using fruit for brewing beer

    Pureéing fruit for brewing in a blender


    If you are going to pureé your fruit - use a good blender. One that has of course been sanitized with something like sodium percarbonate

    This reminds me to share that I once read of a guy who when blending would add a cup of vodka to the fruit to try and kill any bacteria! 

    I reason this could kind of work and the vodka wouldn't add any unintended flavor to the beer. 

    You should, of course, wash the fruit thoroughly and then remove any stems, leaves and pits or seeds before blending.

    Can I use dehydrated fruit with beer?


    You sure can add dehydrated fruit to beer.  It's less messy but if you going to pulp it up, you might need to blend it with some water. Make sure the water is clean first with a test kit.

    When do I add fruit to your beer?


    We've talked about it but let's get into some detail.

    So if you haven't boiled the fruit in the wort when do you add it?

    Kind of like dry hopping, many brewers report that you tend to get the best results if you add the fruit about one week prior to bottling rather than adding it directly to the wort on brew day (either before or after the boil). 

    The reason for this is that the processes of primary fermentation can strip out the flavors of the fruit.

    So to that end, a good time to add the fruit is after primary fermentation is complete - so take your hydrometer and do your readings - when you have two or three identical readings you have your final gravity and can you add the fruit.

    Adding during secondary fermentation has the added benefit that you are adding the fruit to a known solution of alcohol - which will help kill and work against any bacteria that may be sneaking in on the fruit.

    black doris plums

    Some punters remove the skins from the fruit


    If you are making a nice plum lager out of some ripe Black Doris, you might want to think about peeling the skins due reduce of a wild yeast like brettanomyces which is usually found on the skins of fruit.

    It's interesting to note that Brettanomyces were first discovered by scientist N. Hjelte Claussen in 1904 at the Carlsberg Brewery - he was investigating the 'Brett' as a cause of spoilage in English ales.

    It's worth noting that while Brett is considered a contaminant in beer, it is a vital component of the wine making process for many winemakers. 

    That was a slight detour - the key point is that if you want to reduce the chance of naturally occurring yeasts getting into your beer, strip the fruit of its skin if you can - might be hard if you're making a cherry beer!

    How much fruit should be added to the beer?


    A rule of thumb is to consider how sweet your fruit is. If you have a very sweet fruit, such as cherries, you might want to add less to your beer than you would say a peach.

    The truth is that amount of fruit to add varies according to the desired intensity of flavor and aroma, but for medium intensity, you should add ½ pound of fruit per gallon of beer for strongly flavored fruits like raspberries and up to 2 pounds (1 Kg approx) per gallon for fruits like peaches or melon which you could consider have a milder, less tart flavor. 

    If I can't get fresh fruit, what else can I use?


    Given fruit is quite a seasonal item, there are other fruit-based options available. You can add concentrates, purées or juices to your beer - they've been well processed by the time they get to you via the supermarket so you can skill the boil or freezing parts of the processes and add them just prior to secondary fermentation.

    If you simply want a flavour, you can use artificial ones or extracts, just remember they do not contribute to the body or 'mouth feel' like real fruit will.

    You can of curse use all kinds of fruit juice to make prison hooch.

    How long should I bottle condition fruit beer for?


    Bottled beer usually takes around three weeks to get to the prime drinking period, regardless of whether it has fruit in it or not. 

    In our case, at least a month of bottle conditioning will give plenty of time for the yeast and other floaties to fall to the bottom of the beer as sediment (remember, you can always cold crash before bottling). 

    This will also give the fruit plenty of time to become one with the base beer flavours.

    You can also remove fruit extras by using finings such as Irish Moss.

    Go forth and experiment young Padawan!


    The wonderful thing about beer makers is they love to experiment - there's something special about brewers who are willing to try new things and mix up their norms - using fruit is a great way to do that as there are many combinations of fruit and beer types that offer even the most casual brewer a chance to produce a fun tasting beer. 
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