What to do about weevils in the grain mash

beer weevils

Once my father and I were house-sitting for a time. The first morning, I got up and was delighted to see there was Coca Pops in the cupboard for breakfast. 

Cocoa pops are basically puffed rice that's coated in sugary chocolate. So, I was happily eating away and was nearly done with the cereal when I looked at the bowl and noticed something odd. 

The rice was alive. 

Alive in that it appeared to be wriggling. 

Yep, the cereal had weevils all throughout it and I had eaten more than three-quarters of the bowl.

I had eaten larvae! 

Gross! 

It was worse than the time I found a giant weta at the bottle of a beer I had consumed... 

The question though is, what happens if you discover your grain mash is full of weevils? 

Can you continue to brew? 

Should you brew with old grain? 

At the end of the day, when I ate the Cocoa Pops filled with larvae, nothing happened, I was fine, the food tasted good, and so will your beer.

If you discover weevils (Sitophylus granarius) or other bugs and critters in your grain the choice is yours.

A purist may ditch the grain into the compost. 

And that's fine. 

Budget brewers who know the bugs will be killed in the boil may not have a care in the world. 

It's up to you!

pantry pest weevil

In such situations, I would personally bear in mind that grain has had weevils in it for centuries, indeed as long as beer has been brewed there have been weevils in the grain, so how big a deal is it? Indeed, it's an everyday occurrence in flour mills around the world. 

There's a tolerance level and below it, the bugs just get ground up into the mix. 

I would also consider just to what degree of infestation of moth larvae do you have? A couple here and there or is your grain bill a seething mass of writhing protein?

Any bugs in the grain will all get pasteurized in the boil so what's the problem?

The bugs should float up to the top as the water heats up, just scrape them off, relax, don't worry, and have a homebrew!

Pantry pests such as granary and rice weevils will infest and feed on whole grains and rice as well as nuts, beans, cereals, seeds and corn - so there's never been a better time to give the kitchen and brewery space a bit of a spruce up and get rid of any spills and loose items that may have fallen to the floor etc.

How do I kill weevil in my beer?


Placing the grain in a freezer for 24 hours will kill them until they are good and dead. Hopefully, you'll have some room in the freezer...
 

How to prevent weevils from getting into the grain?


Elimination is probably never going to be at 100 per cent. You're probably going to go for containment and thus:
  • Don't hold excess levels of grain for too long
  • Keep grain cool as larvae will hatch when it's warm
  • If you need to store grain for a period, buy it sealed
  • Keep your grain sealed in airtight containers if possible. 
  • Keep your brewing area clean. Sweep up dust, spilt grain. Give moths, weevil and other critters like mice nothing to feed on and lay on. 

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

sodium percarbonate cleaning beer bottles


Using Sodium Percarbonate to clean and sanitize your beer brewing equipment


The first mantra of beer brewing goes something like this:

Make sure your equipment is clean and sanitized!

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

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

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

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

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

How to use sodium percarbonate?


Your mixing instructions are simple. To use sodium percarbonate you simply add it to water.

Be generous with it! A health scoop or spoonful is awesome.

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

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

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

Watch out for hot water leaving the hole in the drum lid!

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

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


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

For me, that is a very different process.

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

Get stuck in with a soft brush and some really hot water and make sure your fermenter is really damn well cleaned and clear of any residue from your last brew. Pro tip - you can use PBW cleaner (or make your own brewing wash!).

Giving your utensils a run around in the dishwasher never hurts as the heat kills bugs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But an oxidisation clean is not sterilization right?


Fair question and a correct point.

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

You may wish to consider using a sterilizing agent like Star San but in my experience, if you have cleaned your equipment and then soaked it very well, you shouldn't really need to use a sterilizer.

This is because the sanitizer should have killed most of the bugs, especially as there's an argument that the percarbonate does all you need to provide excellent brewing conditions.

I use this method exclusively.

The choice is yours.

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

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


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

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

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

Non scented house brands are awesome.

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

Or maybe you'll add a nice trait to your beer!


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


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

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

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

You can then use that knowledge to decide if you wish to use it but we may be overthinking things a little bit here. We've never had any issues and totally recommend using laundry soakers as a cheap source of percarbonate.

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


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

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

So why do it? 

Because it's cheap and it works.

It really does.

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

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

or

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

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

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

Not once.


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


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

But what is it really and is it effective?

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

That's a long way from Kansas, Dorothy!

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

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

The Caustic Soda option


As an aside, if you've got say a really stubborn fermentation scum ring that just won't seem to wash off, you could consider using caustic soda.

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

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

Believe me, when I was a young lad I worked at a chicken fast food style restaurant and while preparing a solution of caustic soda to clean the floor, a single drop got in my eye.

It burnnned so bad.

A hospital visit and an eye patch for a week followed.

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

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


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


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

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

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

What is the difference between sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate?


A fair question.

Have you ever heard of soda ash?

This is sodium carbonate.

It is a salt made from sodium and carbonic acid. It is quite commonly used in the manufacture of glass, paper, rayon, soaps, and detergents.

Sodium percarbonate is an adduct formed from sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide.

One more thing, percarbonate sometimes is called sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate. As if it could get any more complicated...


Bonus tip!

You can clean your deck with oxygen bleach!

Use approx 4 liters of water and 1 cup of sodium percarbonate to clean your outdoor wooden deck. That would suit a deck size of about 10 square meters.

Bonus tip  2!

Don't confuse sodium bicarbonate for percarbonate - you're not making a cake!

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

Bonus tip 3!

Before capping your beer, check that the bottle is clean and there are no creepy crawlies hiding in the bottom... 


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

How to properly clean and sanitize your fermenter drum

Don't leave your spoon in the drum!
How to properly clean and sanitize your plastic beer fermenting drum after brewing a batch of yummy beer


This post will help you properly clean and sanitize your fermenter after you've finished brewing.

Note that we said both clean and sanitize.

This is because while cleanliness is next to godliness, clean is not good enough to kill and remove bugs and bacteria that may lurk in the tiny scratches of your beer fermenter.

This is basically a 'suck eggs' post - we sound like your mother telling you to clean your room but dude or dudette, you gotta clean up after yourself!

Cleaning your fermenter


It's our practice that when we have finished bottling that last beer, we clean the fermenter to remove all the scum and fermentation residue that has collected on the inside of the drum. 

If you do this now rather than in a few days or weeks or months ...it will be a much easier job.

First up, I dump what's left at the bottom of the drum on the vegetable garden as I suspect that's quite nutritious for the plants.

Then I grab the garden hose and clean the drum out.

Kill the bugs until they are dead, dead I say


Then I get a kettle of still hot and boiled water and dump it in and then I add a large spoonful of sodium percarbonate.

I then seal the drum and shake it vigorously. The heat from the boiled and sodium will act as a cleanser. 

I then drain and put the drum in a clean spot ready until I need to use it (at which point I will give it another proper dose of sanitation. 

You could use some ordinary household detergent to clean the drum but it could leave smells and residue behind. If you do choose to do this, don't use a harsh scrubbing brush as that could put tiny scratches in the fermenter.

These scratch marks could make a nice home for unfriendly bacteria so bear that in mind.

We suggest you use a clean rag. 

Or your best linen, we're not fussy. 

You could also implement a scorched earth policy and use something stronger to clean your fermenter. Caustic soda or bleach based cleaners could be used, but again I would caution on residues.

As with all chemical agents, be careful when using them and take precautions such as using eyewear and gloves.

The call to action:


If your beer fermenter has had its day in the 'beer making sun' and you need a replacement, order one online

We mentioned gloves - you can get boxes and boxes of them cheaply from Amazon.

Try my Weta infused lager?


I was cleaning a beer bottle at the sink and noticed something would not come out when I upended it. 


Was it a clump of sediment? 


Some sticky hops?


None of those, it was a Weta! For now, we'll call him an 'ale cricket'*



weta in home brew beer


If you don't know what a Weta is, they are a rather large insect, native to New Zealand. They are strong beasts with a massive set of pincers which can draw blood from human skin. They are so big they can catch and eat mice. 


So how did this now alcohol pickled 6 legged friend get into my beer?


I'm based in Wellington, New Zealand where Weta are a fact of life - they are every. This little fellow would have decided to climb into the empty bottle for a snoozed. 


Come bottling day, he ended up permanently in the drink. 


As a consequence, I can confirm that this particular Weta infused lager didn't taste too bad!


But honestly, once I'd released I was drinking the fermented remains of a Weta, I poured the rest of the beer down the sink. I just couldn't bring myself to finish the drop! Still. better than finding a dead mouse at the bottom I suppose...


I rescued the bugger, here it is:


weta in a beer bottle


I got to thinking, given some Tequila brands through a worm in the bottom of their bottles, maybe I could spearhead a campaign for Kiwi homebrews to have their own little present at the bottom of the bottle...


The real lesson here is that when bottling your beers, you've got to not only rinse and sanitize before filling with your liquid gold, you must also do a visual inspection! 


But seriously, you gotta watch what you eat when drinking for the consumption of slugs did not end well for this poor lad. The slug was infected with rat lungworm so I'm kinda hoping the alcohol pickled anything else lurking within the Weta...

If you think Weta are cool and unique to NZ, check out the living fossil, the Tuatara

* not actually sure if male or female. 

⇒ The best pH meters for making homebrew in 2020

best -ph meter-testers -beer-2020

Want to make the best ph Meter buying choice in 2020?

Here are the 5 best portable pH meters to choose from:

What's a good ph meter for home brewing?


Coming from the clean and green wilds of New Zealand, I've never really bothered wondering about the quality of water I use with my home brewing.

In most places of NZ, the water from the tap is simply delicious, clean and quite perfect for homebrewing and testing is not generally required.

But not all water is the same.

Ever heard of a place called Flint, Michigan?

My vague recollections of 5th form science are that there's hard water, soft water and everything in between. 

And then there's the pH of water. 

But is that what we care about when making beer? 

Kind of. 

It's really the pH of the mash that brewers like to think about.

pH is the measurement of acidity or alkalinity of a solution, where the number of hydrogen ions is measured.

In the last 10 years or so, an increased understanding of the important role that the pH level of the mash plays in brewing really good beer has driven both commercial and backyard brewers to closely focus on monitoring and then adjusting their mash pH levels as required.

So what is a pH meter?


A pH meter is a calibrated scientific instrument that measures the hydrogen-ion activity in water-based solutions, indicating its acidity or alkalinity.

The pH meter measures the difference in 'electrical potential' between a pH electrode and a reference electrode. This page has an excellent explanation of how ph Meters actually work and explains the science behind them really well.

pH meters may be utilized in many applications ranging from laboratory experimentation to quality control and checking that your batch of wine or kombucha is on the correct fermentation path but for the beer brewer, we are concentrating on the beer mash. The modern food and beverage industries cannot exist without them!

In terms of the home environment, their many uses include soil, aquariums, hot pools, drinking water, swimming pools, home hydroponics, preparation of kombucha and the like.

The best meters are leak-proof, maintenance-free (other than the electrodes), are robust and sturdy in that they don't break easily, and they're not affected by dirt and electrode probe replacement must be straightforward!

They should also be affordable and in many instances work best if handheld.

Here's 5 of the best, mid range and mid price meters that you can find online:


Oakton EcoTestr pH 2+ Pocket pH Meter


Oakton EcoTestr pH 2+ Pocket pH Meter reviewThis is a fairly popular pocket product from Oakton. The display is fairly large with a good viewing angle.

It has indicators for battery life (1000 hours), readiness, and calibration (one touch), and shows both the parameter and temperature readings at the same time.

The cap was recently redesigned to be leak-proof and can be attached to the top of the meter when not being used— so no more lost caps for the homebrewers!

The cap features a fill line, so you know how much beer wort sample you need for an accurate reading when using the cap as a sample cup. It is also wider, providing a base to keep the meter upright for hands-free measurements.

The new housing is compatible with lanyards to prevent losing or dropping, but is still waterproof and floats just in case you drop it into your mash...

Takes four A76 1.5 V miniature alkaline batteries which can achieve a battery life of 100 hours. Why head to good old cheap Walmart when you can check the price on Amazon! Remember if you have Amazon Prime, you can get free shipping!

Milwaukee MW102 PH and Temperature Meter

<< This is our most popular seller! >>

Milwaukee MW102 PH and Temperature Meter
The MW102 Standard Portable pH / Temperature Meter Standard is a standard yet affordable portable meter with no frills. 

The Milwaukee brand is recognized as having a reputation for producing low-cost durable meters for quick and reliable measurements. 

Milwaukee’s Standard manufacturer advertises that their digital meters are "manufactured to be easy to use, practical and accurate. Ideal for the classroom, laboratory or for general field use".

The MW102 is a microprocessor-based pH/Temperature meter with extended range (-2.00 to 16.00 pH), Automatic Temperature Compensation, automatic calibration in 2 points and ±0.02 pH accuracy. The meter is supplied with pH electrode and calibration solutions.

It's thus quite ideal for anyone working on a low budget but still requiring fast and reliable measurements.

The full kit comes with:
  • MW102 Unit
  • 9v Battery
  • Temperature Probe (MA830r)
  • PH Probe (MA911B/1)
  • PH Probe cover (a small bottle that fits on the PH Probe when not in use that holds storage solution)
  • User Manual & Registration Card
  • 20 ml sachet of PH 4.01 Calibration Solution
  • 20 ml sachet of PH 7.01 Calibration Solution
  • 20 ml sachet of PH Storage Solution Packet
The battery life is estimated by at 300 hours and it features an auto-off after 8 minutes of inactivity.

A keen brewer who actually used the instrument reviewed the Milwaukee MW102 as being a:

"fantastic tool to have in my brewing arsenal. I originally bought it for taking readings while kettle souring, but it's been invaluable as I dove deeper into water profile and mash pH adjustment. It's a bit more expensive than some of the cheaper meters out there, but you get what you pay for. Worth every penny in my book, and I regularly recommend it to those in the market for a high-quality meter."

That's a quality recommendation.



Bluelab Combo Meter


If you looking for an upmarket solution to measure your pH solutions then the tried and true Bluelabs brand has the measuring device you are looking for.

It's the real deal analyzer.

The Bluelab Combo Meter is a portable pH, conductivity and temperature meter all in one.

The meter has two probes, a pH Probe and a conductivity/temperature probe. When taking a reading, simply place them into the solution and the selected reading is displayed on the screen.

The calibration of the pH probe is fairly simple as instructions are supplied on the back of the meter and the easy push button method makes this one of the no-brainer meters to try.

The pH probe is replaceable so you can use this meter for years to come. You really should be able to do as Bluelab offer a 5 year warranty on their product which should give you an idea of the quality of the product and the faith the brand has in it.

Hach Pocket Pro + Plus 9532000 with replacement electrode

hach pocket pro ph tester

Manufacturer Hach reckons that their digital Pocket Pro + will "take the guesswork out of your measurements" which is entirely the point of a pH meter so a good start that we are on the same page.

Hach Pocket Pro+ is engineered to deliver accurate results. Hach boasts the Pro is backed up with built-in performance diagnostics, you never have to guess when to clean or calibrate the sensor.

Featuring a large, easy-to-read LCD screen, the pH range covers 0 to 14 pH meaning it can be used for more than beer brewing, like hydroponics.

The unit takes 4 Triple AAA batteries which are easy to replace. Hach recommends that the electrodes are replaced every 6 months. This unit comes with a replacement unit.

Hanna Instruments HI98128 pHep 5pH / Temperature Tester


Hanna Instruments HI98128 testerThe Hanna Instruments HI 98128 is a popular compact pH tester used in laboratory and industrial applications.

It features:
  • Automatic Temperature Compensation
  • Automatic calibration
  • Dual-line LCD reader screen
  • Replaceable electrode cartridge
  • PPM readings
  • Housing that floats in case you drop it. 
The dual-line LCD screen simultaneously shows the current measurement and the current temperature, and a hold function freezes readings for recording. 

The meter has automatic calibration at one or two points with two sets of standard buffers (pH 4.01/7.01/10.01 or pH 4.01/6.86/9.18). 

The meter has a water-resistant housing, a tactile grip casing, and floats. 

The unit requires four 1.5V AA batteries which provide approximately 300 hours of continuous use. The Hanna meter switches off after eight minutes of inactivity to preserve battery life. 

The meter also comes with an 'HI 73127 pH electrode', an electrode removal tool, and instructions on how to properly use and care for the unit.

This is a cheap and affordable unit so its long-term resilience may be questionable.

Check out the price on Amazon.

Apera Instruments AI312 PH60F Premium pH Pocket Tester

Apera is a well known and trusted brand and one we happily recommend. It's a step up from the cheapest units out there and is a popular selling mid-price model. Diligent maintenance of the electrode will see this unit last the distance.

This handy unit boasts the following features:
  • Easy-to-install Replaceable flat sensor
  • Triple-Junction structure prevents clogging, works great for regular pH measurement
  • Easy Auto Calibration with auto buffer recognition
  • Auto Temperature Compensation 
  • Unique High/ Low-Value HEADS-UP function, instantly reminding you of any results that need your attention with a red backlight; 
  • Auto recognition of stable values (with optional AUTO HOLD function) 
  • Large, clear Liquid Crystal Display with 3 backlit color (indicating 3 different modes)
  • Display both temp and pH simultaneously 
  • Also comes with calibration buffer solutions, calibration bottles, storage solutions, AAA batteries, and a lanyard all in a portable carrying case!
Check out the price on Amazon

But why do brewers care about mash pH?


First of all, beers brewed within a general range of ph tend to brew better than beers that are too acidic or too low in pH.

So, brewers like to take the ph of their mash to determine if it is in the optimal range for the beer they are trying to make.

The optimal range is generally considered to be pH 5.2 to 5.4. A high reading means the beer is too alkaline.

If a brewer's meter determines the pH is too high, they will then need to adjust the level downward by adding acid or calcium sulfate.

Hopbrewer shares their advice: “The conventional wisdom is that a mash pH of 5.0-5.2 is pushing a crisper beer — you’d aim for that with a pilsner or IPA or pale ale. Once you get to a pH of 5.3-5.6, you might get more roundness and less of that tart character. But you also run the risk of extracting tannins.”

So how do I use a Ph Meter to test my beer mash?


pH meters are basically glorified voltmeters that measure the 'electrical potential' produced by a special pH probe.

Using a pH meter is a fairly simple process.

One should generally draw a small sample of the wort and put it in a clean holding vessel such as a shot glass. Dip the probes fully into it to get a pH reading. Make sure your device is turned on and that you have calibrated the meter first!

And remember, the mash can be hot, so be careful not to burn yourself.

THAT said, pH levels should be measured at near room temperature to get an accurate result (that's just good science). So if you could cool your sample quickly (a short time in the fridge), maybe give a stir, you'll get a genuine reading.

Don't cool it too much as you'll go below room temperature. I've read that one dude keeps shot glasses ready in the freezer to help with cooling!

Eh, that's a bit of mucking around, maybe do not worry too much...

THAT said, many of the best pH meters will have Automatic Temperature Calibration features and speaking of features...


Why do I have to calibrate my ph Meter?


You need an accurate reading so you can make the best decision for your beer!

To make a calibration curve 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 can 'drift' from their calibrated settings. It is important to calibrate your pH meter often so that the accuracy of results is maintained.

What are the specifications of a good ph Meter?


The best ph Meters can have the following specifications or qualities:
  • Replaceable electrode 
  • 2-3 point automatic calibration 
  • Accuracy of 0.01 pH 
  • Portable or fixed or 'benched' depending on your need but most home brewers go portable
  • A price point between $100 - $150 gives confidence in the quality of the unit
  • Automatic Temperature Compensation (ATC)
  • Built to last
  • An easy to read digital display
  • Waterproof
  • Durable sensors

What is Automatic Temperature Compensation?


Many higher quality meters use ATC functionality. This is when the unit compensates for the response of the pH meter's electrode with varying temperature.

As mentioned elsewhere in this post the mash's pH measurement is ideally conducted at room-temperature. This helps avoid measurement errors that can be caused by temperature effects on the probe and chemically in the mash.

So ATC accounts for differing temperatures of the mash.

Probes can wear out so require proper storage


Probes wear out over time and you should expect that you’ll have to replace quality ones every 2-3 years if you take good care of it and how much use they get.

The probes should be stored in a pH storage solution to preserve their lifespan. Open, dry air ruins their potential. So when buying your pH meter you need to purchase a pH buffer or 'calibration kit'.

This is why units like the Milwaukee MW102 and Omega PHH-7011 come with solutions but replacement calibration kits can be separately brought online. You might see them called 'reference solutions'.

The Bluelab Combo Meter is very popular with horticulturalists and hydroponics enthusiasts (yes, even marijuana growers...)

Keeping the probe clean after each use will prolong their life - it's a good idea to clean the outside with a soft toothbrush and deionized water, being very gentle with the bulb part of the probe if this is the kind you have.

It's extremely important to never let the probe dry out and this is a common mistake when storing ph meters. To this end, it is imperative that you store the electrode as per the manufacturers' instructions.

The normal way to store the probe electrode is in the recommended storage solution which is normally a concentrated form of potassium chloride.

Be wary of buying cheap ph meters


I see the phrase "where can I buy a cheap ph meter for brewing?" all the time. While I understand money talks, I don't think cheapness should really be a motivation when buying a meter or most brewing equipment.

The cheaper the unit, the more likely you will get less than accurate readings and the units electrodes themselves will not last long if used frequently.

Many a brewer has found that by investing in a better quality unit, they get the best results. To that end, we generally recommend a price point from 100 to 150 dollars. That said you can go 'cray cray' on price so if going high value, make sure you will get the benefit.

More serious brewers tend to go for benchtop units rather than the portable kind.

You could liken it to how beginner brewers start out. The first thing they buy is a brew kettle or pot and they usually get the cheaper, smaller size kettle – and then suddenly they find they want to keep going with beer making and so need to purchase the bigger kettle or brewing pot. It's the same with the pH meter - get the better one to save you having to buy another later on.

Finally, a word on pH strips


Did you ever get to use litmus paper in school science to determine if a solution was an acid or a base?

The red paper turned blue or something.

While litmus paper is a yes or no test if a solution is acidic or alkaline, the pH strip gives you an approximate measurement of the actual pH.

Thus, you can use ph strips to test your beer if you wish but those will only give an indication as to your water or brew's pH level, and will never be as accurate as a quality meter.

OK, so my pH level is too high, what do I do?


You can use gypsum to increase bitterness and reduce ph levels. You can also consider changing your water source if possible, bad luck if you live near Flint.

↠ Using honey in beer brewing (if you want to increase your ABV)

using honey to make home brew alcoholic

How to use honey in your beer brewing

Using honey to make beer is a trick of the trade that’s as old as hills but is still just as awesome an idea today as it was when the hills where made.

Adding bee honey to your homebrew efforts is a splendid way to add interesting aromas and flavours to your beer. 

Let’s clarify that adding honey to your beer doesn’t make it mead.

Mead is made wholly from honey whereas, for our purposes, we are simply adding honey to the beer to help impart flavour. Doing this results in a drop known as a braggot, which is arguably a kind of mead. 

It’s also an interesting way to increase the alcohol content (ABV) of your beer.

For the sakes of keeping things simple, the casual or novice brewer will probably simply want to use honey of the kind from a supermarket. The pros might want to use some wild honey sourced from a local supplier or bee specialist however it’s not without risk in terms of bacteria in wild honey having a wrestling match with the yeast in the beer wort as it ferments. 

There are also health risks about using honey, as for example in New Zealand honey can have Tutin contamination, which causes toxicity in honey. So make sure your honey supplier knows what they are doing.

We suggest you stick with ordinary honey that you would be happy to feed your children. 

So when do I add honey to my beer?

In the most basic sense, to add honey to your beer, simply add it when you are preparing your beer kit. Once you’ve added in the malt extract, hops, DME or dextrose etc, this is the time to add your honey.

You may want to soften the honey by placing the jar in some warm water (don’t boil it!). This way it will pour easily into your fermenter.

If you are doing a boil, I've seen punters suggest to add the honey as your wort cools & when it's 160 Fahrenheit or below is a good time to do it. This may help retain more honey flavor in your beer.


You’re probably now asking how much honey do you add to your brew?

I’ve seen recommendations that suggest anywhere from 2 to 10 per cent of your total wort can be honey. I’ve also read it expressed in that you can add up to 50% of your total fermentable sugars like honey. 

Either way, there’s room for you to experiment.

Take note that adding too much honey to your brew may increase fermentation time (but as a patient brewer, this should be no problem for you!).  

Also, the more honey you add, the more akin to mead your beer may taste. 

What kind of honey to use? 

We said anything from the supermarket, just bear in mind that different honey will have different characteristics but that a 'maltier' style honey will assist with ensuring a honey flavor taste for your brew.

A brewer, who actually knows what they are doing have written that you might want to consider adding an increased amount of bittering hops to somewhat counter the sharper, more sweet flavour that could result if you use a lot of honey.

Your beer may also have a somewhat drier mouthfeel.

Can I use honey to carbonate my beer?

Honey sure can be used to bottle condition and carbonate beer. Don't add too much or you may end up with too much secondary fermentation and get a gusher beer

Image credit to Jason Riedy via Creative Commons Licence

How to identify and prevent 'off flavors' and smells in homebrew beer

how to identify bad flavors in beer


How to identify the 'off flavors' and smells in your beer


Brewing is not just boiling up some grains, throwing in some hops and bottling.

It's not that simple.

Brewing is a bit of science.

It's a bit of practice.

It's also a bit of experimentation.

You can do all that right but sometimes it's still a bit of luck.

Which is why when a brew batch goes wrong, it can sometimes be considered bad luck that your brew tastes like cabbage, butter or stinks of rotten eggs.

But is it really bad luck that your beer tastes like wet cardboard?

There are all kinds of chemical reactions happening in a brew and this is very normal and nothing to worry about.

It could be that for many brewers the smell of the hops over powers these smells and so when they are finally smelled, they get flagged as a concern.

For this brewer, I'd only be worried when it came time to bottle beer. And even then the first thing I would be asking is should I simply delay bottling another week? As every brewer knows, time is your friend when making beer!

There are many elements that can shunt the beer train off its brewing tracks, particularly improper preparation prior to making the beer and during fermentation and then bottling or kegging.

Working out what went wrong and what it means that you will be a better brewer for it.

And you know what?

The best way to learn is by tasting your beer and understanding what the 'off-flavors' of your beer are and how you might prevent them from happening with your next brew.

Here's a brief guide to help you trouble shoot common off flavors and what the smells mean for your beer!

When your beer tastes like green or rotten apples


I've never eaten a rotten apple but I know what a sour green apple tastes like.

Tart and bitter.

In an apple, this is delicious.

In a beer, this probably means you have a fair amount of acetaldehyde present. This chemical forms at the beginning of the fermentation process. The yeast will eventually convert it to ethanol (alcohol).

This is why it's good to let primary fermentation continue for a fair time and to let your beer condition for at least three weeks. The longer you condition your beer, the greater the reduction in acetaldehyde that will occur and the beer your beer will take.

It will also help to ensure that you correct a fair amount of yeast. If there is not enough yeast present in the beer, it will take longer for the acetaldehyde to be converted.

how do hops cause off flavors in beer

Who cut the cheese?


If your beer has a cheesy taste, you're probably getting a sample of isolaveric acid. Often described as tasting like old socks, the acid occurs naturally all over the place, including, funnily enough, in the sweat of socks. 

In the case of beer brewing this acid develops when the alpha acids in hops oxide. 

The fix is too use fresh hops - both in leaf and pellet form and ensure they have been stored properly. 

If you do find it in your beer, once again, let the beer condition further and this will mellow it somewhat. 

Another way isolaveric acid can get into beer is when you are using fruit. If you get a 'Brettanomyces' infection from the skin, you'll run into trouble.

What we do in the shadows


Ever heard of skunked beer?

This is when a chemical reaction happens in the bottled beer due to over exposure to direct sunlight.

So named after the smell a skunk can release, 'lightstruck' beer is caused by the UV radiation in light from the sun and retailer's lights.

The so-alpha acids in the beer (which come from hops) are broken down and form a new compound in the beer by joining with any proteins floating around.

This compound stinks!

The solution is to condition and then store your beer out of sunlight or from under UV Light (why you would be doing that anyway?).

Brown glass bottles are can preventing this from occurring as they can mute the effects of the light but not so many green bottles or clear glass. I have no idea why this occurs.

Refraction maybe?

So, the trick to avoiding skunked smelling beer is clearly to store your beer in the dark.
Funny how that's a solution to many of these flavoring issues eh?


This is why your beer tastes like wet cardboard


If your brew tastes a bit like cardboard or wet paper or simply feels stale, you've let in too much oxygen and your beer was over oxygenated

Here's the rule of thumb and oxygen when making beer. 

Before primary fermentation, it's encouraged. During fermentation and after it's discouraged. 

If this happens to you, you can't fix the beer. It is what it is. Drink it with some lime? 

The only way to prevent oxidized beer from occurring is preventing it from getting into your fermenter. Ensure the drum or carboy is tightly sealed and that your bubble airlock / airvent has water in it. 

When preparing the wort, oxygen is good because the yeast uses it before fermentation. When the yeast is doing its job, it doesn't need it.



why does beer taste like cardboard



Rotten eggs !!


I once went to bottle a brew. The moment the beer came out out of the tap, a rank smell began to permeate throughout my man shed. It was disgusting, like some kind of vile stink bomb had been let off or I had dropped a case of rotten eggs on the floor.

My brew was somehow contaminated. That rotten egg smell can most likely be identified as the gas hydrogen sulfide  - which was the by-product of fermentation gone wrong.

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

The thing about lagers and rotten smells is that all is not necessarily lost.

You can fix this problem if the sulfide was produced by the yeast and not bad bacteria.

Lager yeast strains are quite prone to producing sulfide odors. This is quite normal. If you properly condition your bottled beer (the lagering process) by letting in stand for a few weeks, the smell should go away before it's time to drink. 

Let your beer sit and be patient about it!

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


I didn't tell you the whole story above. I was a very novice home brewer and I decided to bottle the batch anyway. I left them for a fair time and then cracked one open.

Did you ever make a volcano for a school experiment when you add baking soda to vinegar? You get an explosion of foam and that's what happened to my beer. 

They were giant gushers

This was most likely caused by the unwanted bacteria continuing to work its own fermenting magic on the malt in the beer.

What a waste of time, energy and money!

So to prevent the smell of rotten eggs, you have to stop the infection from occurring in the first place. You must ensure that you have clean equipment and that you've done your best to sanitize it, and kept it clean during the beer brewing process.

Why does my beer taste like chlorine?

Or more rather, are you asking why your beer tastes like plastic or iodine? 

If you used chlorine to sanitize your brewing equipment, you may have over done things, especially if you didn't rinse properly afterward (which is why we recommend using sodium percarbonate instead of bleach products).

You may also have a water supply that is overly chlorinated. If you used this to rinse equipment of brew with, that's most likely the cause. 

The simple solution is to not use such water, however, it may be that kind of water is your only source. What can do then is either filter it or boil it for 15 minutes, leave to cool (we don't want you burning yourself or killing the yeast!) and then using it. 

If you do need to use a chlorine-based bleach, then use no more than half an ounce per gallon of water and rinse with said filtered or boiled water.

Or move town. 

Why does my beer taste like grass?


You could be forgiven for thinking we are just naming every kind of flavor there can be and say that it can be found in beer.

So forgive us when we say that beer can taste like grass.

This can be caused by using old ingredients like malt and grains that have been exposed to moisture. The best way to prevent this grass flavor is to use fresh ingredients and to store them in dry but dark places.

Or it could be that if you've used fresh hops, you've added too much leaf and stem material. It should be obvious what to do.

Grass taste should not be confused with some of the qualities that certain hops impart into beer. Cascade hops are often commented on by brewers as having this effect.

What could be the case here is that the beer has been hopped too long. It depends on what you are going for off course but a lot of home brewers dry hop shortly before bottling to try and capture as much hop flavour as they can. A beer that has aged for a longer time with hops may lose some of its zesty-ness and be construed as being more grassy than hops. It possibly depends on how bitter the hops are as well.


Why does my beer taste like cider?


This one is a classic result.

One of the reasons home brewing in the 'bad old days' was because beer tasted too sugary sweet like cider.

And what was the cause of this?

Too much sugar.

If you make your beer with too much corn or cane sugar, cider like flavours will develop.

Brewers looking to increase the ABV of their beer will often add extra fermentables (extra as in more than the beer recipe required). Sugar is cheap and fermentable so they will add an extra kilo or pound of it and get the cider result as a bi-product.

What you can do is off course reduce the sugar and supplement with other fermentables like honey or more malt extract (DME) - basically use more beer enhancer!

what causes fruit smells in beer

Help! My beer has nice fruity smells!


First of all, check that you aren't making a nice stout with raspberry because that would just be awkward....

Brewers often report that their beer smells like fruit - banana, strawberry,  pear and even raspberry.

This fruity smell is quite likely to be an ester called isoamyl acetate. The occurrence of it in beer is extremely common. Like many of the flavours and smells in this guide, they are a by-product of fermentation where the temperature was too high for the yeast, or there was too little yeast pitched.

Generally speaking, the higher the temperature of the beer, the more ester that is produced during fermentation. They are caused by acids in the wort combining with alcohol.

The concentration level of ester will also depend on the kind of beer that is being made. German style wheat beers and Belgian ales tend to possess theses as a deliberate beer aesthetic. Go Bavaria!

One way to reduce the production of esters in your beer is to use a tall and narrow fermenter than shallower vessels. According to the American Homebrewers Association "this is because high hydrostatic pressure and levels of CO2 in the tall, narrow vessels inhibit ester formation."

We did say beer was a science!

To remove your unwanted esters the solution you have to prevent them from occurring in the first place so try and brew your beer at the recommended temperature for your yeast, favoring the colder side of the spectrum. This is especially so if you are brewing a lager because esters to nod add to the drinking experience of a lager.

The other option is to overpitch your yeast to ensure that there is no deficiency >> a low amount of yeast tends to make the yeast work harder and produce more esters.

Finally, ensuring your wort is properly oxygenated prior to primary fermentation will help the yeast function as intended.

A final amusing point on isoamyl acetate is that it is actually used as an artificial flavoring for things like banana milkshakes!


That delicious paint thinner taste is a fusel alcohol


Now I've never drunk paint thinner but I've sure smelled them! They are strong and pungent.

'Paint thinner' is a term for solvents that are used to thin oil based paint or for cleaning up paint brushes and maintaining equipment like chainsaws. They are usually referred to as white spirits , turpentine or acetone. Either way, you recognize them as smelling quite harsh - and you can imagine the taste.

While most people do not drink solvents, many brewers often report that their beer has a 'paint thinner' taste.

What is most likely the cause of this flavor are fusel alcohols. They are sometimes referred to as fusel oils.

These occur naturally in home brewing and will occur at noticeable levels to the palate when the beer is fermented at too high a temperature of the beer is left in contact with the trub for too long.

The way to prevent fusel alcohols occurring in your beer is to ferment at the recommended temperature for the beer you are making.

Most certainly do not leave your beer to ferment for a week in a closed shed at the height of summer! It will surely be too hot.

Ensuring you use the correct amount of yeast can help. If you have difficulty controlling the temperature of your brewing situation you could try using yeasts known for their ability to handle higher temperatures, such as Belgian yeasts.

Letting the bottled beer condition for a good length of time will also give the fusels a chance to break down.

Here's some other common flavors and what they mean:

  • Tart tastes can be caused by polyphenols which are caused by over milled grains that are steeped too long.
  • Butterscotch or buttery flavors can be diacetyl and is naturally occurring. Affected by temperature and over oxygenation post pitching of the yeast.
  • Cough Syrup - possibly phenol which can be caused by a variety of things including improper sparging and mashing techniques, temperature ranges, and sanitizers and cleaning products that utilize iodine or chlorine.
  • Metal, pennies - a contaminant from nonstainless metal kettles and poor water. 
  • Salt - you probably added salt to your beer. WTF?
  • Soap - you probably added soap to your beer (again WTF) or you left it to soak too long in the primary fermenter and your beer is literally turning into a form of soap. No, you can't shower with it.

Final words


If you've made it this far, you will appreciate there are many factors and processes which can contribute to off flavors in your home brew (and of course ciders and wine). We haven't even covered them all!

Some of them occur naturally and will fade away as part of the normal practice of brewing is followed. Others will be fatal to you beer (such as a bacteria infected or skunked beer). 

Using well-established brewing practices will help alleviate many of these problems from occurring.

So yes, clean and santize your equipment, use fresh hops, brew at correct temperatures and let your beer condition properly and you will have a good tasting beer. 
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