↑ ABV: How to increase the alcohol content of home brew beer

Increasing alcohol content of your homebrew beer

How can I increase the alcohol content of my beer?


Did you ever see the movie Men in Black?

It featured the wonderful actor Vincent D'Onofrio as an alien that loved sugar.

And lots of it.

That's basically the answer on how to increase the alcohol content of your beer.

You add sugar.

And lots of it - to a point though. 

Adding sucrose can be a very easy thing to do but the reality that it's quite a nuanced thing.

Like baking a cake, straying from the recipe can radically change the body and taste of the cake, and doing that with sugar can produce some changes to your beer that you might not want.

In the beer realm, the phrase 'Alcohol By Volume' is used to measure alcohol content. As in that is, what is the percentage of 'alcohol by volume' of the total beer.

Commonly shortened to ABV, the question becomes how do I raise the ABV of my beer by adding sugars?

What can I add to my beer kit to get a higher ABV?


Here's a basic ingredient list:



Using extra DME  or LME for increased ABV


Some brewers will use extra dry malt extract as their sugar source.

As a rough guide, an extra pound or 1/2 kg of DME or LME on top of your recipe requirements will add an extra half per cent to your beer. Doubling that will give you an extra whole per cent.

Roughly...

Using a malt extract will more than increase the overall body of the beer, produce a higher finishing gravity or offer a more malty finish.  You might also experience a reduction in hop bitterness.


Adding extra sugars


Using additional sugars such as corn sugar (dextrose), table sugar, and brown sugar will all help to boost and increase the beer's ABV.

These sugars do intend to make a beer taste drier and thin out the body and mouthfeel of the beer.

You may also be able to taste more bitterness in any added hops.

Maple syrup, golden syrup and lollies like jelly beans can also be used but they will all influence the taste of your beer.

Of course, if you've ever tried an 8 per cent commercial beer such as King Fisher or Elephant, you may have noted how sweet most of those beers are.

Using these sugars may also lighten the color of your beer.

Using honey to increase the ABV of your beer


Honey is a fine product to use to increase your alcohol content because it is very fermentable and yeasts just love feeding on it.

It will also add a hint of flavor and complexity to the beer. The volume needed is a fair bit - 1 pound of honey will give about a 0.7 percent increase.

It's my personal experience that honey can really dry out the taste of a beer so I would consider using honey more for flavor effect.


Adding too many 'fermentables' - too much sugar will hurt your beer


It's a widely recommended practice that no more than 1/3 of your beer's ABV level should be a result of non-malt adjuncts or fermentable sugars. That is to say, don't oversaturate your beer with extra sugars!

As an example, if you are making a 6 percent ABV beer then you shouldn't add products that will contribute 2 percent of that total. 

If you are bumping up the additionals, you might also wish to boost up the other elements of your recipe to help balance the beer and keep it more like your intended brew.

yeast cells brewing beer


Too much sugar puts pressure on the yeast 


A big caution is that the more sugar you put in, the more pressure that you place on the yeast.

The more alcohol that is produced, the slower the rate at which fermentation occurs. You may also feel your beer tastes somewhat sweater. But that could be in your head, I have no idea what goes on in there.

A keen player will consider adding more yeast nutrients to the wort which may give the original yeast a new lease of life and extend fermentation.

Too much alcohol may actually end up killing off the yeast. Some yeasts do handle the presence of alcohol better than others so shop around for those advertised as being tough.

You could also add a second round of yeast to your brew if you were keen. You might want to add the kind of yeast that has a higher alcohol tolerance but the standard Safale yeast will do the trick.

In terms of your beer preparation before you begin primary fermentation, exposing your wort to an appropriate amount of oxygen will help - make sure everything gets a good stir.

If you are over saturating your wort with sugar, you might also want to boost the fermentation rate with a yeast energizer.

Temperature regulation will come into play as well


So, what you've got to think about to raise the alcohol content is that there are a lot of variables that can help you but at the same time, they may also hinder your beer.

If we were to put our 'Science Officer' hat on we would suggest you only make one change at a time from your normal routine and measure your results and make a judgment accordingly.

using a hydrometerFor example - you've made your standard ale brew often enough and you know from using your hydrometer that the alcohol content is usually say 4.5 ABV.

You may wish to add an extra half KG of DME to your brew and see if that raises the ABV to 5 ABV.

If that's the case, you win!

Knowing that method works, you could continually make changes in increments to get that ABV to 5.5 or even higher.

Just remember, the more sugars you put in, the great the chance of hindering the yeast, at which point you would need to consider yeast-based modifications to your recipe and practices.

In summary to increase the alcohol or ABV of your beer you can consider:

Most importantly, remember that brewing is an art and a science and one brew beer for love of beer and not to get consistently hammered on 8 per cent haymakers.

What's the opposite of sugar? Salt! And there's a beer style called a Gose that uses it and shows that salt can be used to counter bitterness in your beer! It might be something for you to experiment with!

Image credit to Martin Garrido via Creative Commons Licence. We don't know if Martin likes the idea of a Mortal Engines movie but we sure do!

Adding Salt to Beer Brews

salted belgian chocolate trout

A good beer should be worth its salt. 

Some beers even have salt added!


I once had a boss who added salt to granny smith apples (the green, sour ones) as it made them taste even better, I tried it and she was right. By adding a pinch of salt, it tasted beer.

It's the same reason bartenders will rim a glass with salt for a margarita.

Salt in beer is associated with the “rediscovered” German beer style, 'gose'.

The 'gose' can be described as a tart, spicy, wheat style where the salt adds a nice, crisp, briny note to contrast the tart flavors.

The reality is you can do all kinds of beer styles with the addition of salt.

  • An IP that features toasted coconut and Himalayan pink salt!
  • A salted caramel stout!
  • A saison featuring roasted sunflower seeds and Outer Banks sea salt!


The world is your oyster, even salted Oyster Stouts work!

gose beer salt added

Why do you add salt to a beer?


The intended effect of adding salt is to achieve 'beer balance'. It can act as a counter to a beer's bitterness.

However, when we think of salt, we generally think about table salt which is the kind found in the sea, sodium chloride.

But in the science realm, a salt can be many things and such salts can be added to your beer to change the make up.

There are all kinds of salts that can be added to beer though - gypsum salt being

Ultimately, it’s the trace minerals in the salt that are adding the additional flavor.

Salts can also be used to adjust mash pH, which is a crucial element of making good beer for example brewers can use lactic acid to reduce the pH level).

Brulospohy did an experiment to determine the effect on beer and confirmed it can alter taste and aroma - much to a drinker's satisfaction.

So, you add Sodium Chloride (table salt) to a beer to counter a tart taste and you can add all kinds of 'salts' mainly calcium and magnesium based to your beer to achieve a reduction in pH levels.

Make sense? 'How to brew' has some great guidance on how to use these kinds of salts in your brews. 

To test if your briny addition has achieved ph balance, you'll need to use a pH meter or colour coded pH test strips (the same as Kobucha brewers use). 

When do I add salt to beer brew?


Make your mineral adjustments to your brewing water before mashing and fermentation i.e can be done during the boil. 

If you are making a pale ale, it may not be the salt you are after - you may be on the path of altering the alkalinity of your beer and may wish to consider adding calcium instead of sodium chloride. 

How do I add the salt to my wort?


We suggest you place the desired amount to a glass, add just enough water to dissolve it, and then pour in the beer wort. If you don't dissolve it first it can make the beer foam like crazy.

What is a Gose style beer?


Originating hundreds of years ago in Germany's Goslar region, where the mining town’s mineral-rich water gave the local wheat beer a saline edge, give the sour ale with a sharpness that played well with its twangy, lemony profile.

Modern craft brewers look for new twists on old brews have revived the ale, and it has become somewhat popular again.

Because of the use of coriander and salt, the goes style does not comply with the Reinheitsgebot, the famous German Beer Purity laws - however, it gets a pass due to it being a 'regional speciality brew'.

>> How to choose the best brewing kettle (hint: go big)

best brewing day kettles for making beer

"You're gonna need a bigger boat"

That was the classic line Brody uttered in Jaws once he saw how large the shark was.

All grain brewing itself is a bit of a giant shark but instead of a boat, you're gonna need a bigger brewing kettle. Of course, malts kit brewings with speciality grains benefit from a kettle too!

Things to consider when buying a brew kettle

  • There are several benefits to having a brew kettle (or brew pot) that's large in size. The obvious one is that you can brew more beer! There's also less risk of a boilover or overflow occurring.
  • If you want to do small batches of beer, you obviously don't need a massive 15 gallon kettle. However, once you get the taste for brewing, you may just find that 5 gallons just doesn't do it for you anymore, and you want to make 12 gallons - so you'll need that bigger kettle. You can always fry a turkey in it for Thanksgiving too!
  • You may want to consider having a built-in thermometer as that can save you some hassle. 
  • A ball valve is almost essential. Stainless steel ball valves are used on your kettle to allow you to control the flow of your liquids during transfers. If you have the budget for it, we strongly recommend you get a brew pot which features the valve. They give you so much control and are easy to strip down and clean. 
  • A 'sight glass' which allows you to check the level of wort in your kettle. As the wort evaporates due to the boil, it's handy to keep your eye on the level without having to take the lid of the kettle. If you do not have a sight glass, fear not. Crafty brewers have many tricks up their sleeve and having a wooden rod or spoon with marks for the desired wort levels is one of them.
  • pick up tube for brewing ketting
    Dip Tube
  • Some kettles come with a dip tube or pick up tube as they are known. These devices are used to extract the wort that lies below the ball valve, which makes for a more efficient collection of wort. These are often used with a hops screen which is used to filter out lumps and bumps from the wort.
And with that said, here's a selection of the best brewing kettles that we think cut the mustard that will do you really good service on brewing day.

Bayou Classic 800-416 16 Gallon Stainless Steel 6 Piece Brew Kettle

Bayou Classic 800-416 16 Gallon Stainless Steel 6 Piece Brew Kettle

The Bayou Classic gas burner is one of Amazon's most popular sellers and that's because it is one of the best on the market. This is the same reason Bayou's gas burner is a big seller.

This unit is designed for the serious all-grain home brewer. The kettle features a tri-ply bottom and includes a domed lid, stainless spigot with Ball Valve, side-mount 3-inch Brew Thermometer ranging 60-220 degrees, stainless false bottom that sets 3.25 Inch above the bottom of the pot, and a tube shaped filter screen.

The bulkhead fittings enable easy attachment of thermometer and spigot for a water-tight seal. Side calibration measuring in gallon and quart that read from the inside of the kettle, enabling more accurate water level setting. 

The try-ply bottom promotes even heating and helps prevent against scorching, while the all stainless construction has no interaction with wort or acids. 

The narrow diameter and high side walls reduce the chance of boil overs, and the false bottom fits tightly on the low side indention to reduce particles and grain from entering the spigot chamber.

Here's some reviews from actual users of the Bayou:

"Kettle is very nice. Polished and huge. It's hard to imagine how large a 16gal kettle is until you get it. It's a monster. The included accessories make this a very versatile kettle. I am using mine as a boil kettle right now but plan on buying another in the future to use as an upgrade to my Mash Ton from a cooler."

"This is a quality kettle, and a decent price. I use it in tandem with a standard size keggle for my HLT, and can brew up to 15 gallons at a time if I feel incredibly strong and dedicated (15 gallons of wort weighs a lot). The thermometer works well, and has clear markings for various mash stages, if you do more than a single-step infusion."

"Great brew kettle. Very large with a tri-ply bottom. Have used it twice for brewing in a bag, thus far. Will hold a large grain bill - 16 lbs for me on my last brew. Screen will clog up, but not so much to not allow me to drain into the fermenter. Temp gauge required no calibration upon cross measuring. I did leave the kettle outside for a few days by accident and was pleased to see no signs of rust."

"The kettle held my mash at temp for the full hour, was easy to clean up and easy to transfer the wort to the boil kettle."

Tall Boy Home Brewing Kettle Stainless Steel Stock Pot


If you are looking for something with a more modest budget or lower value, you'll need to dispense with the thrills and spills of the Blichman and for your stock standard steel pot, And the 8 gallon Tall Boy does just that. This means you will be limited to a 5 gallon brew, which is to be fair, is a pretty standard brew. 

  • Made specifically for home brewing
  • Height to diameter ratio of 1.2:1 optimizes boil performance
  • Reduces evaporative losses
  • 4mm thick tri-clad bottom designed to stop bullets and prevent scorching by encouraging heat dispersion.
  • Perfect for boiling 5 to 6 gallons of wort
  • Made by the reputable Northern Brewer company (check out their wort chillers).
  • Can use it to deep fry turkey!
Here's what some genuine users of the Tall Boy have said in their Amazon reviews.

"BUILT FORD TOUGH! Seriously though, this thing is made like a tank everywhere and I love it, well worth the money!"

"Awesome. Thick bottom. Used to deep fry my 25 pound Thanksgivin turkey. Heated great no burnt crud on the bottom and easy clean up because nothing burned."

"Really good quality! Nice riveted and welded handles, extra thick bottom, strong sides, and is just right size for a 5 gallon brew. If you're doing a full 5 gal, be careful during the hot break, as the wort level is pretty close to the top. Stand guard at the gas valve! Excellent product, cleans well, and can also do a turkey or a beach boil. Get it!"

"I've brewed with it a few times now and it works great. I think it would be better if it had some volume markings."

Check out the price of the Tall Boy on Amazon - it comes with free shipping.

Northern Brewer's MegaPot 1.2


Northernbrewer brag that their MegaPot 1.2 "is a masterpiece, not just another steel pot.".

Apparently crafted of stainless steel for ease of cleaning. The unit features silicone handles on the kettle and lid serve to limit scorching.

The handles are riveted in place to aid in lifting a hot liquid-filled pot.  Northern brewer claims that there will be no weld failures.

The heart of the kettle is a 4mm thick Tri-Clad bottom- made specifically for even heat distribution.

The 1.2 proportion of MegaPot has been scientifically designed to promote a vigorous boil and reduce off-flavors.
  • 10 Gallon (40 quarts / 37.8 liters) capacity
  • 4mm Tri-Clad Bottom. All Stainless Steel Construction
  • Graduated Volume Markings inside the kettle
  • Silicone Covered Handles for Safety
  • Weld-less Ball Valve Assembly and Weld-less Thermometer
  • 14.1 Inches in Diameter and 16.3 Inches in Height
  • Available in 8, 10, 15, 20, and 30 gallon sizes, with or without ball valve and thermometer.
Here's what some geezers who have actually made wort with the kettle had to say about its performance:

"This pot has performed well during both batches I've made so far. The bottom of the pot is as solid as they say, about 4mm thick. No issues on a glass stove. The thermometer and spigot need to be assembled, but again, it wasn't hard to do and it hasn't leaked at all. It's nice to have a good sturdy pot for brewing."

"This kettle is everything I hoped it would be, and much more. The construction feels rock-solid, and all the elements of the pot, including the accessories that came with it (ball valve and thermometer), are first class. This is a pot meant to last a lifetime, and I feel it was money well spent for the long haul. After running my first batch with this pot over yesterday, it passed all my quality tests, and I am delighted with my purchase."

"This thing is very heavy duty, has a thick clad bottom for heat distribution, thick walls and also has very useful gallon markings on the inside of the pot where you can easily look at the liquid level and know your volume. Nice heavy lid, rubber grips, and heavy-duty ball valve included. This is a very high quality product."

What are you waiting for? With free shipping, you should check out the price on Amazon.

Blichmann Gas Boilermaker G2 Brew Kettle


blichmann boiler maker kettle
This beast from Blichmann Engineering almost makes boiling up a wort too easy!

The BoilerMaker™G2 brew kettles have been completely redesigned from the ground up with world-class American engineering and quality US manufacturing! 

Bare bones kettles might lure you in with attractive prices but by the time you add extra equipment you need or want – all standard in the BoilerMaker G2 comes into its own.

All models carry a limited lifetime warranty and are available in Celsius or Fahrenheit models. 

Blichmann Engineering boasts that this fresh design reflects the passion they have for quality, ergonomics, aesthetics, performance, and simplicity.

The boilermaker features:
  • Heavy gauge, 304 single piece, deep drawn, weld-free American made construction
  • Made in America from high-quality US stainless steel, single-piece seamless construction, and 100% US labor.
  • Patent pending G2 linear flow valve allows you to easily fine tune your flow rate
  • A sleek brush finish to hide finger-prints and water stains
  • High-impact glass-filled nylon handles are extremely durable, high temperature resistant, comfortable, and cool to the touch.
  • Exclusive snap-in dip tube design installs without tools and drains to within 3/8” of the bottom of the kettle!
  • Includes adjustable viewing angle BrewMometer with unique, patented, brewing dial face 
  • Comes in 7.5, 10, 15 or 20 gallon size.
Don't take Blichman's word about there product alone, check out what actual reviewers on Amazon have said about the kettle:

"The design of the kettle is fantastic. Great lids, handles, and I love the sight glass. Makes it really easy to clean it.

"Only con is if you plan on using this on gas. My use is electric. The bottom doesn't have a nice thick plate in it, it is just as thick as the sides. This will cause it to heat up more slowly on gas. For the price I would expect it to be included but for me on electric it is actually a plus as it makes it easier to move the kettles around."

"I think my old 15G kettle is heavier than this 20G Blichmann one."

Check out the price on Amazon - these units have free shipping! Pair it with Blichmann's propane gas burner and you'll have your wort boiled in no time.

Should you buy Aluminium or steel? 


Brew kettles come in both metal forms, each having its own benefit.

Aluminium is lighter for example but is less durable than steel kettles.

They also need to be maintained well due to ensure that the oxide layer that forms is not broken. This is because the layer prevents the aluminium from passing off-flavours into the wort or mash.

While aluminium kettles will transfer heat faster than steal, if you have a really good gas burner, this shouldn't really be a concern with your buying decision.

In our realm, we recommend you go for the steel kettle - the only drawback is they are more expensive than aluminium units.

Stainless steel is also fairly easy to clean. The choice is yours, Captain!

What is the best way to clean a brew kettle?


The gunk that is left at the bottom of the kettle is called the trub and it's usually quite manageable to get off. Many brewers like to soak the trub in water with Powdered Brewery Wash (AKA PBW).

Do not use steel wool or anything sharp to clean the unit, use something soft like a non-abrasive sponge or a soft plastic brush. You are trying to avoid putting scratches in the steel! 

A bit of elbow grease is all you really need!

It's also good to clean your kettle as soon as you can after brewing - this will give the trub less time to harden and should ensure a straightforward cleaning job.

If you have an aluminium kettle, you'll want to avoid anything caustic and stick with ordinary washing detergent.

I personally dispose of the trub on my vegetable garden!

Finally, once you have chosen your kettle and brewed with it, you'll need to keep an eye out for beerstone, which is a calcium based build up which can harbor microorganisms that will ruin your beer.

Brew day safety tips


Once that wort has been boiled, you've now got to cool it down so you can pitch the yeast - but what you've done is heated many gallons of water so hot it can give you a terrible scalding. So be careful!

Ensure your set up is sturdy. Your burner needs to be flat, and properly assembled if necessary. Your kettle should have handles (ones coated with silicon are perfect) to assist with moving. Even so, you may want to consider using an oven mitt and a waterproof apron.

This is especially so if you are deep frying a thanksgiving day turkey with oil.

And shoes, wear shoes!

And finally, be wary of any children around your set up. Frankly, we recommend you let the kids stay inside and watch Frozen while you have the gas going!

How do 'oxygen absorption' bottle caps work?

bottle caps that absorb oxygen

Dedicated brewers will know that beer exposure to oxygen should only occur before fermentation and not after


It's the same with food - oxygen will damage food so that's why many foods are packaged in plastic with 'oxygen scavaging' features - look at potato chips, the bags they come in are filled with nitrogen!

So if you are trying to minimize the amount of oxygen in your bottled beer, mead or wine, you may want to consider using oxygen absorbing caps.

The bottling process can add unwanted oxygen into the beer if you are not careful and too rough with your wort

To remediate this you can do things like being careful with your pouring into the bottle and using a bottling wand.

If you want to do more than that, the bottle caps can help remove the oxygen that sits above the surface of the beer and between the bottle cap.

If you are looking to cellar or age your beer, these caps could help you achieve your goal.

Do oxygen bottle caps really work?


Now, let's take a skeptical view of this concept first. 

Do you really need to remove oxygen from the beer bottle?

If you have bottle conditioned a 1000 beers and never had a problem, do you even need to use these crowns?

If you are intending to age beers or extend the hoppiness of your beer, they can certainly give your beer the edge.

The loss of hops aroma can be one of the first signs of oxidation.

In addition, the compounds extracted from hops will can with oxygen, which forms inert compounds that have less aroma and thus a reduction in hop flavor.

Bottle caps which 'scavenge' oxygen from the beer will help prevent or delay this reaction from occurring.

If the food production and beer brewing industries spending millions of dollars doing it, then it surely works.

If you intend to drink your beers quickly, you may not need them.

How do oxygen absorption caps work?


Oxygen-absorbing caps have an internal liner that once activated by water, will absorb oxygen in the headspace of the bottle.

Oxygen absorbing technology is based on oxidation or a combination of one of the following components: iron powder, ascorbic acid, photosensitive polymers, and helpful enzymes (amylase enzyme is really good for brewing actually).

Glucose oxidase is an enzyme that is popular in the elimination of O2 from bottled beer or wine.

The question you need to ask yourself is to what degree do they work and how much of an effect will they have on your beer.

Some brewers think they are only good enough to give worrisome brewers piece of mind!  Given they are only a few cents more per cap, this can make it worth it. 

How do you use oxygen absorbing caps?


These caps activate once you get them wet. 

So once they are capped on, you can invert the beer to wet the inside of the cap and they will stand ready to begin absorbing oxygen. This process starts a day or two after they first get wet. 

>> Side note - if you are adding sugar to your beer bottle at a time, the inversion will make sure no sugar stays in the bottle neck. This is not an issue if you are batch priming the whole wort with sugar)

For clarity, store your brew normally after the inversion.

Many suppliers recommend to not wet or sanitize caps in advance of your bottling session or they will not work correctly. They’ll still close the bottle off from the air like any other cap, but the o  xygen-absorbing function will be used up. 

This does mean you can sanitize them just prior to use. 

But that might lead you to ask:

Do I need to sanitize oxygen absorbing caps?


This author personally no longer sanitizes beer caps. They come out of their bag clean and frankly after 1000s of beers bottled without them, I've never had a problem. 

That said, if it is your standard practice to sanitize caps, then a quick dunk in some Star San is just fine, as long as you do it just prior to bottling and not well in advance. This is because the wetness activates the liner of the cap.

But frankly, we've given up sanitizing beer caps and we've never had any issues - they are kept well clean in bags prior to use.

The choice as the brewer, is always yours!

Check out the range and price on Amazon

↠ Making beer wort

making beer wort

Guide to make really good beer wort for home brewing



When I first started making beer I was totally confused by the word 'wort' that I kept seeing everywhere. 

"Cool your wort quickly!" the internet said. 

Um what?

Well know I know, it's clear that 'beer wort' is the starting point for making beer. It is the amber liquid extracted from malted barley.

In the most basic sense, you can describe the wort as unfermented beer.

Beer makers use the wort as the basis to which start the beer. 

Think of the wort as the base contents of the potion in a witch's cauldron.

As the witch adds 'eye of newt' and other goodies to her potion, the beer maker does the same by adding flavourings and hops to the wort to prepare a solution ready for fermenting. Like a painter needs a well prepared canvas, the wort is the same building block for making great beer. 

beer wort, what is it?

So basically then, the wort is just flat beer. 


It's kind of true....

Kinda 

Like making a cake, if you don't use the correct ingredients in the right proportions your cake fails, a wort needs to be properly prepared.

If you are making beer using a beer kit, then your wort is easily made simply by adding the content of the can to the required volume of hot water.

Boom, you have wort. 

You then add to your beer potion, hops, and sugars such as dextrose or a beer enhancer

If you're boiling your own wort, it's more complicated. You the one who is in charge of making sure you have all the ingredients and that you boil the hops at the right timings - this is crucial if you are trying for a specific kind of bitterness  - so make sure you have the right gas burner to get your wort to a hot temperature

Mashing is required to turn the grains into sugars. The grains a mixed with malt and hot water for an hour or so in a mash tun. When the liquid is ready, it is 'sparged' from the mash and ready to be boiled. 

This is to extract the bittering, flavour and aroma from hops. This is critical if you want your beer to have the characteristics of beer!

The bittering hops are usually boiled in the wort for approximately one hour to one and a half hours. This long boil extracts resins from the hops which provides the bittering.

Near the end of the boil, flavouring hops can be added. Then, if you're fully on your beer brewing game, finishing hops are added last. This part of the wort boil extracts the oils which provide flavour and aroma.


Chill out, man


Once your wort is boiled it's now time to sparge the wort - that means to drain it from the grain mash.

and everything has gone to plan, the wort is chilled very quickly using a wort chiller.

Due to the temperature requirements of yeast, it needs to be at a temperature which will allow it to thrive. If you put your yeast into the extremely hot boiled wort, you will kill the yeast and get flat beer.

It might taste nice but there won't be any alcohol in it either!

Brewers have a tough enough time trying to work out if their beer has fermented properly, so make sure you get that part of your beer brewing right!

Here's some New Zealand classic beer clone wort recipes you might like:




Image credit to Alan Levine via Creative Commons Licence

⇒ The best pH meters for making homebrew in 2021

best -ph meter-testers -beer-2020

Want to make the best ph Meter buying choice in 2021?

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.

Lion Brown Lager Malt Extract Kit Review

 

For fellow Kiwi's Lion Nathan is a classic New Zealand Brewing company. It's one of the two major players and famous for its Steinlager brew and Double Brown.  

Or 'Dobros' as the kids call it. 

Anyways, I spied at The Brewhouse that they had a Lion Draft Malt kit - I'm pretty sure I haven't tried this kit before, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. 

Into a sanitized drum she went with some beer enhancer. A fair bit of experience has shown that, yes you can make a beer with a kit like this, you will need an enhancer to increase body and drinkability of your beer!

get every drop from lager kit

I do like to get every drop out! 

Added a very small about of fuggle hops - just some I had hiding in the fridge and then set the drum up under some sheets in the shed. The Draught kit itself already has some Green Bullet and Pacific Gem hops in the malt.

I left this brew alone for well over two weeks. 

On a lazy Sunday morning, I bottled the whole 20 odd litres. It smelled OK in a stock standard sense and tasted like a beer should. 

Review Verdict:

I waited a week and had my first try. 

I had made a standard beer. It was slightly dry and obviously could do with more carbonation. 

A couple of weeks later, I chilled a few in the fridge overnight and opened one after a very nice lasagne. 

It went done well. 

As you may have suspected, the Lion Brown beer was a malty beer that came out nice and golden. It's nothing fancy but it's a half-decent beer for a kit at last than $20 bucks.

It's probably actually an ideal kit for when you want to boil a batch and add some speciality grains - where you want those grains to dictate the flavour outcome rather than the malt kit itself.  
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