How to Home Brew Beer

Learn how to easily brew great tasting beer.

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

what is dry hopping in beer making?


How to dry hop homebrew beer 


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

The brewer is, of course, using hops to improve the aroma of the beer and to add some bitterness to the brew (bitterness is best produced by the boiling of hops though). 

This ‘dry’ practice is often done later in the fermentation cycle of the beer. The thinking behind adding the hops later is that the hops aroma is more likely to stay with the beer brew through to the bottling process.

This is because the bubbling process and emission of carbon dioxide via the airlock allows the aromas to escape.

Bearing in mind that one should leave one’s beer to sit quietly for a couple of weeks before brewing to ensure that the yeast has had a chance to do its thing, this is a great opportunity for the oils and bitterness of the hops to also transfuse into the beer.

It’s for that reason why dry hopping is a popular practice.

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

Beware the sediment factor

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

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

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

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

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

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

The home brewer’s last question of how much hops should be used when dry hopping is fairly easy to answer. Anywhere between 30 – 60 grams is considered normal, however, you can add as much or as little or as you want. It's all about taste and experimentation to find your personal preference.

If you double that 60 grams to 120 you will be more likely to get a very strong hop aroma from your beer. Any greater amount and you will probably suffer diminishing returns (and hops are expensive!).

Did you know you can grow your own hops?

⇒ What equipment do I need to start home brewing?

What equipment do I need to start home brewing?

What equipment do I need to start home brewing?


If you’ve decided to brew beer, you’re in great company.

Einstein, Churchill, the mighty Thor himself and every man with a shed, has at one point or another, brewed some tasty beverages.

But they all had to start somewhere, and so here’s a list of what equipment you might need to get started brewing beer.

We’re talking about brewing using a beer kit here, the kind of brewing where you ‘beer wort’ basically comes in a can.

You get to choose what hops or sugar you add (jelly beans maybe?) and the rest is simply following some good brewing instructions.

But what do you need to brew some good home made beer?


This list is just the basics, you could probably actually get away with using less but at the very least, this guide should help you decide what you need to get that golden ale flowing down your gullet. 


What equipment you might use on Brew day

Here's a handy checklist for your set up. Not everything is a 'must have' but you must have clean and sanitized gear, no matter what you do.

Ingredients
Equipment for brewing
  • Sanitizer - To sanitize all of your equipment. It’s a must. If you don’t your beer might die. 
  • 6 gallon / 23 litre fermenter (drum or bottle). You will use this for making your beer in 
  • Thermometer - To monitor the temperature of the wort – this is so you can add the yeast at the correct temperature and avoid killing it. *
  • Hydrometer - Used test the original gravity of your batch *
  • Paddle or spoon - Something to stir the boil with, maybe not your wife’s best spoon. A long handle is what you need. Try not to drop it in your batch....
  • Gloves – making beer can get a little messy * Do not use your dad's chainsaw gloves!
  • Can opener – to open the beer kit 
  • Water - Access to both boiling and cold water 
  • Bubble Airlock – to allow the release of CO2 and to assist with the observation of fermentation
  • This is totally optionally and really only for seasoned beer makers, a pH testing kit can be pretty handy.
  • Ph Meter for checking the water as being suitable for use. Even if you're making kombucha, check the level.
  • A good gas Burner for boiling water. 

Bottling day - what you need

  • Bottles! – cleaned and free of dirt and spiders or slugs or bird shit (trust us on this, it’s happened) 
  • Sanitizer – Yes, once again you need sanitize all equipment and bottles and caps 
  • Bottle caps - Make sure they are not twist-off bottles 
  • Bottle capper – speaks for itself, helps you place the caps on bottles 
  • Hydrometer - To measure the final gravity *
  • Priming sugar – Sucrose which is to carbonate the beer while in the bottle (called beer conditioning
  • Bottling wand - This allows you to easily control the flow while bottling and means less spillage will occur. *
  • Patience. Just a little patience. Shit will go wrong, learn from the experience and move on. 
* denotes an optional item of equipment

Also, I'm just gonna randomly add that if you like Mortal Engines, check out the behind the scenes work that goes into the movie.

Best mash paddle for brewing day

best mash paddle for brewing
Any 'professional' homebrewer needs a mash paddle for paddling mash for brewing day!

Wood, plastic, or metal, it doesn't matter as long as it does the job when mashing with tuns.

Ensure you have a sturdy paddle or it will snap when using it. 

Some brewers like to make custom jobs with their own designs as the 'holes' on the paddle.

Also, we suggest you also get the large paddle and if you are going with the metal, then we suggest you will get the best benefit from a stainless steel unit.

If you are looking for a wooden paddle, then those fashioned from maple are known to be quite sturdy and will give a long service life.

If a paddle is not for you, then a spoon may be for you.


How to work out the alcohol ABV of your home brew beer

work out alcohol content of beer


How to use a hydrometer correctly to determine the alcohol content of your beer or wine



A trick of the home brewer's craft is to keep a hydrometer handy. This tool will help any beer brewer to make great beer.

What is a hydrometer?


At its most basic scientific purpose, a hydrometer is an instrument that measures the specific gravity of liquids, that is to say, it measures the ratio of the density of the liquid to the density of water.

Did you get that?

Why would a home brewer use a hydrometer?


A home brewer uses the hydrometer to monitor the fermentation progress and measure the alcohol content of his produce.

Hydrometers can measure specific gravity, potential alcohol and the approximate sugar per litre of content.



So the big question then, how does one use a hydrometer?


If you float the hydrometer in a test tube of water you will find it gives you a gravity reading of 1.000. This makes sense as there is no water displacement occurring.

Not let's assume we are at the point where you have prepared your beer wort. It's time to add the hydrometer to the beer wort in a test tube. Not only is there water in the wort but other mixed in ingredients including sugar, thus meaning some displacement can occur.

Spin the hydrometer around in the tube - this will dislodge any bubbles that are helping to float the hydrometer above what should be the actual reading. 

Take note of the reading which is where the hydrometer crosses the water / air line and write it down as you will need it for your equations later on. It's called the starting or original gravity. 

Let the brew ferment.

When you think fermentation is complete, take a reading. Then wait 24 hours and take a second reading.

If they are the same, you have your final gravity measurement.

A handy rule of thumb to beer in mind is when the final gravity is approximately a quarter of the starting gravity you’re done with fermentation. 

Let your beer 'chill out' in the drum a bit longer. While the bubbles may have stopped, chemical reactions are still occurring and they will help make your beer taste even better.

How to work out the alcohol content of your beer using the hydrometer's specific and final gravity readings


It's a crude or rough measurement but the calculation / to use equation is simple:

(Starting Reading minus Final Reading ) x 131 = alcohol by volume (ABV)

Given that hydrometers are calibrated to be used at specific temperatures one needs to use the taken readings a guide rather than a wholly accurate value.

For example, if your hydrometer is calibrated to be used in an environment of 15 degrees centigrade but it's warmed to 20 degrees, there's a chance your readings will be slightly out.

To be frank, for the average home brewer, it hardly matters if your 5 percent beer is actually 4.8 per cent!

There's quite a bit of science behind how the units are calibrated but provided your readings are semi accurate, you shouldn't need to worry about it too much!

A single caution though. You shouldn't feel the need to take readings all day every day as you wait for fermentation to finish. Exposing your beer to the atmosphere does raise the possibility of a contaminant getting in so beer that in mind.

If you want to increase the ABV of your beer, add more sugars.

Using Brix and a refractometer to determine alcohol content by measuring sugar


If you do not have a hydrometer, there's an alternative to work it out. Using the Brix method one measures the sugar content of an aqueous solution, in this case, your beer.

Using your refractometer, take a drop of your beer and get the measurement. If you multiply that by 4 - this will give you the specific gravity which you can then use with the normal calculations.

If you're keen on getting a high ABV, check out these tricks to increase the alcohol content of your beer.

Order a hydrometer from Amazon now!

Image credit to Daniel Spiess via Creative Commons Licence

How to re-use yeast from the trub

how to recycle yeast from the fermenter

Yeast trub and how to re-use it


We've talked a bit about how vital yeast is to the beer brewing process which got us thinking about how many brewers choose to mix and match yeasts to the different kinds of beers they want to make.

This comes at a cost though - yeast can be a fair cost component of brew day.

So to save some cash money some brewers choice to re-use the leftover yeast that remains in the 'trub'.

You might think, that stuff at the bottom of the fermenter is just a whole lot of gunk and no good to anyone.

You'd be wrong.

There's usually plenty of viable yeast still left and it would love nothing better than to feast on some more sugars...

Cashed up commercial breweries recycle and re-pitch yeast, so why don't you?

How to 'wash' your leftover yeast for reuse and repitch


Washing your leftover yeast to reuse it in another batch is a great skill to have in your back pocket as a homebrewer. Yeast washing is actually a fairly simple process where the goal is to separate the remaining live yeast from the residue of the trub being mostly hops and spent grain.

Your final goal is to make a yeast starter so that you do not need to purchase yeast every time you brew.

Washing your yeast cake


You are not really washing the yeast, you are basically decanting it from the other hops and residue in the trub. 

Mix the trub with about 1500 mls of water in an easy to pour container such as a conical flask. Let the slurry settle and it will settle - the yeast and water will form a layer over the top and the debris will fall to the bottom. 

Decant the 'creamy' yeast level into a clean container. 

This 'washed' yeast can now be stored in the refrigerator for many months until you wish to use it as part of a yeast starter

There's a more simple method where you don't wash the yeast or make a starter...


Draw or harvest your yeast sample from your primary fermenter as it contains more active yeast than what would be in a secondary fermenter (if you actually used one).

Once the beer has been racked for kegging or bottling it's time to begin the harvest. There will be a  layer of trub and it needs to be liquefied somewhat to make it easy to work with, so add some clean and sterile water.

Take your 'slurry' swirl it up the slurry and decant it from the fermenter it into sanitized containers. Properly cover them tight and store those in the fridge.

Each container should enough yeast to ferment an average 23 litre batch of beer.

If you use one of the containers in the next 3 weeks or so, you can use it directly without any other preparation as the yeast will still be quite active. Pitch in the normal manner.

If you are using yeast beyond a three or four week period, you'll do well to rouse the yeast from its slumber.

Place the slurry into a starter container and add a quart or litre of fresh wort to "wake it up" before using. Warming it to room temperature will help too.

If you're thinking that washing yeast sounds like too much work, feel free to ask if:

Can I just add fresh wort to the trub?


You sure can, but if you intend to recycle yeast over and over, you're going to get a lot of trub left at the bottom right?

So this practice might work better if you add a properly cooled fresh wort over the trub of a secondary fermentation. 

Give the new solution a bit of a stir so that the yeast finds its mark.

Why should I recycle my yeast?


The big commercial breweries do it to save money and it's an efficient process. For the homebrewer the best reason to do this is so that you 'jump start' your next brew with a much larger pitching cell volume. This means you will give your beer an excellent start at fermentation and a likely reduction in the occurrence of strange smells and flavours in your beer.

How many times can I recycle my beer yeast?


Many commercial brewers reuse yeast for several fermentation cycles - and we've heard stories of going through to 40 or 50 batches.  How they do this is by pumping the residual yeast via the bottom of one fermenter into the waiting and ready lump of steal and repeat.

Trial and experience will dictate how well you go. The better you sanitize your equipment and care for your yeast, the more viable it will be.

Conical fermentors make access the trub easy. Given it collects at the end of the cone, you can simply remove it by opening the valve and emptying it into a clean collection vessel.

Who needs craft beer?

Not this beer drinker who has written a rather terse 'letter to the editor' of the New Zealand Dominion Post where they shared their distain for an over-hopped lager with pinot gris undertones and shilled for a good old crate of Lion Red:

letter to editor about craft beer

Neil Douglas of Carterton does make an excellent point, it makes my wallet real sad when you check out the price of a craft beer in Wellington.

I had a $25 lunch burger the other day and the beer was half the value - at $12.50 for a beer just feels on the nose.

And that is why I tend to home brew!


Have I contaminated by beer (and can I rescue it?)

Help, I think I have ruined my beer!

Have I really contaminated my beer?

It only takes one bad batch of contaminated beer for beer enthusiasts to be converted to the mantra of 'sterilization is mandatory'.

And that's the best approach you can have when brewing beer.

Keeping your equipment and preparation space clean and sanitary will keep you on course for a fine tasting brew.

Things do go wrong.

You might accidentally drop something into your batch.

Maybe your three-year-old son thought he was helping Dad out by throwing the air lock into it (yes, that actually happened).

Maybe you managed to drop some bottle caps or a stirring spoon into it and then let it ferment:

beer wort with spoon
I found the missing spoon!



Does this mean you've contaminated and ruined your batch?



The short answer is no, yes and maybe.

But the chances are that you haven't screwed things up.

If you've done diligent preparation so that everything else is clean, then the chances are that dropping the odd utensil into your batch is not going to ruin it.

On a couple of occasions, I have been pushing the airlock into the hole in the top of the fermenter lid. As I have done this, I managed to push the rubber bung through the hole and into the batch.

Quelle Horreur! 

I was left with no choice each time to grab a large metal spoon from the kitchen drawer to try and fish the bung out. I had no time to sterilize the spoon - I'd pitched the yeast already and wanted to lock that drum down tight.

Did I ruin my beer by exposing it to a rubber bung and an unsanitized spoon? I possibly could have but in the end, my brews turned out absolutely fine.


Here's my reason why this scenario worked out OK.



If you make sure that you have already produced a hospitable environment for your yeast to take charge of your brew, it's like any introduction of foreign micro-organisms will not be calamitous.

The yeast you use is beer yeast. It's been cultivated for many years to brew the best kind of beers and it knows how to do its job. If it's just a minor contamination by way of a spoon or dropped airlock (chances are they were actually quite clean as opposed to say a Matchbox toy car) it's more than likely your yeast will win the tussle for beer fermenting supremacy.


I think it's fair to say that a small mistake is not fatal to your beer.



A large mistake such as not preparing your fermenter properly (cleaning and sanitizing) would probably have dire results. If your beer is actually contaminated (smells of rotten eggs, a taste test reveals a disgusting taste) then you may have to consider dumping your brew.

Update: Believe it or not, shortly after writing this post, I managed to find this in my fermenter. The beer was fine.

Image credit to ellai via Creative Commons Licence. We have no idea if Ellai prefers Star Warrs quotes, Star Trek or has even read the Mortal Engines book. Have you?