Best pH meters for making homebrew in 2022

Want to make the best ph Meter buying choice in 2022?

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

What's the best pH tester for home beer brewing?

Coming from the clean and green wilds of New Zealand, I've never really bothered wondering or worrying 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?

best -ph meter-testers -beer-2020

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 help "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 the laboratory and for 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 temperatures.

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 indeed most brewing equipment for that matter

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 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.

How to remove labels from glass bottles for home brewing beer

Once more unto the breach...

Removing labels from beer bottles can be the most frustrating exercise in the world right?


What if I told you I've learnt the secret of easily removing those damn sticky labels.

You'd be thinking I pulling your leg.

I'm not though.

I've done the research.

I've done the experiments.

I have scrubbed labels.

I have licked labels. 

I have OxiClean and I have used my damn fingernails to get those last stubborn bits of residue off.

I have also pulled labels off completely intact in one move!!

So much so, I hate beer labels.

But, due to my work, for you dear home brewer, I've got 6 or maybe 7 tricks and tips on removing beer labels from bottles. They are not magical fixes but they sure make things a lot easier and less frustrating.

remove label from glass bottle

The good old overnight soak


The first thing you need to do is accept that life is like a box of shitty beer labels, you never know and some of them are as stubborn as your mother in law after a couple of gins. 

Some labels will simply come off after a 24 hour soak in cold soapy water. Others will not even soften after three weeks in the bucket.

That's just the way is. Accept it, and you will feel so much better for it.

Yes, the most simple way to remove a beer label is to let the glass bottle soak in a bucket or tub overnight.

Fully submerged.

If you get a beer label that's willing to soak up water and with glue that dissolves easily enough, there are good odds you will be able to pull the whole label off from the bottle 100 per cent intact and leave no residue on the glass.

Such occasions are rare and must be celebrated by sharing your homebrew with your neighbours and workmates.

IF there is some glue residue, then scrub with a kitchen brush under a stream of hot water may assist in removal. Else, try a hot wash in the dishwasher. 

Baking soda is not just for making hokey pokey lolly...


If the overnight soak method doesn't float your label off intact, you might want to try baking soda.

Baking soda is like a magical cooking ingredient that housewives from back in the day is also good for using as toothpaste and removing axel grease.

Baking soda is actually a handy chemical called sodium bicarbonate and it's a true and time tested remedy - it will help remove labels. With your soak, add in a few tablespoons of the soda, stir and leave to soak for 24 hours.

If there is some residue after removing the label, a quick scrub with steel wool or plastic kitchen scrubber (think 3M cleaners) should do the trick.

how to remove labels from beer bottles

Ammonia


Did you ever see Robocop?

The first one, not the shitty remake. I saw that as a young lad and one scene that stuck with me forever was when one of the bad guy's henchmen gets his comeuppance with a bath of toxic waste.

It melts his skin right off!

Like sucking chicken of a slow-cooked chicken drum.

And seeing as that's how we really would like our labels to come off, let's ratchet the solution up.

Ammonia.

It's a hydrogen and nitrogen compound (NH3 is the scientific name) and it dissolves your label like it was human flesh bathed in toxic waste.

Be warned though, ammonia is a HARSH chemical as it is very caustic. Don't get it on you or inhale it and we suggest you do the soak outside.

It doesn't do anything to the glass bottle though, so it's a viable trick.

Never mix it with bleach as a chemical reaction will occur, exposing you to poisonous gas (from memory something like chloroform is created).

So maybe only try to use ammonia if you have the most stubborn of beer bottle labels. Before using the bottles you will need to thoroughly rinse them in plenty of water.

And then rinse again just to be sure.

So if the suggestion above scared you, let's slow down and have a think about some other chemical agents that might be handy.

When using chemicals such as ammonia or sodium hydroxide, we firmly recommend you take safety precautions and use disposable gloves and wear suitable eye protection.

Have you ever heard of Oxiclean? 


It's a massively popular laundry cleaner / stain remover. It's good because it makes whites whiter and brights brighter or something. Maybe it's good because one of the active ingredients in OxiClean is sodium percarbonate.

This wonder chemical is an adduct of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide, the active ingredients of OxiClean and many other popular laundry soakers.

I typically use sodium percarbonate all the time and this is the actual truth, about an hour ago I was adding sodium percarbonate to a tub of beer bottles that needed the labels removed. As I was standing outside in the dark, garden hose in hand I thought, you know, it would probably be a good idea make a good post about how to remove beer labels).

So, I personally can vouch for using sodium percarbonate to remove beer labels.

It still can be a dog of a process though. If you get a stubborn beer label, you're going to need to use some elbow grease.

Steam cleaning


You could also try using hot steam from a kettle. We haven't done this but we think this idea would probably work if given enough time. If you had to do twenty bottles, it wouldn't be worth the energy.

PBW - Powdered Brewery Wash


This cleaning product is widely used in commercial breweries and microbreweries and countless home brewers across the country have twigged that they can use it for cleaning their own brewing equipment. 

Because PBW is so strong it will also make short work of beer labels as well. Give it a soak overnight and you might just be surprised at how easy it will be to get the labels off.


So in summary here's several methods you can try to remove beer labels from glass bottles:
Many brewers are waking up to how good alkaline brewery wash is as well. 

You could also try using a jet blaster but you'd need to be able to securely hold the bottles!

These tricks also work just as well for wine bottles but you will have to be prepared to get in there and do some scrubbing on those stubborn labels, it's just a fact of life.

What is the 'krausen' in home brewing (and should I release it?)

A massive krausen!
I learned a new brewing word the other day.

It was 'Krausen'.

Which made me immediately say to myself "Release the Krausen!"

But enough with the bad jokes, let's talk about what a krausen is.

The krausen is the foamy head that constitutes on top of fermenting beer as it sits in the fermenter.

A healthy head of krausen is an ideal goal of the home brewer because it's a sign that your beer is fermenting just as it should.

Knowing this can be quite handy because if you are not seeing or hearing bubbles escaping from the airlock, the presence of a krausen build up is proof that the yeast is doing its job and fermentation is occurring.

And just the same as the presence of krausen shows fermentation is occurring, it's disappearance (but not initial lack of) is an indicator that fermentation is complete (or halted if brewing conditions are too cold).

But sometimes these things see the movie The Blob and decide they want to grow...

Preventing a krausen 'blow out' with tubing


Occasionally brewing conditions mean that the yeast is so active, the krausen behaves like it is a kraken released from the gates of hell and it foams up like a fiery tempest and blows out the airlock, just making a heck of a mess all over your brewing equipment!

These beer explosions typically occur with glass carboys which allow pressure to build.
krausen blow off tube
A solution to krausen 'blow out' is using a blowoff tube. One replaces the standard carboy airlock with the tubing.

The tubing can then release into a bottle, bucket or whatever to help with reducing any blow off mess.

Check out the image to the right for an idea on how to set up the blow off tubing. This example uses a steel tube.

If you're not convinced this tubing is worth the effort, consider this.

A common krausen issue is that the airlock can get clogged with foam and any added hops. This leads to a strong pressure buildup in the fermenter which when is it great, the barrel lid, bung or airlock blows off, spewing stuff everywhere and making for a very messy and frustrating cleanup.

There's even the potential for damaging your equipment.

We suggest if you have brewing conditions where this has happened more than once, you may wish to consider grabbing some tubing from Amazon!

Make sure you get a suitable thick pipe, nothing too narrow as that will work against you.

One more thing.

We've not done it ourselves but we have read that some punters fill that bottle or bucket the tubing goes into with water so as to further help retard the foaming krausen!

Have you ever heard of Fermcap-S?


You could also try and prevent too much foam by using an anti foaming agent like Fermcap-SIf you wish to use it in your carboy or fermenter to prevent the krausen from escaping, the dosage is only 2 drops at the start of fermentation. 

Krausen the line...


When you have bottled your beer, it's time to get cleaning that fermenter right? And if you've done everything right, there will be a ring around the line where the krausen rose from.

I call it the Krausen line.

If you don't immediately clean your vessel, it will harden and be a right monster to remove. A good soak with PBW or sodium percarbonate should sort that line of scum out PDQ.

Best beer bottle caps and cappers - how and what to use when bottling beer

Beer caps and cappers - how and what to use when bottling beer


Once I was bottling beer I got about 10 bottles into capping them and I remembered that I hadn’t added any sugar for carbonation.

I quickly opened the beers and added the sugar and got back to it.

But what if I had forgotten to add the sugar?

That’s a beer bottling horror story right there.

NE how, this is a nice point to talk about what kind of bottle caps you can use to put on your carefully crafted home brew.

The answer is that you can use pretty much any crown seal on your beer but you just need to remember that some crown seals are better than others. 

In my experience is best to go with a branded bottle cap rather than the cheapest you can find. I've found the cheaper ones tend to be less forgiving when using a bottle capper and they are more prone to being rendered unusable if you make a mistake. 

The ever-popular beer company, Mr Brewer has a handy pack of 144 crown metal caps for a fair price. There is actually plenty of caps to choose from on Amazon - compare the prices and options

best Beer caps and cappers

What do I use to cap beer bottles with?


You need a beer capper! Beer cappers come in two forms, being the 'hand held' wing tool and the bench capper.

The 'wing' hand held capper


red wing beer capper

The hand held capper is a popular way to cap your beer. Often called 'wing' or universal Rigamonti cappers or Red Baron, they are pretty handy and durable to use.

Sometimes they are called the 'Mad Millie' or the Emily! Mad Millie reminds us of an old girl friend but we digress...

They do have a couple of draw backs - they can sometimes be hard to separate from the capped bottle if you've applied too much pressure and if you do apply to much force, then you can break the glass bottle. This happens fairly often in my experience (as I am a very muscled man) or the bottles have been reused too much and they final succumb to the pressure (of my very manly arms)....

Overall, they are pretty good units to use. It's actually very satisfying getting a cap on a bottle properly, there's this sudden 'thump' moment when the crown bends down and forms the seal.

Most US beer bottles take a 26 mm crown cap, most others take a 29 mm cap. The "jaws" on the red capper can be pulled out and reversed to crimp size 29 caps. They can be lodged in quite tight, but they are easy to pull out with a pair of pliers.

Can get a bit tiring on the arms after a while - so you might want to consider using a:

Using a Bench Capper for capping brews


The bench capper can be very easier to use than a wing capper because it's a simple pull down lever that can be operated with one hand whilst the other hand holds the bottle in place.

It's hard to make a mistake with such a method!

It's a good idea to buy a bench capper that can accommodate different sized bottles. The Ferrari model does exactly that which can be quite handy if your bottle collection is all kinds of different shapes and sized.


The Ferrari capper has the following specifications:
  • Spring loaded
  • Caps bottles quickly, cleanly, and accurately
  • Has a magnetic bell to hold the cap in place
  • Self-adjusting spring-mounted capping mechanism
  • Easier to adjust for different size bottles

These are the characteristics you should bear in mind for any bench capper that you might be thinking of buying.


We'll leave with this final tip:


Do I need to sanitize the bottle caps before capping the bottle?

As always, before capping your beer, the bottle caps could to be sanitized before doing so. The best the best way is to soak them in sanitizing solution. That way the whole cap gets sanitized.

But, I'll tell ya the truth, I never actually do this tip, as long as the caps are clean, there should be no problem. And I don't think I ever ever had one.

You can use a Star San solution or some sodium percarbonate to kill the bugs.

Beer caps which absorb oxygen from the bottled beer are also a popular thing.

How to properly use oak wood chips for home brewing

Using oak wood chips to age and flavor beer brews


Ageing beer in oak barrels is a long-standing practice for making beer.

This is because the characteristics of the wood impart to the beer which can add to the flavor & drinkability of the beer. 

Which a reason why wine made in oak barrels tastes so good too! And something about whiskey maybe...

There's a reason why brewers seek out new ways to make beer taste better and that's because, for them, the old days of getting smashed on Budweiser are over.

They constantly want to experiment, try new ideas and just make better beers.

To meet that need, using wood while conditioning or ageing beer can impart a range of aromas to the beer, including floral, vanilla, caramel, or coconut tones.

It's kind of like how smoking fish with cherry or alder wood or bacon with a good maple wood makes the meat taste nice.

While it depends on the type of wood as to what happens, oak is generally the preferred kind of wood as it produces the desired vanilla note tones.

All that might sound like some kind of fancy wine snob speaking at a tasting session, but that vanilla thing is true!


I don't have any spare oak barrels lying around to use, so how can a small-time home brewer use wood to improve their brewing results?



That's the short of it.

You can use oak wood chips by simply adding them to the wort. 

However, it's not that simple.

There are some choices to make as to how you oak your beer and for how long and for what kind of beer. 

Let's explore the ins and outs of 'oaking' homebrew beer. 

First of all, we should consider this question:

What kind of beer suits wood chips?


You can oak any beer you like but through the experiences of many other pioneering brewers, it has been generally settled that English and some Scotch ales such as Old Ales, stouts, porters, browns, IPAs, and some bitters benefit from going through this process.

That's not a finite grouping of beers though.

Brewers have been known to successfully use oak in styles such as the darker Belgian ales, Farmhouse Ale, or even Saison.

And let's be frank, some of the current generations of craft brewers are trying all kinds of combos and methods to make their mark on the world, so backyard brewers should explore and experiment as much as they dare!

There's also the theory the higher the ABV, the better result oaking will produce


This working theory is usually in reference to beers that are being aged in wooden oak barrels. It is considered that the alcohol serves to ensure a healthy environment in which the beer ages, free of those pesky bugs that can infect and ruin a beer.

If you are going to invest time and money in a barrel, you don't want to wait six months or a year to find your beer has gone off!   

High alcohol beers are also often sweet so an oaky vanilla tone can help counter or balance that. 

oak chips in home brew

What is the best kind of wood chip to use with the wort?


Not all oak chips are created equal.

Oak usually comes in three varieties, American, Hungarian, and French.

The American oak gives the strongest oak flavor, while French oak gives subtler notes with other sweeter flavors like vanilla.

Hungarian oak is considered in the middle between these two extremes.

Their use depends on what types of beers you are making and what you’re going for with them.

One more thing about the kind of wood - charring. When oaks barrels are used for making bourbon the inside is charred as strangely this helps with aging. 

Different amounts of charring will have different effects on your beer. The more charred or burnt your wood is, the more strong the flavors and smells that are imparted into the beer. 

Should I use wood chips or cubes or spirals?


Instead of using an actual oak barrel or the staves of one, these three options are handy methods for a homebrewer to add wood flavor and aroma to ‘barrel age’ their beer. 

We prefer chips over cubes as you get more surface area exposure.

That's just good maths.

Your local homebrew store may have all three readily available on hand but Amazon will see you right too.

Using oak chips 


Wood chips are essentially shards of wood that you add to your fermenter or secondary in order to achieve the level of barrel flavor you desire. Chips offer a greater surface area that's exposed to the beer than cubes.

Wood chips are probably going to float and that means a lot of oak will be making contact with the air in the fermenter and not imparting oaky goodness into the beer.

So a handy tip is to place the chips into a clean and sterile hop bag and then weigh the bag down with something heavy and inert such as a clean glass marble or three.

Make sure the marbles are sterilized!

It's a really good idea to do this as picking stray oak chips out of your tubing or bottling wand will be a pain in the ass.

Using wood cubes for brewing flavor


Wood cubes are exactly as they sound - they are cubes of wood (approximately ¼-½”in size).

They will sink to the bottom of your fermenter, won't get stuck in your tubing and many brewers prefer to use cubes over chips because the amount of surface area to beer ratio is easier to determine on a cube than a chip.

Not that it's really a big deal.

Using spirals


Spirals are also a great way to get a high surface to beer wort ratio happening. 

If you are looking for a hassle-free clean up, then like cubes, oak spirals could be what you want to use for your beer.

They are more expensive than chips however due to the time required to manufacture them than compared to putting some oak logs through a chipper!

Do I need to sterilize my wood chips ?


All brewers fear introducing anything into their brew but there are a few things you will most definitely need to consider doing to ensure the health of your brew.

Here’s a summary of different approaches for adding bits of wood chips to the beer:

  • The 'do nothing' approach, just pitch your chips in and see what happens (kind of like dry hopping)
  • Boil the chips in water to make a tea, then add the tea to the wort (just like you would a hops tea).  You could use your propane gas burner if it's handy.
  • Soak the chips in a spirit like rum or vodka for at least a day, and add it all to the beer. The strong alcohol content in the booze will kill off any microbes present in the wood. 
  • Use a pressure cooker to cook them?
  • Sanitize wood with chemicals such as campden tablet solution (we don't recommend this method as you'd likely be transferring the solution you made (potassium metabisulfite) into your wort as the wood absorbs it. That said, campden tablets are great for removing chlorine from your beer. 

How much oak chips should I add to my wort?


The amount of chips to use is not an exact science. I've seen recommendations that range from 10-60 grams per 5 gallons.

Remember this is largely to taste - especially if you are using the tea making method.

We would, however, recommend you start light and add more as you get more experienced and learn the effect of whatever form of oak you are using. 

How long should I soak oak chips in bourbon?


You could be forgiven for wondering why the spirit of bourbon is suddenly being mentioned.

Brewers have discovered that if you are going to age beer in oak barrels, then those that have been previously used to age bourbon do a wonderful job.

The idea then is that if you soak your oak wood chips in bourbon, you're going to somewhat re-create or imitate the effect of a good old fashion barrel soak.

We'd recommend that you soak your chips in bourbon for at the very least 24 hours but we have read online that some brewers wait as long as four weeks!

As we noted above spirits in general also help kill any bugs that could be present in the wood chips so using a good bourbon will ensure you do not accidentally infect your beer

You good just drop them in some boiling water too.

You can probably do the same trick with a good sherry or any similar spirit. 

Cognac?

I've never done it but you could potentially skip the oak and just add bourbon to your brew directly!

You'd have to experiment a bit so maybe split your wort into a few small units, or add a small amount in the first instance and build to taste.

Making an oak tea


There are a few ways to add the oak flavor to your beer and making an 'oak tea' is an easy way.

Simply boil the oak chips and make sure they are covered in an inch of water.

Once the tea is made, add a bit of the water to your beer in the fermenter and then taste it. Continue to add the oak tea until you reach the flavor you’re looking for.

Making a tea is much faster than aging with oak, and also lets you more closely control the flavor.

The boiled tea will also be sterile but don't confuse it for some medicinal brew!

Speaking of tea - did you know you can make hops tea for brewing?

How long do I leave the wood chips in the fermenter?


Chips impart flavor pretty quickly, and usually, 7-10 days in the fermenter is about as long many brewers go before the effect on the beer becomes overpowering.

Taste tests along the way will help as it all comes down to a matter of taste! 

If you've put your chips or cubes in a bag, they'll be easy to remove with a clean pair of tongs.

Just like a good cook doesn't over-egg the pudding, the discerning home brewer should not over oak the beer. Too much oak doesn’t allow for complex flavors to emerge in your brew before an overwhelming wood flavor takes over the batch.

So, timings wise, if you know you are going to bottle your beer within the week, then add the chips seven days before you intend to bottle. You'll be seeing 'red' if you add too much!

How can I tell the difference between an oaked and unoaked beer?


Generally comparing beer that has been oaked to one that hasn’t will show subtle variations.

A beer that has been properly oaked beer will often have what can be described as having a smooth backbone and aftertaste.

If the oak has been toasted/charred just right, you might get some of those vanilla notes we mentioned above. It shouldn't taste like over BBQ-ed steak.

Can you re-use oak chips?


The question is can one re-use the wood chips? Can I just dry them out and store them until the next time?

We've read that beer makers often just leave them to sit on a paper towel to dry, then place into storage in something like a mason jar.

Make sure they are thoroughly dry though as any moisture could help microbes or mold etc thrive.

We imagine that the more you re-use chips, the qualities they possess will reduce. 

I found this totally pro tip which I'll share as found:

"I keep a 1.75 LT bottle of Jim Beam half full of bourbon and the rest with medium toast French oak chips so they are always soaking up that great flavor to add to bourbon stouts. The chips pick up a lot of the great bourbon flavor and stay sanitized due to the high alcohol."

So for that brewer, they don't really care about how long they soak their chips in bourbon!

Check the price ranges on Amazon.

Best yeast energizer for beer brewing

How to fix a stalled fermentation with Yeast Energizer


Yeast is the 'live' part of a good beer.

It's a living organism and just like your friends, you gotta treat them right.

If the yeast is going to turn your wort's sugars into alcohol, it's going to need a nice home where it feels comfortable.

If you think your yeast might need a helping hand either at the beginning of fermentation or due to a stalled fermentation then a 'yeast energizer' might just be the extra ingredient you'll need to add to your brew day shopping list.

best yeast energizer stalled fermentation

What are yeast energizers and why use them?


At its most basic description, a yeast energizer serves two purposes - they are used to stimulate or restart a stalled fermentation.

The effect they have is that they can help with more efficient fermentation which means a faster time to the completion of fermentation and also improve the chances of an improved final gravity - that is to say, increase the alcohol content of your batch. 

Yeast energizers have also been demonstrated to also help reduce fusel alcohol and hydrogen sulfide production. 

Fusel alcohols are the alcohols responsible for the 'burning sensation' and can contribute to hangovers. 

H2S will impart a sulfur smell (rotten eggs vibe) and a general bad taste. 

These two problems may be caused by when the yeast is stressed (such as by having too many sugars in the wort or the temperature is too hot

Yeast energizer also works well in meads and honey brews to help speed fermentation. It will also help cider batches to get to that dry state quicker!

Generally speaking, you'll probably only need to add an energizer if your yeast will face very high sugar worts. 

Does 'yeast energizer' affect beer taste?


There is a bit of debate amongst brewers about the effect an energizer can have on taste. It seems to be fairly negligible if there is one. 

We believe there are more overriding factors in the brewing process (such as the number of hops used and grain profile) that affect the taste, so we wouldn't factor in 'taste effect' as part of your decision making process on whether to add yeast energizer (and you don't really have a choice of your fermentation has stalled!).

What are the ingredients of yeast energizers?


Energizers are usually found to be composed of:

Is an energizer the same as yeast nutrient?


A yeast nutrient is somewhat different from an energizer. 

Yeast nutrients can be considered to be the "vitamins and minerals" to help yeast grow and ferment. 

Yeast energizer is like a catalyst to kick start a stuck fermentation back into gear.

How much yeast energizer should I add to my beer wort?


Use approx 1/4 teaspoon per gallon in beer to revive a slow or stuck fermentation.

When to add yeast energizer?


At the beginning of the brew!


If you are doing a boil, it can be added in the last 10 minutes of the boil.

If doing a malt kit in do a fermenting drum, pitch it the same time as you do the yeast. 

When you have a 'stuck fermentation'


If you are hugely confident that your fermentation hasn't completed properly (such as by having a vastly incorrect expected final gravity) then you make have a stalled fermentation. 

You can re-ignite your yeast's performance by adding the energizer. 

Before you do that, you should ensure that your drum or carboy is at a sufficient temperature to support fermentation. If you're brewing in a cold shed in winter, it's likely your yeast has gone to sleep rather than you have a stalled fermentation. 

Add one-quarter teaspoon or a half teaspoon per gallon to your wort and give it a wee stir. The instructions on the label should give good directions as to the amount to use if unsure. 

How Much Headspace to Leave When Bottling Beer?

headspace for bottles

What level of head space should I leave in the bottle neck for homebrew beer?

We found this.


For a given amount of priming sugar, the greater the headspace, the lower the carbonation." - some guy on the internet

Let's explore what they mean.

When bottling beer, leaving 1 to 1 ½ inches of headspace is quite the common standard practice.

Headspace tends to aid in preventing oxidation and exploding bottles due to unreleased C02 pressure

Conversely, too much headspace may result in off-flavors. 

So, you are looking for the Goldilocks level of headspace, something just right. 

The science of it explains how there are practical effects on your beer. 

If you are leaving more headspace than you should in your bottle, the carbon dioxide produced by fermentation will not stay in the beer solution and will instead fill up the empty space in your bottle. The result then of too much headspace is that you may open the beer and get a comforting "psssst" sound but your beer could well be unintentionally under carbonated and taste somewhat flat.

So what's the ideal level of headspace for a beer?


Try to leave between 1/2" to 1" of headspace in your bottles when bottling.

Carbon dioxide is going to be produced in bottled beer because the yeasts will be feeding on the priming sugars in the brew. Having adequate headspace allows the gas somewhere to go.

Too much head space can cause a foul beer flavor. 


Why does this happen? 

Yeast utilizes the oxygen in the bottle (meaning carbonation speeds up with bigger headspace), and any leftover oxygen results in too much air and this makes your beer taste terrible.

This is also why when bottling you should try to ensure a simple straight pour from the fermenter into the bottle - often achieved quite well 
  
Indeed a bottling wand will help to achieve a consistently even level of headspace, When filling, you fill it to the very top of the bottle. When you remove the wand, the space left is quite the perfect amount of headspace - depending on your bottle size of course...

Another problem with having more headspace than needed is simply that you’ll end up needing more bottles since you’re underfilling them!

If you are using recyclable beer bottles, my personal choice is just to try and leave it at a leave that looks like what would have been the original pour from the manufacturer.

If you are really worried about oxygen in your beer you can also consider using oxygen caps.

Should I forget headspace and fill the bottle to the very top?


No way. 

Beer expands when allowed to warm up. 

Expanding beer creates unimaginable pressure (surprisingly far more than overpriming) that will either break bottles or at least will cause leakage via the cap if it is not sealed quite firmly. 

The amount of expansion will depend on how stable you keep your storage temperature.

Given this and we know that beer generally benefits from an apt amount of headspace, don't overfill your beer bottles. 
Powered by Blogger.

Tags

absorption caps abv acetaldehyde acid adjuncts advice about beer brewing aeration aeration kit aging air lock alcohol alcohol poisoning ale ale beer kits alkaline alkaline brewery wash all grain american amylase apera apples attenuation autolysis automatic temperature compensation bacteria baker's yeast baking yeast ball lock ball valve bar keepers friend barley batch prime beer brewing beer capper beer dispenser beer filtration kit system beer gushers beer kit beer kit review beer kits beer lines beer salt beer taps beerstone best brewing equipment biotin bittering BKF black rock bleach blichmann blow off tubing bluelab bohemian pilsner boil in a bag boil over boneface bottle cap bottle caps bottle conditioning bottling bottling beer bottling spigot bourbon brettanomyces brew and review brew day brewing beer guide brewing salts brewing spoon brewing sugar brewing thermostat british thermal unit brix brix scale BTU budvar buffer buffer solution burton snatch buyer's guide calcium chloride calcium sulphate calibration calibration probe calibration solution campden tablets capping carbon dioxide carbonation carbonation drops carboy cascade caustic soda chinook chlorine christmas chronicle cider clarity cleaning your equipment clear beer clone recipe cloudy beer cold crashing coldbreak conditioning tablets conductivity conical fermenter contamination coopers copper tun corn sugar cornelius corny keg craft beer creamy beer crown cryo hops cubes danstar nottingham death from above demijohn dextrose distilation DIY DME draught dry hopping dry malt extract edelmetall brü burner ekuanot electrode enhancer enzyme equipment ester ethanol experiments in beer making faucet fermcap-s fermentables fermentation fermenter fermentis fermentor final gravity finings five star flat beer floccing foam inhibitor french fresh wort pack fridge fruit fusel alchohol garage project gas burners gelatin gift and present ideas gin ginger beer glucose golden ale golden syrup goldings gose grain grain mill green bullet grist guinness gypsum hach hacks hallertauer heat mat heat pad heat wrap home brew honey hop schedule hops hops spider how not to brew beer how to brew that first beer how to brew with a beer kit how to grow hops how to make a hop tea how to wash yeast hydrated layer hydrogen sulfide hydrometer IBU ideas idophor infection inkbird instruments isoamyl acetate jelly beans jockey box john palmer jos ruffell juniper keezer keg cooler keg regulators kegco kegerator kegging kegs kettle kombucha krausen lactic acid lager lagering lauter lion brown liquid malt extract litmus LME lupulin lupulin powder lupuLN2 making beer malic acid malt malt mill maltodextrin mangrove jack's maple syrup mash mash paddle mash tun mccashins mead methanol micro brewing milling milwaukee MW102 mistakes mixing instructions moa mouth feel muntons must nano brewing New Zealand Brewer's Series no rinse nut brown ale oak oak wood chips off flavors original gravity oxygen pacific gem palaeo water pale ale panhead PBW pear pectine pectolase perlick pete gillespie ph levels ph meter ph pen pH strips ph tester pico brewing pilsner pitching yeast plastic drum poppet valve pot powdered brewing wash ppm precipitated chalk pressure relief valve priming prison hooch probe problem solving propane and propane accessories pruno pump system purity law radler re-using yeast recipe record keeping reddit refractometer reinheitsgebot removing beer labels from bottles review rice hulls riwaka rotten eggs saaz saccharomyces cerevisiae salt sanitization secondary regulator sediment seltzer session beer silicon simple tricks for brewing siphon site glass skunked beer small batch brewing soda soda ash soda stream sodium carbonate sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate sodium hydroxide sodium metasilicate sodium percarbonate sour beer sparge spigot spirals spirits spoon spraymalt star san starch STC-1000 steinlager steralisation sterilisation sterilization sterliization stoke storage solution stout sucrose sugar supercharger tannins temperature temperature controller therminator thermometer tips for beginners tri-sodium phopsphate tricks and tips trub tubing tui turkey vodka infused gin vorlauf water water testing wet cardboard taste wet hopping weta whirlfloc tablets white claw williamswarn wine winter brewing wood wort wort chiller yeast yeast energizer yeast nutrient yeast rafts yeast starter yeast traps
Back to Top