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How to sparge your mash to collect the wort

how to batch sparge

A lot of beer brewing is intuitive, you know you need malt and grains and you need to cook them up and you can sort of follow your nose from there.

But when I came across words like sparge and lautering I had no idea what on earth that means.

Once you know it's as simple in concept cracking open a well-earned beer.

Sparging is the process of separating the wort from the mash. Hot water is rinsed through to that as much of the sugars can be removed from the 'grain bed'.

And lautering? It's the same concept but is more a reference to the whole process itself and the movement of water. How about that eh?

While it is a simple idea, it's actually a three-step process if it's to be achieved properly.

Get ready to fire up those BTU on your gas burner!

But first, how do I know if my mash is ready to be sparged?


Your mash should have rested for an hour. This is so that the malt enzymes have had an opportunity to digest the starch into sugars. And Iodine test can be done for this. Take a sample from the mash and add a drop of iodine. 

If it goes black or purple, your mash needs more time.

If the iodine stays the same colour, your mash is ready.

Step 1 -  The Mashout


This is when you raise your mash to 170 degrees Fahrenheit or 77 Celcius. The reason for this temperature is that both stops the enzymatic conversion of starches to fermentable sugars, and makes the mash and wort more fluid and thus easier to sparge. 

To set this up, one pours the heated water into the mash tun. Slowly add the grist (crushed grain) to the water in the mash tun. You'll need to stir well the mash to prevent clumping. The temperature should stabilize at around 153 degrees.

You should then let the mash rest for an hour as the sugars are released from the grains and your wort forms.

If you undershoot the target mash temperature by more than 5° F, you may raise the mash temperature by adding heat. Stir the mash constantly while you are applying heat to avoid scorching.

Step 2 - Recirculation of the wort


The idea behind recirculation of the wort is to clear it of debris.

At first, it may seem odd that the idea is to put this cloudy liquid back into to the mash - well this is the beauty of recirculation,  the grain bed will begin to act as a filter and reduce the cloudiness of the runnings. This is why proper milling of the grain is so important so the husks can perform this task.

You may find your initial drawings from the lauter tun are cloudy and filled with what's known as  'draff' - these are small solid grain particles but repeated filtering through the grain will clear the wort.

To recirculate, your lauter tun should have a handy valve. Use it to collect the runoff in two clean intermediate vessels of say 1 quart or more in size.

As you are filling one vessel,  you are pouring the other gently down the side of the lauter tun. Keeping switching back and forth until the wort appears clear of debris.

This can take some time and you need to be patient and pour slowly.

You can now drain the wort into your kettle.

This process is sometimes called vorlauf.

Step 3 - The actual business of sparging


You can now 'rinse' the grain with fresh boiling hot water to collect any residual sugars. The water should be no more than 170°F to avoid tannins being released by the grains.

The trick is to work out the water required for the boil that matches your recipe.

Carefully add this second round of water to the grain mash and slowly drain it into the first wort you prepared.

Once fully drained, you are now ready to boil the wort as per your recipe.

This instructional video by the American Homebrewers Association is really well done and shows how straightforward the process is:



Do I have to sparge?


You do not, however, you will miss out on some efficiencies - a good deal of the potential fermentable sugars are not extracted from the mash,

If you are not sparging, you can simply drain the grain bed and get it ready for boiling by adding the required water.

Why should the sparge water temp not be higher than 180°F/82°C?


This is in order to avoid the extraction of tannins from the grain which is a chemical you simply do not want in your beer. Tannin can give your beer a kind of astringent taste and it simply ruins the drinking experience.

That said, a large factor is the ph level of your wort (which many suggest should be in the range of 5.2-5.8) as to whether you're gonna have a bad time with tannins or not.

Here are some ph meters that you may want to consider using.

Does milling grain technique affect the sparge?


A well milled and crushed grain will give you a good extraction efficiency.

A fine, but not too fine crush will offer more surface volume for the mashing process to release the sugars from the grain. If grains are crushed much then the grain bed can compact during the sparge which just disrupts the whole process.

If it's done just right, the grain better will act like its own filter and the lautering process should be straightforward. 

Can I simply cold water sparge?


Yes, you can. There are many brewers who swear that hot water sparges offer no greater utility than cold water efforts. Some brewers have done identical brewers, save for a hot or cold sparge and found when offering punters a blind taste test, they were unable to determine the difference. Go figure. 

I have also seen brewers suggest that a lower temperature will result in a lower body beer. Given body is quite a crucial party of the drinking experience, this is probably why most brewers sparge with hot water. 

I'd also suggest a higher temperature will mean you wort is more fluid and thus is more easily extracted from the grain bed - certainly, it will be a quicker process if your wort is not so viscous.

Your personal safety


When lautering and sparging you are using a lot of hot water, gas burners, mash tuns and kettles.

There are plenty of means and avenues for things to go wrong and you could literally end up getting burnt or scalded by hot water or wort.

Be careful. It's best to do your beer making in an area that gives you enough space. This is why many brewers often like to brew on an outside deck or sturdy table.

It's, of course, handy to teach children about the dangers of getting too close to gas burners and hot kettles. Better yet, you might want to keep the little ones away while the boil is on and when you are pouring hot water.

You yourself may wish to consider using some protective gloves and perhaps wear a waterproof apron and shoes!

While this may be teaching you to suck eggs, a new first-time brewer should be very mindful of these things. 

And for goodness sake, if you do burn yourself, get some cold water on the burn site pronto! Your skin is more important than your beer!

If I am doing a boil in a bag, do I need to sparge?


If you want to get all those sugars that might still be lurking in the bag, then it's wise to sparge.

Help, my mash has got clogged!


You may have over milled your grain and now the grain filter is too compact. This can also be caused by running the water off too fast. If this happens 's stop what you are doing and give the grain bed a gentle stir. Adding sum sparge water may help.

If things have gone really wrong, you may have to remove the mash, clean your tun and start again.

↠ An experiment with a lager kit, riwaka hops and a bottle of Golden Syrup

brewing lager with riwaka hops I sniff around a couple of homebrew Facebook groups and every time a beginner pops up asking for a really simple beer recipe for using a kit, this dude pops up says something like:

"Mate, I've had some amazing brews with a lager, riwaka hops and golden syrup!"

I was like, hmmm. 

Would this really work?

I prodded the guy a little bit and he then added that he also would use a beer enhancer. 

Which makes sense as enhancers really do wonders for your beer's performance - both in body, taste and mouth feel. 

So, I put this idea to the test. 

I used the following ingredients for what I'm going to call the:

Golden Riwaka Lager recipe 


·      Black Rock's Lager Kit and standard yeast
·      One whole packet of Riwaka hops
·      One 300 ml bottle of golden syrup
·      One beer enhancer which contained dextrose and DME.

To clarify, golden syrup is treacle, not molasses, nor maple syrup. 

I prepared the brew as per standard beer practices - cleaning and sanitizing the fermenting drum with sodiumpercarbonate, using boiling water and making sure my stirring spoon was nice and clean.

I made my wort and then I dryhopped the whole packet of Riwaka hops pellets. Gosh, they smelled like beer heaven. At a pinch you could probably substitute some Saaz hops as Riwaka was born out of the Saaz variety but the point of this exercise is to try what the random dude on social media suggested...

I then wrapped the fermenter in some old sheets and left it in my man shed for a week. 

The first day I went in to check that fermentation was occurring, my nostrils were swamped with that delicious hops smell that had just enveloped the whole room and I could hear the airlock bubbling away quite happily. 

Winning. 

So, after one week the bubbling had died down to a slow occasional blip, so I decided to bottle. 

I've recently been doing a bit of a cheat when it comes to bottling my beer. Despite recommending it elsewhere on this site, I've become lazy in a sense. What I do after each bottle has been emptied of its liquid gold, I rinse it out at the kitchen bench, adding in some washing up soap and using the bottle brush as need be. 

The bottle then gets a spin in the dishwasher. My theory is the heat from the dishwasher kills any nasty germs that are lurking. Be clear though, it's not likely much hot water is getting into the bottles to help clean them, it's the heat that I am after. 

I then store the washed bottles in a 50-litre washing basket with a sheet over the top and use as required.

If I start to notice a few bottles tasting a little off, I know that it's time to do a proper sanitization where the bottles are soaked in sodium percarbonate for a couple of hours at a minimum. 

Phew, we wandered off the track there a bit!

Where was I?

Ah yes, bottling.

I batch primed the brew with 80 grams of sugar, capped the bottles and put them back in the shed for some alone time in the dark.

Now, I know that the seasonal warmth coming into summer is not really the ideal time for making a lager. Anyways, this patient brewer will wait and see how my Golden Riwaka Lager pans out.

-

So, it’s been a couple of weeks and I’ve had a chance to sample the batch.

I placed a bottle in the fridge overnight and sampled it with my dinner. 

Holy shit, I made a damn good beer. That random dude on social media has stumbled on an amazing combination of ingredients.

lager with riwaka hopsIt's a little fruity as the hops are quite strong. It has a good mouthfeel for a kit lager. It feels fresh on the mouth and as a real summer beer vibe. 

It looks like the 80 grams of sugar was just right as the beer has a good amount of bubbles that continue to rise up in the glass. 

Given its nature, this beer is definitely best served cold. 

Would I brew this again? 

Most definitely but I would reduce the hop level, a whole bag of Riwaka felt like overkill but that's down to personal taste. The choice is yours. 

>> How to do small batch brewing

small batch brewing one gallon

Small Batch brewing - why do brewers even bother?


"Small Batch Brewing" sounds like one of those fancy brewing terms like 'attenuation', IBU or the line 'makes a great session beer'.

After all, when you're brewing 5 gallons of beer, that's just a small batch, right?

And that's kind of fair.

Some brewers like to go big with their batches or they go home.

When going in large (or even often) a key factor is that the brewer knows they have a tried and true recipe, one they themselves may have made many times before.

They might even have a sweet shed out the back where they can line up a row of conical fermenters, store their malt and condition their brewers. There might even be a keezer standing proudly in the corner.

And that's all good stuff as a dedicated beer maker - but if you want to experiment with your ingredients and hops and get some spice in your life as the Spice Girls suggested, then small batch brewing is a way to achieve that in terms of beer economy.

There's no point in spending plenty of your hard earned money to make 5 gallons of beer when you are only experimenting with some random chocolate raspberry stout with some random Yugoslavian yeast. If it turns out poor, who is going to drink it all?

So what level of volume are we talking here?


The common philosophy (brewlospophy?) of brewers is that a smaller batch of one or two gallons offers enough room to produce some good beers, that is worth the time and effort but also gives one the leeway to experiment by trying new ideas, timings and the like.

Small batches are also a great way to get some mastery over all grain brewing at a smaller scale.

For some beer makers, the cost of spices, fruits and fancy yeasts or hops can be out of reach or unjustified when brewing at scale, but at the smaller volume, it's worth it to try and see if the beer 's concept is worth pursuing.

Small batch brewing is also really useful for those without space.

Apartment dwellers across the world do not have sheds or garages they can pursue their hobby in. They are actually lucky if they have a dark wardrobe in which they can store their beer!

They also do not have space for 30 litre kettles, fermenters, mash tuns or wort chillers!

That way, that can get away with doing a wort boil in a small pot on the stove top or gas burner.

Things to think about when small batch brewing

Correct ingredient measurement


Correct measurements of your ingredients are extremely important. When brewing at scale, a little bit extra malt or a little less hops will not affect the beer too much but at the small scale, the differences can be quite notable which means that the beer you are intending to make, might not be the beer you produce.

You may wish to use a set of scales to measure out your ingredients and if you are converting from a larger 5-gallon recipe, make sure you get your conversion maths correct! E.g. if your 5-gallon recipe calls for 5kg of Gladfield Ale Malt but you are making one gallon, you need only one kilogram of the malt. 

Pot size


Small-scale mashing can easily be done in the typically small pots one has around the home. For every 1 gallon of space you have in your mashing vessel, you can mash 2.0 lbs of grain and collect about 1 gallon of precious wort.

A watched pot boils quicker


A smaller sized pot will get to the desired boiling temperature much quicker than normal, so to avoid boil overs, you'll need to be vigilant and eagle-eyed to catch it early.

You'll also want to make sure the wort doesn't get scorched or even evaporate too much!

If you are using a gas burner, we suggest you don't max out those BTU until you have a good feel for the timings of the wort coming to the boil.

Chilling the wort


You probably don't need to get your Copperhead out if you are doing a small brewing. You totally can of course if you kettle can accommodate the size of your chiller but you can also get away with an efficient ice bath. 

With a bag of ice in a sink or large bucket, you can reduce the wort temp pretty quickly - the smaller the wort size, the quicker it will be.

Pitch less yeast


Given the reduction in scale, it makes sense that you can pitch less yeast into the wort - same temperature rules apply though - only pitch when the wort is cooled to the appropriate temperature. 

We'd suggest that you actually use a yeast calculator to because that stuff can be expensive - if you can some yourself for the next brew, why not?

Another sweet benefit is that if you are a fan of liquid yeast, you may not need to use a yeast starter. 

What do I ferment the wort in if I'm doing a small batch?


You can totally use your standard sized carboy or plastic drum fermenter to do your micro batch.

A lot of brewers like to use 1 or 3 gallon glass carboys as well.

However, if you are microbrewing due to space restrictions, you can use anything smaller such as a bucket with a lid. I've even seen people use Coke bottles for small brews!

Whatever fermentation mechanism you use, you still need to apply standard cleaning and sanitization methods - bacteria doesn't give two hoots how big your unit is, they just want a space to do their thing. 

Small Batch Brewing is not Pico or Nano brewing


Pico is a little-used term is applied to breweries with systems 3bbls or smaller who produce less than 600 barrels of beer per annum. There is also a brand of beer brewing machine called a Pico, which frankly just seems like a waste of time as it reduces the brewing experience to effectively that of making filtered coffee.

↦ Using calibration buffer solutions to calibrate a pH meter

using ph buffer solutions

While beer making is a bit of a science, taking the ph level of your beer is like some kind of advance astrophysics lesson because it seems so complicated, what with all the calculations and formula.

Some guy called Nernst apparently had a lot to do with it.

Anyways, taking a pH reading can be complicated because a serious brewer needs to properly calibrate their pH meter so it gives a correct reading which then means the brewer can make a good call about how their beer is going.

And to calibrate your meter, you need calibration or buffer solution.

What is a buffer solution?


A calibration or buffer solution is a chemical solution that is used to calibrate a pH meter.

A buffer solution is one which resists changes in pH when small amounts acid or alkali are mixed with the buffer. Acidic buffer solutions are commonly made from a weak acid and one of its salts - often a sodium salt.

The buffer is used to develop a calibration curve. This a scientific method for determining the concentration of a substance in an unknown sample by comparing the unknown to a set of standard samples of known concentration

In the case of calibrating a pH meter, 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 tend 'drift away' from their calibrated settings, it's just their nature due to the product design. 

It thus very important to calibrate your pH meter often so that accuracy of your results is maintained.

Devices other than pH meters need calibration with a solution too, such as refractometers and conductivity meters.

What are standard buffer solutions?


The definition is that Standard pH calibration solutions should have an accuracy of +/- 0.01 pH at 25°C (77°F) and come usually in seven different pH values from 1.68 to 10.01.

The most popular and commonly used buffers are (4.01, 7.01, and 10.01). Good brands are dyed different colors so they can be easily identified by the brewer and thus used in the correct order.

Standard buffer solutions can be used to calibrate almost any common pH meter so you don't need to fall into the trap of say, for example, using a Hanna brand buffer for a Hanna meter. You could of course because Hanna make quality meters! 

This does mean that you can look at price and value per mls when deciding what brand to use.

There are two other kinds of calibration standards - Technical and Millesimal

Technical solutions come with a certificate of analysis (COA) which affirms that the solution will absolutely perform to the standard as described.

Millesimal calibration solutions are used in labs where an accuracy down to three decimal places is required, think along the lines of municipal drinking water plants, and medical research facilities where readings can be absolutely crucial to good human health outcomes!

Homebrewers generally just stick with standard calibration solutions which they often order online from Amazon.



Why you need to use fresh calibration solution


Brewers and testers should always use fresh calibration solution when calibrating one's pH electrode. 

All pH measurements are based on the pH calibration solution as a reference point so the solution needs to be pure and not contaminated. 

Think of this like contact lens solution, when it gets old, you don't use it to clean your lenses, you bin it and go with fresh.

It's generally recommended then that opened bottles of buffer solution should be dispensed with after they have been opened for 6 months. The higher the buffer's pH ( from  > 7 ), the quicker it will degrade.

If you are calibrating fairly infrequently, you may wish to consider using single-use solution sachets rather than bottled.

using buffer solution to calibrate ph meter

How do I use calibration solution?


Your meter's pH electrode should ideally be cleaned in purified water before placing it your pH calibration buffer. This reduces the chance of contaminating the solution

A good practice is to be to use two beakers/containers for each calibration buffer that you will use.

Your method would be to clean the pH electrode with purified water then rinse the probe in one of the beakers with the buffer then place the probe in the second beaker with buffer.

Repeat this practice for multiple calibration points.

For best results, the user must ensure the pH probe has been cleaned and that it is rinsed with clean water between calibration solutions to reduce contamination of the pH solutions.

Here's a handy video guide on how to use your meter with the buffer:


If your solutions are clear, make sure you mark them out before you begin calibrating! You could leave the bottle or sachet close to the beaker as a reference. 

To obtain a correct pH calibration reading, the unit's accuracy is very dependent on the accuracy and age of the calibration solutions used, and the condition and cleanliness of the pH probe tip. You will get a calibration error if the unit is not properly maintained as per the instruction manual.

Never reuse calibration solution


Once you have calibrated your device and then tested beer wort, you should dispose of the reference calibration solution.

Given it has been exposed to the environment and has had equipment placed in it, there's a fair risk of contamination - so adding that to your original sample can risk ruining all your fluid!

The same applies to reusing the test sample at a later date. Just don't chance it.

Check out these common ph testing mistakes for other ways to avoiding screwing up. 

Making homemade calibration solutions


While some brewers can try to make their own DIY solutions to save money, the results prove to be homemade buffers that are not accurate or stable. This is a wasted effort as the buffer can be guaranteed to interfere with the accuracy of the test results.

Thus, we don't recommend you try to make your own! Check out the options available on Amazon.

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

using honey to make home brew alcoholic

How to use honey in your beer brewing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So when do I add honey to my beer?

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

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

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

I’ve seen recommendations that suggest anywhere from 2 to 10 percent of your total wort can be honey. I’ve also read it expressed in that you can add up to 50% of your total fermentable sugars as honey.  Either way, there’s room for you to experiment.

Take note that adding too much honey to your brew may increase fermentation time (but as a patient brewer, this should be no problem for you!).  Also, the more honey you add, the more akin to mead your beer may taste. 

What kind of honey to use? 

We said anything from the supermarket, just bear in mind that different honey will have different characteristics.

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

Can I use honey to carbonate my beer?

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

Image credit to Jason Riedy via Creative Commons Licence

↠ 33 tips and tricks for home brewers (have a look, you don't know everything!)

tips for brewing beer

Moar tips for making good beer

  1. If you're a kitchen based brewer, bottling beer over your dishwasher door; clean up is as simple as closing the door.
  2. Clean out your 'Boil in a Bag' brew bag by first shaking it out, then turning it inside out and holding it under the shower.
  3. Pour the contents of the bag into a bowl and use that to pour into boiling water. It is MUCH easier to scrape extract out of a bowl.
  4. The importance of brewing with fresh ingredients cannot be overstated. The quality of home brewed beer can only be as good as the quality of the ingredients going into the brew kettle.
  5. Be wary that if using dry malt extract, the steam from boiling water causes significant amounts of extract to cake onto the sides of the bag. If this is an issue for you, we suggest you put the DME in first before you add the water.
  6. Re-hydrate dry yeast that you've saved by pouring it into a plastic bottle of water (of the correct temperature of course), capping it, and shaking. Burp any excess gas by gently opening the bottle (as you would a bottle of soda). When it comes time to pitch the yeast, simply pour out of the bottle into your wort.
  7. Placing a packet of silica gel in your hydrometer case can help absorb any residual moisture that may be left after using it (we think this is a flight of fancy in some ways and not necessary).
  8. Use a ph Meter to test your mash.
  9. There are plenty of different kinds of hops, and for best results match the kind of beer you are brewing to the hops known to best compliment that style.
  10. Try to match your hops to well-known lager hops - Saaz hops, in particular, are associated with the brewing of lagers as well as the classic German hop, Hallertauer. We've discovered the New Zealand derived Green Bullet hop is also very handy.
  11. When making a yeast starter, place the flask inside of a plastic grocery bag, and then place it on the stir plate. Should the starter overflow, the mess is contained within the plastic bag.
  12. Don't put so much sugar in your bottles! - I've learnt this one personally the hard way. If you place too much sugar into your bottles, the yeast will go to town on it as part of the secondary fermentation and produce an excess of CO2.We love this idea. Put a book or other wedge under the back of your fermenter after sealing it up. On brewing day, gingerly slide the book/wedge to the front of the fermenter and you'll have a slanted yeast cake and a nice "deep end of the pool" in the back side of the fermenter to rack from.
  13. You can use a hydrometer to work out the alcohol content of your beer
  14. 60 carbonation drops, will be enough drops for one 23 litre brew.
  15. A few marbles, glass beads, or large SS ball bearings will reduce the risk of boil over dramatically. It works by providing nucleation points at the bottom so that large bubbles rise up and pop and less small bubbles are available to form foam. Of course, if you use foam inhibitor such as Fermcap-S, you probably don't need any other hacks! 
  16. Cool the Wort quickly -Doing this will increase the fallout of proteins and tannins that are bad for the beer.
  17. Using a spray bottle of Star San solution seems like a good hack. Doesn't waste time with dunking everything in a bucket when you can just spray it liberally and get good coverage.
  18. Put spigots in all of my fermenting buckets, so you need to use an auto syphon.
  19. When transferring out of a fermenter into a keg, fill 1 pint mason jars with the slurry, and refrigerate them so that you can use it as a yeast starter for another brew.
  20. Using sodium percarbonate is our preferred method to sanitize as it works well, no rinse is required and it's very easy to order in bulk online.
  21. You can make a 'hops tea' to ensure the hop flavours get into the beer.
  22. Buy hops in bulk to save money. Make sure you are going to use it though! You can store excess hops by keeping it frozen.
  23. Don't bottle your beer too early. So when doing your first brews, make sure it can be done in a warmish area and one that's going to keep that temperature fairly constant - A very rough guide is that you should aim to brew lagers between 10-14 degrees, and get those ales done between 18-21 degrees.
  24. There are two ways you can add the sugar to your beer - you can prime the whole batch in one go by adding your liquid sugar into the fermenter or you can add sugar to each bottle individually.
  25. To get a creamy mouth feel, use more ‘unfermentables’ in your beer. In effect this is malt. The more malt you add, the 'creamier' your beer will be. This is in the sense that your beer will be more viscous, making it feel thicker in your mouth. Instead of hand cleaning your bottles and dunking them in sanitizer put them in the dishwasher bottom rack. USE NO DETERGENT, and put the dishwasher on the hottest cycle. The temperature is hot enough to kill the nasties that could infect your beer (we also add the dish washer is handy for removing bottle labels).
  26. You can add extra fermentables like DME, on top of what your recipe asks for, to increase the ABV of the beer.
  27. When we say clean we actually mean clean AND sterilized. Sterilize the heck out of everything you use. If you're starting out as a home brewer, your kit should contain a cleansing and sterilizing agent.
  28. Don't rush in like a schoolboy - leaving your beer to sit for a bit longer will allow such characteristics to fade and largely disappear - which leaves you with a great tasting and smelling lager.
  29. When bottling, you may wish to give the successfully bottles a gentle tip or two to make sure that all the sugar is in the liquid and has a chance to dissolve. This is also an opportunity to inspect for broken seals. You don't need to bottle straight away, just because the fermentation bottle has stopped bubbling - If the bubbles in the airlock appear to have finished, this is not necessarily a sign that the fermentation process has halted. It's quite likely that there's still some fermentation quietly happening in the plastic fermenter drum or carboy.
  30. Batch priming is a great way to get the sugar levels for bottle carbonation correct and to reduce the chance of beer gushers.
  31. Get the bigger kettle or pot, in the long run, you’ll save money  - for many first homebrewers the purchase is a starter equipment kit. Once they have that, all they need is a brew kettle or pot and ingredients. So they get the cheap, 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.
  32. At a pinch, you can use baking yeast to make beer. 
  33. Try the odd jelly bean as a substitute carbonation drop!

↣ How long can I leave beer in the primary?


What is the risk of leaving a beer in the primary fermenter too long?


One can leave the beer in the primary fermenter as long as one needs. There is no maximum time limit, though there a couple of risks to keep in mind.

Many brewers simply follow the beer recipe or instructions on the malt kit and leave their wort to ferment for around a week to ten days. This usually allows enough time for fermentation to have completed.

And technically that's OK, it's time to bottle.

But the mystery and muscle of brewing beer are that there is a whole range of chemical processes happening in that primary wort. Sure the yeast may have produced enough alcohol to make a good drop of beer but there are still a few things that happen.

The longer you leave your beer, the more chance the yeast has to get rid of smells and other leftovers from the fermentation process.

A great example of this is the presence of acetaldehyde in the wort.This chemicals forms at the beginning of the fermentation process. It tastes like sour green apple and is not really conducive to a good brew.

What's the best way to get rid of this apple taste? 

Let the yeast take the time to convert it to ethanol (alcohol).

So leaving your beer for longer than the recommended instructions on the tin of the beer kit is pretty much a smart move. Frankly given the benefit to the beer and thus the kit manufacturer's reputation, I do not know why they don't frame the time as a minimum.

That said, when I followed Te Aro's brewing instructions for their Obligatory ale, I made damn good beer.

Exceptions aside, the longer you condition your beer, the greater reduction in acetaldehyde that will occur and the beer your beer will take.

Stout beers have even more to work through so they can happily take longer in the primary.

Another benefit of leaving the beer in the primary for longer is that there is a greater chance that your beer will clear more sediment, thus giving you clear beer

Many a brewer likes to see their lager look like a lager - that classic light yellow / orange combo. Sure, some wheat beers can be a bit hazy. And the end of the day this comes down to personal preference as the beer taste is not generally affected. 

What about extra long times?

Many brewers have reported leaving batches for months and suffered no issues. I'd reason though that the beer was stored in a cool place - a beer wort left in a hot environment is sure to fail as the yeast would probably get cooked. 

There is an issue that can happen called autolysis. 

This is when the yeast cells die, giving off some potentially off flavours. These could be hydrolytic enzymes, lipids, and metal cations that can contribute to off flavour. If you've made a healthy batch with a quality yeast, pitched at a good temperature and brewed in a stable environment, then the risks of autolysis are quite low. 

If you are quite concerned about this, you could counter by racking your beer to a secondary, thus removing the yeast cake from the equation.

It's important to note, the same process begins again when the beer is bottle conditioned - more sugar is added to the beer for the yeast to eat - this is because CO2 is the by-product of fermentation and is trapped in the beer. Most beers strongly benefit from being bottle conditioned for three weeks before consumption.