How to Home Brew Beer

Learn how to easily brew great tasting beer.

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19 best ways to make homebrewing cheaper

making cheap homebrew

Many brewers like to make homebrew because they can make it to their own taste preferences and also because it's much cheaper than paying $15 bucks a pint at the local.

Seriously, the price of a handle of some craft beers is simply ridiculous - usually due to a poor economy of scale for small breweries and high hop prices.

And that's why brewers like to make cheap beer.

They buy their own hops in bulk.

Indeed buying ingredients in bulk is a great way to save your cash money when brewing. It makes your own beer cheaper by the bottle!

The three best ways to save money are:
  • reuse your yeast (by way of a starter)
  • buy grains and malt in bulk
  • purchase your hops in bulk


Saving on the cost of hops


You can do this with a quick visit to your local beer supplier or buying online from specialty suppliers or even Amazon. It's amazing the range of hops found on there.

A really handy trick to keep your yeast fresh is to buy your own vacuum sealer - so you can reseal your hops, or break them up into your desired batch size. You can then store them in the freezer until they are required on brewing day.

Saving cash on yeast purchasing


Buying yeast can be an expensive exercise, especially when there's so much choice out there nowadays - a brewer's access to quality yeast has never been better.

The beauty of a good yeast is that it doesn't need to be a used once with a brew and then you buy another sachet next time you brew - no, you can recycle the yeast from the trub or you can keep a yeast starter going for the whole brewing season.

Saving money on the price of grains


Most brewers simply purchase a bulk sack of 50 lb base grain. It will usually be uncrushed to you need to mill it so having your own grain mill might be part of the deal - buy a good one so it lasts a lifetime of brewing (a handy trick is to connect a powered drill and save yourself some time instead of doing it by hand).

Some brewers can use up to 20 base pounds for a brew (remember, brewers like to mix and match their malts to get unique flavors) so a 50-pound sack is good for at least two brews! Specialty grains that are added to the base are usually bought in smaller bagged amounts.

If you have a good relationship with the local craft brewer, they may be able to sling a couple of sacks your way. 

Sealable food-grade buckets are a great way to store grains so that they remain fresh and they will keep out those cliched eaters of grain, mice, and rats.

If you are a keen malt kit user, then a great way to save money is to buy them from supermarkets rather than from beer stores. I've found a great place near where my mother lives and every time I visit I buy several of their Coopers kits which are often priced 5 or 6 dollars cheaper than my local beer shop.

There are also other ways to save money when brewing beer, you may already know these but here we go:

  1. Instead of using a 'branded' sanitizer, use a generic product such as a laundry soak that contains sodium percarbonate.
  2. Make your own DIY version of powdered brewery wash
  3. Instead of buying bottles, save your empties and remove the labels. You can also source glass bottles by raiding your neighbor's recycling bins.... best done under the cover of darkness. Given so many people drink craft beer featuring perfect sized bottles for brewing (500 - 600 mls give or take) there's many a bottle to be scrounged. 
  4. If you want to save on buying caps, then you can use swing cap bottles.
  5. All grain brewers often will use a wort chiller to cool down the brew - handy brewers can make their own, saving a few quid. 
  6. Instead of using a wort chiller, you could freeze empty soda bottles with water, say 4 1.5 litre bottles. When it's time to cool the wort, cut the ice from the bottles and drop them into your kettle...
  7. An old fridge can be turned into a fermentation chamber with the smart use of a temperature controller.
  8. A great way to find cheap or free second-hand brewing equipment is to keep an eye out on craigslist - it's quite popular but you'll have to be patient and quick! This is quite true for fridges and freezers, some people just want them out of the house quickly so are prepared to let them go at no cost.
  9. If you want to save on hops, by not using them, you can brew certain styles that don't need them such as Hefeweizen or a low ABV bitter.
  10. Grow your own hops! Homebrew groups on Facebook are a great way to source rhizome cuttings, usually, all it will cost you is a couple of bottles of brew!
  11. Don't use so much hops!
  12. You can find all sorts of handy keg parts on Aliexpress, though if you want quality, you may want to check out sites like Amazon. It's a jungle out there though.
  13. You can also make your own mash tun out of commonly available items such as water coolers.
  14. Organized homebrew clubs can often make purchasing arrangements which means cost savings can be passed to you directly, especially so if shipping costs are kept low.
  15. In winter, you can always use snow to cool wort instead of buying ice for your chiller. Dissolve it in water...
  16. Make your own beer enhancer with supplies bought cheaply online.

Some cautions about cheaping out when buying equipment


There's a long established concept that buying cheap items like tools or shoes will cost you more in the long run than buying a quality implement or boot because you'll need to replace them more often than you would a durable item.

The same applies to brewing in many ways. For example, if you have to choose between kettle sizes, buy the bigger one. Sure, it may cost more but if you stick with brewing, then eventually you'll go all grain at scale and you'll have to buy the larger kettle, thus, you've ultimately spent more than you may have wanted.

This is especially so for items like ph testers - go for quality over cheapness every time.

Best stainless steel ball valves for homebrew kettles

Best stainless steel ball valves beer

Best stainless steel ball valves for homebrew kettles


When you've decided to upgrade from using beer kits with plastic or glass fermenters and you want to use a bit of steel kit in your beer making, you're probably going to want to use a brewing kettle.

Every kettle needs a valve of some sort to release the beer wort and it's crucial that that exit point will work correctly every time and that it doesn't leak. You can even use them with your mash tun.

A quality steel ball valve will do the job. Once properly attached and sealed to the kettle, it's a simple matter of connecting the hose, and your wort's away!

What to look for when buying a valve for you're brewing kettle


Most brewers tend to use valves manufactured out of steel but there are some parts made of brass. Some brewers suggest brass parts corrode too easily and need to be cleaned as a result. We'd recommend you focus your search on buying a steel valve.

A valve made of 304 Stainless Steel will provide for maximum corrosion resistance.

Size is important - most brew kettles have a pre-made hole that is 7/8" inches in diameter - accordingly, you should be sourcing a 1/2" ball valve.  The seal on the valve should take care of the difference!

You'll also want to ensure the nozzle or hose bard is the right size for your needs. A 1/4" nozzle may result in a beer flow to slow for an impatient brewers, so you may want to consider the commonly used half inch nozzle hose barb

What are the best valves to use?


We never recommend cheap products as in the long term they can cost you more trouble than they are worth but mid range is a fine place to start with this bulkhead:


Features
  • 1/2"x10mm Stainless Steel Hose Barb
  • Stainless Steel Full Port Ball Valve
  • Sanitary Ball Valve
  • It features a 1/2" Full Port ball valve and a 1/2" barb, which means you'll get a decent wort flow
Check out the price on Amazon.

CONCORD 304 Stainless Steel Weldless Bulkhead Ball Valve



Concord Cookware have produced a no-nonsense valve and boast the following specifications:

  • Weldless Bulkhead Set Includes 1/2" Barbed Hose, Ball Valve, Hex Nipple, Washer, Red O-Ring x2, Grooved Lock Nut
  • 304 Cast Stainless Steel for highest corrosion resistance
  • High Temp silicon O-Ring for heat resistance
  • Grooved Lock Nut for leak free installation
  • Standard 1/2" NPT fittings made to fit your 7/8" kettle hole
Heh, they said nipple! It's no joke though to check the price out on Amazon.

The "L" Shaped Ball Valve


If you want your hose barb to point more downwards, this model from Tizze will suit your needs.

l shaped ball valve for a kettle

Tizze's specifications:
  • 1/2" weldless bulkhead fitting fits 7/8" kettle hole
  • Made from 304 stainless steel
  • Full port ball valve
  • Heat resistant O ring and it will hold a really good seal on the coupler
Here's a review that an actual brewer left on Amazon:

"Nice valve for transferring wort from the brew kettle to the fermenter. Takes 3/8" tubing doesn't leak and works great!"

So, what are you waiting for? Check out the price on Amazon.

How to attach a ball valve to a drilled kettle


This great instructional video shows you how to easily install the valve. A key take-away is that you can use teflon tape to further prevent leakage.


Another good idea relayed in the video is to test that your valve is correctly installed and your o-rings have made a good seal. Instead of using beer, test it with water!

How do I clean the valve?


Most valves can be taken apart for easy cleaning. A spanner or wrench is quite handy but then, you don't need to tighten these units to death.

Cleaning with a strong brush, hot water and soap will do the trick.

Why is brass made valves a controversial topic?


Both brass and steel are alloys. The metals they are made with each have different properties when they mix with alkalines and acids. Brass is more likely to corrode, so brewers prefer to use quality stainless steel products to avoid the issue of metal leakage into beer. For example brass can leach zinc and that's not really a ket ingredient of beer is it?

The best beer kit ideas to give for Christmas presents in 2018

The best beer kit ideas for Christmas presents

It was my wife who gave me the push I needed to get into home brewing beers.

I'd been saying for at least a year I was going to do it and even started collecting and cleaning the labels off beer bottles but I never made that jump. And then on Christmas Day, my lovely lady presented me with a Mangrove Jacks home brew kit and I was away!

If you are considering buying your partner / husband / best friend a beer kit for Christmas, we've got some great beer kit gift ideas for you!

There's a lot of gear out there but don't fall into the trap of going overboard and spending too much money. If your gift recipient is new to brewing, only the most simple and cheap brewing kit is required.

I was a slightly nervous first-time brewer. I read up all I could about brewing on websites, I read the instructions on the can. I read them 5 times. I called a mate who had done it few times. I read some more.

And I didn't need to as it is so easy to make beer!

I just did it and it was bloody fun. Because all you need is a simple drum, your equipment and some clean hands! But maybe follow this brewing advice too.

What beer kits do make ideal Christmas presents?

Let's start with the kit I was given for Christmas, the Mangrove Jack's beer kit.

This was an awesome present. It came with everything I needed to make my first batch of beer with. All I need to supply was the bottles. The first thing I realised was just how much beer you can make with it.

23 litres of beer is a lot!

The kit came with the malt, cleaners, brew enhancer, a hydrometer (for working out when fermentation was complete) and some easy to follow instructions.

The beer I made was pretty good all things considered - I just wish I had let it bottle condition a little more!

This gift was perfect for me as a home brewer, I personally recommend it as a great starter kit.

Mr. Beer Premium Gold Edition Homebrewing Craft Beer Making Kit

This is a handy kit as it has all you need to start brewing – the brewing extract, fermenter, bottles and ingredients. It even has brewing carbonation drops to make the first bottling experience a breeze. Mr Beer, the company that makes this kit, describes it like this:


“Mr Beer’s Premium Gold Edition Complete Homebrewing Kit provides aspiring brewers with our patented brewing equipment and high-quality ingredients that simplify the homebrewing process. 

Our patented brewing system includes a compact, lightweight fermenter that is modelled after the design of professional brewing equipment. Eleven 25 oz. reusable and shatterproof bottles that are specially designed for carbonating the beer.

We also include a can of brewing extract - a concentrated form of all natural malted barley and hops - produced in a state-of-the-art facility by Australia’s oldest family owned brewery, as well as No-Rinse Cleanser and unique Carbonation Drops to simplify the sanitization and carbonation process.”

So what are you waiting for? Order it now so you get it in time for Christmas!

The beauty of these kinds of beer kits is that they are so easy to clean as well - a rinse with a hose and then a splash of hot water with a cloth or non scratching brush and you are done - ready for the next batch to be made!

Not convinced?

Here's one more awesome brewing kit that would make the best Christmas present:

You could try the Brooklyn Brew Shop Beer Making Kit, Everyday IPA.

You could say it's a little bit fancier than the Mr Beers kit as it involves a slightly different way of making the beer.

The Brooklyn kit involves you making an oaty mash on your stove or gas burner and doing a little bit of boiling.

The Brooklyn Brew shops described it's product like this:

"If you can make oatmeal, you can make beer. Brooklyn Brew Shop's apartment friendly Beer Making Kits make it easy to bring brewing out of the garage and into the kitchen using only fresh, whole ingredients and traditional methods used in homes and breweries for centuries.

By brewing with the same ingredients (cracked barley, hops, spices, and yeast) that the best craft breweries in the world use, making high quality and complex beers becomes possible on the stove top in your very own kitchen, big or small."

Which is all very nice, but is it any good for a Christmas present? Here's what a user of the kit said in their review on Amazon:

If you "enjoy REAL beer and are actually INTERESTED in the process of brewing and how it works, this kit is an excellent way to jump right in by DOING it. They tell you WHAT to do, you do it, and you get very good beer out of it. "

So no complaints then. An easy choice for a Xmas present!

If beer is not the best idea, why not giving a gift of a cider kit?

If your partner is not really a beer drinking, they could well be into making cider! Good drinking ciders are quite the popular product these days.

They seem to have lost that ‘thing’ about them and are more accepted as something to drink in a bar. Which seems strange as cider has been around for centuries!

Our friends Brookyln Brew do a handy cider kit and so does Mr Beer.

If your partner is pretty experienced, take it to the next level with a ph Meter for testing the brew.

Alkaline Brewery Wash - better than PBW?

alkaline brewery wash
Alkaline.

It's a great word. 

It just rolls off the tongue so easily

And if you want to easily clean the sludge and muck off your homebrew equipment, then alkaline brewery wash might just be the magic cleaning powder you are looking for.

Some brewers claim it works even better than PBW!

The benefits of using alkaline wash include:
  • Cleans effectively in cold or hot water
  • Works longer than oxygen based cleaners as it doesn't break down the same way
  • Can be used to remove troublesome bottle labels
  • Does not leave a chalky residue as it reduces calcium carbonate and oxalate residues that oxygen based cleaners tend to leave behind
  • Powdered formula will eat through carbon build-up
  • Safe to come into contact with skin as it is non-caustic but we'd recommend you take precautions such as using gloves and avoiding getting it in your eye.
  • It's safe on glass, plastic, and stainless steel but avoid using on aluminum as it will react with it

One of the most popular washes is the Craft Meister ABW, check out the price on Amazon.


How to use alkaline wash on brewing equipment


You can use it as a spray from a bottle or do a soak. Many brewers like to leave their equipment soaking overnight to ensure it really gets the job done.

It works on kegs and carboys, kettles with no issues. 

Given the washes ability to dissolve organic matter, it works really well on bottles when you need to get rid of that sludge that gets left at the bottom - especially if you don't clean a few for a while and it dries out. 24 hours in an alkaline bath will sort them out, ready for bottling day. 

It will also work wonders on your glass wear!

A user that brought this product online from Amazon said left this short but handy review:
"It seems a little better than PBW. I've used this to clean brewing equipment, as well as to soak and scrub etching marks from drinking glasses. A very effective cleaner."

How much wash do I use?


  • For equipment like fermenters and bottles use 1 oz (2 scoops) per gallon of water.
  • For heavier jobs like brew kettles use 2 oz (4 scoops) per gallon of water.

Is Craftmeister's Alkaline Brewing Wash better than PBW?


While both products are quite similar in their make up, there's some debate. Many brewers sweat it performs better than PBW, especially in cold water.

It's more expensive so you have to weigh it up - what's worth more to you time or cost savings? If you want to use a cheaper product, use a sodium percarboante laundry soak

This quote from a forum sums things up nicely:
"Yes, it's pricey, but holy cow this stuff is magical. I've been pumping it around my rigs for years but you can't see the inside of a hex to appreciate how well caustics can work."
Another committed user said:
"This cleaned spots in my glass carboys that PBW could never get rid of"
So what are you waiting for? Check out the price on Amazon.

What are the active ingredients of Craftmeister's alkaline wash?


  • Sodium Carbonate 50-65%
  • Sodium Metasilicate 30-40% 
  • Sodium Sesquicarbonate  ≤ 5%

On the safety certificate, National Chemicals (who produce the brand) state there are some other ingredients that are nonhazardous but are of a propriety nature so they do not disclose their full composition.

It's important to note that many other products out there are referred to alkaline wash powder for things like foot fungus and eczema. These products are made of different chemicals!

If you think the Craft Meister ABW might be for you, check out the price on Amazon.

Venting over carbonated beer bottles

venting home brew beer gushers

Have you ever had a beer gusher


They damn well suck.

You casually open your beer and whoosh! There's beer foam all over the bloody place. 

Why did this happen? 

The fizz is the result of over carbonation. 


There could be a few of reasons for this. 

1. You bottled too soon and fermentation continued.
2. Your beer is infected by bacteria and they have overproduced on the CO2
3. You added too much sugar at bottling time.
4. You served your beer too warm

All these factors you have a strong degree of control over. 

If you've bottled too soon, you should have taken a final gravity reading and determined that matched the kind of beer your making and that you had the same reading two days in a row. 

If your beer is infected, it's quite likely you didn't clean and sterilize your equipment and bottles properly. I've said this a million times on these pages, you got do the basics and do them well

And if you added too much sugar, you might want to rethink your practices. If you batch primed, how much sugar did you add?

From my experience 40 - 60 grams is enough sugar to prime 23 litres of beer.

 Any more and you will quite likely get gushers. 

If you added sugar individually to each bottle, then you clearly added too much sugar. I used to use a good amount of sugar, now I try and use half a tea spoon of sugar. It's more than enough. 

If you want a consistent and safe measure, you can always consider using carbonation drops when bottling your brew

How to fix gusher beers by venting the bottle



To fix over carbonation, vent your beers individually. 

The technique is that you gently pry the bottle cap open so that only a part of the cap is exposed, let the CO2 escape and then quickly recap.

You need to all of this before the gusher occurs! If you are clever you should be able to use your bottle opener to both open and close the cap with the same action. 

It will be a long, painful process and you'll likely need to repeat the venting on each bottle if there is a lot of built up pressure. 

I have found in the past that the colder the beer is, the less likely it is to gush or be too fizzy or foamy.

Thus I would recommend that you leave your beers in a fridge for 24 hours before attempting this little rescue job of your beer.

Let's be clear though - if you've got gushers because you've got a bacteria problem, your beer is rooted and you'll need to tip it out and sterilize the bottles very well. Or you can store for a long time and hope the beer sorts itself out. That's kind of a Hail Mary move though...




A wee risk to bear in mind 


Over-pressurized beer can explode.

And that means glass can explode. I've seen the result in my man shed - green glass everywhere and the dank smell of wasted beer. 

If your under pressure beers are at that much of an extreme point you should ask yourself is it safe to vent?

While beer bottles are generally tough, the risk is there so I'd recommend you use gloves and a good pair of safety googles or glasses

What's the lesson here then? 

Review of Hach 9532000 Pocket Pro+ pH tester

hach ph tester review
Enthusiastic home brewers know that a beer brew that is properly pH balanced will produce excellent drinking results.

Getting the pH level right is really important for getting the brewing results you want, especially when one invests some much money into gear and ingredients, let alone your time.

That's why many beer makers use the Hach 9532000 Pocket Pro+ pH tester to get the results they need.

The Hach company says that it's Pro+ is engineered to deliver accurate results. 

Features:
  • Backed up with built-in performance diagnostics, you never have to guess when to clean or calibrate the sensor. 
  • You also get replaceable batteries for convenient field use, and a large, easy-to-read LCD screen.
  • Automatic Temperature Compensation
  • Instructions are found in the manual, which can be downloaded.
All those specifications are nice and all, but what do brewers who have actually used and tested the Hach meters have to say?

"Hach makes pretty reliable products and the pocket Pro is no exception to that. It is easy to use and pretty hardy, we use them at work and they hold up well. This model does not have the replaceable tip, but they make one if needed. I use this meter at home as well for pool pH checks that are quick and easy. It only comes with a single buffer of 7, so you may want to get a 4 and 10 buffer, to allow a 3 point calibration."

"Works very well, I do recommend calibrating the unit soon as you get it and it will be correct"

"I am very pleased! fast and easy and stable"

"Works great for my home brewing"

What are you waiting for, order the Hach from Amazon.

If you don't think the Hack Pocket Pro is for you, check out our buyer's guide with further ph tester options.

If you're new to using a ph meter, check out guide for mistakes to avoid when checking pH levels.

What are adjuncts used for in beer brewing?


Adjuncts are unmalted grains (such as corn, rice, rye, oats, barley, sugars, and wheat) or grain products that are used in beer making to supplement the main mash ingredient (which is usually malted barley). 

Under the German Beer Purity Laws, and adjunct could really be considered anything which is water, barley, hops, and yeast but that's just being a bit German eh?

So an adjunct can be anything added to beer such as:
  • Unmalted wheat, barley, rye, oats, maize, and other grains
  • Belgian syrups 
  • Honey, maple syrup, molasses, other sugars like jelly beans.
  • Fruit, pumpkins (!)
The reasons for adding an adjunct are varied. Some brewers will seek them for head foam retention, flavour or even to cut costs!

There is another reason why brewers use high-adjunct beers, and that's to make high alcohol beers. 

By adding extra sugars, for example, the yeast will ferment that in addition to the malt, thus produce more alcohol. 

When adding adjuncts to the beer one needs to understand that this can hamper an efficient fermentation as the yeast can tend to get a bit overwhelmed by all the extra sugar. 

To adjust for this, brewers who are looking to brew a high ABV beer, will add a yeast nutrient to give the yeast some respite from all the sugar.

Adjuncts can also be used to achieve specific beer styles and flavors:
  • Use simple sugars such as that from corn can be used to lighten the beer body and encourage a good rate of attenuation of your high-gravity styles.
  • The addition of flaked barley or rye can promote a strong head and a full body (which is good for mouth feel).
  • Tossing in a handful of flaked oats is known to result in silky mouthfeel.
  • Flaked rice, when matched with an earnestly hopped pale lager, is another method of changing the taste profile.
  • Using cherries and raspberries in sour ales is a popular trick