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

How to 'dry hop' homebrew beer 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

what is dry hopping in beer making?

Beware the sediment factor

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much hops to add to the fermented wort drum?


The question of how much hops should be used when dry hopping is fairly easy to answer. 

Anywhere between 30 – 60 grams is considered normal, however, you can add as much or as little or as you want. It's all about taste and experimentation to find your personal preference.

If you double that 60 grams to 120 you will be more likely to get a very strong hop aroma from your beer.

Any greater amount and you will probably suffer diminishing returns (and hops are expensive!).

Did you know you can grow your own hops?

How to re-use yeast from the trub

Yeast trub and how to re-use it


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

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

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

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

You'd be wrong.

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

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

how to recycle yeast from the fermenter

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


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

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

Washing your yeast cake


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I just add fresh wort to the trub?


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

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

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

Why should I recycle my yeast?


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

How many times can I recycle my beer yeast?


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

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

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

Is 'Alkaline Brewery Wash' better than PBW?


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 safety 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

alkaline brewery wash beer brewing
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.

Easy beginner's guide to home brewing from a beer kit

beginner's guide to making home brew from a kit

Beginner's guide to brewing beer from a kit


Well done you on deciding to brew some home brew.

This guide will help guide through making your first batch of beer using a kit, step by step. It's a 'how to' for using beer kits and not beer from 'scratch'.

There is no boiling of the wort wizardry here, just some brewing 101 tips as if they came from a brewing book!

That fancy 'brewing day' in a pot stuff will come later, probably when you've got a couple of brews under your belt and you're ready to go upgrade your methodology.

If you are genuinely interested in learning how to brew beer, then a beer kit is a great way to start as you can quickly learn the fundamentals of beer making in the comfort of your own kitchen or man shed.

The brewing of beer is actually an act of scientific exploration.

Now get to it!

Getting ready, at which point I assume you are ready to make beer

I'm going to assume you have a brand new beer kit for making beer.

Your loving partner may have given it to you for Christmas (mine did!) or maybe you got there yourself out of curiosity. Either way good on you for giving beer making a go.

You have all the ingredients and supplies:


You will have all the equipment.

You'll have a fermenter  - possibly a 30 litre drum or 5 gallon glass carboy.

You have access to boiling water and also to cold water.

You'll have a clean working space such as a kitchen bench and you'll have enough time to not be interrupted.

When I brew from home brew kits I do it after dinner when the kids are in bed and the dishes are done. It's just easier that way.

I might even have a couple of beers while I do the job, because it seems a natural enough thing to do right?

It's time to clean and sanitize your equipment

In case you hadn't heard, your beer wort needs a warm and clean environment in which to ferment.

That means all that nasty bacteria that are on your stirring spoon and on the inside of your fermenter drum or bottle need to be thoroughly cleaned and then sanitized.

Your homebrew starter kit should have provided you with a sachet of a cleanser and also a sanitiser (people often refer to this process as sterilization, just go with it).

Leave your drum to soak for as long as possible (even though it's new, it's likely had all the equipment stored inside it if it's a drum, so heaps of opportunity for nasties to find a home in there).

If you plan on continuing to brew beers, this is the start of your habit of cleaning and sanitizing all your equipment every single time you make beer.

Every.

Single.

Time.

So once you are sure everything has had a good soak, carry on my wayward son to making a top-rated beer.

The rest is easy...

There are plenty of beer making methods.

We can do it in four steps.

Step 1 - Malt Up


beer extract kit sitting in a pot of water
If you're smart, you may have already put your opened tin of extract malt into a pot of boiling water so that it's warmed up and can be easily poured into your fermenter.

Sometimes I leave it sitting on the top of my closed fireplace, this works well too.

At this point, I like to put on some fancy surgical gloves so as to avoid the mess that's probably about to happen all over your kitchen bench.

Add your extract malt and about 3 liters of boiling water to your fermenter.

Stir with a sterilized stirring device until it's all dissolved.

Don't accidentally leave the spoon in your kit...

Your brew kit probably came with a beer enhancer, now is the time to add it and dissolve as well.

If your kit did not have an enhancer, you really should think about adding some and you will get a better mouth feel and enjoy your beer that much better.

Otherwise, you're probably going to add 1kg of dextrose or ordinary sugar (we do not recommend that as it will affect how your beer tastes).

Step 2 - Water is the essence of aqua...


It's time to add the water.

I like to use the garden hose so I carry the fermenter to the kitchen back door and go for gold.

The water in NZ where I'm from is pretty good. If the water is of poor quality where you come from, you may wish to find a better source of water, at the least boil it maybe.

I guess the basic rule is if you can handle drinking a glass of water from it, that's your source. Expert brewers like to test the pH level to ensure it will suit the beer.

Fill your fermenter to 5 gallons of water or to the 23 liter mark. Stick with that, your malt kit has been designed with exactly this amount of water in mind. If you add to much water, your wort will be diluted and your beer's 'mouthfeel' will be unappealing. If you add to little, you will actually raise the 'alcohol by volume' content of your beer.

Which is fine if you like things like that but remember, in doing so you are changing the profile of your beer.

yeast cells for beer
Yeast

Step 3 - Yeastie Boys


It's time to add the yeast. This is called 'pitching'.

Seasoned pros will tell you to never use the yeast that comes in your starter kit or with your can of malt as it may be old or damaged or whatever.

I'm thinking you just want to make some bloody beer so throw what came with your kit into to your fermenter and worry about that kind of issue when it actually occurs.

But wait!

Make sure the temperature of the water is close to in line with the instructions on the tin of malt - you want to give the yeast a chance to activate so don't put it in or 'pitch' it if you're out of whack. That said in my experience just pitch it in when you're ready.

There are plenty of good brewing thermometers out there but your fermenter may have a heat sensitive sticker on the side that tells the temperature.

But be warned, only pitch your yeast when you've added the extra water and chilled the wort - if you pitch your yeast into the boiled wort, you will kill the yeast which means you'll have no fermentation happening and you'll have a malty drink on your hands.

You're not making Panhead Supercharger here, you're making your first batch of home brew.

Protip - aerate your wort with a pump prior to pitching yeast to give the yeast a performance boost (but when bottling, try to avoid aeration as much as possible).

hops for brewing with beer kits








Step 4 - Hop to it


If your kit came with some hops or you were smart enough to procure some, chuck them in now, maybe half the packet. This is called dry hopping.

Some might recommend adding the hops 5 days into the fermentation process but we say just get on with it.

Close up the fermenter, make sure the drum or cap is on firmly.

Add your airlock with water inside. You'll use this to keep track of fermentation by observing the CO2 bubbles as they are released during fermentation.

A failure to see bubbles does not mean fermentation has failed!

Take a hydrometer reading

Once you've got the basics down, you might want to think about boiling the malt extract. 

Step 5 - Let fermenting beer lie


This has now become a waiting game.

Once you've put your beer in a suitable place where the temperature will be fairly consistently warm, leave her alone.

Set and forget...

Well not quite - if you have a hydrometer, take a reading and write it down. You will need it to be able to work out when fermentation is complete and also the alcohol content of your beer.

A loose guide is when the bubbles are finished, fermentation is usually complete. Once you are sure this is the case, you can think about bottling your beer.

This is an occasion where you should consider completely ignoring the instructions on the can and leave your brew in the fermenter for about 2 weeks.

While at face value fermentation is complete, the yeast will still be interacting with everything and this extra time will greatly improve the quality of your beer.

Be patient!

Let me know when you are ready to bottle!

So the short summary on how to make your home made beer:


1. Add your malt from the can to 3 litres of hot water
2. Add any brew enhancer or dextrose, as well as any hops. Stir it all up.
3. Fill fermenter to 23 litres or 6 gallons with cold.
4. Check the temperature is OK and then pitch in your yeast.
5. Add the airlock, firmly seal the drum and place in a cool position.
6. Ensure fermentation is complete. You may want to use a hydrometer during this stage.
7. Bottle when ready but it's best to let your brew sit for 2 to 3 weeks.

So that's the rough guide to brewing beer from a kit.

As you can read, it's a pretty straight forward exercise and you don't need a Bachelor of Food Technology to get it right.

It's about good old home economics and it's a little bit about applying some common sense.

You might want to bear these easy to make mistakes in mind.

The absolute key things to bear in mind are having properly sanitized equipment, following this guide and its hopefully helpful beer making instructions more or less and don't stress.

Beer can be a tough mistress, but it can be pretty forgiving...

When you've become an expert on making a good beer mash, you might want to start thinking about the pH levels of your beer and testing your water quality or even try brewing with two kits at once.boiling the malt extract

What is the German Beer Purity Law (and is it still obeyed)?

What are the German Beer Purity Laws?

Have you ever been drinking a commercially brewer German beer, been bored with the conversation and decided to read the bottle label? 

Did you spy the wording 'brewed according to the German Beer Purity Law'? 

Did you wonder what the law meant? 

If you thought it meant your beer was brewed by beautiful virgins with long blonde hair, you're probably on the wrong website.

The German (read that as Bavarian) beer purity laws showed just how serious they were (and still) are about brewing their beer. Introduced by Bavarian officials in 1516,  the 'Reinheitsgebot' (as it eventually became known 300 years later) was designed to try and control price competition in the marketplace. 

German economists, not understanding the complex dynamic of market pricing required that only barely could be used in beer brewing so as to not increase the price of other products that could be used to make bread, namely rye and wheat.

German beer law stamp
The Germans are so serious about their beer they made a stamp!


The key rule of the law is the ingredients:

According to the Bavarian law, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley and hops. 

And that's it. Note that yeast is not mentioned. This came much later in the 19th century when it was realised that yeast was pretty vital when making beer

Anti-competitive motives

The 'Reinheitsgebot law' also made rules about the price that beer could be sold as in the bars. This pricing strategy was intended to reduced competition for the ingredients that went into bread being rye and wheat. 

By making the law, the effect was to exclude beer from the wider German states that may have contained other ingredients thus helping reduce competition and allowing local Bavarian beer producers to continue as they were. 

To keep in line with the beer law, making pilsner beers became the order of the day, thus laying the foundation for Germany's proud history of making pilsner.

As a public health measure


It’s often claimed that the beer purity law was the first food safety legislation in the world. This is because the law prevented brewers from adding ingredients that could be considered unhealthy such as rushes, roots, mushrooms, and animal products.

The mushrooms could have some severe consequences for the drinker as the point of imbibing was to a) enjoy a beer and b) enjoy the effect of alcohol and not experience a hallucinogenic experience caused by the mushrooms!

It’s mused that the original intent of the law did not really entertain health concerns but its focus was ensuring profits for local Bavarian brewers by keeping out, competitive beer makers. 

So is the beer purity law still observed? 

This law was taken very seriously and was observed for 300 years. Eventually, it spread across the whole of Germany.

Yeast was later added to the law when it was identified how vital it was in the beer-making process.

When Bavaria entered the German Unification of 1871, it was a condition of their entry that the beer law was carried through. Not even rulers such as Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich dared change the way beer was made.

Even in the more modern era, the law is still strictly applied and this had led to various court cases taken by brewers who want to try new ingredients and brewing processes. 

This has led to several products being made that are beers but cannot have the word 'bier' on their label and also variations on malt and production techniques may be used. 

Faced with the reality of international trading obligations, Germany allows the importation of beer that does not comply with the local legislation, however, local brewers must still observe the requirements. 

They are, however, less stringent than they used to be!

Feel good marketing

The reality of the modern world is that there is no reason to have a beer purity law - local and international competition sort all that out, especially when there is a greater supply of products like wheat and rye around the world - so the consumption of beer doesn't affect the price of bread! 

Instead, a passionate beer fraternity still follow the methods for reasons of tradition and more arguably, for a competitive marketing benefit!

Nowadays, beer brands like Heineken use the reference to the purity law as a means to identify with quality and to align their beer with good bear making ideals - thus giving comfort to the beer drinker they are drinking a quality product. 

It's quite a good tactic given that beer is a global product and traded freely around the world. 

German beer can be held out as being brewed in a certain way and without ingredients that the health (!) conscious beer drinker may be keen to avoid. 

Why I'm never using Steinlager bottles for home brewing again

I was bottling beer in the weekend (a nice Miner's Stout) when for the 501st time, the Steinlager bottle I was capping refused to cap as the grippy bit at the top of the bottle neck cracked.

bottle of steinlagerYou see, as the pressure of the bottle capper comes down, the glass simply gives way.

I suspect this is a time / use related issue. Over time, the pressure gets too strong for the glass and it simply breaks.

I've also had plenty of bottlenecks completely snap too.

I'm sick of this shit.

So I dumped every green Steinlager bottle that I had into the recycling bin. About 30 of them, collected (and drank!) over the last few years.

Good riddance.

But it's a real shame as the 750 ml Steinlager bottle is a really nice bottle to hold when pouring a beer into a glass. There's something really aesthetically pleasing about it too.

Don't get me wrong though, Steinlager is an excellent beer and one I would recommend to any discerning beer drinker.

So this got me thinking, what beer bottles are really good for using with homebrew?

Well, for this brewer, a side effect of the rise in craft beer is that there are a plethora of bottles out there to choose from.

I found that most brown bottles of craft beers in New Zealand are able to be capped really quite well.

But you know what works the best?

750 ml Tui crate bottles.

That's right, the other classic NZ working man's beer has the best bottles for capping homebrew.

While I'm at it, I found a great source of getting bottles for homebrew conditioning is by raiding the recycling bins of my neighbours!

Also, I'm still pretty happy about my discovery on how to easily remove beer bottle labels.

Brewing with two Coopers Lager Beer Kits

If using two cans of malt can make a handy stout, can two tins of Cooper's lager make a good brew?


Let's find out. 


My local supermarket had Coopers beer kits for a super cheap 11 dollars which was about 8 - 9 bucks off the usual price. 


I checked the expiry date and it was for mid 2023 so the yeast would not be stale. 


So what the heck, I put all 7 cans on the shelf. 


But the supermarket had no DME. 


Sad face. 


So I decided to be brave and use two cans of the lager malt together. 


No DME


No enhancer


And no hops


So I prepared the double batch in the standard way. Sanitised the fermenter drum. Clean the spoon. Added so boiling water. Added the lager malt. Stirred the lager malt. Added 20 odd litres of water. Pitched the yeast in the customary manner. Stored the lager in the cool cupboard off to the side of our kitchen. 

two malt cans of lager batch


After about a week or so I bottled the lager brew into some green Grolsch bottles, my kind neighbour gave me. Plus a few extras that are not pictured!


These were left to condition in my shed for about two weeks. 

bottle condition lager


The sediment had settled and the beer looked fairly clear so I grabbed a couple and put them in the fridge. 


On Friday night after a hard day shuffling paperwork around the office I decided to try the lager. 


What had a made? A deliciously quaffable beer? 


No dear reader, I had made ice cream:

over carbonated beer


It would appear my beer was over carbonated. 


This is was not necessarily a surprise as two cans is a lot of food for the yeast to make into alcohol and CO2. 



Perhaps I had added too much sugar at bottling? I'm less inclined to think that the cause as I have brewed a few beers in my time and feel I have got the required sugar content down these days by batch priming


So if using two kits, be mindful of that. 


So was the beer any good?


At the two week point, this beer has room for improvement. It feels thicker to the mouth than a standard lager should taste. It is not as sweet as Cooper's lagers generally taste and it is not dry either. 


It was a slight hint of a whiff of something that I cannot quite decode - I suspect this beer will be best served very well chilled as that whiff dominated the beer as it warmed up. An extra week or three of conditioning may see that whiff of taste disperse. 


Will update!






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