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How to make your own beer enhancer (and save money)


How to make your own beer enhancer


The key goal of any brew enhancer is to help the beer have more body, a great taste and good mouth feel

If you just use sugar for the yeast to feed on, you will get a thin, weak feeling beer which can reduce the satisfaction of your drinking experience. 

Of course, you do not need to buy brew enhancer, you can make your own. There is no right way to prepare the enhancer as different ratios and different ingredients can produce different effects on your beer.

If you are going to make your own enhancer, here’s some ingredient ratios which you could use as a guide:

Beer style
Dextrose
Maltodextrin
DME
Light Beer 
60%
40%
0%
Ale, more malty beer
50%
25%
25%

The quantity to make is is 1Kg per 23 litre brew.

The beauty of using the dextrose is that it is apparently a more favoured food of the yeast when compared to ordinary sucrose sugar and so fermentation will commence more quickly. 


Whether that makes a difference to the end result, I don't know. 

You do not have to follow the above guide - you could simply make a 50/50 split of DME and brewing sugar (which is simply corn sugar).

Many beer supply shops will carry the ingredients you need. That way you can get the advantage of buying in bulk so to reduce your brewing costs. 

Check out the price of DME on Amazon.

Black Rock Nut Brown Ale Beer Kit Review

After my successful crack at a bohemian pilsner, I turned by beer googles to Black Rock’s ‘Nut Brown Ale’ beer kit. Like WilliamsWarn beer kits, it also made in the famous New Zealand Speights Brewery.

review nut brown ale beer kitThe kit is pitched by Black Rock as a “malty, deep amber coloured beer with a balanced harmony of crystal malt and hops to create a notably clean taste with a malt accented flavour.”

So shall we see if what I brew gets anywhere near that carefully crafted piece of PR spin?

The preparation of this beer is very standard


Santize your gear thoroughly.

Add the kit and a beer enhancer. You will certainly need anenhancer else, your ale will be too thin and have poor mouth feel.

After pre hydrating it, I added the bog standard brewing yeast that comes with the kit. I understand that every yeast packet from the Black Rock contains the same  yeast which they call ‘Premium Dry Brewing Yeast Sachet’.

I could have got a yeast that was more properly matched to make an ale (such as may be the Nottingham) but I’m keen to see what the kit delivers.

And now I did something a little hypocritical.

While the Nut Brown Ale kit comes with green bullet and pacific gem hops, I added goldings hops to add a lil delight. They key thing for this beer is that it should be fairly light on hops so to not over bitter your beer.

Then I wrapped the fermenter in sheets and left it in the shed for 9 days where it bubbled away quite nicely.

Let’s talk about this kind of beer for a moment.

The Brown Ale style originally gained popularity in the down and dirty pubs of England, where beer guzzlers expressed a need for beer that was both flavorful and complex but at the same time mild enough to be a session beer.

Bottling day came and the beer was duly bottled.

And then I waited a whole two weeks before even trying my ale. For me that’s an eternity but this is what a patient beer brewer must do if he wants to make quality tasting beer.

So, how did the ale taste? Did it reach lofty heights of flavour as suggested by the PR spin?


I made a simple beer. It tasted earthy and brown. 

I can’t say that the goldings hops did anything amazing for the beer but they certainly helped leave a nice after taste on the tongue. One could certainly appreciate the malty flavour of the beer so the description of the product bears out somewhat.

The verdict: The Nut Brown Ale kit from Black Rock is a handy example of the beer. It’s not flash in the pan but for the home brewer that’s conscious that some beer kits can be ludicrously expensive, this particular kit gives good value for money.

Review of William Warn's 'Bohemian' Pilsner beer kit


I decided to try the Williams Warn Bohemian Pilsner at the suggestion of a keen home brewer.

Williams Warn’s version of a traditional Bohemian Pilsner is touted as having “a rich, complex maltiness and a crisp finish”.

So that’s the challenge for this home brewer, can I produce a beer as described?

What is a bohemian pilsner?


There are basically two kinds of pilsners, the German and Bohemian. The difference between the two is often the  geographicsource of their ingredients.

Bohemian brews are said to have a more malty character that the German version and so I guess that's why WilliamsWarn is mentioning it in their product description.

Let’s talk about the actual kit


The kit includes a 3.75 pound can of pre-hopped Premium Bohemian Pilsner liquid malt extract, designed by Ian Williams and crafted at Lion Brewery in New Zealand. 

Lion is of course famous for producing it’s own world conquering beer, Steinlager.

I combined the beer kit with WilliamsWarn’s own DME pack which I think from memory was 1250 grams or about 3 pounds.

The yeast was the Fermentis Saflager W34/70 lager yeast which is a popular brewing yeast for lagers that originated from where else but Germany.  

Brewing the kit


The brewing was a pretty standard affair following the usual beer brewing practices, the only thing of note was I added some cascade hops. I should more properly use a noble hops such as sazz but the cascade was all I had!

I suspect this combination may give me a potentially fruity taste which could contradict the intended crisp taste that’s sought but we’ll see.

Let’s talk about the yeast


The first thing I noticed about the yeast packet was that it had approximately twice the amount of yeast of any other beer kit that I’ve ever used.

So I was not surprised when less than two hours after pitching the yeast I walked back into the man shed and heard the barrel happily bubbling away quite strongly.

I looked into the yeast a bit further and learned that the Williams Warn claims 'When you pitch these yeasts into your wort, you’ll see activity within hours.'

So their claims were true and that totally gives me confidence that this beer kit comes from a brewer who actually knows what they are talking about.

Good stuff.

The brew carried on bubbling very strongly  for three full days at a pretty good rate and then it slowly wound down.

Into the bottle goes the brown liquid


Bottling day came 6 days later.

The beer smelt and tasted good. 

I bottled into a variety of 750 and 500 mls bottles.  

I also tried to use as little sugar as possible as I’m quite conscious that I’ve had a few too many gushers of late.

That’s just a waste of beer and money eh?

So what's the verdict on the beer?


The pilsner proved to be quite a tasty drop. It had a nicely balanced body and left a great after taste.

Despite the addition of cascade hops, their effect was quite minimal. I perhaps should added more.

Being a pilsner it was drunk nice and cold, which is just what you need for some summer drinking. 

It also gave good head, which is always pleasing... 

How did the beer compare to Williams Warn's description? Did it have a “a rich, complex maltiness and a crisp finish” as touted by the brand?

Kind of!

The beer certainly did have a malt taste that I would not expect of a pilsner but that could be the effect of too many years drinking mass produced pilsners.

As for a crisp finish, I would not describe my brew as having one, none-the-less it was a very drinkable beer. 

And what of the beer's look?

Indeed, I made a fine, deep golden beer.

I would happily brew this beer again!

If you want more than my word for this beer kit, check out the reviews for it on Amazon.

5 brewing errors to avoid

5 brewing beer mistakes you can easily avoid


While beer brewing is often touted as serious business, it's actually a fairly simple process but mistakes can be made.

Here are 5 brewing mistakes that can happen if you take your eye off the boil.

Sanitation is not just the job of the Sanitation Department


If you think that you can just grab your beer making equipment from the back of the closet and start to brew, you’re probably in for a bad batch of beer.

You need to sanitize everything bit of equipment you use. If you're starting out as a home brewer, your kit should contain a cleansing and sanitising agent.

You must ensure that at the very least your drum is fully clean and sterilized before you start your brewing.

There is nothing more disappointing than recognizing the scent of a contaminated brew when you bottle your batch!

You pitch your yeast when the wort is too hot


Cooling your beer down is not just to assist with removing nasties from your beer and reducing the risk of any infection, it helps with ensuring that your yeast finds itself in a hospitable environment - that is to say if you pitch your yeast too early, you run the risk of killing it (it’s a living microorganism after all).

No yeast means no fermentation.

And well, that just sucks right.

If you want to get really fancy, you might want to invest in a good wort chiller.

Your yeast is older than the hills


Yeast is a living breathing organism. Its job in the beer making process is to feast on the sugars and beer wort and ferment them into alcohol.

If your yeast is too old then you run the real risk of fermentation not occurring.

If you are brewing from a beer kit, it's often recommended that you discard the yeast that comes with the kit and purchase some fresh yeast.

But in saying that, I've never had a problem with yeast from a beer kit.

You drink your beer too early


It can most definitely be a mistake for sure to drink your beer too early. Your beer needs time to carbonate and most importantly, it also needs time to chill out and finish the fermentation process.

A patient beer drinker will let his beer sit in a quiet part of the garden shed for two - three weeks at least before indulging.

He knows that his beer will taste better for it and be a worthy reward for his or her efforts.

Storing your beer at the wrong temperature


We’ve already talked about temperature once but we’ve got to do it one more time. The storage of your beer is very important. The yeast does different things at different temperatures

So during the fermentation stage, the beer needs to be kept at a constant temperature that's appropriate for the yeast.

Same goes for the storing of the beer.

If you leave freshly bottled beers in your shed in the middle of winter, they might not carbonate so leave them somewhere warm for short time. 

Lager beers love the cold, so can be stored in the shed, whereas your ales may benefit from being kept in a warmer environ.

These are some easy mistakes to avoid - have fun with your brewing but keep in mind you've got to keep it clean and warm! Or cold…

Here's even more tips on brewing beer.

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

best Beer caps and cappers

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

What do I use to cap beer bottles with?


You need a beer capper! Beer cappers come in two forms being the hand held 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!

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.

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.

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

Using a Bench Capper


The bench capper can be easier to use 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 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?

As always, before capping your beer, the bottle caps need 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.

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.

The 4 easy steps of making beer

4 easy steps of making home brew beer

The 4 easy steps of making home brew beer

I reckon you might agree with me that making beer is actually pretty easy.

If elephants can figure out to bury watermelons underground so they ferment and then eat them to get drunk on, then humans can figure out how to easily make a genuinely good tasting home brew beer!

Here's how YOU can make home brew beer in 4 steps.

Beer brewing consists of four  simple stages, 5, if you count the drinking of your tasty beverage!

1. Brewing the beer

Quality pale malt extract and hops are boiled together with water for about an hour to sterilize the extract and release the bittering qualities of the added hops.

Often grains are steeped in the mixture prior to the boil to add additional color and flavor to the beer. 

If you're pretty series about making beer, you'll probably follow a recipe which gives you timings on when to add your choices of hops.

You will have of course used sterilized brewing equipment

2. Cooling of the wort and the commencement of  fermentation 

easy steps to brew beerThe wort that you have made is then is cooled to room temperature and siphoned or transferred to a fermenter where it is combined with additional water to achieve the desired batch volume. This is often 23 litres into a 30 litre drum. 

When the wort drops to room temperature, yeast is added to start the fermentation process, that is to say to turn your mixture into beer. 

The drum is sealed airtight and an airlock is used to keep the fermenter sealed and allow for the release of carbon dioxide. Fermentation will take one or two weeks. 

3. Priming your beer with sugar and the bottling of it 

Once your beer has completed fermentation (you can tell by checking for scum residue or by using a hydrometer) it can then be siphoned to another container to prepare for bottling.

This is when the beer is primed with sugar.

Sucrose or corn sugar may be used and the correct measurements are simply mixed with your very flat beer. Once the mixing is complete, the beer is transferred into bottles and each bottle is capped with a bottle capping device.

This is often done by siphoning or holding the clean and sterilized bottle to the tap of the drum. 

4. Time to let the bottled beer sit and age

Now the beer has been bottled, it needs to age so a secondary fermentation may occur. Given there is no way for the carbon dioxide that is produced during this fermentation to be released, the beer is carbonated. 

During this time sediments such as excess yeast and proteins will drop out of the beer and fall to the bottom of the bottle.

It is vital you let this process occur - if you drink your beer to early it's flavour will not have come to the fore and it may smell slightly.

Better to let your beer nature for a minimum of three weeks and even better six.

If you can wait that long, you will be rewarded with a delicious tasting home brew.   

5. Time to open those beers

The final step is of course the drinking. Drink cold, poor the beer carefully to avoid stirring up any of the sediment and have a great drinking experience!

Do I need to use carbonation drops for brewing?

Do I need to use carbonation drops for brewing?


Do I need to use carbonation drops for brewing?

Usually I would try and sell you something when you come to this site but at the end of the day, we are all beer lovers so when some asks if they NEED to use carbonation drops, we're not going to say yes and then try and get you to buy some via this amazingly awesome beer site.

No.

Not this day*.

Today we give nothing but advice!

carbonation sugar dropsDo you need to use carbonation drops when bottling beer? 

The answer is no.

All they are is sugar rolled into a ball. Sweet, tasty sugar balls.

You can use sugar from the kitchen instead. I like to use a funnel and a teaspon and boom, the sugar is in the bottles, ready for beer to be added and capped.

But, you can of course use carbonation drops when bottling your homebrew.

This is for the reason of efficiency and convenience. Droping a carbonation drop into a bottle is a very fast method and can be less messy.

You also know precisely how much sugar you are adding to your beer.

It does however cost a lot to buy carbonation drops. In fact, in NZ a bag of carbonation drops (good for one bottling day) cost more that a 1KG bag of ordinary sugar!

You could try and buy them in bulk to make it more cost effective but I have yet to find any drops sold in bulk lots.

So do the maths and use the sugar and funnel method.

Or you could try another handy method and priming your brew with sugar.

Or you could just use jelly beans...

* We lied, just a lil bit.

How to get a creamy mouth feel in your beer

How to get a creamy mouth feel in your home brew beer

While beer making can be fun and all, the proof is in the drinking. 

Brewers just want their beers to have a good mouth feel and a great taste.

It's the most important part.

At the extreme, a great tasting beer that is flat is not a good experience right?

So a creamy mouthfeel and good taste can make the drinking experience wonderful.

When that perfect ale slips down your throat nicely, the brewer has done a great job. They probably followed our brewing guide or lessons learned! ;)

If you are wondering what we mean by a creamy beer you could think of the physical feel you get when you drink a Kilkenny or a Guinness beer.

Forget what they taste like, they are good examples of a creamy beer.

They do have a clever and interesting trick that helps them be so creamy – they are pumped with both carbon dioxide and nitrogen!

How to get a good mouth feel in  home brew beer

How to get a creamy feel in a beer?


It's easy.

Almost too easy.

Here's how to do it:
  1. 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. 
  2. You could try adding sugar lactose. Lactose is not fermentable by yeast, and it will give your beer a milky mouth feel. Lactose is added to Milk Stouts to increase the body of the beer, and give it a creamy mouth feel. Some stout beer enhancers will come with lactose. 
  3. You could try and high alpha hops. Such an approach would of increase the beer’s bitterness, but also increase the level of ‘isohumulones’ that help enhance head retention. A better head can assist with a good creamy mouthful.
  4. Do what the Guinness brewers do and pump the beer with nitrogen and CO2. This would, of course, require some pretty serious investment in some gear!
  5. We certainly do not advocate putting cream in your fermenter! We imagine that would ruin your good work and vastly increase the likelihood of a beer infection occurring.

↠ Where can I buy beer hops online?

where to purchase beer hops


Where can I buy beer hops online?


If you know a thing or two about beer, you'll know that hops is so crucial to making good beer that the Germans made it the law for it to be an ingredient of beer.

You are of course free to make beer whatever way you like but you're probably going to want to buy hops for your home brew at some stage, especially as you begin to experiment with new tastes and flavours.


So there are two questions you should ask - what hops should I use in my beer and where can I purchase hops?



First we will talk about what hops to use in your beer. Certain kinds of hops are commonly associated with particular styles of beer or beer from certain regions.

It's really up to you, the power of buying and using hops is yours! (Did you read that in a Captain Planet voice?)

Here's some commonly used hops that you can buy:
  • Pilsner beers have became nearly synonymous with the four so called 'noble hops'. These are varieties of hop called Terrnanger, Spalt, Hallertauer and Saaz. 
  • Saaz hops are closely aligned with the brewing of lagers, mostly for the delicous aroma that has become associated with the beer. As an aside, pilsner beers are known as traditionally coming from the Czech Republic.
  • If you're looking for hops that might help your beer taste a bit like the classic New Zealand beer, Steinlager, you might buy Green Bullet hops. 
  • America, the land of the free beer drinker, has become a home for hop production and many new varieties from old favorites have been developed. American hops are recognized and appreciated all around the world for their bold, and often intense flavors they imbue in beer. American hops are often described as being citrus like, however that's a most elementary description. Cascade hops are a very popular choice.  Chinook is another popular 'north western' hop.
  • The English Golding hop has become the signature hops of English ale.
  • The Fuggle hop is another popular hop used for ale beer. 
That's all well and good but where can I buy hops? I need to purchase some saaz hops, man! Is it OK to buy hops online? Yes, Timmy, it sure is OK to buy hops online!

There's two ways to buy hops - in person or online. If you are going to do it in person, you need to find a local specialty beer brewing shop.

So get on to Google and have a snoop around or ask your mates at work, chances are they are homebrewers!

Or you can buy or hops online. There are a mega ton of sites out there but we reckon if you know what you want, just order hops from Amazon. There are plenty of reputable beer brewing equipment experts on there and between them, they have a large selection of the best hops to buy.

If you've bought some hops and are wondering how to use them, check out our guide.

⇒ Steinlager Classic Clone Recipe

sexist steinlager advertising from the 1980s

Steinlager clone recipe for homebrew beer


There's plenty of evidence around to suggest that Steinlager is one of the greatest beers that has ever been produced.

Despite the trend to craft beer drinking, Steinlager beer is holding it's own in the market.

Kind of...

Steinlager homebrew recipeThis is due of course to a strong marketing campaign* by Lion Nathan - it's the official beer of the all conquering All Blacks, the fact it's a New Zealand household name and the fact that it's actually a good beer to drink.

It really is, beer snobs need not contribute their opinion!

If you've found this page, chances are we do not need to sell you on Steinlager being a good drinking beer - and if you want to clone it, here's a Steinlager clone recipe that might just help you get an approximation of what many consider to be one of New Zealand's finest beers.

And just so there's no confusion, we are talking about Steinlager Classic, the original Steinlager beer.

Not this "Pure' version of it they market these days and let's be clear - there's no way we are even going to consider a Steinlager Tokyo.

That is simply marketing a new beer for the sake of marketing a new beer.

It has no soul.

Steinlager Classic, now that is a beer that has tradition, aspiration, balls and of course great taste.

A beer that you can actually have a good crack at making a homebrew clone!

Hops used in Steinlager

The actual recipe for Steinlager is a closely held trade secret, so it's a bit of a guess what goes into it but well-educated taste buds have been able to offer some handy insight.

Steinlager is noted for its key ingredient of the so-called 'green bullet' hops. 

This hops is unique in that it was developed in New Zealand and it delivers a traditional bittering quality and hop flavor, ideal for lager making.

It's popularity has meant it's now a flagship hop within the New Zealand brewing industry.

So your Steinlager clone will at the least need bullet hops!


How to make a good clone of Steinlager beer


So there's two ways to make a Steinlager clone. One way is rough as guts, and the other is your more refined home brewing process...

Making a good Steinlager clone using a beer kit:


You will need the following ingredients:
Prepare according to the usual method of making beer with kits and dammit, Jim - make sure you sanitise your gear!

Cold storage of your lager will be very handy - leave it in the shed?

Extra for experts: If you are trying to make a Steinlager Pure clone (hey, it's your life), note that Pure uses Pacific Jade hops, Nelson Sauvin hops and possibly some green bullet too.


Steinlager clone recipe for more seasoned brewers


If you're into boiling your wort and getting the timings of the hop additions just perfect, here's some a Steinlager clone recipe that seems pretty handy.

It comes from a bloke called Timmy:

4.00 kg Pilsner, Malt Craft Export (Joe White) (3.2 EBC) Grain
0.25 kg Carahell (Weyermann) (25.6 EBC) Grain
0.15 kg Carafoam (Weyermann) (3.9 EBC) Grain
0.15 kg Wheat Malt, Malt Craft (Joe White) (3.5 EBC) Grain
60 min 20.00 gm Green Bullet [13.50 %] (60 min) Hops
10 min 15.00 gm Green Bullet [13.50 %] (10 min) Hops
10 min 25.00 gm Northern Brewer [8.50 %] (10 min) Hops
10 min 0.50 items Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 min) Misc
1 min 25.00 gm Northern Brewer [8.50 %] (1 min) Hops
1 Pkgs Budvar Lager (Wyeast Labs #2000) Yeast-Lager
Estimate: 1.056 OG
Estimate: 1.014 FG
37.8 IBU's

There are other Steinlager clone recipes around but they are more or less the same as this one.

One or two seem to suggest that the beer contains Hallertau Hops but others have countered that was an older version of the beer.

Indeed, given the green bullet hops wasn't first produced until 1972 and that Steinlager has been around since the late 1950's, the beer drunk since at least 1972 has a different hops than what the originally beer started with - which is probably no biggie as it was in 1977 when Steinlager was crowned the world's best beer.

It also won the Les Amis du Vin Award (a renown beer competition) again in '78 and '80 so it's the green bullet hops that helped win the world over.

This article has a sweet history of the beer as it became popular around the world.

* How about that poster eh? Classic sexist advertising from the 1980s. 

↠ Making beer wort


When I first started making beer I was totally confused by the word 'wort' that I kept seeing everywhere. "Cool your wort quickly!" the internet said. Um what?

I now know that the beer wort is the starting point for making beer. It is the amber liquid extracted from malted barley.

In the most basic sense, you can describe the wort as unfermented beer.

Beer makers use the wort as the basis to which start the beer. Think of the wort as the base contents of the potion in a witch's cauldron.

As the witch adds 'eye of newt' and other goodies to her potion, the beer maker does the same by adding flavourings and hops to the wort to prepare a solution ready for fermenting.

beer wort, what is it?

So basically, the wort is just flat beer. 


Like making a cake, if you don't use the correct ingredients in the right proportions your cake fails, a wort needs to be properly prepared.

If you are making beer using a beer kit, then your wort is easily made simply by adding the content of the can to the required volume of hot water.

Boom, you have wort. You add to your beer potion, hops, and sugars such as dextrose or a beer enhancer

If you're boiling your own wort, it's more complicated. You the one who is in charge of making sure you have all the ingredients and that you boil them at the right time.

Mashing is required to turn the grains into sugars. The grains a mixed with malt and hot water for an hour or so in a mash tun. When the liquid is ready, it is 'sparged' from the mash and ready to be boiled. 

This is to extract the bittering, flavour and aroma from hops. This is critical if you want your beer to have the characteristics of beer!

The bittering hops are usually boiled in the wort for approximately one hour to one and a half hours. This long boil extracts resins from the hops which provides the bittering.

Near the end of the boil, flavouring hops can be added. Then, if you're fully on your beer brewing game, finishing hops are added last. This part of the wort boil extracts the oils which provide flavour and aroma.


Chill out, man


Once your wort is boiled it's now time to sparge the wort - that means to drain it from the grain mash.

and everything has gone to plan, the wort is chilled very quickly using a wort chiller.

Due to the temperature requirements of yeast, it needs to be at a temperature which will allow it to thrive. If you put your yeast into the just off the boil wort, you will kill the yeast and get flat beer.

It might taste nice but there won't be any alcohol in it either!

Brewers have a tough enough time trying to work out if their beer has fermented properly, so make sure you get that part of your beer brewing right!

Image credit to Alan Levine via Creative Commons Licence

↠ 7 tricks that make brewing beer a breeze

home brewing tricks

7 tricks to make brewing beer a breeze

Here’s a selection of random tips for the experienced and not so experienced beer brewer. Some of these tips will suit your beer making style, some will not.

Some are nice to haves, some are things that even the most harden veteran must do (STERILIZATION!) and do every time they brew.

The beauty about making beer is that there are many ways to do things, but given that beer has been brewed for over 6000 years, the process of brewing beer is well trodden and any shortcuts will lead you off the path of quality beer making.

Stick to your brewing instructions and recipes whilst bearing these hints and tricks in mind.

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.

If you have in inkling you are going to do a bit of brewing, get the 5 or 8 gallon size unit, save the smaller ones for making jam! Big is better for most of your brewing equipment needs.

If you've got a pretty decent burner, it should be able to hold any sized pot or kettle.


O is for Oxygen, get that element away from your beer



Once your beer is ready to have the yeast pitched in, this is the last chance for oxygen to be exposed to the beer. Once the yeast is in, the fermenter needs to be properly sealed.

The presence of excess oxygen can result in poor smelling beer.

Allowing the fermenting beer to be exposed to oxygen can allow beer spoiling bugs and organisms such acetobactor to sour your beer by using the oxygen to ferment the alcohol into acetic acid – commonly known as vinegar. Keep your fermenter well sealed!

Same goes for bottling – try to avoid getting too many bubbles in the bottle as your pour.

It’s cool to cool your wort

Cool the Wort quickly.

Doing this will increase the fallout of proteins and tannins that are bad for the beer.

It may also reduce the chance of infection occurring. Some brewers use immersion wort chillers as a relatively inexpensive investment that will improve the clarity and quality of your beer.

If doing a full batch boil, there’s not much choice, the wort should be cooled for maximum effect.

You may wish to consider investing in a wort chiller.


It’s not clean until its ALL clean



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.

You NEED to make sure that at the very least your drum is fully clean and sterilized before your start your brewery process.

There is nothing more disappointing than going to bottle your brew and recognizing the scent of a bad brew that has been contaminated by nasty bugs.


You'd do best to brew an ale than a lager



The truth is that the darker the beer, the more forgiving it will be in the home brewing process.

It's very easy to make a mistake with your first homebrew so a beer style that's good to drink and is also easy to take care of is the brew you are after.

While you should feel free to start with a lager, and yes, many starter beer kits do come with lagers, bear in mind that lagers need to be cooled rather more quickly than an ale and they also require a bit more yeast in the fermentation process.


Use fresh beer making ingredients – it’s not a fancy suggestion at all



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.

If you use old stock, you run the risk of your beer tasting like old socks. Pretty simple. This is especially true of the yeast that you use (it may lose it’s potency if too old) and hops.


Don’t listen to all the hacks that might be writing about beer (?)



Worrying obsessively about every little thing you read on the internet will not help your beer taste any better. Find a beer brewing guide you are happy with and just get on with it! When you become a more regular and practised brewer you can start to think about things like digital ph testing of your wort and adding oak chips to your beer for flavor.

How to keep track of your home brew records & history


An idea to track beer making history

If you are looking to improve the results of your home brewing, you might like to think about keeping a record of what and how you brew.

If you write down what you did, what you used, when you did it and why you'll have a good basis on which to make an honest assessment about your beer brewing failures and successes.

If you find that you've pulled off a stunner of a beer, you might be able to remember just exactly how you brewed that beer. It could be the difference between remembering that you used a certain kind of hops in your brew or used a 50/ 50 split of them.

Or that you left the spoon in the fermenter.

I just wanted to share how I keep my beer brewing records. I use Google Sheets.

It looks something like this:

Beer brewing record keeping

This is basically an excel sheet that allows me to have a set of handy columns as below:

Date DownBrand of MaltMixed withDate BottledNotesFirst tasteFinal thoughts

Recording the date you got the brew down is hugely important because you need to know how long you've left the brew to ferment. Same for bottling. Has it been 12 days or three weeks? 

I also like to know what brand of kit I used and whether it was an ale or pilsner. And of course, did I use a brew enhancer or just dextrose? 

In my summary notes, I record my first taste experience and also final thoughts.

This is because I usually get stuck into the beer at the three-week mark but over time the beer will mature and take on different characteristics - that serves as a reminder to let the beer 'bottle condition' as much as you be patient for!

The beauty of using Google Sheets to record your beer adventures is that you can download the application to your smartphone.

This means you can quickly add records as you go (maybe you're just hiding in the shed?) and you'll reduce the need to remember to add notes to an exercise book somewhere else later on. 

This is just the way I do it, an exercise book is of course just a fine solution!

Once you are a more experienced brewer you might not need to record so much as you'll know everything.

Or will you? 

Guess who left the spoon in the beer fermenter

Just a week after I wrote the 'I think I've contaminated my beer' post, this classic mistake happened. I'd just bottled a handy Black Rock NZ ale and went to clean the fermenter.

I found this spoon inside:

Spoon left in brew fermenter

My wife and I had been looking for that spoon for weeks!

I'd looked high and low and even behind the dishwasher with clearly no luck, and not even thinking that I had used the spoon to stir the beer wort.

I'm fairly confident the brew will be fine, a taste test proved it tasted like beer! Especially as I was a diligent brewmaster and sterilized everything before brewing.

How to make jelly bean beer

how to make jelly bean beer

Did you know you can use Jelly Beans as the sugar for the secondary fermentation? 

It's an amusing exercise to make Jelly Bean beer. The effect on the beer flavoring is interesting as I found that different coloured jelly beans produce different flavours...

First up I would suggest if you are making a 'fancy' beer where you've paid for a more specialist beer kit and you have a pretty sweet hop combo in mind that you don't try to make jelly bean beer with that particular brew.

This is because the bean will likely over power any hop subtleties you might be going for!

However, if you're doing a run-of-the-mill beer kit then while you are doing your normal bottling routine, you may want to have a crack at making beer with jelly beans.

The jelly bean is a substitute for your normal sugar so acts as the carbonation agent in the 2nd fermentation that occurs during bottle conditioning.

First, a wee caution.

It is very easy to over carbonate with jelly beans!

In my personal experience, you should not put more than three beans in one 750 ml bottle. Any more and you will probably get a classic gusher situation when you open the bottle.

So what are the best colours to use? First up, do not use the black ones if you like green beer that tastes pretty horrid! In my experience, black jelly beans are usually aniseed-based so are not really a complementary flavour for beer.

That said, it hasn't stopped people from adding aniseed to beer...

Instead, for this home brew enthusiast, oranges, reds and yellows seem to be fairly fun flavours to carbonate with. That flavour is a sweet sugary taste - albeit one that doesn't overwhelm the whole beer itself.

Greens, blues and purples will be OK but the colour of your brew might be a bit off-putting! Maybe if you were making an ale rather than a lager then the colour wouldn't be too bad.

So yes, despite what you may have heard, you can successfully make home brew with jelly beans, just add them when doing your bottling.

Your results, however, may vary!

Did hear about the guy that brewed with Mackintosh lollies?

How to easily bottle home brew beer (and condition it)

how to condition beer bottles

How to bottle and condition your home brew beer 

So once you are sure that fermentation is complete and you've let your beer sit for at least a week after the bubbles have stopped coming through the airlock  (or more properly, taken a gravity reading), then you're ready to bottle your homebrew.

Welcome to the big league boys, you're about to bottle beer!

What you need to bottle your beer
  • Enough bottles. If you have done 23 litres of beer then you would need 30 x 750 ml bottles. 
  • Bottle caps
  • A bottle capper
  • sanitizing agent
  • A big bucket receptacle for soaking bottles in
  • Ordinary sugar
  • Strong hands
What kind of bottles should I use for bottling?

You can use plastic or glass.

I use glass so I can recycle and feel good about saving the planet.

If you hate the planet you can use plastic.

The beauty of using plastic bottles is that if they over carbonate due to non complete fermentation or excessive priming sugar they will only split and not explode.

If you've ever seen a beer bottle explode spontaneously, you'll know what a damn mess it makes with glass everywhere!

You should also bear in mind that not all glass bottles are intended to be used for home brewing so may not be strong enough for both the fermentation process and the capping process so choose wisely - maybe even practice on the odd bottle to make sure it won't crack when you do the capping.

It's time to sterilise again

Just like you did when you prepared the beer batch, you are going to need to sterilize the beer bottles.

This is because the second round of fermentation is going to occur and again the yeast needs an opportunity do to its fermentation thing, free of microbes.

It's this secondary fermentation that puts the CO2 in your beer.

So get all your bottles in the receptacle that you are going to soak them in. I use a plastic washing basket that's big enough to hold all the bottles I need.

I then get some sodium percarbonate and add it to a cup of boiling water so it dissolves quickly.

I then add it to the basket and then get the garden hose and fill it up to the brim.

You will need to wrangle your bottles as they will try and float. Push them down with your hands and make sure they are all submerged to they all get the sanitizer in them.

They say you only need a minimum of 10 minutes to let them soak but having been burned before with a contaminate getting into my beer, I make sure there's little chance at the bottling stage. I leave them in to soak for a few hours and in direct sunlight if bottle.

As they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

That or run them through the dishwasher on a hot setting. That's what I do a lot of these days.

If all that seems just too difficult, you just get a bucket and fill it with your sterilizing powder.

You can then just dunk the bottles in, give them a quick swirl, drain the water back into the bucket. You can get the water out of the bottle quickly by giving it a couple of flicks of the wrist in a circular motion - the water will swirl out rather than 'bubbling out.

Whatever you do, when you're happy, drain your bottles and place them where you wish to do the bottling.

Filling the beer bottles

There are two ways you can add the sugar to your beer - you can prime the whole batch in one go by siphoning your beer into a second container and add your liquid sugar as you do so or you can add sugar to each bottle individually.

This is our preferred method as in our experience, it's less mucking around, which seems counter-intuitive but there you go.

A benefit of siphoning and then priming the batch is that there will be less sediment in your beer.

No one likes a beer gusher, so that's why I prefer batch priming as there is less chance of me screwing up.

While many beer brewers will suggest that you use a slightly heaped teaspoon of sugar for each bottle. I personally try and do a little less as some of my beers in the past have been over carbonated, due I think to too much sugar.

I like to use a small funnel to add the sugar in - it's quicker and less messy than trying to get the sugar in using just a spoon!

You are then ready to add the beer.

Simply place the bottle under the tap of your drum and you are good to go. Be wary of fast flowing beer.

Fill the bottles at a level that you would normally expect to see for commercial beer. That's about 40 mm from the top. As I understand it, that will assist with optimum secondary fermentation.

If you have a bottling wand, feel free to use it! Place it inside the tap. You'll need to be firm with it and also be aware that they can suddenly fly out with an open tap - meaning you'll lose beer.

So for that reason, I'd never wander away from the drum when there's a bottling valve in play.

It's also capping day!

When you've filled all your bottles it's now time to cap the bottles.

That process should be self-explanatory and relative to the kind of capper you have. The key thing to remember is to check that each cap has made a satisfactory seal.

If you can hear hissing from a bottle, the seal was not done correctly. Remove the cap and try again with a new cap.

I also mark all the seals with a Vivid or Sharpie so that I know what the particular batch is. This is pretty important when you have different batches and different kinds of beers on the go!

You may wish to give the successfully bottles a gentle tip or two to make sure that all the sugar is in the liquid (not stuck on the inside of the beer neck) and has a chance to dissolve.

Bottling beer can be a time consuming exercise so either make sure you can be free from interruptions or you can choose to bottle in small groups e.g. 5- 10 bottles at a time when you have a spare moment. This won't cause any problems.

The best way to store and condition bottled beer

Temperature has a massive effect on beer both in terms of the brewing and condition.

In terms of bottle conditioning, it's best initially to store your beer in a warm place. This will encourage secondary fermentation (this is sometimes described as bottle conditioning).

The ideal temperature range is between approx 18 - 25°C for 5 to 7 days.

HOWEVER, after that period, you should leave them in a much cooler place with a temperature range between approx 8 - 12°C.

You should then leave the beer for a total minimum of three weeks since bottling date before some well-deserved consumption.

You should not easily dismiss this advice about correct temperature storage of your beer. I had an experience last year when in the middle of winter I just bottled the beer and left it in the shed for about a month.

When I when to crack open the first beer, there was no fizz, just cold flat beer.

No fizz on the second or third either.

I thought I had ruined my beer somehow. 'Had fermentation actually occurred'? I wondered. Of course it had. The problem was the cold. I brought the beers inside and left them in the living room. I waited a week for the yeast to warm up and do its secondary fermentation thing, and boom I had fizzy beer!

Winning.

The longer you wait, the better your beer will be.

Direct sunlight exposure can ruin homebrew


Never store your beer in direct sunlight.

The UV radiation can cause a chemical reaction to occur, making your beer taste awful or be 'skunked'. This particularly occurs for green bottled beer. Brown bottles not so much. Either way, you still need to keep your beers at the correct temperature and leaving them in direct sunlight will screw that up.