Why does my beer smell like rotten eggs?

Why does my beer smell like rotten eggs?

Who likes the smell of rotten eggs in their beer?

No one.

There was a time last year when I went to bottle my beer.

I'd just sterilized the bottles within an inch of their lives and I was ready to get the precious amber fluid into them.

And with that first pour from the fermenter into the green glass bottle, I got the most rank smell.




Rotten Eggs.

It was like I had cracked open a rotten egg and fanned it up my nose!

It was disgusting like some kind of vile hydrogen sulfide bomb had been let off and the aroma was trying to burn my nostrils.

My brew was contaminated and I was gutted

There could have been a couple of reasons why the rotten eggy smell was happening. That rotten egg smell can usually be identified as the gas hydrogen sulfide.

It's probably the most obvious symptom that your beer has become contaminated.

It is the bi-product of the yeast strain or bacteria that have snuck into your brew (did we ever mention you've got to sanitize your equipment?).

The thing about lagers and rotten smells

All is not necessarily lost, however.

You can fix this problem if the sulfide was produced by the yeast and not bad bacteria.

Lager yeast strains are quite prone to producing sulfide odours.

This is normal.

If you properly condition your bottled beer (the lagering process) by letting it stand for a few weeks, the smell should go away before it's time to drink.

This why we also recommend that new brewers try an ale or two first to avoid this problem and being disappointed with their foray into brewing. 

The news is not so good if you have a bacterial infection 

When is such news ever good?

In my case, I think it was clear that the beer was infected. The smell was pungent and a wee taste test suggested worse things were on offer.

But even though I was pretty sour, I was a stubborn bugger and bottled anyway on the off chance a bit of time conditioning would let everything sort itself out.

How wrong was I?!

The beer I tasted after two weeks was probably the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth and I once lost a beer drinking game involving a rinsed out kitchen cloth...

I reckon this bad beer would have made me sick if I had of drank a whole glass.

The rest of the brews were opened and tipped out. What was very interesting was there was a massive amount of CO2 / bubbles foam released when each cap was removed. They were giant gushers!  I imagine this was due to the unwanted bacteria continuing to work its own fermenting magic on the malt.

Either way, the lesson here as always is to do your absolute best to ensure that you have clean equipment and that you've done your best to sanitize it, and kept it clean during the beer brewing process.

If you find your beer in this condition before bottling, I'm afraid all you can do is dump the batch.

And then clean the heck of your fermenter and bottles!

This was a brewing lesson I will never forget. I'll be lax in some areas but will always make sure my equipment is clean and sanitized!

Skunked beer

While we're here talking about ruined beer, let's talk about skunked beer. This is when a chemical reaction happens in the bottled beer due to exposure to sunlight.

So named after the smell a skunk can release, lightstruck beer is caused by the UV radiation in light from the sun and retailer's lights. The so-alpha acids in the beer (which come from hops) are broken down and form a new compound in the beer by joining with any proteins floating around.

This compound stinks!

Brown glass is pretty handy at preventing this from occurring but not so much green bottles or clear glass. So, the trick to avoiding skunked beer is clearly to store your beer in the dark.

In summary:
  • If you are brewing a lager, the smell could be 'normal' and may disappear after the beer has been conditioned
  • It could well be your beer is contaminated by bacteria, in which case nothing will save it. Head to the pub for a self-pitying pint.
  • Lightstruck or skunked beer can happen when the bottled beer is left in sunlight too long.
  • Let your beer condition properly so that the yeast has time to work it's magic properly.

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
Light Beer 
Ale, more malty beer

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.

7 reasons why as a home beer brewer, you’re allowed to be smug. But just a little bit.

7 reasons why as a home beer brewer, you’re allowed to be smug. But just a little bit.

Just a little bit smug though. No one likes a smug ass, no matter how good their beer tastes.

1. You’ve put in the damn hard work, and dammit Jim, your’re a beer brewer not a doctor! That’s right as a brewer, you’ve slogged and sweated over your beer. You’ve

2. You’re a back yard pioneer. Yes, you invented that stout based, Fuggles hopped, honey and raspberry recipe by hard graft of experiment. Yes, you found a way to convert your fridge into a keg dispenser.

3. You’re like a beer wizard, Harry. You make the magic happen. You got the yeast choice just right. You found a way to keep your wort fermentation at just the right temperature and you are the one you added that secret ingredient that gave your beer that hallowed by thy beer drinking experience.

4. You can be smug because suddenly your partner who hardly ever drinks beer suddenly starts ‘tasting’ your beers more frequently.

5. You can be a little bit smug because you are part of the beer revolution. You are sticking it to the corporate beer brewer who for years has refused to change. They have awoken from their stupor.

6. No longer will young men and woman learn to drink mass produced beer that was marketed to them on the television by some big hot shot sports star. No, they will know that the key to a great beer drinking experience is by discovering delicious craft beer beverages – and your demand for quality beer has driven this sea change.

7. You made beer. Enough said.

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!

⇒ A simple guide to home brewing beer (or else just ask your dad how to do it)

how to brew beer guide


A simple guide to home brewing beer

You want to know how to make great home brew right? 

This free guide will help you on your way to make great tasting beer in your own home or garden shed. 

It will:
  • Take you through step by step the brewing processes
  • Point out some easy mistakes to watch out for
  • Suggest some tips and tricks for you to try
It’s a must read before you build that microbrewery in your shed!

We've broken it down into sections so you can get on with brewing

  • 7 tips for the beginner beer brewer
  • The best beginner's guide to easy brewing beer
  • How to bottle your beer, the best way
  • Tricks and tip for when home brewing beer
  • Do I have to sanitize my brewing equipment every time I make beer?
  • How do I tell if my beer fermented properly?
  • So why wasn't there any bubbles in the airlock?
  • 5 mistakes every beer maker should watch out for

7 tips for the beginner beer brewer to think about before starting brewing

If you're about to take the brewing plunge and brew your first batch of home brew beer, you're already a champion! 

If you take the time to do it well you will be rewarded with a refreshingly delicious beverage.

A strong start to your 'brewing campaign' will give you the confidence that brewing homebrew is actually fairly easy and you might continue with it as a hobby.

It should be considered a sport, but for the purists...

There's definitely a lot to learn, so if you are a first-time beer brewer, you might want to have a gander at these basic brewing tips before you begin.

1. That starter beer kit your partner gave you for Christmas is not enough

While the beer kit you were given for Christmas by your loving wife or partner will help you on your way to making a good home brew beer, you can do better. 

Kits that only come with sugar or dextrose alone will contribute to a beer that's weak in the sense that it will seem thin in terms of its 'mouth feel'.

Think of mouth feel as that sense of 'full heartiness' that you get from that first mouthful of a well-deserved beer. In response to this need, the home brewer should consider adding more malt - either liquid or dry malt. 

For the dry malt, a 'brew enhancer' pack is what you need.

In this writer's experience, making a homebrew beer kit without the enhancer most definitely results in a weak beer, so make sure your starter brewing kit comes with it or at the least, head to your local brew shop and grab a packet. 

It shouldn't cost more than ten bucks and it's worth the extra expense.

You should also get some hops!

green hops
Hops on the plant
While malt kits come with 'pre-mixed' hops, you may wish to consider adding extra hops to your brew. 

There are plenty of different kinds of hops, and for best results match the kind of beer you are brewing to the hops known to best complement that style.

You can add hops at any time you like. Do try Riwaka!

adding hops to home brew beer
Delicious beer hops - it's easy to add them to your brew

2. You'd best first brew a dark beer like 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 home brew so a basic 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 beer kits do come with lagers, bear in mind that lagers need to be cooled rather more quickly than an ale or stout and they can also require a bit more yeast in the fermentation process.

3. In the cold, cold night

Fermentation is a process that requires just the right kind of temperatures and the right kind of times. Different temperatures brew different kinds of beers. A constant temperature is also very important as the yeast can react to a temperature variance in ways that are not good for tasty beer! 

So when doing your first brews, make sure it can be done in a warmish area and one that's going to keep that temperature fairly constant. 

A very rough guide is that you should aim to brew lagers between 10-14 degrees and get those ales done between 18-21 degrees.

4. You don't need to bottle straight away, just because the fermentation bottle has stopped bubbling

If the bubbles in the airlock appear to have finished, this is not necessarily a sign that the fermentation process has halted. It's quite likely that there's still some fermentation quietly happening in the plastic fermenter drum or carboy

So let that play out a while longer. 

Be patient. 

It could be that you let your beer rest longer than the written instructions that came with your beer kit. When you've given your beer a fair chance, cold crash (if you are able to) and then bottle away.

5. But don't bottle too early as well!

Simply put, don't bottle your beer too early. This is basically point four repeated. If you bottle before fermentation has completed, you could be in for some trouble with gushers and exploding beer. 

Did you ever see that Breaking Bad episode where Hank woke up in the middle of the night thinking he was being shot at but in reality, it was just his home brew exploding

That's what happens if you bottle your beer too early. 

Don't be like Hank Schrader, let your beer rest in the fermenter just a little bit longer. There's a real likelihood your beer will taste better for it.

6. Using a hydrometer will help you develop your home brewer's 'Sixth Sense'

When used correctly, a hydrometer, will help you to work out when your beer batch has finished fermenting. 

If you get the same reading twice in a row, the fermentation process has likely finished - but if I was me, 

I'd leave it just a couple of days before I'd bottle. Trust me on this one. 

You can also use the hydrometer to work out the alcohol content of your beer. Make sure you take your readings! Going through this exercise really improved my understanding of part of the science behind making beer. 

7. Good things come to those who wait

Yep, this is the second time you are going to have to be a patient brewer. 

Once you've managed to get your precious liquid gold into your well-sterilized bottles we can only imagine how keen you are to sample your efforts. You're going to have to wait. The instructions in your beer kit may suggest you need to wait two or three weeks.

Believe them.

Let your beer have time to make those bubbles.

You will be rewarded with a better tasting beer. If you can't wait, get yourself busy with a second brew and at the very least, give your equipment a good clean.

So that's plenty of tips and tricks to beer in mind! And now onto actually making beer!

So you're ready to brew? It's time for the beginner's guide ...

This simple guide will take you through making your first batch of beer, step by step, guiding you through like an angel sent from the Beer Gods themselves...

There can be nothing more rewarding after a hard day's work than a delicious homemade beer. 

This beginner's guide is a 'how to' for using beer kits. There is no boiling of the wort wizardry here, just home brewing 101 tips.

The brewing of beer is an act of scientific exploration. It's the science of fermentation, bacteria and microscopic fungus commonly known as yeast. It's also about good old home economics and it's a little bit about applying some common sense.

If you follow this beer making advice (and of course give due consideration to the instructions that come on the can of malt - due consideration, not slavish attention!) you probably won't stray too far from producing a beer that you will enjoy to drink.

You are ready to make beer!

I'm going to assume you have a brand new beer extract 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.
  • You have all the ingredients and supplies to hand. A can of malt extract with some yeast (and it's not an old can). 
  • Some brewing sugar, dextrose or a brew enhancer (we really recommend the enhancer).
  • You will have all the equipment, a lot of which can be picked up from a home brew store or home improvement store. You'll have a giant plastic bottle or possibly a 30 litre drum or 5-gallon glass carboy). Be ready to make about 23 litres of beer. 
  • You have access to boiling water and also to cold water. You might even have bought some beer hops to add to your wort.
  • You'll have a clean working space such as a clean 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. 
  • If you're a pro, you might have a really good pH meter to test your mash.

It's now time to clean and sanitize your beer making equipment

Your beer wort needs a warm and clean environment in which to start fermentation. 

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

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

Use 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 beer bugs to find a spot to launch an attack on your wort in there).

If you are going to be a backyard beer brewing, this probably is the start of your habit of cleaning and sanitizing all your equipment every single time you make beer.

There are plenty of beer-making methods. We can do it in four easy 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.

Just like this picture here.

If brewing during winter, I leave it sitting on the top of my closed fireplace, this works quite well.

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. 

It probably helps to keep things clean. Gosh knows where my hands have been! 

Add your extract malt with 3 litres of boiling water to your fermenter. Stir with a sterilized stirring device until it's all dissolved.

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

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 very clean and drinkable. 

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. The basic rule is if you can handle drinking a glass of water from it, that's your source for your beer batch.

Fill your fermenter to 6 gallons of water or to the 23 litre mark. Stick with that, your malt kit recipe has been designed with exactly this amount of water in mind. If you add too much water, you will dilute your beer. 

Adding less water may result in a stronger beer but at the potential risk of changing the kind of beer you are making. Your beer may possibly feel a bit too sugary or dry to taste.

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 it into to your fermenter and worry about that kind of issue when it actually occurs.

I have never had any issues with the yeast that's come from a yeast kit - however I totally recommend using the popular Safale 05 Yeast as it's tried and true.


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. 

Pro tip: You may want to have chilled the wort and then aerated it with oxygen.

That said in my experience just pitch the yeast into the drum or carboy when you're ready. But be warned, only pitch your yeast when you've added the extra cold water - if you pitch your yeast directly into the boiled wort, you will kill the yeast and you will not have fermentation occur at all.

Step 4 - 'Hop' to it, my little bunny

You're nearly done! 

If your beer 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 (some really keen people use Vodka to keep bugs out! Which is crazy as you're trying to make alcohol, not waste it). 

You'll use this airlock 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 is not happening. It could simply mean you didn't tighten the drum cap firmly enough.

Step 5 - Let fermenting beer lie - be patient 

It is now a waiting game. 

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

Set and forget...
working out alcohol content
Taking a hydrometer reading

Well not quite - if you have a hydrometer, take a reading and write it down somewhere.

You will need the record to be able to work out when fermentation is complete and also work out the alcohol content ABV of your beer (see the link above for how to do the equation).

A loose guide to knowing when fermentation has usually completed when the bubbles have finished passing through the airlock. You can also use your hydrometer. If you have two consistent readings over two days, primary fermentation is complete. You can use this final reading to determine your ABV level.

Once you are fairly confident this is the case, you can begin to think about bottling your beer

That said:

This is an occasion where you might want to consider completely ignore the instructions on the can and leave your brew in the fermenter for about 2 weeks. Leaving your beer to brew a few days more is important! 

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.

So be patient!

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 and let it cool.
5. Add the airlock, firmly seal the drum
6. Ensure fermentation is complete. 
7. Bottle when ready but it's best to let your brew sit for a while

So that's the rough guide to brewing beer from a kit. As you can read, it's a pretty straightforward exercise and you don't need a Bachelor of Food Technology to get it right.

So now it's time to bottle your 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, then you're ready to bottle your homebrew. 

What equipment 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. Plastic or glass, it doesn't matter
  • Bottle caps
  • A bottle capper
  • sanitizing agent, such as sodium percarbonate
  • A big bucket or receptacle for soaking bottles in
  • Ordinary sugar (sucrose)
  • Spoon

What kind of bottles do I need to use for bottling?

You can use plastic or glass. I use glass so I can recycle and feel good about saving the planet (yes, I'm a hero, send me a medal or some beer). If you truly hate planet Earth you can use plastic but be warned, they break easily, especially if you re-use them.

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 shards everywhere! 

Not to mention it could be pretty awful if you were standing next to one at the time it blew...

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. 

Yes, it's time to bloody sanitise again

Just like you did when you brewed you beer batch, you are going to need to sanitise the beer bottles. 

This is because a second round of fermentation is going to occur and again the yeast needs an opportunity do to its thing, free of microbes that could be lurking on the inside of the bottles.

It's this secondary fermentation that puts the CO2 in your beer and cleans up the remaining sugars. 

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 so they all get the sanitiser 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 possible for as they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

If all that seems just too difficult and you are time short, you just get a bucket and fill it with your steriliser powder. You can then just dunk the bottles in, give them a quick swirl, drain the water back into the bucket. 

The beauty of many sanitizers is that they are 'no rinse'.

Whatever you do, when you're happy, drain your bottles and place them where you wish to do the bottling. I often do it on the picnic table in the backyard where there is plenty of space. A clean kitchen bench is handy too.

Frankly there's a pretty handy cheat if you can't be bothered - but your bottles in the dish washer on the hottest wash setting. I find this method works really well. 

Filling the bottles with beer and sugar

There are two ways you can add the sugar to your beer - you can prime the whole batch in one go by adding your liquid sugar into the fermenter or you can add sugar to each bottle individually. 

The former is our preferred method as in our experience, it's less mucking around, 

Some brewers like to siphon the fermented beer into a second drum in the belief that there will be less sediment in your beer.

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 being put in.

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 to 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 bottle capper you have. 

The key thing to remember is to check that each cap as 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 to make sure that all the sugar is in the liquid and has a chance to dissolve. This is also an opportunity to inspect for broken seals.

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 bottles at a time when you have a spare moment. This won't cause any problems. You cannot, of course, do bottling piecemeal if you have batch primed as the beer will keep fermenting on the added sugars.

Proper storage of your beer

It's often best to initially store your beer in a warm place. This will encourage secondary fermentation to commence (this is sometimes described as bottle conditioning). 

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

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 freezing cold. I brought the beers inside and left them in my warm living room. I waited a week, and boom I had fizzy beer. #winning. 

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

Here's a boat load more tricks and tips and mistakes to watch out for when brewing beer

glass of beer with nice head.

Do I have to sanitize my brewing equipment every time I make beer?

I thought we went through this. Yes, you do bloody have to clean, sanitize and sterilize your beer brewing equipment, right down to the bottle caps and stirring spoon.

There are plenty of tricks and cheats you can do to product quality tasting beer but the one thing you can't escape from is the proper cleaning, sanitizing and sterilization of your beer gear.

There's a difference between sanitizing and sterilizing. 

Sanitizing is a technical term that means a certain allowable amount of microbes to survive on the surface of your equipment. Sterilizing is like sanitizing, but it removes all the microorganisms (the bugs and germs that will ruin your beer).

Think of washing your hands with hot water and soap as sanitization as it kills a few bugs but not all and is an acceptable means of cleaning your hands.

If you want to kill all the bugs on your hand so the skin is sterile with no bugs on it anywhere, then I suggest you boil your hands in water...

For the most part, the typical home brewers don't need to sterilize, only sanitize. The chemicals commonly used for homebrew brewing are made to sanitize.

Now we've got those definitions clear, there are several methods that you can try to 'sterilize' your gear. 

We'll note a couple in detail:

You can drown everything in bleach

A cheap and cost-effective way to get your gear free of bugs is to drown your gear in bleach.

But what is bleach?

Bleach is usually a solution of chemicals such as sodium hypochlorite or hydrogen peroxide and they act as an oxidising agent.

They are great for all kinds of things such as removing bad smells, making your whites whiter and your brights brighter and for home brewing. A popular American brand of bleach is Chlorox but there are hundreds of brands of bleach you could use.

Use sodium percarbonate as a sanitizing agent

Using sodium percarbonate is our preferred method as it works well, no rinse is required and it's very easy to order in bulk online.

If you've ever tried to buy sodium percarbonate from a specialist beer brewery shop, you'll know that you can get a small bottle or container of it that will cost you a small fortune.

If you can buy it in bulk from online supplier, you'll do well to nab some as using it will effectively bring down your cost per brew. 

To use sodium percarbonate you simply add it to water. I like to add hot or ever boiling water to the drum so as to get the action of the chemical happening pretty quickly. The boiling water also helps kill off any nasty bugs hiding about as well.

using laundry soaker for beer bottle sanitisation
A home brand with sodium percabonate.
Here's another trick, this chemical is basically what you might know as Tide or Napisan or any product that's brand name tries to use the word 'oxy' as in oxygen cleaning or oxidization agent.

Chances are you already have some in your home laundry so feel free to use that. I have done so several times with no problems whatsoever. Non scented house brands are awesome.

Other methods of sanitisation and sterilization

How can I tell if my beer fermented properly?

Fermentation is the name of the game when making beer. If you don't have fermentation, you simply don't have beer. You have just have a 23-litre bucket of watery malt.

Home brewers can face fermentation issues and a common problem is that fermentation has not begun. A typical sign is that there are no bubbles coming through the airlock. Is this really a sign of a lack of fermentation?

The first thing to beer in mind is that it can take at least 15 - 24 hours before the bubbles start gurgling through the airlock, longer if it's cold.

Don't go drowning your sorrows just yet if the bubbles haven't started. If you think that your beer hasn't started brewing there's some problem solving you can do. 

If you are using a glass fermenter you can look for a dark scum that rings around the water level mark.

Or check for signs of foam.

If using a plastic drum you might be able to see through to check for the scum. Another trick is to take out the airlock and try and peek through the whole to identify scum or foam. If it's there, fermentation is happening.

You could also check the gravity by using a hydrometer. I'll assume you know how to use one.  The beer has usually finished fermenting if the final gravity reading is 1/3 to 1/4 of the original gravity. This, of course, means you took a reading when you first prepared your beer.

If you have the same reading 24 hours apart - that's your final reading and an indication that the fermentation is finished. 

Remember, don't bottle your beer just yet, let it mellow for a bit longer. The longer the better your brew will probably be.

Testing for correct pH Levels

Beer brewers who think like scientists will test that their beer is within the ideal range for beer brewing. A beer with a pH balance that is is outside the range of 5 - 5.5 ph, give or take will not produce the best results. You can test for pH using paper strips or for a very accurate result, use a digital pH tester.

We recommend the Milwaukee digital tester brand. 

So why wasn't there any bubbles in the airlock? 

That's a fair question to ask. It could be that there was a leak that allows the CO2 to escape (to teach you to suck rotten eggs, those bubbles in the airlock are carbon dioxide gas, the by-product of fermentation). 

You may have not tightened the drum enough or possible not screwed in the tap properly. It's a good idea to check this is the case before you worry too much.

If you didn't see any signs of fermentation it could be that it's too cold to brew. Is your batch of beer in a warm enough place? If you're brewing during summer months, it's probably not too cold.

If you've left your beer in a cold place in the shed, then it may be. If this is the case then you might want to consider moving your fermenter.

You could consider wrapping it with blankets. This is a handy trick and will help to keep the chill off your beer. I suspect this trick works best if the beer is already warm enough to brew...

Here's some problem solving tips for when you don't see airlock bubbles:

  • Check for leaks that allow the CO2 to escape - tighten the drum
  • Look for foamy residue
  • Look for scum residue
  • Make sure the temperature is appropriate for the kind of beer you are making
  • Consider using a heat pad to ensure a consistent temperature

beer bottles for brewing

Here's 5 mistakes every novice beer maker should watch out for

1. Wash, wash away your sins

We actually mean sterilize. 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.

2. Temperature 

It would be a mistake to think that home brewing is basically a 'set and forget' process. It's not. Well, it can be and a key part of that is making sure that where ever you leave your beer to ferment that it's a place that has the desired temperature and that it is a constant temperature.

Don't leave your beer outside on the back porch to do its thing! Leave it wrapped in blankets in your garden shed if you have to, but make sure it's in a generally constantly heated place.

My work colleague leaves her beer brewing in the bathtub!

I recommend these thermometers to help with your brewing.

3. Those bubbles...

Just because the bubbles have stopped bubbling through the airlock, it doesn't mean the fermentation process is complete. It would be a real shame for your bottled beer to start exploding if you haven't given the beer a chance to finish the process. Use a hydrometer to ensure the fermentation is finished before you at least consider getting that beer into glass bottles.

Hint, wait some more time as well.

3. Running before you can walk

Get the basics of beer brewing down first. Before you run off and try and make the most fanciest beer you can that features some imported yeast from England and three different kinds of hops, learn the principles of beer making.

You will enjoy your first few brewing experiences if you keep them simple. Then you can start to branch out into more complicated recipes and practices.

4. Not keeping records of what you did

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 judgements 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 figure out just exactly how that happened. It could be the difference between remembering that you used a certain kind of hops in your brew!

5.  You drink your beer way too early

Patience my young Padawan. It is a mistake for sure to drink your beer too early. Post bottling, your beer needs time to carbonate. It also needs time to chill and do its thing. The fermentation process is in a sense a simple chemical reaction but there is a complex relationship going on with the beer's ingredients that need time to sort themselves out.

The patient beer drinker who leaves his beer at least three weeks before indulging will be a better beer maker for it. If you can make it to 5 or 6 weeks before you taste, the better your beer should taste.