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How to get that bottle washing done quickly!

how to attach a brush to a drill for bottle washing

Not a bad way to help get those glass bottles clean!

Bottle washing sure can be a chore but with a bit of DIY, problem solved.

Take your bottle brush, cut the end off and then add it to your electric drill as you would your drill bit.

You do need to make sure that the brush is well set into the drill so make sure you have enough width for the drill head to really clamp down on.

Photo Credit: Ryan @ Home Brew Blog NZ

Ideas to make a Winter Christmas brew

winter christmas brew ideas

Mistletoe and Wine?

No, it's time for some brewing if you get the chance!

But what are some good brews to have a crack at over Christmas?

Depending on where you live, you're either in the heart of winter or you're enjoying t-shirts and shorts under the summer sky.

But if you're at the top of the world, perhaps somewhere in the latitude of the North Pole, winter naturally suggests that it's time for some winter ales!

A winter Christmas the diet might consist of figgy puddings, mince pies, toffee treats, caramel chews and the odd bit of dried fruit. And these food items contain 'note flavours ' that can be fairy good in an ale.

And that's not to forget cookies, mulled wine and other spices like cinnamon and orange zest.

All these things and more can go into your winter beer.

So what am I blathering on about?

Basically I'm suggesting one could make a beer which matches the food fare served on Christmas day!

Let's start with the basics. You're going to need to consider what your 'base beer' should be. Here's some traditional ideas for a Christmas or winter brew:
  • Ales!
  • Stouts, Porters
  • Wheat
  • Scotch Ale
  • Old Ale
  • Dark malty beer!
  • Nut Brown Ale
  • An old fashioned doppelbock 
One you've decided on the base you need to think about how you are going to impart some of those holiday season flavour characteristics.

There are several options to choose from...
  • Spice Up Your Life was not just an amazing mega hit song for the Spice Girls, it's a way of life for many brewers. The beer most suited to the addition of spice is a moderately dark, alcoholic beer (often an Old Ale) that has a good body to complement the cold weather and choice of spices. Just make sure you don't add the spice from Dune or your eyes will go blue! Certainly, never over spice your beer. 
  • A Belgian-style ale can be flavored with cherries and honey. Goes well with waffles, I'm told.
  • This next one may seem odd but people do seem to love a batch of Christmas cookies and if for some unfathomable reason you want your beer to taste like a biscuit, make a sweet ale and a hint of lactic acidic to get that 'warm biscuit feel'. If you're brave add a hint of maple syrup.  
  • If you're going for that classic Christmas cake vibe, why not try using some dried (or zest) citrus peel (orange and lemon), or dried fruit such as raisins or plums?
  • Coriander. It adds a lemony, spicy flavor and aroma. Coriander is typically used in Belgian ales, especially witbiers. Crush the seeds well before adding to the wort.
  • Try a combo of a cranberry and orange zest.
  • Gingerbread spices
  • Juniper berries (wanna make some gin?)
  • Mint (actually this sounds  like bloody awful idea- Ed)
  • Mulled wine
  • Chocolate. There's many a recipe out there that incorporates chocolate.

It's important to not overspice your homebrew! How much spice is too much? 


Let's look to what the much vaunted brewer John Palmer says. For his "Ol' Yule Loggy" Christmas beer, he uses 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon each of nutmeg and allspice. You can find the recipe in Palmer's Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew.

When should I brew my winter ale?


If you want to be drinking on Christmas Day, we suggest you brew two months in advance.

That is to say, you should get your brew down by the last week of October so that it has time to bottle condition nicely. There's nothing like a well condition ale so ensure you stick to this time table, especially if you want the characteristics you've worked so hard to product to really shine.

A last few points:


  • When brewing your holiday beer, consider that you might want to use as an additional fermentable such as honey, molasses, maple or golden syrup
  • What you may want to use less of is hops. This is beacause a beer with too much hops character would contradict the spices. 
  • You'll have to think of a cool name for your Christmas beer. Ruddolph's Revenge, Sozzled Santa, Who ate all the pies? 

How to save time and make beer bottling easier


Bottling beer efficiently to save time


There's no doubt that the care and maintenance of beer bottles to ensure a good brew can be a pain in the ass to keep up and get right.

From cleaning the bottles, removing labels, sanitising, filling and capping there's a lot to take care of and it can take a fair amount of time to get bottling done.

The obvious answer to save time is to keg your beer but for many brewers, that's a step too far both in the scale of their brewing and expense.

So for those keen beer bottlers, here are 5 ways to cut down on bottling time and getting your beer in the bottle more easily

Sanitize all your bottles at once in a big enough bucket


Sanitizing your beer bottles is a key element of beer brewing to keep those bugs at bay. A trick I like to do is dump all my bottles in a giant plastic washing basket, drop in some sodium percarbonate and fill it all up with the garden hose.

It's a pretty efficient way of ensuring you have healthy clean bottles ready because of you are bottling 23 liters of beer, a 30 or 35 liter bucket will be enough for all the necessary bottles to be covered in percarbonate solution.

The beauty of the sodium percarbonate is that it's 'no rinse' so you just need to empty the bottles and you are good to begin bottling.

So, now your bottles are sanitized, you may now wish to consider batch priming.

Batch Priming Beer to save time


In short, priming the batch is when one adds the entire amount of sugar needed to the fermenter so that when you fill each bottle, you don't need to add sugar as well, it's already in the beer wort. 

It saves you time as you don't need to add sugar to each individual bottle and it also saves you mess as we all know how sugar can end up everywhere when bottling!

This sounds simple right?

It really is.


How much sugar do I need to prime a batch or beer?


Batch priming benefits from some simple calculations that can be made to get that sugar just right.

If you're using a kit, you've probably used 23 litres (5 gallons) so the focus is on how much sugar you need to use. 

So first up, different beers need different levels of sugar. Advice from people who have brewed many beers suggests that ales need less sugar than lager style beers.

This is because many drinkers prefer a lager to have more carbonation and ales are quite drinkable with less.

Our analysis of beer brewing forums suggests these are the commonly used amounts of sugars to use for priming for a 23 liter brew.
  • Dextrose (Corn sugar) 3/4 cup or 4 or 5 oz / 95 grams
  • Cane sugar 2/3 cup or 3.8 - 4.8 oz / 86 grams
  • Dry Malt Extract - 130 grams
If you are priming with a different volume of beer, I suggest you try this priming calculator.

There's a reason Cinderella's Fairy God Mother used a wand


A bottling wand can help make bottling beer so easy.

You just stick the wand into the tap. You can then bottle without the need to turn the fermenter tap on and off because the wand's automatic foot-valve can control the flow of beer into the bottle when you touch the bottom of it to the bottom of the beer bottle!

Using a bottling wand also very handily keeps too much oxygen from entering your beer!

Capping your beer - two tools to do it


Beer cappers come in two forms being the hand held and the bench capper, one is easier than the other.

The 'wing' hand held capper


The hand held wing capper is a popular way to cap your beer. Often referred to as universal Rigamonti cappers  or the Red Baron, they are pretty handy and durable to use.

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, which is something that really bugs me.

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.

If you get into a good rhythm, you can cap bottles very quickly, especially if you line them up with the caps on the top and go down them like a factory line.

You may wish to consider using oxygen absorbing bottle caps to help retain hop flavors.

The bench capper method of bottling


The bench capper can be easier to use because it's a simple pull-down lever action that one does with one hand whilst the other hand holds the bottle firmly in place. 

If you think a bench capper is for you we suggest that you buy one that accommodates 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.

Any decent beer cap should have a magnet where the cap goes so that it doesn't fall out just as you go to clamp it down!

So well done, you have easily bottled your beer and hopefully saved yourself some time. 

Your work is not finished 


No, you need to properly condition your beer and that doesn't mean you hide it under a tired blanket in an old swap-a-crate box and forget about it for a few weeks. 

Well actually you can do this if you want to be a reckless beer brewer, but if you want beer that you would be proud to share with friends,  there's a few things to think about when storing beer.

Here's some things to think about when storing your beer.
  • It's really good to have a storage place where the temperature is maintained at a steady rate.
  • Ales are condition best at lower temperatures
  • Lagers are happier to condition under higher temperatures
  • The middle of your house is probably cooler than nearer the outside. That could be a factor where you store beer.
  • If you find your beers are in too hot a place, move them!
  • Whatever you do, keep them away from direct sunlight
Now let that beer rest quietly for at least three weeks. Before you enjoy that first taste test, refrigerate your beer for at least a few hours. 

Should you use plastic instead of glass to ferment beer? (it's not about saving the planet)

using plastic for brewing

I saw on the 'net there had been some debate on NOT using plastic fermenters because of the risk of beer infection.


I thought this was a subject worth investigating further.

All I ever use is plastic fermenters and having only ever had one incident of infection which occurred to two different fermenters used in the same batch, I could be confident that I've never had an infection caused by using a plastic fermenter (what would the odds have been?!)

So what's the argument from the naysayers?

The reasoning is that given plastic is more easily scratched than glass those scratches can harbour bacteria so, the risk of infection is greater.

This seems a reasonable argument right?

And the simple solution would be to not scratch the plastic as you are cleaning and sanitizing right?

Given my experience and the fact there are millions of plastic fermenters safely and happily in use around all corners of the globe, then there is nothing much to worry about.

That's provided of course that you follow a proper cleaning process before you add your beer wort for primary fermentation. 


Any decent beer brewer will tell you that the number one key to beer making success is by adopting methodical cleaning and sanitization practices every time you make beer.

We've covered this need before, but our favorite trick is to use sodium percarbonate and not being shy about using boiling water to kill bugs.

Home brewers around the world often swear by the ability of PBW to get their brewing gear brew ready.

So, to be clear I don't see the threat of infection as a reason to not use a plastic fermenter.

Sure, if they get too old or scratched you might totally want to replace one but on a cost basis when compared to glass carboys, they are a lot cheaper, indeed a check on Amazon shows that a carboy is generally roughly twice the price.

Indeed, if you are new to home brewing, the use of a plastic drum is a great way to start where you don't have to worry about damaging the glass!

Oxygen and beer ageing


Aging beer is perhaps a reason that you may wish to use something other than a plastic fermenter. The reasoning here is that it's a bit easier for oxygen to enter the beer via plastic than it is beer.

If you weren't aware, other then when first mixing the wort, beer is best brewed with minimal exposure to O2 - and it's the same when bottling your beer as well.

That said the difference in permeability between glass and plastic arguably negligible when you consider most oxygen exchange is occurring through the bung and airlock.

ALSO, if you are trying to mimic the effect of a barrel aged beer using oak, then some brewers do consider that some oxygen will help!

What you could do is do your primary fermentation in plastic and then if you intend to age a stout or whatever for a long time, you can transfer it to a secondary glass carboy.

Also (2!) bare in mind that by making such a transfer you create an opportunity for oxygen to enter the beer.

Whatever way you go, you totally need to keep your vessel free from a large amount of oxygen entering as it can assist with the growth of mould or other nasties and we really don't want that do we?

As you can see, it's a vicious cycle of contradictory information!

↠ When to add more sugar to your beer (and when to use less)



Sugar!


It's a silent killer say the health specialists.

It's the devil's food!

Diabetus!

And yet we need sugar to make beer.

The real question is how much do we need to use?

That answer to that question is kind of like when Gandalf says to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Rings: "A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.”

Which kind of says to me you should use as much sugar as you need or as little as you need depending on what you need to make great beer.

Sounds like some ropey logic right? 

Hear me out.

Have you ever had a beer gusher

It's when you open your beer and whoosh! the beer zings out in a foaming stream and your beer drinking experience is ruined. 

It looks a bit like this:



So in that sense, you don't want to add too much sugar to your beer if you are bottle conditioning with sugar.

But if you are wanting to increase the alcohol content (ABV) of your beer, then you will need to add more sugar at the primary fermentation stage.

And thus it's about knowing when to add sugar to the beer and when not to.

Let's talking about increasing the ABV of your beer


When when your beer wort is undergoing fermentation what happens is that the beer yeast eats the sugar and that produces alcohol.

More sugar for the yeast to eat should mean more alcohol production right?

Too easy.

Yes, adding extra sugar to your beer will, in in the main, increase your ABV.

A big caution is that the more sugar you put in, the more pressure that you place on the yeast. The more alcohol that is produced, the slower the rate at which fermentation occurs. A keen player will consider adding more yeast nutrients to the wort which may give the original yeast a new lease of life and extend fermentation.

Remember though, the more sugar you add, the more sweet your beer will taste and the greater chance your beer will have that classic 'bad homebrew' taste.

Instead of sugar being used in the primary fermentation stage, many (most?) brewers will use dry malt extract (DME) as their sugar source. If you are wondering where to get some DME, your local brewing shop will have some - it's usually the main ingredient found in beer enhancers!

As a rough guide, an extra pound or 1/2 kg of DME will add an extra half percent to your beer. Doubling that will give you an extra whole percent.

Roughly.

There are some alternative sources of sugar that you might be interested in using too.

Maple syrup, honey and brown sugar can all be used as well but remember, like jelly beans, they will influence the taste of your beer.


So that was adding sugar to beer but what about using less?


Perhaps you are looking to drop some weight and might want to have a lower calorie beer to help with that. 

Is adding less sugar to your beer the solution?

No.

The best solution is to cut back on your drinking and get out in the sun and do some fun shit with friends and family.

But if you're looking to get a well conditioned beer that won't explode when you open it, cutting back on the sugar when it's time to bottle your beer is a fine idea.

There are two main schools of thought when bottling beer. One is that you can 'batch prime' the entire batch of beer in one hit or you can add sugar individually to each bottle.

I've been a fan of the latter as doing it feels like I'm really being involved in the process of making beer.

However after many gushers over the past year or so, I've come to the conclusion that for myself, batch priming beer is the way to go.

It also means that I'm adding less sugar to my beer as I am using a single measured amount of sugar to carbonate my beer rather than by adding random teaspoons measures of sugar.

How the term 'session beer' is abused by craft brewers

What is a session beer?


What is the definition of a session beer? 


I saw this question asked in a beer-oriented Facebook group and I thought it seems such an obvious question that it didn't need an answer but then I realized not everyone drinks like a fish! 

A session beer is oft considered to be a beer which has an alcohol content of around 4 to 5 percent ABV or less.

A session beer is not defined by flavours or aroma.

The concept of this is that in a 'session' of beer drinking, you won't get hammered by drinking 5 beers at 4 or 5 percent as you may just do if you have 5 beers at eight percent (although obviously the difference between four and five percent beers can quickly catch up with you, given the way alcohol accumulates in the body and affects the brain)

So basically before the rise of craft beer, most beers were session beers - as historically beers have been from 4 - 5 % ABV.

How did this expression come about?

You can thank our beer drinking friends in England when back in the day and when men were still men,  many industries had rules where men could drink on the job in approved drinking 'sessions'.

Given their employers didn't want them getting hammered on the job, lower ABV 'pale ale' beers were consumed.

How times have changed!

But is this definition still true of craft beers?

And therein lies, the rub - the word session for beer has been totally abused by many craft brewers and their promotional campaigns and now it feels like every damn beer is pitched to beer drinkers as being a session beer. 

Even beer reviewers have started to throw it into their articles as if it adds a sense of romanticism to beer.

It doesn't and it devalues the meaning of the concept.

So a session beer is historically a beer of traditional strength which you can several glasses of in the course of an occasion. The more modern craft beer meaning of a session beer is any beer! It often seems to just be marketing verbiage or puffery.

How to choose the best wort chiller



Using a wort chiller - what are the best ones out there to buy?


If you've done your all-grain brewing session, you've boiled your work well using a burner with high BTU, your hops timings were just perfect and it's all smelling incredible, it's time to quickly cool your wort so that your beer will taste the best it can be.

This is because the key part of the whole exercise is getting fermentation occurring as quickly as possible once the wort has been prepared.

The trouble is, the wort is usually bloody hot and if you add yeast to the wort straight away, it will die a miserable death.

Like the T-1000 in Terminator 2 when it falls into the molten steel.

So what can you do?

It’s simple.

You may wish to consider investing in a wort chiller.

Here's some selections to think about and compare:


Why do I need to use a wort chiller to cool beer?


The use of one can improve the quality of your beer in several ways.

The first is to protect the beer against infections.

While the wort it is still hot bacteria and wild yeasts are inhibited from toying with your beer which is a good thing but it is very susceptible to oxidation damage as it slowly cools.

An efficient cool down can prevent this damage from occurring.

It also prevents the production of dimethyl sulphide. This compound can produce off flavourings in the beer so obviously, you’d want to remove the risk of this being produced as much as you can.

Ideally, the conscientious brewer should aim to get the wort to below 80°F (27°C) before oxidation or contamination has a chance to occur. The use of a wort chiller will get you there in no time.

You may have heard of ‘chill haze’. This is a really common cause of beer cloudiness where the wort has been boiled and the cooling process has not generated enough ‘cold break’.

The cold break is the proteins from the beer that are precipitated to the bottom of the beer by the cold temperature.

Using a copper wort chiller allows for an effective way to get more cold break forming and thus reduces the chance of chill haze in your finished beer.

The less crap in your beer, the better it will taste.

A tale of three kinds chillers


There are actually three types of wort chillers: immersion and counter-flow and plate.


  • Immersion chillers are the simplest and work by running cold water through the copper coil (or stainless steel) which is immersed directly in the wort. The heat of the wort is transferred via the copper into the water which is quickly is carried away by the flowing water in the pipe.  If you are doing a 5 gallon brew, the length of the tube is usually from 20 to 40 feet, although theу can be even longer.
  • Counterflow chillers work in an opposite manner. The hot wort is drained from the cooking pot via copper tubing while cold water flows around the outside of the chiller. Counterflow chillers thus get their name because the two sets of tubing are set up so that the wort goes in one direction, and the cooling water the other.
  • Plate chillers work by cold water is run through the unit's 'plates' in one direction and the hot brew is cooled very quickly with the cold water that is running through the other side in the opposite direction. Such a chiller will have hundreds of plates to offer a good surface area to allow for the heat exchange (so it's efficient).


Each kind of chiller has pros and cons. Given immersion chillers are usually the cheapest and easiest to keep clean and maintain and given that do not need a pump to push the water through, they are the most popular units used.

If you're thinking that surface area is the key to quick cooling you'd be right - but just remember that even though a plate chiller has a lot of surface area in the plates, a right sized immersion chiller will likely have a comparable surface area.

No one kind of chiller will reduce the water or wort temperature more than the other, they will only cool as cool as the temperature of the coolant used.

Our featured wort chiller - Copperhead Immersion Wort Chiller


copper head immersion wort chiller

The two stand out features of Northern Brewer's  popular chiller are that it comes with 25 foot copper coil for efficient cooling and its vinyl tubing comes with the standard garden hose connection.

The Copperhead features:

  • All copper coil construction is easy to clean and will conduct heat better than other metals.
  • Ensure secure tubing with proprietary barbed fittings. Eradicate shooting streams of water that make a mess in your brew cave.
  • Drop-angle connections provide insurance against contamination.
  • Dimensions: 9 inches wide, 16 inches tall to the bend, 3/8 ID tubing.
  • No need to sanitize. Simply drop your clean chiller into the kettle a few minutes before the end of the boil and it will be ready to go. 
  • Cleaning is a breeze
  • Standard garden hose connection allows for brewing outside or connects to a laundry sink faucet as your chilling water source

Here are some real reviews from real users who bought on Amazon

"Don't cheap out on the ones with simply raw copper ends and hose clamps. The ends connectors on this IC are top notch. Brew on!"

"Worked perfectly and as expected. No leaks and cooled my wort very quickly."

"This is the best on Amazon. I thought about making my own, but considering my time and effort involved, made sense to pay a bit more for one already set up"

Check out the pricing on Amazon.

The Copperhead also has a cousin from Northern Brewer, the 'Silver Serpent'


best wort immersion chiller

Called the Silver Serpent for hopefully obvious reasons, Northern Brewer claims this is the most sanitary immersion chiller on the market and it features:
  • Drop-angle connections and secure tubing with proprietary barbed fittings. 
  • Do away with ill-fitting hose clamps on misshapen chiller connections.
  • The Silver Serpent drop-angle eliminates kinked tubing. 
  • No more hassles with propping up the water hose. Tubing can now hang tension-free, kink-free and problem-free. 
  • Surprise leaks stay outside your kettle and away from cooling wort.
Believe it or not! Remember if you have Amazon Prime you can probably get free shipping!

Check out the pricing on Amazon.

I see people raving about the Blichmann Therminator, is it any good?


As far as we can tell, the Blichmann Terminator is probably the most popular plate chiller in the brewing community. 

Brewers often name drop it in brewing forums everytime someone asks 'what is the best wort chiller?"

Just google it and see! Actually, don't google it, keep reading!

best plate wort chiller - therminator

Blichmann is a tried and true brand and boasts a strong inventory of brewing equipment.

Their gas burner is a well-respected piece of brewing day equipment (good for frying turkey too, apparently!) so you wouldn't go wrong to consider using their chiller.

The Therminator is a stainless steel plate-type wort chiller, a miniature version of the plate chillers that the pros use. It is the fastest and most efficient way to chill your wort to yeast pitching temperature.

The Therminator can chill 10 gallons of boiling wort to pitching temperature within 5 minutes when using 58°F cooling water at 5 gpm. This super-efficient chiller uses less water than most other chillers on the market, and is especially great for brewers in southern American climates!

Blichmann boast of their 20 years of experience designing cooling systems and coupled with 17 years of homebrewing experience, they stand by their product claim that it's the 'king of coolers':
  • Broad operating range at fast cooling rates.
  • Low water usage for high efficiency.
  • Low restriction for gravity feed at high flow rates.
  • Compact size for easy use and sanitation.
  • Heavy-duty mounting brackets for simple installation.
  • Convenient straight-through water connections to prevent kinked hoses.
  • Resistance to plugging.
  • Substantial reduction in ice usage for chilling below cooling water temps.
Reviews of real users of the Therminator:

"This chiller is incredible. I had been using an immersion copper wort chiller for a few years, so moving to this plate chiller was a big step up. It instantly cooled down my wort as I pumped it through. You do have to make sure you clean it well afterwards, but I think this product is well worth the money."

"Works phenomenally well. Took wort from boiling to 54 degrees in about 6 minutes. I used a gravity setup with my boil kettle valve wide open."

If brewers have one complaint about this product it's that cleaning the plate unit is a real process - as is with all plate chillers. I guess you have to factor in the time savings if using a plate chiller is an effective tool for you. 

If there's a counterflow chiller you like, make it the NY Brew Supply Deluxe 


Don't let its look put you off because remember, counterflow chillers are not placed inside the hot wort so the black piping serves a purpose:

counter flow wort chiller ny


NY Brew Supply state the following about their chiller:

"The outer coil of our deluxe counter flow wort chiller is a super durable, high temperature 3/4" hose that will not get brittle over time and is more durable than standard garden hose designs. 25 feet of 1/2 inch copper tubing provides an extremely efficient transfer of heat.

Heavy duty brass fittings allow for easy connection to your cold water source (via garden hose connection). Unlike some "soldered copper" designs, our heavy duty brass fittings allow you the option to adjust the angle and position of the input and output hoses."

But don't let them do all the talking, try the opinions of these actual users on for size:

"I've used this twice in the last month. This is one of those purchases I wish I would have made years ago. Initially, I was considering upgrading my copper/immersion wort chiller to something larger. This is really not that much more expensive and MAN does it perform."

"This product works great, is well priced, and I would recommend it. If you buy it, keep the end caps as you can pour star san water into the copper inner coil and keep it sanitized while not in use. Also, I would recommend using proper silicone tubing and tube clamps."

"I went to the hardware store to gather the parts to make this. As I added up the cost in my cart, I realized I couldn't beat this deal! It costs as much to make on your own so, why bother! My time is worth the $100! And yours is too!"

If those testimonies sound right up your alley, have a gander at the price on Amazon.

How to use a wort chiller


The basic principle behind using an immersion wort chillers is fairly straight forward. The copper tubing, usually around 25-50 feet long, is formed into a large coil that can be submerged into the wort to cool it.

After the boil and, when you are ready, you connect your chiller to a piping system of some kind. Many brewers make their beer outside and so are quite happy to connect to the garden hose. If you are inside, your laundry taps might have the correct tap connectors.

NE ways, you run the water through the chiller until the wort is at the desired temperature. And gosh, if you need to ask how you know what the right temperature is, you take a thermometer reading!

But then you're going to ask but what is the best temperature to pitch your yeast? Look at the guidance on your yeast packet but note that different yeasts like different temperatures.

Just don't over cool your wort or it may take some time for fermentation to begin!

What does the garden hose have to do with chilling beer?


You may wish to consider buying a wort chiller that has a standard garden hose connection. 

This allows for brewing outside on a nice summer's day or connecting to a laundry sink faucet as your chilling water source. 

That can give you some room to breathe outside rather than managing all kinds of cooling shenanigans in the kitchen!

Go for quality


You get what you pay for so look for wort chillers that cool efficiently, don’t leak and will last many brews so don't cheap out.

Just as you should always get the bigger brewing kettle, go for the quality but affordable wort chiller. 

In the long run, it will be wort(h) it.

What are some good DIY options for cooling wort?


There are a few DIY options you can consider attempting.

If you're feeling like a bit of a mongrel you can always curl up your garden hose, tie it off and use it as you would an immersion cool but who are we kidding, the damn thing would probably melt if placed in a boiling wort!

Seriously though, you can buy your own tubing which will still allow for efficient cooling rates and be friendly on your wallet.

How to make your own wort chiller


This guy has some good ideas about making counter flow chillers. Here's a great video on how to make your own copper tubing chiller:


What if my groundwater is too warm to chill the wort?


If you have found yourself in a very warm climate area, your groundwater temperature may not be sufficient to cool the wort to the desired lower temperature.

If that's the case, you will need to use a cooling water pre-chiller set up. You can use a copper coil immersed in a pail of iced water. 

We recommend the coil is 25 to 50 feet in length. Use this to cool the groundwater before it enters the chiller i.e. it is placed between your chiller and the water source. 

It might look rough but here's a good set up:

wort chiller- pre chill set up

In the blue box, you can see the water bottles. These have been frozen and added to the water. Saves you buying ice!

How to clean wort chillers


Cleaning an immersion cooler is the easiest of the three kinds because you only need to wash the exterior coils. A quick rinse with a hose should be sufficient. Make sure you get all the gunk off.

Plate chillers are tough to clean as the metal plates are placed very close to each other and if you don't separate out the hops before cooling, they can clog up the 'plate trenches' quite quickly. 

This reduces cooling performance and will make the unit just that bit more tricky to properly clean - and you need to clean them well so that no residue can pass on nasty bugs on the next use. 

It’s a smart move to sanitize your plate chiller right after the brew is done. So your instructions are to not leave it for a day or two (or even next weekend) or you will likely have problems with the wort and gunk inside the chiller that will be very difficult to get out. 

Do yourself a favour and back-flush your plate chiller with water from the faucet as soon as you finish your brew. By back-flushing, we meant that you rinse in the opposite direction of the wort flow to try and first expunge any hop or trub residue that may have entered collected inside the exchanger.

You can actually add PBW to your cleaning water to help with cleaning those pipes out...speaking of:

What chemicals and cleaners do I clean a wort chiller with?


All the usual good stuff, including vinegar! PBW is probably your best bet. Star San has been known by home brewers to work really well on copper so feel free to give that a try.

Blichmann actually recommends that you do not use any chlorine products containing chlorine such as a bleach as chlorine can pit and erode stainless steel. So stay away from anything caustic.

Using a pump with wort chiller


If your water pressure is low or you want to reticulate water you just want to get on with the job of cooling the water, you may want to use a pump to help move the water along.

There are many different kinds of pumps on the market but I've noticed many brewers simply use pumps intended for ponds or aquariums as they operate at the power levels needed for chilling wort!

The benefit of using a pump is that it can contribute to lowering your overall chilling time. 

What effect do hops have on beer?


What are hops and what do they do to beer?

Hops is what makes beer taste wonderful!

At their most basic form, hops are the cone-shaped flower of the plant known as 'Humulus lupulus'. 

Hops may be added to the beer wort to impart a bitterness which balances the sweet malt flavour of beer.

Hops can be used to create a variety of tastes and to offer unique aromas which enhance the drinking experience. 

Beer makers of the last millennium recognized that hops was a crucial element of brewing good beer. It was the Germans who were amongst the first beer makes to recognize their need. So much so, it became the law that only hops could be used in beer as opposed to other beer flavoring such as anice (aniseed), heather and roseword. 

The beauty of the hops plant is that its varieties give different qualities to the beer.

The climate and location of where the hops are grown help determine these qualities but most importantly, the alpha or beta acids of the hop causes the greatest contribution. 

Hops also offer the ability to act as stability agent, preventing spoilage of the beer (hence Indian Pale Ales were shipped to India from Great Brtitain were heavily hopped). It's properties allow the beer yeast to thrive over any other potential contaminants.

It also helps with head retention and acts as a natural clarifier agent.

Hops also contain oils which add to flavour. Hops can be added at different points in the brewing process and the differing temperatures will also have an affect on those oils and flavour. 

Hop associations to certain kinds of beers 

Certain kinds of hops are commonly associated with particular styles of beer or beer from certain regions.

Here's some common examples: 
  • Pilsner beers have became nearly synonymous with the four popular 'noble hops' being the varieties of hop called Terrnanger, Spalt, Hallertauer and Saaz. Saaz hops in particular are associated with the brewing of lagers, most for the aroma that has become associated with the beer. Pilsner beers are known as traditionally coming from the Czech Republic.
  • The English Golding hop has become the signature hops of English ale. The Fuggle hop is another popular hop used for ale. 
  • America 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 the bold, and often intense flavors they impart to beer. American hops are often described as being citrus like, however that's a most rudimentary description.
Hops in pellet form
Hops in pellet form

What form do hops come in for brewing?

Hops are traditionally distributed as pellets, plugs or whole leaf but they now can come in cyro hop form.

What hops should I use in my beer brewing? 

It of course depends on what kind of beer you are trying to make. If you are making beer clones or following recipes, you probably want to follow what other brewers have found to work well. 

Here's a list of some common hops that are often used by home brewers and ones I have used myself:
  • Cascade: This is an extremely popular american hop. Known for it's floral hop trait, it is often liked to a grapefruit. Cascade is known as a versatile hop variety that is popular for bittering, finishing and dry hopping of pale ale and American style beers.
  • Czech Saaz: as mentioned a popular hop for pilsner and lager style beers. Saaz offers a delicate, mild floral aroma.
  • Green Bullet: offers a traditional bittering quality and hop flavour. A Kauri like giant of the New Zealand brewing industry this hop is closely associated with the world renowned Steinlager beer. Green bullets is best consider a bittering variety typically lager beers.
  • Motueka Hops: Hey, I'm a Kiwi so why not promote a second Kiwi hops? The Moteuka hops comes from the region it is grown in, being the top of the South Island of New Zealand. Very suitable for more traditional style lagers, especially the increasingly popular Bohemian Pilsener
  • Golding hops are good for bittering, finishing and dry hopping a range of ales
If you are a beginner brewer looking to use hops for the first time, we feel confident enough from our experience with using these hops that you won't go wrong -  as long as you match them to your intended style of beer.

We have a fond memory of a brew which used both cascade and green bullet hops to make a loosely approximate version of Steinlager.

It was a fine brew!

And so from that you can take that it is OK to add different hops together to get different flavours and aroma!

When do I add hops to my beer?

Typically the beer wort is boiled with hops before it is cooled down to begin the fermentation process. The timings of when to add the hops in the boil can be critical as the different timings can cause the hops to work differently on the beer.

If you are making your own wort (as is, not using a beer kit) then it's best practice to follow a tried and true recipe, at least as you start out.

You can of course become more adventurous when you have a bit of confidence in your beer making skills!

If you're at that point  you'll want to understand that the process is sometimes known as the “hop schedule”. A hop schedule will lists the length of time that the hops should be in the boil, not the amount of time you should wait to add the hops.

This allows you to making your timings correctly. The rough guide is the longer you boil the hops, the more bitterness they will impart. The shorter you boil them, the more flavour will be added.

If you are using a simple beer kit, you have two choices when to add hops. You may add them when you bring all the ingredients of the kit together, or you can add them near the end of the fermentation process. The choice is yours, and in our experience, there doesn't appear to be much of a difference in the end result. 

Where can I buy quality hops?

Your local brewshop will typically have a wide selection but there are online stores everywhere, we recommend NZ's Brewshop but internationally you'll have some good luck buying on Amazon.

Extra for Experts:

How ordering bulk beer making ingredients will save you money (so you can brew more)



If you're a beer kit brewer like myself, you'll know that to make a good beer you really should use a beer enhancer as they give the body and taste that can tip a homebrew beer from 'just being a beer' into a really enjoyable brew, one that is worthy of being shared with family and friends.

But those beer enhancers are not cheap!

In my neck of the woods a beer kit can cost $18 - $22 and the enhancer will be ten dollars, about half the price of the extract kit!

It seems that enhancers are somewhat over priced but home brewers purchase them as they make OK beer into good beer.

So one way of saving money in the long term is to buy bulk ingredients so you can make your own beer enhancers.

So what goes into an enhancer?

Basically it's a ratio of three ingredients, Dextrose, Maltodextrin and DME which is dry malt extract.

Different ratios of the three suit different kinds of beer styles as below:

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

So what you want to do is by these items in bulk as that's where you can make some great value savings.

Dextrose has a proper name of Dextrose monohydrate and often is referred to as corn sugar. So go on to Amazon and look for Corn Sugar (or Dextrose) in bulk and you will find plenty of options including 50 pounds! Which is about 22 KG.

We think anything that comes in a 50 pound sack has to be value for money! And if you can find your ingredient with free shipping, even better!

There are also plenty of Amazon based options to suit your maltodextrine budget as well.

Once you have your ingredients, you then get some large sealable bags and then make up the enhancer according to the above rations. You can then keep them in a safe place and pull one out every time you ready a kit for brewing.

Dead simple and an easy way to save money on your home brewing!

My secret way to properly pour a home brew beer


Have you ever poured a bottled home brew beer and it's been simply too fizzy and the head is like a giant ice-cream?

I'm not taking about a genuine beer gusher here, rather just a beer that's too frothy.

It's quite frustrating!

I've discovered a secret to helping poor such beers without much fuss.

But first, why fizzy beer?

In my case, I think this is caused by adding too much sugar to the bottle for secondary fermentation (which is a great argument for batch priming) but not so much that you've caused a gusher beer.

You can manage this in a couple of ways. Instead of having one glass for pouring the beer into, have two at the ready.

By doing a careful transfer you can get the whole beer into both glasses, let the head die down and then transfer into one glass. But that can actually froth things up even more.

Go figure.

So what's my secret?

Pour a little bit of water into the glass before you pour the beer. About 1 cm level is enough. Open your beer and pour slowly into the glass at about a 45 degree angle give or take.

As your beer fizzes into the glass, the water somehow manages to capture the froth and diffuses it somehow. Don't ask me the science of it, I just work here.

I discovered this trick by accident when going through an over sugared batch of stout and it seems a fairly good method.

I'm not saying you should add water to every beer for every time you pour but suggest that if you notice a batch has a tenancy to fizz up, then give it a try and see if that helps.

Nothing will save a beer that has too much sugar though!

Another tried and true trick to prevent fizzy pours is to ensure that your beer has been refrigerated for 24 hours. Based on my own personal testing, the cold definitely helps with a easy pour.

A wee caution

And in case you are very new to home brewing, don't pour out that last inch of beer from the bottle, those yeasty dregs of sediment are the bi-product of the fermentation process. They do not add to the drinking experience and apparently can have quite the laxative effect !

Panhead Supercharger APA Clone Recipe

Here's a handy Panhead Supercharger APA Clone Recipe


Panhead's Supercharger beer is one of the best new beers to come out of Wellington and indeed New Zealand in a fair while. Indeed, their range is pretty handy - we suggest you try their hoppy Vandal or APA. 

But back to the Supercharger, the beer that won the New Zealand Best Beer award in 2015. 

It's an absolutely drinkable beer and one that has few pretensions about it - its popularity is so much so that beer brewers are starting to clone it. 

panhead supercharger clone recipeHere's the best Supercharger Clone Recipe we could find. 

We found it at Wagon Brewing Co who sell a clone kit of the beer. 

Te Aro Valley also do a pretty handy copy of the beer too (check out their Obligatory wort while you are at it).  


This clone recipe is intended for your standard 23 litre beer batch.

Malts for the Supercharger clone




4.6 Kg - Gladfield Ale Malt (All Grain Option)

200g - Gladfield Light Crystal Malt

250g - Gladfield Toffee Malt



or for the Extract with Partial Mash option:



1x Black Rock Amber Extract 1.7kg Can

1x Black Rock Light Extract 1.7kg Can

200g - Gladfield Light Crystal Malt (Steep)

200g - Gladfield Toffee Malt (Steep)

What hops does the Panhead need?


10g - US Simcoe Pellet @ 13% AA for 60 minutes boil

10g - US Centennial Pallet @ 8.5% AA for 30 minutes boil

20g - US Simcoe Pallet @ 13% AA for 10 minutes boil

10g - US Centennial Pallet @ 8.5% AA for 10 minute boil

30g - US Centennial Pallet @ 8.5% AA for 1 minute boil

30g - US Citra Pallet @ 13.9% AA for 1 minute boil

20g - US Simcoe Pallet @ 13% AA for 1 minute boil

70g - US Citra Pallet @ 13.9% AA Dry Hop @ 7 days

50g - US Simcoe Pallet @ 13% AA Dry Hop @ 7 days

50g - US Centennial Pallet @ 8.5% AA Dry Hop @ 7 days

Phew, that's a lot of effort!

Panhead's yeast: 


Use the standard and very reliable Safale-US-05.

Panhead describe their own beer as "being an all-American show with Centennial, Citra and Simcoe overwhelming your nose, kicking you in the taste buds and departing with more bitterness than a Palm Springs divorce."

So that's the challenge for you as the home brewer, can you brew to match to Panhead's lofty claim? 

What is the best homebrew sanitizer?

best products for santization

Chances are you found this page because you are looking for the best sanitiser to use with your homebrewing.

Smart move, brewer.

You know why right?

You know because every decent beer maker knows that to make a good beer you need to have all your equipment and bottles sanitized so that your brew is not spoiled by nasty bacteria.

Have you ever had a batch ruined by a lack of proper cleaning or sanitization?


So then, let’s cut to the chase.

Here’s a list of what are the best sanitizers to use when making beer or even cider or wine.


Choose what you want but no whining about ruined beer if you don’t properly prepare your gear before you make that wort!



Star San - the best comes first

Product Details

If you want to use a product that will destroy all the microorganisms that could screw up your beer, then Star San is the sanitizer for you.

It's described formally by the manufacturer as "a self-foaming acid sanitizer ideal for brewing, dairy and other food and beverage equipment."

It is an extremely effective bactericide and fungicide and is not affected by excessive organic soils. Star San also reduces water spotting and can be used without rinsing under the proper concentrations. STAR SAN is a blend of phosphoric acid and dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid."

So as bonus then, when using Star San there is no need to rinse it from your beer bottles or the carboy when can be pretty handy when all you wanna do is make beer!

One can use Star San as a spray on or for soaking gear and beer bottles. Used at a ration of one ounce to 5 gallons of water it will do a damn fine job of keeping those bacteria at bay.

It is probably the most well known and well recommended sanitizing product known for home brewers.

This bloke said of his use of it in his Amazon review:

"This works great and is very easy to use. I just followed the directions on the bottle and had no issues. I like that it doesn't have to be completely rinsed just allowed to dry."

The only down side is that the manufacturer knows this and you can be charged an arm and a leg for it!

Iodophor


iodophur for home brewing cleaning
Iodophor is another popular sanitiser adopted by the beer brewing community. Iodophor has been traditionally used by the food service industry and medical industry to sanitize equipment but it works just fine on your brewing gear.

Iodophor is a three-things-in-one iodine product. It's a detergent, germicide and sanitizer.

The solution takes approximately 10 minutes to sanitize your equipment and like Star San, it's a no rinse product when used at the recommended concentration.

This Amazon review is telling:


"I had been using bleach to sterilize my stuff but too often had bleach aftertaste in my beer. Since moving to BTF Iodophor, my batches taste great and have the hoppy aftertaste I want and not a mix of hops and bleach."

It is a good idea to keep it away from your clothes because it will stain them. So wear old clothes when preparing your solution and be careful!

That said it is odorless, tasteless, and easy on your hands.

Powdered Brewery Wash known to many as PBW


This cleaning product was originally used widely used in commercial breweries (hence the name) but over time countless home brewers across the country have cottoned on to how they can use it for sanitizing their brewing equipment

It's one of the most commonly used sanitizers and for good reason as it works!

Go onto any beer brewing forum and you will find season beer makers raving about this product.

Go on, google it now and you'll quickly find we are not exaggerating about how good this cleaning product is. If you are looking for some guidance about how to clean your brewing equipment, they will probably say use this powdered wash.

PBW is also pretty handy for removing beer labels from bottles and so is alkaline brewing wash.

Make your own substitute PBW with basic ingredients


You can also make your own version of PBW as a substitute using ordinary home products.

Basically what you do is combine a home brand like TideOxiclean, or Napisan with a product that has metasilicate as an ingredient - we've found that many home DIY brewers use a cleaner called Red Devil TSP/90 to fill that part of the equation. Mix them together in 70 / 30 ratio in favour of the laundry soak and you've become a home DIY sanistizer!

Now this last one is a perhaps a bit of a surprise however, it's tried and true for many home brewings.

Are y'all ready for this?

Laundry soakers as sanitizer


That's right, it's probably already sitting on your laundry shelf.

Here's a handy trick, this chemical is basically what you might know as Tide or Napisan or any product with a brand name that tries to use the word 'oxy' as in oxygen cleaning or oxidization agent.

That's right, most of the fancy laundry soaking products have sodium percarbonate as a key ingredient!

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!



Bleach


When I was a young lad I used to work as a cleaner in a butchery. Once of my jobs was to clean the bin which housed all the meat scraps and bone that could not be made into mince or whatever.

That bin sat outside all week until Thursdays when it was emptied and then it was my job to clean it.

Because you know, maggots.

So I would prepare a bleach solution to clean it out, kill the maggots and most importantly get rid of that smell that was created when the hot sun beat down on that damn bin all week.

One week I managed to accidentally kick the bucket of bleach solution over and it went all over one of my brown boots.

No big drama right?

No drama until I looked down a short while later and my boot had turned mostly orange.

And that's when I learned truly the power of bleach!

But brewers have known for much longer that bleach can be used to clean home brewing equipment.

It's pretty cheap, readily available at supermarkets and it does the job of clean bugs and bacteria in its path.

All you need to do when using bleach is to make up a solution with the ration of 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water ( or 4 mls per liter). You then need to soak for about 20 minutes and the santization should be done.

The thing about bleach though is that it can have a bit of a strong pungent smell. While at the suggest use ratio, you probably don't need to rinse it off your gear, we strongly recommend that you do.

Given that Star San is pretty much good to go after less than a minute of contact, we suggest that if you can afford it, you use that and don't muck around with bleach.

It might stop up from changing your shoe color too!

-

There are other options out there too - caustic soda, using boiling water, cooking in an oven and using an autoclave etc.

So there you have, there's plenty of choices out there for the best homebrewing sanitizer. To our mind, it comes down to three areas of choice:
  • The more you spend, the better the quality and ease of use - so it's clear then that PBW and Star San are the best bets there 
  • If you are looking for a mid range price, try a product with sodium percarbonate 
  • If you want cheap and cheerful with a longer sanitization time, you'd go with a standard bleach. 

In the end, all roads lead to Rome! Clean clean clean!!