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How to use Whirlfloc tablets when brewing

whirlfloc tablets brewing
It's always amused me that people think it is OK to add moss to beer.

I mean really, how the heck can Irish Moss clear beer?

It's not even real moss, it's an algae from the sea!

Which makes m then wonder who the heck discovered that adding Irish Moss as a fining agent for beer?

Anyways, work the moss does.

A popular form of it is the Whirlfloc tablet which is a blend of Irish Moss and purified carrageenan ingredients. Carrageenan is another extract from seaweed that is used for gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties. This is because it bonds to proteins which means it is just perfect for brewing and removing proteins and so-called 'beta-glucans' (sugars) at the end of the boil.

You can use Whirlfloc tablets as a clarifier for both extract and all grain brewing.

Your instructions for use are simple.

If you are doing an all grain boil, you add one tablet per 10 gallons when you have 5 minutes left in your boil. If you add any earlier, the boiling of your wort will destroy the ingredients ruin their effectiveness.

If you are using an extract kit for either beer or cider, you can add the Whirlfloc when fermentation has completed.

If you are wondering whether Whirfloc tablets actually do work, here's an experiment which proves they do improve beer clarity.

There are plenty of other ways to clear beer with finings. There are other fining products such as Chillguard and Polyclar and silica gels like Kieselsol but if you are a bit of an expert, you can actually filter your beer but you'd need to be kegging it. Cold crashing is always a good way to get rid of proteins from beer as well. 

How to easily batch prime your homebrew

how to batch prime homebrew beer

Batch priming your beer with sugar


After about 2 years of brewing beer in my man shed I was getting a little bit tired of dropping sugar all over my workbench as I bottled my beer.

There's nothing more annoying than picking up your hammer to realise it's all sticky. My own bad, of course, I should stop dropping the spoon and spilling sugar.

But also cause ants.

So I decided to do something I'd always thought about doing but never got round too.

I primed my beer batch with sugar.

And what the heck is that?

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.

So, that sounds simple right?

On face of it, yes, but there are some things to consider!

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.

I usually brew in 23 litre (5 gallon) batches so my focus on my first batch priming was working out how much sugar I needed to use. 

My intention was to use even less than I normally would as I feel I tended to over sugar my bottles which has resulted in my fair share of bottle bombs and even then, just brews which produce too much head (which means waiting time before drinking as the beer then needs to settle).

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.

So, here's what may I analysis of beer brewing forums suggests are the common amounts of sugars to use for priming:
  • 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
Regards the sugar amount, it's my personal experience that using 60  - 70 grams results in less gushers and less fizzy beer.  

I suspect that it might be a case of horses for courses in that some beers do better with more or less sugar, so expect that results may very. That said, I have found 80 grams just perfect for my Irish Miner stouts.

Basically, I'm saying results may vary, experience and personal preference will guide you.

If you are priming with a different volume of beer, I suggest you try this priming calculator.

Some beers go better with different CO2 levels - using a nomograph


I think we mentioned above that some beers just feel better when they have the right amount of carbon dioxide in them.

Too much fizz and that mouth feel doesn't work, too little and that lager might seem flat. 

priming beer nomongraph sugar levels
This nomograph can help you work out how much sugar you need for your particular kind of beer.

The advice on using it is from howtobrew:

"To use the nomograph, draw a line from the temperature of your beer through the volumes of CO2 that you want, to the scale for sugar. The intersection of your line and the sugar scale gives the weight of either corn or cane sugar in ounces to be added to five gallons of beer to achieve the desired carbonation level."

Here is a list of typical volumes of CO2 for various beer styles:
  • British ales 1.5-2.0
  • Porter, Stout 1.7-2.3
  • Belgian ales 1.9-2.4
  • American ales 2.2-2.7
  • European lagers 2.2-2.7
  • Belgian Lambic 2.4-2.8
  • American wheat 2.7-3.3
  • German wheat 3.3-4.5


How to prepare the sugar to add to the batch


There are a couple of ways to do this. 

You could simply add sugar to your fermenter and wait for it to dissolve. It's a pretty simple method but not very efficient and may some time to ensure and even spread.

I suggest you mix some up with hot water in a sterilised pot (maybe even boil it) and let it cool a bit.

You then open up the fermenter and gently stir it in, without disturbing the sediment.

Leave it to sit for 10 - 20 minutes and then begin your normal bottling process. Indeed, you could sanitise your bottles while you wait.

I suspect you could also use icing sugar as well as that's just finely cut up sucrose so it should dissolve easily.

Try not to stir up the sediment.

Using a 'secondary' or bottling bucket


There's a fair argument to be made that when batch priming your beer, using a secondary fermenter or bottling bucket is the way to go.

The concept is that you syphon the beer from the original fermenter into a second vessel.

This way you are able to bottle without disturbing the yeast and other brewing bi-products that have fallen to the bottom of the original fermenter. 

The idea is that this improves beer clarity and further reduces the amount of sediment that will form in the conditioned beer bottles (and on pouring from those, again reduced the chance of sediment going into the beer glass).

If you are siphoning into a secondary, I suggest you have your sugar solution all prepared and in the secondary before you add the beer as this will help ensure the sugar dissolves properly in brew.

This will also help ensure that your batch brewed beer will have a consistent sugar volume and each beer should behave the same - i.e. produce the same amount of fizz and head with each pour.

Don't over prime!

home brew too much sugar explosion
Try to avoid over sugaring beer!

I'm trying to avoid using too much sugar in my beers as I don't want them to be too fizzy or explode in a mess all over the kitchen. So, beer this in mind.

If you add too much sugar, you will cause these problems so we recommend you consider the numbers above.

Priming with other flavours


Dextrose and sucrose do not add any flavours to the beer. They simply are eaten by the yeast and converted into more alcohol and CO2 which goes into the beer.

You can prime with other things such as honey and brown sugar. Some brewers have been known to use brown sugar with stouts. Honey can be used with hefeweizens and blondes. I have found that using too much honey can leave a beer feeling a bit 'dry'.

You could even melt down some jelly beans if you want to give your beer a really sweet flavour!

You can also use molasses. If you're brave...

Remember, temperature can affect CO2 production


Once you have bottled your beer, you need to consider storage temperature. 

It's 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. 


And then as per standard conditioning practice, we recommend waiting three weeks before having a wee sample.

Can you use dextrose instead of sugar for priming?


Corn sugar and dextrose are the same thing! Dextrose is actually the most popular priming sugar, so feel free to use it with your priming.

Success!


Very happy to report the ale I primed is very drinkable, with no bottle bombs occurring and a very consistent level of bubbles! 

Best brewing thermostats for temperature control

Once a brewer has mastered the process of all grain brewing they often start to wonder about the other factors that make a good beer.

Most brewers of any experience know how important temperature to making a good beer is but it's the keenest brewer that wants to regulate the temperate that their beer ferments and conditions.

Keeping a beer consistently at the desired temperature is a boon for beer quality as this allows the yeast to perform to it's best characteristics. This is because, generally speaking, ales and lagers perform better at different temperatures (lagers lower than ales) and also because brewing conditions have often meant that beer is brewed too warm.

Hence, the experienced brewer will often elect to use a brewing thermostat to maintain the correct temperature for the yeast strain. The most popular choices are from the Inkbird range and devices which use the STC-1000 software such as the Ketotek and Elitech.

There's many an argument out there that making yourself a controlled fermentation chamber is one of the best things you can do for your beer, over and above using fancy (though vital) wort chillers and the like.

What then, is a controlled fermentation chamber?


Basically, it's a fridge of which you control the temperature.

Here's a common scenario for lagering at a consistent temperature.

By using an external overriding thermostat installed on a fridge (or even a freezer) you control the temp as you need and prevent the fridge from making your beer to cold, thus hindering fermentation from occurring. It means you can lager your beer all year around!

The beauty of this is, you can simply use an old fridge - cold is cold so you don't need to splurge out on a big showroom deal, as long as it works and there's room in which to place your fermenter or carboy, you are good to go. If your fridge has it's own thermostat, then set it to the coldest setting.

Old fridges are probably less energy efficient than newer ones, the choice is, of course, yours to make.

If you are using a freezer, you'll want to make sure that it is ice / frost free.

Using the probe correctly


Your thermostat will come with a probe - this is placed inside the fridge so the sensor reads the temperature inside the fridge. Obvious right? OR you could tape the probe to the fermenter so as to get a close reading of the beer's actual temperature, rather than the ambient temperature of the beer. 

Why would you do this? 

In the long run, the temperature of the beer will probably equal that of the fridge, however, given you want the yeast to have the best environment to ferment, it will get to the desired temperature quicker. 

Here's a handy trick - if the probe is waterproof, you could consider placing it in water inside the fridge. The water will approximate the beer's temperature reading meaning you can mix and match and move fermenters in an out as you need. 

Cold crashing 


When fermentation is complete and you are ready to bottle or keg, you can of course cold crash with the fridge or freezer and you can use the controller to keep the temperature low as use need.

How to set up a thermostat controller for a fridge or freezer


It's a fairly simple system to set up - place the fridge's power cord plug into the controller. Place the probe inside the fridge. Now, having selected your desired temperature to match your beer's yeast recommendations, you set the temperature controller to that temperature.

The controller will control the internal temperature of the fridge by turning the fridge itself on and off as conditions change. The fridge itself will, of course, need to be set to be able to go as cold as you need.

I do wonder how good it is for the fridge to be regularly turned off and off - if you are concerned about this, go with the old fridge.

Using the thermostat to control a heating space


Thermostats are just as handy for heating your beer as well and again you can use a fridge or a specifically designed heating box.

Obviously, you need a heating source and your fridge most definitely must be turned off! A popular choice for a heat source is a heating pad or a heating belt. Some dudes use lightbulbs!

 Simply plug your heating source into the controller and place the sensor probe in the fridge as you would with when using trying to keep your beer cold. Select the desired temperature on your thermostat and you're ready to go.

Your chosen heating device will turn on when the temperature of your heating space falls below the selected temperature.

The fridge freezer trap


Don't get caught out by using a fridge freezer combo. If you want to keep your meat and veges frozen, you won't be able to as the freezer will be subject to the whims of the controller.

Pssst, do you want a unit that can control both cooling and heating?

Sure you do and the Elitech STC-1000 might just be the kind of controller you are looking for. 

elictech stc-1000 controller

The Elitech branded version of the STC model has the following features:
  • Temperature calibration; Refrigerating control output delay protection.
  • Auto switch between refrigerating and heating, with a return difference value.
  • Control temperature by setting the temperature setting value and the difference value.
  • Alarm activates when the temperature exceeds temperature limit or if there is sensor error.
  • Accuracy: ±1°C (-50~70°C)
  • 110 volt
Note the Elitech comes with the centigrade measurement. If you are looking to use use a thermostat with a Fahrenheit measurement then bird's the word for the Inkbird range.

Search on Amazon for an STC-1000 controller and you might pause when you see there are all kinds of brands that offer the STC-1000. So what is it? It's actually the name of the software that runs these units. The software is open source so the firmware of your unit should be able to be easily updated.

Units which use the STC-1000 can be fiddly to set up, especially if they need wiring. This bloke has some great tips on successful installations.

Inkbird Pre-Wired Dual Stage Digital Temperature Controller


Probably Inkbird's most popular controller is the ITC-308. This unit is fairly cheap, easy to install and is tried and true for keeping your beer fermenting at the desired temperature.

  • Simple to use: plug it in, set the temp ranges, place the probe, plug in the heater/cooler into the marked outlet.
  • Easy to read manual
  • Be able to connect with refrigeration and heating equipment at the same time.
  • Easily calibrated with the press of a few buttons
  • Can display the temperature on in Centigrade or Fahrenheit.
  • Versatile enough for many different uses. Whether you need temperature control for fermentation, humidity control, greenhouse, kombucha control or to set up your temperature project system, the ITC-308 temperature controller is a great choice.
Check out this review from real users who brought the Inkbird on Amazon:

"I ordered this for my fermentation chamber I just built and so far this thing is pretty great. It keeps the temps within about a degree of my target temp and was pretty simple to set up. I presume the instructions have been improved as they weren't as difficult as some reviews had stated. If you are electrically inept such as me and just want to get your system up and running this will do the job extremely well for the price."

"This seems to be working great for a chest freezer converted to a fermenting chamber. Literally set this up in about 5 minutes, it's that easy. Put the temp probe in the freezer. Plug the freezer into the cooling plug, and plug the Inkbird unit into the electrical outlet. Works exactly as described. My Oktoberfest lager beer is bubbling quite happily at 52°F."

inkbird dual plug system"What can I say, this is the best value out there! excellent range of temps, very customizable and accurate, lets me stay within a degree. I use this for fermentation control and the price allows a practical solution. Very durable and the prob and cord are waterproof. I poked a hole in the carboy stopper and forced this prob and a small length of the cord through and now it hovers in the middle of the carboy for the most accurate control of temps. Highly recommend for beer brewers!

So there you have it, some genuinely pleased users of the Inkbird  plug and play temperature controller. Check out the prices on Amazon

Can I cold crash outside, in the cold, in winter?

cold crashing beer outside

Cold crashing.

It's a great way to make your beer to stand to attention and free itself of the particles that make your beer cloudy.

Many brewers cold crash in a fridge for a day or three.

But what if you have no beer fridge but only the cold?

Can you cold crash outside, overnight if it's cold?


Well, yes you can but your results may vary.

Generally speaking, cold crashing can take up to 24 - 48 hours to be effective to precipitate out the unwanted proteins so one night in the cold of winter might only get you 12 hours (say 7 pm - 7am) but that's assuming New Zealand conditions.

If you're in America, Canada or the Baltic states or the like, it's damn cold with all that snow so yes, you can cold crash outside for a couple of days and the job will be done but as we said, results may vary.

You may want to crash at night and then place the fermenter somewhere out of the sunlight during the day and then have another crack the second night. Be careful to not disturb the trub too much as you are trying to clear the beer, not stir everything up.

Can it be too cold to crash outside?


The colder the better and it will help precipitate out more yeast, however, you don't want to freeze your beer as that's kind of a disastrous result. So, if you are confident the overnight temperature won't go below freezing point (32F or 0C),  you should be OK. 

The amount of alcohol in your beer will play a factor as well - higher strength ABV beers can resist colder temps a little more but it's not necessary for cold crashing.

Can I just leave my beer in the shed for a week?


You sure can. Brewing is a timing game, so giving your beer an extra week in a cold shed will help lager it and let the yeast do its job. 

Remember you can also add finings shortly before bottling to help clear your beer.

↠ Apera PH60F pH Pocket Tester for brewing

Apera Instruments AI312 PH60F Premium pH Pocket Tester


If you are looking for a quality, yet reasonably priced, ph Meter for testing your beer's water and wort, you might want to consider the Apera Instruments PC60 Multi-parameter Tester.

The PC60 meter tests for pH, EC, TDS, salinity and temperature in an accurate, quick and reliable manner for most regular water solutions so much so that it's used across a range of commercial and hobby ventures such as hydroponics, aquaculture, pools and spas, water treatment, cooling towers and of course beer making.

The multi-parameter probe is replaceable and equipped with Apera's 'Brush-Resistant Platinum Black' sensor, which ensures an accurate and reliable EC measurement in a wide range. 

As for all pH metersprobes must be properly cleaned and maintained or else they can dry out, won't work, or perhaps even worse, give incorrect readings.

This handy unit boasts the following features:
  1. Easy-to-install and replaceable flat sensor 
  2. Triple-Junction structure prevents clogging, works great for regular pH measurement 
  3. Easy Auto Calibration with auto buffer recognition 
  4. Auto Temperature Compensation 
  5. Unique High/Low Value HEADS-UP function, instantly reminding you of any results that need your attention with a red backlight; 
  6. Auto recognition of stable values (with optional AUTO HOLD function) 
  7. Large, clear Liquid Crystal Display with 3 backlit color (indicating 3 different modes) 
  8. Display both temp and pH simultaneously 
  9. Also comes with calibration buffer solutions, calibration bottles, storage solutions 
apera ph meter reviewThe instrument has an easy menu setting, which means you can customize your tester’s functions according to your needs. 

It's waterproof and dustproof and it floats on water so you don’t have to worry if it falls into water or your beer by accident. 

If you purchase the tester from Amazon, you'll find a complete kit of premixed calibration solutions (4.00 and 7.00), soaking solutions (3M KCL), calibration bottles and of course enough AAA batteries to give you approximately 2000 hours of use.

A handy lanyard is included and everything mentioned fits in the portable carrying case which protects your gear when travelling or simply storing.


Here are some reviews from real users who have real experiences with Apera's tester.

"Having previous experience with scientific research grade pH meters, I've maintained this pen in electrode storage solution between uses, and always rinsed the electrode with deionized water between measurement and before storage. With those precautions, both the pH and EC readings have remained on-point without recalibrating for more than a month at this point. When I do check the calibration, the instrument is never more than 0.05pH off-target."

"The back-lit display is excellent for working under low-light (tap the power button once while the unit is on to activate), and the instrument fits perfectly into the top of 1-gallon water jugs. A note of warning, make sure the EC electrodes are not submerged in the electrode storage solution while not in use, only the glass pH bulb should be in the solution."

"The Apera PC60 instrument is super easy to use. It comes with everything needed to calibrate and feel confident in your readings. I even tested it against a 1000 TDS calibration solution I had and it read great! The display is easy to use and the backlight is very handy. I love that the "cap" is built in a way to put your liquid in, with a fill line, and closes securely around the pen. It then is able to calculate the different levels in the liquid. I no longer have to bend over and hold my pen in the nutrient reservoirs. One of the best features is the ability to set the TDS factor. This is important because PPM is calculated differently in different parts of the world. It gets very confusing."

"After having gone through 3 different cheap meters last year I decided to spend a little extra on this one. I am not disappointed. It's well worth the money. It's fast, accurate and covers a range of tests. I read the previous reviews and was somewhat sceptical. However, after using this product for a few weeks on a daily basis, I would recommend it to anyone. The LCD screen is a little small but I can read it without glasses. I found the instructions to be thorough and fairly well written. I think they must have updated their manual after previous reviews. I have backups just in case but after the first week, it became obvious I wasn't going to need them. By far the best meter I have used without spending a couple of hundred dollars."

If you think those reviews sound fair, check out the price on Amazon.

How to calibrate the Apera pocket tester


Check out this video guide from Apera which shows how to calibrate Apera devices:


  • If it is the first time use or the tester hasn't been used for a long time, soak the probe in the 3M KCl solution for 15 to 60 minutes (the longer the better) to restore the probe's sensitivity and accuracy. In order to achieve maximum performance, soak it for around twelve hours. That means do it the day before you need to use it!
  • When not in use, soaking in the storage solution is recommended, but not necessary. 
  • For pH calibration, 1st point calibration must be 7.00 pH
  • For EC/TDS/Salinity's calibration, just dip the probes into accordant standard calibration solutions and follow the same steps in pH calibration. 
  • 10.01 pH buffer solution is not included in the kit, this needs to be purchased individually.
  • Try to avoid these common calibration mistakes


What's the warranty for the Apera? 


If purchased by the manufacturer, the meter is CE certified and comes with a 2-year Warranty period and 6 months for the probe. The company has designed and manufactured scientific analytical instruments like meters and sensors for pH, conductivity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen for over 25 years, and meets ISO 9001:2008 Standards so they know how to make these units work, and work well.

Dowload the instruction manual here.

↠ When choosing a brewing spoon, go stainless steel

I never thought I'd write about brewing spoons.

Like why would you need a special spoon to brew with?

Can't you just use the wooden spoon you have from the kitchen?

Well, for one thing, wooden spoons can harbour a boatload of nasty germs that may infect your beer.

But why if you live in the modern age can't you use plastic spoons?

Well, the truth is, yes you can use any damn well spoon you like, but a quality stainless steal beer spoon as some advantages over wood and plastic.

For a start, they are the right size! Have you ever just used a shitty stirring spoon from the kitchen drawer and it just doesn't stir well because once you've added the malt and the beer enhancer, you have to reach inside the fermenter and it's just one big mess?

A proper beer brewing spoon is the right size and if it's made of steel, it's easy to clean and there will be a strongly reduced chance of it harbouring bacteria over wooden and plastic spoons. This is because those spoons get scratches in which the bugs like to make a home.

But back to size, if you are doing all grain brewing, you're probably going to be using a kettle right?

A beer brewing spoon is designed especially for fitting in kettles as they usually feature a long handle and a hook for simple storage.

These spoons can also do double duty as a basting tool which may come in handy for those that like to fry turkeys using their million BTU rated gas burners!

Here's a very popular brewing spoon that has a pretty hand rating on Amazon:

brewing spoon
This 21" rugged, stainless steel spoon is great for stirring a mash. Its corrugated design prevents bending (which happens to cheap spoons and plastic paddles!).

If you ever wondered if a spoon needed a review, these actual users have found good things to say about this one! 

"This is a restaurant utensil. It's sturdy enough and long enough to reach from the bottom to about an inch over the top of a stainless steel turkey fryer pot for stirring homebrew wort."

"Won't hold bacteria like the wooden ones. It's my go-to spoon for mixing wort and keeping it from burning on the bottom of the kettle. I actually leave it in the boil to stay sanitized, and it stays cool enough to handle because it is so long."

"Well made spoon. Much better choice than the plastic paddle I've been using."

If you think this is the spoon for you, check out the price on Amazon

What about using wooden spoons for brewing?


You will probably never be able to fully sanitize a wood spoon because they can be so porous. While a good soak in some PBW or sodium percarbonate could be useful, a good long turn in a dishwasher on the highest setting is probably just an easier move to try and get it clean.

The history of using wood in brewing is actually quite amusing - monks and Vikings would use wooden sticks to stir their brews and kept using the same ones over and over. While they were ignorant of what yeast was, their stirring sticks retain the yeast which was imparted into the beer everytime it was us

You'll be fine using a wooden spoon if you are stirring it to stir your mash as the wort is to be boiled and that will kill any microbes that managed to transfer from spoon to wort.

So we are probably overthinking things in this regard!

Mash paddles and dough balls


Mash paddles help keep the grain from forming dough balls.

By using a well-designed spoon or paddle on your mash, you will keep the grain from forming the dreaded 'dough ball'.

No one wants a dough ball to form in the mash because it reduces the efficiency of the mash. Effectively the hot water (liqueur) is not interacting with the grains in the dough, meaning less wort is made. Which is not the point of the exercise.

To avoid dough balls forming, you should ensure that you correctly mill your grains - the finer you do them, the more chance a ball will form as the grains get sticky and can form a paste in effect.

You can also perhaps consider using rice husks in your mash, as this can help with the sparge

A good paddle will have a hook / curved end which can be used to easily hang it when brewing.

How to pitch yeast correctly into your beer wort

adding yeast to the beer wort

How to pitch yeast into your homebrew beer


Newbie beer makers may have heard the expression “pitch your yeast” and wondered what the heck it meant.

I myself was horribly concerned that I had missed a trick when making my first brew after learning this phrase.

Had I missed out a step?

Had I ruined my beer?

Nope, of course not.

Pitching yeast’ is just homebrewer lingo for adding yeast to the wort.

Without yeast, your wort will not turn into beer. The yeast, is an active living organism that feeds on the oxygen and sugars in the wort and as a bi-product produces carbon dioxide and the sought after alcohol.

Yeast is a sensitive cell based life form and needs the correct conditions in which to thrive and help make really good beer.

That’s why pitching your yeast is more than simply adding it to your beer – it needs to be done at the correct time in the brew so that it can activate properly.

The short version is if you pitch your yeast when your brew is too hot (say you’ve just boiled it), you will kill the yeast with the heat and fermentation will not occur. Which would be a waste of time and money.

This is why the cooling process can be so important.

That said, pitching yeast too cold means the yeast won't start its job.

Your fermenter might have a temperature gauge on the side, else you might need to get your hands on a thermometer.

I’ve noticed that some brewers can be super sensitive about yeast and the preparation and pitching of it. There are arguments about the best method but the casual home brewer should not get caught up too much in it.

If you follow some good beer making instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems with the yeast.


The easy way to pitch your yeast is 'dry pitching'


If you are like me, once you have prepared the wort your the 30 litre drum, you are ready to add your dried yeast. The easy way is to simply open up the packet that came from the beer kit, and drop it into your wort. I like to cut the packet open so that the yeast cells and efficiently exit the packet. I also like to give it a shake to pack the yeast on one side and cut on that side.

When you do this, you are pitching your yeast 'dry'.

Maybe give it a gentle stir with a clean spoon. Close off your fermenter securely and place your beer in a good spot for a week or two to let the yeast do its job.

Of course, make sure the temperature is OK. It probably is but check anyway.

If you want to give the yeast the best chance to do their job really well:

Re-hydrate your yeast before you pitch it


A handy method that many earnest brewers follow is to hydrate the dry yeast in water before pitching. The reasoning behind this is that it gives the yeast a good chance to get started properly.
Rehydrating yeast in a glass

The theory is that there can be a concentration of sugars in the wort which means it is difficult for the yeast to absorb water into its membranes so that they can begin to activate/metabolize and thus commence the fermentation process.

Based on that, I imagine that if you have made a high gravity wort that's full of sugar and fermentables for the yeast to eat, hydration is a good step to take.

In my experience I’ve never had the yeast fail with a simple beer kit but if you are keen to cut the potential problem out, feel free to re-hydrate your yeast.

Do this by boiling some water and letting it cool. You can then add your yeast packet (or two!) to the water and let it begin to absorb – you shouldn’t do this too far apart from when it is time to pitch the yeast.

Cover and leave for about 15 minutes and then inspect. It should have begun to smell like you are making bread and 'bubbled' a bit (see the above picture). If so, it’s ready to be pitched.

Once you've added the yeast to the wort, there will likely be some left in the glass - I have a 'waste not want not' kind of view so I add some water to the glass, give it a swirl and add it to the yeast as well.

If there is no churning or foaming or sourdough or bread like smells, it could be your yeast has died from old age or environmental damage such as being left in the sun. You may need to use a new packet of yeast...


How many packets of yeast should I use?


Generally speaking, brewers will use one packet of yeast however if you a trying to make a very high alcohol beer where the yeast is expected to do a lot of work, you might want to consider using two packets.

You may want to use two packets if your yeast is fairly old as the older it is, the less potency the yeast will have as the yeast cells will have slowly died off over time.

The 'denser' or thicker your wort, the more yeast you will need.

There's also a difference when making an ale or lager. Yeast becomes slow to ferment when it’s cold. Given lager ferments at a much lower temperature than ale, it's reasonable then to use more yeast with the lager to finish the job properly.

Some brewers use the rule of thumb to pitch about twice as much yeast for a lager as for an ale.

Using liquid yeast


If you intend to use a liquid yeast it should really be pitched to a starter wort before THEN pitching to the main wort in the fermenter. Here's a handy guide to making the starter from one of the true industry legends, John Palmer. 

That said, many liquid yeasts can simply be pitched as normal so check the instructions that come with your unit.


What are some good yeasts to brew with?


If you do not wish to use the yeast that comes with the beer kit you have, you could try what a gabillion brewers use, the American ale yeast, Safale -05. I've used it personally and it goes great guns, and is tried and true. The Safale - 04 is a handy English ale yeast too.

A quick summary of pitching yeast 


  • Pitching yeast is simply adding it to the beer wort
  • Add it when your wort is the recommended temperature – check your beer kit’s recommended temperature
  • You can pitch dry yeast straight into the wort
  • Or you can add it to water just prior to pitching
  • Dry yeasts have a longer storage life than liquid yeasts. 
  • Liquid yeasts must be stored by refrigeration means.
  • The older the yeast, the more of it you will need to use. 
Extra for experts: should you use a ph Meter?

Image credit to Justin Knabb via Creative Commons Licence

Mangrove Jacks Dutch Lager Review

mangrove jacks dutch lager review
I was at my local brew shop looking for my current kit of choice, a good nut brown ale kit and could not find any so I thought I would try something new to me.

Given it's getting cold in my neck of the woods I thought it might be a good time to try a lager.

I found Mangrove Jack's Dutch Lager kit and thought I would give it ago.

In a way, this felt like coming full circle as my wife gave me a Mangrove Jacks Beer Making kit which set this whole shebang off.

Preparation of the kit was pretty standard. I cleaned the plastic fermenting drum with sodium percarbonate and boiling water. I left the kit of the fire top so it would soft. I put the yeast in a glass of warm water so that it could be hydrated.

When I was set up, I added the beer enhancer to the drum and added some boiling water. It's probably just me but I like to ensure the enhancer is properly dissolved before I add the malt.

I then added the malt after it was warmed on the fire. It came out nice and easy. I added a little more boiling water to the can so that I could get all the malt out.

When everything was nicely stirred in, I then filled the drum with the required amount of water.

To give the yeast a good start to fermentation, I let it do its thing in the kitchen for 24 hours, then I moved it out to the shed and wrapped it up in a large pile of old sheets. Classic.

I left it for a week and then bottled.

2 weeks later I can report back.

While it's very early, I can tell I must have got something wrong as it feels very sweet and dry. Maybe I added too much sugar when I batch priming. There's definitely a nice creamy feel which almost seems at odds with what I just described.

It feel's like another couple of weeks conditioning is required which makes perfect sense.

4 weeks later - report back 2.

Things have settled somewhat. I've made a dry lager which seems a bit odd. It's quite drinkable, and especially so when served cold as all good lagers should be! I did accidentally open one that was warm and it gushed up a fair bit so maybe I did add too much sugar. 

When to add 'rice hulls' to the mash

rice hulls

Have you ever had a stuck sparge when there's simply no wort exiting the tun? 


What a way to slow down your brew day! 

Sure, you can give you mash grain a bit of stir and try and remove the blockage and get going again but what if you could add something to the mash to prevent another stuck sparge?

Enter rice hulls.

Rice hulls are the exterior layers of grains of rice. When rice is harvested, the hulls are cast off because they are not for eating. Once the hulls have been washed and dried (which removes flavour and color) they can be used as a filtration agent for getting the wort out of the mash.

They work by creating some space around the gritty and gristy mash particles so the wort can flow out of the mash tun. Given they do not add any flavour to the wort and are pretty cheap to buy, rice hulls are an excellent solution to a brewer's need to prevent a stuck sparge or lautering process.

Rice hulls offer a natural, easy way to help prevent a stuck mash!

Use rice hulls when sparging a high gravity beer


It is a good idea to use rice hulls when you're brewing a high gravity beer with a big grist. This applies especially to beer recipes that demand high percentages of speciality malts and for wheat and rye beers.

This is because these grains have higher levels of protein and beta-glucan than compared with barley grains and these elements cause the wort to be more viscous than other brews.

How much rice hulls should I add to the mash?


Many brewers seem to use hulls at a percentage no greater than 5 per cent of the total grain bill. In reality, a common measure is 1/2 lb per 5 gallon batch.

When do I add the rice hulls to the mash?


You can simply mix them into to your dry grains before you infuse them with the hot water.

Can I sparge with oat hulls instead of rice?


You sure can. 

Like rice hulls, oat hulls are the shell of the oat grain. Give they are pretty much inedible and no good for making porridge with, they have found other uses as filters. They act in just the same manner as rice hulls and do not any impart anything into the wort. They are commonly used when brewing rye or wheat beers, the same as rice hulls.

Do I have to worry about rice hulls absorbing water?


Worry? 

Perhaps that's the wrong word but if you are the kind of brewer who likes their beer exactly as the recipe demands, then yes, the hulls can absorb water. 

So, what do to? Soak them in water prior to use so you don't have to even think about it.

Given there can be the odd bit of dust in them, give them a rinse in a colander before soaking.

Do I need to sterilise the rice or oat hulls?


Some people do but I really can't see the point as the wort is about to be boiled within an inch of its life in the brewing kettle on top of a burner with masses of BTU which should kill any bugs that were hiding on the grains or hulls. 

>> Best mash tuns for sparge & lautering

Tuns.

Not tons.

Nor tonnes.

But tuns.

Mash Tuns.

Though it's pronounced ton.

What the heck is a mash tun and why do I need one for brewing beer?


The mash tun is the vessel in which the mashing of the grain is conducted. The 'grain bill' is heated with hot water. This process of mashing causes the enzymes in the malt to break down the grain's starch. The starch is reduced into the sugars which form the malty liquid we all know as 'wort'.

So how is important in preparing a good wort is a mash tun?

If you want the efficient extraction of the wort from your grains, you need to be able to sparge efficiently, and a well set up mash tun will do just that.

Many brewers like to make their own mash tun from manufactured coolers and simply add a false bottom to assist with the lautering process (removing the wort from the mash) but if you just want to get on with, here's a few mash tuns that we recommend:




Northern Brewer's tun


plastic northen brewer mash tun
  • The most affordable mash/lauter tun in all-grain brewing
  • Loaded with brewing power for superior sparging and exceptional efficiency
  • Featuring Fermenter’s Favorites™ Cooler with an expanded full capacity of 11.7 gallons
  • Includes the new Titan Stainless Steel 11.5" False Bottom
  • Includes Bronze Ball Valve Cooler Kit with Barbed Hose Fittings, plus tubing

Reviews of the Northern Brewer tun:

"This is a nice product for the money. I've moved from extract brewing to all grain and didn't want to break the bank when it came to purchasing a mash tun. This one fit the bill! The size is decent and it's easy to put together and tear down. This makes cleaning a snap. It's light and easy to more around, and it holds its temperature quite well. I've brewed four batches of beer with it and look forward to using it for the next batch."

"Just finished my first brew. Everything was straightforward to assemble and easy to use so long as you know what you're doing. Excited to brew more with these."

"Got to use this for the first time last weekend while brewing my first all grain batch with my brew club. I have never produced a better beer than what I have with this. I would highly recommend this for anyone looking to take the next step in their brewing adventure."

If you think these reviews from real brewers have merit, check out more on Amazon.

Igloo Mash Tun


igloo yellow mash tun
An almost icon mash tun, due to the Igloo's almost universal recognition amongst brewers and Powerade drinkers alike and maybe the fact it kind of looks like a lifeguard?

The Igloo comes as the following specs:
  • 10 gallon mash ton
  • Perfect for 5 to 10 gallon batches
  • All metal is stainless steel
  • 12" false bottom
  • Upgraded leak free design
Igloo boast you "will notice barely any temperature loss throughout your 1hr+ mash" which seems the whole point of having a quality mash tun and this reviewer confirmed it "It works perfectly. I've used it twice with no temperature loss in a 60 minute mash at 152 degrees."





Brewer's Edge' Mash and Boil


Listen up fellas, Big Jim just rode into town so pay attention. The Brewer’s Edge Mash and Boil transforms brewing day making all grain brewing easy and affordable. If you want to compare this to

No need for an outdoor gas burner, a complicated brewing stand, or a 220 volt special circuit - the unit plugs into any 110 volt GFI household outlet.

Constructed with a double wall stainless construction, it is designed to conserve heat to achieve a rolling boil with only 110 volts and 1600 watts.

The precise thermostat and internal sparging basket lets you mash and boil in the same vessel saving you a fair whack of time in your brew day. The thermostat may be switched from Fahrenheit to Celsius and features an adjustable run time preset at 3-1/2 hours to allow for safety in case you get distracted by the Big Game!

A handy function is the delayed start timer, which allows you to program the Mash and Boil to turn on up to 24 hours after setting. For example, load it with strike water, and have it set to be hot when you come home from work to save even more time!

Here's some reviews from actual brewers who have used the Mash and Boil:

"Son and I wanted to step up to all-grain home brewing and this looked like a perfect way to do it: It is. So much easier from start to finish. Wort chiller fits in kettle and temperature display shows when ready: We’ve done 3 batches and love it!

"The time it takes to get to brewing temperatures is rather good. I use the low wattage setting to get to mash temperatures and the time it took was to my liking. To get to the boil temperature was rather slow but I am accustomed to a propane burner."

What are you waiting for, permission from your partner? Check out the price and delivery arrangments on Amazon.

Why do mash tuns need to use false bottoms?


If you simply extracted the wort from the tun using the exit valve the spent grain would quite likely collect at the exit point and block the extraction.

A false bottom is effective acts a filter or sieve to prevent the crushed grains from causing a blockage. The wort drains through the mash, past the sieve and into your draining vessel.

What are some good mash tun tricks?



>> Best beer filtration kits for clear beer

compare filtered beers

Beer filtration kits - what are the best ones to use?


The thing about beer is it's not just about how it tastes.

It's also about how it looks.

A good looking beer says to the mind, this beer is clean and crisp and ready to drink.

A cloudy beer can suggest dirt and sediment and the lizard brain just doesn't want to drink it.

So many a brewer will do a variety of tricks to make their beer clear.

Cold crashing, using gelatin, refrigeration and the like are pretty hand methods but a beer filtration kit can work absolute wonders to clear beer.

So other than the goal of clear beer, why would you filtrate?

Filtering will take out the yeast, any tannins and some large proteins from your beer that can contribute to off flavors and haze.

And while it is true that such solids do precipitate out of the beer through lagering and the ageing process, filtering greatly accelerates the process of clearing by physically removing them in minutes.

Which means you don't need to sit around for weeks or even months for your beer to become ready.

This is not to say that if you use a beer filtration kit your beer bottles will not have any sediment (how we wish that could be) AND in fact, using a filter is not for bottle brewers. This is because the filtration process removes the active yeast from the beer.

So if you were to bottle your filtrated beer and add sugar for the customary secondary round of fermentation - fermentation will not occur as the yeast will no longer be present in the beer to eat the sugar. 

So what to do then? Filtration is for DIY home brewers who use a kegging system.

The popular method is to filter your beer directly into a keg using CO2. You can then bottle it from the keg using a counter-pressure bottle filler or a beer gun. The true beauty of a using a bottle filler attached to the keg is that it prevents the loss of any carbonation.

And now you've got that sorted, here are three reliable options to consider:

Inline Filter
Price Comparison
Mid range
Midwest  ✔✔
Mid range
Bouncer
Budget


HomeBrewStuff 10" Beer Filtration Kit


Home Brew Stuff can of course only say good things about their kit.

They boast that the "filtering process can eliminate weeks of secondary aging, giving you better tasting beer much quicker than before.

During secondary aging the primary effect is that more yeast settles out of suspension, carrying with it, proteins, polyphenols, and other flavor compounds that contribute to the "green" flavor of un-aged beers.

HomeBrewStuff 10" Beer Filtration Kit with Ball Lock FittingsFiltering will eliminate most of this yeast and those flavor compounds in a matter of minutes instead of weeks. "

A standard 5 micron filter included is suitable for most applications and it will filter up to 10 gallons of beer when used on two consecutive kegs. 

Note that the filters should not be reused. 

The kit also comes with liquid ball lock fittings on both sides, (2) 30" lengths of tubing, 10" clear filter housing, and one 5 micron filter cartridge. 

Here are reviews from actual users who have used the unit:

"The quick connects are great, they make purging the o2 out of the line quick and easy. A must for any home brewer who wants to elevate the quality of the beer."

"We ordered two of these kits and interconnected them together with great results. The nice thing about these filters is that they are easily accessible and cheap when compared to the plate filters we use to utilize for our plate filtering system."

"Easy to use, no leaks like the plate filters, cleans up easily. 5 gallons took only a half hour. The valve operates as expected. I recommend going down to a half micron to really polish your beer. " 

With reviews like that, you might want to check out the price on Amazon.


homebrewstuff beer kit


Midwest Beer Clarity Filter System


The Midwest filter system has been reconfigured to make filtration easier and less expensive.

In order to filter beer or wine you will need to have a Cornelius keg system with a minimum of 2 kegs. Un-carbonated product from one tank is pushed with CO2 through the filter into the sanitized empty tank.

In order to polish your beer and remove yeast you will need to do this in a two stage process, which means with 2 kegs you will have to clean and sanitize the originating keg before sending the beer back through the fine filter. The first filter you will use is a 5 micron sized filter to remove large particulate (hops and proteins) that if left for the fine filters would clog them before you finish.

Once your beer passes through the 5 micron filter then it is up to you how fine you want your product filtered. The fine filters consist of a 1.0 micron and a 0.65 micron filter. The 1.0 micron filter should filter out 80-90% of the yeast in solution while the 0.65 - 0.5 sterile filter will filter out 100% of the yeast.

  • 10" filter housing
  • Tubing and Disconnects
  • 1- 5.0-micron coarse basic disposable filter
  • 1- 1.0-micron polishing basic disposable filter
  • Water tubing kit
Here are some reviews left by beer makers who have used the filter on their own precious beer,

"This filtration kit has taken my beers to the next level of quality. I can produce competition level, crystal clear beers now. I would highly recommend this for any home brewer looking to take their brew to the next level."

"Solid, heavy duty filter housing a beer lines make this a great product! Cleaning attachment makes cleaning the system simple and efficient. Takes maybe a hour and a half to clean and sanitize kegs and complete the filtering process but the beer is clear and crisp when done."

"Works great. I filtered 10 gallons very quickly. It came out crystal clear."

If those recommendations are solid enough, then check out the price on Amazon.


Bouncer inline beer filter 

bouncer inline beer filter

If you are looking for a cheaper filter, the Bouncer comes in at a budget of under half of Midwest's offering, making it a cheap solution for those who want a clear beer but need to save some pennies so they can grab some nice hops. 

Bouncer's promotional guff says that it:
  • improves the taste and clarity of your beer by filtering trub, krausen, hops, and proteins
  • built to last, use it over and over, custom molded from high quality thermoplastic and T304 stainless steel in the USA, use up to 150F
  • saves time and beer, pays for itself in a few batches, get more beer out of each batch, easier and quicker than cold crashing or additives
  • easy to use and clean, gravity fed using your racking siphon, no need to pressurize or pump, fewer parts to clean and sanitize, fits 3/8" inner diameter siphon tubing (standard size)
Don't take Bouncer's word for it, check out the reviews of real brewers who have filtered gunk from their beer with it:

"I'm pretty impressed with this solid little rig. It clears out all the large stuff without issue on 5 gallon batches. I use false bottoms and nylon brew bags for hops and speciality grains, so I typically have very little junk in my wort. This did catch all the stuff I missed, however, and kept it out of the primary fermenter."

"I was skeptical about how this would make a difference, but I have never had better clarity with homebrew than after applying this filter; even without the use of Irish moss or whirlfloc tablets, the two batches that ran through this came out beautifully. Easily installed and will use it with all of my future batches."

"I got to use this when I transferred an IPA from Primary to keg. I dry hopped in the primary so there was a lot of hop detritus in there. Bounced filter it all out. Great product."

Sounds like the smart choice then.

How to use the Bouncer inline filter


There are three methods of use:
  1. out of the brew kettle 
  2. out of the fermenter
  3. out of your serving tap. 
To use your bouncer out of your brew kettle, simply connect it to your brew kettle valve with standard tubing, or cut your siphon tube line near the top, and insert the barbs into the tube. Pay attention to the arrow that indicates the flow direction. 

Make sure you have disassembled the bouncer and dipped it in sanitizer just before you use it.

Then open your valve, or pump your siphon. If the flow decreases too much, you can stop the flow, remove the bowl and filter, rinse, sanitize, reinstall, and keep going. The other methods are discussed here.


So if you take these brewers at their word, this inline filter has it going on.

How does a beer filter work?


Filtering has been around for donkey's years. Pool filters, dust filters - they are simply screens which let the desired substance through, preventing the unwanted from having access.

It's the same with a beer filter. 

The screen filters the unwanted beer particles like proteins and other hazy bits.

In the case of beer filters, the measurement term for the size of the holes in the filter is a micron. Most filters have a micron of one. Anything sized about 5 microns will tend to let the yeast through, which is not the point of this exercise!

Can I reuse a beer filter?


There are indeed filters that you can reuse. They require some earnest maintenance. Backflushing to clean them is really important. You need to clean away all the beer residue as that can be a vector for the contamination of your beer. 

This means you'll need to have sanitized them before using. Many brewers soak the filter in a Starsan solution.

That said, there are some strong arguments not to reuse them. The biggest one is to simply avoid the risk of contamination. If a filter is 5 bucks, why worry about reusing them?

We totally get of course that 5 bucks is five bucks and a penny saved is a penny earned so if you can clean and sanitize your filter properly, go for it.

What is the difference between a pleated and spun filter?


A pleated filter is designed in the form of pleats. This means the filter has mean folds - the idea being you create a larger surface area meaning you can filter faster. A spun filter is usually made of polypropylene fibres and are 'spun' together to look like foam packaging.

Each filter should load the same way into the filter's housing.

What is a plate filter?


Plate filters are a different kind of device but work on the same principles. They are very common in breweries and wineries use a large plate filter system to achieve clear beer product however, smaller versions can also be used by backyard brewers.

You need a kegging system to use the plate filter to transfer the beer under a low PSI pressure. 

If you use one, a good trick is to run a gallon of water through the filter set up to help remove any 'papery taste flavor" that might transfer through into the beer.

Where can I get replacement cartridge filters?


The beauty of the using a filter is that there's a thriving competitive market so there are plenty of online sellers and beer merchants that sell replacement cartridge filters.

The benefit of a plate filler is they generally offer a greater filtration surface area over traditional cartridge models.

Many are also interchangeable between brands - so you don't need to stick with brand loyalty if you need to go for a cheaper option, the increase in quality option and you can also purchase in bulk.

There's plenty of cartridge options on Amazon.

Points on using filters


  • Filtration is not the answer to preventing bacterial contamination in beer. I have no idea why people think this is the case.
  • Filtration will not remove extraordinary amounts of brewer’s yeast from the wort (if you have over pitched). You may need to run it through twice or use a double kit system.
  • The colder your beer is when you filter, the better the result
  • Get a kit which allows you to swap out different brands of filters as you may find you want to use difference micro sizes or use a pleat or spun filters.
  • Many filter kits used in brewing are simply multi-purpose and can be connected to household plumbing and the like. By buying a specialist brewer will ensure that your beer filter will come with the correct coupling fittings to connect to your keg and CO2 system
  • Using a filter is not the only way to clear beer, remember you can use finings, cold crash and simply bottle age and let the sediment settle.
  • If you're a winemaker, you can totally use a filtration system to clear wine. It is best done just before bottling.
  • If you think you are being clever by coming up with the idea of using coffee filters that have been wrapped around the end of a siphon tube, you're probably dreaming on that one. The coffee filter will quite likely filter WAY too slowly and probably cause blockage quite easily.