itle

Using Malic Acid with wine to reduce the pH level

using malic acid to reduce pH in wine

Did you ever see that episode of Knight Rider when K.I.T.T. was placed in an acid bath and he left simply a shell of a car?

Yeah?

Well, don't use that acid when making wine, perhaps use malic acid instead.

Malic acid is an acid that is found in fruit and quite commonly in grapes and apples. Have you ever had a Granny Smith apple and found it to be quite sour?

That's the malic acid at work. It's quite similar to citric acid in that sense.

As such it's used in all kinds of foods to give that tart flavor. Ever tasted 'Salt and Vinegar' chips?

That's not just vinegar you're tasting...

So why would one use malic acid when brewing wine? 


It's a very handy compound for reducing the pH level of wine.

All good brewers know that both beer, cider, and wine need to be within certain pH level otherwise, the tasting experience will be horrible. The acidity works to counter the sweetness and bitter components of the wine such as tannins.

A wine that features too much acidity will taste extremely sour and sharp and produce a physical response from the mouth and tongue. A wine with not enough acid present will taste somewhat flabby and flat and its intended flavor will hard to discern.

This is why so many wine makers use pH testers (such as the Apera) to ensure their wine is in the correct range.
A word to the wise. If your wine is going to undergo malolactic fermentation (such as red or sparkling) do not add extra malic acid as this will convert to lactic acid.

Which wines suit the addition of malic acid?

  • Most reds
  • Rieslings
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Muscat 

When do I add acid to the wine?


Malic or tartaric acids may be added either before or after primary fermentation.

They can also be added during any blending or aging periods, but the increased acidity will become more noticeable to the drinker.

How much malic to add to the must?


It's a general rule of thumb that 3.4 grams per gallon will adjust the acidity by +.1%. 

It will lower pH less than tartaric acid will which is why some wine makers prefer to use that acid.

Order your acid from Amazon.

What is malolactic fermentation?


Malolactic fermentation or conversion is the chemical process in winemaking where the malic acid that is naturally present in grapes, is converted to lactic acid

Fermentation is caused by a family of bacteria known as lactic acid bacteria.

Malolactic fermentation usually occurs as a secondary fermentation shortly after the end of the primary fermentation. The process is usually undertaken for the vast majority of red wines produced. Some white varieties such as Chardonnay use it as a byproduct of the reaction is a diacetyl which imparts the 'buttery' flavor associated with Chardonnay.

This process helps give the wine a good 'mouth feel' which is something all good beer brewers appreciate.

If you're wondering how beer makers can reduce bitterness and pH levels, they can use gypsum salt and calcium chloride.

How to tell if your brew is infected by bacteria

There's a really simple way to tell if your beer is contaminated


Ready for this life changer?

Drink it. 

If it tastes like the scummiest thing you've ever put in your mouth, it's infected.

If it makes you vomit, it's infected.

If it smells like someone set off a sulfur bomb, it's infected.

If you open the cap and the beer explodes like it has been shaken up a thousand times, it's probably infected. This happens as rogue yeast or bacteria has over carbonated your beer, resulting in too much pressure building. Such an explosion should not be confused with a beer bomb caused by the addition of too much sugar when you primed the beer.

Basically, a good rule of thumb is that if you really have to ask if your beer is infected, then the chances are it probably is.

You can, of course, do a visual inspection of your beer before you bottle it as well. What you are looking for at the top of the wort is the formation of 'pellicle' - which is a collection of microbes hanging out on top of your beer. This may not happen with every infection, however.

The pellicle formation can look a bit like this:

pellicle infection of beer

or even this:

beer infection


Which is a real shame because it's not just the fact that your beer is ruined by bacteria or wild yeast commonly referred to as brettanomyces, it's that you've lost your time - it doesn't matter if you've used a kit or done a diligent boil, you have lost those precious minutes.

You've also lost a bit of cash, which can hurt a little, especially if you've gone and sourced that special wheat yeast from the brew shop or those homegrown hops that you drove 45 minutes to get from a brewing mate who swears they are the best he's ever grown.

So what did you get out of this?

Experience.

It's quite likely that user error caused the infection to occur so maybe there's a lesson here for you that you can learn:

ALWAYS

CLEAN

AND
SANITIZE

YOUR 

BREWING 

EQUIPMENT

I learned from my screw up and have never had an infected batch of beer again and that was like three years ago.

Sure, it can be a pain to do the job right but if you want to have a beer that's right to drink, you gotta clean.

So let's talk about the causes of infection.

The most likely cause is as you've probably understood if you've got this far is that uncleanliness leads to infection. By giving bacteria something to feed on or hide in, you open yourself up to a higher chance of infection occurring.

So, clean your fermenter, brewing spoons, pipes, spigots, taps, mash tuns and whatever else you use on brewing day. There's many kinds of cleaning agents you can use (such as the famous Powdered Brewery Wash) but a bit of elbow grease with damn hot to boiling water will do you justice.

Then, sanitization is key. We have promoted sodium percarbonate many times on this site as we think it just does wonders and since we have adopted it, we've never had a problem.

The best part about using sodium percarbonate?

You’ve probably already got some as it’s found in ordinary laundry soak!

So on brewing - clean and sanitizing everything. Don't be lazy or your beer will be hazy!

The next time you'll want to think about bacteria is bottling or kegging day.

Yep, it's almost a case of literally rinsing and repeating.

Your keg and bottles must be free of any gunk and residue yeast. Given them a damn good clean and then use your sanitizer of choice.

In the case of bottles, my favourite trick is to run them through the dishwasher on the heaviest setting. First I rinse them with water to remove all the sediment etc and then they go in. At the Heavy Duty setting, the dishwasher will use the hottest water it can and that kills the bugs. I then store them in a clean drum under a blanket.

Then on bottling day, a quick soak in some sodium percarbonate solution makes things just right.

You can always tell if you haven't done this part properly because if in your whole batch of bottled beers one or two do not taste right but the rest do, you can reasonably assume the issue was with the individual bottle and not the batch as a whole.

That Rotten Eggs smell


We mentioned that rotten eggs can be a sign of an infected beer. That may well be true but it is not true in every case.

If you have used a yeast strain that produces this kind of smell your beer is OK. If you open a bottle conditioned beer too early, you might be able to get those eggy tones. If you let your beer condition for long enough, that smell will go away as the yeast will have continued to work everything out.

If your beer's water is high in sulphate such as that water source infamously discovered at Burton-on-Trent, England then your beer may naturally have this smell as well - the 'Burton Snatch'
If however, your beer has bacteria that has contaminated your beer, THAT smell is a sign your beer is ruined. How can you tell? Do the taste test and that will give you a big indicator.

If you are making wine or cider, there is another risk vector for your brew. That is the natural yeasts that can be found in fruit that can wreak havoc. Many cider makers will use campden tablets to kill off any wild yeast and then substitute their own yeast more suited to the kind of wine or cider that they wish to make.

The best kettle spiders for straining hops

hops kettle spider tripod

You could be forgiven for wondering what a hops spider is.

Is it some kind of jumping jack or a spider that lives on the hop plant?

Nope, it’s an instrument to help add hops to your boil to help prevent sludge build up from the hops pellets or even the leaves. It’s ideal for preventing clogs in brewing gear and helps make brew day just that little bit cleaner.

The way a hops spider works is it is basically a mesh filter that sits over the building kettle and it simply acts as a strainer for the hops - you get want you want from the hops into your beer and the mess stays inside the filter and is simply removed by taking the spider out.

Too easy eh?

Many commercially made hop spiders will use a mesh of 300 micron as it filters the hops quite well. If you are using leaves, it is actually a really good idea to use a kettle spider because any stray leaves can easily block a valve or inline filter and that could be a real pain to sort out!

What are the things to look for in a good hops spider?


  • Good micron size filter, 300 is standard
  • Made of Stainless steel
  • A sturdy tripod that will fit across your kettle or
  • a hook that will fit the side of your kettle

I’ve heard hops filters reduce the utilization of hops. Is this true?


It’s a valid concern but perhaps one that is somewhat over thought but there are several things you can do to make sure you get the efficient hops utilization - and in case you didn’t know, we are talking about the IBUs that go into the hops and thus affecting the bitterness of the beer.

  • Make sure your filter sits inside the kettle quite low, say one or two inches from the bottle. This gives the hops enough surface area in which it can play. Check this before your first brew, not when it's time to add the hops!
  • Speaking of surface area, don’t overfill the hops filter. The hops needs its space, especially if you are using leaves. You don’t want them all mashed together, they should be able to float freely a bit.
  • During the boil, give the hops a bit of a stir, or ‘agitate’ them if you will. Maybe use a brewing spoon for this, and remember you are dealing with hot boiling water so be careful as you usually are. 
  • When you remove the kettle filter, ensure that you let it drain completely so that anything that should go into the beer, is with the beer. 
  • You can always compensate by adding a little extra hops to account for any loss utilization. 
  • Some spiders have a tripod and some use a hook on the side of the kettle. Neither kind is better than the other if you follow the above way to use one.

What is the best hops filter to use?


One of the most popular kind of spiders is the 300 Micron Mesh Stainless Steel Hop Filter Strainer
Suitable for a brew bucket fermenter, you simply hang it to the side of brew kettle during the boil, easy to hang and keep stable.

This brew filter will dramatically keep hop trub from getting in your brew bucket. It's also easy to clean with a sprayer or brush. 

Made of stainless steel it is rust-proof and hot-resistant and if looked after, it will give you a long service life.


DIY  - making your own hops spider


home made hops kettle strainer



While there are plenty of really good hops spiders on Amazon, you may wish to make you own in the spirit of good keen homerbrewers every were. Given they are simple devices to make, if you follow the instructions (like in the below video tutorial) then there’s a good chance of making a handy spider.




How to use and replace an Italian Bottling Spigot

When I first started brewing beer my mate said to me:

"yeah brewing's good and all but bottling is a real bitch".

I realized they weren't wrong when I once didn't notice the bottling wand had fallen out of the fermenter tap on bottling day and my brew was piling in a nice pool on the shed floor.

Anyways, a bottling spigot is a handy little device that can help make that bottling chore just a little bit easier.

So what is a bottling spigot and why are they often referred to as Italian?


The 1/2 half inch spigot tap is used to transfer the precious beer or wine into the bottles. It's a handy valve to control the rate of transfer and it's easy to turn on and off.

They look like this:

italian spigot for bottling

These spigots are commonly made in Italy from food-safe plastic but the truth is they are most likely manufactured in China. If you a serious about your plastic safety, look for a brand that has been FDA approved.

Note the tapered ending. This is so you can add a bottling wand or plastic tube for pouring (typically good for 5/16" and 3/8" size hose). This is handy if you will be running the brew threw an inline filter.

Here's a handy video guide on how to install the spigot


Taps can break fairly easily but lucky for brewers everywhere, spigots are cheap and easy to replace and install. 



There are some handy hints in the video that are worth mentioning:
  • Screw the unit in carefully. 
  • Remember to attach the gasket from the inside of the fermenter
  • Do a test with water to ensure the spigot is sealed properly
If your fermenter bucket doesn't have a hole for the spigot, you'll need to cleanly drill a hole that is 1" in size (25.4mm). This kit actually comes with a drill bit that you can use to drill the hole to the exact size.

Given the spigot is easily removable by unscrewing the gasket, they can be removed and cleaned quite easily. This is a good idea if you are keen on preventing beer infections and the like.

You can, of course, use spigots for any kind of beverage dispenser or 5-gallon bucket.

Check out what's available on Amazon.

How to make homebrew hard cider

how to brew apple cider

When I was a lad, I lived in a place called 'the fruit bowl of New Zealand', that place being Hastings.

There were apples everywhere, in the orchards, on the farms, on every corner. Open the newspaper and four or five would fall out! 

And never once did I think about making them into cider.

And now that I live miles away from the orchards of home, a good cider reminds me of years apple picking and thinning and driving a hydra-ladder around an orchard to help pay for university fees.

But you came here to learn how to brew an alcoholic (hard) cider, so let's get on with it. 

If you've brewed beer before, it's the same concept of fermentation but with some slight variations to the preparation of the basic ingredients and the addition of a few handy remedies to augment the cider's flavour. 

As always when brewing, it's very important that all your equipment is exceptionally clean and properly sanitized.

So what do we need to begin making hard cider?


If you think the first thing on the list of things you need is apples or pears, well, you'd be right.

But it's not that simple.

When brewing cider, not all apples are created equal.

Ideally, you'll have been able to harvest some late-season apples, maybe even some which have naturally fallen from the tree. This is because these apples have high amounts of sugar in them, and as any brewer knows, sugar is great for fermenting!

Having a mix of different apples is very useful for taste preferences as well. Mixing Red Delicious with Granny Smith in a 1 to 2 ration will produce a dry cider whereas 1 to 2 ration of Macintosh to Cortland will produce a sweeter cider.

Another way to get the mix right is to use a mixture of 70% dessert apples and 30% cooking apples. This should give a good balance of sweetness and acidic taste.

Preparation of apples for brewing


First up, wash your fruit of dirt, bird shit, leaves and twigs and the like. Cut away any rotten fruit as well. If your apples are a bit bruised, this is not a concern. 

Your immediate goal is to turn your apples or pears into a pulp. Some players may use a scratter but chances are you're gonna have to do this the hard way by using a bit of elbow grease and pulp them into what's called a 'pomace'.

What you do is pulp the fruit in a large bucket by simply pounding it with a piece of clean wood in the form of a 4 x 4 post. Or the end of a baseball bat, or whatever's handy for pulping.  Things will work out best if you quarter your apples or pears before starting this process.

You can always use a blender to speed the process along, but you are not trying to puree the fruit so go easy with the blender. 

Bear in mind, you're not trying to go all Charles Bronson on your apples. Your mashed apples should have some substance to them, and the should certainly not be liquefied. If that's the case, you've over pulped. 

How much many apples do I need to make cider?


A very rough rule of thumb is that 2kg of apples or pears can be turned into 1 litre of juice. If you are thinking in gallons, you'll need 20 pounds or just under 10 kg per gallon. So, if you want to fill your traditional 23 beer fermenter, do the maths and you'll find you need 46 kgs of apples. Which is a lot of apples!

When crushing, be careful not to overdo it. The finished apples should have some substance to them, and liquid juice should not be present. If it is you have pulped them too much.

brewing cider tips


It's time to press your apples and extract the juice


Seasoned pros will venture that using an apple press will save a lot of time and efficiently produce a lot of juice. 

Make sure you apple press is nice and clean. Make sure you have a clean bucket properly positioned to collect the apple juice. 

Then load your quartered apples or pears into it. 

As you turn the press, you will start to feel some real tension. Don't be tempted to keep going, this is part is a part of slowness and patience. Leave the press in this position for a couple of minutes and the juice will actually begin to

Turn the press down onto the fruit until you feel some real tension. As soon as you do, don’t keep turning but leave this in position for a few minutes. You will see the juice will start to run. When the juice stops then tighten the press again and leave to repeat the process again until your apples are fully pressed. 

You should now have all the juice you need to make your cider with but first, it's time to add a campden tablet or two.

Adding sodium metabisulphite to kill off wild yeast


Producers of cider know full well that a batch of juiced apples can easily succumb to acetobacter bacteria contamination which causes the classic turn-to-vinegar spoilage of the apples.

Acetobacter is easily killed off, hence treatment with an agent like a Campden tablet (sodium metabisulphite) is important in cider production.

Using approx one tablet per gallon will also see off any 'wild yeast' that might have traveled with your apples. 

Experienced cider conjurers may also take the opportunity to add pectolase or peptic enzyme to the juice. Pectolase aids in the break down of pectin in the fruit giving you more juice and of great importance, this facilitates a better fermentation and a clearer cider as it helps reduce pectic haze. The amount of enzyme to add is approximately one teaspoon per gallon of juice. 

It's also used in winemaking for the same reasons.

It's recommended that you give this new solution 48 hours before you pitch your yeast to commence fermentation. Given this time, you should cover your apple juice will a towel or some such item to prevent foreign particles from getting in. You may wish to give it a stir once in a while as well. 

Adding yeast to the apple juice


Having let your juice rest with the Campden tablets for at least 24 hours, you are now at a fork in the road somewhat. You can take your chances with any benign yeast taking their opportunity to ferment the juice or you can pitch a yeast that is well suited for brewing with apples or pears.

If you didn't already transfer the juice into your fermenter, now is the time to do so. Make damn well sure it is properly sanitized.

You might want to take a reading with a hydrometer to get the gravity of your juice so you can work out the ABV. 

It's time to add the yeast but what kind should you add?

The classic, traditional yeasts to use are commonly referred to as Champagne yeast as they produce what is often described as neutral flavors but there are some great wine and beer yeasts out there to try as well. 

Here are a few selections:

Specific yeasts for cider

  • Mangrove Jack’s Cider Yeast M02
  • Safcider from Fermentis
  • WLP775 English Cider Yeast from White Lab

Champagne yeasts for cider

  • Prise de Mousse, EC1118 from Lallemand. A popular choice for those who wish to have a high alcohol content (and you can encourage this by adding extra sugar to your cider batch).
  • Pasteur Blanc from Red Star
  • VQ 10 yeast from Enartis
  • Enartis Ferm WS

    Beer yeasts for cider

    • Saflager S-23 from Fermentis
    • WLP565 Belgian Saison from White Labs
    • Wyeast 3711 French Saison
    Here's a demonstration video of how the professionals do it:

    How long to leave the cider to ferment?


    Fermentation should start within the week, or a few days if the temperature is ideal. You'll want to let your brew do its business for about two weeks AND then give it another to let the yeast begin to settle out of the solution to improve clarity.

    You can get away with quicker times for brewing beer but apples and pears need this time if you want to make a quality brew.

    What temperature do you ferment cider at?


    As with beer making, sound temperature control will improve the odds you will have a good tasting beer. The extremes apply here - too cold and the yeast will hibernate and not ferment. Too hot and the yeast will be overworked and will produce fusel alcohols which will impair the taste of your cider. 

    The ideal temperature is considered to be about 15 degrees Centigrade or 59 Fahrenheit. Nudging to 20 is acceptable but anything over will produce unwanted side effects. 

    A steady temperature is also ideal. Too much fluctuation can through the yeast off its game. If you have a brewing fridge / fermentation chamber with a thermostat, your cider is ideal for a run in it. 

    When to add malic acid to cider brew?


    Malic acid occurs naturally in apples and plays a part in the pH level of your cider and most crucially taste. If your pH level is too high, then adding extra malic acid will reduce the pH level (remember the lower the pH level, the more acidic a solution will be). 

    Conversely, if your pH level is too low, then you'll want to add a base such as precipitated chalk.

    So then, your next question surely then is what is an ideal pH reading for cider? Many brewers aim for a range of 3.2 - 3.8. If you're nudging over four, you'll want to add malic acid as given it is already present, it matches the profile of the cider. 

    If you're interested in using a digital pH meter for checking the level of your cider, check out our pH tester buying guide.

    Do I need to add tannins to my cider batch? 


    Tannin is a yellowish or brownish bitter-tasting organic substance that can be found in plant material such as tea, rhubarb, grapes and apples. Tannins are acids, a well known one being gallic acid. Tannins give an astringent, drying bitterness quality to cider. 

    Some kinds of apples have high tannin levels so the addition of them is not really necessary. Where brewers are using applies which naturally make a sweet cider, that brew may need some added tannins. 

    A ¼ teaspoon of tannin per gallon of cider is a commonly recommended amount to add. The exact amount can be a bit of a science, this dude has some great advice on how much to use.

    Tannins can be sourced online from Amazon or from your local brew shop.

    bottle conditioned apple cider


    How long do I bottle condition cider for if I'm carbonating?


    Cider takes a lot longer than beer to condition to an optimum drinkable state. It can take up to two months for carbonation to fully occur and even longer for the cider to reach peak performance. That said, some brews will be carbonated within 2 - 3 weeks. 

    It's very important to only bottle when you are sure fermentation is complete as if you cap those bottles before the yeast has done its job, you'll run the risk of bottles blowing up especially if you've added sugar to promote bottle carbonation. A bottle explosion can send a big foamy mess everywhere and littering the place with sharp glass. Trust me, I've made this mistake before and it's a massive pain to clean it all up and worse, it's a waste of time and energy and money!

    If you want flat cider, without carbonation, you'll need to add an additive such as more Campden solution to prevent any residual yeast from fermenting in the bottle. Like when you were preparing the apple juice, leave the Campden to sit for a whole day before bottling to help ensure any yeast present is accounted for.

    Remember to store your bottles in a cool spot, free of direct sunlight.

    I should mention that before bottling should taste your brew as this is the time to 'back sweeten' if wish. If you want to do this, you can add a non-fermentable sweetener such as stevia. This is in place of using extra sugar and it will mean you won't over carbonate.

    Making cider from store bought Apple Juice


    Making cider from store bought apple juice is a very simple process as the hard work has been all done for you. Try and use a juice that doesn't have preservatives as theoretically this can hamper fermentation from commencing but don't over think it.

    You might want to start with a gravity reading. If it is below 1050, then you may wish to consider adding a bit of sugar so the yeast has something to start working on.

    The process of fermentation is the same so fill your clean and sanitized fermenter with the desired juice. Give it a bit of a shake to aerate and then pitch your yeast - maybe Lalvin EC-1118. You could also add some yeast nutrient as well.

    Some brewers split the juice in half and once they are satisfied fermentation is occurring, they add the second half.

    Seal your fermenter with an airlock and leave it be for 2 to 3 weeks at a minimum. When you feel your cider is ready for bottle conditioning, you can batch prime with dextrose in the normal manner.

    You will want to condition your cider for a minimum of two months - cider brewers need to be more patient that beer brewers if they want a good tasting cider!


    What is a Demijohn?


    A demijohn (or jimmyjohn) is a particular kind of glass fermenter that is popular with cider and winemakers. They come in all kinds of sizes from 5 litres through to 23. The smaller sizes allow for experimentation. Their long necks can make them troublesome to clean.

    hard cider beer kit


    What about brewing with a cider kit?


    There are plenty of cider kits out there, just as there are for beer. We've taken a fancy to the Brooklyn BrewShop's Hard Cider Kit:

    A perfect kit for beginners, it makes fermenting hard cider at home simple and fun. The kit has enough ingredients to makes 3 batches of hard cider.

    It includes 1 gallon reusable glass fermenter, 3 packets yeast, vinyl tubing & clamp, racking cane & tip, chambered airlock, 3 packets cleanser, and screw-cap stopper. 

    You'll need to supply your own apples or juice.

    You'll be able to produce 3 batches of 7% ABV of hard cider (9-10 12-oz bottles). Brooklyn BrewShop describe that this kit will help you make a cider that is tart, bubbly and dry. Check out the price  and reviews on Amazon.

    Using gypsum to increase bitterness and reduce ph levels

    gypsum salt for brewing

    Using Gypsum to make hoppy beers taste great


    You may have heard that to lower the pH of your beer water, you can use calcium chloride, it works and works well but if you are looking to make a beer that would benefit from a bit of bitterness, gypsum might be the solution.

    Gypsum's scientific name is calcium sulphate (CaSO4·2H2O) so you can see it's got something in common with the chloride. Basically, it's another handy beer salt. 

    It does do a few things for your beer. If you add it to your mash, it will help lower the pH. A second effect is that the increased sulfate content will help to accentuate the bitterness of your beer. 

    A handy trick is that if you desire to increase the sulfate level to produce a more bitter beer enhancement but don't want to alter change your mash pH level, you can elect to place it directly into the kettle

    In doubt about the pH level of your water? Use a pH meter.

    How much gypsum should I add to my beer?


    Generally speaking you really only need to change the pH if your water needs some assistance. Get your source of water analysed will allow you to make a real judgement about how much gypsum to add, but frankly who has time for that? 

    If you wish to increase the bitterness of the beer, you're going to use it anyway right? This is particularly the case if you need to harden the water as you wish to brew an ale or bitter.

    Maybe that's a bit of a gung-ho attitude but whatever. That said, I did read an idea that pointed out adding gypsum to water which has an unknown status is like adding salt to a meal you've never tried. 

    In terms of adding gypsum, a lot depends on how hard your water is. If your water is low in sulphate and you're making a beer such as an IPA then adding about 7-8 grams of gypsum to a 5 gallon batch is probably all you will need.

    How is gypsum used for hoppy beers?


    Gypsum acts to suppress harshness and astringent flavours. Brewers can take advantage of this to use large amounts of hops without contradicting or causing disharmony with other components of the hop. Don't push it though, too much calcium carbonate with lay this balance to waste.

    What is the Burton Snatch?


    If you're brewing wort or water features too much sulphate, you will get that rotten eggs smell which is sometimes known as the Burton Snatch. This is why it is important you don't add too much gypsum to your brew. To be clear, in the case of using sulphate, this is the cause of the sulphur smell you may get a whiff of and not the smell of an infected beer.

    The name 'Burton Snatch' comes from the history of beers brewed at the place of Burton-on-Trent, England. The water of that area was naturally high in sulphate and when used for a brew or two, excess sulphite would cause the whiff when a beer was poured. 

    The snatch smell, if we can call it that, is now infamously tied to beers brewed using the region's water supply

    Do I need to use gypsum if I am using malt extract kits?


    You probably do not need to add gypsum if you're using a malt kit. Given kits are designed to be the wort you need to make the beer you want to make, it seems unlikely given modern manufacturing standards that it should be necessary to add gypsum. 

    Using calcium chloride to reduce pH of beer

    using-calcium-chloride-ph-level

    An experienced brewer will be no stranger to the fact that the pH level of one's beer has a direct effect on flavour. A beer that is pH balanced will feel good to the palate meaning you've a drinkable beer. If your pH level is too high, one way to reduce it is with calcium chloride flakes.

    By adding salt chlorides to your beer, you not only reduce the pH level but have the benefit of the chloride ions working to promote the sweetness, or mellowness of the beer's taste profile. 

    Charlie Sheen would call that #winning. 

    Using calcium chloride has a variety of benefits for beer production
    • reduce pH levels as needed
    • promotes the water hardness of beer
    • help preserve mash enzymes
    • asssit with increase extract yield
    • improve yeast metabolism growth and flocculation (great for clear beer)
    • accelerate oxalate removal
    • also used in cheese making as a firming agent
    • can be used to pickle vegetables!

    How much calcium chloride do I add to my water?


    General instructions are usually to use one teaspoon per 23 litres / 5 gallons (or as required). It will dissolve best in cold water, especially if it's stirred or shaken quite vigorously. 

    When you think it's properly dissolved, check with a ph meter to ensure the level is as you desire. 

    You can then proceed to use your water for mashing or sparging

    Pickling with calcium chloride


    I recently discovered that you can also use calcium chloride to help make pickles! Have you ever heard of Ball's Pickle Crisp? It's a popular product for when pickling dill pickles - it leaves them firm and hard which improves the eating experience. 

    You've probably figured out by now that the secret ingredient of pickle crisp is that it is one hundred per cent made of calcium chloride flakes. So if you want to save yourself a bit of money from the brand name product, grab a no-frills bag which will cost you less and get you more. 

    #winning. 

    Replace the pressure relief valve if your corny keg is losing pressure

    corny keg relief valve replace

    Is your corny keg losing pressure? Replace the valve


    Are your poppet valves and o-rings doing their job properly keep your brew fresh?

    If they are, chances are your pressure relief valve is failing and needs to be replaced. And it’s important you do so as flat beer is a real, first world problem that can be damaging to one’s stomach and mental health!

    The role of a pressure relief valve is pretty simple and obvious if you can read its name, they exist to let out pressure should your corny keg become over pressured. So you need them as a safety measure.

    The valve will release automatically when the keg itself is at a pressure point of around 800 kPa. This could potentially occur when say you have a regulator fail and CO2 keeps getting sent into the keg. This may seem a bit of a far-fetched example...

    More reasonably, if you need to open your keg for some reason, using the relief valve to remove the pressure is a smart move to avoid spraying beer everywhere. Only beer rookies make that kind of mistake and they only make it once!

    So if you’re experiencing a faulty valve, you can replace it quite simply and cheaply by ordering the part on Amazon and take advantage of your free shipping with Amazon Prime.

    But not all relief valves are the same. Some are made of plastic, some of stainless steel.

    If you’ve ever read any other post on this site, you’ll know we always recommend quality over cheap parts and given steel is more durable than plastic, we think that’s what you should go for.

    The valves come in two styles, the pull-ring or the toggle. You can tell the difference as the pull ring literally has a steel ring that you can manually pull when its installed on your Cornelius keg to release the pressure.

    If you have bought a second-hand corny keg, you may wish to replace the valve just for peace of mind. You could also consider replacing the entire lid of the corny keg, which would include a new valve - but you may not have the budget for that and so the idea of replacing the poppets and relief value if they are tired seems like a sensible precaution to me.

    How to choose the best brewing spoon

    choosing the best brewing spoon

    This next question might cause a bit of a stir but what is the most useful item to have when brewing?

    Is it a big kettle?

    A giant mash tun?

    A ph meter?

    Those are nice things to have and all but we think the most useful item to have ready to hand on brew day is a spoon.

    That’s right, a big spoon.

    A big spoon to stir everything up just right. A spoon to unstick a stuck mash tun. A spoon to stir in hops. A spoon to stir in yeast. A paddle to break up clumped together ingredients.

    Spoon or paddle, it doesn’t matter but the best ones do have a few factors about them that make them ideal for using on brew day.

    They’ve got to be sturdy enough to stir with. Too weak and they’ll snap. This is why some brewers like steel spoons. Many of them have a corrugated design to prevent bending.

    The only drawback is the steel can scratch your gear. If that’s a problem for you, use a plastic paddle if it’s strong enough. 

    If you do choose the plastic fantastic, then ensure it’s food grade quality and that it is resistant to heat. 
    Some of those brews can get pretty hot so if they are not heat resistant, they are more liable to break. Some smartly designed spoons will have a small head on the top of the spoon which can fit inside the next of a carboy which can be quite handy if you want to mix things up.

    Conversely, steel spoons often have a bent top so they may be easily hung up on the side of a kettle or whatever. Else, they will have a hole in the top so they may be hung on a hook.

    A great thing about stainless steel spoons is that they are easy to clean and will not retain odour. Handy if you’re also cooking crawfish or doing a turkey in a brewing kettle.

    Wooden spoons can snap easily and can carry bacteria. No one wants a wooden spoon eh?

    When stirring a mash, some prefer the paddle as they can be more effective in moving the grains around. 

    You will of course what your brewing spoon to be a long enough length so that it can reach to the bottom of your kettle or drum. To that end, a 21 - 24 inch long brewing spoon should generally see you right for your stirring needs. Such spoons will work best with 4 to 10 gallon size brewing kettles.

    As with all brewing equipment, you should only use a spoon that is clean. It doesn’t need to be sterilized when using before or after the boil as the heat should have killed any microbes that may have been lurking about. If however, you need to stir anything afterwards, then you will need to have sanitized your gear (we totally recommend you use sodium percarbonate for this task). This is especially true if you a simply mixing up a beer kit with some beer enhancer as there won’t be any heat to kill the bigs.

    Check out some options on Amazon.

    How to accurately use a refractometer to check specific gravity

    beer brewing refractometer

    What is a refractometer?


    A refractometer is a tool used for measuring concentrations of aqueous solutions. It has many applications across food, agricultural, chemical, and manufacturing industries. A refractometer can be used to measure things like the total plasma protein in a blood sample, the salinity of water and even the amount of water content in honey.

    They work by measuring the angle of refraction as light shines through the solution. Don’t ask me to explain the actual science behind it, I just work here man.

    What I do know is the Brix scale is used as the means by which the measurement taken is assessed. Given we are talking measurements here, it should be no surprise that the Brix scale measures the sugar content of an aqueous solution.

    This is when you might exclaim “Ha! I got you mate, wort is mostly malt sugars (maltose) and not sucrose so how does the Brix scale apply to beer?”

    And I’d say you’d be right and you can account for this learning how to apply a wort ‘correction factor’. Frankly, this can be a bit of pain and is one of the reasons why some brewers prefer to use a hydrometer to calculate ABV.

    Refractometers also only use a very small beer sample, especially less than a hydrometer which is why some brewers prefer them - especially if they are only brewing small batches of beer.

    How is a refractometer used in homebrewing?


    In terms of homebrewing, a refractometer used to measure the specific gravity of the wort before fermentation commences.

    You probably already know what specific gravity is. If you don’t, a quick lesson from Wikipedia.

    “Specific gravity is the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a reference substance; equivalently, it is the ratio of the mass of a substance to the mass of a reference substance for the same given volume.”

    Simple right?

    In terms of brewing, one uses a refractometer to determine the amount of fermentable sugars which will be converted to alcohol.

    What is the best refractometer to use when brewing beer?


    There are many kinds of refractometers, and they serve different functions. As a brewer, you want one that is designed to measure sugar. Most brewers use is kind that fruit growers use to measure the sugar concentrations of their fruit to assess ripeness. This way you get a close approximation to wort, but it’s not exact and this needs to be factored when using the Brix scale as mentioned above.

    Check out some options on Amazon.

    How to properly calibrate a refractometer for testing beer


    Just like when you use a pH meter, refractometers need to be calibrated.  There’s no way out of this.

    Add distilled water (if you have it) close the plate. Ensuring the liquid to spreads completely across the prism without any dry spots. Allow 30 seconds so that the water can reach the same temperature as the refractometer.

    This is important as the readings are temperature dependent.

    You simply then aim the refractometer toward a natural light source. Look into the eyepiece and adjust it so that the scale is in focus.

    Then adjust the unit’s calibration screw so that the refractometer reads exactly zero.

    Now you are ready to sample your wort.

    Testing wort with the refractometer


    It’s fairly easy to use a refractometer, it’s largely the same process as setting up for calibration.

    Once the unit has been properly cleaned of residue and correctly calibrated, place a small sample of wort on the glass. 

    Shut the cover and take note that the glass is fully wet and has no stuck air bubbles. Give time for the same to warm to the same temperature as the unit.

    Turn the refractometer to a natural light source. The refractometer should be held level with the window pointed at the light source. You can take the reading by checking via the eyepiece. Bob’s your uncle.

    I should not have to advise you do look at the sun directly but as some of you drink and brew...

    Check out some options on Amazon.

    Bonus fact!


    The first refractometer was invented by Enst Abbe. It was a complex device that included built-in thermometers and required a circulated water mechanism to keep the instrument cold. 

    While the devices have been refined and digitised in the hundred years since Abbe’s invention, the principle of how they work remains the same.

    Best no rinse brewing sanitizers for beer and wine brewing

    using no rinse sanitizer for brewing

    Every brewer wants to make good beer or wine.

    There are many ways to achieve this but there is one thing you have to do and that is to sanitize your beer brewing equipment.

    If you don't, you run the real risk of infected beer which turns out to be undrinkable.

    And where's the fun in that?

    So using so-called 'no rinse' brewing sanitzers is an excellent way to keep your beer free of unwanted microorganisms in your beer or wine.

    So what is a 'no rinse' brewing sanitizer?


    It's a solution that once you have sanitized your brewing equipment and beer bottles, you do not need to rinse off. In contrast, if you've used caustic soda or bleach, you will need to rinse your equipment and that just takes precious time that not many brewers have. I have read that some people consider bleach a no-rinse sanitizer but I think it can leave a smell behind which most people would want to remove by rinsing so we can discount it as an option.

    So 'no rinse' sanitizer it is then.

    So what are the best ones to use? Are they all the same or do some do a better job than others?

    There's a couple of schools on how to go about choosing the nest brewing sanitizer. You can go with commercially oriented solutions like Star San and my personal favourite, home-based options from your laundry like sodium percarbonate.

    Let's start with Star San as it is a well-known option within the brewing and wine making communities for cleaning and sanitizing brewing equipment.


    This proven bug killer that will lay waste to all the microorganisms that could screw up your beer.

    It is described by its maker as being a "self-foaming acid sanitizer ideal for brewing, dairy and other food and beverage equipment." The key ingredients of it are a mix of phosphoric acid and dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid.

    We say it is a very effective bactericide and fungicide!

    So about this no rinsing business? It can be used without rinsing under the proper concentrations. This means following the amount per litre instructions! Star San should be used at a ratio of one ounce to 5 gallons of water.

    This means Star San is perfect for sanitizing your empty beer bottles or the carboy.

    The beauty of Star San is that it can be used both for the 'spray on' method or for soaking equipment and beer bottles in a tub or bath.

    It is probably the most well known and well recommended sanitizing product known for home brewers. Check out the price on Amazon.


    Using Iodophor as a no rinse sanitizer


    Iodophor is very popular one rinse sanitiser used by many a home brewer. Iodophor is well established in the food and beverage industry as a go-to sanitizer and it works just fine on your brewing gear.

    The key active ingredient is iodine, an element that's been found to be wonderfully good at killing germs and preventing contamination.

    It's so good, hospitals and doctors use it during surgery to keep the human body free of bugs. Home users often use it with cotton buds for simple first aid hygiene.

    So you know it's safe to use on your children, it will work pretty well on your beer kit!

    It doesn't work well as a spray solution - it's best to soak your gear with Idophor for at least 10 minutes to sanitize your equipment properly. When it is used at the recommended concentration level with water, it is a no rinse brewing solution.

    While Idophor is odourless, tasteless, and easy on your hands it's very colour fast and will stain your clothes so be careful when mixing up your solution!

    Why don't you One-Step into my office?


    With One Step powdered wash you can lean your beer and wine making equipment quickly and easily with this non-toxic, oxygen-based cleaner. 

    Your mixing directions are to use 1 tablespoon with your water and wait 2 minutes of contact time (so it's a bit faster working than iodine based sanitizers). Once your gear has been soaked long enough, it is ready to use.

    one step no rinse cleaner

    The main ingredient of One Step is sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate aka sodium percarbonate. How it works is quite clever. The powder obviously dissolves when combined with water, which in turn releases the oxygen from the carbonate to form hydrogen peroxide – a chemical which is well known for its sanitizing and disinfectant abilities. And that's a point we should make - this product is marketed mainly as a cleaner, however the hydrogen peroxide does double duty as a sanitizer.

    This product a one step, no rinse because once hydrogen peroxide completes its work and it breaks down simply into oxygen and water which is safe as houses. Check out the price on Amazon.

    Speaking of oxygen based cleaners, here's my personal favourite:

    Sodium Percarbonate - as a no rinse solution found in your laundry


    Go and have a look in your laundry right now. 

    Go on.

    I'm waiting. 

    Did you find a laundry soaker? Some Oxi-CleanTide or Napisan or any other Oxi-named cleaner perhaps? If you did, chances are you've got a cleaner that does double duty as a sanitizer in the form of sodium hydroxide. We've have raved and raved for years about how good sodium percarbonate is as a sanitizer. If it's safe enough to use on your clothes, it's safe enough to use on your beer gear. 

    If you are a bit nervous about using a laundry powder, you can buy sodium percarbonate in a pure powdered form quite cheaply and easily on Amazon.

    So there you have it, a few suggestions on some easy to use, cost effective no rinse sanitizers for brewing. There are plenty of other options out there  - you can use other cleaners like PBW to the same effect. Whichever way you choose to sanitizer your beer, do it well, do it properly and just do it. If you don't, you will genuinely increase the odds of getting an infected beer, and frankly, if you've had it happen to you, you'll know what a stink and unpleasant experience that is! 

    Using pH strips to test beer

    ph scale for strip reference

    pH strips


    They are perhaps one of the oldest tricks of the trade that chemists have.

    While you're testing for the number of hydrogen ions in a solution with a strip, you can actually pretty much test them for anything.

    Salvia, soap, urine, wine and beer to name a few things. Swimming pools, fish aquariums, hot tubs and the ever popular kombucha are a few more!

    But we want to focus on how you can use pH strips with your brewing.

    Let's assume for the moment, you don't have access to a really good battery powered pH meter or you don't want to outlay the cash to buy one. The good news is that pH strips are really cheap as chips to buy.

    So why do you want to use a pH strip for testing beer?


    The pH level of your beer (both mash and wort) affects the way your beer turns out in several ways. Enzyme function is affected by an out of whack pH level, the efficiency of your hops can be manipulated and it affects how well your yeast ferments your brew.

    So quite important then eh?

    So the short version of using strip is the result you are looking for is a measurement of between pH 5.2 and 5.5. This is a general, ballpark, 'rule of thumb' number.

    How then does one use a pH strip to test beer?


    Fill a beaker or glass with the sample of wort or mash that you are testing. Your vessel must be very clean and free of any contaminants that may affect the test result.

    Take a strip from the pack and add it to the solution. It will then change color.

    You should then immediately compare this colour change to the colour chart that came with your strips. This chart will indicate the pH of your solution.

    Your strips may have a recommended length of time to leave the strip in your solution, we suggest you follow that recommendation!

    Are pH strips just litmus paper?


    It's a fair question to ask. 

    The difference lies in the intent of what one is trying to achieve by using either. 

    By using litmus paper one is conducting a 'pass or fail' of test that determines if a substance is acidic or basic. 

    When one uses a pH strip, one is determining the actual pH value.

    pH strips are thus more sensitive than litmus paper as they give you a more quantitative result - that said, it is still only indicative. If you need a precise measurement, then a quality pH meter will serve your needs.

    Extra for Experts


    If you are fairly pretty Scrouge McDuck like kind of character, you can double the number of strips you have by carefully cutting them in half (down the length!) and then use as normal. Or, you can just stock up on Amazon, as they are really quite affordable. 

    How do I make a hops tea for home brewing?

    How to I make a hops tea for brewing with a kit?

    How to make a hops tea for brewing with a beer kit

    Sometimes when making homebrew, beer makers also like to make a cup of hop tea!

    Why would we do this?


    The idea here is that the great hops aromas and oils have been removed from the bullets due to the boiling and will then mix more easily with your wort brew. You are not making a tea to drink but rather simply trying to better extract the oil from the hop bud or pellet.


    This means you have extracted more of the hops from the bullet than you would if you simply dry hopped them

    How to make a hops tea for homebrewing


    Put the hops in a muslin bag (or tie up a square of it) and then boil it for several minutes. 

    During the boil, have a good smell and enjoy the aromas as it wafts around your kitchen. 

    That's the deliciousness you want to impart into your beer. 

    We love using Cascade hops as we think they give the best smell in the world! It's also damn fine hops for making beer with, particularly pilsners and lagers. 

    When you've boiled the hops for long enough, turn the pan off but leave everything right where it is to cool. 

    Try not to let anything get into the pot as everything that's in there is going into your beer wort. I say this with experience as I did this the other month - made the tea over the stove with the back door open late at night and somehow a moth managed to land it. 

    Too bad, I made a hops and moth tea!

    You have probably already prepared your wort, so now put everything you've boiled - the whole muslin bag and the tea that you've made into the primary fermenter. 

    You are good to go on and now pitch your yeast - as long as the wort is at the correct temperature. 

    You can also drink your own hops tea too!

    It's done slightly differently to the above method for beer - you let the hops steep as you would any other tea and then drink when cool enough. It's not for us though, too bitter!

    3 best value "Jockey Box" for cooling keg beer


    Jockey boxes - coil or plate, copper or steel?


    If you want to serve your beer nice and cold at a party or BBQ, then a jockey box beer dispenser is a great way to share your nut brown ales.

    The jockey box, is a container filled with ice and water. A long coil of hollow tubing is connected to an external supply of beer, the other end, to the beer faucet.

    As the beer is drawn from the box through the coil, the beer is cooled by the cold temperature of the water.

    A simple, yet handy solution.

    The longer the coil, the more contact time the beer has with the cold, thus allowing the beer to get to a nice serving temperature.

    A good jockey box will be insulated to ensure the ice remains frozen as long as possible. An ideal temperature is considered to be 32°-33° Fahrenheit. If your ice melts and you've got an all-day event you may wish to have a supply of spare ice to top the box up with.

    NY Brew Supply 50' Stainless Steel Coils Jockey Box Cooler with Double Faucet

    plastic -7 -gallon -jockey -box

    This 28 quart / seven gallons jockey box cooler features stainless steel coils that are superior to boxes with cold plates because there is much more tubing, allowing for a much greater cooling capacity.

    This unit is double trouble as it comes with two 50' stainless coils that are 5/16" outside diameter meaning you will get good beer flow.

    Featuring two chrome faucets with black handles this unit also comes with includes bonus faucet wrench.

    This is a basic set up, for fair value. Check out the price on Amazon.

    stainless steel best jockey box

    Coldbreak Jockey Box - Bartender / BJB54SBE2


    Coldbreak is slowly but surely earning itself a fine reputation for selling quality brewing gear. They state that their jockey boxes are built specifically for the craft beer industry and designed so your beer has 100 per cent contact with stainless steel. Which is just what you should be looking for.

    All the shanks, coils, ferrules, and faucets of this unit are all made from stainless steel. Their Bartender Edition line of jockey boxes have the liquid inputs on the same side as the faucets. This gives your jockey box a clean look from the 'patron' side and also allows your bartenders to see if your keg is about to blow.

    Check the specs:
    • 2 taps, stainless steel shanks
    • Includes stainless steel faucets with black tap handles
    • 2X50-foot stainless steel coils (5/16-inch od)
    • Stainless steel belted cold break cooler with stainless drain plug
    • Note this unit does not include a dispensing kit
    Check out the price on Amazon.

    Three's not a crowd? Try New York Brewers Triple Faucet↦

    NY Brewing proclaim their jockey box cooler is perfect for dispensing ice cold beer at any party or event. Simply fill the cooler with ice and water, attach your keg(s), and you are ready to pour cold beer. They also reckon that their stainless steel coil jockey boxes are superior to those with cold plates because there is much more tubing, allowing for a much greater cooling capacity. It's a sensible argument...
    • Three 50' stainless coils, 5/16" outside diameter tubing
    • Three chrome faucets with black handles
    • 48 quart cooler, with hinged lid and drain
    • Includes bonus faucet wrench
    • Comes assembled with instructions for use and care.
    Check out the price on Amazon.

    What's better, a stainless steel or plastic jockey box?


    There are pros and cons of using each.

    Plastic is lighter but less durable.

    Stainless is heavier and stronger.

    A quality jockey box made of steel would have had all its shanks, coils, ferrules⇉, and faucets made from stainless steel. Shank plates should be in place to reinforce the cooler's walls to prevent buckling of the unit which is really important as this will help ensure that you are properly able to tighten your faucets.

    Nothing worse than a leaky faucet than when beer is involved!

    Why can't I just place my keg in a bucket of ice rather than use a jockey box?


    There are two schools of thought on this and the thinking can get muddled.

    You sure are very free to cool down your keg with ice but it's an intensive process which requires a lot of ice and time to cool the whole keg, especially if it's full of delicious beer. If you can get the beer cold enough, you might not need a jockey box but they are still handy for serving.

    A jockey box is an easy setup, doesn't require as much ice and arguably it cools the beer faster due to the coil system which means the beer gets exposed to a lot of coldness. 

    THAT said, warm kegs will likely serve foamy beer. That means there's nothing wrong with keeping your keg out of the sun when using a jockey box - try and keep it in the shade, or use an umbrella or at least a towel to prevent the sun heating the keg too much, thus countering the effect of the dispenser!

    This is actually quite an important thing to consider because as the temperature of the keg rises, the PSI changes with it, thus affect the pouring of the beer.

    So to round off, if you are using a jockey box, it also helps to keep the keg cool, at the very least, try and prevent it from warming in say direct sunlight. 

    How do I set up a jockey box?

    Do I need a regulator? 

    What kind of PSI is required?


    These three questions are lumped together as they go together. 

    The beer line from the keg goes from a shank into the keg and then into the coil and out the faucet. The keg should be connected to a CO2 tank to carbonate the beer and assist with pouring the beer. If you need a quick pour, you'll want to use a shorter coil system, say the standard 50' foot length. 

    However if you are doing a continuous poor, then you could perhaps go up to 120' feet and get a cooler beer depending on your conditions. 

    This difference may mean you need to adjust the PSI pressure of the CO2 up a little higher for the longer coil. 

    Typically, a PSI of 25 is used.

    Here's a great instructional video which clearly demonstrates how to hook up the CO2 regulator to the keg and then the piping to the jockey box.


    Cleaning the jockey box after use


    You need to flush the pipes out! If you don't clean the piping and coil, you'll get nasty residue left over which is just gross. Flush them out with water until they run clean. Consider using some pipe cleaner, especially after several uses to prevent and remove any build up.

    What about using a plate cooler over a coil?


    You can totally use a plate cooler - however, there's a real drawback with them in that you can only have ice and you'll need to keep in refreshed with ice and drain any melted water. As I understand it, cold plate coolers work best if the keg itself is cooled, which as we've discussed is good practice.

    The coil system, of course, loves ice and water.

    What's the difference between a kegerator and jockey box?


    A kegerator is a permanent set up which is basically a fridge. It's perfect for the man cave. The jockey box is a portable unit, designed to allow for pouring stations at parties, beer tastings and the like.

    Using Campden tablets to clean water and sanitise brewing equipment

    campden tablets for beer

    Using Campden tablets is an 'old school' method of making better-tasting beer


    These tablets can be used to remove chlorine from your water, to kill bacteria on brewing equipment, and to protect your beer by preventing unwanted foreign bacteria fermenting in your beer.

    So what is this, some kind of super pill?

    Campden tablets are basically potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. When added to the beer or even cider or wine, they instantly react with the chlorine (or chloramine), removing it from the water solution. 

    All this is done without adding any unwanted flavours to your water or beer.

    How many Campden tablets should I use?


    • If using for sterilization of equipment, use 16 tablets to one gallon
    • If removing chlorine from water, half a tablet to 5 or 6 gallons will break it down in less than 10 minutes.
    • If stabilizing apple juice when making cider to kill of wild yeast, deploy one crushed tablet per gallon of juice. You should wait for approximately for 24 hours before you pitch your yeast.
    • If trying to stave off an infection in cider or wine, then 1 or 2 smashed up tablets dissolved in your product, rack if you need. You will then probably want to bottle your cider asap and hope the tablets can overtake the infection. This trick may or may not work. 
    • Cambden tablets can be used 

    Are Campden tablets safe to use? What about the release of sulphur dioxide?


    Yes, the tablets break down into very drinkable compounds - remember this product has been used for many years, if it did cause any harm, it wouldn't be such a successful product.

    You may have heard that sulphur dioxide is released into the water. This is very true, however, when it reacts with the chlorine and chloramine it quickly breaks down. By the time your beer is to be drunk, the concentration in terms of parts per million is massively diminished.

    So your beer is safe as houses to drink.

    When to use Campden tablets for making cider


    Producers of cider know full well that a batch of juiced apples can easily succumb to acetobacter bacteria contamination which causes the classic turn-to-vinegar spoilage of the apples.

    Yeast is resistant to the tablets but the acetobacter is easily killed off, hence treatment with an agent like a Campden tablet is important in cider production.

    Why are campden tablets used with wine?


    In addition to preventing stray bacteria talking hold of a homemade wine, Campden tablets can also be utilised as an anti-oxidizing agent when transferring wine between containers. The sodium metabisulfite in the Campden tablets will trap oxygen that enters the wine, preventing it from doing any harm.

    Do Camden tablets halt fermentation?


    It is a fairly common misconception that Campden tablets can be used to halt the fermenting process in wine or beer before all the sugar is converted by the yeast, hence controlling the amount of residual sweetness in the final product.

    It is simply not true though.

    To truly completely stop fermentation, you'd need too many Campden tablets to do so, which would then actually make your produce undrinkable. 

    Where do Campden tablets get their name from?


    The original solution was developed in the 1920s by the Fruit and Vegetable Preserving Research Station which came from the English town of 'Chipping Campden'. The Boots UK pharmacy chain then made the product popular when they developed it as a tablet. 

    Do I have to use these tablets, are they necessary for brewing?


    No, the use of Campden tablets is totally your choice as a brewer. If you live in an area where the municipal water supply is not heavily dosed with chlorine, then you might not need to.

    Brewers in Havelock North, New Zealand will sure tell you how bad the chlorine is in the water after the local Council managed to poison so many residents, so in such regions, you would seriously want to consider using them.

    There are other means of removing chlorine and chloramine in the form of active carbon filters. In the context of a home or residence, these units are generally only good for producing tap water. If you need larger volumes of water for brewing with, a carbon filter will take a fair bit of time to filter your water. 

    Patience is a virtue, they say. 

    If you are using Campden tablets for sanitizing your brewing equipment or wooden barrels that you age your beer in, there are many other options out there, including sodium percarbonate (it's cheap as chips) or something more professional like Powdered Brewery Wash

    Fun fact: Campden tablets are also useful in decontamination and neutralization after exposure to tear gas!