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Best stainless steel ball valves for homebrew kettles

Best stainless steel ball valves beer

Best stainless steel ball valves for homebrew kettles


When you've decided to upgrade from using beer kits with plastic or glass fermenters and you want to use a bit of steel kit in your beer making, you're probably going to want to use a brewing kettle.

Every kettle needs a valve of some sort to release the beer wort and it's crucial that that exit point will work correctly every time and that it doesn't leak. You can even use them with your mash tun.

A quality steel ball valve will do the job. Once properly attached and sealed to the kettle, it's a simple matter of connecting the hose, and your wort's away!

What to look for when buying a valve for you're brewing kettle


Most brewers tend to use valves manufactured out of steel but there are some parts made of brass. Some brewers suggest brass parts corrode too easily and need to be cleaned as a result. We'd recommend you focus your search on buying a steel valve.

A valve made of 304 Stainless Steel will provide for maximum corrosion resistance.

Size is important - most brew kettles have a pre-made hole that is 7/8" inches in diameter - accordingly, you should be sourcing a 1/2" ball valve.  The seal on the valve should take care of the difference!

You'll also want to ensure the nozzle or hose bard is the right size for your needs. A 1/4" nozzle may result in a beer flow to slow for an impatient brewers, so you may want to consider the commonly used half inch nozzle hose barb

What are the best valves to use?


We never recommend cheap products as in the long term they can cost you more trouble than they are worth but mid range is a fine place to start with this bulkhead:


Features
  • 1/2"x10mm Stainless Steel Hose Barb
  • Stainless Steel Full Port Ball Valve
  • Sanitary Ball Valve
  • It features a 1/2" Full Port ball valve and a 1/2" barb, which means you'll get a decent wort flow
Check out the price on Amazon.

CONCORD 304 Stainless Steel Weldless Bulkhead Ball Valve



Concord Cookware have produced a no-nonsense valve and boast the following specifications:

  • Weldless Bulkhead Set Includes 1/2" Barbed Hose, Ball Valve, Hex Nipple, Washer, Red O-Ring x2, Grooved Lock Nut
  • 304 Cast Stainless Steel for highest corrosion resistance
  • High Temp silicon O-Ring for heat resistance
  • Grooved Lock Nut for leak free installation
  • Standard 1/2" NPT fittings made to fit your 7/8" kettle hole
Heh, they said nipple! It's no joke though to check the price out on Amazon.

The "L" Shaped Ball Valve


If you want your hose barb to point more downwards, this model from Tizze will suit your needs.

l shaped ball valve for a kettle

Tizze's specifications:
  • 1/2" weldless bulkhead fitting fits 7/8" kettle hole
  • Made from 304 stainless steel
  • Full port ball valve
  • Heat resistant O ring and it will hold a really good seal on the coupler
Here's a review that an actual brewer left on Amazon:

"Nice valve for transferring wort from the brew kettle to the fermenter. Takes 3/8" tubing doesn't leak and works great!"

So, what are you waiting for? Check out the price on Amazon.

How to attach a ball valve to a drilled kettle


This great instructional video shows you how to easily install the valve. A key take-away is that you can use teflon tape to further prevent leakage.


Another good idea relayed in the video is to test that your valve is correctly installed and your o-rings have made a good seal. Instead of using beer, test it with water!

How do I clean the valve?


Most valves can be taken apart for easy cleaning. A spanner or wrench is quite handy but then, you don't need to tighten these units to death.

Cleaning with a strong brush, hot water and soap will do the trick.

Why is brass made valves a controversial topic?


Both brass and steel are alloys. The metals they are made with each have different properties when they mix with alkalines and acids. Brass is more likely to corrode, so brewers prefer to use quality stainless steel products to avoid the issue of metal leakage into beer. For example brass can leach zinc and that's not really a ket ingredient of beer is it?

The best beer kit ideas to give for Christmas presents

The best beer kit ideas for Christmas presents

It was my wife who gave me the push I needed to get into home brewing beers.

I'd been saying for at least a year I was going to do it and even started collecting and cleaning the labels off beer bottles but I never made that jump. And then on Christmas Day, my lovely lady presented me with a Mangrove Jacks home brew kit and I was away!

If you are considering buying your partner / husband / best friend a beer kit for Christmas, we've got some great beer kit gift ideas for you!

There's a lot of gear out there but don't fall into the trap of going overboard and spending too much money. If your gift recipient is new to brewing, only the most simple and cheap brewing kit is required.

I was a slightly nervous first-time brewer. I read up all I could about brewing on websites, I read the instructions on the can. I read them 5 times. I called a mate who had done it few times. I read some more.

And I didn't need to as it is so easy to make beer!

I just did it and it was bloody fun. Because all you need is a simple drum, your equipment and some clean hands! But maybe follow this brewing advice too.

What beer kits do make ideal Christmas presents?

Let's start with the kit I was given for Christmas, the Mangrove Jack's beer kit.

This was an awesome present. It came with everything I needed to make my first batch of beer with. All I need to supply was the bottles. The first thing I realised was just how much beer you can make with it.

23 litres of beer is a lot!

The kit came with the malt, cleaners, brew enhancer, a hydrometer (for working out when fermentation was complete) and some easy to follow instructions.

The beer I made was pretty good all things considered - I just wish I had let it bottle condition a little more!

This gift was perfect for me as a home brewer, I personally recommend it as a great starter kit.

Mr. Beer Premium Gold Edition Homebrewing Craft Beer Making Kit

This is a handy kit as it has all you need to start brewing – the brewing extract, fermenter, bottles and ingredients. It even has brewing carbonation drops to make the first bottling experience a breeze. Mr Beer, the company that makes this kit, describes it like this:


“Mr Beer’s Premium Gold Edition Complete Homebrewing Kit provides aspiring brewers with our patented brewing equipment and high-quality ingredients that simplify the homebrewing process. 

Our patented brewing system includes a compact, lightweight fermenter that is modelled after the design of professional brewing equipment. Eleven 25 oz. reusable and shatterproof bottles that are specially designed for carbonating the beer.

We also include a can of brewing extract - a concentrated form of all natural malted barley and hops - produced in a state-of-the-art facility by Australia’s oldest family owned brewery, as well as No-Rinse Cleanser and unique Carbonation Drops to simplify the sanitization and carbonation process.”

So what are you waiting for? Order it now so you get it in time for Christmas!

The beauty of these kinds of beer kits is that they are so easy to clean as well - a rinse with a hose and then a splash of hot water with a cloth or non scratching brush and you are done - ready for the next batch to be made!

Not convinced?

Here's one more awesome brewing kit that would make the best Christmas present:

You could try the Brooklyn Brew Shop Beer Making Kit, Everyday IPA.

You could say it's a little bit fancier than the Mr Beers kit as it involves a slightly different way of making the beer.

The Brooklyn kit involves you making an oaty mash on your stove or gas burner and doing a little bit of boiling.

The Brooklyn Brew shops described it's product like this:

"If you can make oatmeal, you can make beer. Brooklyn Brew Shop's apartment friendly Beer Making Kits make it easy to bring brewing out of the garage and into the kitchen using only fresh, whole ingredients and traditional methods used in homes and breweries for centuries.

By brewing with the same ingredients (cracked barley, hops, spices, and yeast) that the best craft breweries in the world use, making high quality and complex beers becomes possible on the stove top in your very own kitchen, big or small."

Which is all very nice, but is it any good for a Christmas present? Here's what a user of the kit said in their review on Amazon:

If you "enjoy REAL beer and are actually INTERESTED in the process of brewing and how it works, this kit is an excellent way to jump right in by DOING it. They tell you WHAT to do, you do it, and you get very good beer out of it. "

So no complaints then. An easy choice for a Xmas present!

If beer is not the best idea, why not giving a gift of a cider kit?

If your partner is not really a beer drinking, they could well be into making cider! Good drinking ciders are quite the popular product these days.

They seem to have lost that ‘thing’ about them and are more accepted as something to drink in a bar. Which seems strange as cider has been around for centuries!

Our friends Brookyln Brew do a handy cider kit and so does Mr Beer.

If your partner is pretty experienced, take it to the next level with a ph Meter for testing the brew.

Alkaline Brewery Wash - better than PBW?

alkaline brewery wash
Alkaline.

It's a great word. 

It just rolls off the tongue so easily

And if you want to easily clean the sludge and muck off your homebrew equipment, then alkaline brewery wash might just be the magic cleaning powder you are looking for.

Some brewers claim it works even better than PBW!

The benefits of using alkaline wash include:
  • Cleans effectively in cold or hot water
  • Works longer than oxygen based cleaners as it doesn't break down the same way
  • Can be used to remove troublesome bottle labels
  • Does not leave a chalky residue as it reduces calcium carbonate and oxalate residues that oxygen based cleaners tend to leave behind
  • Powdered formula will eat through carbon build-up
  • Safe to come into contact with skin as it is non-caustic but we'd recommend you take precautions such as using gloves and avoiding getting it in your eye.
  • It's safe on glass, plastic, and stainless steel but avoid using on aluminum as it will react with it

One of the most popular washes is the Craft Meister ABW, check out the price on Amazon.


How to use alkaline wash on brewing equipment


You can use it as a spray from a bottle or do a soak. Many brewers like to leave their equipment soaking overnight to ensure it really gets the job done.

It works on kegs and carboys, kettles with no issues. 

Given the washes ability to dissolve organic matter, it works really well on bottles when you need to get rid of that sludge that gets left at the bottom - especially if you don't clean a few for a while and it dries out. 24 hours in an alkaline bath will sort them out, ready for bottling day. 

It will also work wonders on your glass wear!

A user that brought this product online from Amazon said left this short but handy review:
"It seems a little better than PBW. I've used this to clean brewing equipment, as well as to soak and scrub etching marks from drinking glasses. A very effective cleaner."

How much wash do I use?


  • For equipment like fermenters and bottles use 1 oz (2 scoops) per gallon of water.
  • For heavier jobs like brew kettles use 2 oz (4 scoops) per gallon of water.

Is Craftmeister's Alkaline Brewing Wash better than PBW?


While both products are quite similar in their make up, there's some debate. Many brewers sweat it performs better than PBW, especially in cold water.

It's more expensive so you have to weigh it up - what's worth more to you time or cost savings? If you want to use a cheaper product, use a sodium percarboante laundry soak

This quote from a forum sums things up nicely:
"Yes, it's pricey, but holy cow this stuff is magical. I've been pumping it around my rigs for years but you can't see the inside of a hex to appreciate how well caustics can work."
Another committed user said:
"This cleaned spots in my glass carboys that PBW could never get rid of"
So what are you waiting for? Check out the price on Amazon.

What are the active ingredients of Craftmeister's alkaline wash?


  • Sodium Carbonate 50-65%
  • Sodium Metasilicate 30-40% 
  • Sodium Sesquicarbonate  ≤ 5%

On the safety certificate, National Chemicals (who produce the brand) state there are some other ingredients that are nonhazardous but are of a propriety nature so they do not disclose their full composition.

It's important to note that many other products out there are referred to alkaline wash powder for things like foot fungus and eczema. These products are made of different chemicals!

If you think the Craft Meister ABW might be for you, check out the price on Amazon.

Venting over carbonated beer bottles

venting home brew beer gushers

Have you ever had a beer gusher


They damn well suck.

You casually open your beer and whoosh! There's beer foam all over the bloody place. 

Why did this happen? 

The fizz is the result of over carbonation. 


There could be a few of reasons for this. 

1. You bottled too soon and fermentation continued.
2. Your beer is infected by bacteria and they have overproduced on the CO2
3. You added too much sugar at bottling time.
4. You served your beer too warm

All these factors you have a strong degree of control over. 

If you've bottled too soon, you should have taken a final gravity reading and determined that matched the kind of beer your making and that you had the same reading two days in a row. 

If your beer is infected, it's quite likely you didn't clean and sterilize your equipment and bottles properly. I've said this a million times on these pages, you got do the basics and do them well

And if you added too much sugar, you might want to rethink your practices. If you batch primed, how much sugar did you add?

From my experience 40 - 60 grams is enough sugar to prime 23 litres of beer.

 Any more and you will quite likely get gushers. 

If you added sugar individually to each bottle, then you clearly added too much sugar. I used to use a good amount of sugar, now I try and use half a tea spoon of sugar. It's more than enough. 

If you want a consistent and safe measure, you can always consider using carbonation drops when bottling your brew

How to fix gusher beers by venting the bottle



To fix over carbonation, vent your beers individually. 

The technique is that you gently pry the bottle cap open so that only a part of the cap is exposed, let the CO2 escape and then quickly recap.

You need to all of this before the gusher occurs! If you are clever you should be able to use your bottle opener to both open and close the cap with the same action. 

It will be a long, painful process and you'll likely need to repeat the venting on each bottle if there is a lot of built up pressure. 

I have found in the past that the colder the beer is, the less likely it is to gush or be too fizzy or foamy.

Thus I would recommend that you leave your beers in a fridge for 24 hours before attempting this little rescue job of your beer.

Let's be clear though - if you've got gushers because you've got a bacteria problem, your beer is rooted and you'll need to tip it out and sterilize the bottles very well. Or you can store for a long time and hope the beer sorts itself out. That's kind of a Hail Mary move though...




A wee risk to bear in mind 


Over-pressurized beer can explode.

And that means glass can explode. I've seen the result in my man shed - green glass everywhere and the dank smell of wasted beer. 

If your under pressure beers are at that much of an extreme point you should ask yourself is it safe to vent?

While beer bottles are generally tough, the risk is there so I'd recommend you use gloves and a good pair of safety googles or glasses

What's the lesson here then? 

Review of Hach 9532000 Pocket Pro+ pH tester

hach ph tester review
Enthusiastic home brewers know that a beer brew that is properly pH balanced will produce excellent drinking results.

Getting the pH level right is really important for getting the brewing results you want, especially when one invests some much money into gear and ingredients, let alone your time.

That's why many beer makers use the Hach 9532000 Pocket Pro+ pH tester to get the results they need.

The Hach company says that it's Pro+ is engineered to deliver accurate results. 

Features:
  • Backed up with built-in performance diagnostics, you never have to guess when to clean or calibrate the sensor. 
  • You also get replaceable batteries for convenient field use, and a large, easy-to-read LCD screen.
  • Automatic Temperature Compensation
  • Instructions are found in the manual, which can be downloaded.
All those specifications are nice and all, but what do brewers who have actually used and tested the Hach meters have to say?

"Hach makes pretty reliable products and the pocket Pro is no exception to that. It is easy to use and pretty hardy, we use them at work and they hold up well. This model does not have the replaceable tip, but they make one if needed. I use this meter at home as well for pool pH checks that are quick and easy. It only comes with a single buffer of 7, so you may want to get a 4 and 10 buffer, to allow a 3 point calibration."

"Works very well, I do recommend calibrating the unit soon as you get it and it will be correct"

"I am very pleased! fast and easy and stable"

"Works great for my home brewing"

What are you waiting for, order the Hach from Amazon.

If you don't think the Hack Pocket Pro is for you, check out our buyer's guide with further ph tester options.

If you're new to using a ph meter, check out guide for mistakes to avoid when checking pH levels.

What are adjuncts used for in beer brewing?


Adjuncts are unmalted grains (such as corn, rice, rye, oats, barley, sugars, and wheat) or grain products that are used in beer making to supplement the main mash ingredient (which is usually malted barley). 

Under the German Beer Purity Laws, and adjunct could really be considered anything which is water, barley, hops, and yeast but that's just being a bit German eh?

So an adjunct can be anything added to beer such as:
  • Unmalted wheat, barley, rye, oats, maize, and other grains
  • Belgian syrups 
  • Honey, maple syrup, molasses, other sugars like jelly beans.
  • Fruit, pumpkins (!)
The reasons for adding an adjunct are varied. Some brewers will seek them for head foam retention, flavour or even to cut costs!

There is another reason why brewers use high-adjunct beers, and that's to make high alcohol beers. 

By adding extra sugars, for example, the yeast will ferment that in addition to the malt, thus produce more alcohol. 

When adding adjuncts to the beer one needs to understand that this can hamper an efficient fermentation as the yeast can tend to get a bit overwhelmed by all the extra sugar. 

To adjust for this, brewers who are looking to brew a high ABV beer, will add a yeast nutrient to give the yeast some respite from all the sugar.

Adjuncts can also be used to achieve specific beer styles and flavors:
  • Use simple sugars such as that from corn can be used to lighten the beer body and encourage a good rate of attenuation of your high-gravity styles.
  • The addition of flaked barley or rye can promote a strong head and a full body (which is good for mouth feel).
  • Tossing in a handful of flaked oats is known to result in silky mouthfeel.
  • Flaked rice, when matched with an earnestly hopped pale lager, is another method of changing the taste profile.
  • Using cherries and raspberries in sour ales is a popular trick

When and how to use yeast nutrient for brewing

brewing with yeast nutrients

Yeast, that magnificent beast of an organism that converts sugars to alcohol, is the key to fermentation.

Fermentation itself a fairly straightforward process but there are a lot of variables at play to ensure that you get a good tasting beer, let alone a brew that tastes like you intended!

Temperature, time, pH levels and oxygen are key factors.

An overlooked one is often yeast nutrition.

Does your yeast need nutrients? 


The malt in your beer is usually enough to sustain the yeast cells but in order to thrive (and thus efficiently ferment your beer wort and achieve a high attenuation) other elements such as levels of free amino nitrogen, fatty acids, and even vitamins and other minerals come into play and become factors in a successful brew. 

The truth is though, you could do a hundred brews and never need it but if you a looking for high attenuation rates or a brewing a beer with a high ABV, it may help as you need a strong yeast to achieve those two goals.  

When should I use a yeast nutrient?


You may also consider using a nutrient if your water is lacking in calcium, magnesium, and zinc as these metals. Zinc can help with the cell count while magnesium helps with cellular metabolism.

If your beer is using a high proportion of 'adjuncts', you'll want to consider supporting the yeast too. Sugar alone does not support the yeast so if there's a higher concentration of sugars in your beer, then a nutrient may assist yeast development. 

If you are making wine or cider or mead, you would be more likely use nutrient as there is less for the yeast to make do with than in the malty beer wort. Honey,. for instance contains no nitrogen.

To cover some of these factors off, many home brewers choose to add yeast nutrient to their beer batch.

The other benefits of adding a yeast 'energizer' include the shortening of the 'lag phase' of fermentation can contribute to a reduction in off-flavours in beer or wine.

Yeast food may also help reduce the final gravity by invigorating the yeast pushing it to a more complete fermentation leading to a reduction of diacetyl or acetaldehyde (that apple flavour). 

There are three modes of yeast nutrition:


  • Nitrogen supplements -  usually in the form of di-ammonium phosphate which is a water soluble salt and or urea, this should be used when there's a lack of free amino nitrogen. Can be used for mead, cider, wine, and beer. Fermax and Fermaid are popular brands used by brewers as it contains the phosphate as well as magnesium sulfate and autolyzed yeast
  • Yeast hulls - dead yeast of which the residue acts as a home for live yeast. Live yeast will eat the hulls and feed on the nutrients contained therein. 
  • Yeast energizers are used to stimulate or restart a stalled fermentation.

Can I add yeast nutrient to my starter?


You sure can. Brewers will often add about a quarter teaspoon to their starters. Bread bakers have been known to add it to their sourdough starters!

When should I add yeast nutrient to my brew?


It should usually be added at the start of fermentation. If you are using an energizer you will most likely be adding it when fermentation has failed or halted. 

How much yeast nutrient should I add?


Manufacturers typically recommend 1 gram per litre or 1 teaspoon for 5 litres/1 gallon. There should be instructions on the packaging.

What are Servomyces?


This is a yeast supplement produced by the famed yeast developers, White Labs. They boast that 

"Servomyces enables any yeast strain’s ability to incorporate essential nutrients into its cellular structure. It is propagated in a micronutrient rich environment and then killed off prior to packaging.  
Boiling incorporates the servomyces into the wort. The benefit of servomyces is that micronutrients, e.g., zinc are able to pass through its cell walls to your live cell yeast cell, thereby delivering the micronutrients without toxicity."
Check out what White Labs have to offer on Amazon.

So if you batch is short of zinc, then using Servomyces may be the right option for you. If you are doing a boil, it is recommended you add one capsule ten minutes prior to the end of the boil. If doing a kit brew, you can open the capsule up and add the Servomyces directly to the wort. 

Best wort aeration pump systems

The best aeration pumps provide an efficient and inexpensive way to aerate the wort in your primary fermenter.


An aquarium pump forces room air through a properly sanitized tubing. The air is delivered then delivered the wort through a diffusion stone. This promotes rapid absorption into the wort.

So what pumps do this the best?

best pump for adding oxygen to beer wortSmarter brewers than I have worked out that your wort should ideally have an oxygen level of 8 ppm (parts per million) before pitching the yeast. The reality is that many brewers only achieve between 2.5 - 4.5 ppm if they do not aerate with a pump.

By using this wort aeration system you can probably easily double the oxygenation you might normally be getting.

A brewer who brought this unit on Amazon left this genuine review:

“Works great! Bubbles quite a bit, and foamed out of the top (mainly because I didn't leave enough room), but I didn't have any issues at all. My yeast took off like a bat out of hell when I pitched, which seemed to be better than when I didn't oxygenate in the past. I would highly recommend this to any homebrewer looking to improve fermentation.”

What are you waiting for? Incomplete fermentation to occur? Check out the price on Amazon.

Eagle Brewing FE380 Aeration System


Eagle Brewing FE380 Aeration System wort pump
The Eagle Aeration System does what you want it to do, quietly and effectively.

Attach the ⅜-inch transfer tubing to the unit and your stone and you will be aerating in no time. 

There’s not much more to say about this unit, it’s basically 'plug and play' once you’ve submerged the stone at the base of the fermenter.

Just bear in mind that the tubing (as with all pumps) will be wound up on arrival due to packaging constraints so you may want to stretch it out a bit so it settles on the bottom of the fermenter.

Check out the price on Amazon.

Using diffusion stones to oxygenate beer wort


Here’s a funny thing we learned.

Diffusion stones are not actually made of stone.

How about that eh?

They are actually made of stainless steel which is added to a porous mold.

They do work a treat in making bubbles get that oxygen into your beer. You’ll want your stone to have a micron level of between .5 to 2 microns. This is pretty standard for brewers.

When using a diffusion stone you’ll want to ensure that you’ve sanitized it in an appropriate sanitization solution (don’t forget the tubing as well!).

I’ve read some punters warn that your hand can leave natural oils on the unit which can then clog it up - I say if you’ve washed your hands prior to use, then you should be fine.

It can be hard to attach a diffusion stone to the tubing. Instead of trying to force it in, place the end of the tubing in some near boiling water for a short time. This should soften the tubing enough so you can insert the stone’s connector part.

When placing your stone in the wort, you want it to get to the bottom of the fermenter, not near the top. If your tubing is a bit curly, you may want to try and straighten it out.

If this continues to be a problem, you may wish to consider using an oxygenation wand which will sit quite nicely in the fermenter, ensuring the oxygen bubbles start at the bottom and filter into to the whole wort.

When aeration is good but oxygenation is bad

carboy areation wort shake

How to properly aerate wort for brewing


While in some ways beer brewing is simply following a recipe but it sure is not like making a cake. There are some many variables at play.

Is the yeast viable?

How much hops do I need?

Is my equipment germ-free?

Is the temperature correct?

And on and on.

There's also one more variable that sometimes gets overlooked in the brewing and bottling processes and that's the role that oxygen plays in fermentation.

Oxygen supports yeast growth and effectively then has an influence on the ABV of one's beer so understanding the best way to manage this element will help improve your beer drinking experience.

First up, let's discuss the:

The relationship between yeast and oxygen


The yeast in your beer requires the presence of oxygen so that is can develop new yeast cell walls. The oxygen is used to develop unsaturated fatty acids and sterols, of which the yeast membrane is built.

Good oxygen levels promote strong yeast which in turn means it can handle high alcohol concentrations which means it was last longer and do a better job on your beer.

An efficient yeast means one gets quicker fermentation times and a reduce chance of a stuck fermentation. This also will mean that you will get fewer off flavors in your beer.

The higher the desired ABV, the more oxygen required


We made reference to it above but if you intend to make a high alcohol beer, you need to create an environment where the yeast can handle that - and a strong yeast is key.

At the same time, you are probably intending to pitch your yeast at a higher rate than you would for a 'session beer' so, all things being equal, you'll want to increase the oxygen ready to be used by that yeast.

How to aerate your wort with oxygen 

Before you aerate your wort the first thing to consider is WHEN.

If you aerate when the wort is too hot (this includes being warm) there is a vastly increased change the oxygen will bind to wort particles. 

If this happens, the risk is that over time these compounds will begin to break down, adding the oxygen back into the beer. The harm occurs as the oxygen can tend to oxidize the hop and alcohols.

This can produce 'off flavors' which are often described as being like 'wet or damp cardboard' or sherry like.

How to prevent oxygen from getting into your beer


We discussed above that aeration at hot temperatures is undesirable - so cooling your wort quickly is the best thing you can do.

Using a wort chiller will quickly bring your beer down to the right temperature so you can pitch your yeast but before you pitch, it's the time to oxygenate.

Carboys

If your wort is in a glass carboy, cover the mouth of the carboy with a cap and gently rock the carboy back and forth to encourage oxygenation of the wort. You can do this with a plastic fermenter too. 

Just make sure you have a firm grip!

If you're making a beer with a kit, once you have the kit in (along with hops and brew enhancer) then I fill it up with water from the garden hose. This will easily add plenty of oxygen to the wort. 

Once your beer is in the fermenter and fermentation is to begin, it's pretty simple to keep the oxygen out - you need to ensure the drum or carboy is tightly sealed and that your bubble airlock / air vent has water in it.

Then try not to move it again!

When bottling your beer, a bottling wand and a steady hand will help to prevent aeration. Do not leave your filled bottles uncapped for too long either!

stirring wort with a whisk

Other tricks for stirring in oxygen:
  • Use whisk. Get in there and use some elbow grease
  • Use a beer spoon. Not as efficient as a whisk but a strong arm will make some foam
  • Add an agitation rod into a drill such as this mixer.
  • Use a siphon tube to spray the wort into the fermenter
Whichever agitation method s used, make sure that your implement is clean and sanitized to prevent risk of infection

Another great method is to use a pump system for aeration. Check out this instructional video on how to configure the pump.


If using an aquarium fish style pump, you need to make sure the diffusion stone is clean and sanitized and is small enough to fit into the neck of the carboy. The stone also needs to have a small micron level of  between .5 to 2 to ensure lots of gas bubbles are produced.

diffusion stone for wort oxygenation

For best results, aerate your chilled or cool wort for 20-30 minutes.

When racking beer, try not to disturb the beer too much


When you're racking to a secondary fermenter or to your fermenting bucket it's imperative to prevent the liquid from splashing or getting agitated. When using a siphon it's best to keep it smoothly flowing.

Do I have to oxygenate my beer?


No.

You do not need to proactively aerate your beer, fermentation will still occur.

The point of aeration is that you are trying to give the yeast a leg up.

That said, some brewers are known to starve the yeast of oxygen as this assists with the beer profile they desire. This process is called anaerobic fermentation.

How to use foam inhibitor to avoid 'boil over' or a 'krausen explosion'

pot boil over prevention

Beware the krausen! A watched pot never boils right? 


This rule doesn't apply on brewing day.

Even though you are paying keen attention to your boil, it takes but a second for a boil over to happen, making a mess and causing you to lose wort.

But what if there was a way to stop boil over?


Some pundits recommend that you add marbles or ball bearings to the brew to help boil over.

Or use a spray bottle of cold water whenever the foamy beast raises its head.

But if you want to make sure you don't suffer a boil-over, try using a foam inhibitor!

Foam inhibitor or 'defoamer' is a handy trick to keep your beer from boiling over.

A popular product is 'Fermcap-S'. A fancy way to describe it is that it is a "silicone based food-grade emulsion".

There are two main ways to use it - during the boil and during fermentation.

If you choose to use 'Fermcap-S' to prevent boil overs on the hot side, add 2 drops per gallon for a nice rolling boil.

If you wish to use it in your carboy or fermenter to prevent the krausen from escaping the fermenter, then the dosage is only 2 drops at the start of fermentation. If you didn't know, the krausen describes the foamy head that develops on top of fermenting beer.

If you have added your inhibitor during the boil, there is no need to add any to the fermenter as it will carry over.

When used in the fermenter, 'Fermcap-S' increases the bitterness of your beer (retained IBUs) by about 10 percent.

This sounds dandy but why should I use an inhibitor?


Boil-overs are more likely to be a problem if you are using a smaller pot. Users of fermcap have reported being able to make a 5.5 gallon batch in a 7 gallon pot.

While mess is annoying, the real reason you want to prevent this is that the foaming can cause any top-fermenting yeast to be expelled from the fermenter before it can do its job in the wort. 

This then requires the rest of the yeast to work harder to achieve the final terminal gravity which will not necessarily occur if yeast lost has been significant.

There is also another sweet effect of using an inhibitor like Fermcap it actually can help retain the IBUS from the hops - that is to say, it can help your beer become even more bitter when the product is added to the primary fermenter.

Beer is supposed to be foamy! This seems an odd product to use?


Using anti foam may seem to be a counter-intuitive idea. It would seem fair to consider that putting something in wort or fermenting beer to control foam will also kill the head on the finished product.

However, when anti-foams are used properly, quite the opposite is true!

Using vegetable based defoamer


Instead of silcone based products, you can also try vegetable oil versions.

Vegetable oil is a known yeast nutrient and will be consumed by the yeast during fermentation of beer before bottling or kegging.

Commercial breweries use it


Big commercial breweries often use defoamers and anti-foamers as part of their beer processing but given that it's not really within the spirit of purity brewing, it appears not many commercial operations will freely admit to adding silicone based products to their beer!

So what are you waiting for? Here's the cheapest Fermcap I have found on Amazon!

Begun, the beer wars have


Begun, the beer wars have.

Actually, this has been happening for a while now.

Big commercial brewers versus the little guy.

Big commercial brewers buying up the little guy.

Big commercial brewers trying to trademark beer lingo like radler.

And everyone hates them for it.

So when Tui attempted to bully Moa brewery a few years back, Moa stood up for themselves in a deliciously brilliant way.

While they are not the littlest guy, let's call them a mid-strength brand. They are on the NZ share market, and at the time of Tui's dig, there was nothing spectacular about their share price but they were slowly picking up sales around the world.

Either way, the diss Tui made as part of their famous yeah right campaign was worty of a retort.

If you haven't read the above very word image, do it now. You'll see the story play out really well. Moa is making the point that Tui is part of a world conglomerate where there a layers of corporations and SHAREHOLDERS.

So attempting to pick on a small fish for their share performance is somewhat ironic and amounts to a form of corporate bullying.

It's also amusing as if we are comparing the flavour of Tui to Moa's product, it's this humble drinker's opinion that Moa has the superior product range.

Sure, Tui was a beer I swilled back in my University days (where my Speights drinking mate used to say of Tui beer, "Tui is a bird and let's leave it at that". And that's about what it's still great for, binge drinking at a Uni Bar or a party or summer BBQ somewhere.

Hey don't get me wrong, Lion Nathan who is owned by mega-sized Japanese company Kirin still make Steinalager, which despite its massive commercialization, it's one of the best beers around. Other drinkers will disagree but for this drinker, there's something really special about that first taste of a cold bottle at the end of the day.

The horror, the horror of Garage Project's decision to withdraw Death From Above

death from above garage project


"Death from Above" has been one of Garage Project's most well known beers for a couple of years now. We've extremely enjoyed the odd bottle when we've had the cash to spare for it was a pricey wee brew, often cited at 12 dollars a bottle in the Supermarkets of Wellington.

It was officially described by Garage Project in it's tasting notes:

"Big, juicy, death. The ultimate combination of fruity, herbal, spicy, and citrus. DFA is largely herbal on the nose with the Vietnamese Mint rearing to go, being pushed up and out of the glass by the also bold mango aroma."

And it was paired with a label which had flash backs to Vietnam War era imagery of a Helicopter reigning Death From Above with Napalm.

It quickly became a very popular beer around Wellington and beyond.

Well it used be popular until Garage Project brewer and co-founder Pete Gillespie completely lost his nerve and withdrew his companies most popular beer from sale as a result of a single contact by an Australian woman.

Brewer Pete Gillespie is reported by Stuff as saying that "ending the beer was his personal reaction to the letter from a Australian woman of Vietnamese descent."

He's also on the record as saying "She wrote a very long and detailed letter to us explaining how upset she was and how the imagery and name had triggered things in her."

I wonder if this woman has also written to every Hollywood film producer who ever released a movie about Vietnam. I wonder if she has written to every author of everybook about the Vietnam War? Has she asked for any books or films in her local library to be removed so that young children are not triggered too? Has she written to Netflix to ask the to stop streaming it's war films?

It's my view that while one can defend movies and books as really exploring the issues surrounding Vietnam as being more 'proper' in taste and treatment of the issue, the moment you publish for profit, everything is in the camp, whether it a beer or the Platoon movie.

I appreciate the letter writer may well have some residual issues with her possible experience with the Vietnam War (it's not made clear and the use of 'Vietnamese decent' suggest may may have born in Australia) but come on.

Unlike Death From Above, Gillespie appears to lack some balls.

What's quite amusing is that when the beer was first released to the market 4 years ago, it was met with some quite verbal resistance from the Returned Servicemen Association.

At the time of release the RSA president Don McIver, who served in the Vietnam War, said he found the advertisement "cheap" and "disrespectful", although he noted New Zealand never used napalm. "It seems to me this is almost celebrating it. It's terrible stuff - I don't agree with it."

Garage Project's other co-founder Jos Ruffell responded at the time that the promotion was "a playful pop culture reference" to to the classic war film "Apocalypse Now". That movie famously opens with an attack which uses napalm.

So let's get this straight.

On release of the beer, the RSA, a respected New Zealand society group that represents soldiers who fought in the Vietnam war makes their displeasure known and Garage Project responds by say it's just referencing a movie.

But now when an AUSTRALIAN of Vietnamese decent says she was 'TRIGGERED', they take their beer off the market?

It just makes Garage Project look like hypocrites and their decision is almost a double insult to the RSA!

We imagine Death from Above clones are about to become pretty popular recipes!

I note that Garage project have deleted all references to the beer from their website however by the power of google cache, I found a deleted blog which actually covered the inspiration of the name:

"The beer was originally going to be called Hopocalypse Now, a hoppy pun pop reference to the cult movie by Francis Ford Coppola. The only problem was that there are 12 other Hopocalypse beers in the world. Perhaps one more wouldn’t have mattered - but not everyone agreed with us. So we made the decision to change the name to Death from Above, the motto of the US Airborne Division, a lateral reference to the famous Ride of the Valkyries scene from Apocalypse Now… and the name of a jolly good band into the bargain"

The post also said "It was never meant to be a controversial brew. It is just meant to be a good beer."

So there's that.


Maybe Gillespie and Reffell can reconsidered their decision and come back with the originally intended name?

Either way, based on comments around the social media traps, I suspect that Garage Project has lost a small amount of goodwill.

There is another possible, less 'genuine' reason - simple marketing and brand promotion.

 It could be that Garage Project have decided withdraw the beer from the mark - maybe it was too expensive to make, not actually selling well. To make this call by way of 'The Letter' gives the brand some publicity - and a chance to increase short term sales before they sell out of the drop - and thus giving extra interest in what ever new beer the team has up their sleeve.

Time will tell.

Update:

The beer has been reborn and repackaged as 'DFA' which means Demus Favorem Amori, Latin for “we choose to stand for love”. Quite the turn around eh?

DFA DEATH FROM ABOVE


Article has been edited slightly in response to some thoughts raised on social media.

Using Malic Acid with wine to reduce the pH level

using malic acid to reduce pH in wine

How to manage pH levels with malic acid 


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
  • Features 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. Hangin' and bangin' Jerry!
  • 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

Brewing 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.

Actually, stir the heck out of the juice every 12 hours to make sure everything is coming into contact with the metabisulphite

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.