How to properly clean and sanitize your fermenter drum post a brew

Don't leave your spoon in the drum!
How to properly clean and sanitize your plastic beer fermenting drum after brewing a batch of yummy beer


This post will help you properly clean and sanitize your fermenter after you've finished brewing.

Note that we said both clean and sanitize.

This is because while cleanliness is next to godliness, clean is not good enough to kill and remove bugs and bacteria that may lurk in the tiny scratches of your beer fermenter.

This is basically a 'suck eggs' post - we sound like your mother telling you to clean your room but dude or dudette, you gotta clean up after yourself!

Cleaning your fermenter


It's our practice that when we have finished bottling that last beer, we clean the fermenter to remove all the scum and fermentation residue that has collected on the inside of the drum. If you do this now rather than in a few days or weeks or months ...it will be a much easier job.

First up, I dump what's left at the bottom of the drum on the vegetable garden as I suspect that's quite nutritious for the plants.

Then I grab the garden hose and clean the drum out.

Kill the bugs until they are dead, dead I say


Then I get a kettle of still hot and boiled water and dump it in and then I add a large spoonful of sodium percarbonate.

I then seal the drum and shake it vigorously. The heat from the boiled and sodium will act as a cleanser. I then drain and put the drum in a clean spot ready until I need to use it (at which point I will give it a another proper dose of sanitation. 

You could use some ordinary house hold detergent to clean the drum but it could leave smells and residue behind. If you do choose to do this, don't use a harsh scrubbing brush as that could put tiny scratches in the fermenter.

These scratch marks could make a nice home for unfriendly bacteria so bear that in mind.

We suggest you use a clean rag. Or your best linen, we're not fussy. 

You could also implement a scorched earth policy and use something stronger to clean your fermenter. Caustic soda or bleach based cleaners could be used, but again I would caution on residues.

As with all chemical agents, be careful when using them and take precautions such as using eyewear and gloves.

The call to action:


If your beer fermenter has had its day in the 'beer making sun' and you need a replacement, order one online

We mentioned gloves - you can get boxes and boxes of them cheaply from Amazon.

↠ The best way to properly store opened beer hops




What is the best way to store opened beer hops?


Today I brewed an ale. After I added the deliciously smelling Cascade hops, I wondered if my my trick of storing the left over hops in the freezer was actually a good storage method.

You see, when I first used hops with a brew, that's the first thing that came to mind to do (maybe I was thinking about coffee or batteries) and I've done it ever since without a further thought. 

Is this an OK way to store the hops?

Are there better ways to care for hops?

Do different hops need different storage methods?

These are the questions that I started to ponder.

So, to save you the hassle, I've done some research into the best ways to store beer hops. And when I say research, I mean I just did some reading on the internet.

Because beer brewing only needs to be simple and not over thought.

But first we need to take a moment to discuss why the home brewer wants to preserve their hops.

It's because they lose their bittering qualities over time, and their essential oils degrade and this means you might not get the desired brewing flavours if you used hops that have deteriorated.

Fresh is best as they say.

So what's the answer to storing hops then?


Turns out freezing hops is actually a popular trick with beer brewers!

This is what you can do and pretty much all you need to do.

Take your left over beer hops and place them in a zip-lock bag. Remove the excess air, seal and place in the freezer until required.

If you want to go all 'professional' you could use a vacuum sealer to remove all the air.

In such cases, you might not need to freeze the hops if the sealing has been done properly, but it wouldn't hurt.

You can also refrigerate the hops. Again, put them in a zip lock bag and remove as much air as possible. I read that hops can stay fresh for up to a year this way.

That trick would seem to rely on there being hardly any air in the bag!

Extra for Experts:

How to dry hop your beer
How to add hops to the beer kit's wort
Where to buy beer hops online

>> What are the best beer kits to use for brewing?

best home brew beer kits to try

There is a great range of beer kits to use for home brewing


The best thing about beer kit selection is that it all depends on what kind of beer you want to make. 

So the choice is up to you.

No one wants to screw up their beer, they just want a great tasting beer that they can share with their mates.

Or drink it all themselves while watching the Footy. 

But you gotta make that choice.

So.


Are you after a hearty ale or a light lager? 


Maybe ever something more fancy like a 'saison' which seems to be all the rage at the moment?

There are many kinds of beer kits from all kinds of sellers. They are all intended to be used to make great tasting beer so let’s review a selection of the best beer kits and see if we can find the best one for you.

Things to consider first when buying a beer kit


What kind of beer do you want to brew?


Beer kits are made to cover just about every beer style that there is. 

If you are a beginner brewer we would recommend that you go for a more darker beer like an ale or stout (we love nut brown ales with some fuggle hops ourselves). 

This is because it's more likely you will get a better tasting beer, especially as most first time brewers will not be patient enough to wait for their lagers to properly age!! 

Speaking of lager...

Is the kit reasonably fresh?

If it’s been sitting under the kitchen sink for three years the ingredients may not be in an optimum state and the condition of the yeast will certainly be questionable.

You want your beer kit to be in the best state so as they say, fresh is best. When making your purchase feel free to inquire with the seller or check the batch data.

If it’s old, show the kit the door.

If you are buying from a popular beer specialty store or online site, chances are you will be buying a product of an appropriate age and there should be no reason for you to wonder.

One handy trick brewers often do is discard the yeast pack that comes with the beer kit and instead they add their own fresh yeast they have sourced elsewhere, the Safale yeast is a popular choice with homebrewers.


Many brewers believe that the yeast in beer kits are not as good as specialty yeasts. We say each to their own, and if you can afford it, go for it.

Lager beer kits


Lagers can be a challenge to make as they need lower temperatures during fermentation to achieve the desired result.

Since lagers  are generally light in body it is very easy to tell a lager that has been fermented at too warm a temperature as they may taste too fruity or spicy due to too much ester production.

So what are some good beer kits to use to make a lager?


Getting the malt ready
The very first lager I ever made was a Black Rock Lager with beer enhancer and Dr. Rudi Hops. I have no idea who Doctor Rudi is but he sure helped make a good beer! 

I’ve used plenty of Black Rock Kits and they are just the best for basic home brewing and produce very drinkable beers. 

You could think of these kits as being your 'standard' kit - nothing to fancy but you can be confident they will help you produce good beer.

You’ll also find that Cooper’s DIY Lager is well worth a crack – we do recommend you add some hops of course! We did a great brew of a Cooper's larger with the combination of both Moteuka and Saaz hops

Cooper’s kits have been reviewed by drinkers as being “a great beer to start with for new brewers and veterans alike. The flavor is very smooth, has a creamy head and ends with a slight bitterness.”

Another popular choice in the American home brewers market is the Munton’s Premium Lager Kit, which has a 5 star review on Amazon


What are the popular ale kits? Is IPA the way to go?


Some of the tastiest beverages around are ales. There’s something about them that just makes you feel good when drinking them (other than the obvious alcohol effect!).

They are hearty to drink, and pair well with many food dishes.

A well-crafted ale can explore all kinds of taste sensations and they are certainly a great session beer where you can just get on them.

Also, the best ale kits are pretty forgiving to brewing mistakes and they are also able to be brewed at warmer temperatures than those pesky and pernickety lagers ;).

So what are the best ale kits?


We are going to focus on the IPA, the good old Indian Pale Ale.

A style of apparently that was apparently invented by the British during their efforts to colonize India, the IPA is a hoppy style beer from the pale ale family.

There are three kinds of IPA’s American-style, English-style, and Double or Imperial. All have good things going for them, especially Mr Beer’s Diablo IPA.

It is a very popular beer kit. It has been described as being “a very nice dark ale with subtle hints of winter spices, and takes kindly to many different yeasts.”

Get your thrills from your pils (kits)


Let’s have a think about Pilsner beer kits.

Hand tip - use a hydrometer to check the gravity
The pilsner style is arguably the most successful beer style in the world with some counts suggesting that 9 out of 20 beers is from the pils family or a style derived from it.

Take that with a grain of malt, but there’s no doubt as to the popularity of a good pils (if you ever get the chance, try the Three Boys Pils, it’s one of our personal favourites).

The pilsner has a long history coming out of Germany. The modern pilsner has a very light, clear colour from pale to golden yellow. It will usually have distinct hop aroma and flavour.

Pilsner beers have become nearly synonymous with the four so called 'noble hops'. These are varieties of hop called Terrnanger, Spalt, Hallertauer and Saaz.

So what are the best pilsner beer kits? 


Here's a handy selection of the popular sellers on Amazon:


Stout beers are... strong!


You may always want to try a stout.

Stouts are not for the shy beer drinker, they are a full on ‘meal’ in a glass. A dark beer, they are often 7 or 8 percent ABV and have been around as a beer style since the late 1600s.

The stout, like most beer families, comes in a variety of styles. Milk stouts, Irish, Porters and oatmeal are popular versions.

The most well-known Irish stout is the Guinness Draft, the most drunk beer around the world on Saint Patrick's day!

There’s even a method of brewing stout that uses oysters but we recommend the home brewer stay away from adding some of Bluff’s finest export to their brews!

Stouts will often use East Kent Goldings hops but the classic Fuggle hop is used, as are several others.

So what are the best stouts to homebrew from a kit?


Here's a handy selection of popular options from Amazon.



So there you go, there are plenty of quality beer kits to choose from. What to choose depends on what kind of beer you want and how much you want to spend!

We would recommend you go with popular beer kits when you are starting out.

This way you can have some confidence that many brewers have been there before and voted with their wallets as to the quality and taste of the kits.

Always bear in mind that having a good kit is not a guarantee of success – attention to good brewing technique and adhering to the mantra of sanitizing your equipment are also fundamental to the chances of brewing a tasty beverage! A good choice of hops will go a long way too - our Riwaka hops experiment was a great success.

↠ Do I really have to sanitise all my beer brewing equipment?

sanitization of beer brewing equipment

Yes, you do bloody have to clean, sanitize and sterilize your beer brewing equipment, right down to the bottle caps and stirring spoon


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

There's a difference between sanitizing and sterilizing

Sanitizing is a technical term that means a certain allowable amount of microbes to survive on the surface of your equipment.

Sterilizing is like sanitizing, but it removes all the microorganisms (the bugs and germs that will ruin your beer).

 Do I have to sanitize my brewing equipment every time I make beer?Think of washing your hands with hot water and soap as sanitization as it kills a few bugs but not all and is an acceptable means of cleaning your hands.

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

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

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

We'll note a couple in detail:

You can drown everything in bleach

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

But what is bleach?

Bleach is usually a solution of chemicals such as sodium hypochlorite or hydrogen peroxide and they act as an oxidizing agent. They are great for all kinds of things such as removing bad smells, making your whites whiter and your brights brighter and for home brewing.

A popular American brand of bleach is Chlorox but there are hundreds of brands of bleach you could use.

As with all these sterilizing methods, you simply soak your equipment in the solution for a good length of time. A quick dip of ten minutes is the bare minimum.

We try and do several hours of soaking if possible.

The trick with bleach is to remember that you need to rinse everything off with clean water after. This is done to ensure that no yucky flavours left over from the bleach make it into your batch of beer. 

Use sodium percarbonate as a sanitizing agent

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non scented house brands are awesome.

Other methods of sanitization and sterilization
  • Applying heat - use your oven for a good dry heat.
  • Boiling in water with your camping stove or burner
  • Use an autoclave or pressure cooker (this seems like a bit of overkill though)
  • An ordinary house dishwasher machine can be used for sanitation
The key goal here is to make sure that your equipment is nice and clean and that it has a few microbes on it is possible. You can use whatever means you like to achieve this but you have to do it and you must be consistent.

You cannot take a break from it. If you want a good tasting beer that's not contaminated then you just have to take the plunge. 

Image credit Anna L Martin as per Creative Commons License

⇒ Best propane gas burners for home brewing

When a dedicated home brewer decides to grow up and move out of their kitchen (or their partner gives them the boot to the shed...) they stop using the stove or cooktop and look to using a burner that will give out some serious heat on brew day. 

Because there's nothing worse than waiting around for the wort to finally boil. 

A good burner will allow for an even heat distribution, prevent scorching of the bottom of the wort and speed up the boil. That's where having a strong British Thermal Unit (BTU) heat output rating can help.

Brewing outside also gives you more space, more freedom and a floor that you don't need to clean up when you make a mess with a boilover or whatever.  

A handy portable propane burner should get your wort boiling in around 15 minutes or less and last if you've gone for a quality purchase, it should last you many years.

But enough of this chit chat.

Here are our best rated gas burners:


Brand
BTU
Price Comparison
55,000
Low
140,000
High
72,000
High
200,000
Mid Range

Burner specifications below, and reviewer commentary!

Blichmann HellFire Floor Burner


The Blichmann is the kind of unit that Tim 'The Toolman" Taylor would approve of.

If you want a quality burner that goes all the way up to 'eleven', here it is:


Blichmann Hell Fire Floor Burner review


The Blichmann burner is designed to operate in two use modes. The high-efficiency mode can be used when you just need to 'cook something'.  In the high power mode, you can produce a massive 140,000 British Thermal Units per hour output for literal blazing fast heating.

This is code for your brewing boils will occur a lot faster than you might be used to.

When using the unit's 'high efficiency mode', you'll still get a not-to-be-sneezed at 80,000 BTU/hr and superb heat transfer to the wort and whisper quiet operation. That's enough energy to maintain a rolling boil on a 20 gallon batch of beer.

Amazon reviews are really positive:

"The burner its self is beyond belief. I currently do 5 gallon batches but want to start 10 gallon batches. This is overkill for a 5 gallon batch. I did a full volume boil and had the burner about 25%. Nice rolling boil in about 10 minutes or less. The control is fantastic, goes really low to "holy crap the house is on fire" in seconds. "

"This thing is a volcano. Awesome burner!"

Coming in at a sturdy 29 pounds this unit is designed for propane use but an adapter kit for natural gas can be purchased.

Check out the price on Amazon

Need more power? Even Tim Taylor gets nervous when thinking about the

GAS ONE 200,000 BTU Square Heavy- Duty Single Burner Outdoor Stove




This Gas One propane gas cooker comes with an adjustable 0-20PSI regulator with steel braided hose and is just the ticket for brewers wanting to get the boil - and at 200,000 BTU this thing could probably inflate and launch a hot air balloon!

A sturdy and durable design, it is made of cast iron so you know it's going to long-lasting 

The fully adjustable heat-control regulator knob allows you to simply regulate the heat output.

The high-pressure burner output of maximum of 200,000 BTU, means it will cook just about anything - so it's handy for camping and outdoor recreation. 

The manufacturer, GasOne, consider that 'safety and heat go hand in hand. The burner is accompanied by a 0-20 PSI, CSA approved pressure regulator which controls gas and pressure flow, ensuring a secure experience with your burner. The regulator uses an O-ring to prevent any gas leakage.'

Amazon Reviews from actual users of the Gas One:


"This is a HOT burner. Heated my 15 gallons of beer to boiling easily. The stand is sturdy"

"While this burner is a little pricey compared to some its totally worth the money. Really well built with a heavy duty frame and the large burner is great!"

"Wow I didn't expect it to be so big. I'm using it to brew beer and it's plenty big enough to hold a 10 gallon kettle. It's soooo rigid too. I would guess it weighs about 30lbs. With 200,000 BTU it heats water real quick too. I love it. Would definitely recommend."

So, some pretty satisfied Amazon buyers there!

Check out the price on Amazon

Bayou Classic Single Burner Patio Stove

bayou classic gas burner

The Bayou Classic is known as the classic quality burner because it simply does what it does as a single burner unit.

With a 55,000 BTU rating, it suits smaller brews or those with slightly more patience in the boil time.

Don't be confused though, the 16 square inch cooking surface allows for good efficiency of heat spread and it should accommodate any style pot or kettle.

It's very portable unit at just over 19 pounds / 8 kilograms.

Amazon Reviews from actual users of the Bayou Classis:


"I originally tried boiling 7 gallons of water to test and it took me 45 minutes, which was too long. I called the 800 number and customer service was great, they told me to stop being a chicken and feel free to turn the hose control all the way on, as I had only went about half ways because the flame was already pretty intense and pretty loud. So I tried again, went full blast, and got to boil with a new batch of 7 gallons of water in about 12 minutes. Perfect!"

"The 15.5 gallon keg sits perfectly on the burner. It sits nice and sturdy. The paint on the burner does burn off the first time you use it, and the scent is pretty noticeable, but oh well, as long as it gets the job done. Just brewed my first all-grain beer on it, and I'm looking forward to the next brew day!"

"Originally tried boiling 7 gallons of water to test and it took me 45 minutes, which was too long. I called the 800 number and customer service was great, they told me to stop being a chicken and feel free to turn the hose control all the way on, as I had only gone about half ways because the flame was already pretty intense and pretty loud. So I tried again, went full blast, and got to boil with a new batch of 7 gallons of water in about 12 minutes. Perfect!"

"I use this for brewing beer. It brought my 7 gallons of wort to a boil in no time and heated my water to strike temp in about ten minutes (maybe less?). The flame is super easy to control, which makes preventing a boil over much easier. The construction is very sturdy, and the burner is plenty big enough to hold a 15 or 20 gallon brew kettle if need be. Another plus, the burner came already assembled. All I needed to do was screw in the hose and it was done. I opened the package and had the thing lit up for my brew day thirty minutes later!"

Check out the current price on Amazon


Edelmetall Brü Burner


Edelmetall Brü Burner


If there was ever a burner made by beer brewers for beer brewers, the Edelmetall Brü Burner is without question, the champion burner. Nothern Brewer market this feisty unit as "The last propane burner you’ll ever need—or want—to buy"

Which seems a bold claim but when you consider that it is fair 72,000 BTU and features a Precise needle valve that banishes boilovers and allows for crucial adjustments you see why brewers marvel in online forums about this unit.

Says one user "It is far superior to any others I have had and brings water to a hard boil quickly. The flame is easy to control. It is sturdy and reliable"

Even though it's designed for beer making, you can, of course, use the unit for the good old turkey frying.

The stainless steel and copper finish sets this unit apart from other burners. 

Check the price on Amazon.



Common questions about burners that buyers might want to consider


What are BTU and why should I care when buying a burner?


British Thermal Unit is a traditional unit of heat. It is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. It is commonly used in the United States and many burners and grills will be rated in terms of BTU output.

The higher the BTU, the more heat can be released and the higher cooking temperature can be attained.

If you've ever heard the expression about not watching a kettle boil, you won't need to if you grill has some BTU power!

What about brewing safety on brew day?


There are always risks of using gas when cooking such as leaks, split piping, touching hot elements and surprise boil overs. 

To our mind, the real risk is children getting too close to the action. A brew day can be several hours of hot instruments and the risk of small hands getting burnt is real.

We strongly recommend that you don't let your little ones anywhere near the burners on brew day. 

Is burner height important?


If we are thinking in the brewing context there are a couple of things to think about when it comes to the height at which the burner sits off ground. 

Outdoor burners normally have been designed with higher legs. When brewing you want large pot you are boiling to not easily topple over so a lower base will offer that desired sturdiness. 

If you intend to use a burner designed explicitly for camping, be wary as its height may be too much. This one is probably too easy to overthink. If you are placing the burner on a flat and stable surface, you're probably good to go. 

Do I need a windshield to protect the gas flame?


The choice is optional to use a plate windshield to prevent gusts of wind hampering your burner's flame. Most burners have the burner set below the 'wind line' of so that the flame is protected. You can, however, use plate shields to protect from an extinguished flame.

It probably depends on the environment where you are brewing. If you're brewing in a backyard that's fully fenced off, you might be protected well enough from the elements.

To what kind of bottle do I connect my burner?


You connect your burners to the standard gas bottle that you would hook up to your BBQ. The regulators are generally universal across products.

If you will be using an LPG source, you will need to purchase an adaptor. This is because LPG is a bit different from propane on the gas spectrum and so their respective appliances are designed differently due to different operational needs of the gas.

Eight pH meter use mistakes (that you can totally avoid when testing)

errors made when using ph meter -probes

How to prevent pH meter use mistakes from occurring


pH meters can be a wonder for brewers, chemists, scientists and acid enthusiasts and kombucha makers alike but they sure can be finicky things to use and manage correctly.

Calibrate this, calibrate that. 

Storage solution this, store in that.

Given the complexity and the science around their use, it's no wonder that user error can creep in an ruin a good reading. In the case of quality pH meters, it's always good to follow the user instructions!

Here's a list of the most common user errors and mistakes that people sometimes make when using and storing their devices.

Storing the electrode 'dry' rather than in a storage solution


Electrodes are the sensitive parts of the pH meter, they do the hard work and are pretty complex scientific constructions.

Basically, they are designed to be kept wet because something-something science - the electrode will dry out, and be most likely rendered unusable if kept dry too long.

This is because a pH electrode’s sensing glass is generally composed of three distinct and discrete glass layers: a hydrated outer glass gel layer, a dry middle layer, and a hydrated inner layer.

The hydrated layers are responsible for giving the electrode the sensitivity needed to detect changes in pH.

If you fail to store your electrode in a fresh storage solution, you totally reduce the device's sensitivity.

This will mean drifting pH values can drift, you may be frustrated by slow response times from the unit, and obviously, you will get incorrect readings which means any judgement you make about your beer or solution will be founded on a lie.

A lie!

That said, there's many a chance that you can revive a dried out electrode.

If you finally place the bulb and junction in some pH storage solution and leave for at least an hour, you may be able to revive it.

Assuming that works and you then want to use it (naturally!) remember to calibrate your pH meter before you test your sample.

Wiping the sensing glass


original Beckman ph tester
An original Beckman ph tester
You pH probe needs to be very clean to ensure that your measurements are accurate, so it's natural that you might thus clean it.

What you use to clean and how you clean the unit is very important.

The electrode works by sending a voltage to your meter that is based on the pH of the solution is has been placed in.

If you clean the glass probe by wiping it, say with a clean paper towel, the pH glass can produce a static electrical charge. This charge interferes with the probe's reading of the voltage which means the meter will give an inaccurate reading.

So, do not wipe the probes, let them soak in distilled or deionized water.

You can probably blot excess moisture off with a paper towel or cotton material how do not wipe it!

Not properly cleaning the electrode


If you do not clean your pH electrode regularly a coating known as the 'hydrated layer' may develop on the glass bulb. Once this layer settles in, it will cause your unit to display inaccurate readings.

Which just defeats the whole point of using a meter! So clean your electrode with a proper cleaning solution.

(in) frequency of calibration 


A failure to regularly calibrate you meet will result in inaccurate readings, and the longer you leave it, the more likely you will get incorrect numbers.

Depending on the amount of use a unit gets, daily calibration may be ideal. If you are an infrequent user, then you should probably consider calibrating prior to using your meter. 

Having a low electrolyte fill level


Refillable electrodes allow you to replenish the electrolyte in the reference compartment once it begins to run down. If the electrolyte is not replaced as this occurs, your pH measurements will go awry.

The problem of 'erratic electrode response' is a common problem caused by inadequate electrolyte levels.

It's good practice then to ensure that your electrode is replenished and functional by maintaining the fill solution level at less than a half-inch from the fill hole cap.

Storing the electrode in deionized water


Never ever, ever store your electrode in water, even if you have run out of storage solution.  It will render it useless.

In this case, it's all about the ions. You may remember them from chemistry class back in the day.  is 

An ion is a molecule that has a non-zero net electrical charge.

Got that?

Deionized water contains pretty much no ions. Your pH electrode is full of ions, both in the filling solution and in the hydrated part of the pH sensing glass.

So when an electrode is submerged in a solution that has no ions, the ions in the electrode will want to move out into the solution in an attempt to attain a new equilibrium.

Gradually the electrode will be spent of its ions and it will be unable to complete its task

If for some insane reason you have done this (might why you've found this page....) there's a way you can try and fix the probe. If it is refillable, replace spent fluid with a potassium nitrate fill solution. Then place the electrode in the storage solution. Give it a chance to do its thing. You will then need to calibrate the unit before testing again.

Using an old electrode


It's odd that we have to state that it's a mistake to use an old dried up electrode but there you go. A dry electrode will not have enough ions present to do the job and you won't get any useful readings.

Best, you get a replace probe - one that means the job - the round head style for testing with a beer wort or hydroponic solution and a conical head for 'solid' items such as soil.

Not fully submerging the probe in the solution


This is a pretty simple error to avoid. Make sure the whole pH sensing component and reference junction are submerged in your water, wort or other solution. This is so enough ions can be measured to enable a good reading.

In the market for a quality meter? We recommend the Milwaukee MW102, a tried and true unit that suits the needs of beer brewers.

If you think all this is too much, you can always do a simple test with a pH strip

How to make dog biscuits with your spent grain mash

beer dog biscuits


Making a dog's breakfast of your beer mash


Did you ever finish brewing your beer and then think, man there's a lot of the grain left over, what should I do with it?

You can do a lot of things actually, you can make bread or crackers, or it to your compost or garden.

But I found a recipe that's pretty novel - you can make dog biscuits with it!

That's right, give your dog a treat by making them some yummy dog biscuits out of left over grain mash.

Here's the biscuit mash recipe
  • 4 cups of spent grain mash 
  • 4 cups of ordinary flour 
  • 1 cup peanut butter (or oil or pizza sauce) 
  • 1 egg 
Mix the ingredients together thoroughly, place onto a lined baking tray at normal dog biscuit shaped sizes.

Bake the doggy treats for 30 minutes at 350F/180C. Then reduce heat to around 225F/110C and leave in oven until the biscuits have completely dried out.

It's been pointed out by other brewers that hops can potentially be harmful to some breeds of dog, don't use grain that has been first wort hopped to make the dog biscuits.

Other ideas on how to dispose of beer mash
  • Feed to chickens or pigs
  • Add to your compost or mix into your garden directly.
  • Throw it on the lawn or birdfeeder, the local birds will love the feast
  • Add some to your own bread making recipe
  • Turn it into beer crackers
Well done you for recycling some food. Why not reward yourself with a read of this awesome list of Star Wars movies trivia.

↠ How to stop cloudy home brew from happening


Cloudy beer can suck visually, but why does it happen?


I did a batch of beer and nicely conditioned it and on pouring, it came about cloudier than usual.

It looked like a wheat beer that had been mixed with sawdust.

An imperfection.

Tasted alright though, but I wondered what had caused this to happen? Usually, my brews look deliciously golden...
  • Was it because I made a mistake brewing?
  • Did I get the temperature wrong?
  • Was my yeast off?
Well, the truth is cloudy home brew beer is a common thing and it can occur for various reasons.

First up, as you are bottling your beer, you may notice that beer can be cloudy. This is a very normal part of the process as the beer hasn’t fully become beer yet.

As you bottle, you add some form of priming sugar. The residual yeast in the bottle will feed on that sugar and carbonation war occur. As the sugars are consumed by the yeast, the yeast will fall to the bottom of the bottle and the beer will go "clear".

You’ll obviously be able to tell this has happened as your beer will not be cloudy AND there will likely be some sediment at the bottom of the beer bottle.

Leaving the beer in the fermenter a bit longer than you might usually do so gives your beer time to clear even more.

By letting the yeast do its thing for a longer time, your beer will taste better too.



Do you know what the best trick is to avoid cloudy beer is? 


Cold crashing.

Chilling your beer in a fridge at the end of fermentation will cause yeast to fall to the bottom giving you greatly improved clarity. The short version of cold crashing is that you place the whole 23 litre fermenting drum into a pretty cold fridge and you leave it for several days to allow the cold to do its thing.

You can then bottle or keg in the normal manner.

How you condition beer is important too


A careful pour from the bottle will usually avoid stirring up the sediment which causes a cloudy glass of beer. 

This is especially so if you have got a perfect level of carbonation – an over-sugared beer means more bubbles which increases the chance of the sediment being stirred up into your pour.

If opening your beer causes the beer to go cloudy because the bubbles stir the sediment up too much, I've found cooling the beer in a fridge for 24 hours can help prevent this quite well.

You can also use finings to 'clear' your beer of unwanted proteins what can also cause cloudiness.

Cooling and refrigeration


One of the reasons why beer does go cloudy is due to improper refrigeration timings and techniques.

The process of storing beer is called laagering (sounds like lager eh?). Lagers are lagers because they are best stored cold.

Nordic Vikings learned this method years ago when they laagered their beer barrels in cold caves over the winter or something...

Refrigeration of storing beer in a cool place helps to clear beer rapidly.

The science behind this is at lower temperatures it is more difficult for the yeast, tannins and proteins in the beer to remain suspended.

Cold stored beer will clear much more rapidly than beer stored at a normal room temperature.

If you intend to laager your beer you must wait until carbonation has occurred. If you cool your beer too soon, you run the risk of disrupting the yeast from its secondary fermentation process and carbonation may not occur (or it will be very slow to do so).

Fining agents can reduce cloudiness


A number of fining agents can be added to the finished beer that will aid in clearing the beer quickly.

These agents work by attaching themselves to the yeast, tannins, and proteins to help them precipitate to the bottom of your fermenter or bottle more quickly.

Plain gelatin can be used quite well. Dissolve it in a warm sterile water and add it to your fermenter a few days before bottling.

Polyclar is also a popular product to use.

I also have a sneaky suspicion that gelatin in jelly beans also works to help clear the beer.

Chill haze and the 'cold break'


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

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

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

German wheat beers are often cloudy and that's just the way it is


If you are making a German style wheat beer, it is natural for a wheat beer to have an element of cloudiness.

Some beers, like German Hefeweizens, use yeasts and ingredients that make the beer cloudy no matter what you do.

So how do the big breweries avoid producing cloudy beer?


It’s a simple trick.

Commercial brewers (including craft beer breweries)  filter their beer.

From it, they take all the live yeast and basically bottle a “lifeless” product. The beer you homebrew and drink still contains live yeast so there’s a much more likelihood of a cloudy home brew happening.

Beer like Steinlager that you buy from commercial brewers (and even craft beer breweries) will have been filtered.

Another handy trick that the home brewer can do to improve their beer is to use a fining agent. 

The agent is usually a form a gelatin or moss (!) and it binds to the yeast and other particles in the beer and drags them down to the bottom of the beer to take their grave as sediment.

Sugar 

Make sure that you do not over sugar your beers. If you do, you run the risk of extra fizzy beer or gushers which can clearly upset the sediment.

A cloudy beer isn’t the end of the world but hopefully this will give a little insight into why your beer is cloudy and how you can try to clear it up the next time that you brew.

Using a dish washing machine to remove beer labels (it's as easy as it sounds)

If there's one thing that's a pain in the ass when bottling beer, it's removing labels from the bottles. 

Some days it feels like some bastard at the local craft brewery has said,

"Hey James let's get the most gnarly and sticky glue ever invented and use it with our bottles. And while we're add it, lets add a second layer of the world's second strongest glue. Just to be sure."

At least that's how it feels.

Now I've bitched about this before but I recently came across the best way to remove labels from beer bottles.

Use the dishwasher to remove sticky beer labels!


Seriously.

Just run them through a cycle in your dishwasher and that glue becomes unstuck.

The labels can then be easily peeled off in one satisfying motion.

Here's the proof.

I have pair of Panhead and Garage Project bottles prior to going into the dishwasher:

removing beer labels from Garage Project bottle

And here's the after photo removal of the Garage Project Bright Side:

peeling off the beer label

removal of whole beer label bright side

And here we have the shot of the Panhead Culture Vulture fresh out of the dishwasher and the too easy removal:

using a dish washer to remove label from beer bottle

removal of beer  label in one piece

So that's that.

Probably the easiest tip you'll come across for when getting your bottles ready for bottling. Remember, you will still need to sanitise your bottles before filling them with glorious beer, unless you are filling straight from the dishwasher.

Buyer's Guide for the Milwaukee MW102 pH Meter

Milwaukee MW102 PH and Temperature Meter


Review of the Milwaukee MW102 pH tester


If you've ever gone on to a beer brewing forum and seen the question "What's the best ph meter to use" you are going to get 75 dudes all banging on about how great the Milwaukee MW102 pH meter is to use.

A few others might mention the Apera or the Hanna offerings but the MW102 is a killer instrument.

We're not kidding, brewers love it because it's reliable, durable and doesn't break the bank cost wise. Indeed, it's at the cheaper end of the mid-range pricing scale.

Marijuana growers in California love it too! And just recently growers in Canada too! My, how the world has changed. Kombucha brewers can even use it!

The MW102 is portable and gives fast, accurate and reliable measurements whether you're in the classroom, laboratory or for general field use.

And by 'general field use', we mean brewers on the grass in their backyard, brewing up a storm on brew day!

The manufacturer's specifications:
    Milwaukee MW102 PH and Temperature Meter
  • MW102 is a microprocessor based pH/Temperature meter with extended range (-2.00 to 16.00 pH)
  • Automatic Temperature Compensation
  • Automatic calibration in 2 points and ±0.02 pH accuracy. 
  • The meter is supplied with pH electrode and calibration solutions. 
  • MW102 is supplied complete with a SE220 pH electrode, MA830R stainless steel temperature probe, pH 4.01 and pH 7.01 20 mL sachet of calibration solution
  • 9V battery which should give approx 750 hours
  • The user instructions manual

Actual user reviews from Amazon


Real humans, real beer makers have purchased the Milwaukee MW102 and let some pretty genuine feedback as to how this good unit is.

"So far I am very happy with this unit. I have more faith in the calibration & readings of this unit. During calibration, this meter requires you to calibrate to 7.01 & then do a slope calibration to 4.01. I have not seen this with other meters, but once calibrated the unit is very accurate & holds calibration without issues. I may have made it sound complicated, but it is pretty easy to calibrate."

"I've owned this meter for 6 months now and it has been very accurate and dependable. I use it for wine making. It's really nice that it has a separate temperature probe because sometimes I use it for just that. A word of advice, buy the Milwaukee probe storage solution. It will decrease the number of times you need to calibrate the probe."

Sounds like sensible advice!

"This is in every way a professional laboratory grade instrument of the highest quality! It is easy to calibrate and the calibration is very stable and long lasting. It reads the PH almost instantly and is a joy to use. The tip should be stored in Miwaukee's special storage solution as recommended for longest probe life."

"I elected to give this one a shot because I wanted confidence the readings were correct. And they are. No more dipping a pen wand in the water to find a 8ph, then immediately redipping the meter and getting a reading of 3.8 in the same water! So far great product for the price. Exceeded what I had grown to expect from ph meters."

The unit is rated quite highly on Amazon and you can see why it's reviewers are hugely positive about it!

Maintenance tips for the Milwaukee MW102


As you'd imagine, Milwaukee offers a wide range of calibration, maintenance & cleaning solutions.

The use of calibration and cleaning solutions is fundamental for the correct use of electrodes and for obtaining the most accurate and reproducible readings. If you do not store probes properly, they will dry out and give incorrect readings and then you will need to spend some of your hard earned Earth dollars on a replacement (which Milwaukee will happily sell you!)

It's a very smart custom to clean your pH electrode fairly often. This is because a coating known as the 'hydrated layer' can develop on the glass bulb. This layer will cause your unit to display inaccurate readings. Which just defeats the whole point of using a meter!

The common method of cleaning the electrode is by submerging it in a cleaning solution for a whole 15 minutes. The solution will break down the hydrated layer.

After the cleaning solution has done its business, the probe must be rinsed with very clean or purified water and then placed in probe storage solution for at least 2-3 hours before calibration is begun.

ph meter milwaukee

Can  I get a replacement probe?


You sure can get a new probe - it's the known as the 'Milwaukee SE220 '. You'll need one if you haven't looked after your main one by properly storing it - or you broke it by dropping it!

Replacing the electrode probes is as easy as changing a light bulb - just follow the instructions.

Milwaukee probes are given a warranty of 6 months - which is pretty standard.

When should I clean the Milwaukee ph Meter?


For accurate pH readings the Milwaukee's probe should be properly cleaned and then re-calibrated when:
  • when the on-screen measurement is not close to the reading you were hoping to read. 
  • when the batteries have gone flat, been removed or changed. This is because the unit will not remember
  • when the pH probe is replaced with a new one
If the Milwaukee is not for you, then you might find something that meets your needs in our pH meter buyer's guide -  which features the popular Bluelab Combo Meter.

Bonus fact: Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin, USA. We're not worthy...
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