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↣ What is beerstone (and how to remove it)?

 'calcium oxalate' - beerstone buildup

There is a silent but deadly beer killer out there.

It creeps in slowly, like a silent assassin and you might not discover their presence until its too late...

Beerstone


The scourge of brewing kettles and kegs everywhere, beerstone can be a key element in causing off beer.

What is it?


Beerstone is a kind of scale known as 'calcium oxalate' (C2CaO4) in the brewing industry. 

This precipitate is largely due to a reaction between alkaline cleaners (e.g. caustic soda), hard water minerals (think calcium and magnesium) and protein in the form of amino acids.

It affects both the home brewer and commercial operations. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly once you've learned about the science, the milk industry has similar problems with buildup on milking machinery and milk vans.

That industry calls it, yes you guessed it, milkstone!

How does beerstone ruin beer?


The development of beerstone leaves an unsanitary surface on the keg or kettle or other brewing equipment that offers an environment that can harbour microorganisms. 

At it's most minor interference with the beer, beerstone can cause those classic "off flavors" or even shorten the shelf life of your batch.

In the worst case scenario, unwanted micro-organisms can wreck an entire batch of beer which is a waste of good beer, a waste of money and a loss of your precious brewing time.

How does beerstone form?


The organic compounds found in the wort and beer will combine with metals in the water - usually calcium and magnesium for the oxalate. It is a white, crystalline precipitate - which makes its initial appearance hard to detect with the naked eye. 

Beer bugs will then find a home in the calcium oxalate - and here's the kicker - this environment allows the microorganisms to avoid contact with your cleaning regime and, believe it or not, sodium hydroxide (NaOH) can then help form a cover by creating additional precipitate because the caustic agents react with the CO2 (given off by the fermentation process).

It's almost like you can't win!

So how do you remove beerstone?


The pros at Birkocorp have offered a pretty handy 5 step method for removing beerstone build up:
  1. Rinse out beer and yeast with ambient temperature water.
  2. Use a 1-2 ounce per gallon phosphoric/nitric acid mixture (140°F maximum temperature) for 15-30 minutes.
  3. Do not rinse the solution out.
  4. Use a noncaustic alkaline cleaner at 1-2 ounces per gallon of warm (120-140°F) to start. CIP for 15-30 minutes depending on conditions.
  5. Rinse with ambient temperature water until the pH of the rinse water is neutral (same pH as the tap water coming in).
If it's not clear, you'll need to fire up up your gas burner to get the solutions to the correct temperature.

Any residual 'soil' adhered to the metal can be removed with a high-pressure hot water rinse or simply wiped off as it should now be quite soft. If you need to do a scrub, use a sponge or scrubber that will not scour the metal. 

The entire method should be followed. This is because the acid mixture does not remove the stone, it softens up the scaling so that the alkaline cleaner has the chance to do its magic. 

Beerstone Prevention is beer than cure


If it's so easy for brewers to not notice that beerstone is 'scaling up' how can it be prevented from occurring?

The key is to mix up your cleaning method by using strong acid solutions are the quickest and most effective way to remove beerstone from stainless steel surfaces. Hydrochloric acid is a popular choice but you should not use it every time as it could cause pitting.

When using strong acids, be wary of their corrosiveness on metal.

Brewclean is a product that can help prevent the buildup of brewstone. Specifically designed for cleaning homebrew kegs and brewing equipment, it is non-corrosive so it will not cause rust on kegs or other homebrew equipment.

The wetting agent (surfactant) helps remove beerstone and other 'soils'. It's a good alternative to using sodium hydroxide.

You should be quite careful when using these kinds of acids and alkaline solutions as they are pretty potent and can do some real damage if you come into contact with them.

 A splash of chemical cleaner in the eye is pretty damaging and painful, trust me I learned this lesson some years ago and it cost me a trip to the hospital!

>>> How to choose the best brewing kettle (clue: go big)

best brewing day kettles for making beer

"You're gonna need a bigger boat"

That was the classic line Brody uttered in Jaws once he saw how large the shark was.

All grain brewing itself is a bit of a giant shark but instead of a boat, you're gonna need a bigger brewing kettle.

Things to consider when buying a brew kettle


  • There are several benefits to having a brew kettle (or brew pot) that's large in size. The obvious one is that you can brew more beer! There's also less risk of a boilover or overflow occurring.
  • If you want to do small batches of beer, you obviously don't need a massive 15 gallon kettle. However, once you get the taste for brewing, you may just find that 5 gallons just doesn't do it for you any more, and you want to make 12 gallons - so you'll need that bigger kettle. You can always fry a turkey in it for Thanksgiving too!
  • You may want to consider having a built-in thermometer as that can save you some hassle. 
  • A ball valve is almost essential. Stainless steel ball valves are used on your kettle to allow you to control the flow of your liquids during transfers. If you have the budget for it, we strongly recommend you get a brew pot which features the valve. They give you so much control and are easy to strip down and clean. 
  • A 'sight glass' which allows you to check the level of wort in your kettle. As the wort evaporates due to the boil, it's handy to keep your eye on the level without having to take the lid of the kettle. If you do not have a sight glass, fear not. Crafty brewers have many tricks up their sleeve and having a wooden spoon with marks for the desired wort levels is one of them.
  • pick up tube for brewing ketting
    Dip Tube
  • Some kettles come with a dip tube or pick up tube as they are known. These devices are used to extract the wort that lies below the ball valve, which makes for a more efficient collection of wort. These are often used with a hops screen which is used to filter out lumps and bumps from the wort.
And with that said, here's a selection of the best brewing kettles that we think cut the mustard that will do you a really good service on brewing day.

Bayou Classic 800-416 16 Gallon Stainless Steel 6 Piece Brew Kettle

Bayou Classic 800-416 16 Gallon Stainless Steel 6 Piece Brew Kettle

The Bayou Classic gas burner is one of Amazon's most popular sellers and that's because it is one of the best on the market. This is the same reason Bayou's gas burner is a big seller.

This unit is designed for the serious all-grain home brewer. The kettle features a tri-ply bottom and includes a domed lid, stainless spigot with Ball Valve, side-mount 3-inch Brew Thermometer ranging 60-220 degrees, stainless false bottom that sets 3.25 Inch above the bottom of the pot, and a tube shaped filter screen.

The bulkhead fittings enable easy attachment of thermometer and spigot for a water-tight seal. Side calibration measuring in gallon and quart that read from the inside of the kettle, enabling more accurate water level setting. 

The try-ply bottom promotes even heating and helps prevent against scorching, while the all stainless construction has no interaction with wort or acids. 

The narrow diameter and high side walls reduce the chance of boil overs, and the false bottom fits tightly on the low side indention to reduce particles and grain from entering the spigot chamber.

Here's some reviews from actual users of the Bayou:

"Kettle is very nice. Polished and huge. It's hard to imagine how large a 16gal kettle is until you get it. It's a monster. The included accessories make this a very versatile kettle. I am using mine as a boil kettle right now but plan on buying another in the future to use as an upgrade to my Mash Ton from a cooler."

"This is a quality kettle, and a decent price. I use it in tandem with a standard size keggle for my HLT, and can brew up to 15 gallons at a time if I feel incredibly strong and dedicated (15 gallons of wort weighs a lot). The thermometer works well, and has clear markings for various mash stages, if you do more than a single-step infusion."

"Great brew kettle. Very large with a tri-ply bottom. Have used it twice for brewing in a bag, thus far. Will hold a large grain bill - 16 lbs for me on my last brew. Screen will clog up, but not so much to not allow me to drain into the fermenter. Temp gauge required no calibration upon cross measuring. I did leave the kettle outside for a few days by accident and was pleased to see no signs of rust."

"The kettle held my mash at temp for the full hour, was easy to clean up and easy to transfer the wort to the boil kettle."

Check out the price on Amazon


Blichmann Gas Boilermaker G2 Brew Kettle


blichmann boiler maker kettle
This beast from Blichmann Engineering almost makes boiling up a wort too easy!

The BoilerMaker™G2 brew kettles have been completely redesigned from the ground up with world-class American engineering and quality US manufacturing! 

Bare bones kettles might lure you in with attractive prices but by the time you add extra equipment you need or want – all standard in the BoilerMaker G2 comes into its own.

All models carry a limited lifetime warranty and are available in Celsius or Fahrenheit models. 

Blichmann Engineering boasts that this fresh design reflects the passion they have for quality, ergonomics, aesthetics, performance, and simplicity.

The boilermaker features:
  • Heavy gauge, 304 single piece, deep drawn, weld-free American made construction
  • Made in America from high quality US stainless steel, single piece seamless construction, and 100% US labor.
  • Patent pending G2 linear flow valve allows you to easily fine tune your flow rate
  • A sleek brush finish to hide finger-prints and water stains
  • High-impact glass-filled nylon handles are extremely durable, high temperature resistant, comfortable, and cool to the touch.
  • Exclusive snap-in dip tube design installs without tools and drains to within 3/8” of the bottom of the kettle!
  • Includes adjustable viewing angle BrewMometer with unique, patented, brewing dial face 
  • Comes in 7.5, 10, 15 or 20 gallon size.
Don't take Blichman's word about there product alone, check out what actual reviewers on Amazon have said about the kettle:

"The design of the kettle is fantastic. Great lids, handles, and I love the sight glass. Makes it really easy to clean it.

"Only con is if you plan on using this on gas. My use is electric. The bottom doesn't have a nice thick plate in it, it is just as thick as the sides. This will cause it to heat up more slowly on gas. For the price I would expect it to be included but for me on electric it is actually a plus as it makes it easier to move the kettles around."

"I think my old 15G kettle is heavier than this 20G Blichmann one."

Check out the price on Amazon - these units have free shipping!

Tall Boy Home Brewing Kettle Stainless Steel Stock Pot


If you are looking for something with a more modest budget or lower value, you'll need to dispense with the thrills and spills of the Blichman and for your stock standard steel pot, And the 8 gallon Tall Boy does just that. This means you will be limited to a 5 gallon brew, which is to be fair, is a pretty standard brew. 

  • Made specifically for home brewing
  • Height to diameter ratio of 1.2:1 optimizes boil performance
  • Reduces evaporative losses
  • 4mm thick tri-clad bottom designed to stop bullets and prevent scorching by encouraging heat dispersion.
  • Perfect for boiling 5 to 6 gallons of wort
  • Made by the reputable Northern Brewer company (check out their wort chillers).
  • Can use it to deep fry turkey!
Here's what some genuine users of the Tall Boy have said in their Amazon reviews.

"BUILT FORD TOUGH! Seriously though, this thing is made like a tank everywhere and I love it, well worth the money!"

"Awesome. Thick bottom. Used to deep fry my 25 pound Thanksgivin turkey. Heated great no burnt crud on the bottom and easy clean up because nothing burned."

"Really good quality! Nice riveted and welded handles, extra thick bottom, strong sides, and is just right size for a 5 gallon brew. If you're doing a full 5 gal, be careful during the hot break, as the wort level is pretty close to the top. Stand guard at the gas valve! Excellent product, cleans well, and can also do a turkey or a beach boil. Get it!"

"I've brewed with it a few times now and it works great. I think it would be better if it had some volume markings."

Check out the price of the Tall Boy on Amazon - it comes with free shipping.

Northern Brewer's MegaPot 1.2


Northernbrewer brag that their MegaPot 1.2 "is a masterpiece, not just another steel pot.".

Apparently crafted of stainless steel for ease of cleaning. The unit features silicone handles on the kettle and lid serve to limit scorching.

The handles are riveted in place to aid in lifting a hot liquid-filled pot.  Northern brewer claims that there will be no weld failures.

The heart of the kettle is a 4mm thick Tri-Clad bottom- made specifically for even heat distribution.

The 1.2 proportion of MegaPot has been scientifically designed to promote a vigorous boil and reduce off-flavors.
  • 10 Gallon (40 quarts / 37.8 liters) capacity
  • 4mm Tri-Clad Bottom. All Stainless Steel Construction
  • Graduated Volume Markings inside the kettle
  • Silicone Covered Handles for Safety
  • Weld-less Ball Valve Assembly and Weld-less Thermometer
  • 14.1 Inches in Diameter and 16.3 Inches in Height
  • Available in 8, 10, 15, 20, and 30 gallon sizes, with or without ball valve and thermometer.
Here's what some geezers who have actually made wort with the kettle had to say about its performance:

"This pot has performed well during both batches I've made so far. The bottom of the pot is as solid as they say, about 4mm thick. No issues on a glass stove. The thermometer and spigot need to be assembled, but again, it wasn't hard to do and it hasn't leaked at all. It's nice to have a good sturdy pot for brewing."

"This kettle is everything I hoped it would be, and much more. The construction feels rock-solid, and all the elements of the pot, including the accessories that came with it (ball valve and thermometer), are first class. This is a pot meant to last a lifetime, and I feel it was money well spent for the long haul. After running my first batch with this pot over yesterday, it passed all my quality tests, and I am delighted with my purchase."

"This thing is very heavy duty, has a thick clad bottom for heat distribution, thick walls and also has very useful gallon markings on the inside of the pot where you can easily look at the liquid level and know your volume. Nice heavy lid, rubber grips, and heavy-duty ball valve included. This is a very high quality product."

What are you waiting for? With free shipping, you should check out the price on Amazon.

Should you buy Aluminium or steel? 


Brew kettles come in both metal forms, each having its own benefit.

Aluminium is lighter for example but is less durable than steel kettles.

They also need to be maintained well due to ensure that the oxide layer that forms is not broken. This is because the layer prevents the aluminium from passing off flavors into the wort or mash.

While aluminium kettles will transfer heat faster than steal, if you have a really good gas burner, this shouldn't really be a concern with your buying decision.

In our realm, we recommend you go for the steel kettle - the only drawback is they are more expensive than aluminium units.

Stainless steel is also fairly easy to clean.

What is the best way to clean a brew kettle?


The gunk that is left at the bottom of the kettle is called the trub and it's usually quite manageable to get off. Many brewers like to soak the trub in water with Powdered Brewery Wash (PBW).

Do not use steel wool or anything sharp to clean the unit, use something soft like a non-abrasive sponge or a soft plastic brush. You are trying to avoid putting scratches in the steel! A bit of elbow grease is all you really need!

It's also good to clean your kettle as soon as you can after brewing - this will give the trub less time to harden and should ensure a straightforward cleaning job.

If you have an aluminium kettle, you'll want to avoid anything caustic and stick with ordinary washing detergent.

I personally dispose of the trub on my vegetable garden!

Finally, once you have chosen your kettle and brewed with it, you'll need to keep an eye out for beerstone, which is a calcium based build up which can harbor microorganisms that will ruin your beer.

Brew day safety tips


Once that wort has been boiled, you've now got to cool it down so you can pitch the yeast - but what you've done is heated many gallons of water so hot it can give you a terrible scalding. So be careful!

Ensure your set up is sturdy. Your burner needs to be flat, and properly assembled if necessary. Your kettle should have handles (ones coated with silicon are perfect) to assist with moving. Even so, you may want to consider using an oven mitt and a waterproof apron.

This is especially so if you are deep frying a thanksgiving day turkey with oil.

And shoes, wear shoes! And finally, be wary of any children around your set up. Frankly, we recommend you let the kids stay inside and watch Frozen while you have the gas going!


How to sparge your mash to collect the wort

how to batch sparge

Sparging


A lot of beer brewing is intuitive, you know you need malt and grains and you need to cook them up and you can sort of follow your nose from there.

But when I came across words like sparge and lautering I had no idea what on earth that means.

Once you know it's as simple in concept cracking open a well-earned beer.

Sparging is the process of separating the wort from the mash. Hot water is rinsed through to that as much of the sugars can be removed from the 'grain bed'.

And lautering? It's the same concept but is more a reference to the whole process itself and the movement of water. How about that eh?

While it is a simple idea, it's actually a three-step process if it's to be achieved properly.

Get ready to fire up those BTU on your gas burner!

But first, how do I know if my mash is ready to be sparged?


Your mash should have rested for an hour. This is so that the malt enzymes have had an opportunity to digest the starch into sugars. And Iodine test can be done for this. Take a sample from the mash and add a drop of iodine. 

If it goes black or purple, your mash needs more time.

If the iodine stays the same colour, your mash is ready.

Step 1 -  The Mashout


This is when you raise your mash to 170 degrees Fahrenheit or 77 Celcius. The reason for this temperature is that both stops the enzymatic conversion of starches to fermentable sugars, and makes the mash and wort more fluid and thus easier to sparge. 

To set this up, one pours the heated water into the mash tun. Slowly add the grist (crushed grain) to the water in the mash tun. You'll need to stir well the mash to prevent clumping. The temperature should stabilize at around 153 degrees.

You should then let the mash rest for an hour as the sugars are released from the grains and your wort forms.

If you undershoot the target mash temperature by more than 5° F, you may raise the mash temperature by adding heat. Stir the mash constantly while you are applying heat to avoid scorching.

Step 2 - Recirculation of the wort


The idea behind recirculation of the wort is to clear it of debris.

At first, it may seem odd that the idea is to put this cloudy liquid back into to the mash - well this is the beauty of recirculation,  the grain bed will begin to act as a filter and reduce the cloudiness of the runnings. This is why proper milling of the grain is so important so the husks can perform this task.

You may find your initial drawings from the lauter tun are cloudy and filled with what's known as  'draff' - these are small solid grain particles but repeated filtering through the grain will clear the wort.

To recirculate, your lauter tun should have a handy valve. Use it to collect the runoff in two clean intermediate vessels of say 1 quart or more in size.

As you are filling one vessel,  you are pouring the other gently down the side of the lauter tun. Keeping switching back and forth until the wort appears clear of debris.

This can take some time and you need to be patient and pour slowly.

You can now drain the wort into your kettle.

This process is sometimes called vorlauf.

Step 3 - The actual business of sparging


You can now 'rinse' the grain with fresh boiling hot water to collect any residual sugars. The water should be no more than 170°F to avoid tannins being released by the grains.

The trick is to work out the water required for the boil that matches your recipe.

Carefully add this second round of water to the grain mash and slowly drain it into the first wort you prepared.

Once fully drained, you are now ready to boil the wort as per your recipe.

This instructional video by the American Homebrewers Association is really well done and shows how straightforward the process is:



Do I have to sparge?


You do not, however, you will miss out on some efficiencies - a good deal of the potential fermentable sugars are not extracted from the mash,

If you are not sparging, you can simply drain the grain bed and get it ready for boiling by adding the required water.

Why should the sparge water temp not be higher than 180°F/82°C?


This is in order to avoid the extraction of tannins from the grain which is a chemical you simply do not want in your beer. Tannin can give your beer a kind of astringent taste and it simply ruins the drinking experience.

That said, a large factor is the ph level of your wort (which many suggest should be in the range of 5.2-5.8) as to whether you're gonna have a bad time with tannins or not.

Here are some ph meters that you may want to consider using.

Does milling grain technique affect the sparge?


A well milled and crushed grain will give you a good extraction efficiency.

A fine, but not too fine crush will offer more surface volume for the mashing process to release the sugars from the grain. If grains are crushed much then the grain bed can compact during the sparge which just disrupts the whole process.

If it's done just right, the grain better will act like its own filter and the lautering process should be straightforward. 

Can I simply cold water sparge?


Yes, you can. There are many brewers who swear that hot water sparges offer no greater utility than cold water efforts. Some brewers have done identical brewers, save for a hot or cold sparge and found when offering punters a blind taste test, they were unable to determine the difference. Go figure. 

I have also seen brewers suggest that a lower temperature will result in a lower body beer. Given body is quite a crucial party of the drinking experience, this is probably why most brewers sparge with hot water. 

I'd also suggest a higher temperature will mean you wort is more fluid and thus is more easily extracted from the grain bed - certainly, it will be a quicker process if your wort is not so viscous.

Your personal safety


When lautering and sparging you are using a lot of hot water, gas burners, mash tuns and kettles.

There are plenty of means and avenues for things to go wrong and you could literally end up getting burnt or scalded by hot water or wort.

Be careful. It's best to do your beer making in an area that gives you enough space. This is why many brewers often like to brew on an outside deck or sturdy table.

It's, of course, handy to teach children about the dangers of getting too close to gas burners and hot kettles. Better yet, you might want to keep the little ones away while the boil is on and when you are pouring hot water.

You yourself may wish to consider using some protective gloves and perhaps wear a waterproof apron and shoes!

While this may be teaching you to suck eggs, a new first-time brewer should be very mindful of these things. 

And for goodness sake, if you do burn yourself, get some cold water on the burn site pronto! Your skin is more important than your beer!

If I am doing a boil in a bag, do I need to sparge?


If you want to get all those sugars that might still be lurking in the bag, then it's wise to sparge.

Help, my mash has got clogged!


You may have over milled your grain and now the grain filter is too compact. This can also be caused by running the water off too fast. If this happens 's stop what you are doing and give the grain bed a gentle stir. Adding sum sparge water may help.

If things have gone really wrong, you may have to remove the mash, clean your tun and start again.

>> How to do small batch brewing

small batch brewing one gallon

Small Batch brewing - why do brewers even bother?


"Small Batch Brewing" sounds like one of those fancy brewing terms like 'attenuation', IBU or the line 'makes a great session beer'.

After all, when you're brewing 5 gallons of beer, that's just a small batch, right?

And that's kind of fair.

Some brewers like to go big with their batches or they go home.

When going in large (or even often) a key factor is that the brewer knows they have a tried and true recipe, one they themselves may have made many times before.

They might even have a sweet shed out the back where they can line up a row of conical fermenters, store their malt and condition their brewers. There might even be a keezer standing proudly in the corner.

And that's all good stuff as a dedicated beer maker - but if you want to experiment with your ingredients and hops and get some spice in your life as the Spice Girls suggested, then small batch brewing is a way to achieve that in terms of beer economy.

There's no point in spending plenty of your hard earned money to make 5 gallons of beer when you are only experimenting with some random chocolate raspberry stout with some random Yugoslavian yeast. If it turns out poor, who is going to drink it all?

So what level of volume are we talking here?


The common philosophy (brewlospophy?) of brewers is that a smaller batch of one or two gallons offers enough room to produce some good beers, that is worth the time and effort but also gives one the leeway to experiment by trying new ideas, timings and the like.

Small batches are also a great way to get some mastery over all grain brewing at a smaller scale.

For some beer makers, the cost of spices, fruits and fancy yeasts or hops can be out of reach or unjustified when brewing at scale, but at the smaller volume, it's worth it to try and see if the beer 's concept is worth pursuing.

Small batch brewing is also really useful for those without space.

Apartment dwellers across the world do not have sheds or garages they can pursue their hobby in. They are actually lucky if they have a dark wardrobe in which they can store their beer!

They also do not have space for 30 litre kettles, fermenters, mash tuns or wort chillers!

That way, that can get away with doing a wort boil in a small pot on the stove top or gas burner.

Things to think about when small batch brewing

Correct ingredient measurement


Correct measurements of your ingredients are extremely important. When brewing at scale, a little bit extra malt or a little less hops will not affect the beer too much but at the small scale, the differences can be quite notable which means that the beer you are intending to make, might not be the beer you produce.

You may wish to use a set of scales to measure out your ingredients and if you are converting from a larger 5-gallon recipe, make sure you get your conversion maths correct! E.g. if your 5-gallon recipe calls for 5kg of Gladfield Ale Malt but you are making one gallon, you need only one kilogram of the malt. 

Pot size


Small-scale mashing can easily be done in the typically small pots one has around the home. For every 1 gallon of space you have in your mashing vessel, you can mash 2.0 lbs of grain and collect about 1 gallon of precious wort.

A watched pot boils quicker


A smaller sized pot will get to the desired boiling temperature much quicker than normal, so to avoid boil overs, you'll need to be vigilant and eagle-eyed to catch it early.

You'll also want to make sure the wort doesn't get scorched or even evaporate too much!

If you are using a gas burner, we suggest you don't max out those BTU until you have a good feel for the timings of the wort coming to the boil.

Chilling the wort


You probably don't need to get your Copperhead out if you are doing a small brewing. You totally can of course if you kettle can accommodate the size of your chiller but you can also get away with an efficient ice bath. 

With a bag of ice in a sink or large bucket, you can reduce the wort temp pretty quickly - the smaller the wort size, the quicker it will be.

Pitch less yeast


Given the reduction in scale, it makes sense that you can pitch less yeast into the wort - same temperature rules apply though - only pitch when the wort is cooled to the appropriate temperature. 

We'd suggest that you actually use a yeast calculator to because that stuff can be expensive - if you can some yourself for the next brew, why not?

Another sweet benefit is that if you are a fan of liquid yeast, you may not need to use a yeast starter. 

What do I ferment the wort in if I'm doing a small batch?


You can totally use your standard sized carboy or plastic drum fermenter to do your micro batch.

A lot of brewers like to use 1 or 3 gallon glass carboys as well.

However, if you are microbrewing due to space restrictions, you can use anything smaller such as a bucket with a lid. I've even seen people use Coke bottles for small brews!

Whatever fermentation mechanism you use, you still need to apply standard cleaning and sanitization methods - bacteria doesn't give two hoots how big your unit is, they just want a space to do their thing. 

Small Batch Brewing is not Pico or Nano brewing


Pico is a little-used term is applied to breweries with systems 3bbls or smaller who produce less than 600 barrels of beer per annum. There is also a brand of beer brewing machine called a Pico, which frankly just seems like a waste of time as it reduces the brewing experience to effectively that of making filtered coffee.

↦ Using calibration buffer solutions to calibrate a pH meter

using ph buffer solutions

How to calibrate a ph meter using a buffer solution

While beer making is a bit of a science, taking the pH level of your beer is like some kind of advance astrophysics lesson because it seems so complicated, what with all the calculations and formula.

Some guy called Nernst apparently had a lot to do with it.

Anyways, taking a pH reading can be complicated because a serious brewer needs to properly calibrate their pH meter so it gives a correct reading which then means the brewer can make a good call about how their beer is going.

And to calibrate your meter, you need calibration or buffer solution.

What is a buffer solution?


A calibration or buffer solution is a chemical solution that is used to calibrate a pH meter.

A buffer solution is one which resists changes in pH when small amounts of acid or alkali are mixed with the buffer. Acidic buffer solutions are commonly made from a weak acid and one of its salts - often a sodium salt.

The buffer is used to develop a calibration curve. This a scientific method for determining the concentration of a substance in an unknown sample by comparing the unknown to a set of standard samples of known concentration

In the case of calibrating a pH meter, at least three 'standards' are needed.

Without the standardized pH buffer to calibrate the meter, the results will not be accurate and thus give you the wrong impression.

pH meters tend 'drift away' from their calibrated settings, it's just their nature due to the product design. 

It thus very important to calibrate your pH meter often so that the accuracy of your results is maintained.

Devices other than pH meters need calibration with a solution too, such as refractometers and conductivity meters.

What are standard buffer solutions?


The definition is that Standard pH calibration solutions should have an accuracy of +/- 0.01 pH at 25°C (77°F) and come usually in seven different pH values from 1.68 to 10.01.

The most popular and commonly used buffers are (4.01, 7.01, and 10.01). Good brands are dyed different colors so they can be easily identified by the brewer and thus used in the correct order.

Standard buffer solutions can be used to calibrate almost any common pH meter so you don't need to fall into the trap of say, for example, using a Hanna brand buffer for a Hanna meter. You could of course because Hanna make quality meters! The Milwaukee MW102 is pretty popular too! And let's not get started on how big a seller the Apera is!

This does mean that you can look at price and value per mls when deciding what brand to use.

There are two other kinds of calibration standards - Technical and Millesimal

Technical solutions come with a certificate of analysis (COA) which affirms that the solution will absolutely perform to the standard as described.

Millesimal calibration solutions are used in labs where an accuracy down to three decimal places is required, think along the lines of municipal drinking water plants, and medical research facilities where readings can be absolutely crucial to good human health outcomes!

Homebrewers generally just stick with standard calibration solutions which they often order online from Amazon.

Why you need to use fresh calibration solution


Brewers and testers should always use fresh calibration solution when calibrating one's pH electrode. 

All pH measurements are based on the pH calibration solution as a reference point so the solution needs to be pure and not contaminated. 

Think of this like contact lens solution, when it gets old, you don't use it to clean your lenses, you bin it and go with fresh.

It's generally recommended then that opened bottles of buffer solution should be dispensed with after they have been opened for 6 months. The higher the buffer's pH ( from  > 7 ), the quicker it will degrade.

If you are calibrating fairly infrequently, you may wish to consider using single-use solution sachets rather than bottled.

using buffer solution to calibrate ph meter

How do I use a calibration solution?


Your meter's pH electrode should ideally be cleaned in purified water before placing it your pH calibration buffer. This reduces the chance of contaminating the solution

A good practice is to be to use two beakers/containers for each calibration buffer that you will use.

Your method would be to clean the pH electrode with purified water then rinse the probe in one of the beakers with the buffer then place the probe in the second beaker with buffer.

Repeat this practice for multiple calibration points.

For best results, the user must ensure the pH probe has been cleaned and that it is rinsed with clean water between calibration solutions to reduce contamination of the pH solutions.

Here's a handy video guide on how to use your meter with the buffer:



If your solutions are clear, make sure you mark them out before you begin calibrating! You could leave the bottle or sachet close to the beaker as a reference. 

To obtain a correct pH calibration reading, the unit's accuracy is very dependent on the accuracy and age of the calibration solutions used, and the condition and cleanliness of the pH probe tip. You will get a calibration error if the unit is not properly maintained as per the instruction manual.

Never reuse calibration solution


Once you have calibrated your device and then tested beer wort, you should dispose of the reference calibration solution.

Given it has been exposed to the environment and has had equipment placed in it, there's a fair risk of contamination - so adding that to your original sample can risk ruining all your fluid!

The same applies to reusing the test sample at a later date. Just don't chance it.

Check out these common ph testing mistakes for other ways to avoiding screwing up. 

Making homemade calibration solutions


While some brewers can try to make their own DIY solutions to save money, the results prove to be homemade buffers that are not accurate or stable. This is a wasted effort as the buffer can be guaranteed to interfere with the accuracy of the test results.

Thus, we don't recommend you try to make your own! Check out the options available on Amazon.

↠ How to use honey in beer brewing (if you want to increase your ABV)

using honey to make home brew alcoholic

How to use honey in your beer brewing

Using honey to make beer is a trick of the trade that’s as old as hills but is still just as awesome an idea today as it was when the hills where made.

Adding bee honey to your homebrew efforts is a splendid way to add interesting aromas and flavours to your beer. 

Let’s clarify that adding honey to your beer doesn’t make it mead.

Mead is made wholly from honey whereas, for our purposes, we are simply adding honey to the beer to help impart flavour. Doing this results in a drop known as a braggot, which is arguably a kind of mead. 

It’s also an interesting way to increase the alcohol content (ABV) of your beer.

For the sakes of keeping things simple, the casual or novice brewer will probably simply want to use honey of the kind from a supermarket. The pros might want to use some wild honey sourced from a local supplier or bee specialist however it’s not without risk in terms of bacteria in wild honey having a wrestling match with the yeast in the beer wort as it ferments. 

There are also health risks about using honey, as for example in New Zealand honey can have Tutin contamination, which causes toxicity in honey. So make sure your honey supplier knows what they are doing.

We suggest you stick with ordinary honey that you would be happy to feed your children. 

So when do I add honey to my beer?

In the most basic sense, to add honey to your beer, simply add it when you are preparing your beer kit. Once you’ve added in the malt extract, hops, DME or dextrose etc, this is the time to add your honey.

You may want to soften the honey by placing the jar in some warm water (don’t boil it!). This way it will pour easily into your fermenter.

You’re probably now asking how much honey do you add to your brew?

I’ve seen recommendations that suggest anywhere from 2 to 10 percent of your total wort can be honey. I’ve also read it expressed in that you can add up to 50% of your total fermentable sugars as honey.  Either way, there’s room for you to experiment.

Take note that adding too much honey to your brew may increase fermentation time (but as a patient brewer, this should be no problem for you!).  Also, the more honey you add, the more akin to mead your beer may taste. 

What kind of honey to use? 

We said anything from the supermarket, just bear in mind that different honey will have different characteristics.

A brewer, who actually knows what they are doing have written that you might want to consider adding an increased amount of bittering hops to somewhat counter the sharper, more sweet flavour that could result if you use a lot of honey.

Your beer may also have a somewhat drier mouthfeel.

Can I use honey to carbonate my beer?

Honey sure can be used to bottle condition and carbonate beer. Don't add too much or you may end up with too much secondary fermentation and get a gusher beer

Image credit to Jason Riedy via Creative Commons Licence

↠ 33 tips and tricks for home brewers (have a look, you don't know everything!)

tips for brewing beer

Moar tips for making good beer

Let's face it, you don't know everything but even Han Solo had room to improve so here's some brewing tips.
  1. If you're a kitchen based brewer, bottling beer over your dishwasher door; clean up is as simple as closing the door.
  2. Clean out your 'Boil in a Bag' brew bag by first shaking it out, then turning it inside out and holding it under the shower.
  3. Pour the contents of the bag into a bowl and use that to pour into boiling water. It is MUCH easier to scrape extract out of a bowl.
  4. The importance of brewing with fresh ingredients cannot be overstated. The quality of home brewed beer can only be as good as the quality of the ingredients going into the brew kettle.
  5. Be wary that if using dry malt extract, the steam from boiling water causes significant amounts of extract to cake onto the sides of the bag. If this is an issue for you, we suggest you put the DME in first before you add the water.
  6. Re-hydrate dry yeast that you've saved by pouring it into a plastic bottle of water (of the correct temperature of course), capping it, and shaking. Burp any excess gas by gently opening the bottle (as you would a bottle of soda). When it comes time to pitch the yeast, simply pour out of the bottle into your wort.
  7. Placing a packet of silica gel in your hydrometer case can help absorb any residual moisture that may be left after using it (we think this is a flight of fancy in some ways and not necessary).
  8. Use a ph Meter to test your mash.
  9. There are plenty of different kinds of hops, and for best results match the kind of beer you are brewing to the hops known to best compliment that style.
  10. Try to match your hops to well-known lager hops - Saaz hops, in particular, are associated with the brewing of lagers as well as the classic German hop, Hallertauer. We've discovered the New Zealand derived Green Bullet hop is also very handy.
  11. When making a yeast starter, place the flask inside of a plastic grocery bag, and then place it on the stir plate. Should the starter overflow, the mess is contained within the plastic bag.
  12. Don't put so much sugar in your bottles! - I've learnt this one personally the hard way. If you place too much sugar into your bottles, the yeast will go to town on it as part of the secondary fermentation and produce an excess of CO2.We love this idea. Put a book or other wedge under the back of your fermenter after sealing it up. On brewing day, gingerly slide the book/wedge to the front of the fermenter and you'll have a slanted yeast cake and a nice "deep end of the pool" in the back side of the fermenter to rack from.
  13. You can use a hydrometer to work out the alcohol content of your beer
  14. 60 carbonation drops, will be enough drops for one 23 litre brew.
  15. A few marbles, glass beads, or large SS ball bearings will reduce the risk of boil over dramatically. It works by providing nucleation points at the bottom so that large bubbles rise up and pop and less small bubbles are available to form foam. Of course, if you use foam inhibitor such as Fermcap-S, you probably don't need any other hacks! 
  16. Cool the Wort quickly -Doing this will increase the fallout of proteins and tannins that are bad for the beer.
  17. Using a spray bottle of Star San solution seems like a good hack. Doesn't waste time with dunking everything in a bucket when you can just spray it liberally and get good coverage.
  18. Put spigots in all of my fermenting buckets, so you need to use an auto syphon.
  19. When transferring out of a fermenter into a keg, fill 1 pint mason jars with the slurry, and refrigerate them so that you can use it as a yeast starter for another brew.
  20. Using sodium percarbonate is our preferred method to sanitize as it works well, no rinse is required and it's very easy to order in bulk online.
  21. You can make a 'hops tea' to ensure the hop flavours get into the beer.
  22. Buy hops in bulk to save money. Make sure you are going to use it though! You can store excess hops by keeping it frozen.
  23. Don't bottle your beer too early or you will suffer the rage of Darth Vader, cursing you out for not being patient. So when doing your first brews, make sure it can be done in a warmish area and one that's going to keep that temperature fairly constant - A very rough guide is that you should aim to brew lagers between 10-14 degrees, and get those ales done between 18-21 degrees.
  24. There are two ways you can add the sugar to your beer - you can prime the whole batch in one go by adding your liquid sugar into the fermenter or you can add sugar to each bottle individually.
  25. To get a creamy mouth feel, use more ‘unfermentables’ in your beer. In effect this is malt. The more malt you add, the 'creamier' your beer will be. This is in the sense that your beer will be more viscous, making it feel thicker in your mouth. Instead of hand cleaning your bottles and dunking them in sanitizer put them in the dishwasher bottom rack. USE NO DETERGENT, and put the dishwasher on the hottest cycle. The temperature is hot enough to kill the nasties that could infect your beer (we also add the dish washer is handy for removing bottle labels).
  26. You can add extra fermentables like DME, on top of what your recipe asks for, to increase the ABV of the beer.
  27. When we say clean we actually mean clean AND sterilized. Sterilize the heck out of everything you use. If you're starting out as a home brewer, your kit should contain a cleansing and sterilizing agent.
  28. Don't rush in like a schoolboy - leaving your beer to sit for a bit longer will allow such characteristics to fade and largely disappear - which leaves you with a great tasting and smelling lager.
  29. When bottling, you may wish to give the successfully bottles a gentle tip or two to make sure that all the sugar is in the liquid and has a chance to dissolve. This is also an opportunity to inspect for broken seals. You don't need to bottle straight away, just because the fermentation bottle has stopped bubbling - If the bubbles in the airlock appear to have finished, this is not necessarily a sign that the fermentation process has halted. It's quite likely that there's still some fermentation quietly happening in the plastic fermenter drum or carboy.
  30. Batch priming is a great way to get the sugar levels for bottle carbonation correct and to reduce the chance of beer gushers.
  31. Get the bigger kettle or pot, in the long run, you’ll save money  - for many first homebrewers the purchase is a starter equipment kit. Once they have that, all they need is a brew kettle or pot and ingredients. So they get the cheap, smaller size kettle – and then suddenly they find they want to keep going with beer making and so need to purchase the bigger kettle or brewing pot.
  32. At a pinch, you can use baking yeast to make beer. 
  33. Try the odd jelly bean as a substitute carbonation drop!

⇒ A simple guide to home brewing beer (or else just ask your dad how to do it)

how to brew beer guide

 

A simple guide to home brewing beer

You want to know how to make great homebrew right? 

This free guide will help you on your way to make great tasting beer in your own home or garden shed. 

It will:
  • Take you through step by step the brewing processes
  • Point out some easy mistakes to watch out for
  • Suggest some tips and tricks for you to try
It’s a must read before you build that microbrewery in your shed!


7 tips for the beginner beer brewer to think about before starting brewing



If you're about to take the brewing plunge and brew your first batch of homebrew beer, you're already a champion! 

If you take the time to do it well you will be rewarded with a refreshingly delicious beverage.

A strong start to your 'brewing campaign' will give you the confidence that brewing homebrew is actually fairly easy and you might continue with it as a hobby.

It should be considered a sport, but for the purists...

There's definitely a lot to learn, so if you are a first-time beer brewer, you might want to have a gander at these basic brewing tips before you begin.

1. That starter beer kit your partner gave you for Christmas is not enough

While the beer kit you were given for Christmas by your loving wife or partner will help you on your way to making a good home brew beer, you can do better. 

Kits that only come with sugar or dextrose alone will contribute to a beer that's weak in the sense that it will seem thin in terms of its 'mouth feel'.

Think of mouth feel as that sense of 'full heartiness' that you get from that first mouthful of a well-deserved beer. In response to this need, the home brewer should consider adding more malt - either liquid or dry malt. 

For the dry malt, a 'brew enhancer' pack is what you need.

In this writer's experience, making a homebrew beer kit without the enhancer most definitely results in a weak beer, so make sure your starter brewing kit comes with it or at the least, head to your local brew shop and grab a packet. 

It shouldn't cost more than ten bucks and it's worth the extra expense.


You should also get some hops!



green hops
Hops on the plant
While malt kits come with 'pre-mixed' hops, you may wish to consider adding extra hops to your brew. 

There are plenty of different kinds of hops, and for best results match the kind of beer you are brewing to the hops known to best complement that style.

You can add hops at any time you like. Do try Riwaka!


adding hops to home brew beer
Delicious beer hops - it's easy to add them to your brew


2. You'd best first brew a dark beer like an ale than a lager

The truth is that the darker the beer, the more forgiving it will be in the home brewing process.

It's very easy to make a mistake with your first home brew so a basic beer style that's good to drink and is also easy to take care of is the brew you are after. 

While you should feel free to start with a lager, and yes, many beer kits do come with lagers, bear in mind that lagers need to be cooled rather more quickly than an ale or stout and they can also require a bit more yeast in the fermentation process.

3. In the cold, cold night

Fermentation is a process that requires just the right kind of temperatures and the right kind of times. Different temperatures brew different kinds of beers. A constant temperature is also very important as the yeast can react to a temperature variance in ways that are not good for tasty beer! 

So when doing your first brews, make sure it can be done in a warmish area and one that's going to keep that temperature fairly constant. 

A very rough guide is that you should aim to brew lagers between 10-14 degrees and get those ales done between 18-21 degrees.

4. You don't need to bottle straight away, just because the fermentation bottle has stopped bubbling

If the bubbles in the airlock appear to have finished, this is not necessarily a sign that the fermentation process has halted. It's quite likely that there's still some fermentation quietly happening in the plastic fermenter drum or carboy

So let that play out a while longer. 

Be patient. 

It could be that you let your beer rest longer than the written instructions that came with your beer kit. When you've given your beer a fair chance, cold crash (if you are able to) and then bottle away.

5. Don't bottle too early as well!

Simply put, don't bottle your beer too early. This basically point four repeated.

If you bottle before fermentation has completed, you could be in for some trouble with gushers and exploding beer.

Did you ever see that Breaking Bad episode where Hank woke up in the middle of the night thinking he was being shot at but in reality, it was just his home brew exploding

That's what happens if you bottle your beer too early. And trust me, it's a real pain to clean up. 

Don't be like Hank Schrader, let your beer rest in the fermenter just a little bit longer. There's a real likelihood your beer will taste better for it.

6. Using a hydrometer will help you develop your home brewer's 'Sixth Sense'

When used correctly, a hydrometer will help you to work out when your beer batch has finished fermenting. 

If you get the same reading twice in a row, the fermentation process has likely finished - but if I was me, 

I'd leave it just a couple of days before I'd bottle. Trust me on this one. 

You can also use the hydrometer to work out the alcohol content of your beer. Make sure you take your readings!

 Going through this exercise really improved my understanding of part of the science behind making beer. 

7. Good things come to those who wait

Yep, this is the second time you are going to have to be a patient brewer. 

Once you've managed to get your precious liquid gold into your well-sterilized bottles we can only imagine how keen you are to sample your efforts. You're going to have to wait. The instructions in your beer kit may suggest you need to wait two or three weeks.

Believe them.

Let your beer have time to make those bubbles.

You will be rewarded with a better tasting beer. If you can't wait, get yourself busy with a second brew and at the very least, give your equipment a good clean.

So that's plenty of tips and tricks to beer in mind! And now onto actually making beer!


So you're ready to brew? It's time for the beginner's guide ...

This simple guide will take you through making your first batch of beer, step by step, guiding you through like an angel sent from the Beer Gods themselves...

There can be nothing more rewarding after a hard day's work than a delicious homemade beer. 

This beginner's guide is a 'how to' for using beer kits. There is no boiling of the wort wizardry here, just home brewing 101 tips.

The brewing of beer is an act of scientific exploration. It's the science of fermentation, bacteria and microscopic fungus commonly known as yeast. It's also about good old home economics and it's a little bit about applying some common sense.

If you follow this beer making advice (and of course give due consideration to the instructions that come on the can of malt - due consideration, not slavish attention!) you probably won't stray too far from producing a beer that you will enjoy to drink.

You are ready to make beer!

I'm going to assume you have a brand new beer extract kit for making beer. Your loving partner may have given it to you for Christmas (mine did!) or maybe you got there yourself out of curiosity.
  • You have all the ingredients and supplies to hand. A can of malt extract with some yeast (and it's not an old can). 
  • Some brewing sugar, dextrose or a brew enhancer (we really recommend the enhancer).
  • You will have all the equipment, a lot of which can be picked up from a home brew store or home improvement store. You'll have a giant plastic bottle or possibly a 30 litre drum or 5-gallon glass carboy). Be ready to make about 23 litres of beer. 
  • You have access to boiling water and also to cold water. You might even have bought some beer hops to add to your wort.
  • You'll have a clean working space such as a clean kitchen bench and you'll have enough time to not be interrupted. When I brew from home brew kits I do it after dinner when the kids are in bed and the dishes are done. 
  • If you're a pro, you might have a really good pH meter to test your mash.

It's now time to clean and sanitize your beer making equipment

Your beer wort needs a warm and clean environment in which to start fermentation. 

That means all that horrible bacteria that are lurking on your stirring spoon and on the inside of your fermenter drum or carboy bottle needs to be thoroughly cleaned and then sanitized.

Your homebrew starter kit should have provided you with a sachet of a cleanser and also a sanitizer (people often refer to this process as sterilization, just go with it). 

Use it.

Leave your drum to soak for as long as possible (even though it's new, it's likely had all the equipment stored inside it if it's a drum, so heaps of opportunity for beer bugs to find a spot to launch an attack on your wort in there).

If you are going to be a backyard beer brewing, this probably is the start of your habit of cleaning and sanitizing all your equipment every single time you make beer.

There are plenty of beer-making methods. We can do it in four easy steps.

Step 1 - Malt Up

beer extract kit sitting in a pot of water
If you're smart, you may have already put your opened tin of extract malt into a pot of boiling water so that it's warmed up and can be easily poured into your fermenter.

Just like this picture here.

If brewing during winter, I leave it sitting on the top of my closed fireplace, this works quite well.

At this point I like to put on some fancy surgical gloves so as to avoid the mess that's probably about to happen all over your kitchen bench. 

It probably helps to keep things clean. Gosh knows where my hands have been! 

Add your extract malt with 3 litres of boiling water to your fermenter. Stir with a sterilized stirring device until it's all dissolved.

Your brew kit probably came with a beer enhancer, now is the time to add it and dissolve as well.

Step 2 - Water is the essence of aqua

It's time to add the water. I like to use the garden hose so I carry the fermenter to the kitchen back door and go for gold. The water in NZ where I'm from is very clean and drinkable. 

If the water is of poor quality where you come from, you may wish to find a better source of water, at the least boil it maybe. The basic rule is if you can handle drinking a glass of water from it, that's your source for your beer batch.

Fill your fermenter to 6 gallons of water or to the 23 litre mark. Stick with that, your malt kit recipe has been designed with exactly this amount of water in mind. If you add too much water, you will dilute your beer. 

Adding less water may result in a stronger beer but at the potential risk of changing the kind of beer you are making. Your beer may possibly feel a bit too sugary or dry to taste.

Step 3 - Time to pitch the yeast

It's time to add the yeast. This is called 'pitching'. Seasoned pros will tell you to never use the yeast that comes in your starter kit or with your can of malt as it may be old or damaged or whatever.

I'm thinking you just want to make some bloody beer so throw it into to your fermenter and worry about that kind of issue when it actually occurs.

I have never had any issues with the yeast that's come from a yeast kit - however I totally recommend using the popular Safale 05 Yeast as it's tried and true.

Wait!

Make sure the temperature of the water is close to in line with the instructions on the tin of malt - you want to give the yeast a chance to activate so don't put it in or 'pitch' it if you're out of whack. 

Pro tip: You may want to have chilled the wort and then aerated it with oxygen.

That said in my experience just pitch the yeast into the drum or carboy when you're ready. But be warned, only pitch your yeast when you've added the extra cold water - if you pitch your yeast directly into the boiled wort, you will kill the yeast and you will not have fermentation occur at all.

Step 4 - 'Hop' to it, my little bunny

You're nearly done! 

If your beer kit came with some hops or you were smart enough to procure some, chuck them in now, maybe half the packet.

This is called dry hopping

Some might recommend adding the hops 5 days into the fermentation process but we say just get on with it. 

Close up the fermenter, make sure the drum or cap is on firmly. Add your airlock with water inside (some really keen people use Vodka to keep bugs out! Which is crazy as you're trying to make alcohol, not waste it). 

You'll use this airlock to keep track of fermentation by observing the CO2 bubbles as they are released during fermentation.  A failure to see bubbles does not mean fermentation is not happening. It could simply mean you didn't tighten the drum cap firmly enough.

Step 5 - Let fermenting beer lie - be patient 

It is now a waiting game. 

Once you've put your beer in a suitable place where the temperature will be fairly consistent, leave her alone.

Set and forget...
working out alcohol content
Taking a hydrometer reading

Well not quite - if you have a hydrometer, take a reading and write it down somewhere.

You will need the record to be able to work out when fermentation is complete and also work out the alcohol content ABV of your beer (see the link above for how to do the equation).

A loose guide to knowing when fermentation has usually completed when the bubbles have finished passing through the airlock. You can also use your hydrometer. If you have two consistent readings over two days, primary fermentation is complete. You can use this final reading to determine your ABV level.

Once you are fairly confident this is the case, you can begin to think about bottling your beer

That said:

This is an occasion where you might want to consider completely ignore the instructions on the can and leave your brew in the fermenter for about 2 weeks. Leaving your beer to brew a few days more is important! 

While at face value fermentation is complete, the yeast will still be interacting with everything and this extra time will greatly improve the quality of your beer.

So be patient!

So the short summary on how to make your home made beer

1. Add your malt from the can to 3 litres of hot water
2. Add any brew enhancer or dextrose as well as any hops. Stir it all up.
3. Fill fermenter to 23 litres or 6 gallons and let it cool.
5. Add the airlock, firmly seal the drum
6. Ensure fermentation is complete. 
7. Bottle when ready but it's best to let your brew sit for a while

So that's the rough guide to brewing beer from a kit. As you can read, it's a pretty straightforward exercise and you don't need a Bachelor of Food Technology to get it right.

So now it's time to bottle your beer


So once you are sure that fermentation is complete and you've let your beer sit for at least a week after the bubbles have stopped coming through the airlock, then you're ready to bottle your homebrew. 

What equipment you need to bottle your beer

  • Enough bottles. If you have done 23 litres of beer then you would need 30 x 750 ml bottles. Plastic or glass, it doesn't matter
  • Bottle caps
  • A bottle capper
  • sanitizing agent, such as sodium percarbonate
  • A big bucket or receptacle for soaking bottles in
  • Ordinary sugar (sucrose)
  • Spoon

What kind of bottles can I use for bottling?


You can use plastic or glass. 

I use glass so I can recycle and feel good about saving the planet (yes, I'm a hero, send me a medal or some beer). 

If you truly hate planet Earth you can use plastic but be warned, they break easily, especially if you re-use them.

The beauty of using plastic bottles is that if they over carbonate due to non-complete fermentation or excessive priming sugar they will only split and not explode. 

If you've ever seen a beer bottle explode spontaneously, you'll know what a damn mess it makes with glass shards everywhere! 

Not to mention it could be pretty awful if you were standing next to one at the time it blew...

You should also bear in mind that not all glass bottles are intended to be used for home brewing so may not be strong enough for both the fermentation process and the capping process so choose wisely - maybe even practice on the odd bottle to make sure it won't crack when you do the capping. 

Yes, it's time to bloody sanitize again


Just like you did when you brewed you beer batch, you are going to need to sanitise the beer bottles. 

This is because a second round of fermentation is going to occur and again the yeast needs an opportunity do to its thing, free of microbes that could be lurking on the inside of the bottles.


It's this secondary fermentation that puts the CO2 in your beer and cleans up the remaining sugars. 

So get all your bottles in the receptacle that you are going to soak them in. I use a plastic washing basket that's big enough to hold all the bottles I need. I then get some sodium percarbonate and add it to a cup of boiling water so it dissolves quickly.

I then add it to the basket and then get the garden hose and fill it up to the brim.

You will need to wrangle your bottles as they will try and float. Push them down with your hands and make sure they are all submerged so they all get the sanitiser in them.

They say you only need a minimum of 10 minutes to let them soak but having been burned before with a contaminate getting into my beer, I make sure there's little chance at the bottling stage. 

I leave them in to soak for a few hours and in direct sunlight if possible for as they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

If all that seems just too difficult and you are time short, you just get a bucket and fill it with your steriliser powder. You can then just dunk the bottles in, give them a quick swirl, drain the water back into the bucket. 

The beauty of many sanitizers is that they are 'no rinse'.

Whatever you do, when you're happy, drain your bottles and place them where you wish to do the bottling. I often do it on the picnic table in the backyard where there is plenty of space. A clean kitchen bench is handy too.

Frankly, there's a pretty handy cheat if you can't be bothered - but your bottles in the dishwasher on the hottest wash setting. I find this method works really well. 

Filling the bottles with beer and sugar


There are two ways you can add the sugar to your beer - you can prime the whole batch in one go by adding your liquid sugar into the fermenter or you can add sugar to each bottle individually. 

The former is our preferred method as in our experience, it's less mucking around, 

Some brewers like to siphon the fermented beer into a second drum in the belief that there will be less sediment in your beer.

While many beer brewers will suggest that you use a slightly heaped teaspoon of sugar for each bottle, I personally try and do a little less as some of my beers in the past have been over carbonated, due I think to too much sugar being put in.

I like to use a small funnel to add the sugar in - it's quicker and less messy than trying to get the sugar in using just a spoon!

You are then ready to add the beer. Simply place the bottle under the tap of your drum and you are good to go. Be wary of fast flowing beer. Fill the bottles to a level that you would normally expect to see for commercial beer. 

That's about 40 mm from the top. As I understand it, that will assist with optimum secondary fermentation. 

If you have a bottling wand, feel free to use it! Place it inside the tap. You'll need to be firm with it and also be aware that they can suddenly fly out with an open tap - meaning you'll lose beer. 

So for that reason, I'd never wander away from the drum when there's a bottling valve in play.

It's also capping day

When you've filled all your bottles it's now time to cap the bottles. That process should be self-explanatory and relative to the kind of bottle capper you have. 

The key thing to remember is to check that each cap as made a satisfactory seal. If you can hear hissing from a bottle, the seal was not done correctly. Remove the cap and try again with a new cap.

I also mark all the seals with a Vivid or Sharpie so that I know what the particular batch is. This is pretty important when you have different batches and different kinds of beers on the go!

You may wish to give the successfully bottles a gentle tip or to make sure that all the sugar is in the liquid and has a chance to dissolve. This is also an opportunity to inspect for broken seals.

Bottling beer can be a time-consuming exercise so either make sure you can be free from interruptions or you can choose to bottle in small groups e.g. 5 bottles at a time when you have a spare moment. This won't cause any problems. 

You cannot, of course, do bottling piecemeal if you have batch primed as the beer will keep fermenting on the added sugars.

Proper storage of your beer

It's often best to initially store your beer in a warm place. This will encourage secondary fermentation to commence (this is sometimes described as bottle conditioning). 

The ideal temperature range is between approx 18 - 25°C for 5 to 7 days. 

After that period, you should leave them in a much cooler place with a temperature range between approx 8 - 12°C. You should then leave the beer for a total minimum of three weeks since bottling date before some well-deserved consumption.

You should not easily dismiss this advice about correct temperature storage of your beer. 

I had an experience last year when in the middle of winter I just bottled the beer and left it in the shed for about a month. When I when to crack open the first beer, there was no fizz, just cold flat beer. No fizz on the second or third either. 

I thought I had ruined my beer somehow. 'Had fermentation actually occurred'? I wondered. 

Of course, it had. The problem was the freezing cold. I brought the beers inside and left them in my warm living room. I waited a week, and boom I had fizzy beer. #winning. 

The longer you wait, the better your beer will be.

Here's a boat load more tricks and tips and mistakes to watch out for when brewing beer

glass of beer with nice head.


Do I have to sanitize my brewing equipment every time I make beer?

I thought we went through this. 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).

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 home brewers 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.

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 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 laundry soaker for beer bottle sanitisation
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 sanitisation and sterilization


How can I tell if my beer fermented properly?

Fermentation is the name of the game when making beer. If you don't have fermentation, you simply don't have beer. You have just have a 23-litre bucket of watery malt.

Home brewers can face fermentation issues and a common problem is that fermentation has not begun. A typical sign is that there are no bubbles coming through the airlock. Is this really a sign of a lack of fermentation?

The first thing to beer in mind is that it can take at least 15 - 24 hours before the bubbles start gurgling through the airlock, longer if it's cold.

Don't go drowning your sorrows just yet if the bubbles haven't started. If you think that your beer hasn't started brewing there's some problem solving you can do. 

If you are using a glass fermenter you can look for a dark scum that rings around the water level mark.

Or check for signs of foam.

If using a plastic drum you might be able to see through to check for the scum. Another trick is to take out the airlock and try and peek through the whole to identify scum or foam. If it's there, fermentation is happening.

You could also check the gravity by using a hydrometer. I'll assume you know how to use one.  The beer has usually finished fermenting if the final gravity reading is 1/3 to 1/4 of the original gravity. This, of course, means you took a reading when you first prepared your beer.

If you have the same reading 24 hours apart - that's your final reading and an indication that the fermentation is finished. 

Remember, don't bottle your beer just yet, let it mellow for a bit longer. The longer the better your brew will probably be.

Testing for correct pH Levels


Beer brewers who think like scientists will test that their beer is within the ideal range for beer brewing. 

A beer with a pH balance that is is outside the range of 5 - 5.5 ph, give or take will not produce the best results. 

You can test for pH using paper strips or for a very accurate result, use a digital pH tester.

We recommend the Milwaukee digital tester brand., it's a popular seller. 

So why wasn't there any bubbles in the airlock? 

That's a fair question to ask. It could be that there was a leak that allows the CO2 to escape (to teach you to suck rotten eggs, those bubbles in the airlock are carbon dioxide gas, the by-product of fermentation). 

You may have not tightened the drum enough or possible not screwed in the tap properly. It's a good idea to check this is the case before you worry too much.

If you didn't see any signs of fermentation it could be that it's too cold to brew. Is your batch of beer in a warm enough place? If you're brewing during summer months, it's probably not too cold.

If you've left your beer in a cold place in the shed, then it may be. If this is the case then you might want to consider moving your fermenter.

You could consider wrapping it with blankets. This is a handy trick and will help to keep the chill off your beer. I suspect this trick works best if the beer is already warm enough to brew...

Here's some problem solving tips for when you don't see airlock bubbles:


  • Check for leaks that allow the CO2 to escape - tighten the drum
  • Look for foamy residue
  • Look for scum residue
  • Make sure the temperature is appropriate for the kind of beer you are making
  • Consider using a heat pad to ensure a consistent temperature

beer bottles for brewing


5 mistakes every novice beer maker should watch out for



1. Wash, wash away your sins

We actually mean sterilize. Sterilize the heck out of everything you use. If you're starting out as a home brewer, your kit should contain a cleansing and sterilizing agent. You NEED to make sure that at the very least your drum is fully clean and sterilized before your start your brewery process.

There is nothing more disappointing than going to bottle your brew and recognizing the scent of a bad brew that has been contaminated by nasty bugs.

2. Temperature 

It would be a mistake to think that home brewing is basically a 'set and forget' process. It's not. Well, it can be and a key part of that is making sure that where ever you leave your beer to ferment that it's a place that has the desired temperature and that it is a constant temperature.

Don't leave your beer outside on the back porch to do its thing! Leave it wrapped in blankets in your garden shed if you have to, but make sure it's in a generally constantly heated place.

My work colleague leaves her beer brewing in the bathtub!

I recommend these thermometers to help with your brewing.

3. Those bubbles...

Just because the bubbles have stopped bubbling through the airlock, it doesn't mean the fermentation process is complete. It would be a real shame for your bottled beer to start exploding if you haven't given the beer a chance to finish the process. Use a hydrometer to ensure the fermentation is finished before you at least consider getting that beer into glass bottles.

Hint, wait some more time as well.

3. Running before you can walk

Get the basics of beer brewing down first. Before you run off and try and make the most fanciest beer you can that features some imported yeast from England and three different kinds of hops, learn the principles of beer making.

You will enjoy your first few brewing experiences if you keep them simple. Then you can start to branch out into more complicated recipes and practices.

4. Not keeping records of what you did

If you write down what you did, what you used, when you did it and why you'll have a good basis on which to make judgements about your beer brewing failures and successes. If you find that you've pulled off a stunner of a beer, you might be able to figure out just exactly how that happened. It could be the difference between remembering that you used a certain kind of hops in your brew!

5.  You drink your beer way too early

Patience my young Padawan. It is a mistake for sure to drink your beer too early. Post bottling, your beer needs time to carbonate. It also needs time to chill and do its thing. The fermentation process is in a sense a simple chemical reaction but there is a complex relationship going on with the beer's ingredients that need time to sort themselves out.

The patient beer drinker who leaves his beer at least three weeks before indulging will be a better beer maker for it. If you can make it to 5 or 6 weeks before you taste, the better your beer should taste.