↠ When choosing a brewing spoon, go stainless steel

I never thought I'd write about brewing spoons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about using wooden spoons for brewing?

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

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

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

So we are probably overthinking things in this regard!

Mash paddles and dough balls

Mash paddles help keep the grain from forming dough balls.

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

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

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

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

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

How to pitch yeast correctly into beer wort

adding yeast to the beer wort

How to pitch yeast into homebrew beer

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

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

Had I missed out a step?

Had I ruined my beer?

Nope, of course not.

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

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

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

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

What temperature to pitch yeast into the beer wort?

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

This is why the cooling process can be so important.

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

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

Ale fermentation temperatures commonly range from 68 to 72 °F (20 to 22 °C) Lager fermentation temperatures will range from 45 to 55 °F (7 to 13 °C).

If you are using a beer kit, the ideal temperature should be written on the can or pouch - trust what the manufacturer brewer says!

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

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

The easiest way to pitch your yeast is by 'dry pitching'

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

I also like to give it a shake to pack the yeast on one side and cut on that side.

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

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

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

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

Re-hydrate your yeast before you pitch it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If there is no churning or foaming or sourdough or bread like smells, it could be your yeast has died from old age or environmental damage such as being left in the sun.

You may need to use a new packet of yeast...

How many packets of yeast should I use?

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

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

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

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

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

Using liquid yeast for brewing

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

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

What are some good yeasts to brew with?

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

The Safale - 04 is a handy English ale yeast too.

A quick summary of pitching yeast 

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

Image credit to Justin Knabb via Creative Commons Licence

Mangrove Jacks Dutch Lager Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I left it for a week and then bottled.

2 weeks later I can report back.

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

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

4 weeks later - report back 2.

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

When to add 'rice hulls' to the mash

rice hulls

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

What a way to slow down your brew day! 

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

Enter rice hulls.

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

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

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

Use rice hulls when sparging a high gravity beer

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

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

How much rice hulls should I add to the mash?

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

When do I add the rice hulls to the mash?

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

Can I sparge with oat hulls instead of rice?

You sure can. 

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

Do I have to worry about rice hulls absorbing water?


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

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

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

Do I need to sterilize the rice or oat hulls?

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

>> Best mash tuns for sparge & lautering


Not tons.

Nor tonnes.

But tuns.

Mash Tuns.

Though it's pronounced ton.

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

The mash tun is the vessel in which the mashing of the grain is conducted. The 'grain bill' is heated with hot water.

This process of mashing causes the enzymes in the malt to break down the grain's starch. The starch is reduced into the sugars which form the malty liquid we all know as 'wort'.

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

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

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

Northern Brewer's tun

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

Reviews of the Northern Brewer tun:

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

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

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

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

Igloo Mash Tun

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

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

Brewer's Edge' Mash and Boil

Listen up fellas, Big Jim just rode into town so pay attention.

The Brewer’s Edge Mash and Boil transforms brewing day, making all grain brewing easy and affordable. If you want to compare this to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do mash tuns need to use false bottoms?

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

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

What are some good mash tun tricks?

>> Best beer filtration kits for clear beer

compare filtered beers

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

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

It's also about how it looks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inline Filter
Price Comparison
Mid range
Midwest  ✔✔
Mid range

HomeBrewStuff 10" Beer Filtration Kit

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

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

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

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

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

Note that the filters should not be reused. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

homebrewstuff beer kit

Midwest Beer Clarity Filter System

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

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

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

Once your beer passes through the 5 micron filter then it is up to you how fine you want your product filtered. The fine filters consist of a 1.0 micron and a 0.65 micron filter. The 1.0 micron filter should filter out 80-90% of the yeast in solution while the 0.65 - 0.5 sterile filter will filter out 100% of the yeast.
  • 10" filter housing
  • Tubing and Disconnects
  • 1- 5.0-micron coarse basic disposable filter
  • 1- 1.0-micron polishing basic disposable filter
  • Water tubing kit
Here are some reviews left by beer makers who have used the filter on their own precious beer,

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

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

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

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

Bouncer inline beer filter 

bouncer inline beer filter

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds like the smart choice then.

How to use the Bouncer inline filter

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

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

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

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

How does a beer filter work?

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

It's the same with a beer filter. 

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

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

Can I reuse a beer filter?

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

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

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

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

What is the difference between a pleated and spun filter?

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

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

What is a plate filter?

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

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

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

Where can I get replacement cartridge filters?

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

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

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

There's plenty of cartridge options on Amazon.

Points on using filters

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

Review of Te Aro's Obligatory fresh wort pack

Brewing an Obligatory Pale Ale

My beer making success with Te Aro Brewing Co's 'Obligatory' fresh wort pack

I was lucky enough to catch up with Nathan from Te Aro Brewing Company (we used to be workmates at a fairly well known internet company some years back) and to meet the brewery's founder Karl Kayes.

The brewery has a front-of-shop known as Brewtopia, wherein they shared with me a taste of some of their wares.

Nathan offered me a sample of their Oligatory pale ale beer. A fine tasting beer, I offered my compliments. He then blew my mind by offering me one of Te Aro Brewing Company's 'Obligatory' fresh wort packs to try out and review.

Obligatory fresh wort packSuch is my sophistication when it comes to beer making, I'd never heard of a fresh wort pack before but soon enough I was lugging around 20 litres of ready made Obligatory wort back home.

On arrival my wife looked at me with some suspicion.

What had  I brought home in this mysterious black container.

Petrol? Insecticide?

No darling, beer!

So, I grabbed the fermenter and gave it a clean and then sanitized with some sodium percarbonate.

I was extra particular about this process and I rinsed it all out with boiling water. There was no way I was going to let this special treat from Te Aro get ruined by poor preparation! This took me about 10 minutes.

Before I started this cleaning process I actually got the yeast going by adding it to a glass of warm water. The yeast was the popular home brewer's choice of Safale US-05.

So, now it came time to prepare the beer.

I emptied the 20 litres of wort into the fermenter, making sure it splashed around quite a lot to ensure the wort got some oxygen into it (this helps with fermentation).

It was a nice light brown colour and not as thick as I imagined it would be (probably as I'm so used to making brews with beer kits).

And then less than a minute later, I was ready to pitch the yeast.

It was almost too easy.

I put the lid on the fermenter and added the airlock.

I did not add any hops at this stage. Not my normal approach, but I intended to follow Nathan's instructions as best I could so I added the hops at day 5.

So straight away I was able to see the benefit of using a pre-made wort - you save a lot of time, there's no need to go and buy a beer enhancer or DME and it's a lot less messy than dealing with a beer kit.

Indeed, there's no mess with a wort pack!

You can actually recycle the wort pack container by taking it back to Brewtopia on a brewing day for a new wort and a wee discount as you are using your own storage device!

Nathan recommended that the brew is stored in a dark place with an average temperature of between 14 to 22 degrees centigrade and that 16 - 20 is best. I'll be frank, I have no idea what the temperature was but I left it in my warm kitchen for 48 hours.

I then transferred it to my man shed outside and covered it with a whole pile of old sheets and towels.

Classic move eh?

At this point I noted that no bubbles were coming out of the airlock, nor did I observe any scum or residue lining the inside of the fermenter, early days though and the lack of bubbles after two days does not mean I have a brewing disaster on my hands!

At day 5 I added the hops - a combination of some delicious smelling Nelson Sauvin, NZ Cascade and Motueka. On opening the fermenter's lid I was now able to see a great layer of bubbles and scum so clearly something good had been occurring.

So now it was a waiting game to let the brew do its thing.

Bottling day

I prepared the Obligatory on the 27th of September and bottled two weekends later on the 9th of October. This was a couple of days shy of the time recommended by Nathan but whatever, close enough!

Bottling was a straightforward exercise and I was very diligent with sanitizing the bottles.

Now it's an even longer wait!

So while I wait, let's talk about the ingredients of the beer and whether fresh wort packs are worth it.

Wort pack ingredients

Malt: Gladfields American Ale Malt, Gladfields Pale Crystal, Gladfields Toffee Malt,
Hops: Nelson Sauvin, NZ Cascade and Motueka

I gotta tell ya, that combination of hops was one of the most delicious smells. I kept them in the fridge until it was time to add them and everytime I opened the fridge, I got the most delightful whiff of them.

Pricing and whether a fresh wort pack is wort(h) it

So what's the cost? Let's be clear, this is not a cheap product. It's a quality product so expect a quality price of $70 for the wort.

This also includes the Safale yeast and the hops which should make your wallet feel a bit better.

There is no need for an enhancer because Te Aro Brewery has made the wort such as they would make their Obligatory to sell to their keen punters and the local Wellington bars which want quality craft beers to serve their fickle* patrons.

If you compare that to a using a beer kit, fresh yeast, extra hops and an enhancer, you're looking at approximately $40 a brew (that is if you use a lower range beer kit). So that $30 odd dollar difference is buying you a beer quality well above what may be achieved with a standard beer kit.

It's also buying you time.

It took only a few minutes to get the fermenter clean and the yeast pitched into the wort. And that was the longest part of the whole brewing exercise.

So if you are time sensitive, a fresh wort pack is the way to go.

Let's be clear, I'm not knocking beer kits, I think they are great!

The verdict. How did the Obligatory taste?

I'm not a patient man, I could hardly wait a week, let alone three to try the Obligatory.

So, I tried one a week after bottling.

I gotta tell you, I had some high expectations around this brew and I was not disappointed.

This was a most excellent tasting beer, even only after a week of conditioning. It possessed a bold, hoppy taste.

It felt oakey in some way, which sounds pretentious but it's not.

It has an excellent mouthfeel with some good body.

It's a very easy drinking beer and I look forward to enjoying it further with the first BBQ of the summer season.

I firmly recommend this to any beer maker who is looking for a quick way to make genuine quality home brew beer.

Update - after a two week conditioning period I had another crack and the flavours were even more amazing. This is probably the best tasting beer I have ever brewed. 

I'm sold Jimmy, where can I buy the wort kit?

Brewtopia sell their wort online, so grab yourself one today - you can always visit and have a yarn with the brewing team.

You can also sign up to Te Aro's Wort Pack email list so you'll be in the know when batches are ready.

*fickle, yes I said that. Beer drinkers can be the worst snobs. 

Using heat pads to keep beer at correct brewing temperature

If you know a thing or two about beer making, it's how crucial temperature management is

It's kind of like how Goldilocks thought the porridge was too hot or too cold, it's only when the beer is made at the right temperature that you get one that tastes just right.

If you live in a cool climate, it's winter or you just don't' have the right place to brew your beer, then a heat pad could be what you need.

Heat pads or (panels) are electric heaters for fermenters and carboys that maintain the temperature so that your beer will brew as you want it.

Using a heat pad means you can brew all year round.

And the best thing about them is that they are to easy to use, you plug them in, place it under your fermenter and away you go.

Most units have a thermal regulator so that the pad doesn't overheat the wort. Generally speaking, this means you are able to keep your brew to 5-20 degrees Fahrenheit above room temperature.

Kenley reckon that when you’re making beer, mead, wine, cider or kombucha home brewing is part art, part science and part luck. So you can improve your chances of making a good beer by using their fermentation pad to create a consistent brew temperature throughout the brewing cycle.

At 12in (30cm) in diameter, this round heating mat is big enough to accommodate your standard carboy letting. The bottom-up heating mimics and enhances the natural heat created by active yeast, giving you a better brew sooner. Check out the price on Amazon.

Don't like the black? Try the Propagate Pro in blue.

  • Flexible and easy to clean heating mat, it includes stick on LCD Temp Strip 
  • Built-in temperature regulation it will keep your brew, at the perfect temperature. 
  • Voltage: 120 VAC 50/60hz 
  • Wattage:25-Watts with a 6 foot long chord.

If you're wondering how well the unit does the job. Check out these reviews from people who have used it with success.

"Perfect for keeping the chill off during fermentation. I love mine"

"When I first began brewing Kombucha I couldn't get a good batch very quickly. It was taking over 3 weeks to ferment. After a little reading about what the problem could be, I realized the temperature was too cool. Bought this warmer and it did the trick. Perfect batches of Kombucha in about 10 days."

"This was great for maintaining a constant temp for fermentation of home brew. We used a sweatshirt to wrap around the top of the carboy."

"This little gem solved my problem of holding my fermentation to a specific temperature. I added a temperature controller to make this a plug-in and forget it operation.

"This product is super simple and works great!!" 

If these haven't warmed your heart, then nothing will make you check the price on Amazon.
Just be wary that if you are ordering outside of the US, you'll need to ensure the unit has the correct plug for your needs.

Pads have also been known to keep a dog's sleeping area warm!

Choosing the best conical fermenter for brewing

best conical fermenter to brew with

Conical Fermenters for next level brewing

Sometimes a brewer just wants to step up.

They may have started out with beer kits and made a few handy drops.

They may have done the old boil in a bag once or twice.

They probably went 'all grain' and made some really damn good beer.

They make have begun to keg their beer.

Possibly built a keezer or two.

And now it's time to step up to a conical fermenter.

A conical fermenter is a kind of like the big leagues for homebrewing.

It's an investment in steel.

It's an investment in yourself as a brewer because quality steal fermenters are not cheap!

So what are conical fermenters?

These steel beasts have a cone-shaped bottom with a valve at the point of the cone. This is obviously quite different from the standard flat bottom of a plastic drum or glass carboy.

One of the key reasons why you would want to use a conical fermenter relates to how you can manage the 'trub' so very easily. As the wort ferments, the solids will collect in the cone. By clever use of the valve at the bottom of the fermenter, the trub can be removed from the beer solution.

This means that secondary fermentation can be done in the fermenter.

It also means that the trub can be washed and the yeast re-used. This can be very handy when using special yeasts that can be quite expensive!

This process means that given you can easily remove the sediment from the wort, you can make that holy grail of many a brewer - clear beer.

The beauty of using a steel conical fermenter is that unlike a plastic drum, it can be reused countless times, it won't retain odors and it's bloody easy to clean and sanitize.

So if you want to cut back on 'racking' your beer or simply cut done on time spent doing your cleaning chores then you might want to step up to the big leagues of brewing with a conical fermenter.

So how do you choose a conical fermenter?

Do you go cheap and plastic? 

Do you go quality and made of steel? 

Do you make a DIY version or buy from a popular brand like Blichman?

If you want to start on a budget, then plastic is for you:

The Fast-Ferment

Featuring a wide top opening, the Fast Ferment unit allows for easy ingredient additions, dry hopping or adding oak chips. 

fast ferment conical fermenterThe yeast collection ball collects all the trub and sediment providing a clearer beer, wine or cider. As we've mentioned, the yeast can also be harvested from this and saved for re-use. The fermenter comes with a bottle filling attachment allows for fast and easy filling of bottles or kegs.

At 7.9 US Gallons or 30 Liters, the Fast Ferment is made for 5 or 6.5 US Gallon batches with blow offs. The Fast Ferment comes with an easy wall mounting system that mounts to standard 16" wall studs. If you want a stand, you'll need to purchase it separately.
Here's what some actual users of the Fast Ferment said on Amazon
"This is a pretty darned good execution of a vision for a low cost conical fermenter, with a decent innovation (the collection ball) thrown into the mix."

"I have had 3 batches through my conical, and they have turned out great! In my other fermenters, I would always use a primary and a secondary container, but with this unit I no longer have to do that."

"When primary fermentation is complete, you close the valve, remove the ball, either harvest the yeast, or dump the yeast, sanitize the ball and put it back on and open the valve. It couldn't be easier."
"Good conical fermenter. Many other reviews talked about leaking. I have had NO problems with leaking. Just make sure you use enough tape and wrap the threads in the correct direction"

"I am on my second batch of home brew. It's very convenient to not have to siphon or make sure the trub is not sucked up. Just close the valve, remove the ball, install the hose adapter, and you're ready to bottle or keg."

So if this sounds like you, check out the price on Amazon. If you have Prime, you can get free delivery.

If you have some cash burning a hole in your wallet and you want to get your hands on some steel, we've got two great options.

Blichmann Fermenters

We are big fans of the Blichmann brand. Their gas burners and brewing kettles are quite popular because they are well made and do the job they were designed to do. Much like their range of conical fermenters.

The starting point is the seven-gallon conical fermenter, through to the 14.5 and the gutbuster of the 27 gallon unit.

I imagine most home brewers generally go for the 7 gallon version but and the semi-pros go the bigger units.

In reality, these are commercial grade devices that will help ensure you brew clear beer in quantity.

These units boast a 100% weld-free interior which removes the chance of bugs lurking.

There's no more need for racking and you can dump trub and take samples with ease and harvest yeast.

It's bloody simple to sanitize as you can just drain it out when those germy nasties have been dealt to!

Check out the price on Amazon.

S SBrew Tech 7 Gallon Chronical Fermenter

If you happened to take a tour of any quality craft brewery you'll probably find a line up of conical stainless steel fermenters and you might find the odd Chronicle from SS Brew Tech, such is their reputation in the brewing industry.

The Teck 7's bottom dump valve allows you to harvest yeast and reduces yeast contact with the beer, allowing for a primary and secondary fermentation inside the same vessel. 

The domed lid allows the user the ability to transfer under pressure (1-2 psi). 

The Chronical has a full 60° cone, terminating in a Full Port 1.5” opening, making dumping trub through the included elbow and ball valve a breeze!

The sanitary TIG welded fittings ensure years of rustless contamination free brewing! 

A Rotating Racking Arm (patent pending) is set halfway up the cone, allowing for the racking of trub free beer, regardless of how high your trub reaches.

Check out this review from a genuine user of the Chronicle:

"I am quite impressed with the Chronical 7gal fermenter, and am very excited about its use in the future, as well as the future of SS BrewTech. They make some great products at incredibly low prices, and are shaking up the homebrewing industry a good bit. I expect this to quickly become my go-to fermenter, and am quite excited about being able to capture yeast with the bottom valve, and it truly feels like a commercial-grade product."

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