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Using Campden tablets to clean water and sanitise brewing equipment

campden tablets for beer

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


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

So what is this, some kind of super pill?

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

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

How many Campden tablets should I use?

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


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


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

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

So your beer is safe as houses to drink.

When to use Campden tablets for making cider


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

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

Why are campden tablets used with wine?


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

Do Camden tablets halt fermentation?


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

It is simply not true though.

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

Where do Campden tablets get their name from?


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

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


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

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

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

Patience is a virtue, they say. 

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

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

Brewing with a Mangrove Jack's Stout Kit Review

mangrove jacks irish stout review
After my relatively successful effort with the Mangrove Jack's Dutch Lager kit (review), I thought I'd have a crack at their Irish Stout.

Brewed in the normal good manner of proper sanitization, careful cleanliness and a half-assed attempt to keep the brew warm during these winter months by wrapping it in several sheets, I am expecting a stock standard stout but I'm quite keen to compare it to Black Rock's Miner's Stout as I've brewed a fair few of those in the past year and found them to be excellent brews.

I'm keen to see how creamy the kit is.

I prepared the kit and added a beer enhancer that was specifically tailored to a stout and then left the unit in my shed outside to ferment.

During fermentation in the shed, we had our first winter frost. Not ideal for an ale but whatever.

I waited 10 days before conditioning at which point I batched primed with 70 mls of sugar that I dissolved in boiling water.

Honestly, batch priming makes it so easy to get a consistent brew across the batch and reduce the chances over an over-sugared bottle doing a gusher. I don't know why I was so reluctant to do so!

-

So it's now been over a week since I bottled condition, so I'm going to have a sneaky sample. I left the beer in the fridge overnight so the ale was nice and cold. It felt like it had a good body and it tasted like an ale but one that clearly needed to condition a fair bit longer.

So we wait.

-

Week 2. A wee sample after a nice chicken korma proved to be an odd, but a rewarding combination. The stout has settled somewhat.

Detected a hint of coffee which I expect will be gone in a week or two.

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Week  3. This beer has turned out OK, I've made enough beers to know that if I give this batch another month to the condition it will be fine but nothing to write home about. I suspect I over sugared the batch as the beer gets quite the head when being poured. I'd say 50 to 60 grams probably suits.

The slight coffee notes remain.

Given this was actually the cheapest beer kit I've ever bought, the resulting beer is pretty fair. I do however prefer the Black Rock Miner's Stout over this.

How to use Whirlfloc tablets when brewing

whirlfloc tablets brewing
It's always amused me that people think it is OK to add moss to beer.

I mean really, how the heck can Irish Moss clear beer?

It's not even real moss, it's an algae from the sea!

Which makes m then wonder who the heck discovered that adding Irish Moss as a fining agent for beer?

Anyways, work the moss does.

A popular form of it is the Whirlfloc tablet which is a blend of Irish Moss and purified carrageenan ingredients. Carrageenan is another extract from seaweed that is used for gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties. This is because it bonds to proteins which means it is just perfect for brewing and removing proteins and so-called 'beta-glucans' (sugars) at the end of the boil.

You can use Whirlfloc tablets as a clarifier for both extract and all grain brewing.

Your instructions for use are simple.

If you are doing an all grain boil, you add one tablet per 10 gallons when you have 5 minutes left in your boil. If you add any earlier, the boiling of your wort will destroy the ingredients ruin their effectiveness.

If you are using an extract kit for either beer or cider, you can add the Whirlfloc when fermentation has completed.

If you are wondering whether Whirfloc tablets actually do work, here's an experiment which proves they do improve beer clarity.

There are plenty of other ways to clear beer with finings. There are other fining products such as Chillguard and Polyclar and silica gels like Kieselsol but if you are a bit of an expert, you can actually filter your beer but you'd need to be kegging it.

Cold crashing is always a good way to get rid of proteins from beer as well. 

How to easily batch prime your homebrew

how to batch prime homebrew beer

Batch priming your beer with sugar


After about 2 years of brewing beer in my man shed I was getting a little bit tired of dropping sugar all over my workbench as I bottled my beer.

There's nothing more annoying than picking up your hammer to realise it's all sticky. My own bad, of course, I should stop dropping the spoon and spilling sugar everywhere.

But also because: ants.

So I decided to do something I'd always thought about doing but never got around too.

I primed my beer batch with sugar.

And what the heck is that?

In short, priming the batch is when one adds the entire amount of sugar needed to the fermenter so that when you fill each bottle, you don't need to add sugar as well, it's already in the beer wort.

So, that sounds simple right?

On face of it, yes, but there are some things to consider!

How much sugar do I need to prime a batch or beer?


Batch priming benefits from some simple calculations that can be made to get that sugar just right.

I usually brew in 23 litre (5 gallon) batches so my focus on my first batch priming was working out how much sugar I needed to use. 

My intention was to use even less than I normally would as I feel I tended to over sugar my bottles which has resulted in my fair share of bottle bombs and even then, just brews which produce too much head (which means waiting time before drinking as the beer then needs to settle).

So first up, different beers need different levels of sugar. Advice from people who have brewed many beers suggests that ales need less sugar than lager style beers.

This is because many drinkers prefer a lager to have more carbonation and ales are quite drinkable with less.

So, here's what may I analysis of beer brewing forums suggests are the common amounts of sugars to use for priming:
  • Dextrose (Corn sugar) 3/4 cup or 4 or 5 oz / 95 grams
  • Cane sugar 2/3 cup or 3.8 - 4.8 oz / 86 grams
  • Dry Malt Extract - 130 grams
Regards the sugar amount, it's my personal experience that using 60  - 70 grams results in less gushers and less over fizzy beer.  

I suspect that it might be a case of horses for courses in that some beers do better with more or less sugar, so expect that results may very. That said, I have found 80 grams just perfect for my Irish Miner stouts.

Basically, I'm saying results may vary, experience and personal preference will guide you.

If you are priming with a different volume of beer, I suggest you try this priming calculator.

Some beers go better with different CO2 levels - using a nomograph


I think we mentioned above that some beers just feel better when they have the right amount of carbon dioxide in them.

Too much fizz and that mouth feel doesn't work, too little and that lager might seem flat. 

priming beer nomongraph sugar levels
This nomograph can help you work out how much sugar you need for your particular kind of beer.

The advice on using it is from howtobrew:

"To use the nomograph, draw a line from the temperature of your beer through the volumes of CO2 that you want, to the scale for sugar. The intersection of your line and the sugar scale gives the weight of either corn or cane sugar in ounces to be added to five gallons of beer to achieve the desired carbonation level."

Here is a list of typical volumes of CO2 for various beer styles:
  • British ales 1.5-2.0
  • Porter, Stout 1.7-2.3
  • Belgian ales 1.9-2.4
  • American ales 2.2-2.7
  • European lagers 2.2-2.7
  • Belgian Lambic 2.4-2.8
  • American wheat 2.7-3.3
  • German wheat 3.3-4.5

How to prepare the sugar to add to the batch


There are a couple of ways to do this. 

You could simply add sugar to your fermenter and wait for it to dissolve. It's a pretty simple method but not very efficient and may take some time to ensure an even spread.

I suggest you mix some up with hot water in a sterilized pot (maybe even boil it) and let it cool a bit.

You then open up the fermenter and gently stir it in, without disturbing the sediment.

Leave it to sit for 10 - 20 minutes and then begin your normal bottling process. Indeed, you could sanitise your bottles while you wait.

I suspect you could also use icing sugar as well as that's just finely cut up sucrose so it should dissolve easily.

Try not to stir up the sediment!

Using a 'secondary' or bottling bucket


There's a fair argument to be made that when batch priming your beer, using a secondary fermenter or bottling bucket is the way to go.

The concept is that you siphon the beer from the original fermenter into a second vessel.

This way you are able to bottle without disturbing the yeast and other brewing bi-products that have fallen to the bottom of the original fermenter. 

The idea is that this improves beer clarity and further reduces the amount of sediment that will form in the conditioned beer bottles (and on pouring from those, again reduced the chance of sediment going into the beer glass).

If you are siphoning into a secondary, I suggest you have your sugar solution all prepared and in the secondary, before you add the beer as this will help ensure the sugar dissolves properly in brew.

This will also help ensure that your batch brewed beer will have a consistent sugar volume and each beer should behave the same - i.e. produce the same amount of fizz and head with each pour.

Don't over prime!

home brew too much sugar explosion
Try to avoid over sugaring beer!

I'm trying to avoid using too much sugar in my beers as I don't want them to be too fizzy or explode in a mess all over the kitchen. So, beer this in mind.

If you add too much sugar, you will cause these problems so we recommend you consider the numbers above.

Priming with other flavours


Dextrose and sucrose do not add any flavours to the beer. They simply are eaten by the yeast and converted into more alcohol and CO2 which goes into the beer.

You can prime with other things such as honey and brown sugar. Some brewers have been known to use brown sugar with stouts. Honey can be used with hefeweizens and blondes. I have found that using too much honey can leave a beer feeling a bit 'dry'.

You could even melt down some jelly beans if you want to give your beer a really sweet flavour!

You can also use molasses. If you're brave...

Remember, temperature can affect CO2 production


Once you have bottled your beer, you need to consider storage temperature. 

It's 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. 


And then as per standard conditioning practice, we recommend waiting three weeks before having a wee sample.

Can you use dextrose instead of sugar for priming?


Corn sugar and dextrose are the same thing! Dextrose is actually the most popular priming sugar, so feel free to use it with your priming.

Success!


Very happy to report the ale I primed is very drinkable, with no bottle bombs occurring and a very consistent level of bubbles! 

Best brewing thermostats for temperature control

Once a brewer has mastered the process of all grain brewing they often start to wonder about the other factors that make a good beer.

Most brewers of any experience know how important temperature to making a good beer is but it's the keenest brewer that wants to regulate the temperate that their beer ferments and conditions.

Keeping a beer consistently at the desired temperature is a boon for beer quality as this allows the yeast to perform to it's best characteristics. This is because, generally speaking, ales and lagers perform better at different temperatures (lagers lower than ales) and also because brewing conditions have often meant that beer is brewed too warm.

Hence, the experienced brewer will often elect to use a brewing thermostat to maintain the correct temperature for the yeast strain. The most popular choices are from the Inkbird range and devices which use the STC-1000 software such as the Ketotek and Elitech.

There's many an argument out there that making yourself a controlled fermentation chamber is one of the best things you can do for your beer, over and above using fancy (though vital) wort chillers and the like.

What then, is a controlled fermentation chamber?


Basically, it's a fridge of which you control the temperature.

Here's a common scenario for lagering at a consistent temperature.

By using an external overriding thermostat installed on a fridge (or even a freezer) you control the temp as you need and prevent the fridge from making your beer to cold, thus hindering fermentation from occurring. It means you can lager your beer all year around!

The beauty of this is, you can simply use an old fridge - cold is cold so you don't need to splurge out on a big showroom deal, as long as it works and there's room in which to place your fermenter or carboy, you are good to go. If your fridge has it's own thermostat, then set it to the coldest setting.

Old fridges are probably less energy efficient than newer ones, the choice is, of course, yours to make.

If you are using a freezer, you'll want to make sure that it is ice / frost free.

Using the probe correctly


Your thermostat will come with a probe - this is placed inside the fridge so the sensor reads the temperature inside the fridge.

Obvious right?

 OR you could tape the probe to the fermenter so as to get a close reading of the beer's actual temperature, rather than the ambient temperature of the beer. 

Why would you do this? 

In the long run, the temperature of the beer will probably equal that of the fridge, however, given you want the yeast to have the best environment to ferment, it will get to the desired temperature quicker. 

Here's a handy trick - if the probe is waterproof, you could consider placing it in water inside the fridge. The water will approximate the beer's temperature reading meaning you can mix and match and move fermenters in an out as you need. 

Cold crashing 


When fermentation is complete and you are ready to bottle or keg, you can of course cold crash with the fridge or freezer and you can use the controller to keep the temperature low as use need.

How to set up a thermostat controller for a fridge or freezer


It's a fairly simple system to set up - place the fridge's power cord plug into the controller. Place the probe inside the fridge. Now, having selected your desired temperature to match your beer's yeast recommendations, you set the temperature controller to that temperature.

The controller will control the internal temperature of the fridge by turning the fridge itself on and off as conditions change. The fridge itself will, of course, need to be set to be able to go as cold as you need.

I do wonder how good it is for the fridge to be regularly turned off and off - if you are concerned about this, go with the old fridge.

Using the thermostat to control a heating space


Thermostats are just as handy for heating your beer as well and again you can use a fridge or a specifically designed heating box.

Obviously, you need a heating source and your fridge most definitely must be turned off! A popular choice for a heat source is a heating pad or a heating belt. Some dudes use lightbulbs!

 Simply plug your heating source into the controller and place the sensor probe in the fridge as you would with when using trying to keep your beer cold. Select the desired temperature on your thermostat and you're ready to go.

Your chosen heating device will turn on when the temperature of your heating space falls below the selected temperature.

The fridge freezer trap


Don't get caught out by using a fridge freezer combo. If you want to keep your meat and veges frozen, you won't be able to as the freezer will be subject to the whims of the controller.

Pssst, do you want a unit that can control both cooling and heating?

Sure you do and the Elitech STC-1000 might just be the kind of controller you are looking for. 

elictech stc-1000 controller

The Elitech branded version of the STC model has the following features:
  • Temperature calibration; Refrigerating control output delay protection.
  • Auto switch between refrigerating and heating, with a return difference value.
  • Control temperature by setting the temperature setting value and the difference value.
  • Alarm activates when the temperature exceeds temperature limit or if there is sensor error.
  • Accuracy: ±1°C (-50~70°C)
  • 110 volt
Note the Elitech comes with the centigrade measurement. If you are looking to use use a thermostat with a Fahrenheit measurement then the bird's the word for the Inkbird range.

Search on Amazon for an STC-1000 controller and you might pause when you see there are all kinds of brands that offer the STC-1000. So what is it? It's actually the name of the software that runs these units. The software is open source so the firmware of your unit should be able to be easily updated.

Units which use the STC-1000 can be fiddly to set up, especially if they need wiring. This bloke has some great tips on successful installations.

Inkbird Pre-Wired Dual Stage Digital Temperature Controller


Probably Inkbird's most popular controller is the ITC-308. This unit is fairly cheap, easy to install and is tried and true for keeping your beer fermenting at the desired temperature.

  • Simple to use: plug it in, set the temp ranges, place the probe, plug in the heater/cooler into the marked outlet.
  • Easy to read manual
  • Be able to connect with refrigeration and heating equipment at the same time.
  • Easily calibrated with the press of a few buttons
  • Can display the temperature on in Centigrade or Fahrenheit.
  • Versatile enough for many different uses. Whether you need temperature control for fermentation, humidity control, greenhouse, kombucha control or to set up your temperature project system, the ITC-308 temperature controller is a great choice.
Check out this review from real users who brought the Inkbird on Amazon:

"I ordered this for my fermentation chamber I just built and so far this thing is pretty great. It keeps the temps within about a degree of my target temp and was pretty simple to set up. I presume the instructions have been improved as they weren't as difficult as some reviews had stated. If you are electrically inept such as me and just want to get your system up and running this will do the job extremely well for the price."

"This seems to be working great for a chest freezer converted to a fermenting chamber. Literally set this up in about 5 minutes, it's that easy. Put the temp probe in the freezer. Plug the freezer into the cooling plug, and plug the Inkbird unit into the electrical outlet. Works exactly as described. My Oktoberfest lager beer is bubbling quite happily at 52°F."

inkbird dual plug system"What can I say, this is the best value out there! excellent range of temps, very customizable and accurate, lets me stay within a degree. I use this for fermentation control and the price allows a practical solution. Very durable and the prob and cord are waterproof. I poked a hole in the carboy stopper and forced this prob and a small length of the cord through and now it hovers in the middle of the carboy for the most accurate control of temps. Highly recommend for beer brewers!

So there you have it, some genuinely pleased users of the Inkbird  plug and play temperature controller. Check out the prices on Amazon

Can I cold crash outside, in the cold, in winter?

cold crashing beer outside

Cold crashing.

It's a great way to make your beer to stand to attention and free itself of the particles that make your beer cloudy.

Many brewers cold crash in a fridge for a day or three.

But what if you have no beer fridge but only the cold?

Can you cold crash outside, overnight if it's cold?


Well, yes you can but your results may vary.

Generally speaking, cold crashing can take up to 24 - 48 hours to be effective to precipitate out the unwanted proteins so one night in the cold of winter might only get you 12 hours (say 7 pm - 7am) but that's assuming New Zealand conditions.

If you're in America, Canada or the Baltic states or the like, it's damn cold with all that snow so yes, you can cold crash outside for a couple of days and the job will be done but as we said, results may vary.

You may want to crash at night and then place the fermenter somewhere out of the sunlight during the day and then have another crack the second night. Be careful to not disturb the trub too much as you are trying to clear the beer, not stir everything up.

Can it be too cold to crash outside?


The colder the better and it will help precipitate out more yeast, however, you don't want to freeze your beer as that's kind of a disastrous result. So, if you are confident the overnight temperature won't go below freezing point (32F or 0C),  you should be OK. 

The amount of alcohol in your beer will play a factor as well - higher strength ABV beers can resist colder temps a little more but it's not necessary for cold crashing.

Can I just leave my beer in the shed for a week?


You sure can. Brewing is a timing game, so giving your beer an extra week in a cold shed will help lager it and let the yeast do its job. 

Remember you can also add finings shortly before bottling to help clear your beer.

Catalyst Fermentation System Starter Kit Review



The Catalyst Fermentation System: Conical Fermenter 6.5 gallon


If you're starting to get serious about brewing but are not quite ready to step up to buying a lot of 'steel' such as a conical fermenter then this  Catalyst brewing system may be for you.

The Catalyst’s tank is made from medical-grade, BPA-free, polymer which basically means it is food safe and good to go for brewers concerned about leakage from plastic. The polymer provides the clarity of glass but with the durability and handy convenience of plastic.

The best thing about it is it dishwasher safe and withstands temperatures of up to 230º Fahrenheit which means not only is cleaning a doddle, the heat from the dishwasher will also kill any bugs.

The Trub Trap features a 3 inch butterfly valve and is compatible with pretty much any wide mouth mason jar so you can remove kettle trub and fermentation trub, pitch a yeast starter, harvest yeast, and bottle without disturbing or oxidizing that precious beer.

Which is a pretty and tidy option for hassle-free brewing.


The Catalyst Kit comes with the following items:

  • 6.5 Gallon Tank with Lid
  • Stand (Base, 2 Legs, 2 Support Beams, 8 Screws)
  • 3” Proprietary Butterfly Valve
  • Bottling Attachment
  • Transfer Tubing
  • Tubing Clamp
  • Rubber Stopper
  • 16 Oz. Wide Mouth Mason Jar
  • Allen Wrench
  • Caper with 100 tops

Here are some reviews from actual users of the starter kit:

"We have brewed close to 20 batches now. The system is very easy to set-up and use. The design allows for easy trub removal and if you're experienced, yeast collection. Bottling is a snap as well. Adding dry hops is easy and seeing what your beer is doing through the various stages is both fun and informative as well."

"My first batch of beer was delivered seamlessly as a result ordering this starter kit. If you are a home brewer or are thinking of taking the plunge into home brewing this is the fermenter you need to buy. So far it has produced 7 delicious batches without issue. Love it!"

"The thing that kept me away from home brewing was seeing all of the equipment that was required. That was eliminated when I found the Catalyst. It is a straightforward, simple process that culminates in great tasting beer that you made yourself. I just bottled my first batch with ease and can't wait to get another batch going. A must-have item for home brewers!"

If that's a good enough review from actual users, check out the price on Amazon.