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Tips on how to easily grow your own hops

growing hops plants at home

Have you ever thought, gosh, "I'm sick of paying so much for hops!  I wish there was a cheaper way?"

There is.

And it so so very easy.

You can grow your own hops!

Even if your green thumb is decidedly lacking in green, you can cultivate your own hops in your own garden.

Using fresh hops in your homebrewing efforts is an awesome feeling and adds to that sense of 'master of your own beer brewing destiny' that many beer makers seek.

It's also fairly organic if that's what you're into.

Here's our guide to growing hops.

Where can I get hops plants from?


Hops grow best from root-like cuttings which are known as rhizomes. Rhizomes can be purchased online but home brewers that grow their own share with each other, or sell them cheaply. A great way to source these contacts is on social media groups such as Facebook and beer forums.

There's plenty available to purchase on Amazon too.

You can always try growing hops from seed, though this is not considered as easy as using a rhizome.

What is the best season to plant hops in?


Hops may be grown in any moderate climate if given proper maintenance and care but the best to plant the rhizome is during spring to allow for the plant to take advantage of the summer growing period.

Where should I plant my hops rhizome?


Hops plants are best served by being planted in a sunny location. A site exposed to many hours of sun in the day is ideal. 

The hop vines (known as bines) grow upright at quite a rate so they will need something like a trellis to climb up. Tall poles can be used together with strong string or twine are often used to support the growing bines.

Hops grow at a fast rate and really take advantage of the soil's properties - being nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium.

Home growers can choose to use commercial products that add these elements or by making manure compost.

How to harvest hops from the bine


So if you've planted in spring, you'll be harvesting in summer. While it depends on where you live, autumn will likely be too late.  So hops can take 4 - 6 months in the growing cycle to be ready for harvesting. 
lupulin powder inside hops cone
Lupulin powder in the hop

A hop that is ready to be picked will feel dry to the touch, be somewhat 'stringy' and have a strong hop smell. The lupulin powder will be left on the fingers. 

If you open the hop cone up, it should release the powder if it is matured properly.  It will be a warm yellow - goldish colour. 

I heard hops plants have male and female versions?


Yes, it's true.

Just like kiwifruit.

Male and female flowers of the hop plant usually develop on separate plants.

Because viable seeds are unwanted for brewing beer, only female plants are grown in hop commercial fields, thus preventing pollination.

It's not time to light up


Light is the natural enemy of hops. Hop cones are susceptible to breaking down due to the effects of the sun and light from the first moment they are harvested. You should do your best to avoid light exposure as much as possible so store hops in a dark place.

Hops that has broken down due to light exposure can impart off flavours into the beer.

Experience has shown that hop makers have about 24 hours to begin to process hops before it begins to break down like a vegetable naturally wood. The keenest brewers get their hops into a kiln and dried asap. 

Homebrewers can actually dry their hops in an ordinary fruit dehydrator.

You can also leave them to dry on a mesh screen in an airy location (with little light). I've read that some people have been known to dry their hops in the oven using a low heat.

Tips on storing fresh hops


It turns out that turns out freezing hops is actually a popular trick with beer brewers!

Quite simply:

  • take your dried beer hops and place them in a zip-lock bag. 
  • remove the excess air and then seal. 
  • grab a Sharpie pen and write on the name of the hops on the bag so you don't forget and then place in the freezer until required.

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

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

How to use fresh hops with your beer


You've probably heard of dry hopping right?

That's when you add hops in pellet form to the wort. So if you ever wondered what wet hopping is, it's adding fresh hops to your beer.

And in this case, it's fresh hops you've grown yourself.

Wet hops can be used anywhere in the brewing process, including as a boil addition, whirlpool addition or for dry hopping.

What are some good varieties of hops to grow?


There are all kinds of hop varieties that one can choose from. We recommend these two for simplicities' sake:

Cascade is a very popular choice of hops. This is an extremely popular American hop. Known for it's floral hop trait, it is often likened to a grapefruit. Cascade is known as a versatile hop variety that is popular for bittering, finishing and dry hopping of pale ale and American style beers. It produces a good yield and is considered fairly resistant to diseases.

The rhizomes can be ordered from Amazon.

Fuggle is another popular hop. It has a classic English aroma and provides a well balanced bitterness which makes it a great choice for English and American-Style Ales. It's described as being mild and pleasant, spicy, soft, woody, with some fruit tones.

Basically, it will depend on where you live, what's popular and how easy it is to obtain. Many specialty hoops delivery websites have popped up as the demand for hops plants has grown. Kiwis could try Wild About Hops while many rhizomes can be found on Amazon.

Some hops are protected by intellectual property rights so cannot be grown by those who do not have permission to do so. For this reason, hop plants that are in the public domain are fairly popular with hops growers.

How much wet hops to use with a brew?


This can be a bit of a tricky measurement because fresh hops are called wet hops for a reason - they are made mostly of water - and that can mean all the tables and measurements go out the window if you are trying to work out the exact alpha acid rating for your hops.

That said a general rule has been established - use anywhere between 6 - 10 times the amount of dry hops you would normally use.

Generally speaking, you are using fresh hops to promote aroma and flavor additions to your brew. If you are trying to add bitterness, store brought hops where you can identify their bittering qualities could be the way to go.

Beware the creeping vine of hops!


Hops have a tendency to grow quite rampantly when placed in good growing conditions. They tend to spread and take up every inch of soil that's open to them. That's why many growers recommend that after the final harvest of the hops cones, the plant should be cut back to about three feet and then left to grow back. A good time to do this is at the beginning of winter.

A further trick is to plant your hops 'above ground' that is to say in a container of some kind such as a tub or old kitchen sink so as to help contain the plant's movements across your garden.

How Cryo hops & 'lupulin powder' removes the need for traditional hop pellets

using lupulin to make cryo hops


How lupulin 'Cyro Hops' are changing the beer brewing industry 


The concept of making beer hasn't changed much in several hundred years but the methods recently have. While hops have been used for many a year, one company in America might have found a way for a genuine step change in hop use with their innovation of collecting lupulin powder.

You might already know that lupulin is the part of the hops that brewers utilised to make beers hoppy as that's where the good alpha acids for brewing come from.

In case you didn't know, the alpha acids are converted into bitter iso-alpha acids during the brewing process, and essential oils and are what give beers their varying hoppy qualities.

YCH Hops, a grower-owned hop supplier based in Washington, America has created a new process where the lupulin is extracted from the hops and is collected in powder form and marketed as Cyro Hops.

You might well ask, what's the point of this?

Efficiency gains in making beer are the short answer.

Beer hops are often made into pellets form for distribution and preservation. The process of making the pellets actually breaks down the acids and oils meaning the effect on the beer requires more hops than one perhaps needs. Enter lupulin powder which has the superior percentage of 'herbs and spices' over hop pellets meaning that less quantity is required.
Ekuanot hops are quite popular

YCH boasts that their product "offers twice the resin content of traditional whole-leaf and hop pellet products" which basically means you only need to use half as much.

YCH Hops initially started to market their powdered 'Cyro Hops' with the brand name "LupuLN2" to commercial brewers in America.  The reviews are in and breweries switching as result.

How is lupulin powder made into cryo hops?


The powder extraction process is simple in concept. The collected hops are subjected to cold temperatures inside a nitrogen atmosphere. This limits any oxidation of the sensitive resins and oils in the hop. The hops are 'chilled and milled' and the lupulin is forced from the lupulin gland.

The little guy has not been forgotten though - a small home brewer, you can buy the powder from Amazon!

How to use Cryo Hops

It's dead simple - you can simply dry hop the Cyro hops as you would with your ordinary pellet hops. You don't even need to make a hop tea!
cascade cryo hops


What variety of cyro hops are there?


YCH Hops have produced Mosaic, Ekuanot, Citra, Simcoe and Cascade versions of LupuLN2. 

The benefits of using Cryo Hops


You can see the appeal for commercial brewers - less volume means better storage and transportation costs.

The other benefit of the powder is that their use in place of traditional hops means less 'green material' is left in the beer, improving clarity by reducing sedimentation and better beer brightness.

You can see why home brewers who don't have commercial means of clearing beer will love using the powder!

I haven't found any information how long the powder can be used before it loses its potency.
Given the apparent early success of lupulin powder with the American brewers that have used it, we expect that its popularity will slowly begin to spread across the Continent and then the rest of brewing communities the world over - provided it's sold at a cost-effective price relative to the economics of using traditional hop pellets it should do well - indeed the prices on Amazon seem pretty fair.

Best keg and carboy washer: Mark II

using a keg washer


The Mark II Keg and Carboy washer is ideal for the homebrewer with kegs


Any experienced beer brewer will tell you that cleaning your equipment is one of the most important parts of making beer. If your keg or carboy is dirty, you'll run the risk of contaminating your beer.

This is why keg washers are a handy way to ensure your gear is clean, free of gunk and ready to receive your golden ales.

Kegs washing machines reduces the time it takes to clean and sanitize your kegs, carboys, and buckets and the Mark II Keg Washer is ideal.

To use the Mark II, simply fill the reservoir with cleaner or sanitizer, place the vessel to be cleaned over the sprayer, and plug it in. This great automated device frees you to complete other tasks while it works. You can save on cleaning and sanitizing chemicals, by spraying the cleaning solution on the entire inner surface you use.

The reservoir also contains space to soak small items like airlocks and stoppers.

Here's some reviews by actual users who bought the Mark II washer on Amazon:

"Why didn’t I buy this sooner? The keg and carboy washer is amazing. It works flawlessly and it seems to be built well. After 2 broken backs, no more lifting of full 6.5 gallon carboys is darn appealing. It saves on water and cleaner too. Great investment!"

"A must-have if you use Corny kegs - it gets the valves, diptubes and poppits very clean without having to disassemble, though I still do disassemble after every couple of uses. Saves time with carboys too, though the tough gunk still needs the brush. Haven't used on buckets - no real point IMO."

What's the most popular selling beer on Amazon?

I was amused to discover that you can buy beer on Amazon.

I shouldn't be surprised, beer is beer no matter where it comes from.

But what is the most popular selling beer item on Amazon?

Is it a niche craft beer or an iconic American brew like Budweiser?

Neither.

It's Stella Artois.

Bud Light is number 5 so I'll give you some credit there but Stella Artois?



I had no idea it was such a popular beer in America! And given how ordering from Amazon is pretty much a way of life in the states, taking Amazon's list of popular selling beers as a proxy for popularity, we see that Stella Artois is a very popular beer in America.

Why is this?

Yes, when served at a cold temperature, it's an easy to drink beer that's pleasant enough.

But in the modern beer drinking climate, where every man and his homebrew kit is a critic, how is this beer Amazon's champion seller?

Legend has it, this beer was first brewed in 1336 as under German Beer Purity Laws and has been produced unchanged ever since.

A little bit of research tells us that Stella Artois has been making great in roads into the American beer market over the last decade. It's said that the beer gain popularity about 20 years ago due to its 5 percent alcohol content and fair price point.

 The beer earned the nickname 'wife beater' due to the connotations of drunken men who've spent all day at the soccer match drink the stuff and then taking whatever their issues were out on their partners.

Steinlager in New Zealand has the same reputation - the concept being traditional mass-produced beers are 4 percent and when drinks switch to 5 percent they cannot handle their piss and do stupid things. We call bullshit, getting drunk is getting drunk and the choices you make are because you are an asshole if you are violent when drunk.

Stella Artois managed to re-brand itself as something a 'bit special' and has an image, especially around the world as a high-end beer.

An example of this is that it was marketed as 'reassuringly expensive' in adds such as the famous 'Papa et fils' add campaign:



Classic.

But that's not necessarily the reason people drink the beer is that for those that enjoy a quality European style pilsner, Stella Artois fits the bill, especially with it inoffensive Saaz hops. 

A bit of brand loyalty in many markets will also play a part.
.

⇒ What is 'beer enhancer' (will it make my beer taste better)?

What is 'beer enhancer' and will it make my beer taste better?

Using beer enhancer with your homebrew to make better beer


The thing about beer is that is that there’s so much variety in style and taste but there is one thing they all have in common: 

The so-called ‘mouth feel’ which makes a beer feel like it has 'body'. 

Like how a good pint of Guinness feels. 

Like a solid breakfast. 

If you simply brewed malt with sugar you will get a beer but your beer’s mouthfeel will be closer to feeling like water. Which is just wrong, as a full-bodied beer enhances the drinking experience!

To get an improved mouthfeel, many beer brewers use an ‘enhancer’ to do exactly what it says it will do – enhance the beer by giving it greater body and mouthfeel.

Beer enhancers are made of basic ingredients, being a mix of fermentable and non-fermentable. They usually contain a mix of dextrose and maltodextrin.

Such beer enhancers work the dextrose serving as the food for the yeast and are thus used in the fermentation process. 

The maltodextrin does not ferment and thus forms part of the beer solution giving the beer mouthfeel and a true sense of body. It also has the benefit of allowing the poured beer to have a good head of foam and to retain it. 

I have no idea how the science of this part works!

The combination of dextrose and maltodextrin suits the lighter style beers such as pilsner, draught, and lagers.

If you are brewing an ale or a beer where you desire a full, maltier flavor an enhancer that also has an element of light dry malt extract will be what you need.


This is often simply referred to as DME.

Some beer enhancers also have hops added to match the kind of beer style so if you are ordering from an online store, check that the particular enhancer's hops matches the kind of beer you are trying to make


'Branded' beer enhancers


The Australian beer making company, Coopers, offer two well-known beer enhancers to help achieve these goals. They are simply known as Brew Enhancer 1 and Brew Enhancer 2. What is the difference between enhancer one and two? 


The difference between the two is one suits a lager, the other ales. 

You can imagine the salty old brewer that came up with those very telling names! 

Coopers include the enhancers with their beer kits but you can buy them separately too. I've often seen them in supermarkets for a reasonable price (and reviewed them!) Side note - never do a Coopers Lager Kit without an enhancer, I have and trust me the results are rubbish. The result was the beer having very little body and the flavor could have been stronger. 

There are some other popular enhancer brands out there too. Muntons, Young's and Copper Tun are well known and trusted by many brewers.

Using spraymalt to add body to beer


You may have also heard the word 'spraymalt'. It can be used as an alternative to standard beer enhancer. 

Spraymalt is a specially prepared kind of DME. Drying is achieved by the use of a spraydrier, a process which produces particularly uniform powders both in terms of particle size and flavor. 

This means a spraymalt beer will be less dry than beers that simply use sugar. Or you can add spraymalt in addition to the sugar for more effect on the taste or your beer.


How to make your own beer enhancer


Of course, you do not need to buy brew enhancer, you can make your own


If you going to make your own enhancer, here’s some ingredient ratios which you could use as a guide: 


Beer style
Dextrose
Maltodextrin
DME
Light Beer
60%
40%
0%
Ale, more malty beer
50%
25%
25%

The quantity to make is is 1Kg per 23 litre brew.

The beauty of the dextrose is that it is apparently a more favored food of the yeast when compared to ordinary sucrose sugar and so fermentation will commence more quickly. 


Whether that makes a difference, I don't know however using too much sugar gives the beer too much a citrus flavor which can be off-putting.

Many beer supply shops will carry the ingredients you need. That way you can get the advantage of buying in bulk so to reduce your brewing costs.

Adding beer enhancer will likely increase the alcohol production of the yeast as well


When do I add beer enhancer?

When you are preparing your wort - I do it first and then add the malt extract as I think it all dissolves better in that order. You can add your hops at the same time.

But at what cost to my beer?


Adding a brew enhancer to your brew does add to the cost per glass somewhat, however, given that enhancers actually really do work (I use them every time I brew), it's my view and that of thousands of other home brewers, that the taste and body improvements are very worth it. 


If your enhancer costs 8 dollars and you make 23 liters, that’s only 35 cents extra per liter. 

Naturally, mileage may vary depending on what brand and at what price you’ve purchased!

If you’re not interested in making your own enhancer but think brand name enhancers are too expensive, there is a happy medium. 


Many beer shop suppliers will do the mixing for you and sell you a 1Kg bag of no frills beer enhancer.

Using fruit with your home brewing

making fruit beer


Brewing with fruit all about exploring what works for you


What are your personal tastes? 

How adventurous are you?  

Are raspberries your favorite fruit in the world? Then try making a raspberry stout! 

Got some more eclectic fruit preferences? How about an elderberry ale? 

That's the beauty of brewing with fruit - there are some many arrangements, styles, and combinations that there's a fruit brew for everyone. 

The fruits most commonly used in fruit beers are raspberries, cherries, apples, and citrus fruits. 

The point is you can use any fruit you like, it's your beer. Some fruits of course work better with certain beers but the world's your oyster in that regard - brewing is your hobby, after all, you can do whatever you like. 

So the first question would be fruit brewers often ask is:

Should I use fresh fruit with my home brew?


You might have heard the expression "fresh is best" when it comes to using cryo hops but when making a fruit beer, you need to consider that fresh fruit can have some issues

Taking the fruit right from the orchard or vine without some form of treatment makes some brewers nervous  - as they are trying to avoid wild yeasts. This has meant several practices have been developed to treat fresh fruit.

So the options which we will now examine are:
  • boiling
  • freezing
  • pasteurization
  • and being brave

Should I boil the fruit in the wort?


There are two schools of thought about adding fruit to the boil.

Many brewers will do it to ensure that any bacteria present are destroyed because nothing is as disheartening to discover your beer is infected and ruined!

And in that sense, it will work but there are certainly a few drawbacks.

Boiling fruit releases the pectin in the fruit and that will likely cloud your beer, giving it a cloudy haze that many brewers wish to avoid. It can also well as attribute to off-flavors despite the intention of boiling to release flavour.

Soft fruits like cherries, grapes, and strawberries contain smaller amounts of pectin than other citrus fruits like pears, apples, guavas, quince, plums, gooseberries, and oranges so you can way that up in your decision to boil or not.

If you insist you need to add fruit during the boil what you can do is steep your fruit in the hot wort, or add it directly to the fermenter at the right time. If you are going to steep your fruit, place whole, fresh fruit in a nylon or muslin bag and place it in.

So if you have decided not to boil your fruit what can you do?

Should I freeze the fruit before using it?


If the thought of boiling your fruit is too much you can totally freeze the fruit. It's a really common and trusted practice in the beer brewing community.

 The night before you think it's time to add it to the batch (post-primary fermentation), begin to slowly thaw it out in the fridge. It will then be ready when you need it. 

Freezing the fruit is not a complete guarantee against no contamination, but it will reduce the potential risk of infection occurring.

Oddly, freezing can also help with getting the fruit's flavors out of the fruit and into the beer. This is because the water inside the cells of the fruit crystallizes and expands. This process bursts the cell walls and in a sense, it mashes the fruit from the inside out. You can compare this to the freeze thaw action of ice on rock!

How to pasteurize fruit for brewing


In most civilized countries, the law requires that milk is pasteurized prior to sale to prevent bacteria such as salmonella, e. coli, and listeria from harming the general population. That suggests that fruit could benefit from pasteurization before it is added to the beer.

Basically, you use a low heat to kill the bugs. Puree your fruit so that it nice and smooth (so it can be cooked through). You pasteurized it by heating on the stove in a pot at 80 Centigrade for 30 minutes at a constant temperature. 

That should take care of the bugs - it's now time to add the fruit to your beer.  

If you make the fruit too hot, you will have the same effect as boiling and pectins will be released.

Being fearless and chucking the fruit it the fermenter


There's certainly nothing wrong add your fruit in sans boil or freezing. If you are adding it post primary fermentation, the alcohol present can protect against infection.

I guess you could always give the fruit a quick soak in some Star San or similar for a short while.


Pureéing fruit for brewing in a blender


If you are going to pureé your fruit - use a good blender. One that has of course been sanitized with something like sodium percarbonate! 

This reminds me to share that I once read of a guy who when blending would add a cup of vodka to the fruit to try and kill any bacteria! 

I reason this could kind of work and the vodka wouldn't add any unintended flavour to the beer. 

You should, of course, wash the fruit thoroughly and then remove any stems, leaves and pits or seeds before blending.

Can I use dehydrated fruit with beer?


You sure can add dehydrated fruit to beer.  It's less mess but if you going to pulp it up, you might need to blend it with some water.

When do I add fruit to your beer?


We've talked about it about but let's get into some detail.

So if you haven't boiled the fruit in the wort when do you add it?

Kind of like dry hopping, many brewers report that you tend to get the best results if you add the fruit about one week prior bottling rather than adding it directly to the wort on brew day (either before or after the boil). 

The reason for this is that the processes of the primary fermentation can strip out the flavors of the fruit.

So to that end, a good time to add the fruit is after primary fermentation is complete - so take your hydrometer and do your readings - when you have two or three identical readings you have your final gravity and can you add the fruit.

Adding during secondary fermentation has the added benefit that you are adding the fruit to a known solution of alcohol - which will help kill and work against any bacteria that may be sneaking in on the fruit.

black doris plums

Some punters remove the skins from the fruit


If you are making a nice plum lager out of some ripe Black Doris, you might want to think about peeling the skins due reduce of a wild yeast like brettanomyces which is usually found on the skins of fruit.

It's interesting to note that Brettanomyces were first discovered by scientist N. Hjelte Claussen in 1904 at the Carlsberg Brewery - he was investigating the 'Brett' as a cause of spoilage in English ales.

It's worth noting that while Brett is considered a contaminant in beer, it is a vital component of the wine making process for many winemakers. 

That was a slight detour - the key point is that if you want to reduce the chance of naturally occurring yeasts getting into your beer, strip the fruit of its skin if you can - might be hard if you're making a cherry beer!

How much fruit should be added to the beer?


A rule of thumb is to consider how sweet your fruit is. If you have a very sweet fruit, such as cherries, you might want to add less to your beer than you would say a peach.

The truth is that amount of fruit to add varies according to the desired intensity of flavour and aroma, but for a medium intensity, you should add ½ pound of fruit per gallon of beer for strongly flavored fruits like raspberries and up to 2 pounds (1 Kg approx) per gallon for fruits like peaches or melon which you could consider have a milder, less tart flavor. 

If I can't get fresh fruit, what else can I use?


Given fruit is quite a seasonal item, there are other fruit based options available. You can add concentrates, purées or juices to your beer - they've been well processed by the time they get to you via the supermarket so you can skill the boil or freezing parts of the processes and add them just prior to secondary fermentation.

If you simply want a flavour, you can use artificial ones or extracts, just remember they do not contribute to the body or 'mouth feel' like real fruit will.

How long should I bottle condition fruit beer for?


Bottled beer usually takes around three weeks to get to the prime drinking period, regardless of whether it has fruit in it or not. 

In our case, at least a month of bottle conditioning will give plenty of time for the yeast and other floaties to fall to the bottom of the beer as sediment (remember, you can always cold crash before bottling).  This will also give the fruit plenty of time to become one with the base beer flavours.

You can also remove fruit extras by using finings such as Irish Moss.

Go forth an experiment, young padawan!


The wonderful thing about beer makers is they love to experiment - there's something special about brewers who are willing to try new things and to mix up their norms - using fruit is a great way to do that as there are many combinations of fruit and beer types that offer even the most casual brewer a chance to produce a fun tasting beer. 

↠ An experiment with a lager kit, riwaka hops and a bottle of Golden Syrup

brewing lager with riwaka hops I sniff around a couple of homebrew Facebook groups and every time a beginner pops up asking for a really simple beer recipe for using a kit, this dude pops up says something like:

"Mate, I've had some amazing brews with a lager, riwaka hops and golden syrup!"

I was like, hmmm. 

Would this really work?

I prodded the guy a little bit and he then added that he also would use a beer enhancer. 

Which makes sense as enhancers really do wonders for your beer's performance - both in body, taste and mouth feel. 

So, I put this idea to the test. 

I used the following ingredients for what I'm going to call the:


Golden Riwaka Lager recipe 


·      Black Rock's Lager Kit and standard yeast
·      One whole packet of Riwaka hops
·      One 300 ml bottle of golden syrup
·      One beer enhancer which contained dextrose and DME.

To clarify, golden syrup is treacle, not molasses, nor maple syrup. 

I prepared the brew as per standard beer practices - cleaning and sanitizing the fermenting drum with sodiumpercarbonate, using boiling water and making sure my stirring spoon was nice and clean.

I made my wort and then I dryhopped the whole packet of Riwaka hops pellets. Gosh, they smelled like beer heaven. At a pinch you could probably substitute some Saaz hops as Riwaka was born out of the Saaz variety but the point of this exercise is to try what the random dude on social media suggested...

I then wrapped the fermenter in some old sheets and left it in my man shed for a week. 

The first day I went in to check that fermentation was occurring, my nostrils were swamped with that delicious hops smell that had just enveloped the whole room and I could hear the airlock bubbling away quite happily. 

Winning. 

So, after one week the bubbling had died down to a slow occasional blip, so I decided to bottle. 

I've recently been doing a bit of a cheat when it comes to bottling my beer. Despite recommending it elsewhere on this site, I've become lazy in a sense. What I do after each bottle has been emptied of its liquid gold, I rinse it out at the kitchen bench, adding in some washing up soap and using the bottle brush as need be. 

The bottle then gets a spin in the dishwasher. My theory is the heat from the dishwasher kills any nasty germs that are lurking. Be clear though, it's not likely much hot water is getting into the bottles to help clean them, it's the heat that I am after. 

I then store the washed bottles in a 50-litre washing basket with a sheet over the top and use as required.

If I start to notice a few bottles tasting a little off, I know that it's time to do a proper sanitization where the bottles are soaked in sodium percarbonate for a couple of hours at a minimum. 

Phew, we wandered off the track there a bit!

Where was I?

Ah yes, bottling.

I batch primed the brew with 80 grams of sugar, capped the bottles and put them back in the shed for some alone time in the dark.

Now, I know that the seasonal warmth coming into summer is not really the ideal time for making a lager. Anyways, this patient brewer will wait and see how my Golden Riwaka Lager pans out.

-

So, it’s been a couple of weeks and I’ve had a chance to sample the batch.

I placed a bottle in the fridge overnight and sampled it with my dinner. 

Holy shit, I made a damn good beer. That random dude on social media has stumbled on an amazing combination of ingredients.

lager with riwaka hopsIt's a little fruity as the hops are quite strong. It has a good mouthfeel for a kit lager. It feels fresh on the mouth and as a real summer beer vibe. 

It looks like the 80 grams of sugar was just right as the beer has a good amount of bubbles that continue to rise up in the glass. 

Given its nature, this beer is definitely best served cold. 

Would I brew this again? 

Most definitely but I would reduce the hop level, a whole bag of Riwaka felt like overkill but that's down to personal taste. The choice is yours. 

How to prevent beer gushers!

beer gusher explosion

Have you ever opened a home brewed beer and it just gushed out like a pent up volcano that just had to blow its load?


It's hugely disappointing.

You've put in all that effort to may you brew and then it literally just splashes all over the kitchen sink or worse in front of your mates you're having some beers and BBQ with.

So what can you do about bottle gushers or 'bottle bombs' ?

There's a couple of ways to prevent gushers and they are pretty simple.

Clean your brewing equipment to prevent gushers


The first one, which isn't a solution but a warning, is to ensure that you have maintained excellent santization practices with your brewing.

There is nothing more disappointing than realizing your brew has been contaminated with infection when you open bottle after bottle and be confronted with a mass of foam that gives Old Faithful in Yellowstone park a run for it's money.

You've set off a beer bomb!

So the lesson here is clean your brewing equipment!

The second way to prevent beer gushers is dead easy:

Don't put so much sugar in your bottles! 


I've learned this one 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.

When that happens, you're on a trip to gusher town.

So, it doesn't matter if you are placing sugar in the individual bottles or priming the whole brew, cut down on that sugar.

My personal rule of thumb is that for a 750 mls bottle, a FLAT tea spoon of sugar is more than enough to get a great level of carbonation.

If you want to employ a quicker method, you could try using carbonation drops. If using those, put two in a 750 mls bottle and one for a 500 mls bottle.


You were not a patient grass hopper


If you bottled your beer before primary fermentation had finished you run the risk of gushers.

If this is the case, you can simply vent your beer by opening the beer cap very slightly letting the CO2 escape. You can then re cap the bottle.

It's getting hot in here...


I also have a theory about gushers but I don't have any proof or evidence that I'm right but I think that if you open 'warm' beer, it is more likely to gush. When I say warm beer, I simply mean beer that hasn't spent a day in a fridge chilling out. 

I did an accidental experiment the other week when I noticed I had a couple of gushers in a recent brew. It was the first opening of a new batch so I was a bit disappointed. The next night I put two bottles in the fridge and had a cracked one open the after work the next day. 

And no gusher!

I suspect warm beer temperature allows the carbon dioxide gas to escape quicker than cold beer. 

So it's hardly scientific proof but I'd be open to discussion on it!

Be careful


Several brews ago I walked into my 'man shed' where I keep my beer and I thought a nuclear 'beer bomb' had been set off. There was green and brown glass everywhere and the smell of beer in the air. 

What had happened was my beer had actually become infected and the CO2 build up from a run away yeast had caused a beer to explode. 

I suspect that the explosion caused a minor chain reaction of sorts and the bottles closest to the original exploding bottle blew up due to the fragments of glass that flew their way at presumably very hostile speeds!

Best tubing for beer lines

beer line tubing for transfering beer

There are many kinds of tubes in the world.

London's Tube.

'The Tube'.

A water tube.

Tuberculosis.

Youtube.

Nasogastric tubes.

Most of those have their place in the world but when making beer, the only tube that matters is beer line tubing.

And if you want your beer to be the best beer it can be, then having quality tubing for your beer lines is just as important as sanitization, good hops, and great brewing practices.

Why you should consider using beer tubes


Have you ever transferred beer?

Did you ever try and pour a massive load of wort into a secondary?

Did you ever spill it?

Get burned by the hot water?

Have you ever siphoned beer?

Ever cooled a beer wort?

Every time you buy a piece of brewing equipment that uses tubing you are making a call about your beer. Different tubing does different jobs so bear in mind, a single piece of tubing is not the 'one tube to bind them all'.

What's the deal with vinyl tubing for brewing? 


Vinyl tubing is cheap, widely available and is excellent for transferring beer from a keg via a jockey box.

It is not suited for high temperatures so it arguably shouldn't be used for transferring hot wort for example.


Some pundits believe that hot tubing can leach into beer, tainting the beer's flavor, or worse adding harmful chemical residue to the beer. I'd take that with a grain of salt but certainly, hot water or wort can damage your tubing so we say use vinyl for transferring beer.

Many beer lines come with screw clamps already attached that will connect to your faucet. You can also get reinforced lining for your tubes - it makes the hose stiffer and more difficult to use, but that might be just what you need.

What is the best silicon tubing for transferring hot wort? 


silicon beer wort transfer lines
Using silicone tubing to transfer hot wort is hands down your best option because it will not melt or change shape by standard vinyl tubing can do. It is also non-toxic.

When transferring wort or a hot sparge, you should always consider using a tube that has been rated for high temperatures like silicone. Silicone can handle temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit which makes it quite ideal for transferring hot liquids.

This is the reason why silicon bakeware is so popular - it's light, easy to clean and can withstand the heat pressures of your home oven.

If you do not want to use silicone, then any tubing that's manufactured as 'thermoplastic' will also do the job.

Vinyl tubing that is used with hot water has the potential to leach from itself into your beer, possibly tainting it.

Silicon will not curl up like vinyl hosing can.

What is the best tubing to connect to a wort chiller?


Wort chillers are great for reducing the temperature of the hot beer wort quickly and efficiently so you can get on with pitching the yeast so you can get your beer fermenting.

Most wort chillers will connect the copper or steel end to standard vinyl tubing which then has an attachment that connects to the water supply, often a faucet.

What should I use for 'blow off' tubing?


If your wort has a tendency to expand into a messy foam out the top of your carboy (beware the krausen!) then you may want to use a blowoff tube in place of the standard carboy airlock.

The tubing can then release the foam into a bottle, bucket or whatever to contain the krausen.

We suggest if you have brewing conditions where this has happened more than once, you may wish to consider grabbing some tubing from Amazon!

You can use whatever kind of tubing you want but be sure to get a suitable thick pipe, nothing too narrow as that will work against you as the krausen will not be able to blow out tubing. Some uses prefer to use steel tubing.

Taking care of your tube lines (gotta keep 'em clean)


Your beer lines will naturally over time become filthy due to beer residue, yeast and goodness knows what else finds it's way into the tubes. 

Crucially, a build-up of calcium oxalate can occur - 'beer stone' as it is known can be a real pain to remove. In fact, if you get beer stone in your lines, we'd recommend you best simply replace them.

If that occurs your beer could become tainted as it flows through, ruining the drinking experience. 

So keep your lines clean!

How do you do this?

If you a simple homebrewer, a handy solution is to soak your beer lines in a cleaning solution. And for this, we recommend our go to product, sodium percarbonate. It's cheap, breaks down in water and won't leave a bad taste residue. 

Once you have soaked your tubes in a bucket for say an hour, drain the cleaning solution and then rinse with fresh water. Re-attach your tubing and you are good to pour your delicious beer!

How to properly store and condition your bottled homebrew

How to properly store your bottled homebrew beer


Proper storage of homebrew for better tasting beer


You've done the hard work.

You've prepared a nice wort, added some hops, maybe used a yeast energizer and a beer enhancer and it fermented well.

Then bottling day came and you got your golden brew safely away under the cap.

Now what?

It's time to bottle condition your beer and that doesn't mean you hide it under a blanket in an old swap-a-crate box and forget about it for a few weeks. 

Well actually you can do this, but if you want great tasting beer there are a few things to think about when storing beer. 

First with the warm and then with the cold


When you are bottle conditioning, you are adding a second round of sugar to your beer. This is so that a second round of fermentation can take place. 

The yeast still present in the beer will eat the sugar and convert it into more alcohol and CO2 - this gas is what carbonates the beer. 

So, just like when you did the first round of fermentation, the yeast does its best work at a warm temperature. So, to properly store your beer so that it is carbonated, the beer needs to be kept warm for a few days. 

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

After a week or so, you can leave them in a much cooler place with a temperature range between approx 8 - 12°C. This will allow the beers to condition quite nicely. 

This thing about the correct temperature is real. 

Let me tell you a story. 

In the middle of a New Zealand winter I bottled a lager beer and left it in the shed for about a month. It was cold and the sun didn't warm the shed at all. 

When I when to crack open the first beer, I did not hear that usually reassuring hiss of gas as it escapes from the bottle. 

The silence was brutal. 

My beer was flat. 

So I opened another bottle and had the same result. And again for a third.

I wondered if I had destroyed my beer somehow but then more sensibly I asked my self 'had fermentation actually occurred'?

It had.

What I had done was wrap the fermenter in plenty of old painting sheets which kept the beer warn enough to allow the first round of fermentation to occur. 

For the bottled beer, the problem was the freezing cold. They had sat in the shed naked as the day they were bottled and bitterly cold. The yeast became inactive and no fermentation occurred. 

The solution was to bring the beers inside.

I placed them in the living room and gradually they warmed up. After two weeks I opened a beer and boom, I was rewarded with the sound of CO2 releasing from the beer. The yeast had appreciated the warmer temperature, came out of hibernation and got to work on the sucrose. 

Problem solved. 

Conversely, it is unwise to store beer in too hot a place. For example, don't leave it in a hot attic room all summer. The beer will simply get cooked and probably taste like mouldy cardboard

Some points to ponder about bottle storage

  • It's really good to have a storage place where the temperature is maintained at a steady rate.
  • Ales are happy with lower temperatures
  • Lagers are happy with higher temperatures
  • The middle of your house is probably cooler than nearer the outside. That could be a factor where you store beer.
  • If you find your beers are in too hot a place, move them!

There's two other important things that can help with properly conditioning beer


1. Don't be afraid of the dark


Like a vampire, you should embrace the darkness. 

Beer does not like sunlight at all. Especially if you are using recycled green beer bottles. If your beer is exposed to too much light, it is said to be 'light struck' or 'skunked'. 

The UV light causes yet another chemical reaction in the beer - the hops are broken down by the light and they form a new compound when mixed with the proteins in the beer - giving off a horrid smell just like a skunk can do.

2. Now comes the hard part - waiting 


You have to let you beer condition. The rule of thumb is that your beer is probably drinkable after one week but is only beginning to get close to its best tasting at three weeks.

If you've ever found a forgotten beer in the shed that's had three months of conditioning, you probably really enjoyed it right? 

That's just proof you need to give your beer time to mature. Sit back and relax, maybe read Mortal Engines or some read some Star Wars trivia.

Recipe for making a substitute PBW beer equipment cleaner

There are many facets of beer making that are important:

The right hops.

The right temperature at which to brew.

The right yeast.

The right sized kettle.

The right whatever else you think is important.

But as any cook, painter, website designer or astronaut will tell you, preparation is the key to success and the father of successful brewing is making sure that your beer making equipment is clean!

We've previously recommended PBW as a literal solution to cleaning your brewing equipment as it is a proven cleaner and degreaser.

But as a branded home brewers product, Powdered Brewery Wash can cost you some real cash money. Many brewers swear by and believe in its value but if you are looking to get a substitute product at a cheaper price, there's a handy wee trick you may wish to try to make your own version of PBW.

What you are going to do is replicate the two main ingredients of PBW to make your own recipe.

We are looking to source these two active ingredients found in PBW.
  • Sodium percarbonate 
  • Sodium metasilicate

So where does one find these ingredients in home products?


The good news is that you might already have the percarbonate on a shelf in your laundry at home!

Many washing machine soaker's main ingredient is based the chemical we are after, sodium percarbonate.

Example of the brands we are talking Tide, Oxiclean, or Napisan.

For the metasilicate, we've found that many home DIY brewers use a cleaner called Red Devil TSP/90. You can find it on Amazon or local stores such as Walmart, Lowes or Home Depot. Sparklebright is also well known for containing TSP.

using red devil to clean beer

The TSP stands for tri-sodium phosphate. That chemical is not actually used much in America due to environmental concerns so the TSP/90 is actually a substitute product, hence the meta-silicate!

Confusing much?

So how to prepare this combo?


Now, mixing chemicals found in the kitchen or laundry can be dangerous but we are not using chlorine or ammonia here so we are on safe ground to mix our formula's ingredients.

The ratio prepare is 70% Oxiclean with 30% TSP/90 - by weight. This ratio gives you your DIY version of PBW.

How much powder to use?


The concentration is 1 ounce per gallon of water which equates to 30 grams per 3.5 litres which is basically about 10 grams per litre.


Safety precautions


While Red Devil TSP/90 contains no Phosphorous, lye or other abrasives and the laundry soaker is pretty benign, it is prudent to use gloves during use. This is because the chemicals are alkaline and contact with your skin is not recommended.

You can then use your cleaner in the usual manner to soak and scrub your fermenter and other brewing equipment.