How to make home made gin from vodka

making home made gin with a kit and vodka

How to make gin with vodka and a gin kit 

One of my favorite TV shows as a kid was M.A.S.H. Even as a young kid I could pick up on most of the seriousness of that show, comedy aside.

One of the things that always amused me was how Pierce Hawkeye and his doctor buddies were always distilling alcohol in their tent and having a few drinks after performing harrowing surgery on wounded soldiers.

And then going straight back to it.

It wasn't till I was an adult, had actually drunk alcohol and understood its effect and also had a comprehension of the true reality of war that I understood why Captain Hawkeye would feel the need to have a few drinks in him.

Because war is hell.

Lucky for us though, most of us just want to make our own alcohol and have a quiet evening drink before we retire for the night, and our choice of poison?


Home brewed gin.

Home brewed gin with a vodka base!

So let's make some using this kit!

What is gin brewed from?

Gin is never just gin.

It is always made from a base of alcohol and that's why this why The Homemade Gin Kit has all the necessary ingredients and materials - you just need to supply 750 mls of vodka. 

The vodka is the starting point. 

So what does this gin brewing kit actually come with?
  • Includes: Two 375ml Glass Bottles, Fine Stainless Steel Strainer, Stainless Steel Funnel
  • Includes: One tin of juniper berries & One tin of botanical blend
  • Made in USA so you're helping Americans keep their jobs.
Essentially what the kit is helping you do is soaking the berries and spices in the alcohol.  Because we using the historical soaking method, we're more likely to get more solids and some color (potentially like amber).

So how to use the gin making kit? 

  • Sterilize the bottle bottles. You could boil them or using something like sodium percarbonate.
  • Add your botanicals to the jar
  • Add your vodka, then leave to infuse in a cool dark place for 24 hours or so
  • The next day, taste your infusion – it should already be beginning to taste like gin. That's the juniper taking hold. If you're feeling fancy add some fresh peel orange peel and any extra botanicals whose flavor you want to boost.
  • Leave for up to another 24 hours. Give the bottles a shake a couple of times during that time. 
  • You are done. Use the strainer to get rid of the sediment and bottle. 
  • Enjoy with friends (and food!)
Here's a handy tip. If you want a stronger juniper flavor, and most gin drinkers prefer this, you can crush the juniper berries before adding them to the vodka.

If you want to add even more juniper berries, they're usually available at the spice counter at any major grocery store. You can also find them on Amazon.

So am I making gin or not?

Now, we'll say this upfront just in case some naysayers tut in with,' this is not how you make proper gin!' 

We are not making distilled gin, we are making infused gin. So you won't need any distilling equipment.

Because gin by definition is an alcoholic drink where juniper berries are the main ingredient.

Is this cheating? Maybe, either way, it's a nice drink to make.

The economics of making your own gin

What you are doing here is not making gin to make a cheap gin. 

You are making gin for the experience of it and the taste and enjoyment reward.

While the vodka infusion method is not difficult at all, there's some reward in taking the time to follow the instructions and the process of making your own gin. 

The reward will be the same any home beer brewer gets, the satisfaction of having made the thing you are drinking. 

If you are trying to make a fine gin, this method is not for you. You could try setting up a still or a home distillery but that's for keen enthusiasts only. 

So, are you ready to order then? The Homemade Gin Kit also have refill options so you can reuse the bottles and make over 2 litres of homemade gin!

Add some fine tonic, bottoms up and to your good health Hawkeye!

Using heat pads to keep beer at correct brewing temperature

heat pad for brewing beer kenley

How to use a heat mat to keep homebrew warm

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. One does not use these units for necks, or shoulders but your cat might want to sleep on one....

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.

how to use a heat pad for brewing
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.

These units can also come in a 'wrap' format, where the wrap goes around the fermenter, not underneath.

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

Top Ten ways to improve your beer kit brews

beer brewing tips for malt kits

Brewing with beer kits can sometimes be likened to making a ready bake cake.

You can buy ready made cake mix from your local supermarket, add some milk and eggs and chuck the mixture in the oven and you're away. The hardest part is probably making sure the oven is set to the correct temperature.

A brew kit is a similar process, you open the tin, add the contents, add some hot water, pitch in the yeast and boom, you are brewing!

And yes it's that simple, but if you want to make your beer taste even better, here's our top ten ways to help improve the flavor of your beer. 

  1. Use a beer enhancer. What this means is you are adding more malt extract and some dextrose into the mix. Instead of adding sugar (which famously makes homebrew sweet) the dextrose doesn't leave an off taste and the yeast will happily convert it to alcohol.
  2. Add extra hops. While malt kits will come with hops added, the addition of some complementary hops will enhance the flavour of your beer. For example, if you are keen on making lagers, then some Green Bullet or Cascade hops will taste great. 
  3. Patience is truly a virtue when brewing. Although primary fermentation is generally complete after a week or so - a brew left much longer in the carboy or drum will be a much better tasting beer. 
  4. When bottling, avoid stirring up the beer as much as possible. While oxygen is quite desirable during primary fermentation, it is not when conditioning beer. If not kegging, you can add a bottling wand to the fermenter to help with a smooth transfer to the bottle. 
  5. Once bottled, store the beers in a warm place for two days. This will encourage secondary fermentation to occur. THEN move your beer to a cooler play (maybe the shed) and leave them in the dark for at least three weeks. This long time will give the yeast a chance to work it's magic properly. Your beer will taste quite drinkable from three weeks on but a beer left for  6 weeks is even better!
  6. Batch priming your beer is a great way to ensure that each beer tastes consistent. Batch priming is simply adding sugar to the fermenting drum and then bottling, rather than adding sugar individually to each bottle. A side benefit is that you strongly reduce your chances of over sugaring your beer which can lead to over fizzy beer or worse bottles that explode due to too much pressure from built up CO2. 
  7. If you want to increase the alcohol content of your beer,  you can do this by adding extra sugars during primary fermentation. There's an art to this - too much extra will hinder your yeast - and that's when back yard experts start using yeast nutrients.
  8. If you are looking to make a clear beer then using finings is recommended. 
  9. Doing a cold crash just before bottling also greatly improves the clarity of beer.  
  10. If you're moving onto the full 'brewing day experience', get the bigger kettle or pot!

How to make homebrew hard cider

how to brew apple cider

Brewing apple cider guide

When I was a lad, I lived in a place called 'the fruit bowl of New Zealand', that place being Hastings.

There were apples everywhere, in the orchards, on the farms, on every corner. Open the newspaper and four or five would fall out! 

And never once did I think about making them into cider.

And now that I live miles away from the orchards of home, a good cider reminds me of years apple picking and thinning and driving a hydra-ladder around an orchard to help pay for university fees.

But you came here to learn how to brew an alcoholic (hard) cider, so let's get on with it. 

If you've brewed beer before, it's the same concept of fermentation but with some slight variations to the preparation of the basic ingredients and the addition of a few handy remedies to augment the cider's flavor. 

As always when brewing, it's very important that all your equipment is exceptionally clean and properly sanitized.

So what do we need to begin making hard cider?

If you think the first thing on the list of things you need is apples or pears, well, you'd be right.

But it's not that simple.

When brewing cider, not all apples are created equal.

Ideally, you'll have been able to harvest some late-season apples, maybe even some which have naturally fallen from the tree. This is because these apples have high amounts of sugar in them, and as any brewer knows, sugar is great for fermenting!

Having a mix of different apples is very useful for taste preferences as well. Mixing Red Delicious with Granny Smith in a 1 to 2 ratio will produce a dry cider whereas 1 to 2 ratio of Macintosh to Cortland will produce a sweeter cider.

Another way to get the mix right is to use a mixture of 70% dessert apples and 30% cooking apples. This should give a good balance of sweetness and acidic taste.

Preparation of apples for brewing

First up, wash your fruit of dirt, bird shit, leaves and twigs and the like. Cut away any rotten fruit as well. If your apples are a bit bruised, this is not a concern. 

Your immediate goal is to turn your apples or pears into a pulp. Some players may use a scratter but chances are you're gonna have to do this the hard way by using a bit of elbow grease and pulp them into what's called a 'pomace'.

What you do is pulp the fruit in a large bucket by simply pounding it with a piece of clean wood in the form of a 4 x 4 post. Or the end of a baseball bat, or whatever's handy for pulping.  Things will work out best if you quarter your apples or pears before starting this process.

You can always use a blender to speed the process along, but you are not trying to puree the fruit so go easy with the blender. 

Bear in mind, you're not trying to go all Charles Bronson on your apples. Your mashed apples should have some substance to them, and they should certainly not be liquefied. If that's the case, you've over pulped. 

How many apples do I need to make cider?

A very rough rule of thumb is that 2kg of apples or pears can be turned into 1 litre of juice. If you are thinking in gallons, you'll need 20 pounds or just under 10 kg per gallon. So, if you want to fill your traditional 23 beer fermenter, do the maths and you'll find you need 46 kgs of apples. Which is a lot of apples!

When crushing, be careful not to overdo it. The finished apples should have some substance to them, and liquid juice should not be present. If it is you have pulped them too much.

brewing cider tips

It's time to press your apples and extract the juice

Seasoned pros will venture that using an apple press will save a lot of time and efficiently produce a lot of juice. 

Make sure your apple press is nice and clean. Make sure you have a clean bucket properly positioned to collect the apple juice. 

Then load your quartered apples or pears into it. 

As you turn the press, you will start to feel some real tension. Don't be tempted to keep going, this is part is a part of slowness and patience. Leave the press in this position for a couple of minutes and the juice will actually begin to

Turn the press down onto the fruit until you feel some real tension. As soon as you do, don’t keep turning but leave this in position for a few minutes. You will see the juice will start to run. When the juice stops then tighten the press again and leave to repeat the process again until your apples are fully pressed. 

You should now have all the juice you need to make your cider with but first, it's time to add a campden tablet or two.

Adding sodium metabisulphite to kill off wild yeast

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.

Acetobacter is easily killed off, hence treatment with an agent like a Campden tablet (sodium metabisulphite) is important in cider production.

Using approx one tablet per gallon will also see off any 'wild yeast' that might have traveled with your apples. 

Experienced cider conjurers may also take the opportunity to add pectolase or peptic enzyme to the juice. Pectolase aids in the break down of pectin in the fruit giving you more juice and of great importance, this facilitates a better fermentation and a clearer cider as it helps reduce pectic haze. The amount of enzyme to add is approximately one teaspoon per gallon of juice. 

It's also used in winemaking for the same reasons.

It's recommended that you give this new solution 48 hours before you pitch your yeast to commence fermentation. Given this time, you should cover your apple juice will a towel or some such item to prevent foreign particles from getting in. You may wish to give it a stir once in a while as well.

Actually, stir the heck out of the juice every 12 hours to make sure everything is coming into contact with the metabisulphite

Adding yeast to the apple juice

Having let your juice rest with the Campden tablets for at least 24 hours, you are now at a fork in the road somewhat. You can take your chances with any benign yeast taking their opportunity to ferment the juice or you can pitch a yeast that is well suited for brewing with apples or pears.

If you didn't already transfer the juice into your fermenter, now is the time to do so. Make damn well sure it is properly sanitized.

You might want to take a reading with a hydrometer to get the gravity of your juice so you can work out the ABV. 

It's time to add the yeast but what kind should you add?

The classic, traditional yeasts to use are commonly referred to as Champagne yeast as they produce what is often described as neutral flavors but there are some great wine and beer yeasts out there to try as well. 

Here are a few selections:

Specific yeasts for cider

  • Mangrove Jack’s Cider Yeast M02
  • Safcider from Fermentis
  • WLP775 English Cider Yeast from White Lab

Champagne yeasts for cider

  • Prise de Mousse, EC1118 from Lallemand. A popular choice for those who wish to have a high alcohol content (and you can encourage this by adding extra sugar to your cider batch).
  • Pasteur Blanc from Red Star
  • VQ 10 yeast from Enartis
  • Enartis Ferm WS

    Beer yeasts for cider

    • Saflager S-23 from Fermentis
    • WLP565 Belgian Saison from White Labs
    • Wyeast 3711 French Saison
    Here's a demonstration video of how the professionals do it:

    How long to leave the cider to ferment?

    Fermentation should start within the week, or a few days if the temperature is ideal. You'll want to let your brew do its business for about two weeks AND then give it another to let the yeast begin to settle out of the solution to improve clarity.

    You can get away with quicker times for brewing beer but apples and pears need this time if you want to make a quality brew.

    What temperature do you ferment cider at?

    As with beer making, sound temperature control will improve the odds you will have a good tasting beer. The extremes apply here - too cold and the yeast will hibernate and not ferment. Too hot and the yeast will be overworked and will produce fusel alcohols which will impair the taste of your cider. 

    The ideal temperature is considered to be about 15 degrees Centigrade or 59 Fahrenheit. Nudging to 20 is acceptable but anything over will produce unwanted side effects. 

    A steady temperature is also ideal. Too much fluctuation can through the yeast off its game. If you have a brewing fridge / fermentation chamber with a thermostat, your cider is ideal for a run in it. 

    When to add malic acid to cider brew?

    Malic acid occurs naturally in apples and plays a part in the pH level of your cider and most crucially taste. If your pH level is too high, then adding extra malic acid will reduce the pH level (remember the lower the pH level, the more acidic a solution will be). 

    Conversely, if your pH level is too low, then you'll want to add a base such as precipitated chalk.

    So then, your next question surely then is what is an ideal pH reading for cider? Many brewers aim for a range of 3.2 - 3.8. If you're nudging over four, you'll want to add malic acid as given it is already present, it matches the profile of the cider. 

    If you're interested in using a digital pH meter for checking the level of your cider, check out our pH tester buying guide.

    Do I need to add tannins to my cider batch? 

    Tannin is a yellowish or brownish bitter-tasting organic substance that can be found in plant material such as tea, rhubarb, grapes and apples. Tannins are acids, a well known one being gallic acid. Tannins give an astringent, drying bitterness quality to cider. 

    Some kinds of apples have high tannin levels so the addition of them is not really necessary. Where brewers are using applies which naturally make a sweet cider, that brew may need some added tannins. 

    A ¼ teaspoon of tannin per gallon of cider is a commonly recommended amount to add. The exact amount can be a bit of a science, this dude has some great advice on how much to use.

    Tannins can be sourced online from Amazon or from your local brew shop.

    bottle conditioned apple cider

    How long do I bottle condition cider for if I'm carbonating?

    Cider takes a lot longer than beer to condition to an optimum drinkable state. It can take up to two months for carbonation to fully occur and even longer for the cider to reach peak performance. That said, some brews will be carbonated within 2 - 3 weeks. 

    It's very important to only bottle when you are sure fermentation is complete as if you cap those bottles before the yeast has done its job, you'll run the risk of bottles blowing up especially if you've added sugar to promote bottle carbonation. A bottle explosion can send a big foamy mess everywhere and littering the place with sharp glass. Trust me, I've made this mistake before and it's a massive pain to clean it all up and worse, it's a waste of time and energy and money!

    If you want flat cider, without carbonation, you'll need to add an additive such as more Campden solution to prevent any residual yeast from fermenting in the bottle. Like when you were preparing the apple juice, leave the Campden to sit for a whole day before bottling to help ensure any yeast present is accounted for.

    Remember to store your bottles in a cool spot, free of direct sunlight.

    I should mention that before bottling should taste your brew as this is the time to 'back sweeten' if wish. If you want to do this, you can add a non-fermentable sweetener such as stevia. This is in place of using extra sugar and it will mean you won't over carbonate.

    Making cider from store bought Apple Juice

    Making cider from store bought apple juice is a very simple process as the hard work has been all done for you. Try and use a juice that doesn't have preservatives as theoretically this can hamper fermentation from commencing but don't over think it.

    You might want to start with a gravity reading. If it is below 1050, then you may wish to consider adding a bit of sugar so the yeast has something to start working on.

    The process of fermentation is the same so fill your clean and sanitized fermenter with the desired juice. Give it a bit of a shake to aerate and then pitch your yeast - maybe Lalvin EC-1118. You could also add some yeast nutrient as well.

    Some brewers split the juice in half and once they are satisfied fermentation is occurring, they add the second half.

    Seal your fermenter with an airlock and leave it be for 2 to 3 weeks at a minimum. When you feel your cider is ready for bottle conditioning, you can batch prime with dextrose in the normal manner.

    You will want to condition your cider for a minimum of two months - cider brewers need to be more patient that beer brewers if they want a good tasting cider!

    What is a Demijohn?

    A demijohn (or jimmyjohn) is a particular kind of glass fermenter that is popular with cider and winemakers. They come in all kinds of sizes from 5 litres through to 23. The smaller sizes allow for experimentation. Their long necks can make them troublesome to clean.

    hard cider beer kit

    What about brewing with a cider kit?

    There are plenty of cider kits out there, just as there are for beer. We've taken a fancy to the Brooklyn BrewShop's Hard Cider Kit:

    A perfect kit for beginners, it makes fermenting hard cider at home simple and fun. The kit has enough ingredients to makes 3 batches of hard cider.

    It includes 1 gallon reusable glass fermenter, 3 packets yeast, vinyl tubing & clamp, racking cane & tip, chambered airlock, 3 packets cleanser, and screw-cap stopper. 

    You'll need to supply your own apples or juice.

    You'll be able to produce 3 batches of 7% ABV of hard cider (9-10 12-oz bottles). Brooklyn BrewShop describe that this kit will help you make a cider that is tart, bubbly and dry. Check out the price  and reviews on Amazon.

    How make a hops tea for home brewing?

    How to make a hops tea for brewing with a beer kit

    Sometimes when making homebrew, beer makers also like to make a cup of hop tea!

    Why would we do this?

    The idea here is that the great hops aromas and oils have been removed from the bullets due to the boiling and will then mix more easily with your wort brew. You are not making a tea to drink but rather simply trying to better extract the oil from the hop bud or pellet.

    This means you have extracted more of the hops from the bullet than you would if you simply dry hopped them.

    How to make a hops tea for homebrewing

    Put the hops in a muslin bag (or tie up a square of it) and then boil it for several minutes in water.

    During the boil, have a good smell and enjoy the aromas as it wafts around your kitchen.

    That's the deliciousness you want to impart into your beer.

    We love using Cascade hops as we think they give the best smell in the world! It's also damn fine hops for making beer with, particularly pilsners and lagers.

    When you've boiled the hops for long enough, turn the pan off but leave everything right where it is to cool.

    Try not to let anything get into the pot as everything that's in there is going into your beer wort. I say this with experience as I did this the other month - made the tea over the stove with the back door open late at night and somehow a moth managed to land it.

    Too bad, I made a hops and moth tea!

    You have probably already prepared your wort, so now put everything you've boiled - the whole muslin bag and the tea that you've made into the primary fermenter.

    You are good to go on and now pitch your yeast - as long as the wort is at the correct temperature.

    You can also drink your own hops tea too!

    It's done slightly differently to the above method for beer - you let the hops steep as you would any other tea and then drink when cool enough. It's not for us though, too bitter!

    Brewing with two malt kits

    brewing two malt kits

    Brewing beer with two malt extract kits 

    As a beer kit brewer - I've often seen brewing forums chatter about brewing with two cans of malt rather than the traditional one can with added sugars such as dextrose.

    I thought it was time to do an experiment and see for myself if using solely two kits for a beer would translate into a good tasting beer.

    Given two kits can effectively double the cost of your brew, I grabbed two cans of the cheapest kits I could find at the supermarket which just happened to be Cooper's Stout. Having made reasonable brews with Coopers DIY Kits in the past, I was confident I'd be able to make a drinkable beer!

    So how did this experiment go down?

    One makes the double kit beer wort in the traditional one kit way except the recipe is effectively doubled.

    This means I am adding double the usual amount of malt. This means there's going to be a lot of fermentable molecules in the wort, at a higher ratio than normal (standard 1 KG plus roughly 700 grams more).

    Given there is hops oil in each can, I am also doubling the hops count of the batch - this will likely mean that the bitterness of the beer will double (well, let's see how that pans out).

    What is also happening is that we are not adding any extra sucrose or dextrose (I usually use a beer enhancer to assist with better taste and good mouth feel). I think that is going to have quite an effect on the beer as I noted above that there will be a vastly higher ratio of malt to water than my usual beer kit brews.

    Given this, I suspect the Final Gravity will be higher than the norm and I imagine the ABV may be in the range of 5 - 6 percent though that may be pushing it. Even if it's not that high, I'll get a nice sweet brew.

    I am also adding double the yeast as having two kits means I've got two sachets. I think I could have got away with just using one packet but figured let's roll the dice and see what happens. It's possible the extra 700 grams of malt could give the yeast some trouble so some extra will probably help.

    I added both packets to a glass of warm water so that it was 'activated' before it when into the wort. I'm not hugely convinced this actually makes a massive difference but I've read that it helps where there's a lot of sugars (malt) in the wort.

    using two yeast sachets in brew
    The Dark Knight watches over the yeast
    I prepared the brew after cleaning and sanitizing the fermenter drum and left it overnight in the kitchen where it was warm.

    Here's my trick for getting all the malt out of a can without making too much mess:

    extracting all the malt from a can

    So how did this experiment work out?

    On return from work that evening (so roughly 36 hours) I observed that fermentation had been going really well. This is probably due to having used two yeast sachets as I have never seen this much bubble activity before:

    Those dark brown spots you can see are actually yeast clumps that got caught in the foam after fermentation went into hyperdrive (attack of the Krausen!). I grabbed a clean spoon and gently stirred them back into the wort. I then closed the lid back up nice and tight and carried the drum up to the shed where I wrapped it up in a pile of old towels.

    It's just settling into spring here so it will not be too cold in the shed. I'll leave it there for a week at least to let the fermentation fully complete. If I'm really patient, I'll leave the brew to settle a bit longer than that.

    Let's see how we go.


    And we're back!

    It's been just under two weeks since we pitched the yeast into the wort.

    I have bottled the beer. A test taste at the time revealed it has quite a strong flavor and it smelt really 'heavy'. It also had a very 'Coopers' taste to it. It appeared to be a nice dark brown color.

    Let's wait another couple of weeks before we do a taste test once the bottles have carbonated and conditioned.


    Time for a drink?

    Spring has kicked in quite nicely so there should have been a fairly even brewing / conditioning temperature (other than night and day changes).

    The verdict:

    This is a 'fair beer' and with another two weeks of conditioning, it will be a very enjoyable beer.

    It's malty as fuck. That should really be no surprise eh?

    Having drunk the whole glass fairly quickly, I get the impression the beer has an ABV higher than the brews I usually make (around 4 per cent ABV) so I would suspect it's over 5 but not close to 6. Yes, yes, I should have done some gravity readings...

    This double malt kit brew would have benefitted definitely from some additional hops such as Goldings or Fuggles. This mostly is because Coopers is simply a 'stock standard' beer kit.

    Given this is the first Cooper's stout I've brewed, I'm fairly happy with how the beer has turned out.

    The beer had little head as I suspect I slightly under sugared the batch for the secondary carbonation.

    In terms of economy, the two kits cost about 35 bucks (NZ price) whereas a usually single can and enhancer combo would cost around 27 - so the question is whether the extra 8 bucks makes enough of a difference to the brew?  If one is trying for a higher than usual ABV stout, then yes, especially one that is dripping with malty tones!

    ↠ When to add more sugar to your beer (and when to use less)

    using to much sugar in beer brew

    Sugar! Are you adding too much to your beer?

    It's a silent killer say the health specialists.

    It's the devil's food!


    And yet we need sugar to make beer.

    The real question is how much sugar do we need to use in beer?

    That answer to that question is kind of like when Gandalf says to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Rings: "A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.”

    Which kind of says to me you should use as much sugar as you need or as little as you need depending on what you need to make great beer.

    Sounds like some ropey logic right? 

    Hear me out.

    Have you ever had a beer gusher

    It's when you open your beer and whoosh! the beer zings out in a foaming stream and your beer drinking experience is ruined. 

    It looks a bit like this:

    So in that sense, you don't want to add too much sugar to your beer if you are bottle conditioning with sugar.

    But if you are wanting to increase the alcohol content (ABV) of your beer, then you will need to add more sugar at the primary fermentation stage.

    And thus it's about knowing when to add sugar to the beer and when not to.

    Let's talking about increasing the ABV of your beer

    When your beer wort is undergoing fermentation what happens is that the beer yeast eats the sugar and that produces alcohol.

    More sugar for the yeast to eat should mean more alcohol production right?

    Too easy.

    Yes, adding extra sugar to your beer will, in the main, increase your ABV.

    A big caution is that the more sugar you put in, the more pressure that you place on the yeast. The more alcohol that is produced, the slower the rate at which fermentation occurs. A keen player will consider adding more yeast nutrients to the wort which may give the original yeast a new lease of life and extend fermentation.

    Remember though, the more sugar you add, the sweeter your beer will taste and the greater chance your beer will have that classic 'bad homebrew' taste.

    Instead of sugar being used in the primary fermentation stage, many (most?) brewers will use dry malt extract (DME) as their sugar source. If you are wondering where to get some DME, your local brewing shop will have some - it's usually the main ingredient found in beer enhancers!

    As a rough guide, an extra pound or 1/2 kg of DME will add an extra half percent to your beer. Doubling that will give you an extra whole percent.


    There are some alternative sources of sugar that you might be interested in using too.

    Maple syrup, honey and brown sugar can all be used as well but remember, like jelly beans, they will influence the taste of your beer.

    So that was adding sugar to beer but what about using less?

    Perhaps you are looking to drop some weight and might want to have a lower calorie beer to help with that. 

    Is adding less sugar to your beer the solution?


    The best solution is to cut back on your drinking and get out in the sun and do some fun shit with friends and family.

    But if you're looking to get a well conditioned beer that won't explode when you open it, cutting back on the sugar when it's time to bottle your beer is a fine idea.

    There are two main schools of thought when bottling beer. One is that you can 'batch prime' the entire batch of beer in one hit or you can add sugar individually to each bottle.

    I've been a fan of the latter as doing it feels like I'm really being involved in the process of making beer.

    However after many gushers over the past year or so, I've come to the conclusion that for myself, batch priming beer is the way to go.

    It also means that I'm adding less sugar to my beer as I am using a single measured amount of sugar to carbonate my beer rather than by adding random teaspoons measures of sugar.

    How do 'oxygen absorption' bottle caps work?

    bottle caps that absorb oxygen

    Dedicated brewers will know that beer exposure to oxygen should only occur before fermentation and not after

    It's the same with food - oxygen will damage food so that's why many foods are packaged in plastic with 'oxygen scavaging' features - look at potato chips, the bags they come in are filled with nitrogen!

    So if you are trying to minimize the amount of oxygen in your bottled beer, mead or wine, you may want to consider using oxygen absorbing caps.

    The bottling process can add unwanted oxygen into the beer.

    To remediate this you can do things like being careful with your pouring into the bottle and using a bottling wand.

    If you want to do more than that, the bottle caps can help remove the oxygen that sits above the surface of the beer and between the bottle cap.

    If you are looking to cellar or age your beer, these caps could help you achieve your goal.

    Do oxygen bottle caps really work?

    Now, let's take a skeptical view of this concept first. Do you really need to remove oxygen from the beer bottle?

    If you have bottle conditioned a 1000 beers and never had a problem, do you even need to use these crowns?

    They can if you are intending to age beers or extend the hoppiness of your beer.

    The loss of hops aroma can be one of the first signs of oxidation.

    In addition, the compounds extracted from hops will can with oxygen, which forms inert compounds that have less aroma and thus a reduction in hop flavor.

    Bottle caps which 'scavenge' oxygen from the beer will help prevent or delay this reaction from occurring.

    If the food production and beer brewing industries spending millions of dollars doing it, then it surely works.

    If you intend to drink your beers quickly, you may not need them.

    How do oxygen absorption caps work?

    Oxygen-absorbing caps have an internal liner that once activated by water, will absorb oxygen in the headspace of the bottle.

    Oxygen absorbing technology is based on oxidation or a combination of one of the following components: iron powder, ascorbic acid, photosensitive polymers, and helpful enzymes (amylase enzyme is really good for brewing actually).

    Glucose oxidase is an enzyme that is popular in the elimination of O2 from bottled beer or wine.

    The question you need to ask yourself is to what degree do they work and how much of an effect will thye have on your beer. Some brewers think they are only good enough to give worrisome brewers piece of mind!  Given they are only a few cents more per cap, this can make it worth it. 

    How do you use oxygen absorbing caps?

    These caps activate once you get them wet. So once they are capped on, you can invert the beer to wet the inside of the cap and they will stand ready to begin absorbing oxygen. This process starts a day or two after they first get wet. For clarity, store your brew normally after the inversion.

    Many suppliers recommend to not wet or sanitize caps in advance of your bottling session or they will not work correctly. They’ll still close the bottle off from the air like any other cap, but the oxygen-absorbing function will be used up. 

    This does mean you can sanitize them just prior to use. 

    But that might lead you to ask:

    Do I need to sanitize oxygen absorbing caps?

    This author personally no longer sanitizes beer caps. They come out of their bag clean and frankly after 1000s of beers bottled without them, I've never had a problem. 

    That said, if it is your standard practice to sanitize caps, then a quick dunk in some Star San is just fine, as long as you do it just prior to bottling and not well in advance. This is because the wetness activates the liner of the cap.

    But frankly we've given up sanitizing beer caps and we've never had any issues - they are kept well clean in bags prior to use.

    The choice as the brewer, is always yours!

    Check out the range and price on Amazon

    ⇒ 'PBW cleaner' (and why you should use it)

    PBW for cleaning homebrew equipment
    PBW cleans beer equipment very well

    PBW stands for Powdered Brewery Wash

    PBW cleaning product by Five Star is widely used in commercial breweries but countless homebrewers across the country have cottoned on to how they can use it for cleaning their own brewing equipment.

    It was originally used by the Coors brewery!

    PBW is a trusted brand among most North American homebrewing communities.

    If you are looking for some guidance on how to clean your brewing equipment, they will probably recommend you use this powdered wash.

    It really is an amazing cleaner for beer brewing equipment.

    Don't believe me and you think I'll say anything to make a sale?

    Go to any beer brewing forum and you will find season beer makers raving about this product. Go on, Google it now and you'll quickly find we are not exaggerating about how good this cleaning product is.

    The benefits of using PBW are many:

    • If you've ever used a 5 gallon stainless steel boil pot after homebrewing sessions you'll know how crusty the remnants on the bottom of the pot can be. A quick round with PBW will sort them out easily. All you have to do when cleaning with hot water, add just a little bit of PBW, mix it up, and let it sit in the pot. All of that burned-on garbage comes right off. Ideally, a good burner will not cause this problem!
    • Stainless steel never looked so clean after an overnight soak!
    • PBW is environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and will not harm septic systems
    • You can also clean your dishwasher with it! In fact, you can clean any stainless steel utensils and equipment with it - that's why it's so versatile as a cleaner for home brewers
    • If you need to remove an odour that is coming from some organic substance PBW will remove the substance and the accompanying odour. So it's great for cleaning up old brewing equipment that might need a bit of love before it's used again
    • Doesn't burn skin as other chemical agents can (like say Sodium Hydroxide) or create a strong pungent smell like other heavy duty cleaners
    • It's pretty handy to remove labels from beer bottles after a good soak.

    But wait, that's not all!

    PBW has plenty of uses that might not seem so obvious for home brewing

    Say you've been a little bit lazy and you haven't cleaned your beer bottles and the sediment has dried out at the bottom of the bottle.

    Have you ever tried getting that crap out?

    It's a real bitch to do, trust me. 

    Why waste time with a bottle brush that just can't reach everywhere when you can soak all your bottles in Powdered Brewery Wash.

    It's also handy for removing pesky labels from beer bottles that you want to use for homebrew. Give them a good soak and those labels will come off in no time. 

    You can also clean your carboy or fermentor too! And we all know how easy is to think, heck, I've bottled my beer, I'll clean the fermenter next weekend...

    That weekend becomes a month and suddenly all the brewing scum is as impenetrable as Fort Knox.

    A soak with PBW will sort that for you.

    Odds are, if you let that fermenter soak overnight in the solution, you won't need to do any scrubbing, simply rinse it off with the hose and you'll be sweet. 

    It's really easy to use PBW! 

    The cleaner instructions are simple. It's just three easy steps:
    1. It's best used to soak your brewing gear overnight to easily remove stubborn, caked on organic deposits without scrubbing.
    2. Use 1 - 2 ounces per gallon for cleaning boil kettles, or an ounce per gallon for fermenters, kegs, carboys and other brewing equipment. 
    3. A quick rinse in the morning and you are ready to get brewing again!

    So what do other users say about this cleaning agent?

    The average review for PBW by Amazon reviewers is 5 out of 5. That's 100 percent of reviewers believing this cleaning agent does the business, and that's what you want. You don't want to muck around, you just want clean and sanitized beer equipment!

    Powdered Brewery Wash is not a sanitizer!

    Let's get this super clear.

    PBW is for washing and cleaning your brewing equipment.

    It will not necessarily kill the bugs that might linger, for which you need a good santizer.

    Before brewing, and after ensuring you have clean gear, you must sterilize the fermenter and any gear you are using including any spoons, funnels or other utensils. 

    Many home brewers often use Star San. Like PBW, Star San is highly rated in the home brewing beer community as a sanitization agent. A great thing about is that it is a no rinse agent. You spray or briefly soak your gear with it and you are good to go. Star San is very well priced on Amazon.

    What are the active ingredients found in PBW?

    The main ingredient is about 30% Sodium Metasilicate. Its chemical formula is Na2SiO3 and it's what kicks grease and beer smegma to the curb. If you want to be brave and buy the main ingredient in bulk, there's plenty of value on offer on Amazon.

    Another key component is sodium percarbonate. Don't get confused with sodium bicarbonate which is used for things like baking and cleaning! The percarbonate is a really excellent cleaner of beer gear, and we use it often. 

    Want to know a secret about percarbonate?

    It's laundry soaker.

    That's right, the powder you use to get your whites whiter and brights brighter is sodium percarbonate!

    So if you want a cheaper substitute for PBW, you could use the second active ingredient in it and simply go into your laundry and grab the soak.

    Napisan, Oxiclean and many of those common and generic household brands have percarbonate in them.

    To be fair though, the percarbonate is probably best for sanitizing whereas the metasilicate is the stronger cleaner.

    Combining them meanings you get the effect of PBW - so if you are looking to make a DIY PBW substitute cleaner then use this combo of TSP/90 (AKA Red Devil) and Oxyclean in a ratio of 30% TSP/90 and 70% Oxiclean.

    PBW is great for soaking kettles and pots

    Did you forget to clean out the trub from your brewing kettle?

    Maybe you got a bit carried away on the sampling of your wares... if the trub is now rock hard and caked on, a bit of PBW in water will work magic on the kettle.

    Let it have a good soak, and you should then be able to remove the gunk very easily. A hose can work wonders here.

    If you've been a bit negligent with your kettle cleaning duty, PBW will deal with any beerstone that's occurring inside the drum. If you don't know what beerstone is, it's the build-up of calcium oxalate and water salt.

    This build-up can affect the performance of your kettle over time, so if it's any every so often soak with PBW, you'll be maintaining your kettle.

    A note on beerstone, other acid based products arguably can do a better job.

    Other uses for Five Star PBW

    You can use it to clean your dishwasher or washing machine. Give it a round with nothing in it and a hot wash. You'll clear out the grime and get rid of some funky smells.

    Given it cuts through grease extremely well, you can use a solution on a rag to clean all the surfaces in your kitchen > stove tops, fridges etc.

    Barkeeper's Friend is probably better placed as a cleaner though. 

    So, I'm convinced, where can I buy this wonder cleaner?

    It's very reasonably priced on Amazon!

    ↦ Using calibration buffer solutions to calibrate a pH meter

    using ph buffer solutions

    How to calibrate a pH meter using a buffer solution

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

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

    While a pH reading can be complicated because a serious brewer needs to properly calibrate their pH meter - the actual 'maths' involved is straightforward - especially when a proper reading is taken which then means the brewer can make an informed judgment call about how their beer is going.

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

    What is a calibration buffer solution?

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

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

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

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

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

    pH meters tend 'drift away' from their calibrated settings, it's just their nature due to the way science works!

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

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

    What are standard buffer solutions?

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

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

    Standard buffer solutions can be used to calibrate almost any common pH meter so you don't need to fall into the trap of say, for example, using a Hanna brand buffer for a Hanna meter.

    The Milwaukee MW102 is pretty popular too! And let's not get started on how big a seller the Apera is!

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

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

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

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

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

    Why you need to use fresh calibration solution for pH testing

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

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

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

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

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

    using buffer solution to calibrate ph meter

    How do I use a calibration solution?

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

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

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

    Repeat this practice for multiple calibration points.

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

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

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

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

    Never reuse calibration solution

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

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

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

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

    Making homemade calibration solutions

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

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

    How to properly use oak wood chips for home brewing

    Using oak wood chips to age and flavor beer

    Aging beer in oak barrels is long-standing practice for making beer.

    This is because the characteristics of the wood impart to the beer which can add to the flavor drinkability of the beer. Which a reason why wine tastes so good too!c

    There's a reason why brewers seek out new ways to make beer taste better and that's because, for them, the old days of getting smashed on Budweiser are over.

    They constantly want to experiment, try new ideas and just make better beers.

    Using wood while conditioning or aging beer can impart a range of aromas to the beer, including floral, vanilla, caramel, or coconut tones.

    While it depends on the type of wood as to what happens, oak is generally the preferred kind of wood as it produces the desired vanilla notes

    All that might sound like some kind of fancy wine snob speaking at a tasting session, but that vanilla thing is true!

    I don't have any spare oak barrels lying around to use, so how can a small-time home brewer use wood to improve their brewing results?

    That's the short of it.

    You can use oak wood chips by simply adding them to the wort. 

    However, it's not that simple.

    There are some choices to make as to how you oak your beer and for how long and for what kind of beer. 

    Let's explore the ins and outs of oaking homebrew. 

    First of all, we should consider this question:

    What kind of beer suits wood chips?

    You can oak any beer you like but through the experiences of many other pioneering brewers, it has been generally settled that English and some Scotch ales such as Old Ales, stouts, porters, browns, IPAs, and some bitters benefit from going through this process.

    That's not a finite grouping of beers though.

    Brewers have been known to successfully use oak in styles such as the darker Belgian ales, Farmhouse Ale, or even Saison.

    And let's be frank, some of the current generations of craft brewers are trying all kinds of combos and methods to make their mark on the world, so backyard brewers should explore and experiment as much as they dare!

    There's also the theory the higher the ABV, the better result oaking will produce

    This working theory is usually in reference to beers that are being aged in wooden oak barrels. It is considered that the alcohol serves to ensure a healthy environment in which the beer ages, free of those pesky bugs that can infect and ruin a beer.

    If you are going to invest time and money in a barrel, you don't want to wait six months or a year to find your beer has gone off!   

    High alcohol beers are also often sweet so an oaky vanilla tone can help counter or balance that. 

    What is the best kind of wood chip to use with the wort?

    Not all oak chips are created equal.

    Oak usually comes in three varieties, American, Hungarian, and French.

    The American oak gives the strongest oak flavor, while French oak gives subtler notes with other sweeter flavors like vanilla.

    Hungarian oak is considered in the middle between these two extremes.

    There use depends on what types of beers you are making and what you’re going for with them.

    One more thing about the kind of wood - charring. When oaks barrels are used for making bourbon the inside is charred as strangely this helps with aging. 

    Different amounts of charring will have different effects on your beer. The more charred or burnt your wood is, the more strong the flavors and smells that are imparted into the beer. 

    Should I use wood chips or cubes or spirals?

    Instead of using an actual oak barrel or the staves of one, these three options are handy methods for a homebrewer to add wood flavor and aroma to ‘barrel age’ their beer. We prefer chips over cubes as you get more surface area exposure.

    Your local homebrew store may have all three readily available on hand but Amazon will see you right too.

    Using oak chips 

    Wood chips are essentially shards of wood that you add to your fermenter or secondary in order to achieve the level of barrel flavor you desire. Chips offer a greater surface area that's exposed to the beer than cubes.

    Wood chips are probably going to float and that means a lot of oak will be making contact with the air in the fermenter and not imparting oaky goodness into the beer.

    So a handy tip is to place the chips into a clean and sterile hop bag and then weigh the bag down with something heavy and inert such as a glass marble or three.

    Make sure the marbles are sterilized!

    It's a really good idea to do this as picking stray oak chips out of your tubing or bottling wand will be a pain in the ass.

    Using wood cubes

    Wood cubes are exactly as they sound - they are cubes of wood (approximately ¼-½”in size).

    They will sink to the bottom of your fermenter, won't get stuck in your tubing and many brewers prefer to use cubes over chips because the amount of surface area to beer ratio is easier to determine on a cube than a chip.

    Not that it's really a big deal.

    Using spirals

    Spirals are also a great way to get a high surface to beer wort ratio happening.  If you are looking for a hassle-free clean up, then like cubes, oak spirals could be what you want to use for your beer.

    They are more expensive than chips however due to the time required to manufacture them than compared to putting some oak logs through a chipper!

    Do I need to sterilize my wood chips ?

    All brewers fear introducing anything into their brew but there are a few things you will most definitely need to consider doing to ensure the health of your brew.

    Here’s a summary of different approaches for adding bits of wood to the beer:
    • The 'do nothing' approach, just pitch your chips in and see what happens.
    • Boil the chips in water to make a tea, then add the tea to the wort (just like you would a hops tea).  You could use your propane gas burner if it's handy.
    • Soak the chips in a spirit like rum or vodka for at least a day, and add it all to the beer. The strong alcohol content in the booze will kill off any microbes present in the wood. 
    • Use a pressure cooker to cook them.
    • Sanitize wood with chemicals such as campden tablet solution (we don't recommend this method as you'd likely be transferring the solution you made (potassium metabisulfite) into your wort as the wood absorbs it. That said, campden tablets are great for removing chlorine from your beer. 

    How much oak chips should I add to my wort?

    The amount of chips to use is not an exact science. I've seen recommendations that range from 10-60 grams per 5 gallons.

    Remember this is largely to taste - especially if you are using the tea making method.

    We would, however, recommend you start light and add more as you get more experienced and learn the effect of whatever form of oak you are using.

    How long should I soak oak chips in bourbon before using?

    You could be forgiven for wondering why the spirit of bourbon is suddenly being mentioned.

    Brewers have discovered that if you are going to age beer in oak barrels, then those that have been previously used to age bourbon do a wonderful job.

    The idea then is that if you soak your oak wood chips in bourbon, you're going to somewhat re-create or imitate the effect of a good old fashion barrel soak.

    We'd recommend that you soak your chips in bourbon for at the very least 24 hours but we have read online that some brewers wait as long as four weeks!

    As we noted above spirits in general also help kill any bugs that could be present in the wood chips so using a good bourbon will ensure you do not accidentally infect your beer. You good just drop them in some boiling water too.

    You can probably do the same trick with sherry or any similar spirit. Cognac?

    I've never done it but you could potentially skip the oak and just add bourbon to your brew directly!

    You'd have to experiment a bit so maybe split your wort into a few small units, or add a small amount in the first instance and build to taste.

    Making an oak tea

    There are a few ways to add the oak flavor to your beer and making an oak tea is an easy way.

    Simply boil the oak chips and make sure they are covered in an inch of water.

    Once the tea is made, add a bit of the water to your beer in the fermenter and then taste it. Continue to add the oak tea until you reach the flavor you’re looking for.

    Making a tea is much faster than aging with oak, and also lets you more closely control the flavor.

    The boiled tea will also be sterile and don't confuse it for some medicinal brew!

    Speaking of tea - did you know you can make hops tea for brewing?

    How long do I leave the wood chips in the fermenter?

    Chips impart flavor pretty quickly, and usually, 7-10 days in the fermenter is about as long many brewers go before the effect on the beer becomes overpowering.

    Taste tests along the way will help as it all comes down to a matter of taste! 

    If you've put your chips or cubes in a bag, they'll be easy to remove with a clean pair of tongs.

    Just like a good cook doesn't over-egg the pudding, the discerning home brewer should not over oak the beer. Too much oak doesn’t allow for complex flavors to emerge in your brew before an overwhelming wood flavor takes over the batch.

    So, timings wise, if you know you are going to bottle your beer within the week, then add the chips seven days before you intend to bottle. You'll be seeing 'red' if you add too much!

    How can I tell the difference between an oaked and unoaked beer?

    Generally comparing beer that has been oaked to one that hasn’t will show subtle variations.

    A beer that has been properly oaked beer will often have what can be described as having a smooth backbone and aftertaste.

    If the oak has been toasted/charred just right, you might get some of those vanilla notes we mentioned above.

    Can you re-use oak chips?

    The question is can one re-use the wood chips? Can I just dry them out and store them until the next time?

    We've read that beer makers often just leave them to sit on a paper towel to dry, then place into storage in something like a mason jar.

    Make sure they are thoroughly dry though as any moisture could help microbes or mold etc thrive.

    We imagine that the more you re-use chips, the qualities they possess will reduce. 

    I found this totally pro tip which I'll share as found:

    "I keep a 1.75 LT bottle of Jim Beam half full of bourbon and the rest with medium toast French oak chips so they are always soaking up that great flavor to add to bourbon stouts. The chips pick up a lot of the great bourbon flavor and stay sanitized due to the high alcohol."

    So for that brewer, they don't really care about how long they soak their chips in bourbon!

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