itle

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. 

7 simple tips for the beginner beer brewer

Home brew beer brewing tips and tricks

7 handy tips for new beer brewers 


If you're sick of drinking 'dry white wine' at dinner parties and want to take the plunge and brew your first batch of home brew beer, good on you!

If you take the time to do it right, you will be rewarded with a refreshingly good beverage.

Are you with me?

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

There's certainly a lot to learn, so if you are a first-time beer brewer, you might want to have a read of these tips and tricks.

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


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

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

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

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

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

It shouldn't cost more than ten bucks.

2. You'd do best to brew an ale than a lager


The truth is that the darker the beer, the more forgiving it will be in the home brewing process. It's very easy to make a brewing mistake with your first home brew so a beer style that's good to drink and is also easy to take care of is the brew you are after.

Basically, the heavier flavor of the beer will mask things such as 'off' bi-products of the fermentation process caused by things such as temperature mismanagement.

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

You can drink them sooner too!

We love brewing Nut Brown Ales for this reason!

3. In the cold cold, night

Fermentation is a process that requires just the right kind of temperatures and the right kind of times.

Different temperatures brew different kinds of beers.

A constant temperature is also very important as the yeast can react to a temperature variance in ways that are not good for tasty beer! So when doing your first brews, make sure it can be done in a warmish area and one that's going to keep that temperature.

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

You got that White Stripes reference right?

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


If the bubbles in the airlock have stopped completely, this is not necessarily a sign that the fermentation process has completed. It's quite likely that there's still some fermentation quietly happening in the drum.

So let that play out a bit longer. It could be that you let your beer rest longer than the written instructions that came with your beer kit.

Give the yeast time to do its thing. Maybe you could add some hops.

If you are feeling brave, you could even consider cold crashing the beer just before you bottle. Basically, you just leave the drum in a fridge for a week when fermentation is complete.

Then bottle away.


5. But don't bottle too early!


Simply put, don't bottle too early.

This basically point four repeated.

If you bottle before fermentation has completed too early, you could be in for some trouble.

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

That's what happens if you bottle your beer too early, the primary fermentation continues, the CO2 pressure builds and then kaboom! Don't be like Hank, let your beer mellow in the fermenter just a bit longer.

Chances are it will taste better too!

6. Using a hydrometer will help you develop your home brewer's 'Sixth Sense' about how your brew is going.


A hydrometer, correctly used will help you to determine if your batch has finished fermenting. If you get the same reading twice in a row, the fermentation process has finished - but leave it just a little bit longer before you bottle.

Trust us on this one.

You can also use the hydrometer to work out the alcohol content of your beer.

7. Good things come to those who wait


Once you've managed to get your precious liquid gold into your well-sterilized bottles we can only imagine how keen you are to sample your efforts. You're going to have to wait.

The instructions in your beer kit may suggest you need to wait two or three weeks.

Believe them. Or not.

Let your beer have time to make those bubbles.

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

So that's plenty of things to think about. Once you've done that, get brewing!

When you've become a pro brewer, you can then start to think about ph meters and propane burners and the best conical fermenters!!

Beer image courtesy James Palinsad by way of Creative Commons licence. We have no idea if James prefers Star Wars, Star Trek or has even read Mortal Engines.


The 3 best ways to add hops to your beer


When do I add the hops to my beer?


It is dead easy to add hops to your wort.

All you have to do is throw those precious green bullets of bliss into your drum once you have mixed all your ingredients together.

This is called dry hopping.

Many brewers add the hops a few days before bottling, once fermentation is complete.

Boom, you have done your beer a wonderful service by adding a magical green plant that will help give you beer a more discerning and bitter beer taste. In this context, you are using hops for flavour and not so much for bittering purposes.

But that's the easy way out to adding hops to your beer kit brew.

There are some other methods that you might wish to try which will add character and flavor to your beer.

The 'wait 5 days after fermentation method' 


Some beer brewers insist that you will get a better bang for your buck if you add the hops in 5 or so days after your beer has begun fermenting.

From what I can figure out, the rationale is that the 'aromatic oils' that can be lost in the popular boiling process of beer are retained in the beer.

The dry hopping method does not add any bitterness to the beer itself. So if you're after a really bitter beer, you'll need a kit that has been designed with that in mind or you could try making a hops tea that removes the bitterness from the hops and then add the tea to your wort.

This method of adding hops to your beer will give your beer a nice hoppy aroma which will surely add to your drinking experience.

Dry hopping works fairly well with IPA style beers.

The negative of simply adding dry hops into your wort is that it does increase the likelihood of there being sediment in your beer but with a good pouring technique and refrigeration before said poor, you'll be OK.

To try and counter that from occurring, you may wish to consider:

Placing hops in muslin bags to reduce sediment

The other method of adding hops to your fermenter is adding the hops secured inside in a muslin cloth bag.

We are not kidding.

If you wrap your hops up into a muslin cloth, the idea is that the sediment stays in the bag, but all the flavors get out and into your beer, meaning that you will have a clearer beer.

There are some arguments that this technique will actually hamper the effect of the hops as they kind of need 'room to breathe' and infuse the beer with their magical bitterness and IBU.

If you feel this is a fair point then I suggest you consider the:

The 'Hop Tea' technique to add bitterness to beer

That's right, before you make beer, you are going to make a cup of hop tea.

Put the hops in the muslin bag (or tie up a square of it) and then boil it for several minutes. The hop pellets will quickly disintegrate.

This is normal.

During the boil, have a good smell and enjoy the aromas. That's the deliciousness you want to impart into your beer.

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

At this time, you'll also have prepared you wort, so now put everything you've boiled - the whole muslin bag and the bittered tea that you've made. It will be a green mess, like the Hulk puked up or something.

The idea here is that the great hops aromas and oils have been removed from bullets and will mix easily with your brew. You're throwing in the muslin bag for good measure.

The bag itself will not have any effect on the beer or fermentation process, it can be disposed of on beer bottling day.

The key thing is to not over-think things. Sure you could use a hop chart and worry about boiling times but really, if you a starting out, just relax.

If you are using a starter kit, or have done a few brews, what you are wanting to do is make a good, first up time beer and not worry too much.

Using extra hops already shows you are ahead of the curve, just get them into the fermenter and sit back and wait for the hops magic to happen until you are ready to bottle your beer.

Now you've got a nice brew ready, sit back, grab a glass of healthy Kombucha and watch some Star Wars!

↠ Best faucet tap for pouring beer

If you're going to make a kegerator, jockey box or beer dispenser for your bar or keg system that's any good, you are going to need a quality beer faucet. They are integral to your dispensing system.

A good faucet will not leak and you'll feel like a king when pouring a cold beer from something you've installed yourself. 

When looking for the best kind of faucet for your set up, you may want to consider the following attributes.
  • Your tap ideally will have a 4-inch shank threading which means it's suitable for all standard tap handles.
  • It should be leak proof when tapping a keg
  • It should be durable
  • The faucet and shank are ideally made of chrome-plated brass or stainless steel.
  • The produce a smooth pouring action
That's your basic set up for a faucet.

As with most beer brewing equipment, there is an absolute range of faucets on the market from your basic steel versions that retail for cheaper than 15 dollars to the high end of the market where a quality chrome faucet will cost you a sharp 55 dollars. 

It's up to you as the master of your domain to install whatever kind of faucet you want, but just remember, cheap and cheerful is for dining, not a good beer drinking experience. Cheap equipment can corrode over time, many you'll need to replace it, effectively doubling your cost!

We would recommend you go at least mid-range when selecting a beer faucet for your kegerator. 

If you don't want to muck around deciding on what to buy, then it may interest you to know that the beer faucet that is most often bought via this site is the renowned Perlick 630SS tap.

perlick beer faucet


The Perlick is a bit of a premium champ went it comes to faucets - it's a genuine quality product. 

Featuring a forward seat design to prevent the lever from sticking and quick handle action, it's easy to take apart and clean as well. 

The Perlick also features a 'spout angle' that helps keep your homebrew from collecting inside. This feature reduces the chance of beer drips.

Many industrial players install these faucets on coffee dispensers due to their exceptional performance and low maintenance needs.

Here are some reviews from brewers who have installed these units after buying them on Amazon:

"Amazing faucet! Never gets stuck or clogged like others. I can keep the keg pressure significantly higher than my old faucet and still get a smooth pour. Highly recommended."

"So far I have 2 Perlick 630SS taps and they both work flawlessly. I have not tried any of the generic taps but went straight to these. If these keep working as they are then I will be enjoying these for years to come."

"Great taps, and a good price. They seal quite well, and don't leak at all"

If these genuine, real deal testimonials seal the deal, check out the price on Amazon.

If you are looking to drop down to a mid-range draught beer dispenser that's a bit easier on the wallet, then consider this basic G Francis model:

It's sturdy and made to do the business of tapping a keg. To install one simply pulls out and then down on the lever handle to properly couple the keg.

The 4.9-inch length and 4.2-inch width of this beer faucet make it easy to handle and function. It has a standard 4” shank threading makes this beer faucet quite suitable for all standard tap handles.

The black knob is a twist on and can so you can swap it out with your own personal knobs!

Check out the price on Amazon.

To add and remove faucets, a specially designed wrench may be of use. These handy tools will help you install your facuet relatively easy. The key thing to remember is to not over tighten the faucet!

⇒ How to use Sodium Percarbonate to clean and sanitize beer brewing equipment

sodium percarbonate cleaning beer bottles


Using Sodium Percarbonate to clean and sanitize your beer brewing equipment


The first mantra of beer brewing goes something like this:

Make sure your equipment is clean and sanitized!

There are many ways of going about this and today we are going to discuss our preferred method which is by using sodium percarbonate.

Usually provided in powdered form, it is very soluble in water which makes it very handy for quick preparation and an easy soak of your equipment and fermenter.

This is our preferred method as it works well, it's 'no rinse' and it's very easy to order in bulk online.

If you've ever tried to buy sodium percarbonate from a specialist beer brewery shop, you'll know that you can get a small bottle or container of it that will cost you a small fortune.

If you can buy it in bulk from an online supplier, you'll do well to nab some as using it will effectively bring down your cost per brew.

How to use sodium percarbonate?


Your mixing instructions are simple. To use sodium percarbonate you simply add it to water.

Be generous with it! A health scoop or spoonful is awesome.

I like to add hot or even boiling water to the fermenter drum so as to get the action of the chemical happening pretty quickly.

sodium percarbonate to clean brewing gearThe boiling water also helps kill off any nasties hiding about as well.

I close the drum so the vapor gets up the sides and then when things have cooled a little bit, I give it a pretty good shake.

Watch out for hot water leaving the hole in the drum lid!

Or fill the drum all the way to the top and leave to soak overnight.

Don't confuse 'cleaning with chemicals' as 'cleaning your beer gear'


Don't confuse 'cleaning' with sodium percarbonate as cleaning your bottles and equipment or the fermenter.

For me, that is a very different process.

Your equipment needs to have as much gunk and much removed as you possibly can before you use the cleaner.

Get stuck in with a soft brush and some really hot water and make sure your fermenter is really damn well cleaned and clear of any residue from your last brew. Pro tip - you can use PBW cleaner (or make your own brewing wash!).

Giving your utensils a run around in the dishwasher never hurts as the heat kills bugs.

That line of scum that forms at the top of the water line?

You don't want to see it before you use the sodium percarbonate.

In my view, it's job is the final part of the cleaning process.

Once you are ready, give your beer making gear a really long soak.

I've seen people say a quick dip of ten minutes is all you need but I say at least half an hour and frankly If I remember before brew day, I soak the fermenter in the percarbonate solution overnight.

My thinking is the longer you leave it, the more bugs that will be killed, in addition to the good oxidisation cleanse that will happen.

But an oxidisation clean is not sterilization right?


Fair question and a correct point.

So if percarbonate is just a cleanser, do I need to sterilize as well?

You may wish to consider using a sterilizing agent like Star San but in my experience, if you have cleaned your equipment and then soaked it very well, you shouldn't really need to use a sterilizer.

This is because the sanitizer should have killed most of the bugs, especially as there's an argument that the percarbonate does all you need to provide excellent brewing conditions.

I use this method exclusively.

The choice is yours.

If you can get cheap sterilizer and have the time, go for it.

You might already have sodium percarbonate in your laundry as a laundry soaker!


Here's a handy trick, this chemical is basically what you might know as Tide or Napisan or any product with a brand name that tries to use the word 'oxy' as in oxygen cleaning or oxidization agent. 

That's right, most of the fancy laundry soaking products have sodium percarbonate as a key ingredient!

Chances are you already have some in your home laundry so feel free to use that.
I have done so several times with no problems whatsoever!

Non scented house brands are awesome.

If you do use a scented brand, your fermenter might smell like some lovely lavender field so be wary of that and rinse with copious amounts of water if need be.

Or maybe you'll add a nice trait to your beer!


If in doubt about home cleaners, ask for the mandated information safety data sheet


If you are really worried about what's actually in your laundry soaker, you can ask your supplier for the information.

It's law in many countries that such documentation is available.

In New Zealand for instance, all such products must be registered by law and a safety data sheet be provided on demand which contains the ingredients used in the product.

You can then use that knowledge to decide if you wish to use it but we may be over thinking things a little bit here. We've never had any issues and totally recommend using laundry soakers as a cheap source of percarbonate.

So is it safe to use everyday laundry cleaner products with my beer?


If the thought of using what gets your 'whites whiter', Oxyclean or whatever Oxy style product you've found in your laundry freaks you out, take a step back and have a Kit-Kat.

These products are designed for washing clothes and yes, the percentage of sodium percarbonate is far less than buying percarbonate by itself in bulk but it works. It really works.

So why do it? 

Because it's cheap and it works.

It really does.

If you are concerned that an 'off the supermarket shelf product' will leave strange smells or residues, you can do two things:

1. You can choose to not use it and get a 100% percent sodium percarbonate product (New Zealand brewers should check out Trade Me), or you could just rinse after the soak.

or

2. Flush your equipment and fermenter out with a lot of cold water. A trick I then do is boil the kettle and finish off the rinse with boiling water.

I'm not sure if it's a mental thing but I consider this to be the final thing that kills any lingering bugs.

I have used home brand sodium percarbonate laundry soaker products myself many times and have never had a problem.

Not once.


You could also consider using this next magical chemical: Star San


star san sanitizer use tipsIf you've ever read any internet forum about beer making and noticed that any time a keen beer brewer talks about cleaning or sterilizing, along comes a dude claiming that Star San is the best product he's ever used!?

But what is it really and is it effective?

Star San is a bactericide and fungicide. It can be used without rinsing under the proper concentrations. Star Sans' main ingredients are a blend of phosphoric acid and dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid.

That's a long way from Kansas, Dorothy!

Many beer brewers swear by this product for their kill bug killing needs, so if all the other chat about percarbonate has put you off, you might want to consider this product.

If you can't find any Star San at your local beer shop or supermarket, it may be purchased online at Amazon.

The Caustic Soda option


As an aside, if you've got say a really stubborn fermentation scum ring that just won't seem to wash off, you could consider using caustic soda.

Beer in mind that it is an extremely strong cleaning agent and it needs to be used with necessary precautions such as gloves and eye protection.

Do not get caustic soda in your eye, that agent will literally give you a chemical burn.

Believe me, when I was a young lad I worked at a chicken fast food style restaurant and while preparing a solution of caustic soda to clean the floor, a single drop got in my eye.

It burnnned so bad.

A hospital visit and an eye patch for a week followed.

So clearly, you will need to do an excellent rinse after. Just be bloody careful.

Most beers shops or hardware stores stock the soda - it's commonly known as sodium hydroxide.


What about the sachets that came with my home brew kit. Should I just buy more of those?


Your standard home brewing kits will come with a sachet of cleaner, and it's probably advertised as no rinsing required, the so-called 'no rinse'. It is quite simply likely to be a sachet of sodium percarbonate.

Don't get sucked into buying a sachet at $1.50 a pop.

If you are going to continue to brew in the long term, like many of your ingredients, you'll want to consider buying in bulk.

What is the difference between sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate?


A fair question.

Have you ever heard of soda ash?

This is sodium carbonate.

It is a salt made from sodium and carbonic acid. It is quite commonly used in the manufacture of glass, paper, rayon, soaps, and detergents.

Sodium percarbonate is an adduct formed from sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide.

One more thing, percarbonate sometimes is called sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate. As if it could get any more complicated...


Bonus tip!

You can clean your deck with oxygen bleach!

Use approx 4 liters of water and 1 cup of sodium percarbonate to clean your outdoor wooden deck. That would suit a deck size of about 10 square meters.

Bonus tip  2!

Don't confuse sodium bicarbonate for percarbonate - you're not making a cake!

So there you have it, a brief summary of how to use sodium percarbonate and the ways to buy it online and also to find it in your home laundry.

If you're in the States, consider buying some sodium percarbonate from Amazon.

⇒ How to use carbonation drops for brewing beer and cider

using carbonation drops for beer

Using carbonation drops for secondary fermentation in beer


The most common way to do this is by bottling the beer and adding sugar.

Many brewers use carbonation drops to do this.

Once the beers have been sealed with a drop safely inside, the process of secondary fermentation begins as the yeast eats the sugar in the carbonation drops.

Too easy!

You may have heard of Coopers Carbonation Drops? They are pretty well known and are they are a reliable brand. Mangrove Jacks drops are also pretty popular.

What are the ingredients of carbonation drops?


Sugar.

That's it, sucrose is the only ingredient. So there is no difference between a carbonation drop and sugar.

The reason for using them is simply for ease of use.

You can try other alternative methods of adding sugar to the beer - such as 'priming' the whole batch of beer or by adding sugar to each bottle using a funnel or spoon.

That can be a bit messy though!

So, you should use carbonation drops if you want an easy process and wish to save some time and keep things nice and clean.

Using drops also allows you to ensure that each bottle is given the same sugar dosage - this will allow for a consistent brew and also will help prevent 'gushers' from occurring (more on avoiding beer gushers later on).

Because the drops are just simple sugar, they leave no 'off tastes' in your beer. 

So how do you use carbonation drops? 


It's actually probably the easiest part of making beer!

Once you have added the beer to your sanitized bottles, all you need to do is literally drop a carbonation drop into the bottle. Instantly, you are done. Easiest instructions you will follow all week!

You then cap the bottle so that carbonation can occur and the Co2 is trapped in the bottle.

You might now be thinking:


How many carbonation drops do I add to each bottle? 


It depends on how big the bottles are. 

It's not an exact piece of maths but here are the standard practices:
  • 1 drop for a beer bottle that is around 350 to 375 mls or 12 OZ. Even 500 mls will cover you
  • 2 drops for a 750 mls bottle (your standard crate size bottle) or 25 OZ but you are probably pushing the limits.
  • If you're doing anything bigger like a litre, you may wish to consider 2 and a half drops or possibly 3 but you're risking over sugaring your beer.
  • Another rough rule of thumb is one drop for one pint which is possibly on the light side if an Imperial pint equals 540 mls but prob OK for an American pint of 473 mls.
Once you have added the drops, give them a chance to dissolve. When they've had long enough after capping, give the bottle a firm shake to ensure each drop has dissolved completely.

Actually, you really shouldn't have any problems with drops dissolving so you can feel free to skip this step. If you have added sugar using a spoon or funnel, you should definitely shake the bottle so any sugar stuck inside the bottleneck gets into the beer.

Do I need to sterilize carbonation drops?


No, you do not need to take such a step.

If you take the drops straight from a freshly opened packet and use clean hands, you should be absolutely fine.

No one ever sterilizes their sugar when brewing so we don't see any reason to do this. 

Not sure how you would either, maybe dissolve them in boiling water? ... and if so you may as well just use ordinary sugar.

Do different beer styles affect my use of drops?


Ales generally need less sugar than lagers however we really don't think you should worry too much about it when you are at a beginner stage of home brewing. When you are more experienced and understand what sugar content suits your beer, you'll probably want to think about batch priming more.

How long do carbonation drops take to work / carbonate?


The same amount of time as simply adding sugar does!

Basically, carbonation will take place fairly quickly, a matter of days. A good length of time is then needed to let your beer condition properly and we recommend a minimum of 2 weeks for that.

At three weeks your beer should be beginning to become quite drinkable.

Can I use carbonation tablets instead of drops? 

carbonation tablets
You can also use 'carbonation tablets' or (conditioning tablets) for bottling which is a different way to carbonation glory.

The tablets usually contain tablets contain dextrose, dry malt extract and heading powder which is clearly different from using sugar for fermentation.

Carbonation tablets work in the same way as sugar in that the more you use, the more carbonation occurs. In that sense, they are an equivalent alternative product but given the ingredients, they will add more flavour and body to your beer.

This is important to keep in mind as some beers are better with more bubbles (lager) and others are more enjoyable to drink when they have less (heavy ales, bocks etc). The usage is 3, 4 or 5 tablets per 12 ounce bottle (350 mls) for low, medium or high carbonation.

Popular brands are Muntons' 'Carbtabs' and Brewer's Best Conditioning Tablets.

Remember that after carbonating your beer, it's essential that you store the bottles properly so that optimal conditioning can occur.

Is priming sugar the same as brewing sugar?

Yes, they are! Priming sugar and corn sugar are both simply dextrose.

Tips and tricks for when using carbonation drops:

  • You can use drops to carbonate apple cider. The measurements are the same. Just as with beer, be wary of over carbonating the cider. 
  • Once you have added the drops and bottled the beer, it will take about 7 days to condition. This is the bare minimum before which you can drink your beer. The patient beer brewer should wait about 3 weeks before sampling their brew. Leaving your beer in a dark, cool place will help too.
  • Beware of over priming your beer. If you add too much sugar, too much CO2 will be produced by the yeast and it will have nowhere to escape. It will escape in the form of a 'gusher' when you open your beer and it will gush out the next of the bottle like a geyser and go bloody everywhere - and ruin that beer experience you were about to enjoy!
  • Different temperatures will affect the carbonation process as well (the yeast generally enjoys a warmer temperature) - so if you are questioning whether the drops didn't produce enough CO2, bear in mind there are other factors at play.
  • If you do choose to not use drops and just wish to add granulated sugar to the bottle, we recommend the use of an ordinary kitchen funnel as it speeds things up and helps reduce the mess of sugar going everywhere. Get your measurements correct! You can always try to batch prime - we find this method quite effective.
  • We once tried using jelly beans as a substitute for carbonation drops. The results were quite interesting! Basically, you can use any form of sugar lollies for carbonating beer - as long as it fits down the neck of the beer you'll be right! Flavours may vary though...
  • We've used Mangrove Jack's drops many times and had no problems so are very happy to recommend their use.
  • 60 carbonation drops, will be enough drops for one 23 litre brew.
  • You can use carbonation drops with your ginger beer as well!
  • If you are buying drops online, say Coopers Drops from Amazon, we suggest you order at least a couple of packets - that way the cost of delivery becomes more effective by price per unit.
  • Do not use a Soda Stream machine device to carbonate your beer. Such machines are not designed for this and you'll regret it pretty quickly!

How to get all the malt out of the kit can

When I was a young lad at High School, it was mandatory to take a woodwork class.

It was simple stuff like make a pencil case, make a toolbox, turn a candle on a lathe.

The teacher was a 'dude' who wasn't like other teachers. He didn't care about pulling socks up or shirts tucked in.

What he did care about was cutting wood properly.

His mantra was that 'if you cut on the line of your measurement mark, you are changing the size or shape of your intended cut'. That is to say you saw next to your mark, not on it. 

I never forgot this and I randomly remembered it the other day when I was using a kit (a nice nut brown ale) and was trying to ensure I got all the malt out of the can. This was because the kits are designed to make a certain amount of beer and if you leave malt in the tin, you are changing the 'shape' of the recipe.

So here's what I did to get all the malt out:

getting malt from the tin can

As you can see, I opened the tin with an opener but didn't completely cut it off. I then bent it up so I could rest it as pictured. I was quite happy with this little discovery!

I let it sit there for a few minutes and most of it goes into the fermentor. Then I add boiling water to the can and let that site for a short while. The water dissolves any residue and then I pour the rest into the fermenter.

If you'll note that glass on the window sill - that's the yeast soaking in water prior to pitching.

Lactic acid for pH level reduction

how to use lactic acid to reduce ph levels

If your beer's pH level is too high, you may want to use lactic acid as a way to reduce it.

This is especially helpful when making high malt beers or if your water source is fairly alkaline.

Also known as hydroxypropanoic acid, lactic acid is primarily found in sour milk products, such as koumiss, leban, yogurt, kefir, and some cottage cheeses.

When making beer, a sour taste is often not desirable, yet when seeking a sour beer flavor, using lactic acid is a great way to achieve the effect.

Adding lactic acid to the mash or sparge to reduce pH


Once you have mashed in and it has settled for a bit, it's time to take a pH reading with your trusty meter. If the result is too high, then it is time to add the acid.

The effect of the acid to reduce tannins in the beer.

How much lactic acid to add?


It's not a straightforward exercise. The grain bill can have an effect on your starting point. You can't simply add 1 ml per gallon and be done because you need to know at what level your pH is so you can bring it down to the desired rate (5.2. - 5.6 generally speaking) 

I've seen people use 1.5 ml to 2 per gallon and have good results.

There are some calculators out there which offer guidance, the Bru'n Water guide is a popular choice. 

If you guess and use too much, you will definitely make your beer taste sour. 

The key point around the amount to use is you need to have very accurate readings so use a quality pH meter.

What about lactic acid for sour beers?


This is a different use of lactic acid where you are using it to influence the taste of your beer rather than reducing the pH.

You can add lactic acid after primary fermentation to make your beer taste sour. 

If you are looking to make a more traditional 'sour beer' then the role of Lactobacillus bacteria in making sour beer comes into play.

Lactobacillus is part of a family of bacteria called "Lactic Acid Bacteria". The bacteria produce lactic acid as a byproduct of eating things from their environment. So, if you are a whizz in the brewery, you can use the bacteria to produce lactic acid to sour your beer.

Practitioners of this method sometimes actually 'pre-acidify' the wort with lactic acid to help ensure a suitable environment in which the bacteria and then go to town. 

Can I use phosphoric acid instead of lactic?


There are several chemical compounds that you can use to reduce pH levels in wort - gypsum (calcium sulfate) or calcium chloride are popular choices and so is phosphoric acid (which can also be used as a rust remover and is a common ingredient in sanitizers!),

There's a bit of chat on the forums about the difference between the two. 

Phosphoric is more arguably reactive and will drop the pH level quicker than lactic.

If you cut through it, they do the same job and neither of them appears to be discernable in the final product - this testing experiment seems to confirm that. 

Can I get methanol poisoning from home brew beer?

methanol poisoning from beer

Can I accidentally make methanol when home brewing?


From time to time I see potential brewers ask if they will accidentally make methanol when foraying into beer production.

This is because methanol is quite a dangerous alcohol.

It is toxic to the human body and can have some very nasty effects - ranging from blindness to the worst of which is death.

Everyone has heard the stories of some Russian sailors on a boat going blind from homemade booze right?

First up, the answer to the question is that the ordinary beer home brewing process makes the alcohol called ethanol - not methanol. So you can't get methanol poisoning, no matter how much extra sugar you add.

That's in general though - some methanol can be produced but at such minor levels that have no effect on the beer or effect on the body when consumed. Fruit beers which contain pectin could have slightly higher levels but the effect is still negligible.

So from that perspective, there's no risk of making a beer batch of methanol and going blind. It's more likely that you will just get blind drunk or meet Darth Vader!!

There are however some genuine risks if one is distilling alcohol - backyard operations can indeed produce batches where the methanol content can be lethal (or more sinisterly methanol is added deliberately and sold on the bootleg market). It's for this reason, most countries in the world have made the distillation of spirits illegal.

It is allowed in New Zealand but only for personal consumption.

The science of distillation is quite complicated and there appears to be an of myth around methanol production. They key point to understand that if you are homebrew brewing beer, there's no risk of making a killer brew.

Distillation on the other hand...

What is the treatment for methanol poisoning?


Methanol toxicity is the result of consuming from methanol.

The horrific symptoms may include a decreased level of consciousness, poor coordination, vomiting, abdominal pain, and a specific smell on the breath. The famous effect of decreased vision or blindness may start as early as twelve hours after exposure.

The blindness is caused by the methanol being broken down by the body into formic acid when then has a debilitating and damaging effect on the optic nerve.

Is there a cure for methanol poisoning?


There is a cure!

The sooner the antidote, fomepizole, is taken, the increased likelihood of a good outcome for the victim.

Other treatment options include dialysis and consumption of sodium bicarbonate, folate, and thiamine.

This is of course, not medical advice. If you have a consumption incident, seek medical services assistance immeadiately.


-

I saw a query from a gentleman who decided to drink a glass wine after having left the bottle opened for 2 months. The wine was disgusting, he burned his throat and he described that he felt like he had a headache. He wondered if the wine had turned into methanol so as to explain his condition.

It's more than likely that the wine's ethanol had not converted to methanol, instead, it was probably oxygenated and had become a vile vinegar!