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7 reasons homebrewers are allowed to be a little smug


7 reasons why as a home beer brewer, you’re allowed to be smug.


Just a little bit smug though.

No one likes a smug ass, no matter how good their beer tastes.

1. You’ve put in the damn hard work, and dammit Jim, you're a beer brewer not a doctor! That’s right as a brewer, you’ve slogged and sweated over your beer. It's just reward.

2. You’re a back yard pioneer. Yes, you invented that stout based, Fuggles hopped, honey and raspberry recipe by hard graft of experiment. Yes, you found a way to convert your fridge into a keg dispenser.

3. You’re like a beer wizard, Harry. You make the magic happen! You got the yeast choice just right. You found a way to keep your wort fermenting at just the right temperature and you are the one you added that secret ingredient that gave your beer that 'hallowed be thy' beer drinking experience.

4. You can be smug because suddenly your partner who hardly ever drinks beer suddenly starts ‘tasting’ your beers more frequently.

5. You can be a little bit smug because you are part of the beer revolution. You are sticking it to the corporate beer brewer who for years has refused to change. They have awoken from their stupor because of brewers like you.

6. No longer will young men and woman learn and continue to drink mass produced beer that was marketed to them on the television by some big hot shot sports star. No, they will know that the key to a great beer drinking experience is by discovering delicious craft beer beverages – and your demand for quality beer has driven this sea change.

7. You made beer. Enough said.

Why does my beer smell like rotten eggs?

Why does my beer smell like rotten eggs?


Who likes the smell of rotten eggs in their beer?

No one


There was a time last year when I went to bottle my beer.

I'd just sterilized the bottles within an inch of their lives and I was ready to get the precious amber fluid into them.

And with that first pour from the fermenter into the green glass bottle, I got the most rank smell.

Rank.

Smell.

Of.

Rotten Eggs.

It was like I had cracked open a rotten egg and fanned it right up my nose!

It was disgusting like some kind of vile hydrogen sulfide bomb had been let off and the aroma was trying to burn my nostrils.


My brew was contaminated and I was gutted


There could have been a couple of reasons why the rotten eggy smell was happening. That rotten egg smell can usually be identified as the gas hydrogen sulfide.

It's probably the most obvious symptom that your beer has become contaminated.

It is the bi-product of the yeast strain or bacteria that have snuck into your brew (did we ever mention you've got to sanitize your equipment?).

The thing about lagers and rotten smells...


All is not necessarily lost, however.

You can fix this problem if the sulfide was produced by the yeast and not bad bacteria.

Lager yeast strains are quite prone to producing sulfide odours.

This is normal.

If you properly condition your bottled beer (the lagering process) by letting it stand for a few weeks, the smell should go away before it's time to drink.

This why we also recommend that new brewers try an ale or two first to avoid this problem and being disappointed with their foray into brewing. 

The news is not so good if you have a bacterial infection 


When is such news ever good?

In my case, I think it was clear that the beer was infected. The smell was pungent and a wee taste test suggested worse things were on offer.

But even though I was pretty sour, I was a stubborn bugger and bottled anyway on the off chance a bit of time conditioning would let everything sort itself out.

How wrong was I?!

The beer I tasted after two weeks was probably the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth and I once lost a beer drinking game involving a rinsed out kitchen cloth...

I reckon this bad beer would have made me sick if I had drunk a whole glass.

The rest of the brews were opened and tipped out. What was very interesting was there was a massive amount of CO2 / bubbles foam released when each cap was removed. They were giant gushers!  I imagine this was due to the unwanted bacteria continuing to work its own fermenting magic on the malt.

Either way, the lesson here as always is to do your absolute best to ensure that you have clean equipment and that you've done your best to sanitize it, and kept it clean during the beer brewing process.

If you find your beer in this condition before bottling, I'm afraid all you can do is dump the batch.

And then clean the heck of your fermenter and bottles!

This was a brewing lesson I will never forget. I'll be lax in some areas but will always make sure my equipment is clean and sanitized!

Skunked beer


While we're here talking about ruined beer, let's talk about skunked beer. This is when a chemical reaction happens in the bottled beer due to exposure to sunlight.

So named after the smell a skunk can release, lightstruck beer is caused by the UV radiation in light from the sun and retailer's lights. The so-alpha acids in the beer (which come from hops) are broken down and form a new compound in the beer by joining with any proteins floating around.

This compound stinks!

Brown glass is pretty handy at preventing this from occurring but not so much green bottles or clear glass. So, the trick to avoiding skunked beer is clearly to store your beer in the dark.

In summary:
  • If you are brewing a lager, the smell could be 'normal' and may disappear after the beer has been conditioned
  • It could well be your beer is contaminated by bacteria, in which case nothing will save it. Head to the pub for a self-pitying pint.
  • Lightstruck or skunked beer can happen when the bottled beer is left in sunlight too long.
  • Let your beer condition properly so that the yeast has time to work it's magic properly.

Best brewing thermostats for temperature control

inkbird temperature controller


Using thermostat controllers for temperature control when brewing beer


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

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

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

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

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


What then, is a controlled fermentation chamber?


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

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

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

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

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

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

Using the probe correctly


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

Obvious right?

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

Why would you do this? 

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

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

Cold crashing 


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

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


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

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

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

Using the thermostat to control a heating space


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

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

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

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

The fridge freezer trap


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

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

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

elictech stc-1000 controller

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

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

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

Inkbird Pre-Wired Dual Stage Digital Temperature Controller


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

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

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

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

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

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

Kegco 5 Gallon Ball Lock Keg is great for homebrewing

When a brewer gets tired of bottling their beer, sick of gushers and dreading cleaning bottles over and over again, they might decide that kegging their beer with a ball lock keg so they can have a beer when they want it and not have to worry about a beer gusher or an exploding bottle ever again...

There are plenty of ways to keg home brew but a popular choice is to use a 5-gallon ball lock keg.

They are an ideal size for standard brews made in a 5-gallon fermenter and are easily connected to a jockey box and stainless steel faucet for an efficient pour!

So what is the best ball lock keg to keg with?

best ball lock keg for brewing

Kegco's rubber handle home brew beer keg is a popular choice for American beer makers. It torpedoes the other's out of the water, leaving them in a foamy mess!

This corny keg is designed for use with ball lock keg couplers and features a 304-grade stainless steel construction.

That just means the Kegco is a durable beast!

This keg has a permanently molded rubber bottom skirt and top handle that makes it easy to carry and stack, making it ideal for smaller breweries and home brewers with limited available storage space. The stainless steel lid also fastens tightly to the body and features an integrated pressure release valve that allows you to easily depressurize the keg.

The ball lock fittings that are naturally designed for use with ball lock keg couplers. The ball lock fittings can be easily accessed to make cleaning and maintenance fast and simple.

The beauty of this pepsi keg is that it can also be used to store not only beer, but also wine, soda, kombucha, and cold brew coffee.

Here's what some actual users of this keg have had to say about how it works and whether it's worth the purchase:

"I have been bottling my beer for over 20 years. I received the two 5 gallon kegs today and I was happy both were shipped with positive pressure. So I immediately knew that all the seals were good without pressurizing. The kegs were new and had no dents. I then immediately cleaned and sanitized a keg and transferred a batch of Peach Ale from secondary. Within minutes I had an amazing beer. I’m not going back to bottling. The next keg is going to be filled with a stout so I’ll have some variety on tap. I’m so happy."

"This product arrived in great condition. Everything seals tight and the ball lock valves are very nice. The keg is obviously high quality and will be a great addition to my home brew equipment - I'm just sorry this will be hidden in my kegerator. :)"

"Shiny, shiny. In recent years, used soda kegs have become scarce enough the price for one that merely holds pressure has risen pretty high. Might as well buy a new one, and get it clean, with fresh seals and O-rings all round, to boot. Kegco offers a solid product, and I like the rubber all around the perimeter of the top."

If those reviews float your boat, check out the price on Amazon: