Homebrewing Tips

Collection of tips I found helpful and would like to share with other homebrewers…

  • Take notes on everything! Nothing sucks more than brewing a really delicious batch of beer only to find out you lost the recipe. As you brew more batches you will find yourself tweaking recipes and wanting to reproduce the same quality of beer for the next batch. So take detailed notes. Click here for a list of brewing notes.
  • Form a strong relationship with other homebrewers and your homebrew supply shop. They know what they’re doing so they can quickly troubleshoot any problems you may run into.
  • Keep your leftover grains in ziploc bags. I like to take the stickers off the bags that contains the name of the grain, then I write down the date the bag was opened.

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  • Use painters tape as a label for your fermenters. I include the name and style of beer/mead, date brewed, SG, and OG. Leave some extra room so you can add the dates you rerack.

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  • Lucky for us we have a very deep kitchen sink. So I make sure to clean it very well and rinse the grit off. I then plug the sink with a stopper and then run the water. Add the StarSan and BAM you’ve got a bath of sanitizer, perfect to leave your airlocks, stoppers, funnel, and other brewing equipment in.
  • Close your windows to minimize dust and airborne contaminates from getting into your sanitized beer equipment and homebrews.
  • When using PBW to clean your carboy or keg, don’t forget to dissolve it first in warm water before dumping it into your carboy/keg. Otherwise it will leave powder behind.
  • When using wooden brewing utensils look for cracks and nicks on it. Bacteria can easily grow there and it will be difficult to thoroughly sanitize it. It will be easier to just purchase a new one.
  • Fill a spray bottle with Star San diluted with water. Keep it nearby while brewing so you can quickly sanitize anything that has been compromised. Also it is great in sanitizing tap lines.

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  • If there is leftover residue in your carboy and you don’t have a carboy brush you can place 1/2 a handful of rice or more in it with some water. Shake vigorously and the scum should come off.
  • If you find yourself not having time to clean your fermenter or carboy immediately, fill it with water immediately so that the residue doesn’t dry thus making cleaning easier.
  • Try to use a larger boiling kettle, at least 6-7.5 gallon pot so you can boil a 5 gallon batch of beer for the full 60-90 min boil and thus producing better beer. Plus the extra space may be needed in case of boil-overs.
  • If your mead recipe calls for tons of fruits use a plastic fermenter bucket than a glass carboy because it’s easier to get the fruit out from a wide mouth fermenter than from a narrow mouth in a glass carboy.
  • Purchase a steel spoon for stirring. It is strong enough to stir through thick, heavy mashes. Plastic spoons are delicate and can melt while wooden spoons can easily become nicked and scratched, thus creating a habitat for microorganisms.
  • Don’t use thermometers with mercury. It can break and is very poisonous.
  • Invest in a propane burner. Boils much faster and you have greater control over your boiling temperature.
  • Use an egg timer or set an alarm on your cell to indicate when your 60 min boil is over.
  • For porters, fruit, wheat, and stouts use blow off tubes than airlocks. These style of beers tend to have a lot of blow off and airlocks can get easily clogged. Try to use a blow off tube of at least 1″ diameter so you can easily clean it out.
  • Refrigerate your hops as soon as you buy them or better yet freeze or vacuum pack them. An ABU of 5% will go down to 4% after 6 months of storage
  • Get feedback from as many people as you can. Enter competitions to get opinions from certified beer judges. Host beer tastings to see what the general consensus is amongst friends and families.
  • Use fresh, high quality ingredients. For extracts check the use-by date.  Use yeast, hops, crushed grains, and dry and liquid malts soon after buying them because they will oxidize over time.
  • Buy or make your own immersion wort cooler. You want to cool your beer quickly so that the majority of proteins and tannins fall out and will reduce the risk for infection.

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  • Boil your wort for 60 minutes to sterilize it, vaporize undesirable compounds, release bittering oils from hops, and coagulate tannins and proteins from grains to fall out during cooling. If you are making a lighter style of beer boil for 90 minutes.
  • Make your own evaporated cooling method for your fermenters during the hot months of summer. This past summer we wet a couple of shirts and then put them over the fermenters. We placed the fermenters in a long rubbermaid container and filled that container with water. We then placed a fan in front of it.

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  • Check your OG (Original Gravity) before starting fermentation. OG is the same thing as SG (Starting Gravity). FG (Final Gravity) and TG (Terminal Gravity) are also the same thing.  To estimate alcohol content, subtract FG from OG and multiply by 0.129, which is the ABV (alcohol by volume). If you don’t multiply, you get the ABW (alcohol by weight).
  • When using a new hydrometer calibrate it by measuring distilled water (reading should be 1.000). Remember to spin the hydrometer before taking a reading to knock off clinging bubbles that cause your hydrometer to float too high.
  • Use vodka in your airlocks to kill microbes that try to contaminate your beer.

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  • After you just transferred your beer into the fermenter, place the fermenter in a black garbage bag and leave it open around your fermenter. Keep the spray bottle of Star San next to it. Also have a second sanitized blow off tube or airlock close by. Better to be prepared for blow-off before it happens.
  • Add fruit to your secondary rather than primary because during primary fermentation the CO2 leaving the airlock will allow the flavor and aroma to escape as well.

References:

5 Homebrewing Tips to Avoid the Dreaded Bottle Bomb

7 Tips for Using Your Homebrew Kit

10 Top Tips for Homebrewing Beer

30 Tips to Improve Homebrewing

BrewingKB

Expanding your Homebrewery: Tips from the Pros

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