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Top Ten Home Beer Brewing Tips
In this hub I've put together my ten top tips for successful home brewing. These tips are intended for begineers new or relatively new to the rewarding hobby of home brewing.
Tip Number 1 - Keep Your Equipment Clean
This might seem quite an obvious tip to be number one but dirty equipment is a major cause of failure in home brewing.
The best method for cleaning your equipment is to use slightly soapy water with a soft cloth and to rinse with boiling water.
Don't ever use any abrasive method of cleaning such as a stiff brush or a scouring pad as these will leave invisible scratches on your equipment which may harbor bacteria and cause your beer to go off.
More obstinate hardened on residue should be softened by soaking in hot water.
Tip Number 2 - Sterilize Your Equipment Correctly
Tip Number 2 is very closely related to Tip Number 1 but having clean and unscratched equipment is only the first part of the preparation of your equipment. You then have to sterilize your equipment to make sure that there are no nasty bacteria lurking to come out later and spoil your beer.
There are a few methods of sterilizing that can be used. My preferred method is to use sterilizing solution as I feel safer sloshing this around than boiling water. I also think the fact that I used sterilizing solution to clean my son's baby bottles made me more comfortable with this method. You can also use bleach but I read somewhere that bleach can be corrosive and toxic so I've never attempted to use this method.
Make sure you follow the manufacturer's guidance and dilute the sanitizer with the right amount of water. It is important that every part of every surface is covered by the sanitizer, hence the need to slosh the mixture around and don't forget to rinse everything with hot water and air dry. Using a cloth will just reintroduce the bacteria you've just spent so much time and effort getting rid of.
Don't forget to clean and sanitize every piece of equipment right down to your measuring jug and spoons.
Tip Number 3 - Temperature Control Matters
The temperature that you'll need to maintain depends upon what type of beer you are brewing. Normal ales have a fermentation temperature in the range 68 to 72 °F (20 to 22 °C) and lagers have a fermentation temperatures from 45 to 55 °F (7 to 13 °C).
If you're new to home brewing you might be wondering how brewers keep the temperature so high particulary in the cooler months. The problem is much more often trying to keep the temperature down this is because the fermentation process produces its own heat. An active fermentation can warm a typical 5-gallon (19-L) batch of beer by 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (5.5 to 8.3 degrees Celsius).
There are two simple and inexpensive methods of controlling temperature and I've given these in Tips 4 and 5.
Tip Number 4 - Keep the Temperature Down
The simplest and cheapest method to keep the temperature of your brew down is to place your fermenter in a container of water and cover it with wet cloths that sit in the water to keep them wet as the water evaporates. It is the evaporation process which cools the brew.
Tip Number 5 - Keep the Temperature Up
An effective and cheap way to keep the temperature up is to stop the heat escaping and you can do this by covering your fermenter with a thick blanket.
Tip Number 6 - Nuture The Yeast
Tip Number 6 is in the same area as Tips Number 3, 4 and 5 because it concerns temperature but rather than the temperature for fermentation this is the temperature needed to nuture the yeast.
Quite simply the temperature of the mix must be between 21C and 27C when you add the yeast. If it is too high the yeast will die and if it is too low the fermentation process may not start.
It is also important to add the yeast to the brew without delay so getting the right starting temperature matters. See Tip Number 7. The longer you delay the more chance there is that your beer will become contaminated with bacteria or wild yeast.
Tip Number 7 - Getting the Right Starting Temperature
Tip Number 7 is directly connected to Tip Number 6. A rule of thumb to get the right temperature to add your yeast you will need to use a ratio of 1 litre of boiling water to 10 litres of cold water.
Tip Number 8 - Water is a Key Ingredient
Beer is around 95% water so the water that you use matters. Some home brewers spend a great deal of time researching this area and it can be a very complex subject revolving around such things as ions, sulfate, chloride and sodium. I could devote a whole hub just to this subject but it is quite a specialist area so I doubt whether this hub will ever get written.
My simple tip as far as water is concerned is to use filtered tap water.
Tip Number 9 - The Airlock
The airlock is an important piece of kit as it is the way in which the excess carbon dioxide escapes during the first fermentation process. It has to be a one way process so that no foreign bodies can get back into your brew. This means that there are a few things you need to get right.
- The airlock needs to have a tight fit.
- The airlock and the rubber grommet into which it fits need to be sterilized.
- You have to half fill the airlock with boiled water to keep the air out.
- To stop flies and other insects from getting into the water loosely place some cottonwool in the top of the airlock. This keeps the flies out but allows the gas to escape.
Tip Number 10 - Give Your Brew Some Attention and Some TLC
A home brew is not something which you make and put in a corner somewhere and forget about. It is a living process which needs a certain degree of attention to detail and some TLC to ensure a successful conclusion.