Why It Is Important to Clean & Sanitize Your Homebrew Equipment

You’ve heard that proper cleaning and sanitation in brewing are paramount, but you may find yourself asking, “Do I really need to spend money on a brewing-specific clean or sanitizer when I already have all of these effective cleaners around my house?” Well, the short answer to that question is “yes”.

Why You Should Clean Your Equipment

Homebrew Ingredients

Spending several hundreds of dollars on all the homebrew equipment your heart desires but deciding to skimp on cleaners and sanitizers would be like buying an expensive sports car and filling it up with regular unleaded. While you may initially save a couple of bucks at the pump, the inevitable repercussions make the frugality seem completely idiotic.

While bleach and other household cleaners are great for your bathroom and kitchen surfaces, you’re not consuming things that come in direct contact with these surfaces. These are very harsh cleaners that are great for their intended use but a less than ideal choice when making beer.

In brewing, it’s very important to create a happy and healthy environment for the yeast. Any bacteria, germs and the like will have adverse affects on your beer and it’s critical that you remove them from anything that will come in contact with the wort/beer at any point in time. This includes but is not limited to brew pots/kettles, brewing spoons and/or mash paddles, fermenters, siphons and tubing, airlocks, wort chillers, etc.
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The Auto-Siphon: A Must-Have for Every Homebrewer

Transferring liquid from one vessel to another is an unavoidable procedure by today’s methods of homebrewing. At least once during the process you will need to safely move liquid — whether wort and/or beer — from one place to another. In the beermaking world, this is known as racking.

Homebrew Auto-Siphon

There are a few ways to rack beer, but in homebrewing perhaps the easiest, most efficient and most sanitary way is by use of an auto-siphon.

What is an Auto-Siphon?

An auto-siphon is a simple piece of equipment that many would say is worth its weight in gold (for the sake of that, we’ll pretend like the auto-siphon isn’t lightweight). It consists of a racking cane with tubing on one end, with the other end housed within a racking tube. The racking tube will typically have a filter of some kind to block out unwanted particles and the racking cane will have a rubber grommet that allows easy movement within the tube without letting air by — very basic, yet very effective.

The auto-siphon takes the concept of a normal siphon, which utilizes atmospheric pressure and gravity to its advantage, and adds automation by allowing you to start the whole process without having to create a vacuum by “old school” means, like sucking on one end to get things flowing. In fact, that method is a terrible way to go about it as the bacteria in your mouth will undoubtedly contaminate the wort/beer as it flows through. With an auto-siphon, getting things started is even easier and much more sanitary.
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Comparing Different Types of Water for Homebrewing

Water: Essential Not Only to Life, But Also to Great Beer

Water is perhaps the most overlooked ingredient when homebrewers start out and certainly should not be. After all, more than 95% of beer’s composition is, you guessed it, water. It must be viewed in the same way as any other core ingredients in beer — those being malt, hops, yeast, and of course, water.

Water for Homebrewing

In fact, water is the first ingredient that you should consider when making beer, whether you’re brewing with a prepared ingredient kit or designing your own recipe.

When a brewer chooses the malt for a particular recipe it seems like something one could spend days or even weeks contemplating. With that in mind, it’s important to understand that water merits just as much thought. It serves as the base for your brew, and will have a big impact on how the final product turns out, regardless of whether you did everything else right and used other choice ingredients.

So, what are the main types of water readily available to you for brewing? Chances are you can get your hands on distilled, purified drinking, tap and maybe even rainwater if you have a barrel for a home garden or other purposes. Let’s go through the different types and how they relate to brewing.
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The Homebrewer’s Guide to Secondary Fermentation

If you are new to brewing your own beer, it is important that you learn how the process of fermentation works and the steps you should take to make the perfect homebrew. For some beers, you may want to follow a secondary fermentation process. This conditioning process is a little more complicated, but if you understand the phases, you will be a pro-brewer in no time.

Here’s our tips for understanding the process of secondary fermentation, how it works and when you should do it.

Understanding the Phases of Fermentation

In order to make beer, you must allow it to ferment for a short period of time. The first few phases of fermentation occur fairly quickly. In the aerobic phases, or first phase, the yeast cells become accustomed to their environment and begin to multiply. This multiplication happens very quickly, but not a lot of alcohol is produced.

Oxygen is needed during this phase by the yeast for it to work. The first phase lasts a few hours and you will not be able to see what is going on unless you have a microscope. Once this process is complete, it moves into the anaerobic phase, where the yeast will metabolize the sugars into Ethanol and CO2. This reaction causes there to be foam, or krausen, at the top of the beer that is fermenting. This active phase of fermentation will usually last anywhere from a few days to a whole week.

Towards the end of this phase, the foam will subside and the yeast cells will die or go dormant, falling to the bottom of the container. However, not all of the cells will do this. A few of them will ferment slowly for several more weeks in the conditioning phase.
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6 Common CO2 Questions Answered

CO2 Regulator Single Gauge

CO2 is an essential factor to consider when dispensing draft beer and it’s typically the component that has the most questions associated with it. It’s unclear why people are easily intimidated with CO2, but it could be because chemical compounds and subscripts remind them of their high school chemistry class.

Without getting too technical, here are the answers to the most frequently asked CO2 questions:

1. How do I know what pressure my CO2 is set at?

Your regulator, which is the component that connects the tank to the air hose, will have either one or two gauges on it. If it only has one, then that’s the one you’re looking for. If it has two, look for the gauge that shows a range of about 0-60 PSI (pounds per square inch). This will be your regulated pressure gauge. The number the arrow is pointing to on this gauge is how much pressure is being delivered to your keg.
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The Mystery Behind Pouring the Perfect Guinness: Step-by-Step Guide

For some reason Guinness seems more prone to be shrouded in a veil of mystery than any other type of beer out there. It is popular dry Stout which was originally developed in Ireland back in the late 1700s. Three centuries later, it remains one of the most popular beers across the globe. Because it is unique in many ways, it must be treated differently when pouring, kegging and distributing it.

We’ve previously discussed how to pour the perfect draft beer. However, in that article we failed to mention that pouring Guinness takes a slightly different technique. To honor our devoted Guinness drinkers, we’d like to take this opportunity to teach you how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness.

Why Does Guinness Need to be Poured Differently?

The first question many people ask is why Guinness must be poured differently from other beers. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most important is the ratio of nitrogen to carbon dioxide. Guinness relies on a much higher nitrogen ratio than any other type of beer. For the perfect pint, the gas mixture is 75 percent nitrogen and 25 percent carbon dioxide released at a pressure of between 30 and 40 pounds per square inch. Additionally, because the beer is so thick it takes longer for the nitrogen bubbles to release which is essential to pouring it correctly.
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3 Things to Remember When Storing Draft Beer

Draft Beer

As we all probably know, draft beer is a brew that is dispensed from a cask or, in modern times, a kegerator. Because yeast and carbon dioxide influence its characteristics, knowing the right temperature and pressure plays a crucial role in the overall quality and flavor of your beer. Casks and kegs mediate these variables and cause the resulting draft beer to differ from beer consumed from a can or bottle.

Certainly, there are a number of qualifications that must be met for a beer to qualify as draft beer, and the success of each batch depends on the quality of the keg. Here’s three things to take into account when you buy and store your draught beer.

Temperature

Temperature, for example, is a crucial determinant of the taste of draft beer. The majority of the time, the beer inside your keg has not been pasteurized, so it’s important to keep it cold. From the moment you get it from the distributor until it’s empty, it’s important to maintain the proper temperature or you will sacrifice the quality of the beer.

When its temperature is to high, foam dominates the beverage because the higher temperature liberates carbon dioxide too quickly. This will cause your beer to foam more than it should, leading to a loss in flavor. Conversely, draft beer that is too cold retains carbonation, causing the beer to taste flat because the true flavor cannot escape.

The optimal temperature to store and serve your draft beer is right at 38°, especially for ales. You can go slightly lower without sacrificing the quality of the beer, but it’s not recommended to go above that temperature. Any reputable kegerator system should be able to maintain the proper temperatures in order to avoid these problems.

Pressure

Furthermore, a great draft beer depends on pressure, just as much as it does temperature. If the beer is kept at a pressure that is too high or too low, the over all taste and characteristics of the beer will be detrimentally altered. If the pressure is too low, the first few pours coming out of the keg will have excessive amounts of foam, and then gradually the rest of the pours will produce beer that tastes flat. On the flip side, too much pressure will cause the beer to come out of the keg at a faster pace than normal, and eventually produce beer that has too much foam.

Generally, the pressure regulator on your kegerator should stay at a consistent 10-12 PSI for American ales and lagers. Unfortunately, the proper amount of pressure may differ slightly between the various brands, styles and types of beer. Because of this, it would be wise for you to call the distributor from which you got your keg and ask what they would recommend.

Keg of Beer

Let It Settle Before Tapping

When you get your keg, try to be gentle with it. Try to limit how much you shake or roll it around. It’s always wise to let it sit idle for a few hours before tapping it. We all know what happens when you shake a can of beer and then immediately open it. The same principles apply to a keg, as it does a can.

Once you get in your keg set up in your kegerator, we would recommend letting it sit for at least an hour or two before drinking from it. This should be plenty of time to let it settle a bit. However, depending on how long it took you to get from the distributor to the kegerator, you may need to give it more time to chill a little long to reach the proper temperatures.

Takeaways

When it comes to draft beer, the flavor profile of beer is very much dependent on temperature and pressure. These two factors work together to retain the beer’s intended taste and aroma. Although there is an optimal temperature range that retains the qualities of draft beer, this may vary somewhat when you take the type of brew into account. It’s important to find the optimal temperature and pressure for your beer of choice prior to serving, and the distributor of that beer may prove to be an invaluable source of information.

What storage tips for draft beer would you add to this list? We’d like to hear your successes and failures in the comments below?

6 Tips Everyone Needs to Know Before They Brew Their Own Beer

Home brewing has taken the nation by storm. The beer brewing competitions are fiercer than ever because there are so many more competitors. If you are just getting started then there are a few things you need to know. By learning the basics and creating good habits from the beginning, you will find the entire process easier, more enjoyable, and hopefully tastier.

1. Never Overlook Sanitation

Sanitation and sterilization are two terms you should respect immediately. Sanitation issues begin before you have even started brewing and don’t end until your bottles are capped. The most important time for sterilization concerns is the period immediately after you cool your beer. This is when bacteria and other infections are most likely to take over because the yeast has not yet started to ferment.

2. Cool Your Wort Fast

It is essential that you always try to cool your wort as quickly as possible. A fast cooling process will increase the fallout of tannins and proteins that are bad your beer. It will also minimize the opportunity for bacteria to grow. As an added bonus, cooling your wort quickly can enhance the clarity of your beer to ensure it is as visually appealing as possible.

3. Start with Darker Beers

Regardless of what your favorite type of beer is, the best place to start is with the dark stuff. Darker beers, such as porters and stouts are typically better at covering up mistakes you may have made due to their forgiving makeup and flavor profile. It is easy to get disheartened if your first few batches flop so don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

4. Just Like Cooking, Your Ingredients Are Everything

There is no arguing that high quality, fresh ingredients are essential to crafting the best home brew possible. It is also important to understand your ingredients. For example, you store fresh hops in your freezer without losing much freshness, but storing crushed grains and malt will eventually end in oxidation which will destroy the flavor. Some items you can store and some you can’t.

5. Opt for Glass Fermenters

A lot of home brewing kits include plastic buckets for fermenting. While plastic fermenters are an inexpensive way to get started, they should also be a piece that you consider upgrading down the line. Glass or stainless steel fermenters offer a number of significant advantages over plastic. Contents don’t stick as easily, so they are easier to clean and sterilize. They also provide a better barrier against oxygen which plastic can’t match because they are porous.

6. Always Think Long-Term

Home brewing is an investment. Anytime you make an equipment purchase, think of how it will work over the long run. Saving a few bucks today can cost you a lot tomorrow. If you are looking to upgrade, then there is a good chance you are in it for the long haul anyways so upgrade intelligently.

Home brewing is part art, part science and a whole lot of fun. The key to brewing successfully is thinking strategically, appreciating your ingredients and making decisions with the long-term in mind. Once you have the basics down, it is all about testing and tweaking until you discover the perfect beer.

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The Perfect Pour: Tricks & Tips for Pouring the Best Tasting Beer

Pouring the perfect beer is a bit of an art, and it’s certainly not as simple as it looks. Think of those commercials where the bartender turns and angles the beer glass as he pours. That’s exactly what you need to do in order to achieve the perfect pour. If you’re currently just holding the glass under the tap as you pour, it is time to learn something new.

3 Tricks to Pouring the Perfect Beer

The Perfect Beer

Here’s a brief summary of our three favorite tricks to pouring the perfect beer.

  • Start with a clean glass:
    While this should be common sense, many people don’t seem to realize how a dirty glass can actually ruin your your beer. Oil residues, dust or blemishes not only look bad, but they may also impede the flavors within the beer.
  • Hold your glass at a 45° angle:
    When you turn the tap on, make sure you’re holding the glass at a 45° angle. Once you turn the tap on and the beer is flowing, make sure the stream of beer always hits the slope in the middle of your glass. Hold your glass at this position until is is approximately half-full.
  • Slowly tilt your glass to 90°:
    This is arguably the most important step. After the glass is approximately half-full, slowly tilt it up to a 90° angle as the beer fills the glass. This last motion will create the perfect amount of head. To create the perfect pour, it’s essential to have a little bit of a head in every beer. We recommend no more than an inch of foam head.

Once you have the basic pour mastered, try adding a few more moves. First, hold the glass about 4-6 inches away from the faucet or tap. Never put the faucet inside the glass as you pour. Second, when you tilt your beer from 45 to 90 degrees, add a quarter-turn twist. This gives your pour an extra bit of finesse. Lastly, to make the beer look more appealing, practice stopping your pour just as the foam reaches the rim of the glass.

Why Foam Head is Essential for a Perfect Pour

This is a common debate amongst beer lovers – how much foam head should your beer have?

The general rule of thumb that we like to follow, is to keep about an inch of foam at the top of each beer. This is for a variety of reasons. Not only does a little bit of foam look better, but it helps circulate plenty of aromatics that allows you to taste the full flavor of the beer, as it was intended to be tasted.

Additionally, a small layer of foam will help keep your beer fresh. The oxygen in the air can actually start to breakdown your beer, leaving it tasting somewhat stale. The foam head provides an extra layer of protection against that oxygen, leaving you with a fresher tasting beer. On top of that, the proper amount of foam head will release carbon dioxide. This will leave you without that bloated feeling when you’re done with your beer.

How Kegerators Help Achieve The Perfect Pour

EdgeStar Kegerator

Kegerators have multiple advantages over the plain beer keg. Not only do they keep your beer cool for several months, they also contain a mounted faucet to aid in pouring. If you are familiar with tapping kegs, and then trying to simultaneously hold both the glass and the tap steady, then you will surely appreciate the ease of a kegerator faucet. Getting a perfect pour from a traditional beer keg is possible, it’s just significantly more difficult.

A kegerator like the EdgeStar kit comes with everything necessary to create the perfect pours, excluding the keg of beer, of course. The faucet is at just the right height to allow you to twist, turn and tilt your glass, without the worry of spilling a drop. If you are pouring from a kegerator, we would advise to go the extra step and use real beer glasses, instead of cheap plastic cups.

Learning how to pour the perfect beer takes a bit of practice, but the payoff is well worth the effort. Mastering the art of tilting and maneuvering a beer glass until it fills just to the brim is one of those skills that separate true beer enthusiasts from amateurs. Give your beer pouring a few practice rounds, then invite your friends over and show off your style.

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