5 Common Mistakes in Home Brewing

We “ALL”  do it at some stage in our homebrew journey. I know it is hard to believe that you’ve made a mistake and have to pour your beer down the sink or worse yet have bottles exploding all over the place. This is all a process of learning and becoming a better brewer.

I have put together a quick list of commandments you don’t want to skip before brewing your Small Batch beer:

Sanitise, Sanitise, Sanitise

What does this mean, clean my hands, wipe down your work bench, wear plastic gloves, put on a hazmat suit?. Sanitising means killing any bacteria that may harbour where your beer will spend most of its time. At the beginning of your brew day santise your airlock, syphon, carboy and bung using Star San or Sodium Percarbonate. Both are non-rinse and non-toxic and don’t add any off flavours to your beer. When you are ready to keg or bottle sanitise your these too before transferring your fermented beer into your preferred storage vessel. Remember anything your beer comes in contact with should be sanitised first.

Small Batch Brew - Homebrew - Infection
Don’t add more than the recommended dose of sugar when priming

You may think putting extra sugar in at bottling day will make it sweeter, more alcohol…don’t do it! – it only takes a bit of extra sugar to explode your bottles. Follow the same process with a keg, do not over prime. The keg is more forgiving as our kegs include an automatic pressure relief valve to regulate once the PSI gets too high. Measure your priming sugar exactly for the beer style you are making.

Small Batch Brew - Beer Bottle - Priming Sugar
Monitor your fermentation temperature

Read the instructions of the yeast, packet and your recipe. It will give you a fermentation range you should aim for. Brewing outside of these ranges will either involve a stuck fermentation or off flavours in your beer. The beer will thank you for it and you will be impressed with the results.

Small Batch Brew - HomeBrew - Monitor Fermentation
Underpitching yeast

Another one of the most common beginner home brewing mistakes is underpitching. Beer requires a certain number of yeast cells for a healthy fermentation. Follow the recipe instructions and use enough yeast. When brewing 5 Litre batches you would typically use 3.5 grams of yeast. Make sure you pitch your yeast when your wort has sufficiently cooled. As a guide it should be pitched at 24C.

Patience

Take your time, don’t keep worrying that your beer wont turn out. More often than not you will be happy with the results. Follow the instructions carefully, keep an eye on the temperature, let fermentation have time to complete and allow the beer to fully carbonate before serving. Once you have mastered avoiding these mistakes it becomes second nature and you then focus on creating your own beers.

Small Batch Brew - HomeBrew - Patience

Our commitment is to help you brew better beer, with only the essential premium equipment you need. Get one of our home brew starter kits and mini keg kits and start your journey with us. Just because you are brewing small doesn’t mean you cant dream big. Tag us @smallbatchbrew so we can tell the world about another up and coming Master Brewer.

How to Force Carbonate your Mini Keg

Home Brewing gets that much better when you drink it fresh from a keg.  There is something special when you get that perfect pour of fizzy liquid gold.  Some people usually start off with bottles and then migrate to kegs when they feel more confident.  I found the time taken to clean and sanitise your bottles, waiting for the beer to naturally carbonate and the risk of bottle explosion was always in the back of my mind.  The beauty of our mini kegs is that you can force carbonate your beer quickly with CO2  or naturally carbonate over time.

Forced carbonation is by far the quickest and easiest way to go so we’ve broken it down into 6 simple steps that will have you going from zero to brew hero immediately.

Small Batch Brew Carbonation Co2 Beer Types
6 Simple Steps to Force Carbonating your Small Batch Mini Keg
  1. When fermentation is complete, clean and sanitise your mini keg,  Put 15g of sodium per carbonate and fill your mini keg with water and leave for 10 minutes, empty the keg.
  2. Screw on the double ball lock spear, attach the barbed black liquid disconnect to the ball lock post. Syphon the fermented wort into your mini keg via the disconnect. Pull the pressure relief valve during filling to relieve internal keg pressure and keep a steady flow.
  3. Connect your mini regulator to the forced carbonation kit and attach to the gas inlet on the double ball lock spear.  Connect your SodaStream CO2 source to the mini regulator.
  4. Turn the valve on until the PSI reaches 30 PSI, put the keg, carbonation kit and gas source in the fridge in an upright position. Leave for 48-72 hours.
  5. After 48-72 hours bleed off the pressure via the pressure release valve to 10-13 PSI and leave for a further 24 hours.
  6. When you are ready to drink your home brew, bleed off the pressure between 3 & 5 PSI, leave for 10 minutes and then serve. You can disconnect the regulator and gas at this point as there is enough pressure in the keg to serve a few beers.  If the pressure becomes to low re-attach the gas kit and set the pressure back to between 3 & 5 PSI. This will allow you to have nicely carbonated beer without a lot of foam.

Important note: Make sure that the regulator does not get moisture inside the unit as this will damage the internal mechanism and void the warranty.

That’s all there is to it and remember Dream Big, Brew Small.

Our commitment is to help you brew better beer, with only the essential premium equipment you need. Get one of our home brew starter kits and mini keg kits and start your journey with us. Just because you are brewing small doesn’t mean you cant dream big. Tag us @smallbatchbrew so we can tell the world about another up and coming Master Brewer.

A 3.5 Hour Brew Day Timeline

Did you ever wonder how long it takes to home brew beer.  Well wonder no further as brew day takes about the same amount of time to cook a lamb roast. Better still when you make it yourself it tastes better, costs less and you can add a new skill to your repertoire.

  1. Sanitise your Home Brew Equipment (15 minutes)
  2. Mashing (60 minutes)
  3. Sparging (30 minutes)
  4. Boiling (60 minutes)
  5. Chilling Out (45 minutes)

That is a total of 3.5 hours.

Now don’t be scared off, it is not 3.5 hours of non-stop brew making, there is a bit of waiting, tasting and of course drinking beer in between.

Step 1: Sanitise your Home Brew Equipment (15 mins)

Small Batch Brew - Homebrew - Infection

This is one of the most important steps in any new home brew journey. So before you do anything else make sure you thoroughly wash and sanitize all of your kit. Sodium Percarbonate and StarSan are recommended when cleaning your equipment. Even if it is brand new the smallest amount of contamination can ruin your beer and the 3.5 hours you spent will be a total waste of time.

Sanitising equipment is as easy as putting warm water in your carboy and pouring in some sodium percarbonate and letting it dissolve for 10 minutes.  Once the solution has dissolved pour the sanitised water over your bung, airlock, syphon and any other home brew equipment that will come in contact with your chilled wort.

Pro Tip: Leave some sanitised liquid aside to place in the airlock later on.

Once this is done move onto step 2.

Step 2: Mashing (60 – 90 mins)

HomeBrew Pot BIAB Mash

Most all-grain recipes will have a mash step.  Simply put, this is where your crushed grains are mixed with warm water to extract the sugar for your beer.

The first thing is to heat your water and get your strike temperature.  This is the desired water temperature your grain needs to extract the desired flavours and fermentable sugars.  The strike temperature is usually higher than the desired mash temperature this is so that when you immerse your grain the water absorption and temperature of the grain will equalise to get to your desired mash temperature.

Once you have reached your strike temperature, pour your grains in your BIAB (Brew in a Bag) and immerse in the water. Stir and wet your grain to the consistency of porridge. Maintain the desired temperature for the full 60 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure all the grain is wet.

As the grain spends more time at the desired temperature enzymes begin to break down complex starches into simple fermentable sugars, this is the stuff your yeast wants to consume. The colour of your wort will change, the flavours start to develop and the water is becoming increasingly sweeter.  Stick a spoon in and give it a taste.  Don’t worry you won’t contaminate it as it will be boiled soon. Can you start to taste the different malt flavours?

Once you have finished tasting the sweet liquid move onto step 3.

Step 3: Sparging (30 minutes)

When I first heard this term I freaked out.  I had no idea what it was, why I needed it and would anyone know if I didn’t do it.

So what is Sparging? It’s rinsing your grain to get every bit of fermentable sugar out of them. It is usually achieved by using hotter water than your strike temperature as this washes the grain more effectively. You will hear the term brewhouse efficiency, all this is referring to is your equipments effectiveness in extracting the greatest amount of fermentable sugar from your grain.

For 5 litre recipes lift your grain bag and put in a colander / strainer and place on top of your pot. Pour water over the top of the grains and rinse.  The slower you pour the better. The liquid that goes through the grain drips into your wort like a coffee filter.

Alternatively heat up another pot with water that is heated to sparge temperature and dunk the grain bag in that for 10-15 minutes. Just like a tea bag. Once you have finished jiggling, pour the liquid into the main pot.

Pro Tip: Rather than discarding, make some bread or dog treats with the spent grain.

After the Sparge you are ready to boil.

Step 4: Boiling (60 mins)

Home Brew Wort Boil

You are on the home stretch and are at the easiest step of brew day.  You will see recipes have timings for hop additions like 60, 45, 15, 5. All this means is that you start your timer at 60 minutes and work backwards to 0. When the recipe says to add hops at Flameout or Whirlpool all this means is to turn off your stove, and put your hops in and stir the wort.

Bring your wort to the boil, and I mean a vigorous or rolling boil not a simmer. When it reaches a boil start the timer, fill your hop bomb and put your first hops addition in the pot. Crack open a beer and wait for the next hops addition.

Small Batch Brew - Hop Pellet Addition

Pro tip: Setup a separate alarm on your phone for each hop addition. I add a teaspoon of Whirlfloc-g into my pot at 10 minutes to make my bear clear and remove haze (unless you are making a NEIPA).  It doesn’t add any flavour to your beer and makes it look awesome so why not.

Step 5: Chilling Out (45 minutes)

Once you finish boiling  you want to chill the wort as quickly as possible.  This helps reduce the risk of bacteria getting into your beer and helps produce a clearer end product.  So remember sanitisation is key and anything that touches your beer from here on out MUST be clean.

I have said 45 minutes, however if you are brewing 5 litre recipes you can get your wort chilled to room temperature in as little as 20 minutes.  Can you get it chilled faster?  Let me know your secret.

Fill up your sink with ice and water and put your pot in it.  Monitor the temperature until you get to yeast pitching temperature.

Pro tip:  If you use salt in your ice bath, the freezing point is reached faster.

Once chilled, syphon or pour your wort into your carboy, sprinkle the yeast on the wort and give the carboy a good shake for 5 minutes to oxygenate and activate the yeast.  Insert the bung and airlock and fill the airlock with sanitised water.

Hydrometer, Carboy, Airlock and Test Tube

You should start to see fermentation bubbling action in 24-48 hours.  Your wort is now becoming beer. Fermentation usually takes up to 2 weeks and you should be ready to enjoy your beer  in 4 weeks. Once you have mastered brew day I recommend brewing a new beer every week so you’ve always got one of your creations ready to go.

Our next brewers guide will show you what to do during and after fermentation has completed. Sign up to the Small Batch Brew Society to be notified when the next guide is released.

That’s all there is to it and remember Dream Big, Brew Small.

Our commitment is to help you brew better beer, with only the essential premium equipment you need. Get one of our home brew starter kits and mini keg kits and start your journey with us. Just because you are brewing small doesn’t mean you cant dream big. Tag us @smallbatchbrew so we can tell the world about another up and coming Master Brewer.

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