Common Brewing Mistakes

Beer lovers take note. Did you know that you too can also make your own version of the alcoholic drink? And this process doesn’t involve any rocket science either. The process is much simpler than what you think, and this is the main reason why home brewers are on the rise in the United States and in many countries.

The amount of equipment we use in home brewing are on the rise, and there is a growing number of ingredients and materials available online ready to be downloaded or purchased. Now, it’s easier than ever to concoct your own brew. But just a little reminder, don’t let your over-eagerness drag your brew down. Exercise some restraint when trying home brewing for the first time. You don’t want to go down the path that many first-timers do, who become frustrated simply because they failed to know some of the more common home brewing mistakes.

Pellicles forming on the surface of homebrewed wort

So to sum it all up here is a short list of 13 brewing mistakes;

Here’s a list of the most common homebrewing mistakes that beginners make, based on my own mistakes and what I’ve learned talking to other homebrewers. Okay, mostly my mistakes, but you get the idea.

Not Cleaning And Sanitizing
As previously stated everywhere on the internet, a brewer is mainly a cleaner who brews beer. No one really enjoys cleaning and sanitizing, but if it’s not done, it could easily ruin your beer. There are literally thousands of tiny evil bacteria that want to destroy your precious wort, please don’t be lazy and think “oh it won’t happen to me” – Cleaning and sanitizing is ESSENTIAL!

Relying On The Airlock
Try not to rely on your airlock as the only method of your yeast fermenting. One sure way to produce bottle bombs is to bottle your beer early, and this could happen when your airlock ceases to bubble but your beer is still in the fermenting stages and could burst in your hands. The only way to really know if you’re beer is ready to be bottled is if you measure the finished gravity of your beer with a hydrometer 2 or 3 days in a row and get a consistent reading.

Not Waiting Long Enough
I know, I hate waiting for my beer too. However, give the yeast enough time to do their job or you could end up with bad tasting beer or even worse bottle bombs (imagine your beer bottles exploding). I give my beer at least 1.5 weeks in the primary and 1 week or longer in the secondary. Make sure that the gravity is no longer changing, not just that the bubbling is done in the airlock. It’s tough to be patient, but the results will be better. If bottle conditioning your beer, I ask you to leave this for 3 weeks before trying one. The wait will be well worth it.

Starting Out With A Complicated Beer
Start with a simple kit beer. Don’t go out and buy a 3 vessel system, capable of brewing all grain beers that can match it with the best craft breweries in town. The best way to learn is to take it easy, learn each process from a kit and then think about transitioning to steeping grains of your kit beer. I know that a simple beer isn’t as much fun, but once you get the hang of it, the homebrewing process gets a lot easier and it’ll be a lot easier to make a more complicated beer without making a ton of mistakes.

Not Following The Recipe
I’m guilt of this one too. On brew day things can happen kind of fast, that’s why I recommend reading the instructions that come with the recipe kit beforehand. That way if you have any questions, you can ask them before brew day and not when you’re on the clock. I recommend checking off each step so that you know that you did each step and that they’re doing them in the correct order.

Just Following The Recipe
I highly recommend that you start out by just following the recipe, but after you get a few batches in, you’ll probably be like me, unable to resist tweaking the recipe some. If you’re really like me, you’ll want to add chocolate or coffee whenever it’s appropriate (and sometimes when it’s not). Just limit what you add, trying one tweak at a time. Don’t get all crazy and completely change everything. At least not yet.

Using Old Ingredients
It isn’t very cost effective to buy small amounts of grain from your LHS (local homebrew shop) however it is the bets way to ensure your ingredients are fresh. Where ever you can, brew with fresh ingredients. Avoid the cans of malt extract, there’s a good chance that they’ve been sitting in their for a long time.

Not Removing The Brew Pot To Add The Malt Extract
Speaking of malt extract, make sure when you are adding it into your brew pot, that you have taken the brew pot off the heat. If you don’t, the extract will burn and the pot will be scorched. In addition to that, your fermented beer may have a burnt taste to it. It is good practice to stir the malt extract in evenly, then place the brew pot back onto the heat.

Boiling Over The Wort
This one is important guys. Make sure you pay attention to the wort when it’s boiling. Stay in the KITCHEN! Don’t leave the pot unattended for extended periods of time. You will have a boil over and that is a very sticky mess to clean up and your wife will kill your brewing dreams. Pay special attention when adding hops to your boiling wort. This is a red zone. It is typically the best time for the wort to boil over with the addition to hops but it is the time when your beer comes into its own with beautiful flavouring and bitterness.

Oxidizing Your Beer
The only time you want to oxidize your beer is when you are pitching your yeast. The yeast need the air ration in the wort to thrive and multiply, however after this point, you don’t want any oxygen to get in. When adding a dry hop addition in a few days time (I usually dry hop after 5-7 days) make sure to lift the lid quickly and carefully, add the addition and close it straight back up. This will eliminate a huge amount of oxygen getting into your beer. Also be very careful when racking into a secondary or bottling your beer. You don’t want to see any bubbles in your lines when doing this and always fill form the bottom up.

Storing Your Beer At The Wrong Temperatures
Once the home brew bug hits you, I recommend the first thing you should invest in, is a fermentation chamber. This is basically an insulated 4 walled chamber, commonly known as a fridge. You will need a temperature controller (which can be found in our store by searching for fridge thermostat or temperature controller) and set to the desired fermentation temperature as per the recipe.

Not Keeping Records
The best beer I have ever brewed was a recipe gone wrong. I was supposed to brew a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and I thought I had it down pat but I later realised I got absolutely everything wrong. The grain bill, the hop additions and even the yeast choice. However it came out a delicious brown ale and it is by far the best beer I have brewed to date. Taking notes is a sure way to remember the good recipes and what to avoid next time. But with guides such as Beer Brewers Guide, this tedious task is suddenly not so bad any more.

What’s are some mistakes that you have made? I’d love to hear more..

Kegging Your Homebrew

Homebrewers often use kegs for aging, filtering, and storing beer. These are seldom the standard kegs used by major brewers to transport draught beer to wholesalers, but instead are reconditioned Cornelius kegs (colloquially known as “cornies”) that were originally manufactured to store soda; these vessels are much easier to fill, clean and maintain than standard beer kegs.

These kegs are stainless steel cylinders that hold approximately 5 U.S. gallons of liquid. The keg is filled with liquid via a removable hatch on the top, which is then closed and sealed. Carbon dioxide is added to pressurize the keg via an inlet port on the top and is facilitated by gently rocking the brew back and forth. Liquid is dispensed via an outlet port attached to a tube that extends to the bottom of the keg. Pin-lock and ball-lock fittings (or posts) are the two types of couplings used on the inlet and outlet ports. Coke distributors used pin-lock fittings, while Pepsi distributors used ball-lock fittings. Ball-lock are most used. The pin-lock style is often referred to as a “Coke” keg or style and the ball-lock is often referred to as a “Pepsi” keg or style, though the fittings themselves are removable, serviceable, and contain interchangeable parts.

Homebrewers sometimes use 15.5 U.S. gallon commercial kegs (known as 1/2 kegs) for boiling vessels in creating wort. The kegs are drilled for a drain at the bottom, and the top cut open to create a large stainless steel cooking kettle. Many times, the piece of metal cut out of the top is re-used to create a false bottom for straining wort during the mashing process, as well as to strain the boiled wort when adding hops without using a mesh grain bag.

Alternatively, kegs specifically designed for home brewing are available. The capacity may be matched to commercial extract brewing kits; typically 12 and 23 litres. Smaller 2.5 gallon kegs are also made for ease of transporting to a function.
Kegs may have residual pressure, and this must be vented to avoid having the valve explode and injure or kill a person as the valve shoots out. Conventional 15.5 U.S. gallon kegs have circle spring clips that can be removed to release the tap valve. Some kegs such as those used by Miller have threaded valves that are threaded into the keg, and after venting, can be opened by turning the valve counterclockwise using a piece of 134” wide metal inserted between the valve ears and turned with an adjustable wrench, or pipe wrench. A “wonderbar” type of pry bar just happens to fit. After the valve is loose it is still retained by a safety catch that must be pried inward. A simple valve seal depressing tool and a screwdriver with a 1/8″diameter shaft must be used to release the safety catch. See “How to remove a Miller threaded keg valve (not retained by a spiral ring)”. The safety catch prevents the valve from releasing under pressure.

It is not recommended that kegs be sanitized with bleach. To avoid unpleasant residuals, sanitize kegs with an iodine or oxygen based sanitizer. Sanitizers like Star-San and B-Brite are commonly used. The ball lock valves may be unscrewed using wrenches to allow further cleaning or replacement of O-rings or poppet valves.