When you’re a novice brewer all you want to do is get your brew on, but hold on, there are some vital practices that could help you make better beer. If you still use beer kits or even if you’ve moved on to extract or all grain brewing, these tips may be of use to you. So, without further ado here are some tips that may help the novice brewer, or even the more experienced brewer, improve the quality of their beer;
Sanitation- Sterilise everything! Then do it again. Use a home brewing cleaner like Bruclean or VWP. Not only that but make sure you rinse any steriliser off thoroughly. There are no-rinse sanitisers, which are excellent, but anything that is soiled or visibly dirty still needs a good clean.
Depending on where you live you may have high levels of chlorine in your tap water. Chlorine reacts with natually occuring phenols in your wort to create chlorophenols, which taste pretty bad. Before using tap water to brew, boil the entire volume needed with half a Campden tablet per 5 gallons. This will remove the chlorine. You may also substitute tap water for bottled spring water, which saves boiling large quantities of water if you’re a kit brewer. If you find that your beer has a plastic/ acrylic taste which repeats on you, then chlorine may be your problem.
This has a major impact on taste. Every yeast strain has an ideal temperature range. The cooler your beer is fermented, the cleaner it will taste. The warmer it gets the fruitier it gets. If it gets too hot it will taste like fuel. Do not put it in the airing cupboard next to the hot water cylinder. Lager yeasts like cooler conditions between 8-15 °C . Ale yeasts like it a little warmer 16-23°C. These temperature ranges are a generalisation, it’s always best to check the specification of the yeast that you plan to use. Belgian yeasts behave slightly differently, but I’ll save that for another time. The temperatures refer to actual fermentation temperature, which is usually 2-3°C higher than the ambient temperature of the room that you’re brewing in.
Oxygen is your best friend and your worst enemy. At the beginning of fermentation, yeast need oxygen to multiply. Give them a head start by stirring your wort vigorously for at least 5 minutes to make it nice and foamy before adding the yeast. Get as much air into it as possible. Once your primary fermentation is under way, it is then your mission to keep oxygen out of your beer. If you use a secondary fermentation vessel ( which I don’t recommend), then keep splashing to a minimum when you make the transfer as this will introduce oxygen to your beer. The same applies on bottling day, keep splashing to a minimum. Any oxidation of your beer will result in a reduction of shelf life and changes in flavour.
If you’ve moved on to all-grain or extract brewing then you may have already started exploring different yeast strains and the flavours they impart. But if you’re a fan of beer kits then you may not have considered trying another yeast strain. Yeast strains make all the difference when it comes to flavour. You will find that a lot of beer kits, especially cheaper ones, come with a generic ale yeast, which is probably why a lot of kit beer tastes very similar. Next time you brew, splash out and try a different yeast strain, I guarantee you will notice the difference.
Write everything down! Whenever you brew take note of everything. OG, FG , Fermentation Temperature, Fermentation Duration, Taste, Smell, Appearance, Bottling dates and anything that could affect the flavour of the beer. If your beer turns out well, you’re more likely to be able to replicate it. If it turns out to be bad, then you can analyse your records to try and figure out what went wrong.
The most vital aspect of brewing is time. Most beer kit instructions will suggest that your beer is ready for the bottle in a week. Ignore them. If you’re a seasoned brewer then this is possible, but for the novice it’s unlikely. The novice homebrewer’s fermentation generally produces lots of by-products, which make your beer taste funky. Yeast need time to clean up those by-products, so give them a chance. I would recommend at least two weeks in the fermenter before you even think about bottling your beer. Be patient!
Those are all the tips that I have for now, try them out, I guarantee that your beer will taste better. Cheers and Happy Brewing!