New to homebrewing?
Great. You’re joining a worldwide community of people who love making their own beer. We love making our own beer and connecting with other homebrewers.
So welcome to the club.
Sadly though I meet many who tried homebrewing but quickly gave up—a few batches failed, it was hard to make time or they were disappointed with the results.
Let’s get you set up for success with some quick tips for the new brewer.
1. Put your energy into cleaning
This is where 90 percent of new brewers come unstuck.
Use powdered brewery wash (PBW) or another brewing-specific cleaner. It’s made for the task at hand. Nothing else works as well.
Don’t use bleach. The odor remains and will taint your beer, particularly lighter, lager styles
Use soft clothes only. Scouring pads are bad and will create scratches for micro critters to live and breed
Clean up immediately after brewing. No decent beer can happen when your crud and beer sludge is left in the fermenter for days.
Clean thoroughly. Don’t cut any corners here. I want you to really put in the time and effort to make everything shine. Your beer will thank you.
2. Get a no-rinse sanitizer
Cleaning is great but you’ll still have some bacteria and wild yeast left behind. A no-rinse sanitizer will give kill 99 per cent of the remaining microbes that will spoil your beer.
Spend a few bucks to get a no-rinse sanitizer like StarStan. It has a really short contact time (30 seconds) and is easy to use.
The easiest way to sanitize your homebrewing gear is with a pump up spray bottle. This is one of the handiest tools in my homebrewing toolbox and can quickly sanitize everything.
3. It’s all about the yeast
Yeast management is critical for awesome homebrew. You need plenty of healthy yeast to cleanly ferment your beer.
Your wort is a competitive environment. It’s rich in nutrients, sugar and resources that will attract microbes like moths to a flame.
If your yeast is old, sluggish or damaged it will give bacteria and wild yeast a foothold to ruin your beer.
To make sure your yeast is pumping:
use fresh yeast only and store it in a fridge
rehydrate if using dried yeast
make a starter
have a spare yeast in case of emergencies.
4. Control your temperature
Your yeast has a preferred temperature. Let’s keep it happy and work within this range. If it works too hot, it will produce off flavors and headache-causing higher alcohols.
Too cold and it may stall and not finish fermenting. The implications are dangerous. If you bottle a beer before it finishes fermenting, the residual sugars will continue to ferment and it may explode.
You can control your beer fermentation temperature by:
Only brewing when the ambient temperature suits
Build a fermentation chamber. This can be a simple as an old fridge fitted with an external thermostat.
Invest in a heating pad or belt.
5. Make it easy
There are plenty of hot tips out there on forums and at barbeques, but keep your brewing simple and you’ll enjoy it more.
If it starts to get too much like hard work, your interest will drop off quickly. Constantly look for ways to make things easier. Here are a couple of ‘hot tips’ to start you off:
Break up your brew day
Break up your brewing day. If you spread the work over a couple of days, brew day won’t be as daunting. Clean and sanitize your fermenter the day before. Organise your gear and ingredients. Make starter. Get set up for success.
Use bottling tabs to carbonate your beer
Another time saver is using bottling tabs. These are measured sugar drops to prime your bottles. Simply drop into your cleaned and sanitized bottles, fill up and cap. Measuring sugar is messy and involved.
Buy a bit of gear
One of the simplest ways to make life easiest is to spend a few dollars on things that will make your life easier.
A bottling wand will make bottling easier. So will a decent capper.
Stop and think about what you don’t like about homebrewing. See what solutions are at your local homebrew shop.
6. Connect with other brewers
Homebrewing is meant to be a social exercise. You talk to other brewers and share information. You might even brew together and enjoy the results with a mate.
If you make it social, you will enjoy it so much more and you’ll fast track your experience.
Your local homebrew store
The first step is to look up your local homebrew store. I’ve never met a store owner who isn’t friendly and open with advice. Sure, it’s a commercial venture, but they also have a vested interest in you making awesome beer. Tap into that.
They can also connect you with other brewers in the area.
Join a homebrew club
If you have a homebrew club in your area, get along to the next meeting.
Clubs are a perfect way to meet other brewers, get constructive feedback and learn how to make awesome beer. I was a member of Canberra Brewers when I lived in the city and a happier homebrewer because of it.
If you don’t have a club, why not start one?
Look up your local show. Entering or even volunteering is a great way to meet local homebrewers.
Your state will likely have a homebrewing competition so I encourage you to enter it as well.
7. Enjoy it
If you start to get stressed about homebrewing, maybe it’s time to zen out.
At times I’ve gotten cranky about a spill, dropped bottle or boil over. I’ve had to remind myself that I do this because I enjoy it.
Homebrewing meant to be fun and easy. If it starts to look like hard work, take a step back and smell the hops.
Homebrewing With Kits—The Beginner’s Guide
To help you master homebrewing with kits, I’ve put together a guide based on my experiences over the last two decades.
This is the information I wish I had when I started brewing. I hope it helps you make awesome homebrew.