Before you move into more advanced kit homebrewing skills, let’s make sure the low hanging fruit is taken care of.
These are four simple things you can do to fundamentally improve your homebrew. Let’s review these now…
Four homebrewing principles that will serve you well
Principle #1 – Clean like a madman
Great tasting beer needs to start on a canvas of cleanliness. The world is full of microbes that thrive in warm, wet and resource-rich environments. Just like your beer. You need to clean every inch of your gear and brewing area.
Use a brewing-specific cleaner like Powdered Brewery Wash (PBW). Read the label and use at the recommended rate (1 tbs per gal/4 L).
Also, wear gloves. You can then use really hot water for a thorough clean without burning your hands. You’ll also protect your beer from any microbes lurking under your nails or in cracks in your skin.
One final tip is to always use a soft cloth when cleaning your gear. Abrasive scourers and the like will damage your fermenter, leaving grooves for microbes to hide.
Cleaning your gear properly is the one key thing that will improve your beer.
Principle #2 – Use a no-rinse sanitizer
Although you’ve cleaned with a hint of OCD, the job’s not done yet. There is still a fine layer of microbes covering everything. Cleaners remove large contaminants, but they won’t destroy all potential bugs.
That’s where a no-rinse sanitizer comes in.
This is a product that’ll kill 99.9% of any remaining microbes and is safe to leave on.
StarSan is my preferred option. Again, use at the recommended rate (6 mL per gal/4 L) and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Using a pump up style spray bottle to spray your gear and brewing area will make your life much easier.
Principle #3 – Take care of your yeast
Your wort is very attractive to microbes of all shapes and sizes. It is a perfect environment for bacteria and wild yeast to grow, replicate and ruin your beer.
Your insurance against this is an army of fit and healthy brewing yeast. These unsung homebrew heroes will quickly take over your wort, leaving little opportunity for contaminants to take hold.
The take home message is that you need healthy brewing yeast and enough of it. Make sure that you:
Have enough yeast (at least 11 g for a 6 gal/23 L batch).
It is within the best-before date.
Is prepared properly by rehydrating and/or making a starter.
Principle #4 – Watch your temperature
Yeast has a preferred working range. The yeast manufacturer should let you know what it is on the packet.
All things being equal, if your wort ferments within this range your beer will turn out fine.
Below the recommended range and it will get sluggish and stall. This can lead to exploding bottles, broken glass and mess.
If you ferment your wort above the yeast manufacturer’s recommended temperature range, it will hit overdrive and produce off flavors and headache causing fusel alcohols. Not great either.
Later I’ll show you how to set up a fermentation fridge to control your brewing temperature with rocket-scientist precision.
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