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Frequently Asked Questions For The New Brewer


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#41 Rik

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Posted 28 May 2009 - 12:59 PM

Thanks So much, The info is helping my out with basic questions I have

Frequently Asked Questions for the New Brewer


There are lots of common questions that the new brewer has to find answers for, and at the same time to learn the ropes of forum useage. The site HOWTOBREW is great, but doesn't cover the basics. AHB does cover the basics, but the nuggets of information are buried. Rather than make yet another how to brew manual, here is a collection of basic facts, questions and the links to answer these questions. New brewers can follow the links, read the topics, and if necessary, then post to that topic rather than starting afresh. It makes the whole knowledge base interactive, rather than static like a tutorial.

Please help by suggesting topics that have been missed, basic facts that you think need including in this post and by your favourite links that answer questions for new brewers. The information and links that people post will be incorporated into the main text and then the posts will be deleted.

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How to Use the Forum

Please take the time to read the board guidelines and rules which are at the start of each forum

AHB introduction link

Homebrewing, like any specialised subject has many acronyms. Some very common ones are:
HBS Homebrewshop
LME Liquid Malt Extract
DME Dried Malt Extract
K&K Kit and kilo. the kit is the tin of LME and the kilo is a kilo of brewing additive.


List of Acronyms


What is Beer

Beer is a mix of malt flavour, hops bitterness, hops flavour, alcohol, carbonation and yeast fermentation flavours. Beer is made from barley, hops, water and yeast. Kit manufacturers have done much of the hard work and all you have to do is use a canopener, tip the contents into a fermenter, add a kilo of extras, top up to 23 litres, add yeast and watch it ferment.


Where to Source Your Brewing Gear.

The easiest way to get into brewing is to buy a complete beginner's setup from a homebrew shop or the supermarket. This means you have everything you need for your first brew.

Where to Buy a Kit From

Where to Source Your Bottles.

Your homebrew shop may sell bottles. Friends will keep bottles for you. Recycling night can be a great time to browse through neighbour's recycle crates. Or buy beer, drink the contents, rinse the bottles out thoroughly and use them. PET are fine. Do store clear PET in a darkened cupboard as light will make your beer taste unpleasant. You can use screwtop glass bottles, but you will need a proper bench top style capper, rather than the very cheap and nasty wooden hand capper. The two handled cappers tend to fracture the necks.

The First Brew

Allow yourself plenty of time. Have the kettle ready with boiling water. Wash all your gear with the cleaner provided in your kit. If there is some sort of no rinse sanitiser supplied, use it. Fit the tap to your fermenter. Fit the ruber o'ring if your fermenter is a screwtop and fit the airlock grommet. Remove the label from the tin of extract. Remove the lid and put the yeast sachet aside. Stand the tin in hot water for 10 minutes to soften the contents. Clean your tin opener. Open the tin and pour into the fermenter, rinse the tin out with some hot water, stir the syrup to dissolve it. Add the kilo pack of dry ingredients. Stir to dissolve. Top to 20-23 litres, stir again. Take a hydrometer reading and record this in your notes. Clean your scissors, snip the top off the sachet and sprinkle on top. Fit the lid and the airlock. Careful when fitting the airlock that you do not push the grommet in. Add some water to the airlock, so that there is about 10mm height of water on each side of the "S".

Cleanliness and Sanitation

The most important part of brewing is cleanliness and sanitation. Every surface that comes into contact with your beer must be as clean as possible. Never use a scourer on your plastic fermenter, this provides very small scrathces that can harbour bacteria. Think about where you place the stirrer and the lid. These should be cleaned too.

Many cleaning products are harsh and harmful if splashed into your eye or allowed to stay on the skin. Be safe with your cleaning products. Store them in labelled containers where children cannot access them.

The Correct Temperature for Brewing and How to Control it

The best temperature for ales to be fermented at is 18-20 degrees and lagers at 10-12 degrees. Before fermenting a lager at 10-12, check with your brewshop that your kit includes a true lager yeast. Many kits are called a lager, but include ale yeasts.

For your first brew, keep the brew as close to 20 as you can achieve. If it ferments at 24, the beer will be drinkable, but 18-20 is ideal.

Maintaining a constant brewing temperature will significantly improve your brew. Depending on your climate, your house, or under your house may have a place that is stable and cool, otherwise there are some simple ways

Have a look at the 100 can cooler post further down this thread on ideas on how to maintain a lower temperature. Brewers also have success with the same idea using an insulated cupboard or an old non working fridge. Even a takeaway food container made up into iceblocks and allowed to thaw out on the lid of your fermenter, with a towel drped over the fermenter help.

Simple Things to Make Your Brew Day Easier

Planning your brew day will avoid unnecessary disasters. Write yourself a step by step brew plan. Other AHB'ers have come up with some clever ideas/tools to help you relax on your brew day.



Help, my beer isn't working the airlock

After about 24 hours, there should be signs of activity that your brew is springing into action. These signs include movement or gloomping of the airlock and more signifiacntly, foam on the surface and a ring of scum on the fermenter at the surface. The layer of foam thickens after a day or two depending on how active your yeast is.

Some fermenters do not seal very well, and air leaks out around the lid rather than through the airlock. So long as your lid is sealed well enough to keep flies, bugs and dust out, your brew will be fine.

Air Tight Fermenter


Is it Ready to Bottle?

After 4-7 days, your brew will have finished working. This can be seen by the lack of movement of air through the airlock, the foam/scum on the surface of the brew decreasing and by stabilisation of the hydrometer reading. The time taken will vary depending on the yeast used, how fresh it was, brew ingredients and brew temperature.

After the brew has stopped, start taking hydrometer readings. When the reading is stable over three days, the brew is ready to bottle. Record the final reading in your notes.

If you are going to use finings (powdered gelatine) now is the time to use them. Dissolve a sachet of finings in a cup of hot water, pour gently over the surface of your beer, reseal your fermenter and bottle the next day.

Your brew will be fine for up to 2 weeks quietly sitting in the primary fermenter until you are ready to bottle. It will actually help to leave it for a week after it has reached its final gravity. If you can move ot to somewhere cooler, this helps too.

Using the hydrometer

The hydrometer measures the specific gravity of solutions relative to water. As your brew fermentes, the yeast change the malt sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide, and the density of the solution changes. This is shown by the hydrometer readings becoming lower.

The hydrometer is a fragile instrument, treat it gently, keep it in its container and do not pour boiling water over it.

Never float the hydrometer in the fermenter to take a reading. Always use a sample test jar and after taking a reading drink the sample or throw it out. If you tip it back into the fermneter, you will infect your brew.

Is it Infected?

The new brewer will do alot of reading and often will worry about infections. If you have started out with new gear, fresh ingredients and the brew started fermenting after about 24 hours, stop worrying. The scum on top of the fermenter often looks suspicious, but it will sink soon. A few small spots may stay on the surface, but most sinks or sticks to the inside of the fermenter. Don't worry about it.

Don't take the lid off and look at your brew. Keep the lid on.

Many brewers are worried by the unusual aroma coming out the airlock, once again, do not worry.

Stinky fermentation

Bottling Day

Allow yourself plenty of time to do this job.

Wash out all your bottles with brewery detergent and a bottlebrush. Rinse thoroughly and they are ready to use.

Put a teaspoon of sugar in each 750ml longneck bottle, or half a teaspoon into a stubbie. If you have a sugar measure included with your kit, use that to measure the sugar out.

If you are using carbonation drops, use them and do not put any extra sugar into the bottles. One carbonation drop in a stubbie, two in a longneck.

Use the special adapter tube/valve that came with your kit to fill the bottles. This fits into your fermenter tap and as the filler stem presses on the bottom of the bottle, the valve opens and the bottles fill from the bottom with minimal splashing.

Splashing and associated oxygenation is the enemy of finished beer.

After bottling, store your beers at the same temperature you fermented at for about ten days, this allows the yeast to use the priming sugar and carbonate the beer in the bottles. Make sure they are somewhere dark. After 10 days, move the beer to as cool a locationas possibe. A fridge is ideal, but anywhere that is cooler rather than warmer.

After you have finished bottling, clean all your brewday gear, let it airdry and put it away. To clean the fermenter, rinse the yeast slurry out, add some of your brewery cleaner, top up with water, put the lid on and leave for 24 hours. The scum will then wipe out with a soft cloth. Do not use a scourer. Wipe all surfaces of the fermnenter with the cloth. Keep a clean toothbrush in your cleaning kit and clean the inside of the tap, tap threads including those in the fermenter and the grooves in the lid with the toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly and dry. Then store till you are going to brew again.

Do Crown Seals Need To Be Steralised?

Tips for Making Bottling Day Less Painfull

What temperature Should beers be Stored at?


Is it ready to drink?

Your brew is ready to start drinking as soon as the beer is carbonated, but it will continue to improve for about six weeks.

My brew is flat

You have forgotten to prime the bottles, used maltodextrin instead of sugar, haven't sealed the bottles correctly, haven't stored the bottles at the correct temperature (20-25 degrees) or haven't allowed enough time for the yeast to work in the bottle.

Bottlebombs

Will my Bottles Explode?

Recipes

The effects of different ingredients on your brew:
Dextrose adds no exra flavour or body to your brew, only alcohol.
Malt (either dried or liquid) adds body, flavour and alcohol to your brew.
Maltodextrin adds body and some sweetness to your brew.

A good starting point for the ingredients to add to your tin of extract is 500gms dried malt extract and 500 gms dextrose.

Why sugar is not suitable.

Beer is made from malt, hops, yeast and water. Kit brews are made with a tin of hopped extract and a kilo of extra ingredients. These extras include a combination of dried malt extract (DME) liquid malt extract (LME) maltodextrin and dextrose. Plain table sugar or sucrose is avoided, it thins the body of the beer and contributes extra unwanted flavours. Sometimes brown sugar is used in darker beers, and the amount should be limited to 250gms a brew till you are familiar with the extra flavours it contributes to the beer.

recipes for kit brewers this links to another site, and you will not be able to post to it.
http://www.coopers.com.au/homebrew/ This links to another site and you will not be able to post to it.

Useful links

New to brewing topic
Help me Refine My Proceedure
New to Homebrew scene

Because of the great number of links in this FAQ, some may at some stage show as broken. If you find a link that generates an error page, please send me a PM.

This FAQ is to help new brewers put down their first couple of brews. After reading this FAQ, you may want to move onto the next, FAQ for Advanced Kit Brewing.



#42 Renegade

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Posted 28 May 2009 - 01:09 PM

Not necessarily. I bought a bottling 'stick' 'wand' 'cane' whatever from Woolies when I started, it's a Brigalow brand and the M*F*& thing does not fit inside a standard fermenter tap, it's too fat. I didn't bother taking it back but got a good one from the Local Home Brew Shop. Bloody Brigalow hey.

Is your problem that the stick won't fit up into the spout of the tap? If so then where did you get the stick from? If not from a LHBS then take it along to your local and do a side by side comparison and get a slightly thinner one.


Is that common to put the wand straight onto the tap ? I havent eeven thought of doing so, i attach it to a plastic flexible tube, then attach the tube to the tap.

#43 QuantumBrewer

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Posted 28 May 2009 - 01:18 PM

Push the end of the bottler into the end of the tap, it should fit quite tightly, then put the bottler into the bottle and depress(the end of the bottler is spring loaded), let the bottle fill and then ease off and take the bottle out... Too easy..

Better yet (and kudos to whoever first pointed it out to me on here);

Get about 1m of 12mm vinyl tubing (LHBS may have some? otherwise try a hardware store) and a hose clip ($2 store if you're cheap, it's not going to be submersed). Fit the tubing over the open end of the bottling 'wand' and secure tight with the hose clip. Fit the other end of the tubing tightly over the fermenter tap (you could use a hose clip if it's not tight, mine seems to be tight enough. Sanitise with your sanitiser of preference, inside tubing, and inside/outside of wand.

I do my priming bottle-by-bottle then put the bottles into milk crates. You could just as easily bulk prime. With the fermenter on a stack of milk crates (the higher the better), turn the tap on, put the crate of bottles next to the stack of crates holding up the fermenter, then put the wand in the bottles one at a time - press down for flow, remove to stop. I find it a lot easier to insert the wand into the crate of bottles than to hold each bottle up to the wand.

I love the fact that I can see the beer flowing through the clear tubing on its way to the bottles. It also helps in checking that you're not getting a lot of fermenter sediment going into the bottles.


Oh, and Rik - was it really necessary to quote that entire post????

#44 Muckey

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Posted 28 May 2009 - 01:19 PM

you can do either. Some people prefer having the wand on the tap and bring each bottle to the wand.
Others find it easier to have the wand on the end of a piece of tube abnd take it to each bottle.

Result is the same. Do what works best for you.

#45 QuantumBrewer

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Posted 28 May 2009 - 01:19 PM

Is that common to put the wand straight onto the tap ? I havent eeven thought of doing so, i attach it to a plastic flexible tube, then attach the tube to the tap.

That would be the short way of saying what I did. Cheers.

I believe the wand-into-the-tap method is as instructed. That's how I started out.

#46 RobboMC

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Posted 28 May 2009 - 01:23 PM

Is that common to put the wand straight onto the tap ? I havent eeven thought of doing so, i attach it to a plastic flexible tube, then attach the tube to the tap.



The Coopers equipment box comes with a 'wand' and no flexible tube. The video provided shows people bottling
with the 'wand' plugged straight into the fermenter. I'd never thought of doing it any other way.

I have had TWO of these 'wand' things fail on me. Fortunately I bottle over the opened door of the dishwasher to catch any drips.
The spring loaded end just popped off with 28 litres of brew about to pour through an open tap until I reacted and closed the tap.
Probably lost half a longneck.

The first was a Coopers one, the 2nd from the HBS bought to replace it.
So my advice is to keep the tap closed until you have your bottles in hand.

Amazingly, the 'wand' works WITHOUT the spring loaded end, I just opened and closed the tap; with the 'suction' of the closed tap
able to hold the tube full against the pull of gravity.

The open dishwasher door spill catcher is one of the best ideas I've ever stolen, forget where it came from now.

#47 Greeny

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 04:35 PM

this might sound a bit silly but i just bottled a brew (my 2nd) and now i can't get the lid off the fermenter. the airlock wasn't going off for my first brew so this time i made sure i did the lid up really tight - the airlock worked this time but now i've got this problem! does anybody know of any tricks to unscrew a very overtightened fermenter lid? i rang my mum to ask if she had any old wives tricks to getting lids off jam jars etc, but alas still no luck...

#48 Renegade

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 04:44 PM

Ah that's a sign that you should take up distilling instead of brewing.

Kidding. Try a screwdriver and a hammer, VERY CAREFUL not to rip into your leg, and give it a few good whacks. That is if your lid has ribs around the edge. Search here too, someone else (Josh?) had the same issue a couple of days ago.

#49 Sammus

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 04:44 PM

this might sound a bit silly but i just bottled a brew (my 2nd) and now i can't get the lid off the fermenter. the airlock wasn't going off for my first brew so this time i made sure i did the lid up really tight - the airlock worked this time but now i've got this problem! does anybody know of any tricks to unscrew a very overtightened fermenter lid? i rang my mum to ask if she had any old wives tricks to getting lids off jam jars etc, but alas still no luck...


just cuss a lot :P I've had issues with this, but usually end up getting the lid off without doing anything too drastic. I think some people have had luck using a belt wrapped around the lid somehow to get a better grip on it.

The problem (apparently) is the grip of the rubber seal. Next time your at a hardware store (even make a special trip for it ;)) pick up some tap lubricant. It's food grade so no worries there, I usually wipe some around the rubber lid seal, helps to get it on and off, and to seal without doing it up super tight :)

Edited by Sammus, 02 June 2009 - 04:46 PM.


#50 bum

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 04:48 PM

I think some people have had luck using a belt wrapped around the lid somehow to get a better grip on it.


It distributes the force evenly rather than putting all your pressure in one spot making the thread bite harder.

#51 Greeny

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 05:05 PM

cheers guys, i'll give the belt idea a go. if no luck there i'll try the screwdriver and hammer trick. i'll be sure to try the tap lubricant too, i just used a touch of vegetable oil last time to get a good seal but maybe there lies my problem!

rest assured sammus that i have done a fair bit of cussing!

Edited by Greeny, 02 June 2009 - 05:06 PM.


#52 KGB

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 05:46 PM

I'd use screwdriver and hammer as a last resort only. Get one person to hug the fermenter and another person working on the lid and you'll probably get there.

#53 Greeny

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 03:43 AM

sweet, finally managed to get the bastard lid off, did require a little coercion with a screwdriver but no damage done...

i don't want to sound like an ignoramus (i'm only new to brewing) but what is 'racking'? and what is meant by 'primary' and 'secondary fermentation'?

so far i've just been following the more basic process in the instruction book that came with my brewing kit, and will probably just stick with that for now before i try anything too advanced...

#54 Ivan Other One

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 05:27 AM

sweet, finally managed to get the bastard lid off, did require a little coercion with a screwdriver but no damage done...

i don't want to sound like an ignoramus (i'm only new to brewing) but what is 'racking'? and what is meant by 'primary' and 'secondary fermentation'?

so far i've just been following the more basic process in the instruction book that came with my brewing kit, and will probably just stick with that for now before i try anything too advanced...



Hi Greeny,
At the top of this page click on "Articles" an then again on 'new to brewing'.

Lots of helpfull info in there.

Having returned to brewing this year have picked up a heap of helpful info from browsing around on this web site and now am enjoying drinking great tasting clear beer.

Cheers Ivan. :icon_cheers:

Edited by Ivan Other One, 03 June 2009 - 06:08 AM.


#55 Trox

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 08:26 PM

I may be late on the post but might be able to help peers such as myself (first time brewers). I bought a kit today and had enough trouble checking the kit off with what's supposed to be in there and what's what, better yet when the bottle filler didn't seem to fit anywhere (and I didn't know what a "bottle filler" was - albeit sounding obvious), with a little force went straight into the tap, I haven't used it yet as I've only started today but looks like it'll work just fine.

happy brewing

#56 Bribie G

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 08:34 PM

I may be late on the post but might be able to help peers such as myself (first time brewers). I bought a kit today and had enough trouble checking the kit off with what's supposed to be in there and what's what, better yet when the bottle filler didn't seem to fit anywhere (and I didn't know what a "bottle filler" was - albeit sounding obvious), with a little force went straight into the tap, I haven't used it yet as I've only started today but looks like it'll work just fine.

happy brewing


Yup you have grasped it perfectly. Two very fundamental ideas here:

Into tap, that's where it goes
A little force, God had designed the bottling 'canes' to require a bit of muscle to push them into the tap so they don't drop out during bottling and dump beer onto your brewery floor.

:beerbang:

PS it will work fine but what you might find is that, after jamming it hard on the bottom of the bottle then just ease off a slight tad and it will probably flow a bit quicker.

#57 mactain

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 10:54 AM

One little thing i know not to listen to my kit instructions but it sez once you have pitched the yeast to stir for 30 seconds would this be a good or bad idea? :huh:

#58 ampy

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 11:35 AM

this might sound a bit silly but i just bottled a brew (my 2nd) and now i can't get the lid off the fermenter. the airlock wasn't going off for my first brew so this time i made sure i did the lid up really tight - the airlock worked this time but now i've got this problem! does anybody know of any tricks to unscrew a very overtightened fermenter lid? i rang my mum to ask if she had any old wives tricks to getting lids off jam jars etc, but alas still no luck...


Sorry to drag up an old post, but I used to have this problem every time I went to take the lid off. I would eventually get it off with a screwdriver and hammer, but I was damaging the lid quite a bit.

So I knocked this up.

Attached File  100_3098.JPG   299.61KB   59 downloads

Its just a pit of 12mm ply that I cut with a jigsaw to fit snugly into the top of the ferementer lid, and just what ever timber I had lying around for leverage, a bit rough I know, but it does the job nicely.

Cheers Ampy

#59 Tropical_Brews

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 11:43 AM

Nice tool ampy but it would be easier not to tighten the lid up so much when you put it on.

BTW. get a craft knife and cut any of the excess plastic moulding burrs off the top surface lip of your fermenter. If the lip is smooth less chances for the lid to jam.

#60 ampy

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 11:56 AM

Nice tool ampy but it would be easier not to tighten the lid up so much when you put it on.

BTW. get a craft knife and cut any of the excess plastic moulding burrs off the top surface lip of your fermenter. If the lip is smooth less chances for the lid to jam.


I don't put it on real tight any more, but it still always still jams on me. I will cut the excess plastic off the lip of the fermenter, thanks for the advice.