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Aussie Home Brewer

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dane

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The FAQ is designed to help newcomers to understand the basic principles behind your first brew, as well as pointing out some important tips that will help make your kit beer look and taste better. :chug:

Before we start, I am no way an experienced brewer, I set up this site mainly because I found that there were few aussie based resources for new brewers. I am only on my 3rd brew, however over the last month I have done quite a bit of reading and many of the hints and tips that I have received will be compiled into this FAQ.

Hopefully as more and more experienced brewers use this site, this FAQ will be updated with new information.

If you are new to brewing, you will most probably have just purchased a starter kit. In Australia, these kits usually retail for around $60-$65 for a basic kit. This kit will contain all the bare essential equipment that you need to start your first brew. Of course you can purchase additional equipment that will help you streamline, speed up or make a more accurate batch, but seeing as you are a starter, these kits will be fine.

The basic kits use a plastic fermenter with a tap at the bottom. If you have been reading about brewing on the Internet, many people use glass fermenters called Carboys. There are pro's and con's in which type of fermenter to use, but usually it will come down to personal preference. Because plastic drums are used in the starter kits, this FAQ will only apply to plastic setups.

Lets get started! :D

First step is to assemble your fermenter; while this is pretty much a no brainer, the only thing to look out for is to make sure that the little sediment stopper on the inside of the tap is pointing up. This ensures that when you are bottling or racking your brew, as little sediment from the bottom of the fermenter is drawn up through the tap. The sediment stopper is a small plastic plug that has a slit in the top of it. Make sure that it pointing towards the top of the fermenter. The only other thing to look out for is to make sure that the o-ring and the grommet is securely in place. It is of up most importance that your fermenter is air-tight.

I would strongly recommend new brewers to read the instructions that came with your fermenter. These instructions can be a little brief and in some sections actually give the wrong advice, however it is important to get a decent overview of your equipment and how the brewing process works. These manuals also explain what all the tools do and how to use the chemicals/ingredients that came with your kit.

Many brew shops put in their own streamlined/modified instructions - obviously I have not seen these, however, it would be a good idea to read through these as well. Your local brew shop will probably be one of your first point of calls if you have a question or a problem. So use them as a resource and hopefully the instructions that they included in the kit, should reflect some of their experience.

The single most important factor to beer brewing is CLEANLINESS!!!!, this cannot be stressed enough. No matter how much experience you have had; no matter how good your ingredients are; if something comes in contact with your brew and it hasn't been properly prepared and cleaned, an infection can wipe out your beloved brew in no time at all.

Infact infections can occur so easily that it is not only CLEANLINESS that you must keep in mind, it is SANITISATION. Cleaning a tool removes grease, dirt and most other foreign bodies, while sanitisation takes one step closer to sterilizing your equipment. Sanitising, if done effectively, removes almost all bacteria or any harmful particles from the equipment. While not completely sterilizing the equipment, it is as close as most people can get while using household chemicals.

Starter kits usually come with two cleaning chemicals, a brewers detergent and a sanitising solution (sometimes referred to as pink cleaner or sodium met.). It is extremely important that you wash, clean and sanitise absolutely every piece of equipment that will come in contact with your brew. This includes your fermenter and lid, tap, funnels, stirrers, airlock, any buckets/containers, hydrometer and bottles. It is a shame to loose a brew because you didn't take the time to prepare your equipment.

Now that all your equipment is cleaned and sanitised, you are ready to start your first brew!

Most starter kit instructions suggest that you boil 2L's of water and use that to dissolved your ingredients into. While I would recommend this method first your first brews, it is usually advised that you boil and 'cook/simmer' your first ingredients in water.

To keep things easy, I will describe the method for using boiling water, rather than the cooking method. Boil 2-3L of water and pour it into your fermenter. Add the contents of your beer concentrate as well as any sugar(dextrose) and malt. Stir contents until dissolved.

Make sure you mix the ingredients well as the yeast need oxygen to function, the more oxygen the better. One everything is mixed up and dissolved, fill the fermenter with water to bring to total volume to 23L's. (Note: some brews, especially Stout, need a smaller water volume, please check what the total volume is on your beer instructions).. Once you have filled to the required volume, stir thoroughly again.

If your kit require now is usually the time to add them, again check the instructions for your specific recipe. Some recipes state that you just through the in fermenter, or 'dry hop', with no preparation. Most advise to boil water and put into a sanitised cup and let the hops sit in the boiling water for 10 minutes, this will be referred to as the standard method. After 10 minutes you can then add them to the mixture. If you chose to boil your ingredients beforehand, you usually add hops then and let ever simmer for 15minutes. I will describe the cooking method later.

Assuming that you are dry hopping or using the standard method, add you hops and stir gently. It is now time to add your yeast.

There are so many ways yeast can be added or 'pitched' into the fermenter. As this FAQ is design for a first time brewer, I will describe the most basic method of pitching yeast. All kits comes with dry yeast, and to pitch it, it is a matter of simply pouring the dry yeast into the fermenter and stirring thoroughly (this will make sure that they yeast will be mixed in and also help with oxygenating the wort).

As soon as the yeast has been pitched, fill the airlock with cooled boiled water and insert through the grommet, making sure that the seal is airtight. Screw the lid on tight.

The last step you need to do before you start the waiting game, is to take a hydrometer reading so you have a figure for your Specific Gravity (S.G.). Draw off half of a hydrometer test jar to get rid of any sediment stuck in the tap, and pour another sample. Bob the hydrometer in the test jar and take a reading. This figure is important to work out alcohol content as well as an indicator for the fermenting process.

Pack you fermenter away and monitor your temps. Again check your beer kit to see what temps you are meant to keep the brew at - ales are usually 18c-28c and larger lower than that - usually around 12c. This will differ from batch to batch and depending on how you are controlling your temps you may have trouble keeping an optimum temperature.

Finally, make a log book or a diary of the exact procedures you did to make the batch. This process will allow you to describe and outline what you did to make your beer so you can go back to it and make changes after you have tasted the final product.

That concludes our fist FAQ for first time brewers. More information will be available shortly about monitoring your fermenting brew, bottling and storage.

This FAQ is by no way a definitive guide, instead a compiled document on hint and tips I have received. As you have a couple of brews under your belt (pun intended) you will want to move onto more advanced techniques.
 

dane

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While this FAQ is only for beginners, there is a website that is fairly well know in the brewing community. For information on more advanced techniques, please have a look at www.howtobrew.com. It is an excellent resource!
 

bL@De

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One thing I would like to this FAQ is Racking

I have only racked 3 brews or so but in the time I have been doing it the beer is much clearer with very little sedament in the bottom of the glasses from the bottle.

How to go about it.

Two ways you can do it either using a syphon or a piece of 12mm plastic tube (available from your local home brew shop). I'll use the plastic tube in this example.

Ok here goes.
1st Fermenter (where the beer is coming from)
2nd Fermenter (where the beer is going to go)

What you need to do is ensure the tube and 2nd fermenter are clean as you normally would with any brew. Place the 2nd fermenter below the first fermenter with the lid off and attach the hose to the first one (where the beer is coming from). Now turn on the tap and let the beer run into the 2nd fermenter ensuring there is plenty of splashing. Once all the beer has dropped down into the 2nd fermenter you should have plenty of crap left in the 1st fermenter, this is ok to clean out and get ready for another brew if you want or simply store away until you need it again.

Now you have finished that replace the lid on the 2nd fermenter and fit the airlock, you are now ready to continue brewing.

I generally do the racking on the 3 - 4th day of 1st stage fermentation, about halfway through the brewing process.

Hope this clears up some confusion, I know when I started out I had no idea and with the help of my local HBS (Home Brew Shop) guy I have come along way.
 

Blakey

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Re: Racking.
DO NOT AERATE THE BEER WHEN RACKING.

You only want to aerate the wort when it is cold, before starting fermentation.

Aerating it during racking will lead to oxidation. To avoid this, place the end of your racking cane/hose at the base of your secondary and keep it under the beer.

Blakey
 

dane

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Blakey,

When do you suggest it is time to rack?
 

bL@De

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I don't exactly agree with what you said Blakey regarding Aeration.

Put it this way, the guy I am learning from has worked for Coopers and West End as one of the lab guys, I do believe he would have some sort of credit when it comes to things like this.

If he thought there would be a problem he wouldn't recommend doing it that way.

Have a search in google, everyone has a variety of different opinions.
 

BrewMaster

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just 1 thing to add
on the back of the kit cans it says add 1kg of sugar, this is ok but normal table sugar has a lot of other stuff in it. yeast will only feed on fermentable sugars and the rest will be the fall out waste,so if you brew in bottles and do the 1 tspn of sugar for carbonation thing, this will lead to more sediment in your bottles. Why does it say use 1kg of sugar on the can? Well if you where a new home brewer and it said use 1kg of dextrose which is not common in supermarkets you wouldnt buy a home brew setup.
Dextrose is a more fermentable form of sugar which will lead to less sediment. Or to confuse the issue more you can brew with 100% liquid or powdered malt(homebrew is like life, you get out what you put in it) but thats for later on. So tip 1 use dextrose not sugar.
 

sboulton

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hi guys ,
i think when it comes to racking , and aerating you may have to look at what you are brewing .
if its a lager all the books/ sites i have visited warn against aerating due to oxidization ,
but i am not sure about ales or specialty beers . i have only just racked my first mini mash lager and i tried my hardest not to excite it with as smooth a transfer as possible am letting it rest at room temp for 24 hrs and then into the fridge to lager will let you know how it turns out , if anyone has any info on ales pls let me know

cheers
simon :chug:
 

Wander Brewer

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bL@De said:
Now turn on the tap and let the beer run into the 2nd fermenter ensuring there is plenty of splashing. .
this is a very bad thig to do, you will o2 your beer, and it will result in off smells and tastes, the only time you should splash beer is just prior to pitching yeast



unless and i think this is where some people make the mistake, if your brewing a lager ( at the correct temps) and racking on day 4, it should be fine, as the yeast is still very active, and it will give the yeast some more life, but if you are using the kit yeast or brewing ale, you will have problems
 

Wander Brewer

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BrewMaster said:
just 1 thing to add
on the back of the kit cans it says add 1kg of sugar, this is ok but normal table sugar has a lot of other stuff in it. yeast will only feed on fermentable sugars and the rest will be the fall out waste,so if you brew in bottles and do the 1 tspn of sugar for carbonation thing, this will lead to more sediment in your bottles. Why does it say use 1kg of sugar on the can? Well if you where a new home brewer and it said use 1kg of dextrose which is not common in supermarkets you wouldnt buy a home brew setup.
Dextrose is a more fermentable form of sugar which will lead to less sediment. Or to confuse the issue more you can brew with 100% liquid or powdered malt(homebrew is like life, you get out what you put in it) but thats for later on. So tip 1 use dextrose not sugar.
i think the kit makers should change what they write on cans, they try to make it as simple as possible, my no 1 rule is never add cane sugar to beer, ( except some specialty ales, and 2 when bottle primming i use wheat malt extract,
 

sboulton

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fiscus , most people i have talked to reckon to rack 3-4 days after you pitch your yeast , i however only racked due to the fact that my lager was very cloudy in the ferm. after it had finished and several people suggested i rack to clean it up ,( which i have ) how ever just as many people have also suggested bottling and lagering for a month and it will clear up, i fermented at 12 deg c optimum for the yeast ,

cheers

:chug:
simon
 

RegBadgery

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Yes cleanliness and sanitation are important, but I think that the risk of infection is not great. If you can cook without giving yourself food poisoning then I think you can brew without infecting your beer.

I've been brewing for several years without a single infection. I'm careful to make sure all of the equipment is clean and that everything has been soaked in iodine solution.

A couple of keys to a successful brew experience include adequate aeration of the wort prior to pitching the yeast, as well as ensuring that you're using enough yeast.

If you've brewing with dried yeast, it's best to use 10-12g of yeast. Some yeast packets only contain 5g. Safale yeast is a very good dried ale yeast. It's available in many brew shops. ( Best price I've found was from BrewYourOwn in Canberra. The owner buys in bulk, makes up his own sachets and gives discounts for multiple orders.)

If you're using liquid yeast, it's a very good idea to make a starter (see John Palmer's website for details). There's much debate over the "pitchable" vials of whitelabs yeast, and the "XL" sachets of WYeast. Some argue that there's sufficient yeast in the pitchables to add directly to the wort. Others maintain that a starter is essential. I tend to use a starter, just to be on the safe side. (I also enjoy watching the activity of the wort in miniature).

Whether dry or liquid, all yeast should be refridgerated. A good brew store will refridgerate dried as well as liquid yeast. (However, best not to use yeast straight from the fridge - allow to come to room temp first)

As for aeration, I use a simple technique prior to pitching the yeast. I put a full fermenter on top of a couple of milk crates (you can never have too many milk crates), an empty one on a lower level, then open the tap on the full fermenter.

So, cleanliness and sanitation, enough healthy yeast and a well aerated wort and bob's your uncle.

cheers
reg
 

dane

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Reg, Do you hydrate your yeast before you pitch?

If so what are you procedures for this?
 

RegBadgery

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Haven't rehydrated dry yeast but I posted some associated info in the yeast. hyd. topic in the "Pub" forum

cheers
reg
 

bL@De

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I have re-hydrated yeast well err attempted.

Anyway as you can see here there has been some very informative replies on how to go about it.
 

sboulton

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i have succesfully rehydrated yeast , first i used about 70ml of cooled boiled water in a sterlised glass i put a teaspoon of sugar ( dextrose or lme would also work fine) stir it well then pitched yeast into glass ,stirred it gently , covered glass with gladwrap left it on the kitchen bench within 10-15 minutes it was growing and ready to pitch ,
dont put glass in sun
make sure water is room temp / tepid
also make sure you will be able to pitch yeast into fermenter within approx 30 mins


simon
:chug:
 

bL@De

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My problem is certainly temperature, I shall look into it and see what happens.

Thanks for all the replies :)
 

Blakey

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sboulton said:
i have succesfully rehydrated yeast , first i used about 70ml of cooled boiled water in a sterlised glass i put a teaspoon of sugar ( dextrose or lme would also work fine) stir it well then pitched yeast into glass ,stirred it
That's not rehydrating, that's making a starter. Rehydrating is exactly what it sounds like, getting the yeast wet. So if you ommitted the sugar then you would just be rehydrating. It's not really necessary to make a starter from dry yeast, as you usually have plenty of cells to begin with, unlike liquid vials or smack packs which have far fewer.

Also, it's a good idea not to make a starter with dextrose/sugar, as yeast that begins to ferment with sugar temporarily loses it's ability to ferment the sugars in the malt (maltose?)

And I think the question of aerating being bad has been answered, but try posting on rec.crafts.homebrew if you're still not satisfied. In short, aerating hot wort = bad, cold wort = good, fermented beer = bad. If you really want to accelerate fermentation, grab an airstone, sanitise it, pitch your yeast and throw the stone into your wort for a few hours.

Blakey.
 

GMK

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Rehydrating Yeast

This is how i rehydrate my yeast....
Get a large 250 gm coffee jar....remove the foil from under the lid. This stops the jar from sealing which allows the yeast to breathe.

Sterlise jar with boiling water. mix up 50mls of just boiled water and cold water in a stainless steel mug to approx luke warm / tepid - just colder than body temp...

To coffee jar add yeast sachet and 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient (optional). Next add tepid water.
Mix thouroghly with tepid water at start of the brewing process and place in dark cupboard.(I use the pantry)

Once through the brewing process and upto adding the cold water into the fermenter. Feed the yeast slurry with a tablespoon of either - dextrose, liquid malt or honey and mix well.

Leave for 10 mins - add cold water to fermenter while waiting. Check yeast starter for activity - froth, smell, bubbles etc. to see it working.
If working pitch into fermenter.
If not - bad yeast, throw out and start yeast starter process all over again.

I have had no failures with this method..once had some bad yeast that did not work...was able to tell before pitching into fermenter.

Hope this helps. :)
 
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