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Well i've just got into the home brew game after being given a kit with the new Coopers Pale Ale. A friend sent me to this site, and i've got to say i've probably got more questions than i know how to ask!
So far i've completed 3 brews - the coopers Pale Ale, a Morgans ginger beer (keep the better half happy about my new obsession) and an attempt at a Kilkenny type brew consisting of Morgans Royal Oak Amber Ale, Light Malt 1Kg, and Tettnanger & Goldings finishing hops.
Not having tasted any yet, i hope they aren't all disasters!

Anyway, i've been googling like mad to try to find out some tips, and am even more confused then when i started. I certainly don't trust any of the US sites, having tasted many of their "excellent" micro brewery beers, and not being very impressed.
Hopefully some of you brew masters might be able to clear up some of my questions.

a) Secondary - i gather that this involves taking the brew and transferring it to a seperate fermenter for some period of time. When exactly do you do this, for how long, and what exactly is the aim? Do i need to add more sugar / malt etc ?

b ) SG readings - my readings off the hydrometer seem to be all over the place, i can never get two readings the same. Should i be bothering at the moment? Several people have told me not to bother, and just to wait till the airlock stops bubbling...

c) Carbonation - i've read some bad opinions of carbonation drops on this forums, and i gather that i should be bulk priming, but wouldn't this require stiring of the brew, and thus stiring up all the crap at the bottom back into the brew? And what do i use? Dextrose, sugar, malt?

d) Body - i really want to make a brew that tastes as thick as Kilkenny, what exactly can i add to thicken up the beer? I've been told to use corn syrup, but i read here that is is useless. Is using Malt enough, or do i need to do something else?

Thanks in advance
I haven't been brewing that long so YMMV.


some people wait until fermentation is "finished" others like to secondary while it is still going. The main purpose seems to be that you get a clearer beer, think of the secondary as a settling tank. If you hear terms like autolysis and are worried about it, ask someone who has had a genuine case and find out how long they left the beer in primary. Particularly for a new brewer, the extra handling of the beer increases opportunities for infection and more contact with oxygen with the wort.

SG readings

Assuming you have factored in temperature, you can have problems with not fully mixed wort (imagine pouring a kit into the fermenter then tossing water in - there wouldn't be that much mixing). I find bubbles are the most annoying thing about SG readings. You should persist because it is the most reliable way for a newbie to find out when fermentation has finished.

Can't really comment on the carbonation because I only bottle when I have left overs from kegging. In that case I just measure white sugar into the bottles at a rate of 10g per litre and it works fine.

My advice is a bit dodgy on the body but your home brew store should have some stuff - malt definitely adds body.

First bit of advice. Find , it's an online book by John Palmer and has plenty of info on the whole thing, all the questions above are answered. I learnt most of my info early on from that book. Oh, and it's free. :D

On carbonating, steer well clear of the carbonation drops they are just a gimmick and a poor one at that. I just use cane sugar (table sugar) for any bottles I do and there is no notable effect in my opinion. If I'm filling a keg then I only put a measured amount of sugar in enough bottles to deal with the left overs but if I'm bottling the whole batch I will bulk prime. Some people put the bulk prime solution into another fermenter or bucket with tap then transfer the beer into that for mixing (try to minimise splashing and exposure to oxygen here), but I usually just carefully stir the solution straight into the secondary fermenter.

On the secondary fermenter issue. As an easy rule just wait 10-12 days fo an ale to finish then transfer to a second fermeter (using a hose and minimising splashing as above) and then stick it in the fridge for a while. I try to leave it 2 weeks in secondary but it's up to you how long you leave it.

That'll do for the moment. Have a read of John Palmers book and see how you go.

Cheers, JD

P.S. Oh dear, another poor lad hooked on homebrewing.
Welcome to the hobby!

Ask 3 brewers, get 4 opinions! However, FWIW, this is what I would do:
Secondary. I tend to always do it. You need a foodgrade jerrycan that can hold 22+Litres.ost of us use the 20L "cubes" into which, surprisingly, you can just fit a 22-23L brew. then put the cube somewhere cold, a fridge is nice. I leave the beer in the primary for at least two weeks, then rack to the secondary and bung in the fridge. Leave it in there for 2 weeks and you will see, when you rack it back to your fermenter for bottling that a lot more yeast has dropped out in those two weeks, leading to cleare beer. And your beer is not as "green" as straight after ferment has finished. Never rack while the ferment is still going, nothing to be gained by that and you may get a stuck ferment.

SG Readings. you only need to take them at the start. They will only be accurate, as someone else stated, if all the malt extract from your kit is dissolved. So use 4L instead of 2 of boiling water, stir stir. At the end, when foam and bubbles make it a bit hard to take the reading I just draw off a sample place in my sample jar and leave it there till that night, a reading is then easy. You should finish at about a quarter of whereyou started (e.g. 1044 will ferment out to around 1011, 1060 to around 1015)

Carbonation.I prime, if I prime, with dried wheat malt extract. Puts a nice head on the beer. Rack from primary to cube, two weeks later rack back to cleaned & sanitised fermenter into which boiled up priming sugar solution has been added. Rack the beer back and stir slowly a few times with brew paddle. Bottle and cap.

Body. Here is where you can exercise some creativity. Maltodextrin aka dried corn syrup is artificially made crap, leave that alone. Beer is made from malt, the best form of malt is grains, the more grains the better your beer. Fortunately, steeping crystal, cara-malts, chocolate malt black malt or roast barley and adding the liquid from that to your boil of some malt extract and maybe a smidgin dextrose will add unfermentable dextrines to your beer and this increases the body of the finished beer.

Jovial Monk
Woops! meant to say, only need to take SG readings at start AND END!


How much dried wheat malt extract do you use to bulk prime?
Hmmm I do not like fizzy beer, so about half a cup for 23L

A wheat beer that should be fizzy, 180g

Somewhere in between should be fine. Note that malt is only 62% fermentable, you need to use a little bit more of it for the same volume of CO2 as you would when priming with sugar

Jovial Monk
Assuming sugar is almost 100% fermentable does that mean you need one & a half times as much malt for comparable carbonation or not quite that much?
You would need a third more, but try adding just the same amount. With a nice beer you do not need to hide the lack of flavor and body by adding a lot of fizz, leave that to the megaswillers!

Jovial Monk
Sorry for the late reply, i've been busy reading those links!
Thanks heaps for your help, i think i grasp the basics now, so time for some experimentation. I've got a honey lager on the go now, so hopefully i'll get time to pop in to my lhb shop for another fermenter or one of those cubes to give secondary fermenation a shot.

I'll try to keep the questions to one at a time from now on.

Thanks again

No worries - that what is the forum we all can learn from each other...
OK, i just tasted my first brew - Coopers Pale Ale, it's been bottled for a whole of 3 weeks. Not knowing any different, i just followed the recipe on the can, bottled after one week in the fermenter, and used carbonation drops in the bottles.

It tastes pretty good, no complaints there, but the beer seems to have a thin film over the top of it. I washed my bottles four times (washing liquid, rinse, sterilise, rinse) so i'm pretty sure it's not left over detergent.

Any hints? I did a search but didn't find anything. As i said, it tastes fine, just isn't pleasent visually.
ummm film don't sound good

Is there a ring around the neck of your bottles where the top of the beer is?

It sounds like your beer is infected.

What did you use to sanitise fermenter, brewpaddle, tap & taphole, bottling tube & valve? If sodium metabisulphite throw it away and get a real sanitiser, at least use bleach, rinse well and do a last rinse with boiling water (one of those 8L urns you can pick up cheap in second hand stores ae very handy to have)

Jovial Monk
Bugger :-(
Yeah there is a slight ring around the top of the beer in the bottles. But i thought infected beer was supposed to tasted really bad?
I can't believe it, i was sooooo anal about cleaning everything.
But this is the confusing part - the first bottle of sodium met told me to rinse, wait an hour, and rinse with tap water.
The second tub told me just to rinse, wait 15 and use.

Bugger, i was planning to ditch the sodium met anyway as it stuffs me up.
Seems most of the advice i followed was wrong. :-(

Anyone know where i can buy something like iodophur is Brisbane? My lhb only sells sodium met.
Dairy line cleaner is the best, based on phosporic acid with strong detergents. you only use a few drops/litre so it is no rinse!

I sell it $5.95/250ml bottle, cheapest in Adelaide!

bleach is also good, but rinse really really well with boiled tap water, last rince should be hot water. Nappysan and oxygen based bleaches are also good but must also be rinsed

Jovial Monk
Jovial_Monk said:
I sell it $5.95/250ml bottle, cheapest in Adelaide!
Do you mail order?

Seems there's a silver lining to every cloud - i just dumped the lot, and a couple of the caps literaly came flying off, so i may have just avoided a rather sticky explosion (which would have been a real prick as i just finished cleaning the garage this morning).
JM, do you have a prefered payment method??


oh.....I just re-read your post and saw a phone number. When I am ready i'll give you a ring.

a friend of mine likes to use the stuff that you sterilize baby bottles with. no rinsing and it must be safe or we would have some sick little kiddies.