Why Is My Beer Not Carbonating?

Pouring Flat Homebrewed BeerI made a batch of Mexican beer that I primed with 1 tsp. per 16 oz. bottle. After 45 days, but the beer is flat. The taste is OK, but no bubbles. Can I reprime it? Why is my beer not carbonating?

Name: Bruce
State: Montana
Hi Bruce,

As you probably know, beer carbonates in the beer bottle when the yeast in the beer is given an extra dose of sugar (known as priming sugar). The yeast then converts the sugar into CO2. Since the beer bottle is sealed, the CO2 has nowhere to go besides into solution, thus carbonating your beer. This is called bottle conditioning.

If your homebrew beer is flat, it likely means one of three things:

  1. The beer yeast is not consuming the priming sugar due to lack of time or cold temperature,
  2. The beer yeast does not have enough sugar to convert into CO2, or
  3. The beer bottles are not thoroughly sealed.

If you used 1 tsp. of corn sugar per bottle, that should be sufficient. However, if you primed with dried malt extract, this may not be enough to produce the desired carbonation level.

Either way, before you re-prime the flat beer bottles, I would recommend troubleshooting this flat beer in the following order.

  • First, ensure that your flat beer bottles have been sitting in a room with a steady temperature of 70°-75°F. Temperatures lower than this could cause the beer to carbonate very slowly or not at all. Keep in mind that certain closets and storage areas may not be as warm as the rest of the house. If you suspect that the beer bottles were in a cooler storage room, move them somewhere warmer and wait another two-three weeks. By the way, when someone ask: “why is my beer not carbonating?” this is by far the most likely the solution to the problem.Shop Bottle Cappers
  • Second, check that all of the bottles of flat beer have been capped securely. If there’s any kind of leak, the CO2 pressure may be escaping. This could be happening if you’re using twist-off beer bottles instead of pop-off beer bottles. Maybe it was just the first bottle you opened that didn’t have a good seal?

If the first two actions didn’t fix the problem, then you can re-prime the bottles of flat beer. I would only do this if you are certain that the bottles have had at least six to eight weeks of conditioning time in a room at 70°-75°F.

Consider this carefully – if you add too much sugar to the bottles, you run the risk of bottle bombs. Keep in mind that beer bottles primed with honey or DME may require more time than bottles primed with corn sugar.

Here’s how to re-prime beer if you decide to do so: open each bottle and add half as much priming sugar as you did the first time and reseal with sanitized bottle caps. Move the bottles to a safe location where they won’t make a mess or hurt someone if they explode.

Shop Beer BottlesChances are high that all you need to do is give your bottles adequate time at the appropriate temperature. For more ideas about carbonating your homebrew, consider this blog post.

So, if your homebrew beer is flat can you re-prime? Yes. Should you? Maybe, but not likely. Remember re-priming a flat beer is a last resort. Troubleshooting flat beer can be tricky. Just remember, it is only after you have tried to keep the flat beer at a reasonable temperature first, that’s how to re-prime beer.

Thanks again for your question and good luck!
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Awesome Terrapin Rye Pale Ale Clone Recipe

Terrapin Rye Pale AleJust like wheat and barley, rye is a cereal grain that can be used in making beer. It’s a huskless grain with an assertive, spicy flavor. To design a rye pale ale beer recipe, one could easily start with a good American pale ale recipe and add between one-half and one pound of rye malt to the mash. This will contribute the distinctive spicy flavor that rye is best known for adding to a brew. Most rye pale ale beer recipes will have at most 10-20% of the grain bill come from malted rye.

Because its protein content is higher than barley, rye can improve body and head retention, but it also tends to get sticky in a mash. If your system is prone to stuck mashes or if your beer recipe uses more than about 20% rye, consider adding some rice hulls to the mash to improve filterability.

There are several good commercial examples of rye pale ale on the market. Terrapin Beer Company from Alpharetta, GA, entered the market with their Terrapin Rye Pale Ale, which won a gold medal in the American Pale Ale category in its first year at the Great American Beer Festival, in 2002. The brewery is now approaching 50,000 barrels of beer a year in production. Below is a Terrapin rye pale ale clone recipe you can brew up.

E. C. Kraus carries a great Rye Pale Ale beer recipe kit from Brewerʼs Best, but feel free to use the tips below to develop your own beer recipe.


Types of Rye

Homebrewers typically work with either rye malt or flaked rye. Rye malt has been germinated and kilned, whereas flaked rye is pressed between hot rollers. Both contribute rye flavor, though the rye malt will be a little more toasty and sweet than the flakes. Both can be added directly to the mash. If brewing a partial mash recipe, combine the rye with some malted barley so the mash doesn’t stick.

Ready to brew a rye pale ale? Try this Terrapin rye pale ale clone or use it as a starting point for your own beer recipe!Shop Steam Freak Kits


Terrapin Rye Pale Ale Clone Recipe – Partial Mash 
Batch Size: 5 gallons

OG: 1.057
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.6%
IBUs: 35

6 lbs. Light Malt Extract
1 lb. Rye Malt
1 lb. Munich Malt
8 oz. Victory Malt
6 oz. Honey Malt
1 tsp. Irish Moss @ 15 mins

.33 oz. Magnum hops @ 60 mins
(4.7 AAUs)
.33 oz. Fuggles hops @ 30 mins
(1.5 AAUs)
.33 oz. Kent Goldings hops @ 20 mins (1.7 AAUs)shop_brew_kettles
.33 oz. Kent Goldings hops @ 10 mins (1.7 AAUs)
1 oz. Cascade hops @ 5 mins (7 AAUs)
1 oz. Amarillo dry hop for 10 days
Yeast: Wyeast American Ale II
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Hop Bursting Homebrew 101: Tips for BIG Hop Flavor and Aroma

Hop Bursting A Batch Of Homebrew BeerOver the past several years, IPAs and Double IPAs have been all the rage in the craft beer scene. Heady Topper, Pliny the Elder, and others have put hops in the spotlight. Though the term “hop bursting” has only just gained some notoriety, the technique could be the secret the success of these massively popular beers.


So what is hop bursting?

Hop bursting is simply adding massive amounts of late addition hops to the boil. Instead of early additions for the bulk of a beer’s bitterness. These late additions supply most of the IBUs.

Let me explain.

In a standard beer recipe, you may have an ounce of bittering hops, an ounce of flavor hops, and an ounce of aroma hops. Seems pretty balanced. However, since more bitterness is extracted the longer hops are boiled, the majority of the IBUs in this scenario come from the first addition. Just play around with an IBU calculator to see what I mean. With hop bursting, the first addition will be very small or even nonexistent, which means that most or all of the IBUs come from the later additions.

You’ll find that to achieve the same level of IBUs, hop bursting will require significantly more hops in total. However, this technique can help the brewer to achieve very intense hop flavor and aroma without overpowering bitterness.

If you’re a fan of massive hop flavor and aroma, try the hop bursting recipe below!


Hop Bursted Amarillo IPA
(partial mash recipe, five gallons)

OG: 1.064
FG: 1.016
ABV: 6.3%
IBUs: 64
Boil time: 60 minutes

6.6 lbs. Light LME
1 lb. Amber DME
1 lb. Caramel 20L malt
Shop Barley Crusher1 lb. Carapils malt
.5 oz. Amarillo hops at :30
1 oz. Amarillo hops at :15
1 tsp. Irish moss at :15
2 oz. Amarillo hops at :10
1.5 oz. Amarillo hops at :5
Yeast: Safale US-05
3/4 cup priming sugar


Steep the crushed Caramel 20L and Carapils malts for 30 minutes in one gallon of water at 152°F. Strain the grains and rinse them with 1 gallon of water at 170°F, collecting the runoff in the boil kettle. Mix in the liquid malt extract and top off to 7 gallons of wort. (To get 64 IBUs, you will need a 7 gallon boil. If using a 5 gallon kettle, top off to 4 gallons and increase the first hop addition to 1.5 oz.)Shop Hops

Boil for 60 minutes, adding the hops according to the schedule. Add 1 teaspoon of Irish moss with 15 minutes left in the boil. Whirlpool, chill, and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. If needed, top off with enough water to make five gallons. Ferment at 66°-70°F for seven days. Rack to secondary for ten days. Bottle or keg as you would normally.

Are you a fan of the hop bursting technique? What’s your strategy? Do you have a hop bursting recipe or schedule you’d like to share? Put it in the comments section below…
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Quick Guide To Brewing Beer With Herbs

The results of brewing beer with herbs.Brewing beer with herbs is not some new fad, a product of the recent craft beer boom. Before hops were popular (we’re talking hundreds of years ago), a wide variety of herbs and spices provided the bittering and flavoring characteristics to balance beer’s malty sweetness. Brewing beer with herbs was the norm. By adding herbs in your own homebrew, you can recreate ancient styles of beer (such as Sahti and Scottish Gruit) and also exercise your creative spirit to develop something entirely new. Below are just a short list of herbs, flowers, and other plants that can be used, alone or in combination, to contribute a unique flavor profile to your homebrew:

  • Basil
  • Betony
  • Birch
  • Borage
  • Chamomile
  • Coriander
  • Dandelion
  • Elderflowers
  • Ginger
  • Ginseng
  • Heather
  • Horehound
  • Juniper
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Balm
  • Licorice
  • Mint
  • Nettles
  • Oregano
  • Rhubarb
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Savory
  • Thyme






When thinking about how to use herbs in homemade beer, add them in the same way as we do hops. These herbs may be added early or late in boil (depending on whether you’re looking for more bitterness, flavor, or aroma) or to the secondary fermenter, just like with dry hopping. One thing to keep in mind when brewing beer with herbs is that the herbs tend to be more delicate than hops. Many of them don’t need to be boiled as long as hops in order to extract bitterness and flavor.

You can pick these herbs from your own garden, or buy them from the store. Many herbs are available as tea blends, the tea bags making it east and convenient to strain out the herbs.

When developing an herb beer recipe, think about what flavor characteristics work well with the base beer. The herbs should complement the style characteristics, rather then dominate them. (Consult the BJCP guidelines for style 21A for more detailed information.) If brewing a gruit, forgo the hops. Other base beer styles, such as pale ale and wit, can be given an interesting twist by incorporating herbs in addition to the hops.Shop Beer Flavorings

To help start you out brewing beer with herbs, here is a pale ale recipe using oregano. Feel free to substitute basil, rosemary, and other herbs as desired.


Oregano Pale Ale Recipe (5 gal):
OG: 1.054
FG: 1.011
ABV: 5.6%
SRM: 11

8 lbs. Two Row Malt
1 lb. Munich Malt
1 lb. Caramel 40L

Partial Mash:
6 lbs. Golden Light Extract
1 lb. Munich Malt
1 lb. Caramel 40L

1 oz. Northern Brewer @ :60
1 oz. Centennial @ :30
0.5 oz. Tettnanger @:15
0.5 oz Tettnanger @ :5

0.25-1 oz. of fresh oregano* @ :15
1 tsp. Irish Moss @ :15Shop Steam Freak Kits

Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast**
*The oregano can contribute a lot of bitterness and flavor. Up to a full ounce of fresh oregano may be used, but may need to be aged depending on your taste preferences.

**For best results, prepare a yeast starter.

Have you ever tried brewing beer with herbs before? How did it turn out? Do you have an herb beer recipe you’d like to share? Put it in the comments section below.
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He is a graduate of the Siebel Institute of Technology’s “Start Your Own Brewery” program and the Oskar Blues Brew School in Brevard, NC.

Blue Moon Clone Recipe (Extract & All-Grain)

Blue Moon Clone BeerMany craft beer fans entered the world of better beer through Blue Moon. It’s an very smooth and citrusy representation of the Belgian Witbier style: pale yellow in color, somewhat hazy from the use of wheat and oats, and with prominent citrus aroma and flavor from orange peel and coriander.

One of the big differences between traditional witbier and Blue Moon is that the latter uses an American ale yeast rather than a Belgian strain. If you want a more traditional interpretation, substitute Wyeast 3942 for the strain listed in the blue moon recipe below. Keep on the low end of the fermentation temperature range to avoid excessive phenolics.

When serving, remember that Belgian wits are supposed to be hazy – try giving that bottle a swirl before you pour it to enhance the haze.

Ready to brew? Then check out these two Blue Moon clone recipes. One of the beer recipes is for homebrewing a Blue Moon using extract in a partial mash. The other is a Blue Moon clone recipe for all-grain homebrewing.


Blue Moon Recipe (Clone)
(Partial Mash Beer Recipe, 5-Gallon Batch)

OG: 1.055
FG: 1.014
IBUs: 9
ABV: 5.4%
SRM: 5

6.6 lbs. Wheat LME
1 lb. Two-Row Brewers Malt
1 lb. White Wheat Malt
.75 lb. Flaked Oats
1 oz. Hallertau hops (3.9 AAUs) @ :60
3 oz. Valencia dried sweet orange peel @ :10
1.5 tsp. fresh ground coriander @ :10
Wyeast 1056: American Ale YeastShop Steam Freak Kits
5 oz. corn sugar for priming

Directions: Prepare a 2L yeast starter. Mash the two-row malt, wheat malt, and flaked oats in 5 quarts of water. Hold temperature at 154°F. for 60 minutes. Strain the wort into the brew kettle, then rinse grains with 1 gallon of water at 170°F., collecting run-off in the brew kettle. Mix in liquid malt extract and add clean water to bring boil volume to 3.5 gallons. Bring to a boil, add hops, and boil for 60 minutes. Add the orange peel and coriander in the last 10 minutes of the boil. Chill wort, top off to 5 gallons, and stir to mix and aerate. Pitch yeast and ferment at 65F for one week, then transfer to secondary for two weeks. Bottle with priming sugar and condition for two weeks. Optional: serve with a slice of orange.


Blue Moon Recipe (Clone)
(All-Grain Beer Recipe, 6-Gallon Batch)

OG: 1.055
FG: 1.014
IBUs: 9
ABV: 5.4%
SRM: 5

5.5 lb. Two-Row Brewers Malt
4.5 lb. White Wheat Malt
1 lb. Flaked Oats
0.6 oz. Hallertau hops (2.4 AAUs) @ :60Shop Conical Fermenter
3 oz. Valencia (sweet) orange peel @ :10
1.5 tsp. fresh ground coriander @ :10
Wyeast 1056: American Ale Yeast
5 oz. corn sugar for priming

Directions: Prepare a 2L yeast starter. Single infusion mash at 154°F., using 1.5 qts water per pound of grain. Sparge to collect 7.5 gallons of wort. Add hops at beginning of 60-minute boil. Add orange peel and coriander in last 10 minutes of boil. Chill wort, pitch yeast starter, and ferment at 65°F. for one week, then transfer to secondary for two weeks. Bottle with priming sugar and condition for two weeks. Optional: serve with a slice of orange.

Have you ever brewed a Blue Moon clone recipe? How did it go? Share in the comments below!
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

What is Diastatic Power?… Definition and Chart.

Barley With Diastatic Power In Beer MugIf you’ve been brewing for a while, you’ve probably come across the term “diastatic power” when exploring different malts and learning how to mash. What is diastatic power? What’s the big deal?

A good “diastatic power” (DP) definition would be that it is a measurement of a malted grain’s enzymatic content. When grain is malted, enzymes are produced during germination. These enzymes are responsible for converting the grain’s starches into sugar during mashing. Diastatic power is an indicator of the amount of enzymes available to convert those starches into sugar.

In the US, diastatic power is generally measured in degrees Lintner. Malts with enough DP to convert themselves are at least 30 degrees Lintner; base malts can reach as high as 180 or more. That covers the question as to “what is diastatic power“. Now here’s some actual numbers to take a look at.

Here is a diastatic power chart for some of the more common malted grains:

            Malt                             Degrees Lintner

Briess Red Wheat Malt                    180
Briess White Wheat Malt                 160
Briess Two-Row Malt                      140
Briess Pilsen Malt                            140
Briess Vienna Malt                          130
Briess Rye Malt                               105
Briess Munich Malt 10L                      40
Briess Caramel 20-120                        0
Briess Chocolate Malt                          0Shop Barley Grains
Briess Black Malt                                 0

For most all-grain beer recipes with a substantial amount of base malt, diastatic power isn’t going to be a major issue. DP comes in to play when brewing with a high proportion of specialty malts or unmalted adjuncts. There needs to be enough DP to not only convert the starches in the base grains, but in the specialty malts as well. One of the reasons American adjunct lagers are so high in two-row malt is that the extra DP is needed to convert the adjunct starches into sugar.

Diastatic power is also important when brewing partial mash. Take for example the grain bill for a partial mash recipe such as this one:

6.6 lbs. Light LME
1.5 lb. Caramel 40L
1 lb. Munich Malt (10L)

We know that the Caramel 40L contributes no diastatic power and the Munich only 40 degrees Lintner. The DP available to convert this mini-mash (simply the average by weight of the grains) is only about 16. This is far below the minimum recommended value of 30. Some recommend aiming for 70. In short, the higher the average DP, the more likely your chances are of a successful starch conversion.

There are several possible solutions for the example above:

  1. We could replace the Munich with Vienna malt without a huge impact on flavor and bring up the average diastatic power to 52.
  2. Alternatively, we could add 1 lb. of two-row barley malt to the mini-mash, bringing the average diastatic power to 52, as well.
  3. We could also “cheat” by adding a small amount of diatase enzyme.Shop Barley Crusher

The point is, all it takes is a little tweaking to help make sure the mash has enough DP to convert. The good news is that with a partial mash recipe, the mash represents such a small proportion of the overall gravity that it won’t make a huge difference if it doesn’t. Most of the gravity points will come from the LME.

The next time you brew, calculate your diastatic power and record your brewhouse efficiency. Did you have enough DP for a successful conversion? These are all advantages to know the answer to the question, what is diastatic power.
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Westmalle Tripel Clone Recipe (Extract & All-Grain)

Glass Of Belgian TripleTrappist beers are those made at Trappist monasteries; beers made in the Trappist style are called abbey beers. Most are characterized at malt-forward dry ales that are conditioned in the bottle. Belgian yeast strains often produce distinctive fruity or spicy qualities. Belgian beer fans go to great lengths to procure bottles from the eight Trappist breweries.

Westmalle Abbey is a monastery in Malle, Belgium, outside of Antwerp. It was founded in 1794, where brewing began in 1836. Westmalle’s Tripel is probably their most popular commercial brew.

The beer writer Michael Jackson describes the Tripel as: dry with an herbal aroma and fruity and floral flavor against a solid backdrop of malt. He recommends pairing Westmalle Tripel with asparagus, noting that “perhaps the citric note in Westmalle Tripel finds an affinity with that lemon-grassy flavor that also lurks in the plant.”

The Westmalle Tripel clone recipe below comes from the 2008 issue of Brew Your Own magazine. Simulate Westmalle’s water profile by using hard (mineral rich) water.


Westmalle Tripel Clone Recipe
(partial mash recipe, 5 gallon batch)

OG = 1.082
FG = 1.012
IBU = 35
ABV = 8.5%
Boil Time: 90 minutesShop Dried Malt Extract

5.5 lbs. pale malt
1 lb. caramel 10L malt
4 lbs. unhopped light DME
1 lb. clear candi sugar
1 oz. Styrian Goldings hops (3 AAUs) at :90
.75 oz. Tettnang hops (3 AAU) at :60
.5 oz. Fuggle hops (3 AAU) at :30
.5 oz. Saaz hops (2 AAU) at :5
2-3 packs Wyeast 3787: Trappist High Gravity


Directions, Partial-Mash: Prepare a 2L yeast starter the day before brewing using 2 packs of Wyeast. (Alternatively, use three packs without a starter.) On brew day, conduct a mini-mash with the crushed grains using about 3 gallons of clean water. Hold at 152°F. for 90 minutes. Sparge with 3.75 gallons of water at 170°F., collecting wort into boil kettle. Mix in DME and candi sugarShop Steam Freak Kits and bring to a boil. Add hops according to schedule. At end of boil, stir to create a whirlpool, remove from heat and chill wort. Pour wort into sanitized fermenter containing enough clean water to make 5.25 gallons. Pitch yeast at 70°F.. Ferment at 68°F. for two weeks, then condition at 50°F for 3-4 weeks. Prime and bottle, allowing to condition for at least 8 weeks. Age up to a year and serve in your favorite Belgian chalice glass!

Directions, All-Grain Option: Replace the 4 lbs. DME with 6 lbs. pale malt. Use 18 qts. of water for the mash and 20 qts. to sparge. Add the Belgian candi sugar when bringing wort to a boil and follow remainder of recipe above.

This Westmalle Tripel clone recipe is absolutely worth brewing. It’s a great introduction to Abby beers and Belgian beers in general.
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Should Beer Be Filtered Before Bottling?

Unfiltered BeerI am about to try brewing my first batch of homebrew. My question is should I be filtering the beer before bottling? I have made wine and Mead before and have not filtered it. I always get a little sediment that collects in the bottom of the bottle. I would REALLY like to be able to bottle the beer without worrying about sediment forming. Any suggestions?

Name: Randy
State: PA
Hi Randy,

Thanks for your question!

Most homebrewers do not filter their homebrew at all for three main reasons:

  1. Because there are a number of ways to get clear beer without a filter,
  2. Bottle conditioning requires that there be beer yeast in the beer, and
  3. Filtration requires additional equipment.

To expand on the second point, most beginning homebrewers bottle their beer. They add a small amount of sugar beforehand so yeast can consume it and naturally carbonate the beer in the bottle. Filtering the beer before bottling would make it impossible to do so.

But just because there’s beer yeast in the beer doesn’t mean we have to have a cloudy beer or a bunch of gunk at the bottom of the beer bottle. Here are a few of the things that can be done to minimize sediment in beer:

  • Use kettle fining agents – One of the things that can be done to reduce sediment and improve clarity in beer is to use Irish moss. It’s typically added during the last 10-15 minutes of the boil to help proteins clump together and settle into a pile. This makes it easier to leave all that stuff behind when racking into the fermenter.
  • Do a secondary fermentation – As beer ferments, yeast will naturally settle to the bottom of the fermenter. By moving the beer into a secondary fermenter, the brewer can take the beer off the yeast cake and leave behind a lot of that yeast sediment. The longer the secondary fermentation, the more yeast will settle out of suspension.Shop Home Brew Starter Kit
  • Use finings in the fermenter – Adding gelatin, isinglass, or another fining agent to the secondary fermenter can accelerate the settling process. The gelatin and isinglass act by forming charged particles which attach themselves to yeast and protein in the beer.

Doing all of the above will ensure minimal sediment in the bottle. It is also important to note that it will usually cause the beer to take longer to bottle condition or carbonate. Instead of 1 week, it might take 2 or 3 to fully bottle condition. Regardless, I would recommend trying these methods before going the filtration route. Here are some more tips for making a clearer beer.

If after brewing a couple batches and deciding that you do want to filter your homebrew, you will need two things: a filter system and a kegging/carbonation system. At the completion of fermentation, you will rack the beer then filter it into a beer keg. You will then force carbonate the keg by storing it under CO2 pressure. Again, I recommend getting the brewing process down before filtering your beer.

Shop Irish MossFinally, it should also be noted that in some styles of beer, especially the hefeweizen and cask ales, the beer should not be filtered at all to conform to style.

That’s basically it. Filtering a beer before bottling is a no-no. Filtering a beer before kegging is fine but not completely necessary. If you are bottling beer and concerned about have a cloudy beer, try beer finings, first.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below!

Til next time…cheers!
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He is a graduate of the Oskar Blues Brew School in Brevard, NC, and founder of the Local Beer Blog.

How To Use A Hydrometer For Brewing Beer

Homebrewer Learning How To Use A HydrometerDo you really need to own a hydrometer? If you want to know the alcohol content of your beer, wine, mead, or cider – then yes! Or, if you want to know how your fermentation is coming along – then yes! Here’s instructions on how to use a hydrometer for brewing beer and how to determine the alcohol of your beer.


What is a hydrometer and how does it work?

A hydrometer is a simple device that helps home brewers and winemakers determine the alcohol content of their beer and wine. It’s a glass tube with a weight on the bottom and it floats in a sample of wort, must, beer, or wine. Based on how high or low the hydrometer floats, we can determine the amount of sugar suspended in the liquid. By taking one reading before fermentation and one reading after, we can easily measure how much sugar was consumed by the yeast and converted into alcohol.


How to take a proper hydrometer reading

To take a hydrometer reading, collect a sample of wort or beer into a graduated cylinder or hydrometer testing jar. Some homebrewers use the tube that the hydrometer comes in, but they’re really not made for this purpose, and that’s not a recommended way to use a hydrometer.

Carefully suspend the hydrometer in the sample and give it a spin to shake off any bubbles. When it slows, read the measurement (in the form of 1.0xx). Remember, if you want to return the wort or beer to the fermenter, the testing cylinder and the hydrometer should both be sanitized.

There are two keys to taking an accurate hydrometer reading:Reading A Hydrometer Illustration

  1. You must take the reading at the level of the top of the liquid sample. Liquids will “climb” up the side of the hydrometer due to the surface tension of the liquid, so measure from the level of the liquid, not where the liquid sticks to the hydrometer (see diagram).
  1. You must either take the reading at the appropriate temperature, or correct for the difference in temperature.Shop Hydrometers

To expand on the second point, every hydrometer is calibrated for a certain temperature, usually 60 or 68 degrees Fahrenheit. I suggest chilling your wort or beer sample by running it under cold water or sticking it in the freezer – just don’t forget about it! Once you’re relatively close to the calibration temperature, just plug the values into a calculator such as this one to adjust the reading.


How to use a hydrometer to calculate alcohol content

To calculate alcohol content, take one hydrometer reading before fermentation (prior to pitching yeast) and one reading after fermentation. Multiply the difference between the two readings by 131.25.


Starting gravity (SG) = 1.060
Final gravity (FG) = 1.010

1.060 – 1.010 = 0.050

0.050 * 131.25 = 6.56% ABV (alcohol by volume)

Alternatively, you can do the same calculation with gravity points.

Shop Hydrometer JarsFor example: 1.060 = 60 gravity points; 1.010 = 10 gravity points

60 – 10 = 50

50 * .13125 = 6.56% ABV

While using a hydrometer to measure alcohol makes it important enough to have, by itself, the hydrometer is also valuable for tracking fermentations and for verifying that a fermentation has completed once that activity has topped. There such a thing as stuck fermentations that need to be looked out for.

So, that’s all there is to it! That’s how to use a hydrometer. The explanation gets a little technical, but after a couple tries you’ll have a handle on reading hydrometers in no time!
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Carbonating Homebrew With Target Precision

Homebrew That Is CarbonatedWhen it comes to carbonating homebrew, not all things are the same… regardless if you bottling in bottles or in kegs. Belgian ales and hefeweizens are notorious for being bubbly and effervescent; cask conditioned English ales are sometimes called “flat” by those who aren’t familiar with their low carbonation levels.

While beginning homebrewers will get by with the standard one-size-fits-all method of using ¾ cup of priming sugar for every batch of beer, accuracy demands some adjustments when carbonating their homebrew. Besides, you don’t want to over-carbonate and end up with bottle bombs!

Homebrewers who prime their beer with corn sugar before putting it in beer bottles obtain their carbonation by giving yeast additional food to convert into carbon dioxide. Homebrewers with draft systems carbonate by forcing carbon dioxide pressure against their beer, which eventually goes into suspension. In both cases, temperature must be taken into account. This is because liquids at low temperatures retain carbon dioxide more than warmer liquids do.

Carbonation is measured in “volumes CO2.” English ales may be as low as 1.5; German Wheat Beers can reach as high as 4.5. For most of the beers I brew, I aim for 2.2-2.5 vols CO2. Beers in excess of 3.0 vols CO2 may show some issues when opening bottles and pouring.

To accurately carbonate your homebrew, first determine the base style and the appropriate carbonation level.

                 Style                   Volumes of CO2

American ales            2.2–3.0
British ales                 1.5–2.2
German weizens         2.8–5.1
Belgian ales                2.0–4.5
European lagers          2.4–2.6
American lagers          2.5–2.8

Shop Bottle CappersNext, your method for will vary depending on whether you are carbonating homebrew in bottles or carbonating homebrew in kegs.


If Carbonating Homebrew In Bottles…Carbonating Homebrew In Bottles
If bottling, you will need to determine the amount of priming sugar to mix with your batch of beer. After determining your target carbonation level, figure out the amount of residual carbon dioxide in the beer and subtract it from the target carbonation level (see this chart). Use this number to determine the amount of priming sugar or DME needed to reach the target carbonation.

The Brewer’s Friend Priming Calculator helps immensely with these calculations. A digital scale will help you weight out the precise amount of priming sugar or DME you need.


If Carbonating Homebrew in Kegs…Carbonating Beer In Kegs
Shop Home Brew Starter KitIf kegging and force carbonating, the amount of carbonation you get depends on the level of CO2 pressure on the beer and the beer’s temperature. A chart like this one will help you figure out the amount of pressure you need. (You may want to print out a copy for your home brewery.) Brewers Friend also has a Keg Carbonation Calculator.


Once you’ve figured out how much pressure you need, apply the pressure for about three days, and then turn it down to about 6-8 psi to serve.

Do you bottle or keg? When carbonating homebrew, how do you make sure your CO2 is spot on?
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.