Style Guide For Brewing Brown Ales

Home Brewed Brown AleGenerally speaking, brown ales are relatively mild and malt-forward beers that pair well with many different foods. Sometimes brown ales are nutty. This is from the character of the malted barley being used. Whether you prefer the classic, English version or the slightly more hoppy and robust American-style, brown ales make for good drinking. And without a doubt, brewing brown ales is well worth the effort.

You could try brewing an English brown ale from a kit, or follow a brown ale beer recipe, but sometimes it’s fun to develop your own beer recipe. Here are some guidelines and suggestions for brewing your own brown ale:


Style Guidelines For Brewing Brown Ales

  • ABV: Brown ales tend to be fairly sessionable, usually 4.2 – 5.4% alcohol by volume. American brown ales go as high as 6.2% ABV.
  • IBUs: English brown ales range from 20-30 IBUs. Again, American versions tend to push the envelope a bit, reaching 40 IBUs or higher.
  • Color: Northern English versions are copper to light brown in color, 12-22 degrees on the SRM color scale. Southern English and American brown ales reach as high as 35 SRM.


Water Treatment For Brewing Brown Ales

If brewing English brown Ale, try to recreate the hard water of the UK. To simulate a beer from Burton-on-Trent, use some gypsum and calcium carbonate, or Burton water salts. A brew from London will be high in sodium (100 ppm) and fairly high in carbonate (160 ppm). Note: You should know the mineral content of the water you’re brewing with before you start amending it.


Typical Grain Bill For Brewing Brown Ales

  • All-Grain: As with many beers, a standard 2-row malt will be the foundation (70% or more) of your brew’s grain bill. A US 2-Row Malt will work, or try using Maris Otter for an English Brown. Chocolate Malt is the next most important component of the grain bill and will lend the beer a somewhat roasty, slightly bitter chocolate flavor. You don’t need a lot: 4-8 oz. for a 5 gallon batch should be sufficient (less if using other kilned malts). You may also wish to use up to 1 lb. of Crystal Malt, and maybe a pinch (2 oz. or less) of Roasted Barley if you’d like a more roasty beer.Shop Steam Freak Kits
  • Extract: If brewing with extract, use a combination of light and dark malt extracts or 100% Amber Extract. Definitely consider steeping a little chocolate malt with some lightly kilned crystal malt. Note: Steeping even a little chocolate malt will add a lot of color. To keep your beer brown and not black, steep at most about 4 oz. of chocolate malt.


Adjuncts For Brewing Brown Ales

You may want to consider using a pound or so of brown sugar or a ½ pound of molasses for color and complexity.


Hops For Brewing Brown Ales

If brewing an English brown ale, stick with the classics: East Kent Goldings or Fuggles. For American brown ales, use primarily US-grown varieties. Consider finishing with Cascade, America’s most popular hop.


Yeast For Brewing Brown AlesShop Liquid Malt Extract

For an English Brown Ale, consider using Wyeast’s #1098 British Ale or #1028 London Ale. Nottingham is a good dry beer yeast. If brewing an American brown ale, try Safale US-05 or Wyeast’s #1056 American Ale. Or, if you want to get really creative, use a Belgian Ale Yeast to make it a Belgian brown ale!

So do you have a good Brown Ale recipe? What flavors do you look for when brewing brown ales?
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

What About Using Corn Sugar In Your Wine?

Cane Sugar For Wine Making… I was looking for different ways to sweeten my wine and came across this corn sugar in your beer section of your catalog. I read that some use corn sugar in their beer instead of cane sugar. The article said it would give the beer a crisper taste. How do you think this would affect the wine? Is it possible that I could use corn sugar in my wine making?

Name: Patrick Davis
State: GA
Hello Patrick,

It is true that most beermakers will never add regular cane sugar to their beers. Cane sugar will give a cidery, winey taste to the brews. Instead homebrewers will add corn sugar, which ferments much more cleanly.

In the case of making wine, a “cidery”, “winey” flavor is not really an issue. These flavors actually fit in with the flavor profile of wines in general. The effect is fairly subtle as well. Even though it can become evident in a homebrew, in a homemade wine it hides very nicely. This is even more true with fuller-bodied wines.

There are some that use corn sugar in all their wines, religiously, and some that will only use it in certain situations, But most winemakers elect to never use corn sugar, at all. My personal opinion is that corn sugar can make a difference in some wines, mostly white wines with very little body — for example, a Pinot Grigio or a Riesling. But, the change is not necessarily for the better, it’s just different. And, the change will be very minor.

Some might notice a crisp, “mintiness” coming through in these lighter wines made with corn sugar but only very slightly. If the wine is already known for an herbal, fresh finish it might become more accentuated by the crispness/cleanness of the corn sugar, but beyond that you won’t notice too much, if anything.

So to sum it all up, you can try corn sugar in your wine making, but don’t expect too much difference in the resulting wine, and don’t expect to notice anything at all if you are using corn sugar in a fuller-bodied wine.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Adding Sulfites To Homemade Wine

Sulfites Being Added To Homemade WineSulfites are added to wines to help protect them from spoilage and from the effects of oxidation. This is true for homemade wines as well as professionally made wines. Without sulfites the wine can eventually becomes host to a mold or bacteria growth such a vinegar, or lose its color and freshness.

When adding sulfites to wine we use either Campden tablets, potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. Each is essentially the same thing in a different form. These sulfites are simple to add to a wine, but there are some things you should know about using them.

Sulfites Are Funny
In reality sulfites are a little funny in how they react to a wine or wine must. When adding a sulfite to a wine, not all of it wants to stay there. Some of the sulfite wants to leave – escape like as a gas, much like CO2 carbonation wants to escape from a bottle of soda pop. It take time for the free SO2 to leave the wine, but eventually the amount of free sulfite in the wine will be only minor.

The other half of this story is that while a portion of the sulfites leave the wine as a gas, known as free sulfites, there is another portion of the sulfites that want to stay. These are the sulfite molecules that actually bond to the wine and are quite comfortable where they are. This portion is known as bound sulfites.

Here’s The Twist
Even though some of the sulfites stay in the wine, you still need to replenish the wine with additional doses of either Campden tablets, potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. This is because the bound sulfites that remain in the wine have no ability to protect it. They do nothing. They are just there.

Shop Potassium MetabisulfiteIt is only the free sulfites that have the ability to protect the wine from spoilage in any way, and they’re not hanging around for very long. This is why we recommend adding sulfites to your wine:

  • Before the fermentation
  • After the fermentation
  • Right before bottling

By adding sulfites at these three time you are making up for the free sulfites that have left.

Why Does All This Matter?
It matters because it is possible to add too much sulfites to a wine. Each time you add a dose you are adding more sulfites that will permanently bind with the wine. Add too many doses and your wine may become victim of an overdose. The result is a wine that has a permanent sulfur taste.

Here’s The Good News…
It takes a significant amount of bound sulfites to detectable within the wine’s flavor. If you only add the three doses mentioned earlier, you will never have a problem with flavor – it will be will below the threshold of perception – but start adding extra doses of sulfite to your wine after each racking or while your wine is bulk aging, then your wine’s flavor could start to suffer.

Shop Sulfite TesterIf you are concerned about your wines having enough free sulfite and want to add more sulfite doses than the three mentioned above, then the best thing you can do is to test. This can be done with a simple titration kit. The most popular SO2 tester for the home wine maker is Titrets by Chemetrics. These little test ampules also need a special hand-tool to perform a test.

By taking a small wine sample you can quickly determine how much free sulfite is in your wine. By knowing this you won’t be adding more sulfites than necessary to your homemade wine whether they be bound or free.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Which Is Better: Fresh Wine Making Juice vs Concentrate?

Wine Making Juice ConcentrateHow does the flavor of a wine made from fresh wine making juice compare concentrate? I know this is a broad question but are there any drastic differences?

-Matt W.
Hello Matt,

Thanks for the great question.

The advancement of concentrating wine making juices has jumped by leaps and bounds over the last few decades. It has finally gotten to the point that it is indistinguishable when comparing fresh wine making juice vs concentrate.

Today, the concentrating process is done by taking nothing more than water out of the fresh juice. This is accomplished by boiling the juice and causing the water to steam off the juice. Basically it’s distilling.

But here’s the twist: they are doing it at a very low temperature. In other words, they steam the water off of the fresh juice at room temperature. You may be asking yourself, how’s that even possible? And the answer is very simple. It’s done with air pressure… or lack of it.

You may remember from your high school science class that water boils at 212°F. But this is the boiling point for water at sea level, only. As you go up in altitude the boiling point becomes lower and lower. For example, water boils at 187°F on top of Pike’s Peak. This is because there is less air-pressure to hold the steam into a liquid as you go up in altitude.Shop Fermenters

The wine concentrate producers use this fact to their advantage. The juice is placed in a vacuum that is so strong that it begins to boil at ~76°F. The water literally steams off of the juice at this temperature keeping it fresh and free from the effects of heat.

Any aroma or other volatile elements that escape during this process along with the steam are later extracted from the steamed-off water and put back into the wine concentrate as an essence.

This is the real secret behind why there is no difference between wine making juice and concentrate. There is nothing done to the wine concentrate that is negative or harmful.

A second consideration as to why you may want to consider using wine making concentrate is the fact that the grapes used to make these grape concentrates are usually superior to what you have available to you otherwise. What’s available to most home wine makers is usually very limited compared to what wine making concentrate producers have to offer. Which brings me to the last point I’d like to make…

shop_wine_making_kitsYou have an incredible variety of wine making concentrates available to you. When comparing fresh wine making juice vs concentrate, it’s not eve close. For example, we carry over 200 different kinds of grape juices collected from all over the world. These concentrates afford you the opportunity to make wines from grapes grown as far away as Italy and New Zealand.

Matt, I hope this clears things up for you. One common saying among winemakers is that, “you can not make a wine that is better than you grapes used to make it.”. That is why this subject is so important. You have to start off with a good foundation of produce to end up with a stellar wine.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

A Quick Wine Guide To Taking Hydrometer Readings

Taking Hydrometer ReadingsI have been making wine for a number of years and I’ve always had trouble taking hydrometer readings. When using the tube the wine hydrometer came in, the foam on the top of the must or wort and the moisture on the sides causes the hydrometer to stick to the plastic. When that happens, it raises the level of the liquid on the sides of the tube making a hydrometer reading pretty inaccurate. The obvious solution would be to use a larger container but I hate to waste that much material. I’ve tried to make sure the tube is level but the hydrometer always migrates to the side. Any suggestions?

Name: Rick S.
State: Michigan
Hello Rick,

From what you are describing, the plastic storage tube is what’s causing a lot of your problems with taking hydrometer readings. We always recommend to customers that they use something other than the storage tube to take readings. It’s really not what it’s designed to do. Some of them will even leak.

You will be much better off with an actual glass hydrometer jar that is designed specifically for taking hydrometer readings. The diameter of the tube is larger than storage container. The sides are smoother, and the line of sight is clearer. All these things add up to you being able to take hydrometer readings with much more accuracy and less problem.

The glass hydrometer jar can also be quickly sanitized along with the wine hydrometer before taking readings. You can do this by using a sanitizer such as Basic A. By sanitizing your equipment you don’t have to waste any of your wine. Just take the reading and pour the sample wine directly back in the batch. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing this.Shop Hydrometer Jars

As for the foaming, there is not much you can do about it. Some of the foam is caused by the natural surface tension of the wine. The agitation causes the bubbles just as if you were pouring a finished wine into a wine glass. Some of the bubbles come from CO2 gas that was made, or is being made, by the fermentation. You can wait a few minutes to see if some of the bubbles settle down enough for you to get a clean reading, but beyond that, I know of nothing practical you can do to rid yourself of all the bubbles.

Also, when you’re taking a hydrometer reading during fermentation, you can have problems with CO2 bubbles clinging to the side of the wine hydrometer. This is when bubbles form from the wine being disturbed and then attach themselves all the way up and down the wine hydrometer.

These bubbles can throw the hydrometer reading off by artificially raising it in the wine sample. One way to avoid this issue is to give the hydrometer a quick spin before taking a reading. This is to dislodge any bubble away from the hydrometer.

Shop Basic AOne other thing I would like to point out is that when you are actually taking the hydrometer reading, you would like you eye to be level with the surface of the wine in the hydrometer jar. This will allow you to obtain the most accurate reading. If you are taking your hydrometer reading from an upward angle, the surface tension of the wine will cause it to curve a little against the hydrometer, giving a bit of an optical illusion.

Rick, I hope this information about taking hydrometer readings helps you out. It’s just a few of the things I’ve learned along the way while taking my own readings.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

What’s The Best Temperature For Clearing Wine?

Clearing Wine TemperatureI keep my wine at 72-75 when fermenting. Do I need to keep it at those temps when clearing?

Name: Ron M.
State: MI
Hello Ron,

Great question! What is the best temperature for clearing wine?

Keeping your wine must at 70°F to 75°F is perfect for maintaining a vigorous fermentation. The wine yeast is very comfortable at this temperature range. However, once the fermentation has completed there is no reason to maintain this particular temperature range. The only reason for doing so is to keep the yeast happy so that they can do their job.

In fact, right after the fermentation the ideal temperature would be just above freezing. A range of 32°F to 35°F would be most beneficial to the wine for a number of reason:

  • It would allow proteins such as yeast, tannin, etc. to drop out of the wine efficiently and thoroughly, leaving behind a crispy clear wine.
  • It would cold stabilize the wine, meaning that any excess tartaric acid that may be in the wine would precipitate out of the wine as little flaky crystals. By enticing the wine to do this now, you won’t have to worry about these flakes forming later, after the wine has been bottled.
  • It would also keep the potential for any spoilage of the wine down to an bare minimum. Various little nasties like mold and bacteria will not thrive at such an inhospitable temperature.


While just above freezing my be the best temperature for clearing wine, there are two major downfalls with this Utopian temperature:Shop Bentonite

  1. It’s not very practical. This would usually mean dedicating an entire refrigerator to age the wine, and for winemakers producing 10, 20, 50 gallons, it would be almost impossible.
  1. The wine won’t age. Such a cool temperature would not allow the wine to age properly. Actually, it would suspend any aging activity to a undetectable minimum. Basically, your wine would never mature at this temperature. Most wine professionals agree that the optimal temperature for aging is 55°F.

So to answer your question, you do not need to keep your wine at 70°F to 75°F after the fermentation, but you do want to keep it cooler, not warmer. How cool is another question. The optimal thing would be to bring it down to above freezing for a few days, to cold stabilize it. Then bring the temperature up to 55°F for aging and wine bottle storage.

Shop SparkolloidIt’s completely understandable if you – as a home winemaker – are not able to do such a feat. Some things are just not practical. To that I say, do the best you can. Don’t store your wine in the hot closet. Think of a cooler place to keep it, like in a basement floor, etc. Just keep the wine out of the heat.

I hope this information helps you out. Now that you know the best temperature for clearing wine, realize that if all you can do is keep the wine in the 70°’s all the time, it wouldn’t ruin the wine or anything like that. I’m just giving you the optimal situation, so you can know what to strive for within the constraints of your situation.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Don’t Be Passing Out The Heartburn, When You’re Passing Out The Wine!

Courteney Cox Try To Get HeartburnI made wine from muscadines and gave a bottle to a friend they said that it gave them heartburn. Can you tell me what is in wine that would do that and can I make the next batch better..??

Thank you
Hello Chuck,

That’s a heck of a note. You give a friend a nice bottle of your own personal stock. You probably had put customized wine bottle labels on the bottles to make them look nice, only to have your friend belch and say, “Your homemade wine gave me heartburn.

Seriously, we don’t know for sure that your friend’s heartburn was caused by the wine or not. They may not have realized that it was something they ate, or it could have been the fact that they decided to guzzle the whole bottle during a single episode of Modern Family. We just don’t know. I’m also noting here that you did not say it gives you heartburn.

For some folks, alcohol can give them heartburn. There’s nothing we can do about that. However, another trigger is acid. All wines have acid. It comes from the fruit, such as your muscadines, and possibly from acid you added to the wine in the form of acid blend. The wine needs a certain level of acid to taste correct – to keep it from tasting flat – but too much acid can cause the wine to taste too tart and to burn a little more than necessary while going down. Too much acid in your homemade wine can give someone heartburn.

The only thing you can really do to help your wines – and your friend – is to take complete control of your wine’s acidity. This can easily be done with an acid testing kit. Simply put, this kit will tell you how much acid is in your wine; how much acid your wine should have; and how much acid blend you’ll need to add to the wine, if any, for a properly balanced wine.

shop_acid_test_kitHow it works is you take a reading with the acid testing kit before the fermentation to get the wine must into the proper range. Then you also take another reading before bottling to see if a final adjustment is needed.

The acid testing kit is particularly important when learning how to make white wines. By tradition white wines are typically higher in acid than reds. One has to be careful not to go over the edge, so to speak, when getting these white wines into a proper acidity range.

In short, take control of the wines’ acidity. Start using an acid testing kit, and the next time you pass out your homemade wine, you won’t here the cries of, “your homemade wine gave me heartburn.”

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

The Mother Earth News Wine Kit Challenge

We did something interesting! We sent one of our wine making kits to the folks at Mother Earth News, and we had them video themselves making the wine. None of them had ever made wine before, and we provided no information — just the kit and the directions that normally comes with it. Watch what happened.

Below are three videos they shot while making the wine. You can go to Mother Earth News’ website to view more videos on other self-sustaining projects. Click on the pictures to play the video:

Part I

Part II

Part III

These guys did an amazing job and plowed right through the steps with no trouble at all. Hopefully, these videos will help to show others just how easy it is to make your own wine.

For those of you who have never heard of Mother Earth News, it is one of the most popular and longest-running magazines for people wanting to live a self-sustainable lifestyle. It is filled with all kinds of ideas, information and projects. In addition to their magazine, their website is a pleasure to learn from, as well!


Using Campden Tablets: The How, When And Why

Campden tablets to be used in wine makingI crushed fresh Syrah juice from grapes last September into 3 six-gallon plastic fermenters w/air gaps. I added 1 Campden tablet per gallon into the 3 six gallon plastic fermenters 24 hr. before adding the wine yeast. I separated out the sediment in January. I plan to bottle in mid-May. From your guidance, I plan to add 1 Campden tab per gallon before bottling. Should I have also added Campden tabs when fermentation was finished in September? I tasted the wine in January and it tasted good.

Name: Brad T.
State: California
Hello Brad,

This is a great question about using Campden tablets in wine making. I’ll need to answer this from a couple of different perspectives…

When you add Campden tablets to a wine, your are essentially adding sulfites. Sulfites protect the wine by destroying any mold, bacteria or anything else that wants to grow in the wine. During the fermentation this is not a problem. It’s when the wine must is still and not fermenting that sulfites become important.

The issue is that over time the sulfites want to leave. They dissipate into the air as SO2 gas. For example, the Campden tablets you added before the fermentation are long-gone by the time the fermentation had ended. So there is a need to replenish the sulfites to help keep the wine protected.

From a winery’s point of view, you always want 40 to 70 PPM (parts-per-million) of sulfite in the wine after the fermentation. The winery will measure and maintain this level all the way through the clearing process and on to bottling. They can easily afford the time and effort to do this because a lot of wine is at stake.

From an individual winemaker’s point of view, it may be a little overkill to constantly test the sulfites and make adjustments as called for — particularly if you’re only making 5 or 6 gallons at a time, and you’re going to bottle the wine in a few weeks, anyway.Shop Potassium Bisulfite

So as a compromise, I recommend using Campden tablets directly after the fermentation, then again, right before bottling. So to summarize, you are adding sulfites:

  • 24 hours before fermentation
  • After the fermentation
  • Right before bottling.

By handling the wine in this way you can keep the wine more evenly protected without a lot of effort on your part with tests and measurements.

From a home winery’s point of view, say you are making 30, 50, 100 gallons, you may want to spend the time and energy to keep track of your sulfites. This can be done with Titret Test Vials and the Titret Hand Tool that works with it. By running this test you can determine the sulfites that are currently in your wine, in PPM, and how much you need to add, if any.

You may also want to switch to a Campden tablet substitute such as potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. These bothShop Grape Concentrate come in a granulated form. They add sulfites to the must or wine, just as Campden tablets, but they come in a granulated form. It’s much easier to use when needing larger amounts. Instead of crushing up a bunch of tablets, you just measure it out by the teaspoon.

This is the basics of using Campden tablets in your wine making. To delve a little deeper you might want to take a look at, Campden Tablets: What They Can And Can’t Do.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

How Long Does Homemade Wine Last?

Homemade-Wine-LastingHow long can a finished homemade wine be stored or aged before going bad?

Hello Gabe,

There is nothing unique to homemade wine that makes it spoil or go bad any faster or keep any better than commercially made wines. As long as the homemade wine is treated properly, it will keep just as long and as good as wines you purchase at the store. So when you ask, how long does homemade wine last?, the simple answer is, just as long as any other wine!

But what does treated properly actually mean?

  1. It means your wine must be dosed with sulfites, and
  2. Your wine bottles must be sanitized before using


Treating Your Wine With Sulfites
This is very simple do and is very beneficial to the keeping qualities of the wine. If the wine is being made from fresh grapes or other fresh fruits, just add a standard dose of potassium metabisulfite or Campden tablets 24 hour before adding the yeast. If you are making wine from a wine concentrate this process can be skipped.

Another dose of potassium metabisulfite or Campden tablets should be added to the wine right before bottling. This dose before bottling goes for any wine – regardless if it’s made from fresh fruit or grape concentrate. There may be other times that sulfite should be added, depending on how many times the wine is being siphoned or how long it’s being bulk aged. You can find more information on this in the blog post: Using Campden tablets: The How, When And Why.

Shop Campden TabletsBy performing these simple steps your homemade wine will stay fresher much longer and will degrade in quality much slower. And, you will have have virtually eliminated the chance of your homemade wine experiencing out-right spoilage.


Sanitizing Your Wine Bottles
This is the second part of the equation. How long does a homemade wine last? It depends on how well the wine bottles were sanitized. Fortunately, it’s a simple process.

All you have to do is clean the wine bottles as you normally would anyway. Use some dish soap and a wine bottle brush. If the wine bottles are brand new, you can skip this part. Then use a cleaners such as Basic A on the wine bottles to sanitize them. Both of these products come with complete directions on their usage. Once the wine bottles are mostly dry, they are ready to be filled with wine.

The wine bottle can be cleaned ahead of time, but the sanitation part should only be done when you are actually ready to bottle.


Shop Basic AFinal Word…
It’s important to understand that these are the same critical steps that any winery would take. It’s what keeps all those bottles of wine consistently fresh on the store shelves, and that’s why your homemade wine can last just as long as any commercially made wine – stay fresh and free from going bad.

Follow these procedures. Make them habits. And you’ll never have a problem with any of your wines keeping while in storage.

Best Wishes,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.