Bottling Homebrew Beer For The First Time

Bottling Homebrew Beer At HomeHomebrewers have two choices: they can bottle their homebrew or they can keg it. Most start out by bottling homebrew beer because it’s less expensive and requires less specialized equipment. Bottling day takes a few hours, but with a beer in hand and a friend to help, it goes by in no time.

Here’s what you need for bottling homebrew beer at home:


Bottling Homebrew Beer:

  1. Thoroughly clean and sanitize everything that may come in contact with your beer: bottling bucket, racking cane, siphoning hose, bottling wand, bottles, caps. Be sure to check inside the spigot on your bottling bucket, as sediment tends to collect here!
  1. Take a hydrometer reading. This is to confirm that the fermentation has completed. Most beer recipes come with an expected final gravity hydrometer reading. You can also compare your final reading to your original gravity reading to calculate the alcohol content of your brew.
  1. Mix in your priming sugar. Boil two cups of water to sterilize and drive out any chlorine. Remove from heat, stir in priming sugar to dissolve. (Check your beer recipe for the exact amount of priming sugar, but usually it’s about 1 oz. corn sugar/gallon of beer.) Gently pour the mixture into your bottling bucket.
  1. Transfer your beer to the bottling bucket.Shop Bottle Cappers Using a sanitized racking cane and siphoning hose, transfer your beer from the fermenter into the bottling bucket. Leave behind as much yeast sediment as possible. Take care to avoid extra splashing. (Tip: Use an auto-siphon to get the beer flowing.)
  1. Get everything prepped for the actual bottling of the homebrew beer. Line up your clean, sanitized bottles on the floor, attach the siphoning hose to the spigot on the bottling bucket, and fix your bottling wand to the end of the hose.
  1. Fill your beer bottles. Insert the bottling wand into each beer bottle and press the tip firmly to the bottom to start filling. Lift the wand to stop the flow just before the beer reaches the top of the bottle. (I like to fill a few bottles, then place a sanitized cap over the top to reduce the chances of contamination.)
  1. Cap your beer bottles. After filling each of your bottles, cap them with a capper by pressing handles with firm, even pressure.
  1. Store beer for conditioning.shop_beer_bottles Place all the bottles back in a dark, temperature steady closet to carbonate and condition. In two weeks, they’ll be ready to drink!


Another blog post related to bottling homebrew beer, How to Inspect Your Bottles When Bottling Beer. This goes over the importance of sanitizing and inspection your beer bottles for any compromising damages such as chips and cracks.

Questions? Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about bottling homebrew beer.

Happy Homebrewing,
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 Simple Guide to Beer Brewing Additives

Homebrewer Adding Beer Brewing AdditivesUnless adhering to the strict rules of Reinheitsgebot, brewers will sometimes use ingredients that fall outside of the main categories of malt, hops, water, and yeast. The use of these beer brewing additives can greatly improve a beer’s clarity, fermentation performance, or flavor.

This is a guide to some of the most common beer brewing additives used in home beer making.



These additives, often called “fining agents,” help to improve the clarity of your homebrew:

  • Irish Moss – A coagulant added at the end of the boil, Irish Moss helps proteins form into clumps and settle out of suspension. For a five-gallon batch, add a 1/2 tablespoon during the last 15 minutes of the boil. Made from seaweed, Irish Moss is sometime referred to as “carrageenan.” Of these beer brewing additives, it’s the most commonly used.
  • Gelatin – Gelatin is a colorless and tasteless compound that attaches to negatively-charged particles in your beer, helping them settle out of suspension. For a five-gallon batch, dissolve 1 teaspoon of gelatin in 1 cup of hot, pre-boiled water. Once dissolved, let cool and pour into secondary fermenter, racking your beer on top of it. Gelatin is derived from animal collagen, so don’t feed to your vegetarian friends!
  • Isinglass – Made from fish bladders, isinglass is a very common fining agent used in both winemaking and brewing. But don’t worry — used properly, it won’t affect the flavor of your beer. It’s added to the secondary fermenter in the same way as gelatin. One teaspoon is sufficient for a five-gallon batch of homebrew.Shop Irish Moss


Water Treatment

The minerals in your brewing water can have a profound effect on the flavor of your finished beer. Mineral beer brewing additives are typically used either to recreate a water profile from a certain part of the world or to adjust the mash pH. It’s generally recommended to get a water profile report of your city water, before adding minerals. Otherwise, start with reverse osmosis (RO) water, which has had all minerals removed, then add the ones you need.

  • Burton Water Salts – These minerals are added to brewing water to simulate the water profile of Burton-on-Trent in the UK. They are often used when brewing English pale ales (think Bass Pale Ale). This mix includes papain, an organic compound which helps to prevent chill haze.
  • Calcium Carbonate – Also know as chalk, calcium carbonate is a food-grade mineral blend. It’s one of the few beer brewing additives that raises mash pH (lowers acidity). Carbonate-rich water can help enhance hops bitterness.
  • Gypsum – Gypsum is a mineral blend composed of calcium sulfate. It lowers mash pH.


Yeast Nutrientshop_gypsum

  • Brewer’s Yeast Nutrient – In addition to sugar, beer yeast requires certain nutrients in order to reproduce and convert sugar into alcohol. When it comes to brewing beers made with a high level of adjuncts, yeast nutrient can give the yeast an extra boost that will help them complete fermentation. It can also help achieve a lower final gravity and a drier tasting beer with less residual sugar.



  • Ascorbic Acid – Also known as vitamin C, ascorbic acid acts as an oxygen scavenger. Oxygen in beer creates oxidation, which results in stale flavors, often described as wet cardboard. Add a 1/2 teaspoon to your beer when it’s time to bottle.

Do you use beer brewing additives in your home beer making, or are a home brew purist?
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.

8 Homebrewing Tips That Will Save You Time!

Using Homebrewing Tip Number OneWhile many of us consider homebrewing a worthwhile expense, some people are just plain busy to brew. I don’t recommend cutting corners, but there are a few ways to make sure the hobby doesn’t take up a ridiculous amount of time. By cutting down on the time an labor, you are putting yourself in a position to brew more often. With that in mind, here are some homebrewing tips that are sure to save you time:

  1. Brew with a friend – This is my favorite homebrewing tip of all. That’s why it’s first. Enlist the help of a friend and share the workload with another pair of hands. This is especially helpful when it comes to cleaning and bottling. And, you’re introducing a new face to the hobby.
  1. Brew with extract – Eliminate the mash process, and you’ve just saved yourself an hour. Don’t let anyone tell you can’t make good beer with malt extract – the quality of malt extracts these days is very good. Many award-winning home brewers have won medals using malt extract – and so can you – so don’t take this homebrewing tip too lightly.
  1. Brew smaller batchesBrewing smaller batches will: A) Shorten the amount of time it takes for water to heat up, and B) Reduce the time it takes to bottle the beer. The trade-off, of course, is that you end up with less beer. This is a great idea if your time is booked up with no big breaks.
  1. Brew bigger batches – On the other hand, if you get a whole weekend off, brew a larger batch. You’ll end up with more beer and won’t have to brew as often! By going for volume, the time spent to produce a bottle of beer will be less.Shop Propane Burners
  1. Use a gas burner – This is a time-saving, homebrewing tip that many overlook. A gas or propane burner, whether on the kitchen stove or outdoors, will heat up water and wort much faster than an electric stove. A good gas burner can save an hour or more on brew day over an electric one!
  1. Prepare a yeast starter – Among its many benefits, a yeast starter will ensure that fermentation happens sooner and more rapidly. A faster fermentation means the beer gets in your glass that much more quickly!
  1. Rinse your bottles – This is one I think most homebrewers learn quickly, but I’ll mention it anyway. By rinsing your bottles when you’re done drinking from them, you reduce the likelihood of scum growing inside. This makes it much easier to clean your bottles, come bottling day. I will often just give them a quick soak in cleaner and then run them in the dishwasher on the sanitize cycle. The heat will sanitize the bottles and the dishwasher will allow you to do other things.Shop Draft Systems
  1. Keg – This last homebrewing tip is one everyone won’t be able to do because of cost, but it is one of the most effective ways to save time when brewing. It will eliminate the tedium of bottling all together? Kegging is a much faster process than bottling, plus if you force carbonate, you don’t have to wait nearly as long for carbonation to build up as when you do when you bottle with priming sugar.

These are just 8 time-saving homebrewing tips. I’m sure there are many others. What methods have you figured out to save time when making your beer at home?
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.

Homebrew Recipe of the Day: Saison Rue Clone (All-Grain)

Glass of Saison RueThe Bruery in Placentia, CA, is one of the most respected Belgian-style breweries in the US. But instead of the standard lineup of saisons, dubbels, and trippels, this brewery makes a variety of inventive brews using unusual herbs, spices, and yeast strains. Many of their beers pack a punch in alcohol content, but all of them deliver a wallop of creative flavor.

For many years Saison Rue was considered the Bruery’s “flagship” beer. The beer is now exclusively produced by the Bruery’s wild and experimental side project known at Bruery Terreaux, and Saison Rue has been re-released under that name. It’s best described as an imperial rye saison with brett – in other words, a strong Belgian ale made with a significant amount of rye malt and finish with “wild” Brettanomyces yeast.

Brettanomyces yeast is often used by craft brewers to give beers a dry, somewhat funky, “barnyard” character. Brett takes a long time to develop, initially giving notes of pineapple, but delivering more of the funky notes after 3-6 months. It’s fun to see how these Brett beers change over time.

I recently brewed this Saison Rue clone for a homebrew festival. One professional brewer remarked that it was his favorite beer at the fest. If you like strong, complex Belgian ales, this one’s for you!

The Saison Rue clone beer recipe below comes from Michael Agnew’s excellent Craft Beer for the Homebrewer, a recipe book chock-full of homebrew clone recipes of commercial beers – I highly recommend it!


Saison Rue Clone Beer Recipe (via Craft Beer for the Homebrewer)
(5-gallon batch, all-grain)

OG: 1.072
FG: 1.008
ABV: 8.5%
IBU: 30
SRM: 10

9.25 lbs. two-row pale malt 
4.4 lbs. rye malt 
6 oz. brown malt  Shop Conical Fermenter
1 lb. rice hulls 
.55 oz. Magnum hops pellets – first wort hops
.15 oz. spearmint at :20
9 oz. corn sugar at :5
.5 oz. Sterling hops at :0
Wyeast 1388: Belgian Strong Ale yeast 
Wyeast 5112: Brettanomyces bruxellensis yeast (added at bottling)
Corn sugar for priming (use a priming calculator to determine how much sugar to use)

Prepare an appropriate starter using the Wyeast 1388, or plan on pitching two packs of yeast. Mash the crushed malt along with the rice hulls at 150˚F for one hour. Sparge with 170˚F water to collect 6 gallons of wort. Add the Magnum hops while collecting wort in the kettle, then bring wort to a boil. Boil for 40 minutes, then add the spearmint. After 15 minutes, add the corn sugar, stirring to avoid scorching at the bottom of the kettle. After five minutes, cut the heat and add the Sterling hops. Chill wort to 70˚F or below, then transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter.

Ferment initially at 65˚F, but allow the temperature to slowly rise to 85˚F over the course of a week. At the end of primary fermentation, transfer to a secondary fermenter. After 5-7 days, transfer to a bottling bucket along with the Brettanomyces yeast and corn sugar and bottle. This Saison Rue clone beer will be ready to drink in 2-3 weeks, but the Brettanomyces character will develop over the course of several months, so be sure to save some bottles back for aging!

Are you a fan of Belgian ales? Also consider brewing this Rochefort 8 clone.  
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.

An All-Grain Brewer’s Worst Nightmare — How To Fix A Stuck Mash

Stuck MashA stuck mash can really throw a wrench into your brew day. Things are going great: you planned your beer recipe, purchased all your homebrewing ingredients, mashed in, and pH and temperature are right where you want them. Then you start the sparge and collecting the wort from your mash tun, and all you get it a trickle – then it stops completely. What’s supposed to take an hour extends into two hours or more as you try to figure out how to separate the wort from the grain… what to do!

The best thing to do, of course, is everything in your power to avoid a stuck mash. No one wants a sparge that takes too long. In the event a stuck mash occurs, however, more drastic action is required. With that said, here are tips for preventing a stuck mash and tips to fix a stuck mash.


Tips for Preventing a Stuck Mash

  • Clean your mash tun between each use. This goes beyond just a soak in One-Step. Take apart the various components of your mash tun and get in there to scrub ‘em out well.
  • Don’t over-crush. When crushing the malted grains, make sure they aren’t crushed too finely. If there’s a lot of flour in the grist, it can really gunk up the wort outlets.
  • Some grains tend to get sticky, especially wheat, rye, and oats. Add rice hulls to your mash to make sure that wort can flow without getting clogged. The hulls won’t affect the flavor, color, or gravity of your beer.Shop One Step Cleanser
  • Watch you water-to-grain ratio. The recommended ratio is 1-1.5 quarts of water per pound of grain. Some all-grain beer recipes call for a thinner or thicker mash. If your equipment tends to give you a stuck mash, lean towards the higher end of the range. Take good notes so you can build upon your previous experiences!
  • Take your time. When your mash is complete, draw off the first runnings slowly, allowing the grain bed to set. Draw off too fast and the grain bed can compact on itself, creating a stuck mash.


How to Fix a Stuck Mash

  • Stir it up. If you’re lucky, a quick, vigorous stir will be all it takes to fix your stuck mash. You’ll have to reset the grain bed, so draw off the wort slowly, gradually increasing the rate of flow.
  • Clear that clog. Shop FermentersIt the stir didn’t fix things, chances are good that there’s a clog in your mash tun. Dump the mash into a spare fermenting bucket. Since you will eventually boil the wort, the bucket doesn’t have to be sanitized, but it should be clean. Take apart your equipment, clear the clog if there is one, return the mash to the mash tun and start over.
  • Use a colander. If you still can’t get your wort to flow, you probably need a new mash tun! To save your brew, pour the mash through a clean strainer and into your brew pot. The wort in the brew pot can be run through the strainer and the collected grains multiple times to improve clarity. This process is called a vorlauf.


To be sure, having a stuck mash can be a real pain. But don’t let them stop you from making great beer! If the sparge is taking too long you now know what to do to fix the stuck mash. Once it’s fixed, relax, have a homebrew, and take steps to prevent having stuck mashes in the future.

Do you have a stuck mash horror story? Share in the comments!
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.

What’s The Difference Between Ale And Lager Beers?

Assorted Beers In GlassesHow many times have you heard the question, “What’s the difference between ale and lager beers?” In fact, on a recent brewery tour, I overheard someone ask “What’s the difference between a lager and a pilsner?” A harmless question, but when the tour guide didn’t know the answer, it was all I could do not to smack myself in the forehead with the nearest five-gallon keg!

Now, naming conventions have changed over the years, so it’s easy to get confused. Let’s see if we can shed some light on the topic of ales vs lagers.


Ales vs. Lagers: What’s the Difference?

Let’s start top level. It’s generally agreed that there are two kinds of beer lagers and ales. (There are some hybrid styles that fall somewhere in the middle, but for now, let’s stick to the two main ones.) Within each broad category, there are dozens of different types of ales and lager beer styles. For example, pilsner is simply a style of lager, which can be further broken down into Czech-style or Bohemian pilsner, American-style pilsner, etc. One good way to get a sense of ale and lager beer styles is to look at a chart like this one.

When it comes to brewing, the difference between ale and lager beers becomes apparent. The two primary factors that make the difference are brewing yeast and fermentation practice.

Lagers are typically made using a bottom-fermenting beer yeast, which prefers cooler fermentation temperatures. As a result, lagers take more time to ferment and require homebrewers to have firm control over fermentation temperatures. Lager beer styles generally ferment at around 40°-50°F, which usually requires a dedicated room or refrigerator. For these reasons, most beginning homebrewers start with ales because they will ferment at room temperature.

Shop Steam Freak KitsAles are typically brewed using top-fermenting beer yeasts and slightly warmer temperatures. As a result ales ferment faster and are much easier to manage in terms of fermentation temperature.

Both ale and lager beer styles can run the gamut of color, gravity, and bitterness. Sometimes people think that ales are dark and heavy, while lagers are light in color and body. Don’t let the macro brand cheap lagers fool you! Lagers can be dark, hoppy, and high-gravity.

Here are some traditional lager beer styles that you may want to try to get a sense of the depth in the lager category:

  • Czech/Bohemian Pilsner – Compared to American light lagers, Czech pilsners have a much more assertive hop presence achieved through the use of noble hops. Steam Freak Pilsner Urkel is a clone of the classic Czech pilsner, Pilsner Urquell.
  • German Bock – A bock is a high-gravity lager (6-7% ABV) with a prominent malty character that’s both sweet and complex. Dopplebocks range from about 7-10% alcohol by volume. The Steam Freak Spring Loaded Bock features deep, rich malty flavors with subtle hop aroma.
  • SchwarzbierShop Home Brew Starter Kit – One of my all-time favorite beer styles, black lagers are chocolatey, roasty, and smooth. Here some more details on brewing a Schwarzbier.
  • Oktoberfest/Märzen – An Oktoberfest is an amber lager also known as Märzen. Read these tips to brew your own Oktoberfest beer!

As the craft beer movement continues to grow, many of the style guidelines get increasingly blurry. It could even get to the point where the difference ale and lager beer no longer even matters. Imperial pilsners and triple bocks may not fit perfectly into the BJCP guidelines, but they’re all the more reason to love lagers!

What are your favorite lager beer styles?
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.

How to Calculate IBUs When Brewing Beer

Hops To Be CalculatedIf you are brewing a specific style of beer or recreating one of your previous batches, calculating your IBUs, or International Bittering Units, that are provided by the hops is one way to dial in the accuracy of your homebrew. There are plenty of free online calculators that will do this for you, but by understanding how to calculate IBUs, you can take your brewing skills to the next level.

Note: IBUs only measure the hop bitterness, or isomerized alpha acids in a beer. Aromas are derived from hops oils, not alpha acids.


How To Calculate IBUs

You can use this calculation before your brew using estimated values, or afterwards to get a more accurate figure.

Before we can calculate the IBUs of a beer, these are the factors we need to know:

  • W – The weight of the hops in the homebrew recipe (usually in ounces in the US).
  • AA – The alpha-acids of the hops in your recipe, expressed as AA%.
  • U – Hops utilization rates (see chart at the bottom). You will need to know the length of time (in minutes) that each of the hops will be boiled in to the wort, as well as the gravity of wort at the end of the boil (in gallons).
  • V – Volume of wort (in gallons) at the end of the boil.

This is the formula for calculating IBUs:

IBUs = (AA% x U x W x 7489)/V

But where does the 7489 come from? This is a correction value that helps us complete the formula in US units (to compute in metric units, calculate weight in grams, volume in liters, and change the correction value to 1000).shop_hops

So, what you will do is calculate the IBUs for each hop addition in your homebrew recipe, then add them all together to calculate the total IBUs in a beer.

As an example, this past weekend I brewed a 10 gallon batch of American Brown Ale with a starting gravity of 1.060 and the following hop schedule:

  • 2 oz. East Kent Goldings hops (5.2 AA%) at 60 minutes left in boil
  • 1 oz. Willamette (4.7 AA%) at :30
  • 2 oz. East Kent Goldings (5.2 AA%) at :10

Let’s plug in some number to see how to calculate the IBUs. Starting with the first hop addition, we input the alpha acids as a decimal. (Remember to shift the decimal two places to change it from a percentage to a decimal number.) Then, we need to look at the hops utilization rate when boiled for a 60 minute boil in 1.060 gravity wort. Looking at the chart below, that number is 0.211. The weight is 2 and the volume is 10:

IBUs of first addition = (.052 x .211 x 2 x 7489)/10 = 16.43 IBUs

Then we do it again for each of the next two additions:

IBUs of second addition = (.047 x .162 x 1 x 7489)/10 = 5.7 IBUs

IBUs of third addition = (.052 x .076 x 2 x 7489)/10 = 5.92 IBUs 

Add them all together, and the total IBUs for this beer is about 28 IBUs.

Shop Steam Freak KitsThat’s how to calculate IBUs. As with many things in homebrewing, IBUs are an approximation. There are a lot of factors in play, but knowing how to calculate IBUs gives you a lot more control over your brew. Plus, if you want to recreate a beer recipe that you’ve brewed before, but with hops that have different alpha acid percentages, you can use the formula to adjust the weight of each hops addition needed to arrive at the same IBUs.

Do you calculate the IBUs of your homebrew? Do you use an online calculator or do you go the old fashioned route?


Hops Utilization Chart

Hops Utilization Chart

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.

Liquid Beer Yeast vs Dry Beer Yeast For Homebrewing

Liquid Beer Yeast and Dry Beer YeastGuest beer blogger, Heather Erickson, shares some of her tips and insights about liquid and dry beer yeast.

When I first got into homebrewing, I was introduced to the Wyeast Smack Pack. This is a pouch of liquid yeast that has within it another pouch of activator that can be busted open by smacking it.

I can’t lie, it was kind of fun smacking that direct beer yeast activator and watching those little yeasties start working. Over the years, I have experimented with dry beer yeast and well, I’m torn between the results. Below are some of the pros and cons of liquid beer yeast vs dry beer yeast.

  • Pro: Liquid beer yeast offers variety
    With Wyeast offering over 50 different beer yeast strains for homebrewing, variety is quite possibly the spice of life with liquid yeasts. From a Belgian Strong Ale to a good ole American Ale, the variety of liquid beer yeast strains seem pretty endless. Besides the everyday ale/lager yeasts, liquid yeast varieties also include seasonal offerings.
  • Pro: Dry beer yeast keeps longer
    As a once a month home brewer, I find myself in two scenarios: either I am scrambling for brewing ingredients the day of, or I am crossing my fingers that my beer yeast is still healthy. The dry yeast alternative negates that second worry. Staying fresh for up to two years in the refrigerator, a dry yeast option like Fermentis Safale US-05 is a high-performing alternative to my usual go-to liquid beer yeast smack pack.
  • Con: Liquid yeast is more expensive
    If we are just looking at the numbers, on average, a liquid beer yeast pouch is about twice as much, if not more, than a packet of dry beer yeast. While cost might not be a concern if you prefer a certain type of flavor that a beer yeast provides, the economics are still worth noting.Shop Stir Plate
  • Con: You won’t know if your dry beer yeast is healthy unless you rehydrate
    Rehydrating dry beer yeast prior to pitching seems to be a point of contention among homebrewers. While some believe this step is necessary to ensure healthy yeast cells, others feel that it isn’t. Even dry yeast manufacturers are torn on the topic. A dry beer yeast packet boasts anywhere from 200-300 billion yeast cells, compared to 100 billion in liquid yeast. Pitching the dry yeast straight into your fermenter without rehydration could end up killing some of those cells, up to 50% or so. Taking that into account, the number of cells in both liquid beer yeast and dry beer yeast would end up being just about equal.

Besides water, yeast is arguably the most important ingredient in beer. Without it, you just have sugar water. That’s why there has always been such a big debate about using liquid beer yeast vs dry beer yeast for homebrewing your beer. It’s an important piece of the brewing puzzle.

My advice? Test out your tried and true Pale Ale recipe with a Wyeast 1056 and a Fermentis Safale US-05. Whichever pint you prefer is the yeast you should use.

Happy brewing!
Heather Erickson is a homebrewer with three years experience and has competed in the GABF Pro-Am Competition. She writes the blog This Girl Brews and is a regular contributor to homebrewing sites. Find her on Twitter at @thisgirlbrews.

Mash pH: Controlling And Adjusting

Mash pH StripsAll-grain brewers need to mash their grains in order to extract fermentable sugars. This process, called conversion, takes place in water under certain conditions of volume, temperature, pH, and time. Today, we’ll talk about mash pH: ideal mash pH range, effects of being too high or too low, and how to use pH strips or digital meter to take pH readings and make corrective adjustments.


About Mash pH

pH is simply a measurement of how acidic or alkaline something is. On a scale of 0 to 14, a pH of 0.0 is highly acidic, 7.0 is neutral, and 14.0 is highly alkaline.

The ideal mash pH range of 5.0 to 5.5. A pH of 5.4 is considered “optimal” for most applications, and it’s a good target for brewers new to homebrew mashing.


Measuring Mash pH

Whether mashing for the first time or brewing your 100th batch, it’s important to measure your mash pH. No one wants to find out after the fact that their mash was ineffective and their target original gravity much too low.

The least expensive option for measuring mash pH is the pH test strip. For just a few dollars, brewers can take dozens of readings. All you do is dip the colored end of the strip into the mash for a second or two, remove it, and then read the color. The trade-off of the low price tag is that it’s kind of difficult to get an super, accurate reading from the test strips. Personally, the best I can do is approximate within about 0.2 how close I am to the target pH. This method might work fine for partial mash brewing and beginning all-grain brewers, but before long, they may want an upgrade.Shop Digital pH Meter

The solution is a digital pH meter. Though it may be a little more expensive than a pack of test strips, the digital meter is significantly more accurate, and well worth the investment in my opinion.


Mash pH Adjustments

So now that you can measure your mash pH, how can you adjust it if it’s too high or too low?

To lower your mash pH (increase the acidity of the mash), add half a teaspoon of gypsum to a 5 or 6 gallon mash and stir well. To increase mash pH, add half a teaspoon of calcium carbonate to a 5 or 6 gallon mash and stir. Take pH readings and keep making adjustments until you are within the ideal mash pH range of 5.0 to 5.5, but do not add more than two teaspoons of either ingredient. If you choose to test the pH of your water prior to mashing in, keep in mind that adding grains to the water will cause the pH to drop.Shop Gypsum

Dealing with a mash pH, taking reading, making adjustments, etc., may sound challenging and technical, but once you get the hang of it, it will become second-nature, and you’ll be well on your way to exercising more control over your craft and brewing the beer that you ultimately want to drink.
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.

Simple Style Guide: Brewing Irish Stout

Irish Stout With Clovers An Irish stout is a dark, robust ale, technically considered a dry stout. (Other types of stout include sweet stout, oatmeal stout, American stout, and Russian Imperial stout.)

We can’t talk about Irish stouts without mentioning Guinness. Since the late 1700s, Guinness has been brewing dark, flavorful ales in Dublin. They now distribute their famous stouts all over the world. Murphy’s is another example of Irish stout. It’s somewhat less bitter than Guinness. Try both, as well as a stout from your local brewery, to get a sense of the flavor characteristics that you enjoy in an Irish stout.


Brewing Irish Stout

The easiest way to go about brewing an Irish stout is to use a beer recipe kit. Brewers Best has an excellent Irish Stout Recipe Kit, as does Brewcraft.

For the more adventurous brewers, follow these guidelines to build your own beer recipe.


Grain Bill and Fermentables

An Irish stout gets its dark color and dry, bitter flavor from roasted barley. When brewing Irish stout roasted barley is a “must”. Roasted barley is not malted. Instead, it is steeped in water and then kilned at a high temperature, giving the grain a very dark brown, nearly black, color. This will affect the color of the beer, and can also give the head on the beer a nice tan color. Roasted barley also imparts the dry, bitter flavor of coffee that stouts are known for. It doesn’t take much – Briess recommends using roasted barley for just 3-7% of the total grain bill.Shop Steam Freak Kits

Replace a portion of the roasted barley with black malt or chocolate malt to reduce to dry bitterness. Try Murphy’s, Guinness, and other Irish Stouts to judge how much bitterness you would like.

These ingredients can be combined with mild ale malt or light malt extract to form the majority of your grain bill. Your original specific gravity shouldn’t exceed 1.050.

One defining characteristic of Irish stouts is their creamy mouthfeel. Sometimes this is achieved through the use of flaked barley (Guinness uses about 25% flaked barley in their Guinness draft). Sometimes these Irish stouts are given an extra creamy mouthfeel by using nitrogen instead of CO2 to “carbonate” the beer. Nitrogen forms smaller bubbles than CO2, so they’re less prickly on the tongue. It can be difficult to accomplish this as a homebrewer, though if you’re set up to serve your beer on draft, it can be done with sanitary nitrogen instead of CO2.



English hops work best when brewing Irish stout. The majority of hops in Guinness is Kent Goldings, while Murphy’s uses mostly Target. Shoot for 30-45 IBUs. Since hop aroma is low to none, emphasize the early additions.Shop Home Brew Starter Kit



Irish stouts typically have some mild fruity aromas, which come from esters produced by the yeast. Wyeast 1084: Irish Ale is the best option here. Prepare a yeast starter to achieve a complete fermentation and the dry finish you’re looking for.

With these basics, you’ll brewing Irish stout fit for the pub in no time. What tips do you have for brewing a stout?
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.