My Beer Is Flat And Won’t Carbonate!

Flat Beer Top ViewI brewed a batch of beer as directed. It has set for 4 weeks bottled in a room of 60 to 65 degrees. When opened it had almost no carbonation.

Name: Don C.
State: Mo.
—–
Hi Don,

Sorry your beer is still flat. Let’s see if we can figure out why it won’t carbonate.

Beer carbonates when beer yeast consumes sugar and excretes CO2, and the CO2 has no where to go but into solution because the beer bottle or keg has been sealed. Let me share some theories with you about what’s going on and some possible fixes for your flat beer.

The problem you’re describing is probably caused by one of the following:

  • Not enough time/ the room’s not warm enough – I understand you’ve waited four weeks already, but if you did everything correctly, chances are very good that with more time and the beer bottles located in a slightly warmer room, your beer will carbonate. Some beer yeasts work more slowly than others, and high gravity beers generally take longer to carbonate. I know it’s tough with all that beer sitting there, but patience may be the answer to fixing you flat beer.
  • Not enough priming sugar – If you brewed the beer as instructed, this probably isn’t the case. However, did the priming sugar get well-mixed into the beer? I usually pour the sugar/water solution into the bottling bucket first, then siphon the beer into it. This usually mixes things up pretty well. I also recommend checking out this calculator, which shows the correct amount of priming sugar to use based on temperature, desired carbonation level (vols CO2), and type of sugar.
  • Non-fermentable or slowly fermenting priming sugar – If for some reason you used a non-fermentable sugar to prime your bottles, such as lactose sugar, it’s probably not going to give you any carbonation. Similarly, if you used a complex sugar to prime, it may just take longer for the yeast to ferment those complicated sugar molecules. Corn sugar, cane sugar, and dried malt extract work best for priming.
  • Bad seal on the bottlesShop Bottle Cappers – It’s possible that there isn’t a good seal on your beer bottles, allowing CO2 to escape. The result is a flat beer or a beer that won’t carbonate completely. This could be the case if you’re using a twist-off instead of pop-off style beer bottles. You could also just be getting a bad seal when you cap.
  • Yeast killed off – If there was sanitizer left in your bottles or bottling bucket, there’s a small chance that yeast got killed and whatever yeast that’s left is having a tough time carbonating your beer. If you use a “no-rinse” sanitizer on your bottling bucket and bottles, make sure the sanitizer dries completely before use. I usually rinse after sanitizing, even when using a no-rinse sanitizer.

 

How to fix a flat beer that won’t carbonate

So, what can be done to fix a flat beer? Here are a few possible ways to carbonate your beer, with the easiest and most likely solutions listed first:

  • Hurry up and wait…then wait some more – The first thing I would do is move the bottles to a room that’s a little warmer, consistently around 70°-75°F degrees, to try to “wake up” the yeast into carbonating your beer. 99% of the time, this will fix your problem. If it doesn’t fix the problem after 8 weeks or so, you’ll need to take more drastic action. Keep in mind that higher gravity beers may just take longer to carbonate than others.
  • Add more sugar – If you’ve already waited for eight or more weeks and know that you didn’t add enough priming sugar, you could open up each bottle and add a pinch more. It’s important to be very careful with this — if you add too much sugar, you could get some bottle bombs. It is possible to create so much carbonation pressure in the bottle that the glass will fail. Move the bottles somewhere safe where they won’t hurt anyone and won’t make too much of a mess if they explode.Shop Home Brew Starter Kit
  • Keg it – In theory, you could open up all the beer bottles and pour them into a keg, then prime or force carbonate with CO2. Then again, if you have a keg, you probably wouldn’t be bottling, would you?
  • Add more beer yeast – I’ve heard of homebrewers adding a few grains of dry yeast to each bottle of flat beer to help it to carbonate, but this sounds like a recipe for a bottle bomb, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Again, if you did everything right, the best thing to do is just wait it out. I’m as guilty as anyone of opening up a homebrew before it’s ready, but in homebrewing, as in life, patience is a virtue. Give your flat beer some more time, and see if that doesn’t get it to carbonate.

Thanks again for your question and good luck,
David Ackley
—–
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.

Beer Recipe of the Week: Newcastle Brown Ale Clone

New Castle Brown AleConsidered by some to be the quintessential northern English brown ale, Newcastle was at one time the best-selling bottled beer in the UK. The beer, now ubiquitous throughout the US, was originally brewed in 1927 at Newcastle Upon Tyne. It’s a reddish-brown ale that highlights nutty malt flavor.

Though Newcastle is now brewed by the macro-brew powerhouse Heineken, many craft beer drinkers remember it fondly as a “gateway beer” to other traditional beer styles from around the world. Brew this Newcastle clone beer recipe and rediscover your love for brown ales!

 

Newcastle Brown Ale: Ingredients and Procedures

  • Malt – The key component in this brown ale is the crystal malt. The mid-range crystal 60°L malt is responsible for the nutty flavor in the beer. Small amounts of chocolate and black malt contribute color and a hint of dryness.
  • Hops – The classic English hop, East Kent Goldings, is used mostly for bitterness. Some hop flavor should be detectable, but will not overpower the malt.
  • Yeast – English ale yeast for this style of beer is essential. In the traditional brewing of this beer, the brewers would actually brew two separate beers, one high-gravity and one low-gravity. The high gravity beer would encourage the yeast to produce more fruity esters, which can then be blended down by the lower gravity beer. This is a lot of extra work for the homebrewer and is completely optional. It’s not impossible to do, but you’ll need an extra fermenter. It will be easiest if you’re using the all-grain method, taking the first runnings for a high-gravity boil, and the second runnings for the low-gravity boil. Then ferment the beers separately and blend them together at bottling time. (Again, this is completely optional.)

The beer recipe below is modified from the American Homebrewers Association. It was original printed in Zymurgy Magazine.

 

Newcastle Brown Ale Clone Beer RecipeShop Dried Malt Extract
(5-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)

Specs
OG: 1.049
FG: 1.012
ABV: 4.8%
IBUs: 26
SRM: 15

Ingredients
5.5 lbs. light dry malt extract
12 oz. Crisp 60L crystal malt
4 oz. torrified wheat
1.5 oz. black malt
1.5 oz. Crisp chocolate maltShop Hops
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :90
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :30
1 tsp. Irish moss at :15
Wyeast 1028: London Ale or Fermentis Safale S-04: English Ale Yeast
corn sugar for priming

Directions
Heat about 3 gallons of clean, chlorine-free water to 150˚F. Place crushed grains in a grain bag and steep for 30 minutes. Discard grains and bring wort to a boil. Remove from heat, and stir in the malt extract. Return to a boil, taking care to avoid a boilover. Boil for 90 minutes, adding hops and Irish moss according to schedule above. At the end of the boil, chill wort to 70˚F or boil. Add enough cool, chlorine-free water to make five gallons of wort. Mix well with a sanitized spoon to aerate, then pitch yeast. Ferment at 65-70˚F. When fermentation in complete, bottle with priming sugar and cap. Beer will be ready to drink in 2-3 weeks.

All-Grain Substitution: To brew this beer all-grain, replace the malt extract with 8 lbs. Crisp Maris Otter malt and reduce each of the hop additions to .67 oz.

Do you have a Newcastle brown ale clone beer recipe you’d like to share? Just leave it 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.

Complete, Step-by-Step Extract Brewing Instructions

Extract BrewingExtract brewing is the easiest way to brew your own beer. Many homebrewers begin with extract beer brewing and later progress to all-grain. Some even go back to extract brewing because it’s easier and much less time consuming than all-grain brewing.

So what is extract brewing?
Professional brewers extract fermentable sugars from barley malt through a process called mashing. When extract brewing you can skip this step by using malt extract, which is a condensed form of liquid wort. (Wort is the term for unfermented beer.) Malt extract is available as a liquid malt extract or dry malt extract (LME or DME), and LME is either hopped or unhopped. Much like malt, malt extract is categorized by color, ranging from Pilsen, Pale, and Amber, to Munich and Dark.

By using malt extract, beginning homebrewers can save easily an hour or more on brew day. Plus, they can still make perfectly good beer with significantly less equipment.

Further below you will find some extract brewing instructions. Here is the basic list of equipment you will need to follow those instructions (5-gallon batch):

Shop Home Brew Starter KitMost homebrew supply shops carry homebrew equipment kits with everything you need to get started. E.C. Kraus also carries extract brewing kits with everything you need to brew your first batch of beer. You can also find an extract brewing recipe, and purchase all the ingredients, à la carte.

Extract Brewing Instructions:

  1. Thoroughly clean and sanitize everything you’ll be using to make your own beer. Many homebrewers consider this to be the most important step!
  1. Heat your clean, chlorine-free water. If you can smell chlorine in your tap water, you’ll want to boil your water for 30 minutes first. Or, you can use bottled spring water from the grocery store. The exact amount of water you use isn’t critical for extract brewing process; shoot for 3 gallons or so. Give yourself at least a couple inches from the top of your brew kettle.
  1. Meanwhile, if using liquid malt extract, soak your canisters of malt extract in a large bowl or pot of hot water. This will make it easier to pour out the extract in the next step.
  1. When your brew kettle of water is hot (not boiling), turn off the burner (for gas stoves) or remove the kettle from the heating element (for electric).
  1. Slowly stir in your malt extract until completely dissolved, taking care that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your brew kettle. Your water is now wort!shop_liquid_malt_extract
  1. Heat your wort to a strong boil. Keep a close eye on it to avoid a boil over!
  1. From the start of the boil, add hops depending on your extract brewing recipe. (If you’re using hopped extract, you may not need to add any hops.)
  1. At the end of the boil, turn off the heat, give the wort a good stir, and move your kettle to a nearby sink for an ice bath. Fill the sink with cold water and replace as needed. The idea here is to cool your wort so that you can add the beer yeast. Yeast is a living organism (and responsible for creating alcohol!), so you don’t want to kill it by pitching it into wort that is too hot.
  1. When your wort is at about 90°F or so, carefully pour the wort into a sanitized fermenter. If using a carboy, you may want to siphon it using a sanitized siphoning hose. If you added hops to the boil, do your best to leave those behind. It’s important from here on out that everything that touches your wort is thoroughly sanitized.
  1. Top off your wort with water to make 5 gallons. Fermenting buckets usually have lines on the side that show you your volume.
  1. Aerate the wort by stirring vigorously. This is to provide oxygen for the yeast to feed on. This is the only step in the extract brewing instructions where adding oxygen is desirable.
  1. Take a hydrometer reading, correcting for temperature if necessary. This will help you measure alcohol content after your beer has fermented.
  1. Add the beer yeast according to the packaging instructions. Give it a good stir with your spoon.
  1. Put the fermenter in a closet or other dark, temperature constant room.
  1. Close the lid with air-lock attached (if using a bucket) or close with a rubber stopper and air-lock (if using a carboy).
  1. Fill your air-lock about halfway with clean water and place it firmly in the drilled hole of the rubber stopper.

If you follow these extract brewing instructions, within 24 hours you should see bubbles coming out of the airlock. After a week or so, you’ll be ready to bottle your beer!
—–
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.

Robust Porter Beer Recipe – with Coconut! (Extract w/ Grains)

Robust Porter BeerRobust porter is a subset of porter and as you may imagine, it tends to be stronger and more flavorful than a standard brown porter. Still, it embodies the key aspects of porter: brown to dark brown, showcasing balanced malt flavors and aromas reminiscent of caramel, chocolate, and coffee. Though robust porter beer recipe may have a little more roasted malt than a regular porter, it falls short of being as roasty as a stout.

Based on the just released 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines, one might reclassify a robust porter as an American porter. Unlike English porters, American porters tend to be stronger in alcohol and hop character than their English counterparts. Alcohol content may be as high as 7% ABV, while hop bitterness can range from 25-50 IBUs. In terms of hop flavor and aroma, the American versions tend to exhibit more of both, often using American-grown hops. The hop flavor and aroma can range from fairly subtle to fairly aggressive – the level of hoppiness you want is up to you, but if you intend to enter the beer into competition be sure not to go overboard.

If you want to go to the next level, you can try what Charlotte’s NoDa Brewing Company does to their robust porter beer recipe. Their “Coco Loco” porter, brewed with toasted coconut, won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival in the Robust Porter category. Try putting 0.5 lb. toasted coconut in the secondary fermenter for a few days to a week. Use a straining bag and a sanitized shot glass or spoon to weigh the bag down.

Happy brewing!

 

Robust Porter Beer Recipe – with Coconut!
(5-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)

Specs
OG: 1.055
FG: 1.017
ABV: 5%
IBUs: 40
SRM: 32

Ingredients
6.6 lbs. Briess dark liquid malt extract
0.75 lb. light dry malt extract
0.5 lb. caramel 60L malt
0.25 lb. chocolate malt
Shop Steam Freak Kits0.25 lb. black malt
1.5 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :60
1 oz. Fuggles hops at :20
1 packet Safebrew S-33
corn sugar for priming
.5 lb. Toasted Coconut (in secondary)
bottle caps

Directions
Heat 6 gallons of chlorine-free water to 150˚F. Place crushed specialty grains in a muslin grain bag and steep in the water for 30 minutes. Remove grains, allowing wort to drip back into the pot. Mix in malt extracts and bring wort to a boil. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops according to schedule above. At the end of the boil, chill wort to about 70˚F and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Pitch yeast and ferment at 68˚F for seven to ten days. Transfer to a secondary fermenter and add the coconut. After a few days to a week, bottle and age at room temperature for 3-4 weeks and enjoy!

Do you have a robust porter beer recipe you’d like to share? Just add it to the comments below…
—–
David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

6 Ways to Recharge Your Homebrewing Mojo

Homebrewer With Mojo2I get it – we all get bogged down by the rhythms of modern life. Sometimes, it’s hard to make time for homebrewing, and before long, it’s been months since your last brew day.

That’s when you remember, “but I love brewing!” and ask yourself, “how do I get back into it?” Well, here are six ideas to get back into the swing of homebrewing:

 

  1. Brew your favorite beer – What’s the best beer you’ve ever tasted? How would you like to have five gallons of that beer on hand? Whether it’s a commercial beer or a homebrew, chances are you can make a clone. Create your own clone recipe or choose from some of these awesome clone recipes or clone recipe homebrew kits.
  1. Make it social – Brewing’s more fun with others. Invite some homebrewers you know over for a brew day, or maybe introduce one of your friends to the hobby. Make a party of it. Serve some food, some beer, watch the big game. More hands on deck means less work and more fun.
  1. Go to an AHA Rally – The American Homebrewers AssociationShop Steam Freak Kits has been hosting homebrew rallies at craft breweries all over the country. Take a little road trip, try some homebrews, make some friends. Want to take it a step further? Go to the National Homebrewers Conference.
  1. Try something different – If you’ve been stuck in a homebrewing rut, maybe it’s time to mix things up. If you’re an extract brewer, maybe it’s time to give all-grain a try. Or maybe experiment with brewing a lager, mead, sour beer – maybe even give winemaking a try. Try something different and you may revive that curiosity that got you into homebrewing in the first place.
  1. Get a new toy – Nothing inspires quite like a new homebrewing gadget. Maybe it’s time you got yourself a propane burner, a stir plate, or a pH meter.
  1. Enter a competition – Sometimes, the best motivation is a deadline. Search for homebrew competitions in your area and sign up. Plan out how much time you’ll need to brew, ferment, and age the beer before sending it in. Read these tips for succeeding in homebrew competitions and put that brew date on the calendar!

Shop Temp Controller

Have you ever found yourself in a homebrew funk? What did you do to get out of it?

—————
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.

How Patience Makes for Better Homebrew

Man watching home brewing timeline and fermentation times It was a rookie mistake.

I was excited for my latest batch of homebrew – a saison – and paid more attention to the timeline and fermentation times than the beer itself. After two weeks in primary and two more in secondary, I figured it was ready to carbonate, so into bottles it went.

Then I opened a bottle a week later and noticed a lot of foam. I waited another week, and half the beer was gone by the time I poured it into my glass. It was a gusher, forcing ounce upon ounce of white foam up the neck of the bottle and into my sink.

That’s when it really hit home: patience is a virtue for everyone, but for homebrewers, it’s a necessity.

In most cases – especially this one – it’s a matter of paying attention to the beer instead of any preset home brewing timelines. Forget about fermentation times; focus on the beer. Yes, you can have expectations for the length of a brew day, but sometimes it’s important to take a step back and take stock of how time – or lack thereof – can impact your beer.

 

Time is more than the calendar

In the case of my saison, it was important for me to set aside my own expectations. The lesson? Ignore human timeframes when it comes to home brewing.

Even if you’re making a batch for a special event or occasion, build in extra time for unforeseen problems, or just to allow the beer to do its own thing. The best way to confirm that a beer is finished is to take your hydrometer and check its final gravity. Taste the sample to add another layer to your test.

To be extra thorough, give it another day or two after it has reached final gravity just to be safe.

 

Slow working yeast

Another aspect to consider is the yeast doing the work inside your carboy. While some yeasts offer fast attenuation like Safale S-04 or Lallemand’s Nottingham, several need more time to offer the depth of flavors you seek from your brew.

If you’re making a porter or bitter, Wyeast 1028 (London Ale) is a great option. It’s even flexible enough to build up a beer to as much as 11 percent ABV, but requires plenty of time to get there. Other slow-moving options include Wyeast 1728 (Scottish Ale) and Wyeast 1099 (Whitbread Ale). All these strains can enhance the layer of flavors in your beer, but let them take their time in doing so. The fermentation times will typically be longer.

 

Wait on your bottles

While I suffered the impact of bottle bombs with my saison, one hidden truth I’ve found with many of my batches is that the best tasting beer usually comes when I’ve almost run out.

Even when I’m lucky to have a fully carbonated homebrew after one week in the bottle, I’ve started a habit of setting aside at least a six-pack to drink later than I normally would. Drinking an IPA as fresh as possible is a good idea, but a porter or honey-basil ale probably won’t get hurt by resting for a few more weeks. Remember to consider the temperature of your storage area and ingredients you’ve used in the beer, including yeast, when setting aside bottles to age longer than the rest of your batch.

There are many lessons to learn when it comes to home brewing, but one of the most important I’ve taken away is to not get hung up on having a beer ready in an absolute set timeframe. Don’t focus on whether or not your home brewing timeline is what was expected. Don’t worry if your fermentation times are longer than they should be. The beer will be ready when it’s ready.

—————————————————————–
Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his award-winning blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

Is Homebrewing Art Or Science?

Artist rendition of homebrew.What gets you excited about homebrewing? Is it the art of recipe development? Or the science behind fermentation and mashing? The creativity behind combining malt, hops, and yeast, or the learning that comes from every single batch of beer you make? These are the thoughts that crop up when we ponder the question: Is homebrewing art or science. While some may lean towards either the art or the science side of homebrewing, my guess is that for most of us, we’re drawn to both aspects of the hobby.

 

The Science of Homebrewing

One could spend a lifetime trying to understand the science behind making beer. Indeed, many do. It’s the science side of homebrewing that helps us understand the specific actions that allow four ingredients to combine into a flavorful, alcoholic beverage known as beer.

First, we have the science of water. Not all water is created equal. What is the make-up of your brewing water? Is it pure, like the soft water of the home of Pilsner in the Czech Republic? Or is it hard, like the sulfate-rich water of Burton-on-Trent, homeland of English pale ales. Knowing the mineral content of the water you brew with can help you optimize mashing, fermentation, and flavor.

Shop Malted GrainsHow about the science of malting? Why does grain need to be malted? It’s the malting process that begins to convert the energy in the grain into what will become fermentable sugar and eventually alcohol. Malting also affect the flavor and color of the grain and creates a whole range options that allow beer to be light or dark, sweet or roasty, and everything in between.

The science of hops reveals what makes beer bitter. It helps us understand IBUs and why an IPA stands apart from a pale ale. Understanding hop oils allows us to grasp how beers can taste and smell like citrus, pine, or grapefruit.

Finally, my favorite science of homebrewing, the science of beer yeast, the mysterious microorganism responsible for converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, explains how the other ingredients can magically transform a sugary porridge into an elixir that relaxes the body and soothes the senses.

 

The Art of Homebrewing

Shop HopsBrew masters have a deep understanding of their craft, not only the brewing side of the equation, but also the sensory side. For without understanding the way that flavor can change our mood or remind us of a special memory, brewers would just be shooting in the dark.

Brewers have to understand the flavors that different ingredients bring to a beer. Science can begin to explain flavor, but to fully understand it, a brewer needs experience. They need the vocabulary to describe the flavor, and only experience can help them understand how much is too much. While some scientific measurements (BU/GU) can help to facilitate an understanding of balance, only experience can help brewers develop an inherent knowledge of it.

There is an art to homebrewing – a creativity, but creativity isn’t just haphazardly throwing in whatever ingredients come to mind. The art is in understanding balance. How much hop bitterness is appropriate for a Bohemian pilsner? How much coriander should be used in a Belgian wit? One could easily follow a recipe, but a true artist will know from experience when enough is enough.

And of course there’s an art to the act of brewing. There’s a certain art to learning how and when to transfer beer from one fermenter to another, and a certain art to bottling without losing a drop of beer. Again, the art is improved with experience.

 

Putting It Together Shop Beer Recipe Kits

So, is homebrewing art or science? My approach is that through understanding the science of homebrewing, we begin to develop the artistic skill needed to create truly wonderful beer. This is something that only comes through practice and repetition. Through science with develop our art of homebrewing. John Palmer agrees:

“Brewing is an art as well as a science. Some people may be put off by the technical side of things, but this is a science that you can taste. The science is what allows everyone to become the artist.”

Yes, homebrewing is both an art and a science. The beginning homebrewer may focus on the art of the brewing procedures before getting into the science of different ingredients and techniques. Then maybe combine the two into the art and science behind recipe development. I believe that a large part of this hobby’s appeal is that homebrewing fits so easily into both categories. It’s both.

Shop Home Brew Starter KitWhat’s your take? Do you learn more toward the art of homebrewing or toward the science of homebrewing?

—————
David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, 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 Long Does It Take to Make Beer?

He Knows How Long It Takes To Make BeerWhen discussing how long it takes to make beer at home or the brewing timeline, we can separate the question into two parts: how much time is spent actively working on the beer vs. the time the beer is sitting in the fermenter or the beer bottles. While the beer will need weeks or months before it’s at it’s best to drink, the number of active hours actually spent brewing is relatively low.

 

Hands-on vs. Hands-off Time

My all-grain brew days usually take about six hours from start to finish, including cleaning, but a lot of that time is spent waiting for water to heat, for the mash to convert, and for the wort to boil. (During this time I’m able to multitask and do some chores around the house.) Add to that an hour or so for transferring to secondary and an hour or so for bottling, and the active time for making a batch of beer is about 8-10 hours, spread out over two or three days. You can shave off an hour or so if you’re brewing with malt extract or doing a partial mash. Here’s more information on these brewing methods.

The bulk of the time that it takes to make beer actually involves very little work on the part of the homebrewer. During fermentation and conditioning, it’s the yeast that does all the work of converting sugar into alcohol and developing flavor.Shop Homebrew Starter Kit

The question of how long it takes beer to ferment and condition is largely dependent on beer style. On the short end, a low-gravity ale can take as little as 2-3 weeks if you have a way to force carbonate the beer. However, homebrew almost always improves with some aging, and some beer styles simply take longer to ferment and condition than others.

 

Ales vs. Lagers

When we ask: how long does it take to make beer?, we can’t ignore the difference between ales and lagers. In general, ales are ready to drink sooner that lagers. It’s not unusual to open the first beer after 4-6 weeks of fermentation and conditioning. Lagers, on the other hand, ferment more slowly at cooler fermentation temperatures, and then go through a cold lagering phase, which may last 6-8 weeks or longer. A standard lager may take 2-3 months or longer from brew day to bottling.

 

Amount of Fermentable Sugars Shop Winemaking For Dummies

In general, the higher the gravity, or the amount of fermentable sugar in the wort, the longer it takes to ferment. High-gravity ales and lagers both benefit from extended conditioning, during which time the yeast cleans up some undesirable fermentation byproducts, harsh alcohols mellow out, and the different flavors in the beer meld together. Many brewers age barleywines and Russian imperial stouts for a year or longer.

One theory states that for every gravity point in the final gravity, age the beer for one week. This is a technical way of saying the more body your beer has, the more aging it will benefit from. In general, this theory would support aging your average beer for 2-3 months before drinking. Of course there are no absolute rules in brewing. Determining when a beer is ready to drink will come from experience and your ability to taste when a beer has reached its peak flavor.

 

Conclusion

So, how long does it take to make beer at home? Though the amount of time from start to finish can be as little as a month, most of that time is spent allowing the beer to ferment and condition. In general, expect to spend 6-10 hours of hands-on time brewing, and 2-4 months between brew day and drinking. That said, you will often be rewarded for being patient and allowing your homebrew the time it needs to develop the best flavor. Shop Steam Freak Kits

—————
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’s The Best Mash Tun Design For Homebrewing?

Grains Into Coller Mash TunMaking the switch to all-grain homebrewing involves making some important decisions around equipment. In particular, what kind of mash tun should you get? Which mash tun design is the best? In this blog post, I’ll walk you through the options, but first, what is a mash tun?

A mash tun is simply a vessel where crushed grains are mixed with hot water. During the mashing process, sugars are extracted from the grains and into the liquid, which is called wort. At the end of the mash, the wort is drawn out of the mash tun and into a boiling kettle. A perforated false bottom holds behind all of the spent grain.

Now let’s cover the options when deciding what kind of mash tun design to buy.

 

3 Basic Mash Tun Designs from Which to Choose: 

 

1. Brew in a Bag (BIAB)Brew in a Bag
OK, the first option isn’t exactly a mash tun, but for many homebrewers, it’s the easiest and most economical way to get into all-grain brewing.

The way it works is that a mesh straining bag (grain bag) is fitted into a brew kettle filled with water, then the crushed grains are added to the bag. After the mash (usually 60 minutes), just pull out the bag of grains.

For best results, the water in the brew kettle should be pre-heated before setting up the bag. You want to avoid the possibility of the grain bag coming in direct contact with the heat source, so some bungee cords might come in handy.

The bottom line: Brew in a Bag is an economical mash tun design for hombrewing, but requires some effort to keep the grain bag away from the kettle.

 

2. The Mash Tun CoolerMash Tun
The mash tun cooler is a great option for all-grain home brewers. Mash tun design is still affordable, yet offers a setup that closely mimics the multi-vessel system used by professional brewers.

The ability to lauter, or shower the grain bed with hot water as you draw off the wort, can help improve mash efficiency over the BIAB method. The mash tun cooler setup also tends to be very efficient at holding heat.

There are just a couple drawbacks with the mash tun cooler system. For one, they’re easily scratched. As a result, they can be hard to clean. These issues can be remedied by being mindful of what you use to clean the mash tun (something non-abrasive – a cloth or rag is best.The other issue with this mash tun design is that you can’t apply direct heat to the plastic mash tun, making it a challenge to do step mashes. To raise the temperature of the mash, you have to add hot water. Dialing this in can be a challenge, but luckily there are online calculators and brewing software available to help you through the process.

The bottom line: A mash tun cooler system is a great middle-of-the-road option for all-grain homebrewing.

 

2. Stainless Steel Mash TunStainless Steel Mash Tun
Not only does the stainless steel mash tun look cool, it’s also extremely durable and easy to clean. Most come with a build in thermometer.

The main advantage of the stainless steel mash tun is that you can apply heat directly to the kettle, making it easier to dial in your mash temperature to the degree.

The main drawback of a stainless steel mash tun is the price. But with that price tag you get quality construction that will last a lifetime. A stainless steel mash tun is an investment for the long term, and if you ever want to sell it, you can probably get back most of what you paid for it.

The bottom line: A stainless steel mash tun design is the best option for serious brewers – if you can afford it. 

 

So what kind of mash tun design do you use? Is it working for you, or do you plan to upgrade?

—————————————————————–
David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, 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.

Secondary Fermentation: 3 Ways Your Beer Will Thank You For It!

Beer Going Into Secondary FermentationThere’s an old adage when it comes to making your own beer:

Ask ten homebrewers one question and you’ll get eleven different answers.

For such a unique, do-it-yourself hobby, there are all sorts of ways to approach homebrewing with just as many opinions and processes to consider. But for me, one area stands out as clear as a golden pilsner. I always rack my beer into a secondary fermentation.

It’s a step that may not be completely necessary for every beer you brew, but between habit and success, I’ve made a secondary fermentation a regular part of my brewing process. I believe it’s an effort worth the minimal investment in time – about an hour to transfer and clean up – especially since you just need a second fermentation vessel to pull it off.

So what is a secondary fermentation, anyway? It’s very simple. A secondary fermentation is done by moving your beer to a another fermenter towards the end of fermentation. This could be anywhere from the 3rd to 7th day. Ideally, leave your beer in secondary fermentation for at least one week, but feel free to add more time if additional ingredients are added for flavor.

 

So why should you consider putting your beer in a secondary fermentation?Shop Carboys

Here are three good reasons to put your beer through a secondary fermentation:

  1. Manipulate the flavor of your beer
    Because primary fermentation can be rather vigorous and even violent, it’s not worth adding additives/adjuncts to your beer right away. A secondary fermentation offers the perfect time to add fruit, wood, or other flavorings to provide layers of complex flavor to your beer. You’ll be able to maximize taste and aroma without the threat of losing anything. Of course, this is the right time to dry hop, too, which allows all the oils of the hops to be transferred directly into your beer instead of getting boiled off in the wort on brew day. Get all the hoppy characteristics you look for without adding bitterness.
  1. Improve the taste
    Leaving beer on a collection of trub for too long can start to negatively impact the taste of your beer, maybe even creating off-flavors from autolysis. Racking your beer to a secondary fermenter can prevent this. On the flip side, moving a secondary fermentation will give the yeast one more chance to chew up the intricate sugars floating around in your beer, to clean up potential off-flavors (like diacetyl), and help flavors meld together.Shop Steam Freak Kits
  1. Get a clearer beer
    You can use Irish moss or Whirfloc tablets in the boil, but post-brew day, another easy way to clarify your homebrew is to get it off remaining yeast and trub from primary fermentation and allow it to condition a little longer in a new carboy. It also means less sediment to deal with once you’re ready to bottle your homebrew. If you make lots of darker beers, including porters or stouts, doing the two-stage fermentation may not be as necessary. But since I make many lighter beers like IPAs, wheat ales and even a blonde now and then, it matters a lot.

 

The Bottom Line…
Putting your beer through a secondary fermentation does mean you have to spend a little more time with it (about an hour), and if you’re not thorough in sanitation there is chance for infection. However, in the grand scheme of things, your beer will more often than not look and taste better in the end.Shop Irish Moss

———————————–
Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his award-winning blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.