5 Summer Beer Styles That Taste Better Outdoors

Summer BeerWhen asked what are some good summer beer styles for drinking outdoors, I’m inclined to say, “the one in your hand.” But some beer styles lend themselves to drinking in the summer some more than other, and likewise, there are some beer recipes that lend themselves to being brewed in the summer. This isn’t the time or place for heavy dopplebocks or Russian imperial stouts (though I certainly wouldn’t fault you for enjoying one on the back porch!). These summer beer styles are relatively sessionable yet still full of flavor.

Below are five of my favorite summer beer styles for outdoor drinking:

  • Kölsch – A light, crisp effervescence with just enough hop bitterness to keep things interesting. A slight fruity aroma may be present due to the use of an authentic Kölsch yeast. Some noble hop flavor may be perceptible and a little wheat may be used for flavor. A dry finish makes it a great thirst quencher.
  • Rauchbier – Though not yet very popular stateside, German smoked beer can be a very pleasant summer beverage. The smoked malt flavor is reminiscent of barbeque or campfire and may pair well with grilled meats like bratwurst, steak, and lamb. A rauchbier isn’t for everyone – some may be turned off by the smokiness. But for the more adventurous, a smooth, smoky rauchbier is an excellent summer beer style option for drinking outdoors.
  • Pilsner – Like Kölsch, pilsner is light, crisp, and dry with a firm noble hop bitterness. Unlike Kölsch, pilsner is a true lager and may feature more grain flavor and more assertive hop flavor. There are three types of pilsner (German, Czech, and American) and all three would be enjoyable during outdoor festivities.
  • California Common – California common is another ale-lager hybrid, fermented with a lager yeast on the cooler side of ale temperatures, usually around 60-65˚F. Color for this beer style can range from light to dark amber. Hop bitterness is significant, usually 30-45 IBUs. The malt flavor has some toasted and caramel notes, while hop flavor can range from medium to high. Anchor Steam, the original California Common, uses all Northern Brewer hops.
  • SaisonShop Steam Freak Kits Any list of summer beer styles would be incomplete without saison. Developed in the French-speaking part of Belgium, saison was a classic thirst quencher among farmers and farmhands. A Belgian saison features a complex spicy and fruity yeast character, a crisp effervescence, and a dry finish. There may be a slight tart note. Many saisons use herbs and spices for additional flavoring and complexity, anything from coriander and orange peel to peppercorns and lemongrass. Next time you’re on the farm, don’t forget the saison!


These are just five of my favorite summer beer styles for drinking outdoors. There are others. What are your favorites?
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.

Help! My Wine Fermentation Temperature Is Too High!

Wine Fermentation Temperature Is Too HighCould you tell me how I might control my fermentation temperature? I have been making wine for 15 or so years from real grapes. Many times the wine’s fermentation temperature is too high. What is the best way to control it. Thanks in advance.

Name: Al J.
State: NY
Hello Al,

Thanks for the great question. This is something that plagues a lot of home winemakers, so I’m glad you brought it up.

For those of you who do not know, a fermentation creates heat. It’s usually not a problem during the cooler months or with smaller batches, say 5 gallons or less. But when the weather is hot or you are fermenting in 15 gallon batches or larger, heat can build up and should be on the winemaker’s radar.

Depending on the type of wine you are making and the type of wine yeast you are using, you would like your fermentation to around 70° to 75° F.  Once you start getting over 80°F. you run the risk of off-flavors and possible spoilage.

There are several ways you can go about keeping a fermentation cool. Unfortunately, most of them are a pain in the behind. For a professional winery it simple. They use fermentation vats with cooling jackets and/or refrigeration coils that keep the temperature stable under computerized control. Sweet! But for us home winemakers we have to use a little more ingenuity to keep our fermentation temperatures stable.

I’ll go through a few of the basic methods you can use if the wine fermentation temperature is too high, but it’s going to be up to you to figure out which one is going to be most practical for your situation:


  • Use Smaller Fermenters
    This one is pretty basic. A 5 gallon carboy is not going to over-heat as easily as a 15 gallon demijohn. This is because you have more external surface area per gallon as you go down in size. That means the heat can dissipate more readily from a smaller fermenter than it can with a larger fermenter.
  • Blocks Of Ice
    Shop CarboysThis is the one I hate the most, but is most used by home winemakers. It’s simply using blocks of ice in ziplock bags directly into the wine. I hate this for two distinct reasons: 1) you never know when a ziplock bag is going to fail and empty melted ice into the wine, 2) there is very little control. While it’s designed to help you out when the wine fermentation temperature is too high, you could easily get the fermentation too cool, stalling the fermentation. For these reasons I do not recommend this method, but it could be used in a pinch.
  • Evaporation Method
    The basis behind this method is when water evaporates it cools whatever it is touching. By keeping evaporating water against the outside of the fermenter, you can get the fermenter to cool down. A common way of accomplishing this is to sit the fermenter in a bath of water. It does not need to be deep, just a few inches. Next put fabric over the fermenter that drapes into the water. As an example, you could use a cotton t-shirt over a carboy. The water will then wick up the fabric and then evaporates, cooling the fermenter. You an use a fan to blow air across the fermenter to speed up the evaporation. The faster the evaporation, the more the fermentation gets cooled.
  • Heat Exchanger
    This method is done simply by putting a coil of stainless steel tubing in the wine Buy Temp Controllerand then running cold water through the tube. This is a great way to cool the wine. The biggest problem with it is that you have to use stainless steel tubing which is expensive. Other metals will corrode which is detrimental to the wine, so stay away from copper, aluminum, etc.
  • Dedicated Refrigerator
    This is the ultimate solution for when a wine fermentation temperature is too high. This method involves using a refrigerator as a temperature controlling device. The obvious issue with this method is you need a refrigerator. The second issue is that the thermostat of a refrigerator does not go high enough. For this reason you will need to buy a electronic temperature controller with the correct temperature range to control the power to the refrigerator.


Unfortunately, all these methods involve some effort on your part. As mentioned before, all them work, it’s more a matter of picking out the method that is most practical for 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.

Want A Balanced Beer? Calculate The BU:GU Ratio

Well Balanced BeersWe all know that some beers are more bitter than others. Perhaps you’ve noticed that high gravity barley wines and double IPAs often have IBUs (International Bittering Units) in the 80s, 90s, or above. Without substantial hop bitterness, these beers would come across as excessively sweet.

On the other hand, some beers are more malt forward. Belgian tripels, for example, can be just as alcoholic as double IPAs, but the tripel features phenolics, esters, and malt character, whereas the double IPA tends to be focused on the hops.

What we find in comparing beer styles is that balance can be calculated by comparing the hop bitterness to the original gravity of the beer recipe. It is this IBU and OG balance relationship that primarily controls a homebrew’s hoppy impression or the relative bitteness.

Let’s explore this relationship with some easy math.


Bitterness Units / Gravity Units Ratio

To calculate the BU:GU ratio, simply multiply the original gravity by 1000 then subtract 1000 to get the gravity units: (1.050 * 1000)-1000 = 50. Another way to say this is move the decimal place over three spaces and get rid of the “1” on the left. Now divide the IBUs by the gravity units to get the BU:GU ratio.

Let’s go back to our double IPA/Belgian tripel comparison. In the first example, we have the original gravity and the IBUs for a hypothetical double IPA:

Double IPA OG: 1.080
Double IPA IBUs: 80

BU/GU = 80/80 = 1.00

That’s a pretty bitter beer!

Now let’s calculate the BU:GU ratio for a Belgian tripel:

Tripel OG: 1.079
Tripel IBUs: 37

BU/GU = 0.47Shop Steam Freak Kits

In this case, the bitterness of the tripel is not nearly as prominent as the IPA.

The BU:GU ratio may range from as low as 0.20 for the least bitter beers and as high as 1.00 or more for IPAs and other highly hopped beers. To give you an idea of the range, let’s look at some BU:GU ratios from some of our most popular beer recipe kits:

These BU:GU ratios gives us a good indication of the hop bitterness compared to the original gravity. However, there are other secondary factors that can affect the relative bitterness, as well, including dryness (from a low final gravity), astringency (as from roasted grains), and other flavor and mouthfeel characteristics. You may want to take these into consideration when trying to produce a well balanced beer.

For example, a high proportion of caramel malt in the double IPA example may help take some of the edge off the IBUs, while the dryness of the tripel may make it seem more bitter than the IBUs suggest.Shop Conical Fermenter

I’d encourage you to explore the BU:GU ratio for some of your favorite beers to figure out how you define good balance. Try calculating the ratio for some of your homebrews and use this number to determine whether you’ve hit the mark or not on hop bitterness and balance.

What to learn more about IBU and OG balance? Ray Daniels examines BU:GU ratios for many of the most common beer styles in his book Designing Great Beers.
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.

Controlling Wine Sweetness With Wine Yeast Attenuation

Observing Wine Yeast AttenuationI want to make a sweeter wine without adding wine conditioner. Can i use a “Montrachet” ( red /white) yeast and increase the sugar per gallon to get a controlled “stuck ” fermentation with predictable results? How would I go about that to accomplish my goal?

Name: Bob B.
State: NY
Hello Bob,

It is true that different wine yeast will ferment a wine down to varying levels of residual sweetness. The ability of a wine yeast to ferment all the sugars is referred to as wine yeast attenuation. Wine yeast that can ferment a wine to complete dryness is said to be a high attenuation yeast. Wine yeast that leave the wine with some sweetness are said to be a low attenuation yeast.

While attenuation has to do with a wine yeast’s ability to ferment that last bit of sugar, there is also alcohol tolerance. This is the ability of a wine yeast to ferment to higher levels of alcohol. Both attenuation and tolerance are closely correlated in the sense that as the target alcohol level of a fermentation goes up by adding more sugar, the ability of a wine yeast to attenuate becomes less. But, depending on the wine yeast’s alcohol tolerance the attenuation may be affect a lot or just a little.

You can see the differences between wine yeast in this wine yeast chart we have on our website which list alcohol tolerance and attenuation (described as “Secondary Fermentation”) listed for each wine yeast.

My reason for explaining this is that while the wine yeast you select will play a major role in how dry or off-dry your wine ends up being, there are many other factors that come into play as well. Not only is their the alcohol level you are shooting for affecting the wine’s outcome, there is also:

  • The amount of nutrients available to the yeast
  • The temperature of the fermentation
  • The amount of saturated oxygen in the water you added
  • The acidity level of the wine must
  • The amount of residual sulfite in the wine must.

This list goes on and on with each factor effecting the wine yeast’s ability to ferment — or not ferment — to some marginal degree.

Shop Wine YeastWith all this taken into consideration, it starts to become clear that controlling the ending sweetness of a wine can be very difficult, if not impossible. No two fermentation ever go exactly the same. While you could have some level of consistency if you fermented the same type of wine over and over and were careful to replicate identical conditions with each fermentation, for the average home winemaker who likes to ferment different wines, using different fruits and different concentrates, this is not a very realistic goal.

Something else that needs to be pointed out is that while different wine yeast ferment differently, the amount they vary is not all that great. While a wine yeast with high attenuation can produce a wine that is puckering dry, wine yeasts with the lowest attenuation will not make a wine seem sweet — just less dry — under typical fermenting conditions.

You can try driving up the sugar level in the wine must with the hopes of the yeast stopping because of high level of alcohol being produced, but this is a very imprecise method that could just a easily result in a wine that is disgustingly sweet.

You can try stopping the fermentation when the sweetness is to your liking, but there are a couple of difficulties with this:


  • The first difficulty is that it is hard to judge the sweetness you will like when the wine is still fermenting. It taste completely different during a fermentation then it will after it clears and ages a little. The level of sweetness you like may be compensating for a bitterness in the wine that will not be there later on.
  • The second difficulty is that it is not easy to stop a fermentation with any consistency. You can try adding sulfites such a Campden tablets or potassium metabisulfite, however either of these are just as likely not work as they are to work. They are not dependable in a fermenting situation. As a side note, potassium sorbate will have little to no effect on a active fermentation.


Shop Wine ConditionerThis leaves you with using the method most wineries would use to stop a fermentation. That is to chill the wine down, then filter. Chilling the wine down will make the wine yeast dormant. It needs to be held at 30° to 40°F. for about 3 days. Then the wine is siphoned (racked) of the settled yeast and filter with sterile filter pads in a wine filter. These filters are so fine that they will take out over 99% of any of the wine yeast that still remains.

Having said all of this, if you are actually wanting a sweet wine, the easiest and most controllable way for the home winemaker to make a sweet wine is to back-sweeten it. If you are just looking to take the dry edge off of a wine you can do this by choosing a wine yeast that has low attenuation. Good candidates for this would be: Red Star Cotes de Blanc for whites and Lalvin RC 212 for reds.

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.

Pliny the Elder Clone Beer Recipe (All-Grain & Extract)

Pliny The Elder BeerPliny the Elder is a Double IPA and one of the top five most highly rated beers on Beer Advocate. It’s brewed by Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, CA, and is named for the Roman scholar who reportedly gave hops their original botanical name way back in the first century AD. With enough IBUs to tear the enamel off your teeth, Pliny the Elder is extremely popular and can be hard to find – why not brew your own?

This Pliny the Elder clone beer recipe comes from the book Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer. Vinnie Cilurzo, co-owner and brewmaster at Russian River, contributed to the beer recipe specifically for the book, so you can be sure it’s close to the real thing!

The clone beer recipe below assumes a mash efficiency of 83% and a 90-minute boil time. It also uses nearly seven ounces of dry hops, so if needed, review our Quick Guide to Dry Hopping Your Homebrew. Good luck!


“Hop Hammer” – Pliny the Elder Clone Beer Recipe
(6-gallon batch, all-grain version)

OG: 1.080
FG: 1.013
ABV: 8.9%
IBU: 100+
SRM: 6

Shop Steam Freak Kits15.25 lbs. American two-row malt
0.5 lb. Wheat malt
1.5 lb. Corn sugar
0.5 lb. Crystal 40L malt
2 oz. Warrior hops at 90 mins (30 AAU)
2 oz. Chinook hops at 90 mins (26 AAU)
1 oz. Simcoe hops at 45 mins (12 AAU)
1 oz. Columbus hops at 30 mins (14 AAU)
2.25 oz. Centennial hops at 0 mins (20.25 AAU)
1 oz. Simcoe hops at 0 mins (12 AAU)
3.25 oz. Columbus hops, dry hop for 7-10 days (45.5 AAU)
1.75 oz. Centennial hops, dry hop for 7-10 days (15.75 AAU)
1.75 oz. Simcoe hops, dry hop for 7-10 days (21 AAU)

Wyeast 1056: American Ale Yeast or Fermentis Safale US-05

Shop Home Brew Starter KitDirections: The day before brewing the Pliny the Elder clone beer recipe, prepare a yeast starter sufficient for an OG of 1.080. On brew day, mash the crushed grains at 150˚F in approximately 5 gallons of water. Lauter and sparge to collect 7.75 gallons of wort. Bring to a boil. Add hops according to schedule. Mix in corn sugar just before flameout. Ferment at 67˚F, slowly raising the temperature to 70˚F towards the end of primary fermentation. When most of the yeast has settled, transfer to a secondary fermenter and add the dry hops. Dry hop for 7-10 days. Bottle or keg for 2-2.5 vols CO2 of carbonation.

EXTRACT VERSION: Replace the two-row and wheat malt with 10.9 lbs. of light LME and 0.5 lb. of wheat LME. Steep the crushed caramel malt for about 30 minutes at 150˚F before mixing in the malt extracts and proceed with the beer recipe.
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.

Removing The Bitterness From A Homemade Fruit Wine

Testing If Wine Is Still BitterI have tried to make watermelon wine… I had started the process back on 5/26/16. On 7/11/16 I racked off the wine after it quit working and it had a SG of less than 1. But it tasted really bitter. Is there something that I can do to give it a better watermelon taste or add another fruit. I am open to suggestions, so I don’t have to dump 6 gal of what should be a good flavored wine.

Kevin S. — IL
Hello Kevin,

I’m sure this wine is far from being dumped. You are in the same boat that many other fruit winemakers have been in — that is the fruit wine has no sweetness, therefor it taste nothing like fruit.

Continue reading

10 Tips For Putting Your Homebrew Through A Secondary Fermentation

Homebrew Beer In Secondary FermentationMany homebrewers consider a secondary fermentation to be a worthwhile step when brewing beer. For the time it takes to move a batch of beer from a primary fermenter to a secondary fermenter, it offers a number of opportunities to improve your homebrew and make the best beer that you can.

Check out these ten tips for putting your beer through a secondary fermentation. Most are just suggestions, but the first is imperative:


  1. Sanitation, sanitation, sanitation – Don’t spoil you hard work by being lax at this stage! Thoroughly clean and sanitize the secondary fermenter as well as your hoses and tubing used to transfer the beer. Be sure to sanitize the airlock as well and fill with either clean water or a diluted vodka solution.
  1. Use an Auto-Siphon – Transferring the beer is much easier with an Auto-Siphon. It’s one of the most cost-effective upgrades you can make as a homebrewer. The Auto-Siphon will prime your siphon flow for you with just one pump. It’s a no-brainer for the homebrewer who routinely does secondary fermentations.
  1. Take a hydrometer sample – Transferring to a secondary fermenter offers a good opportunity to check in on your beer’s gravity — and while you’re at it, clarity, too. This is a good time to head off any potential issues while you still can. Remember to record the gravity in your homebrewing notes.
  1. Add sugars – If you find that your alcohol content is a little lower than you’d like, you can add additional sugars when putting your beer into secondary fermentation. It can be corn sugar, brown sugar, honey, or dried malt extract…any fermentable ingredient can be used to boost gravity. Most should be dissolved in clean, sterile water before mixing.
  1. Add clarifiers – Many brewers choose to add finings, or clarifiers, when doing a secondary fermentation on their beer. Gelatin or isinglass may be added at this stage.
  1. Add watershop_carboys – If you find you’re short on volume and can afford to spare some alcohol content, you may want to mix in a small amount of sterile water to the fermenter. Boil the water for 20 minutes and allow to cool to the temperature of the beer, stirring it in using a sanitized spoon. Use a dilution calculator to figure out how much water to add.
  1. Add dry hops – A secondary fermentation is also an opportunity to boost your beer’s hop flavor and aroma. Check out our Quick Guide to Dry Hopping Your Homebrew Beers for advice.
  1. Add herbs or spices – Just like dry hopping, you can “dry spice” your homebrew with herbs and spices. Remember: a little goes a long way!
  1. Keep the temperature stable – Big swings in the secondary fermentation temperature can lead to off-flavors. Read these tips for controlling homebrew fermentation temperatures.
  1. Try it in the keg – If you’re set up with a homebrew draft system, you can do a secondary fermentation right in the keg. Sediment at this stage will be minimal, just keep the keg vent open so the fermentation does not build up to much pressure. Then all you have to do is force carbonate after the secondary fermentation period.


What other techniques do you use during your beer’s secondary fermentation to ensure a successful homebrew?
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.

Unlocking the Pearson’s Square To Calculate Changes To A Wine

Pearsons Square WineCan’t quite figure out how to calculate the amount of distilled water to add to 5&1/2 gal of raspberry wine with an acid of 1.3 to reduce it to .7 or .8, can you help me? Some place I thought you mentioned to use the pearson’s square.
Thanks Knute
Hello Knute,

I want to thank you for this question, and here’s why. The Pearson’s square is something that I’ve been meaning to write about for some time. It seems like every time I turn around I am referencing it in a blog post, but I have never done a blog post specifically on using the Pearson’s square to calculate adjustments to a wine.

And that’s a shame, because in my mind the Pearson’s square is one of the most underutilized calculating tools a winemaker has at their disposal. It can turn, what seems like, a very difficult math problem, and reduce it down to something visual that can be figured out in seconds. The Pearson’s square is the perfect tool for any wine blending scenario you can think of, including fortifying wines. It’s also ideal for calculating wholesale adjustments to the acidity or sugar content of a wine must.

What the Pearson square does is very simple.
It allows you to calculate how much of two liquids you will need to blend together (the ratio) to reach a specific target reading. In the case of wine making, how much of each of the two wines to blend together to reach a target reading of either acidity, specific gravity, alcohol… Anything that can be measured in the wine that has a linear or even scale can be targeted. The only requirements are that you know the reading of each of the two liquids to be blended and the target reading.

Basic layout of the Pearson's squareHere is the Pearson’s square. I am going to keep this as simple as possible:

  • A & B represent the reading of the two liquids to be blended.
  • C is the target reading. The reading you wish to have.
  • D & E represent how many parts of each liquid you need to blend (the ratio).

Knute, now lets take your situation as an example. You have a wine with a titratable acidity of 1.30%. By the way, this is a very high acid reading. I don’t imagine it taste very good. You want to know how much distilled water you need to add to the wine to bring it down to around .70% or .80%.

Pearson's Square With Knute's Problem Set UpHere’s how this problem would set up on the Pearson’s square:

  • A is the acidity level of your wine.
  • B is the titratable acidity of water.
  • C is the acidity level you would like to have.
  • D & E is what we need to know. How much of each liquid to blend.

Pearson's square with answer for blending wineTo solve for D & E you want to calculate the difference between A-C and the difference between B-C. In your case Knute, this would be the difference between 1.30 and .80 which comes out to .50. And, the difference between 0 and .80, which is .80. Here’s how this would play out on the Pearson’s square.


So what does this mean for your 5.5 gallons of raspberry wine?
It means that for every 8 parts of raspberry wine, you need to add 5 parts water. Or to put another way, to every 8 quarts of wine, you need to add 5 quarts of water.Shop Wine Making Kits

You can also figure this down to ounces. There are 128 ounces in a gallon. You have 5.5 gallons of wine. That would be a total of 704 ounces. For every 8 ounces, you need to add 5 ounces of water.

If you take 704 ounce and divide it by 8, you will know how many 8 ounce portions of wine you have. It turns out you have 88 – 8 oz. portions in 5.5 gallons of wine. Now take the 88 portions and times it by the 5 ozs. of water you need for each portion. That’s how many ounce of water you need to add (5 x 88 = 440). This breaks down to:

  • 3 Gallons (384 ozs.)
  • 1 Quart (32 ozs.)
  • 1 Pint (16 ozs.)
  • 1 Cup (8 ozs.)

All of these add up to the 440 ounces. Add this much distilled water to the wine and it will have an acidity level of .80%.

Shop Acid Testing KitIf you haven’t been able to tell yet, I like the Pearson’s square a lot. I find myself using it all the time. Not to take large swipes at a wine like Knute needed to, but to make minor adjustments. The Pearson’s square is almost a necessity when blending wines or when wanting to fortify a wine with distilled alcohol or brandy.

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.

Using Finings In Beer For That Professional Look!

Beer With Finings Used In ItProfessional brewers often filter their beers to make them clearer, but homebrewers can also achieve clarity without a filter. Enter: beer finings.

Using finings in beer will give it a brilliantly clear appearance. While clarity may not affect a drinker’s perception of aroma or flavor, appearance makes a key first impression when evaluating your homebrew.

Home brew beer finings work by electromagnetically attaching themselves to some of the materials which cause haze: protein, yeast, tannins. Sounds pretty science-y, I know, but you don’t need a Ph. D. to make clear beer! Here’s some basic instructions on using homebrew fining agents.

When considering different beer finings, there are two types: kettle finings and finings added to the fermenter. Both types may be used in combination within the same brew, but you may find that one or the other is adequate for your needs. Using three different finings in your beer is probably not necessary.


Type of Beer Fining Agents

  • Irish Moss – One of the most common beer finings for homebrewers, Irish moss is a type of seaweed that contains something called carrageenan. It works by aiding in protein coagulation, helping protein settle out during the cold break (i.e. when wort is chilled). When using Irish moss as a fining in beer, the more quickly you can chill your wort, the more effectively the protein will settle out of suspension.
  • Isinglass – Isinglass has been used in the brewing industry for hundreds of years. It’s a collagen derived from the swim bladders of fish. Being positively charged, it attaches to negatively charged yeast and other particulates and helps them to settle out more quickly. Use isinglass at least 24 hours prior to bottling your homebrew.Shop Bottling Bucket
  • Gelatin – Similar to Isinglass, gelatin is a beer fining derived from animal collagen. It works by attaching to negatively charged yeast and protein, thereby increasing the size of the particle and helping it to settle out.


Since Irish moss is negatively charged and the collagen finings are positively charged, you may find that using them both produces good results. When using finings in beer, be sure to follow the instructions on the package and mix the fining agent appropriately. There’s no need to use more than is recommended by the manufacturer.


Other Tools for Clarification

If using finings in beer is something you are hesitant to do, you can still clear your beer with other methods:

  • Time – Given enough time, any particulate that’s more dense than beer will settle out eventually. Consider lengthening your secondary fermentation period to improve clarity. Time can often clear a beer just a well as any beer fining.
  • Temperature – Cold temperature helps protein and tannin particulate settle out. As little as a day of refrigeration can make a big difference in clarity.Shop Irish Moss
  • Filtration – If you’re in a rush, you can certainly save time by filtering your homebrew beer. These systems are not inexpensive, and you may need a draft system to push the beer through the filter.


Remember that some beers are supposed to be cloudy, in particular, hefeweizens and witbiers. You may wish to omit using finings in such beers. But for your pale ales, porters, and lagers, a bit of home brew beer finings may be just what you need for a crystal clear brew!
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.

My Wine Hydrometer Reading Is Too High!

Hydrometer Reading Thats Too HighI am using a concentrate that calls for 12 lbs of sugar. I read my hydrometer at 1.140 or 18.5% potential alcohol. Would this be correct or am I ready it wrong? Thanks again, you have a GREAT web site…..

Name: William R.
State: MO
Hello William,

The wine hydrometer reading you provided is too high for a wine. Most wine yeast will have trouble fermenting that much sugar. As a fermentation continues, each additional percentage of alcohol gets harder and harder for the wine yeast to ferment.

A specific gravity reading of 1.140 on a hydrometer does coincide with a potential alcohol of 18.5%, so I do believe that the hydrometer showed this reading, but is it the correct reading? That’s the big question here!

Here’s what I know. If this is a 5 gallon batch and you added 12 pounds of sugar to it. This sugar, by itself, will create a potential alcohol of about 12%. I’m assuming that the directions with the concentrate said this was how much sugar to add. In addition to this, the concentrate will raise the potential alcohol reading even further. Any concentrate is mostly fruit sugars that will contribute to the potential alcohol. I can not tell you exactly how much the concentrate contributes without knowing more about the specific concentrate you are using.

There is also the distinct possibility that you got an incorrect reading, and that’s why the wine hydrometer reading is too high. There are three common ways we see home winemakers get incorrect hydrometer readings:


  1. Not Enough Wine Sample Was Used
    Shop HydrometersOne requirement for getting an accurate hydrometer readings is the hydrometer has to be floating. That’s what it’s all about, reading how high or low the hydrometer floats. If there is not enough wine to float the hydrometer you will get a reading that is meaningless. The hydrometer has to be off of the bottom.
  1. The Sugars Did Not Get Evenly Dissolved
    The sugar in the wine must is what actually causes the hydrometer to float. The more sugar there is in the wine must, the higher the hydrometer will float. The more sugar there is, the more alcohol that can potentially be made. Sugar is what ferments into alcohol. This is the whole basis of a wine hydrometer. But if the sugar you add is not evenly blended throughout the wine, you will get an incorrect reading. The un-blended sugars drift to the bottom causing samples taken off the bottom through a spigot to be completely different than a reading taken off the top.
  1. The Calibration Of The Hydrometer Is Off
    This doesn’t happen very often, but I have seen it happen once or twice over the years. The scales in a glass hydrometer are on one a piece of paper that is carefully tacked into place with a spot of wax from the inside. If the paper comes loose and the hydrometer is jarred around enough, the paper could slip. An easy way to check your hydrometer’s calibration is to float it in water. You should expect a specific gravity reading of 1.000 at a temperature of 60°F.


Shop Fermentation SamplerAfter reviewing the above, if you still determine that your wine hydrometer reading is too high. I would take some measures to lower it. This means diluting the wine must with more water. Shoot for a potential alcohol around 13% or 14%. Use a Champagne type yeast. This wine yeast is able to handle higher amounts of sugar than most.

WARNING: If the concentrate was packaged specifically for making wine, I doubt that you have an accurate reading, and one of the 3 above reasons are applying. It would be very unusual for a wine concentrate to be off. Not even a little bit. The wine concentrate producers know how to get you exactly to the reading you need simply by following the provided wine recipe. If this is specifically a wine concentrate I would be very hesitant to add any additional water or sugar to the wine must without making sure I got to the bottom of things.

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.