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.

Shop Carboys

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

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 Shop Steam Freak Kits
    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.
  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.Shop Irish Moss


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.

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.

The Trick To Avoiding Oxidation In Homebrew

Oxidation In HomebrewOne of several problems that can happen in beer brewing is oxidation. Blogger Bryan Roth explores oxidation, its effects, what causes it, and how to avoid it.
The process of oxidation is detrimental to your beer, but it’s something that can be difficult to avoid. To some degree, oxidation in homebrew will occur whether you keg or bottle your beer.

Oxidation in homebrew is a chemical process that can destabilize it and cause stale, off-flavors. Most commonly, people describe the taste of oxidized beers as having flavors of wet cardboard, sherry, or fruit, but that’s not the only issue. Along with altering the taste of your beer, oxidation can also affect the quality of your beer. Having oxidation in your homebrew can cause it to be less stable, meaning it will not stay as fresh as long.


When Oxygen Is Good For Homebrew?

A tricky part of the oxidation concept is that oxygen is actually beneficial early in the brewing process, so there is a time when oxidation in the homebrew is good. Properly aerating your wort on brew day can be pivotal to a successful homebrew, as oxygen is critical for yeast health.

Shop Wort AeratorAfter you’ve boiled and cooled your wort and moved it into your primary fermenter, take a few minutes to rapidly stir or shake and rock your wort. At this early stage, building a frothy head on your wort is good, as pitched yeast will need the air for healthy growth and will remove the oxygen during the fermentation process. You can even purchase aeration devices to help this process.

After you’ve pitched your yeast and fermentation has begun, you’ll want to avoid shaking and agitating your beer as much as possible.


When Oxidation May Occur In Your Homebrew

Oxidation can take place at many points throughout the brewing process, from creating a large froth while stirring your mash to the moment you move your beer into a keg or bottle. For most homebrewers, their beer is at greatest risk of oxidation while racking from one carboy to another or into their final vessel of choice, whether it be bottle or keg.

In all these instances, it’s important to try and avoid splashing of your beer. You’ll be able to tell when you’re at risk whenever you see a growing froth on top of your wort or beer. If you’re racking, pay attention to your tubing: if you see a lot of bubbles moving through, check the fitting of your tubing Shop Chugger Pumpand siphon connections to make sure they’re tight. While moving beer from one carboy to another, allow your siphon tubing to rest on the bottom of the secondary fermenter or as close to the rising beer as possible. This will dramatically reduce the oxidation in your homebrew.


How to Avoid Oxidation In Homebrew When Kegging or Bottling

Homebrewers who keg their beer may have an easier time avoiding the effects of oxidation so long as they’ve been careful in other steps of the brewing process. Purging a keg with CO2 before and after filling it with homebrew will help keep the beer fresh.

Those who bottle, however, will still want to make sure to avoid unnecessary splashing or air bubbles while racking into bottles. Moving a homebrew from a carboy to a bottling bucket can help, as a spigot and properly fitted tubing will move the beer safely from one vessel to your bottle. Luckily, the yeast that will carbonate your beer will consume some of the oxygen that may make it into the bottles.

Shop Oxygen Absorbing CapsMany homebrewers also prefer to use oxygen absorbing bottle caps that will help mitigate oxidation. Be sure to also store your beer in a place where temperatures are controlled and preferably cool. Warm storage can promote oxidation in homebrew.

Bottled beers can’t help but become oxidized over time, so know that some beers styles may be impacted greater than others. Your IPA, for example, may have a shift in its hop flavor compared to a barleywine or imperial stout, which may actually find pleasant tastes from sitting in cool storage for a little longer than normal.

The important thing to remember when it comes to oxidation in homebrew is that once properly carbonated, many beer styles are meant to be consumed fresh. Don’t be afraid to pop your cap and enjoy it!
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 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.

Short-Boil Brewing: Put Time Back Into Your Day!

Short Boil Brewing Being Done By HomebrewerFor many, brew day is all about taking it easy. Setting up a chair and kicking back as the wort boils away can be as therapeutic as laying on the beach, listening to the tide come in.

But for me, when I’m home brewing I like to strike a balance between relaxing and being efficient with my day, even if that means rushing around like a mad cheetah at times. That’s where short boil brewing comes in…

One of the easiest ways I’m able to cut down on my brew day is focusing on the boil, especially since I brew extract batches. Instead of a normal 60-minute boil time, cutting down to 30 or even 20 minutes not only produces homebrew that’s still great to drink, but puts a little more time back in my day.

While not every beer style lends itself to short boil brewing (bocks, for example), it is easy to shave off minutes for lots of other kinds of beers, from stouts to IPAs. The key is using extract and some specialty grains for steeping, which can be placed in the water as it heats up. Since malt extract doesn’t need to be boiled for a specific amount of time, you’re simply mixing it in the hot water to sanitize the liquid as you create your wort.

My favorite use of short boil brewing is with IPAs because it forces me to use my favorite technique for the style: hop bursting. This process is exactly what it sounds like – you add a ton of hops, but boil them for a short period of time. This provides an intense burst of hop flavor and aroma.Shop Liquid Malt Extract

Hop bursting is perfect for short boil brewing because you’ll extract little bitterness from the isomerization of hops, but get left with all the flavor. The biggest catch for a shortened boil is that you’ll want to use a lot of hops to make sure you still get some hop bitterness to balance the sweet malt, but that can be a good thing, too.

Here’s an IPA recipe I call “Little Hop Monster” that I’ve developed through short boil home brewing. Try it out to get you started on your next (shortened) brew day. Feel free to substitute hops for whatever you like, but I enjoy the intense tropical fruits of these American hop varieties:


Little Hop Monster IPA
(five-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)

Specs Shop Brew Kettles
OG: 1.050
FG: 1.010
ABV: 5.2%
IBUs: 48
SRM: 8

0.5 lb. Crystal 60
0.5 lb. Crystal 40
6 lb. light DME
2 oz. Amarillo hops at 10 minutes left in the boil
2 oz. Simcoe at 10 minutes
1 oz. Amarillo at 5 minutes Shop Hops
1 oz. Simcoe at 0 minutes
1 oz. Amarillo – dry hop
1 oz. Simcoe – dry hop
1 pack of Safale US-05 


In this short boil recipe the boil time can last from 20 to 30 minutes. Steep the grains as you bring the water up to boil, removing your grain bag once the water hits 170°F. to 175°F. Add the malt extract, bring the wort to a rolling boil, then add hops according to schedule above. Proceed with the rest of the brew as usual.

Shop Accurate ScalesShort boil brewing may not be a home brewing method for everyone, but it certainly has its place. With having time saved as its reward it may be something you’ll want to give a try.
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.

Use Alternative Priming Sugars For A New Twist

Brewer Using Alternative Priming SugarsAfter fermentation is done, but before the beer hits my glass, my brew sits away in a corner of a small closet – dozens of sudsy brothers and sisters conditioning away.

Depending on the style of beer I’ve brewed and its ABV, the wait time for all those bottles to fully prime can vary. So can your method for adding priming sugar to your brews.

The sugar you use for priming your beer is not chiseled in stone. For homebrewers like me, priming a batch of beer before bottling offers some variation in what to use if you want to step away from regular, old corn sugar or DME. Here are a few alternative priming sugars to consider for your next bottled batch:


Carbonation Tabs

For sake of ease, these small, pill-like drops are my go-to option for bottling my homebrew. I love carbonation tabs because they are as easy as placing one drop into each bottle right before I transfer my finished beer to its final vessel. The best part: it takes the worry out of the conditioning process as I’ve never had a problem with an under or over-carbonated beer when I’ve used these. That makes these one of the better alternative priming sugars.Shop Bottling Bucket

Some brands of carbonation tablets will have small drops the size of an aspirin and others will be oblong like a tiny football. They all work the same, but some brands may simply require one drop for ideal carbonation levels while you can use multiple small pills to adjust carbonation with other brands.



Some alternative priming sugars, like honey, offer the chance to add a little extra layer of flavor to your beer. Curious to see what it may offer your next brew? Try it with a wheat beer, which might work nice if you’ve added fruit during fermentation, too.

To add a little extra sweetness to your homebrew at bottling time, use 1 cup of honey per 5 gallons. Mix the honey with a little warm water to thin it out to make sure it blends in with your beer.


Maple Syrup Shop Bottle Washer

Making a brown ale? Consider experimenting with maple syrup for your priming sugar to mash up flavors perfect for a cold fall or winter night. Whether it’s grade A or B, use 1 1/4 cup for a 5-gallon batch and again, mix it with some water to dilute the syrup. As with any of these alternative priming sugars, it’s easy to over-carbonate if you add too much. Also check out this Maple Scotch Ale homebrew recipe.


Brown Sugar/Molasses

When talking about alternative priming sugars, one cannot leave these two out. Both of these options would work great for a porter or stout. Imagine that little extra bit of deep, earthy sweetness mixing with the roasted and chocolate flavors of those styles – a great mix for a holiday beer!

Shop Bottle CappersThe benefit of brown sugar as a priming sugar is it can be used in the same fashion as cane sugar – boil 2/3 of a cup with two cups of water for a 5-gallon batch, then mix it in before bottling.

If you’re using molasses, use 1 cup with boiled water per 5 gallons and make sure this super-thick liquid breaks down a bit. You don’t want a mess on your hands.


Priming Sugar Calculator

If you’re ready to change up your priming routine, one great resource is this priming sugar calculator from It has a variety of sugars listed that you can choose when using alternative priming sugars . This calculator will offer up specific amounts depending on your exact volume of beer, desired carbonation levels, and more.Shop Fridge Monkey

Happy Brewing!
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.

How to Make a Full-Bodied Beer

Example Of How To Make A Full-Bodied BeerAnyone who’s had a Guinness knows the unique texture that beer provides – a creaminess that flows over your tongue thanks to the use of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. But how can you get a similar characteristic in your homebrew beer without going that extra gas-based step?

Here’s how to make a full-bodied beer. It’s easier than you think.

What making a full-bodied homebrew beer comes down to is mouthfeel. You can brew a stout black as midnight in the dead of winter, but sometimes it’s best to complement that with a little more heft in the body of the beer – and that doesn’t mean it has to be a high-ABV brew, either.

To achieve a full-bodied homebrew beer with a more substantial mouthfeel, all it takes is a little modification on brew day. Here’s how to make a full-bodied beer:


1. Use specialty malts
Once you dump your yeast into the cooled wort, they’ll start chewing up fermentable sugars that allows them to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. But with unfermentable sugars in your wort, yeast will stay away from those and allow your beer to become thicker.

These unfermentable sugars are called dextrins and can be infused into your homebrew beer through the use of malt. “Cara” malts like Carapils are excellent for adding extra body with lots of unfermentable sugars during mashing. Dark and roasted malts like Crystal, Roasted Barley or Special B also offer high levels of unfermentable sugars. As a bonus, the use of specialty malts can also add color and flavor to your beer.Shop Barley Grains


2. Increase mash temperature  
While steeping malts like Carapils in an extract brew can help add some body, it’s more noticeable when doing a partial or all-grain mash. In this case, adjusting the temperature of your mash can greatly influence the body of your homebrew beer. By keeping your water temperature at a high level, say 158° to 165° degrees Fahrenheit, the reaction of malt with the water will produce more unfermentable sugars, giving your beer potential for lower ABV and a fuller body, thanks to sugars your yeast won’t eat up and convert to alcohol.


3. Add oats or wheat
One of the most popular ingredients used in stouts to add extra thickness are flaked oats. By using flaked oats as up to 10 percent of your malt bill, you can add greater viscosity.

Shop Steam Freak KitsFor ease of using oats, choose rolled or flaked oats. To convert starches from the oats into unfermentable sugars, you’ll need to mash the oats with barley malt, which allows for the chemical conversion necessary.

Usually a ratio of one pound oats to one pound barley will do the trick. All this makes the use of oats more ideal for partial or all-grain brewers, but not impossible for extract brewers who steep malt for their beer recipe. Extract brewers just may not get the same kind of body other brewers may find.


4. Use lactose sugar 
All is not lost for extract brewers, however. One easy way to add creaminess to mouthfeel and some extra body to a homebrew is with lactose sugar, which will also provide some sweetness to your beer. It’s a common ingredient in sweet stouts. Lactose isn’t fermentable and can be added during the boiling process – usually with 10 to 15 minutes to go.

Shop Home Brew Starter KitSome homebrewers also add it at bottling to increase its flavor. About a pound per five gallons will do just fine.


That’s the basics of how to make a full-bodied beer, but adding increased body to all your homebrews isn’t ideal – you wouldn’t want a thick, heavy Pilsner – but knowing how to make a full-bodied homebrew beer anytime you like is a great thing to have in your arsenal of homebrewing knowledge.
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 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.

Start Homebrewing Beer: There’s Never Been A Better Time Than Now!

A Homebrewer Homebrewing Beer KitAt a time when there are more than 3,000 breweries across the country, the options of finding a unique, tasty brew are easier than ever.

But it may be just as easy to find something novel in our own backyards – literally.

While breweries get plenty of worthy attention, there are now about 1.2 million Americans homebrewing beer scattered across the U.S., the most ever identified by the American Homebrewers Association. As the hobby has grown, it’s clear that there’s never been a better time to start homebrewing beer, and the AHA’s annual homebrew supply shop survey proves it.

“Now it is relatively easy to consistently brew beers that are just as good – if not better – than what you find on the store shelf or at the brew pub down the road,” said Ed Kraus, owner of E.C. Kraus Home Wine and Beer Making Supplies.

Here are three reasons why it’s a good time to start homebrewing beer:


1. It’s more accessible than ever
Many individuals began homebrewing beer because they’ve got a friend or family member who has been actively brewing. With over a million homebrewers now, there are more people to learn from.

Even better, gaining experience and learning about the homebrewing hobby is simple. Along with helpful websites like HomeBrew Talk, magazines like Brew Your Own or blogs like this one, people have access to answers to just about any question on homebrewing beer.

Some of this shows up in their purchases, too. Over the last three years, homebrew store owners have noticed a decrease in purchases for extract batches with an increase in all-grain. What used to be a big plunge for the beginner is now a first step when the they start homebrewing beer.All-Grain Homebrewer

“All-grain is so much more fun than extract because you really get to dial in to every variable,” said Ashley Bower, a Columbia, South Carolina-based homebrewer who started with extract in 2010 and has made all-grain batches since November 2013. “Extract is a fantastic way to start homebrewing beer and you can make great beer as long as you have fresh extract.  But if you want to dive a little deeper into the hobby, all-grain is the way to go.”


2. All ages are getting involved
According to the survey, last year saw a 24 percent increase in beginner homebrewing beer kit sales, but it’s who’s buying them that stands out. Homebrewers under the age of 30 have begun to decrease, while those 40 years old and up have seen a 5 percent increase in the last three years. The largest age range is still 30 to 39, which makes up just over half of all homebrewers, but that’s also changing.

Older Homebrewer“The hobby has become more mature,” Ed said. “I feel that it is only natural for the age range to become wider over time. We are to a point where many of the home brewers in their 50s were in their 20s or 30s when they started or tried homebrewing beer for the first time.”

Ed noted that’s made an interesting challenge for shop owners, as the range of ages and experiences between individuals homebrewing beer means homebrew shops need to be flexible in what kind of ingredients they carry. He said younger brewers have a fun time creating all sorts of experimental homebrews these days, while older homebrewers may hone in on more “classic” styles like a Russian imperial stout or English bitter to keep it simple.


3. We’re pushed by peersHomebrewers At Homebrewer Club
Want to get better at homebrewing beer? You can get great feedback by entering local or national competitions, which homebrewers are now doing in droves. The most recent National Homebrew Competition was one of the most competitive fields of entries ever, with 8,172 homebrews judged in 2014 – a 45 percent increase in the number of competitors.

With more than 1,700 registered homebrew clubs in the U.S., more people are getting into the hobby and becoming more creative with the homebrews, meaning everyone has the potential to learn and become better at homebrewing beer.Shop Home Brew Starter Kit

“Meeting with other homebrewers who are homebrewing beer to taste and discuss your brews is a catalyst for competition participation,” Ed said. “Because of the clubs, homebrew competitions are easier to know about and easier to participate in than before, and the quality of ingredients and the availability of better brewing equipment has lent itself to the production of some outstanding homebrews.”


Now “is” a great time to start homebrewing beer, so why not celebrate? Find a new beer recipe, call a friend or two and raise a glass to the hobby of homebrewing!
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 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.

Some Hot Info For Brewing Beer With Coffee

Coffee Beans For BrewingI used to drink coffee, but haven’t had the stuff in years. I loved the aroma and flavor, but hated depending on it to function in the morning.

These days, the only time I drink coffee is when it’s in my beer.

Coffee porter, coffee stout … I’ve even had a coffee IPA. For fans of both beer and the caffeinated drink, there are lots of great options. So how can you mix the two for homebrewing? It’s easier than you think.


Choose a Style

The first step for brewing a beer with coffee is determining what kind of base style you’d like to use. These days, brewers are all over the map with what kind of beer they’ll add coffee to, but classic examples include Founder’s Breakfast Stout, brewed with Sumatra and Kona coffee, and Kona’s Pipeline Porter, which uses Kona coffee as well.

You’ll often see coffee beers use a malt-forward base, as coffee flavors match the profile of roasted barley and chocolate malt very nicely. There are a lot of great stout and porter kits you can use as your base, but consider an imperial stout or robust porter for ideal pairings.

That said, experimentation is the beauty of homebrewing, so maybe an American pale ale with coffee is more up your alley. When it comes to brewing beer with coffee everything is open to one’s own interpretation.


Pick a Coffee

Once you know the style of homebrew you’d like to use, you’ll want to pick a coffee that matches nicely. Not all coffee beans are the same.

Coffee Stout Beer Ingredient KitTechnically speaking, any style of coffee will work, but you may have specific tastes or even strength you prefer. Espresso will be much stronger in perceived coffee flavor than a “cinnamon roast” coffee bean, which might offer more nut-like flavor. The National Coffee Association has a great list of roasts – from light to dark – that may help you find the kind you want.

One thing to be aware of when brewing beer with coffee is the oil content of beans, as it may impact head retention and mouthfeel of your homebrew. Depending on the beer style you’re using, that may or may not be an issue. An imperial stout, for example, isn’t as reliant on a big stack of foam as a pale ale.


Adding Coffee To Beer

Depending on the intensity of coffee flavor you seek, you may be interested in adding coffee to your boil, but the best way to get that roasted taste is in secondary fermentation. To maximize flavor without too much astringency, try cold brewing coffee.

Making a cold brew coffee is easy. Take a cup of ground beans and mix with four cups of cold or room temperature water. Let it sit for 12 to 24 hours, strain the coffee grounds from the water and you’re set. You’re left with less acidic, more flavorful coffee.

Shop FermentersKeep in mind the risk for infection is fairly low as long as you properly sanitize whatever the cold brewed coffee touches.

As an alternative, you could also place ground coffee beans into a muslin bag and steep them like a tea for up to seven days in your secondary. Just make sure to sample your beer as the ground beans steep to make sure you achieve the right amount of flavor you’re looking for.

Ready to start brewing beer with coffee? Check out the Captain Cogsworth Coffee Stout, which has all the ingredients prepared for you.

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 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.

Express Your Mad Scientist: Experimenting With Homebrew

Man Experimenting With HomebrewTo the chagrin of some, I like to experiment in the kitchen. Rather than follow set recipes or guidelines, I like to let the whimsy of the moment guide me, allowing sauces, herbs, and spices to point me in the direction of a dish, not necessarily knowing if the destination of my journey will end up good or bad.

It may be an undisciplined way to cook, but it is fun. Occasionally, it also turns out to be the way I want to brew. I like to go off the beaten path and experimenting with homebrew. While it’s important to hone your skills with the basics, what great chef – or brewer – wouldn’t want to venture off the commonly taken path from time to time?

The best part? Experimenting with homebrew is not hard. Here are a few tips for doing your own beer brewing experiments and creating beers that are specific to your unique tastes:


1. Use a Solid Base Recipe

One of the first homebrews I made was a jalapeno blonde ale. I started with an easy extract recipe as a blonde ale base:

7 lbs. Light Malt Extract 
1 oz. Cascade hops at :60
1 oz. Willamette hops at :5
Fermentis Beer Yeast: Safale US-05

By starting with a good beer recipe – one I was familiar with – I knew what to expect from the base beer. From there, I wanted to play with getting the right combination of spice and heat from peppers while also imparting some vegetative pepper flavor. It was all trial and error and an opportunity to play. I sliced and gently roasted the peppers, then “dry-peppered” the beer in secondary.Shop Beer Flavorings

Because I knew what flavor I would get from the base beer, it gave me flexibility to experiment with peppers to adjust the brew to my taste. You can do the same thing using extra ingredients in the secondary fermentation process and pulling tastes from the carboy or bucket to make sure it’s right for you. Try fruits, vegetables, or even herbs and spices when doing a beer brewing experiment!


2. Split Up Batches

When experimenting with  homebrew many homebrewers may start with standard six and five-gallon carboys for fermentation, but if you go a step smaller, you can increase the options for experimentation you have with each batch you brew.

For example, if you split a batch and use two three-gallon fermenters instead of one five-gallon carboy, you increase your options to try out different dry-hopping ingredients and even different yeast strains. Why is this beneficial? It can help you hone your beer recipe and figure out what kind of tastes and aromas you like best, getting two different beers from one brew day.

For example, if you take the same base-level recipe for the blonde ale above, but use a different yeast option, you’ll get a beer with completely different flavors than with Safale US-05. Use a Belgian Wheat 3942, and you’ll end up witShop Steam Freak Kitsh fruity characteristics. Or maybe go a little more out there and try Weihenstephen Weizen 3068 and see if banana and clove flavors shows up in your final product. This is a great way to quickly increase your knowledge of different ingredients by expanding your beer brewing experiments.


3. Tailor to Your Tastes

An important thing to remember when experimenting with homebrew is that you’re simply making beer for you to enjoy. Don’t be afraid to work from tastes or smells you like.

I love watermelon, so a couple years ago I made a watermelon wheat beer by hand-squeezing juice from watermelons sanitized with Star-San and added the juice to the secondary fermentation of an American wheat ale.

My wife loves apples and hard cider, so I’ve also tried combining apples with homebrewing. I started with a pretty simple base beer:

3.3 lbs. Light Malt Extract  
1 lb. honey malt
2 oz. Cluster hops at :60Shop 3 Gallon Carboy

But, instead of topping off the wort with water, I used apple juice. I fermented with Wyeast 1056 for a clean yeast flavor and with some patience, ended up with a “beer” that smelled like a cider, but had a unique sweet and bitter taste combination thanks to the cider and hops.

When homebrewing, it’s important to remember that it’s OK to play around. Many chefs only become great once they move beyond their comfort zones. By experimenting with homebrew based on what you love and by thinking outside the box, you’ll find more ways to enjoy the hobby of homebrewing – and may even stumble on your next favorite beer!
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 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.

Get Sweet On Your Beers: Start Brewing Beer With Honey!

Man Brewing Beer With HoneyWe put it in tea, we mix it into our lip balm and of course it’s good for baking, but for many homebrewers, honey is also a pivotal ingredient for brewing.

From the “ealu” of Great Britain’s Anglo-Saxons to President Obama’s White House Honey Ale, brewing beer with honey has been an important part of the craft. What makes honey so great is its flexibility for brewers, whether they simply want to use it as a fermentable sugar in their boil, as a source of sweet flavor or even as a priming ingredient.

Honey is great as a medium to connect all the aspects of your homebrew, from the sweet taste of wort to herbal aromas of hops and even yeast esters.

So how can you start brewing beer with honey? Here are three different ways:


Brewing With Honey In The Boil

For many, the high fermentability of honey provides an easy way to add extra gravity to a beer, since the sugar found in honey is almost entirely fermentable. Unless you’re making mead or braggot, you’ll want to make sure honey isn’t more than about 30 percent of all your fermentable sugars in a brew, depending on the level of honey flavor you seek. For best results, the National Honey Board recommends that when brewing with honey, not using more than 2.5 pounds of honey per five gallons.

A key trick is to know when to add honey. If you want to use it in the boil, consider adding it as a late addition. Due to its high fermentability, using honey early on in the boil can dilute the body of a beer and cause a drier finish when drinking your homebrew. Many beer recipes will call for a honey addition at the very end of a boil (in the last five minutes) or at flameout, which is best for retaining the honey’s aromas and flavors.


Brewing With Honey In The Secondary

If you want to avoid using honey on brew day, adding it during secondary fermentation is a good option. It allows you to keep the characteristics of the honey you’ll want to show up in your beer. To eliminate any wild yeasts and bacteria that may be in the honey, it’s important to pasteurize your honey first:Shop Beer Recipe Kits

  1. Preheat an oven to 176°F.
  2. Pour honey into a sanitized, oven-proof saucepan.
  3. As the oven preheats, heat the honey on the stove top to 176°F., stirring occasionally.
  4. Once the honey is 176°F., cover it and put it in the oven for 2.5 hours.
  5. Place the saucepan in an ice bath to lower the honey’s temperature to match that of your beer and pour it into the secondary.

The reason we heat the honey to 176°F. is that this temperature is hot enough to kill off microorganisms, but not so hot that it drives off the honey’s valuable aromas and flavors.


Brewing Beer With Honey: As A Priming Sugar

While substituting honey for your normal priming sugar may not add a lot of unique flavor, priming with honey does have the potential to add a small layer of complexity to your beer. Just be sure you only adding the honey for priming, as combining it with any other priming sugar can have explosive results.

If priming beer with honey, the honey will need to be diluted with water before adding to your homebrew. Different honeys have different densities, so there’s no uniform amount of water that may be ideal. You may need a small digital scale to weigh out the honey. Most formulas suggest four to five cups of water should be sufficient to mix with the honey.Shop Accurate Scales

As a precaution, you can bring the water-honey mix to a boil to kill any potential bacteria, the same as you would when mixing any other priming sugar.

Now that you’re ready to start brewing beer with honey, what to make? If you’re feeling experimental, check out the available beer kits from E. C. Kraus and see which beers you may enjoy with a touch of honey!
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 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.

Brewing With Chili Peppers For Fun And Torture

Beer With Chili PeppersBeer drinkers are an eclectic bunch. Some are hop-heads and some prefer malt bombs, but mixed in with the plethora of sects is a smaller group – those who like it hot.

You may have noticed commercial breweries experimenting more by brewing with chili with peppers, recently. Stone has the painfully hot Crime and Punishment and Twisted Pine has the infamous Ghost Face Killah. But there’s no need to go to the extreme with your homebrew!

If you’re looking for unique heat or some layered vegetable flavor, there are lots of ways to go about adding chili peppers to your beer – and lots of peppers to use – when brewing with chili peppers.


What Kind of Homebrew?

Before you find the kind of pepper you want to use, it’s important to determine the style of homebrew you’d like to make. The homebrew you use as your base beer will help you pick what kind of chili peppers to use and how much heat you want to feature.

For example, you could brew something light, like a lager, which could help really showcase aspects of a pepper, all the way up to a stout, which can balance the spice and heat with its own sweet maltiness and roasted characteristics. Here’s a chipotle porter recipe as an another example.

The first time I tried brewing with chili peppers I used a blonde ale base because I wanted the pepper to be front and center. It was perfect for my love of hot food, but a little too much heat came through for other drinkers. Find a style that you enjoy and that will allow you to feature the right amount of heat.


Which Peppers to Use?

Once you’ve got a beer style picked out, consider these three popular chili peppers to reach your desired level of intensity:

  • Anaheim: This pepper may be ideal for those who don’t want a ton of spicy heat, as it falls relatively low on the Scoville heat scale. As a mild pepper, it mixes a little bit of sweetness with low-level heat. Anaheim peppers will be good for lighter-bodied brews with a touch of heat.Shop Steam Freak Kits
  • Jalapeño: Chances are you’re familiar with this pepper, which is often found in spicy food dishes. Jalapeños offer stronger heat than Anaheim peppers and fall about midway on the Scoville scale. Chipotle peppers – smoked jalapeños – also make an excellent option when brewing with chili peppers. The smoke adds another layer to the pepper heat and flavor. Consider jalapeños to be good for just about any beer style, depending on your tolerance for heat.
  • Habañero: Among the hotter peppers easily found at grocery stores, habañero peppers aren’t for everyone, thanks to a heat level many times that of a jalapeño. If you love spicy heat, adding this chili pepper to heartier beers like porters or stouts that can withstand the heat.


When to Add Chili Peppers to a Brew

Like other unique ingredients (such as herbs and fruit), you’ve got options for when to add peppers in your homebrew. You can leave them whole if you want to minimize heat or slice them in half to expose seeds and the vegetable’s membrane, which contain capsaicin, the compound that makes a pepper hot.

Other timing options when brewing with chili peppers:

  • Late-boil: This will add heat, but little aroma to your beer. Add peppers at the very end of the boil and let them sit in the wort for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Primary fermentation: If you want a bit more balance, adding peppers during primary fermentation will offer some heat, pepper flavor, and aroma. Just make sure to sanitize or gently blanch peppers them before putting them in your carboy or bucket.
  • Secondary fermentation: To get the most flavor, aroma, and heat from your peppers, try adding them after primary fermentation. This offers the option of starting with a pepper or two, and then you can taste the beer to find out if you want to add more during the secondary process.
  • In the bottle: For pepper enthusiasts only! Adding a pepper straight into a beer bottle will leave no doubt as to what you’re drinking!Shop Home Brew Starter Kit


How Adding Chili Peppers Impact Your Homebrew

When brewing with chili peppers you’ll definitely get a pepper flavor in your beer, but it’s important to know that how you use peppers may also affect the head retention of a beer.

If you’re using seeds and other exposed parts of the chili pepper, oils from the vegetable may seep into your beer, greatly reducing head retention. In my experience with a jalapeño blonde ale, carbonation wasn’t a problem, but little to no foam remained in my glass a few minutes after it was poured.

Think you can stand the heat? A good place to start for first-timers is with selecting a homebrew recipe kit. Find a brew you like and think will support the pepper heat and give it a shot. It’s an easy way to test pepper flavors and discover the kick they can add to your homebrew!
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 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.