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)
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.Brew in a Bag

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 Cooler
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 issuesMash Tun 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 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 Stainless Steel Mash Tuninvestment 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?

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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.

8 Killer Tips For Bottling Beer

Capper For Bottling BeerOf all the processes involved in making beer at home, the one that most often gets in people’s way of enjoying the hobby is bottling process. Why is this?

Maybe it’s the sheer number of beer bottles that have to be cleaned and sanitized. Maybe it’s all the labels that have to come off the beer bottles. Whatever the reason, chances are someone has come up with a way to make it less of a chore. Here are some tips that will help make bottling beer easier.

 

Tips for Bottling Beer

  1. Start with clean beer bottles without labels – This might not make financial sense for some people, but I believe that a lot of the frustration of bottling beer comes from having to remove labels from the beer bottles you recycle. If you dread the idea of peeling labels from 50+ beer bottles, just go ahead and buy a couple boxes of new beer bottles and save yourself the headache.
  1. Rinse beer bottles as soon as they’re empty – You’ll thank yourself later. This will prevent funk from growing inside the beer bottle, making it much easier to prep the beer bottles for filling. Soak them once in cleanser, soak again in sanitizer such as Basic A, and you’re ready to go. This is my favorite tip for bottling beer. It can save a lot of time!
  1. Use a bottle washer – For the bottles you forgot to rinse out, take advantage of the strong blast of water from a carboy and bottle washer. One oShop Bottle Washerf these will let you rapidly clean a batch of beer bottles in no time flat. Also works great for cleaning out your siphon tubing!
  1. Sanitize bottles in the dishwasher – This is my second favorite tip for bottling beer. Sanitizing your glass beer bottles in the dishwasher can save you a lot of work. Just load them in and set the dishwasher to the “sanitize” or “high heat” cycle. You’ll need to start them well in advance of when you plan to bottle, but at least you can do other tasks in the meantime. This works best if the labels are already removed.
  1. Clear your space ahead of time – This is a good tip for any stage of the homebrewing process, not just bottling beer. Keeping your workspace from getting cluttered will go a long way towards preventing mishaps and making things run smoothly. Take a few extra minutes before bottling to put everything in its place.
  1. Sit down while bottling your beer – I like to hook up my bottle filler to the bottling bucket with a 2-inch section of transfer tubing. Then I can have a seat while filling the beer bottles. It definitely helps to save the back! Also make it easier to grab a swig or two from previously bottled beer.
  1. Enlist a friend – Get a friend or significant other to help and cutShop Bottle Cappers your bottling time commitment in half. One person fills the beer bottles, the other caps the beer bottles. Just be sure to repay them with some homebrew!
  1. Switch to kegging! – OK, this tip for bottling beer is a bit of a cop-out, but if bottling really gets on your nerves, why not get yourself a homebrew draft system? Not only do you avoid bottling beer altogether, you get to drink your beer in three or four days instead of 14!

 

What tips to you have for bottling beer?
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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.

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.

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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.

6 All-Grain Brewing Tips For The First-Timer

Crushed grains for all-grain brewingSo you’ve finally decided to brew your first batch of all grain beer, congrats! Brewing with grains is a big step towards brewing just like the pros.

Thinking back on my beginning homebrew experiences, here are some handy all grain brewing tips for brewing your first batch of all grain homebrew. This are just little tricks and pointers that I’ve learned along the way while learning how to brew all grain beers.

 

All Grain Brewing Tips

  1. Brew with a friend – Brewing with others is often more enjoyable than brewing solo, but it’s also nice to have an extra set of hands. Better yet, if your friend has experience with all grain brewing, they’ll probably be able to give you some valuable tips and pointers that will serve you well for years to come.
  1. Have plenty of water ready – Due to the nature of mashing and lautering, all grain brewing requires that you have plenty of water. This will mean that you’ll have to plan ahead in order to boil off chlorine or otherwise treat your brewing water. When doing all grain brewing, a five gallon batch will likely need 8-10 gallons of water. Use a calculator like this one to get a good estimate of your water needs ahead of time.Shop All Grain Brewing System
  1. Try brew in a bag (BIAB) – Of all the all grain brewing tips, this one is my favorite. Brew in a bag is a great way for partial mash brewers to transition to all grain brewing. Instead of a mash tun, all you need is a mesh grain bag. With BIAB, your boil kettle should be big enough for a full-volume boil, so if your kettle is five gallons, maybe try a three-gallon batch of beer.
  1. Take notes – Everyone’s brewing setup is different, so while you can find all kinds of advice for how to brew, it’s important that you become intimately familiar with your own all grain equipment and procedures. Take good homebrewing notes so you can refer to them when troubleshooting or replicating a beer recipe.
  1. Don’t be afraid to use malt extract – Just because you’ve started into the world all grain brewing doesn’t mean you have to stick with it forever. Extract and partial mash will still serve you well if you ever find yourself looking for ways to save some time and effort. Even though I normally brew all grainShop Grain Mills, it’s still nice to brew from a homebrew recipe kit once in a while. Plus, adding malt extract to your all grain batches can also make it easier to make high-gravity beers.
  1. RDWHAH – Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew. Charlie Papazian’s mantra has guided me through several brews that have bordered on frustration. Keeping a cool head will make the experience much more enjoyable. Remember that as long as you follow some basic principles, like good cleaning and sanitation, it’s actually pretty hard to mess up a batch. It’s no accident that I chose this one to be the last of the all grain brewing tips. Take it to heart, and the hobby will become much more fun and enjoyable.

 

What tips do you have for someone beginning their first batch of all-grain brew?

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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.

What Are Hop Oils? Explained!

Showing Hop OilsWhile the resins and alpha-acids found within hops are responsible for making beer bitter, essential oils within the hop cone contribute many of the flavor and aroma characteristics that we know and love in some of our favorite beers. If you drink a pale ale or an IPA with a wonderful citrus or pine aroma, you can thank the hop oils for delivering those delightful sensations.

 

What are hop oils? How are they used in home brewing?

In the anatomy of the hop flower (or strobile), volatile hop oils account for about 1-3% of the weight of the cone. That may not seem like very much, but when you think about it, it doesn’t take a lot of hop oils to give your homebrew a delicious hop flavor.

Hop oils are more delicate than the bittering compounds found in the resins of the hop. That’s why hops for flavor and aroma are typically added towards the end of the boil. Boiling hops for too long drives the hop oils away through evaporation.

Aside from late-boil hopping, dry-hopping is another technique for imparting hop aroma. The hops are essentially steeped in the fermented beer for a number of days until the desired flavor and aroma is reached. An alternative to dry-hopping (if you’re so inclined), is to build your own hop back device, which circulates beer through the hop material to extract those precious hop oils. Here’s more information about adding hops to beer.

Since hop oils begin to degrade immediately after they’re harvested, it’s important that hops are stored properly, preferably nitrogenShop Hops flushed, air tight, and frozen. In light of the fact that hops degrade so quickly, many people enjoy fresh or wet hopped beer, using the hops as soon as they’re harvested.

 

What are the types of hop oils and their characteristics?

Within the hop, there are several different types of hop oils. Their proportions vary depending both on the hop variety and on seasonal and local conditions. Learning a little about the characteristics of the different oils can help with understanding the flavor and aroma profiles that different types of hops can contribute to a beer. The four primary hop oils found in hops are listed below:

 

  • Myrcene – Myrcene is the most prevalent hop oil found in many hop varieties, often comprising 50% or more of the total oils in the hop cone. Myrene is commonly associated with floral or citrus aromas in beer. Citra is an example of a hop variety with very high myrcene content.
  • Humulene – Humulene is the second most common hop oil, though in some cases it may be in greater quantity than myrcene. It contributes woody, spicy, and herbal characteristics, and tends to withstand highShop Wort Aerator temperature better than myrcene. Many of the European and noble hop varieties exhibit higher levels of humulene. Some humulene-dominant examples of hops include Hallertauer and Vanguard.
  • Caryophyllene – Though usually lower in quantity than myrcene and humulene, caryophyllene has a distinctive woody and herbal aroma, and often contributes an herbal character to beer. Northern Brewer and Perle hops often have higher levels of caryophyllene hop oil.
  • Farnesene – Farnesene usually represents less than 1% of the oils in the hop, though may be as high as 10% or more of the total oil content. But just because it is lower in quantity, doesn’t make it any less potent than the other hop oils. Farnese usually contributes a woody or herbal character. It is well-represented in Czech Saaz, and Tettnang.

 

Because hop producers don’t usually label homebrewing hops with individual oil levels, it’s best to consult a resource such as YCH Hops to get a general sense of the oil content in your hops. You can also try the sniff test, rubbing the hops together between your hands, or make a tea from the hops.Shop Steam Freak Kits

This is just a basic overview of what hop oils are. Of course, the best way to learn about the flavor and aroma characteristics of different hop varieties is to brew beer with them. You might consider trying this simple experiment, and do a side-by-side comparison of several different hops.

 

Interested in learning more about hop oils?

Designing Great Beers is a great resources if you’d like to learn more about the specific types of hop oils.
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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.

Tasty Belgian Beer Recipes You Should Try

Belgian Beer With Head Being CutBelgian beers have become all the rage in the United States. Some might even credit them as inspiring the American craft beer movement. Belgian-style beers are characterized by the use of Belgian beer yeast, which produces a wide range of fruity and spicy notes that often make Belgian beers wine-like in their complexity. If you’re a fan of Belgian beers, here are the 7 best Belgian beer recipes that you should try right away:

 

  1. Rochefort 8 Clone (All-Grain) – Rochefort is one of the Trappist breweries in Belgium. The monks at Rochefort have been making beer since medieval times and are credited with making some of the best beer in the world. Rochefort 8 is a dark brown, rich with flavors of dark fruit, and 9.2% ABV.
  1. Westmalle Tripel Clone (All-Grain & Extract) – Westmalle is another Belgian Trappist brewery, founded in 1794. Westmalle Tripel is golden in color with a complex fruity, herbal, and floral character.Shop Beer Flavorings
  1. Belgian Saison Beer Recipe (All-Grain & Extract) – This is a classic Belgian saison recipe, brewed with orange peel and coriander. Some flaked oats give the beer body while brown sugar helps give the beer a dry finish. Feel free to switch out the spices with others such as lemongrass or grains of paradise to create your own interpretation of the style!
  1. Blue Moon Clone Recipe (All-Grain & Partial Mash) – OK purists – I know Blue Moon isn’t actually a Belgian beer, but it’s modeled off of Belgian witbier. This Belgian beer recipe is a good option for those just starting to explore Belgian beer styles.
  1. Belgian Abbey Single (Extract) – At 4.5% ABV, this beer might be considered a Belgian table beer. In other words, a beer that’s low enough in alcohol to be served in a big pitcher on the table and consumed throughout the day. But this beer is still packed full of flavor. The Saaz hops play exceptionally well with the Wyeast Belgian Abbey Ale yeast.
  1. Belgian Lambic (Extract) – Belgium is known for a wide range of sour beers, including lambic. Belgian brewers would often ferment their beer with open fermentation, which would expose the beer to wild yeast and bacteria. In the case of lambic, the beer is made sour from aBuy Beer Recipe Kits lactobacillus bacterial culture. Homebrewers don’t have to practice open fermentation; Wyeast offers a lactic blend that eliminates the guesswork of open fermentation.
  1. Cranberry “Lambic” (All-Grain) – One problem with brewing sour beers is that rogue yeast and bacteria can cause problems when brewing non-sour beers. This Belgian beer recipe uses cranberries to create the sour sensations, but a traditional ale yeast that’s much more predictable.

 

Brew these Belgian beer recipes and soon you’ll be a master of brewing Belgian beer styles!

What styles or Belgian beer recipes would you like to see added to the list?
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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 Homebrew Keep?

Example Of How Long Homebrew Will KeepThe question: how long does homebrew keep, depends on a number of factors: the style of beer, the alcohol content, storage conditions, whether the beer was bottled with good sanitation.

I think what we really want to know is this – does the beer still taste good? Is it safe to drink? Does the homebrew last in the bottle? Discovering a stash of homebrew at my parent’s house over the holidays brought me to explore these questions.

The short answer is this: it depends. Most commercial brews have a best by date of about three months from the bottling date. Some beers lend themselves to aging more than others, but whatever the case, drinking old bottles of beer is safe, even if it doesn’t taste very good. The beer will last, but sometimes, not the flavor.

So how long does homebrew keep? To guide you through how long you should let your homebrew age, if at all, here are some general guidelines…Shop Bottle Cappers

 

 

General Rules for Aging Homebrew

  • Once bottles have conditioned for a few weeks, most homebrewed ales are best enjoyed within a few months. That said, sometimes they still taste good after six months or longer. Lagers usually require a cold conditioning period of a few weeks to a few months before consuming.
  • Hoppy beers should be enjoyed fresh – don’t age them! You generally don’t age your pale ales and IPAs so that you can enjoy their lively hop flavors and aromas at their peak. This freshness does not last long in these beers.
  • Some of the best beers for aging are high-gravity beers like barleywine and Russian imperial stout. If brewed and bottled with good sanitation, these beers can keep for a year or longer! This bigger the beer the longer it will last.
  • When aging homebrews, maintain a steady temperature and avoid exposure to UV light. UV light can degrade the hops in beer and “skunk” your homebrew. Try in the corner of a basement, on the floor, to help your homebrew last longer.Shop Beer Bottles

 

 

Aging Homebrew: An Experiment

To illustrate, I have a few examples. When I went home for the holidays, I found a stash of homebrew from a year ago.

  • Spiced Cherry Dubbel – This beer, inspired by the book Radical Brewing, came out to 7.7% ABV. It was brewed with tart cherry and black cherry juice added to the fermenter. My notes indicate that the beer was a little strong on the cherry flavors, but still enjoyable, with little cinnamon flavor, if any.
  • Winter Wassail – This is a winter spiced ale made with cranberries and green apples, and it’s become something of an annual brew for me. The recipe can be found in the book the Homebrewer’s Garden. This particular batch came out to 7.4% ABV, with a fairly assertive acidity from the cranberries and green apples. It turned out almost like a sour beer, which in my opinion is a good thing, even though I might dial it down next time around.
  • Braggot”/Brown IPA Experiment – Shop Temp ControllerThis beer was a partigyle from the Winter Wassail above. That means I took the low gravity final runnings from the mash of that beer to make a different beer. To boost the gravity, I added honey, and just for the hell of it, some hops to a gallon of wort just to see what would happen. This was one of those “why not?” experiments. I remember the result being rather cidery and unimpressive.

 

So how did these beers keep over time?

Surprisingly, the Winter Wassail and Spiced Cherry Dubbel hardly changed at all. They both kept very well. If anything, they became a little more balanced, but for the most part, they were exactly like I remembered them. I was kind of shocked that the fruit flavors lasted at all, but I was pleased to discover no evidence of oxidation or infection.

On the other hand, the “braggot” concoction was unrecognizable. I actually had to go back to my notes to identify what it was. The beer was kind of bland, with a sort of spicy, sort of cheesy hop character, which just wasn’t pleasing at all. I Shop Fridge Monkeysuspect that the low alcohol content didn’t preserve the beer very well, and the hops, being the main flavor feature, degraded quite a bit. This homebrew did not keep at all, so I dumped it.

The conclusion here is when you ask, “how long does homebrew keep?”, you have to know what homebrew you’re talking about. All don’t keep the same. Some homebrews to last long at all, while some keep quite well.

What’s the longest that you’ve ever aged a homebrew? How did it hold up?
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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.

Partial Mash Brewing: 5 Reasons To Love It!

Partial Mash BrewingSometimes partial mash brewing gets a bad rap. Some think that the only way to make good beer is by brewing all-grain. On the contrary, you can make good beer with malt extracts and some specialty grains. I can think of several examples of good beer made with malt extract, and if you’re a homebrewer, chances are you can too.

Having recently gotten back into partial mash brewing in my home brewery, I’d like to share a few of the reasons I’ve enjoyed going back to this simpler method of brewing:

 

  1. It’s how most of us got started with homebrewing. Maybe you’ve been brewing for a while. Remember partial mash? Remember those first few batches you did way back when, the ones that came out surprisingly good? Without the ease and simplicity of partial mash brewing kits, you may not be brewing today. Try getting back into partial mash brewing, and whatever you do, don’t discourage would-be homebrewers by giving partial mash a bad name.
  1. Partial mash brewing takes less time. Partial mash brewing eliminates a couple key steps of the brewing process: the mash and the lauter. Combined, these steps can take well over an hour. Additionally, since a partial mash brew often has a smaller boil volume, it takes less time to bring the wort to a boil, and less time to chill it afterwards. Looking for other ways to save time while homebrewing? Check out these 8 Time-Saving Tips for Homebrewers.
  1. Shop Steam Freak KitsPartial mash brewing requires less effort. Because there’s less grain and less water, there’s less heavy lifting when doing partial mash recipes. Plus, with the easy availability of partial mash brewing kits, there’s no need to stress over building a beer recipe.
  1. Partial mash means easy cleanup. Partial mash brewing may only leave you with a pound of so of spent grains. It’s much easier to dispose of a pound than ten or more pounds of wet grain. Better yet, it’s a perfect amount of spent grains to put into spent grain bread or dog treats. Plus, if using a grain bag, you don’t have to clean out a mash tun.
  1. You still end up with great beer! At the end of the day, a partial mash brewing kit still gives you five gallons of great beer. With a few tricks up your sleeve – stellar cleaning and sanitation, late extract additions, yeast starters, fermentation temperature control – you’ll be able to make great beer every time.Shop Home Brew Starter Kit

 

Partial mash brewing offers quite a few advantages over all-grain. If you’ve been brewing all-grain for a while, maybe it’s time to circle back and give partial mash another chance.

Do you brew partial mash vs all-grain? Why or why not? Share in the comments below!
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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.

7 Skills For Becoming A Better Homebrewer

Person Becoming A Better HomebrewerWhat skills are needed for becoming a better homebrewer? Do you need to be the boldest out of your friends or have the biggest beard? I don’t think so.

Homebrewing is a hobby that (in addition to providing you with great beer!) offers an opportunity to develop a wide range of skills. Not only do these skills make you a better brewer, but they can be transferred to other hobbies and activities as well. So in a sense, becoming a better homebrewer is a path towards self-improvement.

Below you can learn about 7 key skills I’ve needed to master to help me become a better homebrewer:

 

  1. Attention to detail – Together, cleaning and sanitation comprise the critical first step in homebrewing. If you can’t keep your equipment clean or skip steps on the sanitation process, sooner-or-later you’ll get an infected homebrew and have to dump a batch. While you can avoid some of the more “science-y” aspects of homebrewing, don’t skimp on cleaning and sanitation.
  1. Resiliency – Homebrewing is not for people who give up easily. At times, you may encounter frustration. Just remember to breathe and keep in mind that you’re doing this for fun!
  1. Problem solving – Becoming a better homebrewer means being Shop Liquid Malt Extracta better problem solver. Occasionally, something will not go as planned with a batch of beer. Homebrewing tests your ability to break down a multi-step process to identify the source of a problem. Even when things go right, you will be tested to identify the nuances in process and ingredients that affect a beer’s color, flavor, aroma, and other characteristics.
  1. Creativity – Homebrewing is a great avenue for exploring your creative side. Just about any ingredient can be used when making beer. Want to brew some unusual concoctions? Try a chipotle smoked porter, oak barrel IPA, or a maple Scotch ale to flex your creative muscle.
  1. Consistency – This skill is essential for professional brewers, but it can be important for homebrewers as well. Anyone can brew one good batch of beer, but can you do it over and over? Take good homebrewing notes and test your consistency by perfecting some of your favorite beer recipes.
  1. Curiosity – Homebrewing offers an endless path for learning, whether it’s about yeast propagation, water chemistry, or calculating IBUs. If you’re inclined to dive deep into a hobby, then homebrewing is for you.Shop Home Brew Starter Kit
  1. Good attitude! – This one can’t be stressed enough. Above all, homebrewing should always be fun. That’s not to say it won’t be challenging at times. But sometimes becoming a better homebrewer requires that you remind yourself of the reasons you started homebrewing in the first place. If you ever need a refresher on how to keep your cool, check out Hops, Malt, and Zen: How I Learned to Relax, Not Worry, and Enjoy Homebrewing.

 

What skills would you add to the list for becoming a better homebrewer?
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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.

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!
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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.