The Rise Of One Gallon Beer Making

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A new trend has emerged in the world of home brewing, the rise of the “One Gallon Brewer”.

It had to happen sooner or later, it is obvious to see that not everyone is going to want 5 gallons of beer at a time. It’s a large barrier of entry to invest both the time and money in producing 5 gallon batches in a hobby that should be easy to get started in.

one gallon beer making kits

Why The Small Batches?

I am a fan of making smaller batches, I’ve written a fair bit about why, here and here. I am pretty sure that if I started home brewing again today I would be looking at brewing one gallon brews or at least smaller batches than 5 gallons. To start with there is a lot less space and cost in getting all the equipment you need together. I am a fairly cost conscious person and to see that you can get started brewing small one gallon batches for less than £100 including the cost of the ingredients for your first batch is much more desirable than spending, say, £300 up to £600 or more to brew 5 gallon batches.

I believe it is also due to the way modern craft beer is marketed that has drawn home brewers to one gallon beer making. A lot of the marketing and branding of craft brewers focusses on the fact that small batch is better than macro brewing. Small breweries put more care, craft and thought behind producing their beers than big brewing corporations. It might not necessarily be true but it does emphasise the point that smaller is better somehow.

This is also reflected in the kind of people who choose to start with one gallon beer kits. Like craft beer, which has a younger, more mixed audience than more traditional real ales and beers one gallon brewers seem to be younger with more women getting involved. There is a lot more coverage by sites like The Kitchn whose audience is more mixed than one of the many home brew forums. This is great for home brewing as a hobby. A YouGov poll shows around 75% of people in the UK, interested in home brewing are male and I have to say I thought this percentage was going to be close to 90%.

One gallon brewing seems to be attracting a new demographic to home brewing. You don’t have to be exiled in the shed, garage or even just outside to make a one gallon beer. You brew in the kitchen standing by the hob just like you would if you were cooking a meal or baking a cake.

Baking is a hobby that seems to get increasingly popular every time “The Great British Bake Off” come on television. I’ve seen comments on social media asking for a home brewing equivalent, the problem is though, watching someone brew a beer is a lot less interesting than watching people make cakes. The point is, though, by making brewing more like cooking it will appeal to much wider range of people. One gallon beer making has the power to do that because it is exactly like cooking.

Start One Gallon Beer Making

Now that I’ve just gone on about one gallon brewing and how accessible it is I guess I should explain the best way to get started. What is the best method to go from knowing nothing about brewing to knocking out your first one gallon batch?

One of these beer making kits.

Brewing Starter Kit

I know I may have a vested interest in this but I created these beer recipe kits to make them as easy as possible and use a minimal amount of equipment. Technically they are not one gallon kits they actually make 1.75 gallons of beer. This is because they are malt extract you can squeeze out a little extra beer from the same size brew pot as you would need to make one gallon of all grain beer. The 0.75 extra gallons of beer is a bonus.

All of the beer kits you see here are based on recipes I have brewed many times, tweaked and perfected so I can guarantee they make great tasting beer. This is the perfect way to go from knowing nothing about brewing to brewing a beer that will be much better than any tinned beer kit you can get at the home brew shop.

If you do want to dabble with a one gallon all grain batch though I have luckily written a few guides to show you what can be done with only a tiny amount of equipment.

This beginner guide will tell you everything you need to make a one gallon batch or even a two gallon beer recipe. It is especially useful if you don’t know the first thing about malts, hops or fermentation and mashing.

This shorter guide shows the process I use to knock out small one gallon beer recipes on the stove, it does assume you know a little more about brewing.

Take a look at one of the guides above and you can see just how simple brewing small batch beers can be. It can be the foundation you need to get started home brewing and then progress onwards to making larger batches. A lot of new brewers will skip straight to 5 gallon batches immediately and then find actually perfecting the process of brewing is a little trickier when you end up with 40 bottles of home brew to store and eventually drink after each batch.

One Gallon Beer Recipes

The great thing about beer recipes is they are easy to modify to your needs. Pretty much all beer recipes published on the internet are formulated to make somewhere around 5 gallons. I have written a guide on scaling beer recipes here but it pretty simple so to scale a beer recipe just do the following:

Scaling a beer recipe by volume is easy. Take all of the ingredients in the recipe, this will include each type of grain, hop, yeast, spice, fruit or other flavourings listed. Divide by the volume listed for the recipe and then multiply by the volume you intend to brew. It’s that simple.
As an example If a 21 litre recipe calls for 3.5kg of Maris Otter and you intend to brew 15 litres simply do the following:

 

3.5 / 21 * 15 = 2.5 – so you would need 2.5kg of Maris Otter for the recipe.

 

You then work through each type of grain listed in the recipe to get the amounts used for each type and do exactly the same for each addition of hops as well as the amount of yeast to pitch and any other ingredients.

If you want to scale a 5 gallon beer recipe to brew a one gallon beer recipe take each of the ingredients and divide by 5. That is all you need to do to get the amount of each ingredient in your one gallon beer.

One Gallon At A Time

There may be some of you reading this who think brewing one gallon at a time is not enough. I usually make small batches when experimenting with something new. I don’t want to devote a whole keg or bottle 21 litres of experimental beer. If I like something enough after a small batch I can use it as a pilot and then scale up to a bigger batch so I know I’ll have some beer that is just how I want it ready to go.

Is one gallon brewing or one gallon beer kits going to make home brewing more popular? I hope so. It seems people are generally losing interest in home brewing compared to a few years ago, anything to rejuvenate the hobby is welcome in my book.

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Minimum Amount of Equipment For An All Grain Brew

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The Minimum All Grain Brewing Setup

I spent last weekend brewing an all grain beer in the kitchen, using the minimum of equipment and I can tell you, it was the most relaxed brewday I think I ever had. It wasn’t by any means a demanding beer to brew, just a small batch of easy drinking German wheat beer. Rather than spending a day in the shed or outside (it was raining) I brewed in the kitchen on the stove watching the rain run down the window.

All the equipment I used would have fit into a space smaller than the cupboard under your kitchen sink. The batch size was a modest 9 litres, around 18 bottles. The ingredients cost £7.00 for everything, malt, hops and yeast. This has got to be the easiest way to get into all grain brewing, right?

When you first start all grain brewing you follow the advice of buying a 30 litre boiler or brewpot and burner, a mash tun that can hold up to 8 kilos of grain plus 20 litres of water, immersion chillers, sanitary valves and fittings. It’s quite a big barrier of entry and probably the reason why most brewers never start brewing all grain beers from the first batch.

I mentioned this quite recently, brewing can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it. I like to try and simplify as much of the brewing process as possible because I find there is less to worry about when making a beer. I don’t want to be rushing around trying to deal with lots of stuff happening at the same time, I prefer to relax and concentrate on making the best beer I can with the minimum steps necessary for that particular type of beer.

Smaller Can Be Better

It’s clear if you want to minimise the amount of equipment you have, or the amount of space you want to dedicate to brewing then you will be limited to making smaller batches. If the amount of space you have is limited, for example, if you live in a small flat/apartment then the setup we will go into below is a great place to start.

The other great thing about smaller batches is you can brew more often without having lots of beer piling up. If you are brewing 20 – 25 litres at a time you are going to have a big surplus of beer if you are brewing more than a few times a month, even if you are giving your beer away. A smaller batch around 8 – 10 litres means you could brew every week and have multiple beer styles ready to drink at all times without having a cases of beer all over the house.

Brewing more often gives you that practice that we all need in order to improve. The more often you do anything the better you get at it. The same principle applies brewing beer, smaller batches more often means you hone your skills and develop your craft. I have written about smaller batches before so check out that article for more of the virtues of small batch beers.

The Basic Brewing Gear You’ll Need

To brew all grain beers you’ll need to have the ability to mash your grains, sparge, boil wort, cool it and ferment the beer. In larger batches it makes sense to have separate vessels and chillers to do these things, and these are largest and costliest pieces of equipment to get started all grain brewing.

Brewing smaller batches means you can get away with a small brewpot of around 12 -15 litres which you will be able to heat on the stove, a mashing bag and a fermenter. This is what I use to make small batch beers and everything fits in a kitchen cupboard. I put the fermenter inside the brew pot and tuck it away.

So, you’ll need the following equipment for small batch all grain brewing:

  • 12 litre Brew Pot
  • 12 litre Fermenter
  • Mashing Bag

You will of course need items like a thermometer, hydrometer and airlock but all these items are inexpensive and take up hardly any space.

Small Batch All Grain Brewing Process

Mashing

Step 1: Put 6 litres of water in your stock pot and begin heating to strike temperature of 72°C. Put your grain bag in the pot and fold the opening over rim of the pot.

Step 2: Ensuring you are at 72°C turn off the heat. Pour the grain into pot and stir thoroughly to ensure there are no dry spots in the grain and everything is well soaked. Take the temperature again it should be around 65°C

Step 3: Put the lid on and leave for an hour. Make a cup of tea, watch TV, read a book all you need to do is maintain the temperature between 62°C and 69°C. Check every now and again and apply heat if necessary.

Step 4: Towards the end of the hour, heat another 6 litres of water to 80°C and put in the fermenting bucket. If you don’t have another pot big enough use a big pan and the kettle and add 4 litres of boiling water to 2 litres of cold water this will give you a temperature around 70-80°C.

Sparging

Sparging

Step 1: After the hour has elapsed carefully lift up the grain bag from the stock pot and allow as much as possible to drain back into the pot. Once you have drained thoroughly without squeezing the bag gently lower the bag into the fermenting bucket full of water. Again tuck the opening around the rim and stir the grains thoroughly again.

Step 2: Leave for 15 minutes.

Step 3: Lift the grain bag once more and allow to drain as much as possible. Put this to one side I would suggest in a bowl to catch any extra drips. Now carefully pour the contents of the fermenting bucket into the stock pot. Begin bringing to the boil slowly.

Boiling

Step 1: Now that it is boiling it’s time to add the hops. Again be careful the hops will add to the foaming so make sure it’s under control before putting them in.

Step 2: Keep boiling for 60 minutes adding hops when indicated on your beer recipe.

Step 4: Remove from the heat and begin cooling. The easiest ways to do this is place the pot in a cold water bath in the sink and replenish the cold water as the heat transfers.

Step 5: This cooling should take 30 or 40 minutes to get to around 20°C. It is now time to pour the beer into your sterilised fermenting bucket. Make sure you’re on the correct temperature ready to pitch the yeast. This will be written on the tube or packet. Pour it straight in the beer.

Step 6: Fit the lid on the fermenting bucket and fit the airlock in the hole with a small amount of water in.

Fermenting

Step 1: Leave for 2 weeks.

Step 2: All activity in the fermenting vessel should have finished. There should be no bubbles emerging from the airlock. If there is still activity then stay patient and wait a few more days.

Step 3: Package or bottle as normal.

The Cheapest & Simplest Way To Start All Grain Brewing

As you can see the process is pretty simple. I find that making small batches like this takes around 3 hours and then however long it takes to let the beer chill for. It’s a lot quicker than brewing 20 litres batches.

The beauty of brewing small batches like this is you can make pretty much any recipe you find. As you are all grain brewing there are no grains you cannot use and you can even do step mashes if you wish because the mash tun can be heated directly.

All you need to do is scale down any recipe you want to brew. This guide will show you how to scale down a recipe and adjust it for your needs.

Big English Barley Wine Recipe

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Barley Wine Recipe

Brewing big beers like this Barley Wine recipe is always a bit more of a challenge and more interesting than the regular old “house beer” that we grow accustomed to brewing time and time again.

These heavy, high alcohol beers develop over time and you should be brewing something like this barley wine to store away and just have a bottle every now and again. On special occasions and when friends or family come around it’s nice to have something a little different to showcase your brewing skills.

There is a lot of examples of Double IPAs that seem to be increasingly popular at the moment and the thing with those beers is they need drinking fresh to get the most from the hops. The Barley wine we have here though needs time and rather than being a showcase for hops is a showcase for malt and how those flavours evolve with time.

English Barley Wine Recipe

The first thing you may notice about brewing a Barley Wine is the amount of alcohol. This is why I decided to ramp up some yeast by making a smaller beer in the first instance and then using the yeast slurry from that fermentation for the Barley Wine. This is not entirely necessary of course you may want to just use a couple of packages of yeast which will have a similar effect of pitching a higher cell count. I am brewing a smaller beer anyway so it makes sense for me just to reuse the yeast.

This will be more than enough to ensure a good fermentation of a higher ABV beer like this Barley Wine. I have talked about reusing yeast before so if you’re wondering what’s involved take a look at this post – Reusing Yeast.

What I Want In A Barley Wine

Generally speaking, a Barley Wine is a very strong bitter in many aspects. Barley Wine is a bit more special than a strong bitter because of the malt bill being beefed up so much you end up with richer, deeper and more complex malt flavours and this is what I want to really shine through in my version.

Take a look at the BJCP guidelines regarding an English Barley Wine:

Flavor: Very rich and strongly malty, often with a caramel-like aroma. May have moderate to strong fruitiness, often with a dried-fruit character. English hop aroma may range from mild to assertive. Alcohol aromatics may be low to moderate. The intensity of these aromatics often subsides with age. The aroma may have a rich character including bready, toasty, toffee, molasses, and/or treacle notes. Aged versions may have a sherry-like quality, possibly vinous or port-like aromatics, and generally more muted malt aromas. Low to no diacetyl.

 

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture (although the body may decline with long conditioning). A smooth warmth from aged alcohol should be present. Carbonation may be low to moderate, depending on age and conditioning.

 

Ingredients: Well-modified pale malt should form the backbone of the grist, with judicious amounts of caramel malts. Dark malts should be used with great restraint, if at all, as most of the color arises from a lengthy boil. English hops such as Northdown, Target, East Kent Goldings and Fuggles. Characterful English yeast.

The Barley Wine Recipe

Now with the above in mind I have come up with my own take on a Barley Wine and like pretty much all my recipes I have gone pretty simple, when I look at recipes that contain a whole array of malts, sometimes in such small quantities I can’t really tell what they are going to add I tend to move on. I think allowing each ingredient to speak for itself is what makes a good beer.

Barley Wine - English Barleywine
================================================================================
Batch Size: 19 L
Boil Size: 23.4 L
Boil Time: 60.000 min
Efficiency: 70%
OG: 1.102
FG: 1.025
ABV: 9.9%
Bitterness: 50.0 IBUs (Tinseth)
Color: 26 SRM (Morey)

Fermentables
================================================================================
                       Name  Type    Amount Mashed Late Yield Color
     Pale Malt, Maris Otter Grain  8.800 kg    Yes   No   82%   6 L
 Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L Grain 500.000 g    Yes   No   74% 158 L
          Brown Sugar, Dark Sugar 700.000 g     No   No  100%  50 L
Total grain: 10.000 kg

Hops
================================================================================
                     Name Alpha   Amount  Use       Time Form  IBU
                   Target 11.0% 60.000 g Boil 60.000 min Leaf 39.4
      Goldings, East Kent  5.0% 20.000 g Boil 30.000 min Leaf  4.6
      Goldings, East Kent  5.0% 40.000 g Boil 15.000 min Leaf  5.9

Yeast
================================================================================
        Name Type Form   Amount   Stage
 Safale S-04  Ale  Dry 22.000 g Primary

Mash
================================================================================
               Name     Type   Amount     Temp   Target       Time
                    Infusion 18.000 L 76.546 C 65.000 C 60.000 min
 Final Batch Sparge Infusion 16.000 L 89.137 C 74.000 C 15.000 min

Barley Wine Specifics

Now as you can see there is an addition of dark brown sugar. I am aiming to get those sherry and liquorice like flavours from this addition and also add a bit of colour. Add this in toward the end of the boil to aid hop utilisation.

The hops are simple and are there to balance, I want my Barley Wine to be rich and malty rather than bitter. The IBU is around 50 which may seem high but remember that because of the amount of malt (and thus higher alcohol) the bitterness will not be the same as 50 IBU is in a pale ale.

I should be ready to brew this soon. As soon as my smaller beer is out of primary I will be able to reuse the yeast and get this going. Bear in mind this Barley Wine is going to need considerable time fermenting and then conditioning we are talking about a month in secondary and then at least 8-12 months conditioning in bottles. You could, of course, sample a bottle every now and then in between this time to give yourself an idea of the way the beer is ageing in the bottle.

Blueberry Wine Recipe – Full-Bodied and Beginner Friendly

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This Blueberry wine recipe is the perfect choice for the beginning winemaker, it also produces a fantastic wine that is full of the flavour of Blueberries, what could be better than that.

When you look at the blueberry it does almost look like a small grape, that is not to say it blueberries have the same qualities as grapes do for making wine they need a little help from you the winemaker. What blueberries do have though is lots of flavour and colour. This wine recipe makes a rich dark wine similar in colour to a Bordeaux or Syrah.

Blueberry Wine Recipe

This deep dark colour comes from the skins of the blueberries just as would come from the skins in a grape wine. If you cut a blueberry in half you will notice the inside of the berry has a green hue. The result of this blueberry wine recipe, however, is a deep, dark violet. The colour is extracted from the skins as they sit in the fermenter macerating. Yeast and a slowly increasing alcohol content both help this process along as well as drawing the flavour and sugar from the fruit.

A Basic But Delicious Blueberry Wine

The reason this wine recipe is such a good wine to make for the beginner is the ease of the process and the resulting wine is delicious. Many fruit wine recipes require lots of small tweaks and refining to produce a decent result whereas the blueberry wine produces a good wine even if you don’t get everything just right.

There are a few additives that you’ll want in this blueberry wine, these are just the usual suspects of any fruit wine. Acid blend and tannin are required for the vast majority of fruit wines and this blueberry wine is no exception. You should have these kinds of additives, along with pectic enzyme and yeast nutrients to hand for any fruit wine you intend to make.

The blueberries you use, whether they are frozen or fresh, is up to you. As long as the fruit is good quality and ripe you should be in for a decent blueberry wine. Frozen fruit tends to be picked when it’s riper than fresh fruit from the supermarket in this case picking the frozen fruit will result in a better wine. Freezing the fruit will also break down the cells of the fruit releasing the juices and flavour better than just mashing the fruit.

I have used frozen blueberries for this recipe. You can get them year round and they are much cheaper than fresh berries.

If you can get hold of wild blueberries you can, of course, use these, picked at their ripest and being able to choose the highest quality blueberries will make a superior wine. There aren’t many places in the UK that blueberries grow in the wild, they like heathland with acidic soil and are often called bilberries or blaeberries. If you do intend to pick berries yourself make sure you have properly identified them as blueberries as they can be easily confused with other varieties of plant. You can grow blueberries in pots in the garden so this might be worth considering if you intend to make a batch of blueberry wine every year, it’s a good recipe so definitely worth considering.

To make this blueberry wine recipe you’ll need the following piece of equipment:

  • Fermenting Bucket
  • Nylon Straining Bag
  • 1 Gallon Demijohn
  • Bung & Airlock
  • Potato Masher
  • Hydrometer
  • Syphon
  • Bottles, Corks and Corker

The Blueberry Wine Recipe Ingredients – Makes 4.5 litres / 1 gallon around 12% ABV

1.4kg Blueberries fresh or frozen (clean and prepared)
1kg Sugar
4.2 litres Water
2 tsp Citric Acid
1/8 tsp Tannin
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
1 Campden Tablet
1 sachet Wine Yeast (My recommendations – Vintners Reserve R56 / Lalvin 71B / Lalvin EC1118)

Blueberry Wine Recipe Method

Blueberry Wine

  1. Dissolve the sugar and half the water together in a pan by bringing to the boil. Ensure all of the sugar is fully dissolved and then turn off the heat.
  2. Whilst heating the sugar and water put the blueberries in a straining bag in the bottom of the fermenting bucket. Use the potato masher to squash the blueberries and break them up. They don’t need to be pureed but make sure all the blueberries are squashed and the juices released.
  3. Pour the boiled sugar and water solution over the blueberries and mix well with the fruit. Add the second half of the water which will help to cool down the must.
  4. Add the citric acid, the wine nutrient and the tannin and mix thoroughly, leave for a few hours to cool further and then add a crushed Campden tablet and for at least 12 hours.
  5. After 12 hours add the pectic enzyme and leave the must for 24 hours. After this, you can test with a hydrometer if you wish for the starting gravity.
  6. After the 24 hours add the yeast to begin fermentation. Allow fermentation to go on for a week and stir once every one or two days, this helps extract as much flavour from the fruit as possible which will have the tendency to float.
  7. After a week lift out the straining bag with the pulp and allow to drain as much as possible, avoid squeezing the bag.
    Take a hydrometer reading, if the wine is below 1.010 specific gravity rack the wine into a sanitised demijohn. If not leave for a further few days and check the gravity again. Once racked attach a bung and airlock and leave.
  8. Wait for at least 2 months or more and the wine can then be racked off the sediment. You can wait for the blueberry wine to completely clear before racking to a new vessel. After this either let it age further for a few months or bottle. If you wish to back-sweeten the wine stabilise and follow this advice here.

This blueberry wine recipe will make a wine of around 12% ABV. It is best squirrelled away for a while to condition and mature. It keeps well for a couple of years, try and keep some around to sample and you will begin to understand how the wine changes with time.

How To Make Beer In The 1800’s

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Brewing In The 1800s

One of the fascinating things about beer is the history behind it, brewing techniques are often still the same in principle as used by brewers over 200 years ago. Most of the language used to describe the brewing process is the same as what we would use today.

It’s nice that beer has been around such a long time because it makes the subject something that you can seemingly never stop learning something new about. One of the joys of being a brewer, however, is the chance to make and drink a beer that is not possible to get anywhere else in the world.

Yeah, that’s right, if you think about it the beers you are able to brew are beers that nobody has been able to go into a shop and pub and buy in hundreds and hundreds of years. Think of another example of where history has been so accessible to the average person.

Brewers and beer makers like to document a lot of the stuff they did. This means that brewers today can see what was happening in the brewing industry in 1736 for example. I have always been intrigued by this sort of stuff and one of the best things about historical texts is that they are available for free on the web. What I have done is supply a few links to some of the ones I thought were pretty interesting. There are loads of books available online so if you find some then let me know.

The London and Country Brewer (1736)

The many Inhabitants of Cities and Towns, as well as Travellers, that have for a long time suffered great Prejudices from unwholsome and unpleasant Beers and Ales, by the badness of Malts, underboiling the Worts, mixing injurious Ingredients, the unskilfulness of the Brewer, and the great Expense that Families have been at in buying them clogg’d with a heavy Excise, has moved me to undertake the writing of this Treatise on Brewing, Wherein I have endeavour’d to set in sight the many advantages of Body and Purse that may arise from a due Knowledge and Management in Brewing Malt Liquors, which are of the greatest Importance, as they are in a considerable degree our Nourishment and the common Diluters of our Food; so that on their goodness depends very much the Health and Longevity of the Body.

London & Country Brewer

The Theory and Practice of Brewing (1804)

The intent of every brewer, when he forms his drink, is to extract the fermentable parts of the malt, in the most perfect manner ; to add hops, in such proportion as experience teaches him will preserve and ameliorate the beer ; and to employ just so much yeast as is sufficient to obtain a complete fermentation.

The Theory & Practice of Brewing

The Microscope In The Brewery And Malt-House (1889)

At various stages in the Brewing process we can, by the aid of the microscope, determine the presence of organisms of various kinds

The Microscope In The Brewery & The Malt House

A Practical Treatise on Brewing (1835)

The chief art in mashing, is to produce from the malt the greatest quantity of matter which is capable of adding to the flavour and strength of the beer; and this depends principally on the temperature of the liquor employed in making the first mash liquor being the technical word used by brewers to de-note water. The old rule used to be, to let the liquor cool until you could see your face reflected from the surface; this, however, is a very uncertain guide. The thermometer removes all doubt.

A Practical Treatise on Brewing

As you can see brewing a couple of hundred years ago isn’t that much different to brewing today. It still requires the same ingredients, the same basic equipment and a little bit of time and practice. If you want to check out a more recent guide to home brewing however then read through some of the home brewing guides here.

Brewing Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

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I have been home brewing now in one form or another for around 7-8 years. I have settled into a way of making beer that I can now do on autopilot, it’s a process that I’m happy with and I consistently brew a beer that I enjoy. It wasn’t always like this. When I started I was constantly worrying that I had done something wrong, stressing over technique and being so overly thorough about things that my brew days would be several hours longer than they needed to be.

Information Overload When You Start Brewing

Brewing Complicated

When you first start home brewing everything is a challenge or unknown to a certain extent. I didn’t read a whole lot about brewing beer before I made my first batch. It was an extract beer with a little crystal malt steeped for half an hour and a combination of English Hops thrown in. I didn’t know anything about what malt extract was, what crystal malt was or how either were made (I just found a recipe, got the ingredients and made the beer). It turned out to taste exactly like beer, not particularly spectacular beer but still beer.

Brewing Is Not All About The Details, It’s Also An Art

One thing I find amazing about home brewers is their appetite to learn and understand every single detail about the beer making process. Past the point of being able to brew a beer a lot of information that brewers learn can be pretty technical and scientific and often not really necessary because, after all, you are making beer for yourself, it’s not a commercial brewery.

A lot of the information someone new to homebrewing reads online is over complicated because those already good at home brewing include all the technicalities and data relating to a recipe or brewing process they are talking about. This makes it pretty difficult for someone new to brewing to know where to start

When compared to other home based food production such as bread making you don’t really see so much focus on technical detail and minutiae. I bake my own bread a couple of times a month and I’m sure a lot of other people do as well with not much idea about the scientific principles that are happening. OK, so I know a bit about what the yeast in my bread dough is doing but only because of my beer making background. I’m not entirely sure how gluten works or why steam in the oven affects the crust. I’m also not really that bothered because the bread taste good and the texture is great.

The point I’m trying to make is that for hundreds and hundred of years people knew very little or nothing about things like yeast, enzymes, proteins and the various compounds in beer. All the knowledge that went into making beer was found through trial, error and repeated brewing of beers over many, many years. All of this was often on a commercial scale let a alone on a home brew scale.

Practice Brewing Rather Than Dwelling On The Details

It seems today however people can’t make a beer without performing hundred of calculations using software, home brewers aren’t happy knowing a beer will be blonde, ruby coloured or pitch black we need to know the exact SRM to a decimal point.

Let me give you an example, the first loaf of bread I made turned out more like a brick than a light and fluffy loaf. I did the recipe, again and again, altering the amount of time I spent kneading and the time and temperature I left it to prove. Soon enough I was able to make a loaf that was on par with one from a bakery. All of this was with trial and error

Some of the best beers I’ve made have come from recipes I’ve brewed again and again with minor tweaks until I got it just right. After a few times of brewing the same recipe, I ended up forgetting the technical details about it and started focussing on the beer as a whole. I relied more on handwritten notes from the previous beer and trying out new things and run no additional calculations at all. I made the beer on autopilot and adjusted a few minor things.

Think of beers like traditional farmhouse style beers and how they would have been made hundreds of years ago. They rely mainly on craft and making the best use of what’s available in terms of ingredients with little need to understand the technical processes. The same type of beer is made every year and after all those years it becomes a unique beer all of its own.

I think this is something more home brewers should try and incorporate into their beer making.

Asking a first-time brewer to understand all the enzymatic activities that occur in the mash or various flavour compounds that are found in beer and it soon becomes too much. Give them a recipe though and give them options on malts, hops and flavours and it’s much more of a creative process.

Knowledge Is Good, Practice Is Better

I’m not saying that all this extra understanding is a bad thing, it is most certainly not. It obviously helps a brewer to make more informed decisions and when you understand the principles behind something you ultimately have more control. It is also necessary to progress from those early stages of beer making into more advanced areas and understanding how you can get a beer tasting a certain way.

What if however you didn’t rely so heavily on software, calculators and reference guides and rely more on experience and practice. As I mentioned before home brewers aren’t the same as commercial brewers, there are no financial constraints on the beer a home brewer makes, plus, there is only one person to please.

Take one of your beer recipes you’ve brewed previously and make it again or find a recipe online that has plenty of positive feedback, tweak a few things you think will make the beer better and note it down so you can repeat it next time. It’s this kind of thing that will make your beers truly unique. Inject a bit more art into your brewing and learn a bit about the process through actually brewing.

How To Use Irish Moss, Protafloc and Copper Finings

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Crystal clear beers rely on a few principles when brewing, copper finings such as Irish Moss or Protafloc / Protafloc are one of the aids that can help the home brewer make a bright, clear beer. What are they and how do they work? This is what we are going to look at in this article.

Irish Moss, Protafloc, Copper Finings

Copper Finings To Make A Clear Beer

For hundreds of years, brewers have looked for ways to clarify their beers. It’s only when you brew your own beer do you release it’s not always necessary to do so, however, many people won’t touch a beer unless it’s crystal clear let alone drink it. This is the result of many years of marketing telling us clear is good cloudy is bad. It is usually preferable to brew a beer with the end result being clear because, if you are anything like me, you’ll share your brews with friends who may not know a hazy beer isn’t a bad thing and it isn’t going to taste any different.

Throughout the brewing process, there are many things you can do, or ways to develop your recipes to ensure your beers have a minimal haze. I have written a bit about brewing clear beers here. One of the easiest things you can do that require the least effort is to add copper finings to the wort such as Irish moss or Protafloc towards the end of the boil.

What Is Irish Moss

Irish moss is actually a type of red seaweed called Carrageen. This type of seaweed is very common around the shores of Ireland, hence the name, but also grows around coastlines elsewhere in the North Atlantic.

It has a few properties that make it helpful to both cooks and brewers and has been used as a source of food in the belief it will strengthen and fortify malnourished individuals. It is used in the food industry as a stabiliser and thickener, used a lot in dairy products like yoghurt and ice cream to improve its consistency.

The reason it is so useful to us brewers is that when added to the wort at the end of the boil it helps to clear the beer. It is for this reason we call it a copper fining as it is added to the copper during the boil.

Irish Moss

Copper Finings – Irish Moss / Protafloc / Whirlfloc

Finings are used in a couple of ways, either in the fermented beer to help drop out suspended yeast or in the copper/kettle to clear suspended particles like haze-forming proteins and other debris.

Copper finings like Irish moss and Protafloc are important because help to coagulate these haze forming proteins together which makes them denser and therefore they drop out of suspension. If you don’t remove these haze forming proteins during the brewing process, it becomes difficult to do so after the boil without relying on processes such as filtration or auxiliary finings which is not possible or overkill for most home brewers.

Copper finings work based on the way particles in the beer are charged. At the pH of wort in the copper, around 5.0 – 5.5, the haze forming proteins in suspension are positively charged, at the same time, the Irish moss which is added toward the end of the boil has negatively charged molecules. The effect of this is particles that will induce haze in the beer are attracted together making them heavier and so they flocculate to the bottom of the kettle.

The Differences Between Irish Moss, Protafloc and Whirlfloc

All three finings Irish Moss, Protafloc and Whirlfloc work in the same way, there are just some subtle differences.

  • Irish moss is the raw seaweed carrageen or blend of certain types of seaweed. It comes dried and in various sizes from flakes, granules or powder.
  • Protafloc comes in either a tablet or granules and is an extract of carrageenan and other seaweed. As it is an extract it requires a smaller dose by weight as it’s more efficient. Tablets are also easier to divide with a 25 litre batch requiring just half a tablet. It works in exactly the same way as regular Irish moss.
  • Whirlfloc is pretty much exactly the same as Protafloc as far as I can tell although the dosage rate may be fractionally different, as in less than a gram per litre difference. Whirlfloc is sold as tablets and both Protafloc and whirlfloc fizz as they hit the wort to aid their dispersion, this is caused by bicarbonate of soda in the tablet reacting in the wort due to the pH.

Using Irish Moss, Protafloc and Whirlfloc

All the copper finings mentioned above are added around 10-15 minutes before the end of the boil, added too early and the efficiency of the product will begin to degrade.

Depending on what copper fining you are using you’ll need to adjust the dosage:

  • Irish moss is best rehydrated by just covering with water, the amount needed is around 1.25 – 4 grams per 25 litre batch. As you can see this is going to be quite difficult to measure even with micro scales. It is around a teaspoon full in most cases. Add the rehydrated Irish moss 10 minutes before the end of the boil.
  • Protafloc is used at a lower dosage as it is more efficient. The dose is around 0.3 – 0.5 milligrams per litre or 0.75 grams for a 25 litre batch. Tablets are made in 2 gram sizes so just under half a tablet is fine. Add directly to the wort 10 – 15 minutes before the end of the boil
  • Whirlfloc is pretty similar to Protafloc but used at 1 gram per 25 litre batch, half a tablet in the last 10 – 15 minutes is good.

How To Stabilise And Back Sweeten A Wine

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Back Sweetening Wine

One of the issues many new winemakers face is making a wine that is simply too dry, back sweetening a wine is a simple remedy that can transform the finished wine.

Back sweetening ranges from turning a really dry wine into a semi-dry wine that isn’t necessarily sweet, but suits your taste better. Or you can go all the way to creating a dessert wine that tastes sweet as dessert wines are intended to.

It is most often the case with fruit wines that rely on sugar as the primary fermentable. Plain sugar is 100% fermentable so when the yeast ferment the wine all of the sugars gets converted to alcohol leaving no residual sweetness. A wine that is too dry is fairly easy to remedy by back sweetening but you’ll need to make sure of a few things before just adding sugar to the wine.

Back Sweetening a wine involves adding a type of sugar or sweetener back into the already fermented wine. Before you can do this we need to make sure that the sugar we add isn’t going to start a second fermentation. To do this the wine needs to be stabilised which needs to be done once fermentation is completely finished and the wine has cleared.

When To Stabilise A Wine?

To stabilise a wine we need to use additives such as potassium sorbate, it should be noted though that these kinds of additives won’t stop an active fermentation. The idea is to use the minimum amount of additives necessary to stabilise a wine. We don’t want to add lots of potassium sorbate in case it alters the flavour or colour of the wine.

The point where you want to stabilise a wine is once the fermentation is completely finished, we can check this using a hydrometer, in most cases, a fruit wine will finish at a specific gravity around or below 0.998 – 1.000. Secondly, we want the wine to have cleared, with the yeast sedimented to the bottom. If the wine is still hazy the yeast may be in suspension still so trying to stabilise the wine at this point would not work effectively. To stabilise a wine you’ll need an additive called potassium sorbate as well as sodium metabisulphite (Campden Tablets).

What Is Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Metabisulphite?

Potassium sorbate is an additive used extensively in the food industry as a preservative also called E202. It is used to prevent the growth of mould and yeast which is ideal for the winemaker.

The way it works is not to kill the yeast but to stop the yeast from reproducing. This means any live yeast will continue to ferment any sugars available but won’t be able to reproduce new yeast cells. This is why we need to completely finish fermentation before stabilising the wine.

Sodium Metabisulphite is more commonly known as Campden tablets to home winemakers, it works as a disinfectant, preservative and antioxidant in food. This inhibits the yeast but also prevents oxidisation in the wine which stabilises the flavour and colour of the wine

How To Stabilise A Wine?

Once the wine is at a point where you are ready to stabilise, of course, you will have sampled the wine and tested with a hydrometer, you’ll need to rack the cleared wine off any sediment into a new vessel. As we will be adding potassium sorbate and mixing any sediment will be stirred back into the wine which is not what we want.

Now with the wine in a new vessel, we can add the potassium sorbate and Campden tablet. You should pay attention to the recommended dosage instructed on the packages you have just in case they are differing strengths. The common dosage is 3/4 tsp of potassium sorbate and one Campden tablet.

Dissolve the additives in a small amount of boiled and cooled water until clear, the solution can then be added to the wine and mixed gently. Leave the wine for at least 12 hours before doing anything else.

Back Sweeten Your Wine

Wine Sugar Solution

There are a few options as to what to sweeten your wine with. Plain sugar is the simplest, dissolve the sugar in water at a ratio of 1:1 and it can be dosed into the wine. Another option is to use a fruit juice. Grape juice, for instance, is going to add both flavour and sweetness that may be more desirable than just adding sugar. Glycerine is another option, it’s a liquid polyol that is colourless, flavourless and odourless that tastes really sweet plus it’s unfermentable as well. It’s also sold in home brew shops as wine sweetener as well as some pharmacies.

To keep things simple let’s say we want to back sweeten with sugar. You will want to dissolve a small amount of sugar, say 100 grams in 100 ml of water by boiling to create a sugar solution.

A small amount of this sugar solution can then be added to the wine. Add very small amounts, mix and test, it is very easy to over sweeten a wine.

To work out roughly how much you’ll need to use it’s you can take a small sample of wine to back sweeten. Take a small sample (100ml) of wine and add a few drops of the sugar solution at a time (a drop is 0.05 ml), keep sampling the wine to see when you reach the correct level of sweetness. Once you hit your sweetness extrapolate out the amount of sugar to the whole batch.

This same method is applicable if you are using fruit juice or other sweeteners.

It’s not an exact science but this method will give you a rough amount to aim for but always be prudent, you can’t really dry out an over sweetened wine. If you wanted to make a dessert wine, for example, with this strawberry wine simply add enough sugar so the balance is on the sweet side. Always sweeten the wine in bulk to get consistent results, it’s not a good idea to try and back sweeten by the bottle.

Strawberry Wine Recipe: The Only Recipe You’ll Ever Need

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Strawberries, one of my favourite fruits, how can you capture that taste in a strawberry wine recipe? With any fruit wine recipe, the main flavour you want to really shine is the fruit you are using and sometimes it is tough to find that balance.This Strawberry wine recipe finds that balance with the delicate flavour of fresh strawberries tuned in with a crisp and slightly dry wine. There isn’t lots of body to this strawberry wine but it is most definitely refreshing, crisp and the strawberries shine through right until the last drop.

Delicious Strawberry Wine

Strawberries have to be one of the most popular choices for a fruit wine. I don’t know of many people who don’t like eating strawberries and I think this turns into a desire to translate this into a wine recipe. In the UK in the summer the shops are full of strawberries, supermarkets buy them by the pallet load and you can generally pick and choose what varieties you may want to use in your strawberry wine recipe.

When it comes to selecting your strawberries for a wine it is a case of the riper the better. It’s most often the case that when you buy strawberries in a supermarket they are around 75 – 85% ripe this is because the shelf life of fully ripe strawberries is a lot shorter. Once you pick a strawberry they do not ripen any further, they will colour more but won’t ripen and get sweeter. Using strawberries for your wine that are only 80% ripe can be fine but there are other options to get sweeter strawberries.

Pick your own farms will give you the option to select fruit that is completely ripened, you have the choice of picking exactly the strawberries you want. This means that you can quality control each and every strawberry that will go in your strawberry wine and you can go from picking to processing the strawberries in a matter of hours. Another option is to use frozen strawberries, the great thing about frozen strawberries is they are most often picked when they are riper as they are frozen quickly after picking they won’t degrade on the shelf at the shop. The other thing with frozen strawberries is they are usually already prepared with the green part removed and often they’re cheaper than the fresh.

Strawberry Wine

This strawberry wine recipe I have used frozen strawberries although it’s completely fine if not better to use fresh, ripe fruit. I’m making this in winter so fresh strawberries are not in season. One thing I will mention about freezing is that when the fruit is frozen it breaks down the cells when you defrost the strawberries the juice pretty much runs out of the fruit which is great for making wine. The first thing we will be doing in this recipe is mash the berries to break them up.

Mashed Strawberries

To make this strawberry wine you’ll need the following piece of equipment:

  • Fermenting Bucket
  • Nylon Straining Bag
  • 1 Gallon Demijohn 
  • Bung & Airlock
  • Potato Masher
  • Hydrometer
  • Syphon
  • Bottles, Corks and Corker

Strawberry Wine Recipe Ingredients – Makes 4.5 litres / 1 gallon

  • 1.8 kg Strawberries
  • 1 kg Sugar
  • 4 litres Water
  • 1 Campden Tablet
  • 1 tsp Acid Blend or Citric Acid
  • 1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
  • 1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
  • 1/8 tsp Tannin
  • 1 sachet Champagne Yeast / Lalvin EC-111

 

Strawberry Wine Recipe Method

  1. Begin by boiling the water and sugar together, ensure the sugar is fully dissolved. Once at a boil turn off the heat.
  2. If you are using fresh strawberries prepare them by removing the stems and washing, pick through and remove any bad fruit.
  3. Place the nylon straining bag into the fermenting bin, add the prepared strawberries and begin mashing with a clean, sanitised potato masher. The idea is to break up the strawberries as much as possible, releasing the juice and colour.
  4. Pour the boiled sugar and water solution over the strawberries and mix everything together. Allow to cool and then add the acid blend, yeast nutrient, tannin and Campden tablet. Put the lid on the fermenter with an airlock and leave for 12 hours.
  5. After 12 hours add the pectic enzyme, mix and leave for 24 hours.
  6. After the 24 hours add the yeast to begin fermentation. Allow fermentation to go on for a week and stir once every one or two days, this helps extract as much flavour from the fruit as possible which will have the tendency to float.
  7. After a week lift out the straining bag with the pulp and allow to drain as much as possible, avoid squeezing the bag.
  8. Take a hydrometer reading, if the wine is below 1.010 specific gravity rack the wine into a sanitised demijohn. If not leave for a further few days and check the gravity again. Once racked attach a bung and airlock and leave.
  9. Wait for at least 2 months or more and the wine can then be racked off the sediment. You can wait for the strawberry wine to completely clear before racking to a new vessel. After this either let it age further for a few months or bottle. If you wish to back-sweeten the wine stabilise and follow this advice here.
  10. This strawberry wine is best kept for a few months and up to a year.

Just Released: Home Brew Answers Kindle Book – A Free Download For Christmas

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Home Brew Answers Book

It has been just over a year since I started Home Brew Answers. The whole idea behind it was to share all my experiences of brewing beer. The site has now grown to see a few thousand visitors a week so I wanted to create something to give back to all of you who take the time to read the articles each week.

Home Brew Answers Book

I have compiled the most viewed and comprehensive guides here and added a little more content to create a Kindle book which is available through Amazon. As you are reading this here I want to give it to you for free.

For the next 5 days, up to and including Christmas day, the book will be free to download to your kindle, tablet, phone or computer as a thank you for following along with me as I share my home brewing journey.

The book is called: Home Brew Answers: A Foundation In Making Beer From Beginner To Advanced.

Please go and download it whilst it is free, tell your friends and, if you want, drop a review on Amazon. After 5 days I cannot offer the book for free anymore so go and get it now. The price will go up as £3.40 which is the price of a pint at my local pub.

Thanks for reading, here is an introduction to the book to get you started.

There are so many craft breweries in the UK, it seems there is a new one opening every week. The sheer variety of beers available to the consumer has never been better. Why then would you want to brew your own beer?

 

It’s not an easy question to answer. You really must give brewing a go before you realise just how compelling it can be. I know from personal experience that brewing beer can become an obsession. I started making beer when I was around 19 years old and now I’m 30, ever since that very first batch I’ve been hooked. Along the way, I have documented my journey right here.

 

I’ve brewed more styles of beer than I can name off the top of my head and have never stopped learning with each batch. The obsession that started me brewing led to me transferring a hobby into a career. I now brew professionally but still find the time to knock up a beer that’s a little more unique when I am brewing at home.

 

Brewing beer for yourself gives you no restrictions. Whatever you feel like can go into the recipe, you want it to be strong and high in alcohol then go ahead, there are no taxes to pay. Maybe you want to add fruit or a flavouring like vanilla, you must only please yourself not hundreds of thirsty customers.

 

I wrote this book to help you get started. To give you a solid foundation in what goes into beer, the processes involved and to get your first beer made. This book isn’t full of beer recipes, although there are a few. What it is full of though, is the what’s, why’s and how’s of making beer.

 

After reading this book you should have a thorough understanding of brewing to build from. You’ll find just like me, you never stop learning something new.

If you have any questions about the book or home brewing in general please contact me here. Have a Merry Christmas!