What Is Pectic Enzyme & What Does It Do?

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Pectic enzyme is included in many of the wine recipes here on Home Brew Answers, it is an integral additive in the winemaker’s arsenal. Did you know it even has uses in beer making depending on what kind of beer you are brewing? When you see it included in a home brew recipe you may wonder why it is needed, that is what we are going to cover in this article.

Pectic Enzyme

What is Pectin?

Pectic enzyme or pectolase is a fairly common ingredient in the vast majority of fruit wines and fruit beers because many fruits contain pectin.

Pectin is a type of carbohydrate called a polysaccharide which helps maintain the structure of a plant or fruit. The effects of pectin as a gelling agent are most evident in things like jam making where pectin is the key ingredient to set a jam after being heated with sugar. If you don’t have enough pectin in your fruit when making a jam it won’t set and stays runny.

There are some fruits that have higher amounts of pectin, fruits such as pears, apples, plums gooseberries and citrus fruit have high amounts whilst softer fruits like strawberries, grapes and apricots have lower levels of pectin.

Pectin is important when you are cooking and want something to set or gel together but for the winemaker or brewer introducing fruit with high levels of pectin can be problematic for several reasons.

Pectins Effect On Wine or Beer

If you are making a fruit/vegetable wine or a beer with a lot of fruit in then you are introducing pectin to a liquid. If you don’t take preventative measures it’s highly likely there will be a permanent haze in the finished wine or beer. This can be fine in some styles of beer where haze is a natural occurrence but it is definitely not good for wine, I can’t think of any instances where a haze in a wine is acceptable.

The other problem caused by having pectin in your wine is that if you intend to filter the wine prior to bottling then it is very easy for the filter to get blocked and stop running at all.

Fortunately, it is easy to reduce the amount of pectin in your wine or beer using a pectic enzyme which is also referred to as pectolase.

Using pectic enzyme has the following effects:

  1. It breaks down the fruit you are trying to extract juice and flavour from. After you pulp or mash a fruit pectin still acts as a structural member, using pectic enzyme breaks this structure getting more juice and flavour into the wine.
  2. Prevents pectin forming a haze in the finished wine or beer.
  3. Aids filtering should this be part of the process prior to packaging.

Using Pectic Enzyme / Pectolase

Pectic enzyme is a protein that works specifically to break down pectin. It is recommended you use this in almost all fruit wines you make, even commercial wine producers will add pectic enzyme as it aids juice extraction.

This is the reason why it is desirable to add pectolase before fermentation as you will produce a wine better colour, clarity and you will importantly extract more juice and flavour from the fruit you are using.

How Much To Add and When to Add Pectolase

The typical dosage for pectolase is 1tsp per gallon added directly to the wine “must” and stirred thoroughly before fermentation. If you forget to add it before fermentation you can add pectic enzyme later but you will have less juice extracted from the fruit. It will not inhibit yeast growth or activity if added later.

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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.

Reusing Yeast From One Beer To The Next

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Reusing yeast isn’t a novel idea, in fact, in commercial breweries it’s the norm. A commercial brewery will reuse yeast by cropping the yeast from the top or bottom of a fermenter just after the primary fermentation has finished. The yeast can then be used in the next batch which benefits from large amounts of really viable yeast and a very short lag time before fermentation. In fact there are some breweries that take the concept to the extreme. A brewery in the US cultured yeast from a bug encased in amber and made a beer with it. It’s good to know yeast is hardy enough to survive 45 million years encased in amber, but, what are the practicalities of the home brew reusing yeast.

The example set by commercial breweries shows us home brewers a few important lessons with regards to culturing yeast and reusing yeast from previous batches. Reusing yeast is a great way to cut your brewing costs, especially if you use a lot of liquid yeasts that are more expensive as well as pitching large amounts of healthy, viable yeast. You can reuse the same yeast for around 4 – 5 generations of beer before having to purchase any new yeast so the savings stretch out for quite a while.

Reusing Yeast Slurry

Reusing Yeast

The easiest way to reuse yeast is to brew beers consecutively, one after the other. When you move the beer from a primary to secondary fermenter or to bottles you can see a whole lot of yeast that is still viable to brew with. An easy way of reusing it is to ahead and put another batch of beer on the used yeast slurry, so really you need to brew a beer the same day you rack your original to secondary and siphon the new beer directly onto the yeast cake. All that should be required is a gentle rousing of the yeast by shaking or stirring the fermenter and fermentation should begin quickly.

The only issue with reusing yeast like this really is the huge amount of yeast and trub left after the fermentation of the initial beer. You can sometimes have up to an inch of sediment which includes hop particles and trub in your fermenter after primary fermentation and pitching a new batch on top of it only increase the amount of yeast and trub further. I would only really use this technique for a beer that will be out of primary quickly i.e a lower ABV beer, so as to not cause any off flavours from the excessive amounts of yeast and trub.

Just like pitching too little yeast can have an impact on the quality of a beer, pitching too much yeast can also have an affect on the flavour. This along with the other debris from the previous batch of beer makes reusing yeast in this way a lot less desirable.

Alternatively, this is my preferred method of reusing yeast. After primary fermentation of you starting beer siphon out as usual and leave half an inch of beer in the bottom. Give the fermenter a swirl to get some of the yeast slurry into suspension. You will then be able to pour these into a sanitized jar or container and place a cover on for the first few days, a piece of sanitised foil secured with a rubber band will allow CO2 generated by the yeast to escape. After a few days you can put a lid on but do keep an eye and vent any carbon dioxide that may build up

Storing Yeast Slurry

You will need to keep an eye on these for the first few days and vent the container so no excess of CO2 can build up in the storage containers. You can keep these yeast slurries in the fridge for up to 4 – 5 weeks before reusing. When it comes round to reusing take them out of the fridge the day before to warm to pitching temperature. If you are reusing the yeast after a relatively short time then I usually pitch directly into the new batch. If the yeast has been stored for more than a few weeks you may want to consider making a yeast starter to test the viability and health of the yeast slurry.

To round things up, I will give you a few tips on successfully reusing yeast:

1. Make sure absolutely everything is sanitised. Use a good sanitiser and be through. If wild yeast or bacteria get in then you will ruin a whole batch. This of course is the most important part of making beer. If there is a problem with your sanitation from the previous batch of beer and you are repitching the slurry into your next batch you are in effect inoculating the beer with bacteria that will spoil it.

 

2. Only reuse yeast up to 4- 5 generations. Over time the yeast will begin to alter and fermentation may be affected, this can be something as simple as the behaviour of the yeast will change, it may not attenuate fully or flocculation may change.

 

3. If you are reusing yeast always go from light beers to dark beers, or from low alcohol to high. You don’t want to brew a 8% ABV beer then reuse the yeast for a 3.5% session beer. Ideally you should brew the weaker beer then work the yeast up to brewing a stronger beer reusing the same yeast.

If you are brewing a dark beer like a stout or porter and pitching the yeast into a light beer, it may affect the colour and flavour ever so slightly as if you are doing this just be aware that it may actually be better to wash the yeast before reusing.

 

4. Just to reiterate, keep everything sanitized.

Do I Need To Make A Yeast Starter?

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Making A Yeast Starter

You probably know a thing or two about yeast starters, either you’ve read about them, heard other brewers talk about “making a yeast starter” or you make one before brewing every batch. Home brewers will often profess it’s provided one of the biggest improvements to their beers, but, do you always need to make a yeast starter? That is what we will discuss in this article

Why Make A Yeast Starter?

Yeast is the organism that turns wort into beer or must into wine. Making sure that the condition of the yeast is as good as possible has the knock on effect of producing better beer or wine. To gain the biggest improvements on the fermentation and therefore the biggest improvements in taste you need to make sure you are pitching enough yeast cells and that those cells a viable for fermentation.

These two factors; viability and cell count are the primary concern when you’re pitching yeast. Other factors such as temperature and nutrients are easily controlled, viability and pitching enough yeast to ferment the beer requires a little bit of information about the yeast and some pre-planning before you start brewing.

Yeast Cells and Viability

The number of yeast cells you need for a healthy, vigorous fermentation depends on a few factors such as how much beer you are brewing, whether it’s an ale or lager and the gravity.

All of the yeast available to homebrewers are packaged in quantities suitable for pitching directly into 5 gallons of wort and will ferment the beer, the number of yeast cells in a package, however, starts on the low side, this is fine in most cases because the yeast first phase in the fermenter is to reproduce to ensure there are enough yeast cells available to ferment all the sugars in the wort. However, yeast doesn’t remain stable in the package indefinitely over time the viability of the yeast decreases and the cell count drops meaning the growth phase is stretched out and the fermentation starts poorly.

Yeast viability is a term used to describe the general health of the yeast. As a packet of yeast sits on the shelf in the fridge the number of cells that will be active when pitched in a beer decreases. If the viability drops too much the fermentation will start poorly or in the worst case not at all. Viability is easy enough to check, all packages of yeast have a production date or best before date, the viability of the yeast in the pack decreases over time. Check out the best way to store yeast here.

Liquid yeast has a much shorter shelf life than dried yeast. The shelf life for liquid yeast is 4 months, after the 4 months there will only be between 10% -20% viable yeast cells in the package. This means the vast majority of the cells are already useless.

Dried yeast, on the other hand, has a longer shelf life. The viability is only decreased by around 2% – 4% per month meaning after a year of storage you will still have more than half the yeast cells viable to ferment the beer.

When the viability drops and therefore the number of cells available to ferment the beer, it is then worth considering making a yeast starter to ensure fermentation starts quickly and the yeast ferments the beer with a minimum of off flavours.

Yeast Pitching Rate

The amount of yeast we need to pitch is dependent on a few things, firstly the amount of beer being brewed and also the amount of fermentables in the wort/strength of the beer.

A study by George Fix found that optimum pitching rates for ale were 0.75 billion cells per millilitre per degree plato. This translates to around 180 – 200 billion cells for a 20 litre batch of 5% ABV beer. Lager require a higher pitching rate of roughly double this amount.

Bear in mind this is optimum, which is more applicable to commercial breweries but what it indicates is that the stronger the beer you are making the more yeast you’ll need and the higher/lower the volume of beer the more/fewer yeast cells you’ll need to pitch.

Homebrew pitching rates are usually a little lower and this is not a problem if your cleaning and sanitation practices are up to scratch a cell count of 0.5 billion cells per millilitre per degree plato is fine which translates to around 120 – 140 billion cells for a 20 litre batch of 5% ABV beer

If you are ever unsure about how much yeast you are pitching then check out this calculator which helps you work out how much yeast to pitch for the beer you are brewing

When To Make A Yeast Starter?

Rehydrate dry Yeast

Yeast strains available to homebrewers are usually always formulated to be able to ferment between 19 and 21 litres of beer or around 5 gallons but depending on the age and condition of the yeast you have the number of cells may not be high enough to be optimum for getting fermentation started quickly, again if good sanitation practices are followed this isn’t too much of a problem.

If you are making smaller batches it is, of course, less likely you will need a yeast starter. If you brew larger batches then you should always be making a starter or pitching multiple packages of yeast. The best thing to do would be to use a pitching rate calculator as mentioned above to work out how many cells you need for the beer you are brewing, and how many are in the packet of yeast you are using.

If I am using a dry yeast, I usually don’t bother making a starter. The cell count in dry yeasts is a lot higher than in liquid strains and the dried yeast cells are a lot more stable in storage. My recommendation is to rehydrate the yeast as per the manufacturer’s recommendations and then pitch. If you are using a packet of dry yeast that is close or past it recommended use by date then make a yeast starter to ensure, firstly that the yeast is viable and secondly to increase the cell count before pitching the yeast into the wort.

Liquid yeast available, especially here in the UK is more likely to need a starter. As the yeast has to be shipped from the US in most cases it is usually at least a few weeks old if not more before it even goes on sale here. The viability will have dropped quicker than a dry yeast and so it is usually best practice to make a starter if you’re using a liquid strain.

Making A Yeast Starter

Here is the technique I use to make a yeast starter. I just use a simple jar, some people like to build stir plates and place Erlenmeyer flasks on them but that is not necessary when you are only stepping up a tube or package of yeast once to increase the cell count.

The yeast will naturally want to reproduce, this is exactly what happens when you pitch yeast into the wort. A stir plate is advantageous if you are culturing a very small amount of yeast cells either from commercial bottled beers or slants that have far fewer yeast cells as a stir plate encourages yeast growth far more aggressively by supplying the cells constantly with oxygen.

Things you will need:

  • Glass Jug or Jar
  • Dry Malt Extract
  • Sauce pan and lid
  • Yeast
  • Thermometer
  • Sanitiser
  • Foil

1. Put 4 tablespoons full of dry malt extract into the pan and add 2 pints of water. It is important that not too much dry malt extract is added as when the starter starts to ferment it will produce alcohol. If the levels of alcohol are too high it will become toxic to the yeast cells.

2. Bring the mixture to the boil. Whilst this is happening, make sure your glass container and thermometer are completely sanitised using your preferred sanitiser, this is imperative.

3. After boiling the malt extract and water for around 10 minutes this will also be sterile allow to cool to room temperature with the lid on. It may be a good idea to use a cold water bath for this to get it cool quickly.

4. Pour the malt extract solution (wort effectively) into the sterilised container and check it is at room temperature with a sterilised thermometer.

5. Pitch the yeast. If this is liquid straight from the vial. If dried it should be rehydrated according to the packet instructions.

6. Cover the container with a sterilised piece of foil and shake vigorously to get as much oxygen as possible into the wort. You can shake every so often for the next 24 hours whilst the yeast reproduces.

It may not seem to be doing anything for a while but eventually you will see some signs of activity and a layer of yeast will form at the bottom of the container in a whitish layer.

It is a good idea to do this a couple of days beforehand so you can ensure the maximum amount of yeast cell reproduction. When you are ready to pitch you can swirl the yeast back into suspension and add the whole lot or decant off a proportion of the starter without disturbing the yeast then swirl and pitch to the wort.

Storing Malt, Storing Hops & Storing Yeast

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If you are anything like me then after a little while of brewing you will end up with a whole box full of malt and other grains that have been used in other beer recipes and now reside half used until you buy another bag of the same stuff because you forgot you had some.

storing malt hops and yeast

 

Storing Malt

Storing malt is a question I see being asked a lot in home brew forums around the web, I have done a bit of research on it myself so wanted to address it here.

When you start brewing you will inevitably accumulate different types of malt, grains, and adjuncts, you will use these in whatever recipe you purchased them for then the remainder needs to be stored. All-grain home brewers especially are often buying grains in quantities of up to 25kg so making sure this malt is in the best condition, ready for your next home brew is vital to consistently make good beer.

Storing Malt

 

The main thing to bear in mind for storing grain over any period of time is too keep it dry, because of the way it’s manufactured and processed via kilning malt usually contains around 4 – 8% moisture. Over time if the crushed malt (this is how it’s usually sold in the UK) is left exposed it will start to absorb moisture from the air and it obviously a lot more likely to spoil and deteriorate.

The easiest way to store malt is too keep it sealed and limit the exposure to the air. You can buy airtight containers or ziplock bags for this purpose and they will easily ensure the longevity of your stored malt. I myself have a bag sealer which allows easy resealing of the bags the malt are supplied in by the home brew retailers, as soon as I’m done weighing the quantity required for whichever beer I’m brewing, I can reseal the bag.

Trying to keep the malt in a cool, dark place seems to be the general preference for most brewers to store the leftover grain. In a cupboard or something similar should be fine.

Like any raw ingredient the fresher you use it the better your resulting home brew will be, however storing malt in this way I have used small quantities of seldom used grains, up to 12 months after purchase.

It’s always the way that after picking up the ingredients for your next batch that you end up with a load extra malt or hops that have to sit around for awhile until you brew another batch that calls for them.

Storing Hops

So storing malt is pretty easy right, but what about hops, usually I purchase hops in 100 gram vacuum packs and it’s not often that I use 100 grams of any hop in a batch. So In this post, I want to share with you some of the options for storing these excess hops.

The Thing About Storing Hops…

Although malt can become stale over the time it tends to be a lot more stable than hops when it comes to short term storage. Hops, on the other hand, a pretty unstable and especially after being exposed to the air they begin to deteriorate in terms of the aromatic oils that flavour the beer and also the alpha acids that provide bitterness.

Take a look at this excerpt from a Brewing Techniques article on the deterioration of hops:

Hops start to lose their a-acids and oils as soon as they are harvested. The rate of loss depends on the storage temperature, the amount of air present, and the hop variety. The lower the temperature, the less the hops deteriorate. It has been shown that the rate of loss halves for every 15 degrees C (27 degrees F) drop in temperature (2).

 

Oxygen is definitely bad for a-acids; their oxidation components are responsible for the “cheesy” aroma detected in old hops (1). Oxidized a-acids lose their bitterness and cannot be isomerized. Because b-acids form bitter compounds when they are oxidized, some believe that this result of oxidation makes up for the loss of b-acids.

So from this, we can assume that the best way to store hops is as cold as possible which would be in the freezer. So as soon as you get your hops home the best thing to do is leave them sealed in the packaging (which we’ll talk about in a second) and chuck them in the fridge until your ready to use them.

What About Left Over Hops?

Storing Hops

The best way to store the remaining hops after a batch of beer is still in the freezer but we want to seal them from any air if possible. The best way to do this is with a vacuum sealer. You probably bought them from the home brew store vacuum sealed, if you are buying hops that aren’t sealed or vacuum packed then consider how fresh they are. You may already have a food vacuum sealer at home and this is ideal, if not they can be pretty cheap to pick up.

If you don’t have a vacuum sealer or something like a heat sealer then an airtight container is probably the next best thing. Anything that will stop air getting to the hops in the freezer.

How Long Will They Keep?

So you’ve got your hops in the freezer but how long will they last? Well if they are unopened and in sealed vacuum bags from the home brew store then for a couple of years without too much deterioration.

If they are open then you can still use them but your recipe may need to be adjusted slightly, as mentioned before the hops lose alpha acids over time depending on the temperature they are stored at, thankfully there are ways to calculate the loss of acids over time using a simple calculator such as this one at Brewer’s Lair.

Hop Storage Tips

To be honest, I don’t like having to store lots of hops, one reason being I have a very small freezer and the other being that I find it too much hassle having to work out adjustments and keeping track of what needs using and when. It’s for this reason that I like to use some of the following tips to minimise the need to store hops long term:

  • Buy as close to what you need as possible. This is obvious, right. The reason I say this is I found a company that sells hops in intervals of 50 grams, every other supplier sold 100 gram or 500 gram packs. Shop around and find the best option.
  • Planning your brews around what you need to buy is something I also tend to do quite often. If I’m brewing with a common English hop I know there are plenty of beers I can brew that I can use them in so I brew the beer’s to suit the ingredients I have.
  • Team up with a friend and trade hops. I send my excess hops to my friends to make a beer with. If you have a friend that brews why not trade your ingredients with them so you don’t end up with loads of leftovers. Of course, your friend will give you some of the beer they made in return.

Storing Yeast

Yeast is one of the most important ingredients to brewing great beer. Fortunately, unlike other ingredients, you don’t have any left over after brewing a batch because you pitch the whole package of yeast. This means you’ll only need to store it from the moment you buy it to the moment you brew the beer you are pitching the yeast into. Brewers yeast is packaged in quantities suitable for fermenting home brew sized batches so it is unlikely you will need to store an opened package of yeast.

Storing yeast is simple, there are only a couple of things you need to take into account. These are:

  • The production date of the yeast or “best before”, and
  • The temperature the yeast is stored at

As yeast sits in the package it will slowly degrade, the yeast cells will die and when you pitch the yeast only the viable cells that are healthy enough to reproduce and consume sugars will work.

Yeast Guide

Yeast Viability

There is a difference between liquid yeast and dry yeast. Liquid yeast has a much shorter shelf life than dried yeast. The shelf life for liquid yeast is 4 months, after the 4 months there will only be between 10% -20% viable yeast cells in the package. This means the vast majority of the cells are already useless.

Dried yeast, on the other hand, has a longer shelf life. The viability is only decreased by around 2% – 4% per month meaning after a year of storage you will still have more than half the yeast cells viable to ferment the beer.

As a general rule “the fresher, the better” applies to using and storing yeast. I would always recommend making a yeast starter when using liquid yeast especially once the viability starts falling. Dry yeast, on the other hand, is relatively robust and can usually just be pitched straight into the beer or rehydrated. I would only bother with a yeast starter if the package is more than a year old. Always use before the best before dates of course.

Yeast Storage Temperature

This is simple, store your yeast in the fridge. As soon as you buy it, whether it is liquid or dry yeast, stick it in the fridge. At a cooler temperature, the yeast will remain viable for longer than at room temperature. It will usually state on the packaging the ideal storage temperature so take a look at that.

Before using the yeast you will want to take it out of the fridge to warm back up to the pitching temperature. If the yeast is cold and you pitch it into 20°C wort, it can shock the cells which will be bad for the beer. Take the yeast out of the fridge before you start brewing and it will gradually warm up to room temperature.

Why I’m Creating My Own Beer Kits

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I’m a big fan of beer kits as a way to get into home brewing. I’ve written quite a bit about using beer kits and how to get the best out of them, however, I think they do have some shortcomings.

This is why I have decided to create my own beer recipe kits which will be available to buy here on Home Brew Answers soon.

Beer Kit

Why Make Beer Kits?

A vast majority of the beer kits available to brewers here in the UK are pre-hopped malt extract beer kits. These are great for beginners, however, the actual process of brewing is mainly centered around fermentation. You dilute the syrup down with water and then add yeast. After a few weeks of fermentation, the beer can be bottled and then wait another few weeks before drinking it.

This process is fine of course, you end up with a perfectly reasonable beer that you made in your own home. You do miss out on a lot of the process of brewing, though. Part of the fun, the excitement and curiosity is in combining ingredients. It’s similar to cooking a ready meal compared to cooking a meal from scratch, in both instances you end up with something to eat but the meal you prepare from individual ingredients and take your time over is much more satisfying.

Malt Extract, Steeping Grains and Boiling Hops

I believe the best way to start brewing is with malt extract, steeped grains using a full boil. I think this method gives the brewer a better understanding of what goes into beer and produces far superior beer to the kind of beer kits that are mostly available in the UK.

The method of brewing with extract and steeping grains I have covered in quite a bit of detail here and it’s where I suggest all brewers who visit this site should start. You can make beer comparable in quality to the far more involved all grain process given enough practice.

Brewing with extract, grains and boiling hops isn’t really marketed to home brewers that well. There is always the encouragement to progress straight to all grain brewing and I don’t think that is always necessary for a lot of home brewers.

You Don’t Need A Lot Of Equipment To Make Great Beer

As an example, some people just want to make beer a couple of times a year, they like the process and it’s fun to drink something you’ve made yourself. I wouldn’t suggest they go and buy all the equipment to brew all grain, most of the time it will be sitting in the cupboard or garage gathering dust.

In fact, I would suggest the opposite, invest in only the most basic equipment you need.

For a long time, I’ve been a big fan of small batch brewing. It is a lot less hassle compared to brewing a bigger batch and you need a lot less equipment. Take a look at this video where I brewed a Milk Stout you can see the few pieces of equipment I used. The beer turned out great too.

If you want to brew beer in this way, just a small 8 litre batch on the hob is a lot more accessible than acquiring all the gear needed to brew a 20-litre batch.

Small batches like this tend to get me brewing more often than if I had brewed a large batch of beer. If I know I’ve got 40 bottles of beer from a large batch I’ve just made I’m reluctant to brew again until I’ve at least gotten through some of that.

A small batch of 8 litres produces around 16 x 500ml bottles. When I’ve finished brewing that beer a week or two later I’m thinking of what to brew next. I can knock out a few batches and have several different styles of beer around so there is a choice about what I drink.

This is particularly relevant when you first start brewing, often your early attempts aren’t the best quality beer you’ll make. If you’ve got 40 pints of beer that is just ok, you are going to be less inclined to brew again until some of that beer is finished. A small batch means you can brew more often and get better at brewing in a much quicker timeframe as well as the fact that using the right ingredients will make a better beer.

Home Brew Answers Beer Recipe Kits

This is why I have decided to start putting together some beer recipe kits. I’ve been having a lot of fun brewing small batch, malt extract beers I decided to make it easier for other brewers to get involved too.

Designing these beer kits, I intended to make them as simple as possible to make without requiring a ton of equipment. You can make a beer in your kitchen, on the cooker and unlike most pre-hopped beer kits you are integral to the process. A beer will take a couple of hours to brew and 2 – 3 weeks to ferment.

All the ingredients are listed so you know what goes into the beer and get an understanding of what each ingredient adds to the flavour and taste. They make around 14 pints of beer per batch and new recipe will be added constantly to give an ever changing selection of beer to brew.

Check out the shop and drop your email below to be notified when these beer recipe kits are ready to ship throughout the UK. Thanks

What’s The Best Way To Dry Hop A Beer?

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Like in all aspects of homebrewing there are many ways to reach the same end result. Dry hopping a beer is certainly no different. Just take a look online and you’ll find numerous ways, techniques and lengths of time in which to dry hop a beer. The good news is that any of the techniques you may have read or researched already, will definitely work and you’ll end up with a great dry hopped beer.

What is the best way to dry hop a beer, though? I would say it is the technique which is simplest and quickest to do for you the brewer. The technique that I find the simplest is what I’m going to share with you now.

Dry Hops

What Do We Want To Achieve With Dry Hopping?

The whole purpose of dry hopping is to introduce the aroma of our chosen hop varieties without any of the bitterness. Adding the hops to the fermenter when the beer is cool rather than in the kettle helps to retain some of the delicate and subtle aromas of the hops, that would otherwise be driven off by the heat of the boiling wort.

When you open a bag of hops rub together the flowers or pellets and take a deep sniff, the aroma that comes off is to a certain extent what we’re trying to capture in the beer. In practice, the effect of dry hopping captures more than just the aroma that you are smelling in the hops. When you taste a dry hopped beer you are experiencing the aroma in more ways than just smelling the flowers, this leads to all sorts of aroma characteristics to appear in the beer that you maybe can’t detect just by smelling alone. The interplay of hops and yeast also creates interesting aromas in itself.

Knowing that we want to capture the aroma of hops by adding them to the fermenter, it’s now a case of deciding how to go about that. When should we add the hops? How much should we use? How long should they be in the fermenter for, before being removed? Again these are all questions that have many answers, depending on who you ask.

When To Add Dry Hops To The Fermenter?

When I first started home brewing the consensus was, if you are going to dry hop, wait till primary fermentation is over, transfer the beer to a secondary fermenter and then add the dry hops.

At the present time, the consensus has changed, it seems to be generally agreed upon now that adding dry hops as soon as the primary fermentation slows down (just above your final gravity) is the optimum time to add dry hops.

If you’re reading this in the future who is to say the consensus hasn’t changed again.

Out of the two choices above, the latter, which is to add the dry hops as soon as primary fermentation has finished is a lot simpler, easier and less hassle. This is the method I prefer, having used this method for 5 – 6 years now.

Basically, the idea is that adding the dry hops shortly after the bulk of vigorous fermentation activity has subsided means that there is plenty of CO2 being produced to counteract any oxygen that is introduced by dry hopping. The hops also stand a better chance of moving around in contact with the beer as there is plenty of movement from the CO2 . The more hops in contact with the beer the easier it is to extract the aroma. If the hops are floating on the surface there is less contact.

As a general rule wait for airlock activity to slow down bubbling, so around 2 – 3 days and then add your dry hops.

Pellet Hops vs. Leaf Hops

Leaf Hops

Both leaf and pellet hops can be used and I would bet you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a beer that is dry hopped with one over the other. Deciding on whether to use leaf or pellet hops then really comes down to what is the easiest and most convenient.

I am a fan of using pellet hops to dry hop.

Basically, I weigh out the pellet hops, open up the fermenter and toss them straight in, no bags or strainers just loose into the primary fermenter. What happens straight away is the pellet completely disintegrate giving you maximum contact with the beer. Leave the fermenter until you are ready to rack the beer and most of the hop particles will have sunk to the bottom so separating the hops isn’t an issue. Just syphon the beer with a racking cane.

Leaf hops, on the other hand, are more difficult as they tend to float, meaning contact with the beer is reduced. A mesh bag to contain the hops with a sanitised ball bearing is a good way to hold the hops down in the beer.

How Long To Dry Hop For?

In terms of getting the aroma from the dry hops into the beer, it can be as little as 2 – 3 days contact time. It doesn’t take all that long to extract the aroma. Of course, you can leave the beer in contact with the hops for longer, I tend to leave the beer on the hops for around 7 days and by that time it’s time to rack and keg or bottle the beer anyway.

There is a theory that too long of a dry hop period can extract vegetal flavours but I have never experienced it myself. I have left dry hops in for 2 weeks before and didn’t pick up any vegetal character myself, but the jury is still out.

Dry hopping isn’t an exact science and I feel that the process to use is the one you find easiest and have the most success with. I am always looking for ways to make brewing simpler whilst maintaining quality and flavour.

Torrified Wheat. All The Questions You Never Asked, Answered

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Looking through recipes for many British beers especially from older, regional breweries, you will notice that time and time again the same ingredient pops up in the grain bill. Torrified wheat. It is usually added in small percentages, especially in traditional English Ales and bitters. The reason for these small additions at the end of the grain bill is simple; head retention. How does it work, what is torrified wheat and how much do you need. That is what we are going to discover in the rest of this article.

Torrified Wheat

What Does “Torrified” mean?

Torrified wheat is an unmalted adjunct used in making beer.

Wheat as a cereal has been used in beer ever since it was first cultivated, so almost as old as civilisation. The term “torrified” refers to the process the wheat is treated with. Basically, you take wheat kernels and subject them to a high-temperature heat treatment that breaks down the cellular structure of the grain.

Wheat that hasn’t been torrified has starch that needs to be gelatinised before the brewer can extract fermentable sugars from it. The way to gelatinise the starch in wheat is to heat it up to over 85°C before mashing. The torrification process pre-gelatinises the starches in the wheat so that they are easily broken down at mash temperatures.

What is Torrified Wheat Used For?

When I first started home brewing, I had one book. The book was Graham Wheelers, Brew Your Own British Real Ale. Out of all the home brewing books I have on the bookshelf, this one, in particular, has by far the most recipes. This is I guess part of the reason for its popularity, all of the recipes in Brew Your Own are clones of commercial British Ales. Looking through all these recipes a fairly large proportion of them have torrified wheat in.

In most cases, the torrified wheat that goes into those beers is just to change the appearance of the beer. Whilst torrified wheat does have a unique, subtle flavour, the discerning cask ale drinker must ensure there is a suitable level of foam on top of his/her pint of beer.

Wheat has a much larger percentage of protein than barley and it is that protein that helps stabilise beer foam and add body to the beer.

Why Does Torrified Wheat Aid Head Retention?

The key thing that wheat brings to foam stability is a high protein content. Protein is known to aid foam qualities and whilst malted barley does contain some protein, wheat contains a larger percentage.

As mentioned previously, wheat on its own needs to be gelatinised before you can extract fermentable sugars. Whereas torrified wheat has already undergone pre-gelatinisation. This is why it is so convenient to add a small percentage of torrified wheat to the grist of whatever beer you are brewing in order to increase the froth forming compounds.

How much Torrified Wheat Should You Be Using?

If you are using it in an effort to promote head retention and increase the stability and body of a beer a good starting point is to use torrified wheat to make up between 5 – 10% of the grist which would be around a couple of handfuls in a 20 litre batch. I always shoot for around 8% and think this is around the right mark to get some nice lacing on the glass when drinking a beer.

I will point out though that torrified wheat can be used in larger quantities, most maltsters have a maximum figure of around 40% of the grist. Used in this kind of quantity instead of wheat malt you are in the territory of making beers like witbiers and german wheat beers.

Do take note that there are no enzymes in torrified wheat, you need to rely on the diastatic power of pale or lager malts to convert the starches in a mash, this is why you are limited to 40% of the grain bill.

Can You Steep Torrified Wheat?

No. Torrified wheat is only suitable for mashing and needs to be mashed with other malts that have enzymes to convert the starches into fermentable sugars.

As a general rule any malt or cereal that has unconverted starch, which is the case with torrified wheat, needs to be mashed. Check out a list of grains suitable for steeping here.

If you are an extract brewer wanting to promote head retention and formation in your beers then I would pick something like Carapils/Dextrin malt, which is suitable for steeping and provides the same benefits as wheat for this purpose.

Torrified Wheat Vs. Wheat Malt

What should you be using and when? This is really up to each individual brewer. The flavours are different and if used in any large quantity, such as when making a wheat beer I would use wheat malt as I prefer the flavour. It is necessary to use wheat malt when it makes up a large part of the grist because wheat malt has the enzymes required to convert it’s own starches whereas torrified wheat doesn’t.

If you want to have a small addition between 5 – 10% to aid head retention, either is suitable. I wouldn’t think twice about using either one or the other.

Do Girls Like Wheat?

Yes, they do!

Wheat Girl

 

Split Batch Blackberry Porter Recipe

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It’s at this time of year that I tend to get overwhelmed by the number of lighter summer beers that I brew and begin wanting something darker and maltier to contrast with them, a porter recipe I have been working on fits the bill nicely. After the hoppier and crisper beers that I have brewed recently I end up neglecting the darker more robust beers and this starts me off thinking about brewing something a bit more complex and for this recipe adding some fruit.

Porter Recipe

Experimenting with The Porter Recipe

I have always loved Porters and it’s not a beer you can readily get when you walk into a pub in my town so it’s always nice brewing one. The other great thing is although I don’t really brew to style, porters do cover a whole range of flavours and strengths from Robust to Baltic or Imperial.

It really opens up a whole load of possibilities when it comes to designing a recipe. One thing I have noticed a lot of is fruit porters and it seems the style is perfectly suited to a variety of fruits. In particular though, dark fruits like plums and dark berries seem to fit in with the flavour profile of dark beers really well.

The one thing I have to hand is blackberries which grow in abundance right outside my house. I collect a whole load every year, clean them and sort them and then they go straight into the freezer so I have a supply all throughout the year. The flavour of blackberries, especially ones you forage yourself can vary depending on the plant you pick from, the weather that year and how ripe they are so adding them whole can be a bit hit and miss. I don’t think they will add a whole load of flavour and may get lost in the bold, malty flavour of the porter, which is why I have a plan to make them a bigger and bolder part of the beer.

The Porter Plan

My intention is to split my porter recipe into 2 and ferment each half separately. One will be a regular robust porter and have no additions and the other will have a concentrated blackberry syrup created by boiling the blackberries in a little water until they breakdown and reduce by half. It is with this concentrated syrup that I hope to pack a whole load of flavour in a relatively small addition to the fermenter. This means less beer is wasted as would be the case if you add large amounts of fruit to the fermenter.

The reason for splitting the batch is because I don’t really want a whole load of fruit beer and it means I can get 2 different beers out of one brew day. If you wanted to you could add fruit to the whole batch but that does mean I’ll have a large amount of a fruit beer, which for some reason I tend to drink less of. I don’t really want it hanging around for too long as I think the flavour of the blackberries will be better the fresher the beer is. I am a big fan of small batch brewing too so just halving the recipe is another option.

Brewing a Porter

The Porter Recipe

 

2 x Porter Plan - Robust Porter
================================================================================
Batch Size: 18.890 L
Boil Size: 21.729 L
Boil Time: 60.000 min
Efficiency: 70%
OG: 1.055
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.4%
Bitterness: 30.5 IBUs (Tinseth)
Color: 28 SRM (Morey)

Fermentables
================================================================================
                 Name  Type    Amount Mashed Late Yield Color
 Pale Malt (2 Row) UK Grain  4.250 kg    Yes   No   78%   3 L
          Munich Malt Grain 400.000 g    Yes   No   80%   9 L
  Chocolate Malt (UK) Grain 300.000 g    Yes   No   73% 450 L
       Special B Malt Grain  80.000 g    Yes   No   65% 160 L
Total grain: 5.030 kg

Hops
================================================================================
       Name Alpha   Amount  Use       Time Form  IBU
 First Gold  7.5% 30.000 g Boil 60.000 min Leaf 23.4
 First Gold  7.5% 25.000 g Boil 10.000 min Leaf  7.1

Yeast
================================================================================
        Name Type Form   Amount   Stage
 Safale S-04  Ale  Dry 11.000 g Primary

Mash
================================================================================
               Name     Type   Amount     Temp   Target       Time
                    Infusion 11.472 L 74.833 C 67.000 C 60.000 min
 Final Batch Sparge Infusion 15.714 L 81.679 C 74.000 C 15.000 min


Malt:Like always I want the recipe to be fairly simple but have large amounts of flavour to balance out the fruit in one half of the beer. With a Porter you can go one or two ways by either choosing darker more bitter malts or less roasted and more caramel malts. I have chosen a more toffee like grain bill to balance out the fruit rather than bitterness. Special B is a fairly dark caramel malt and I happen to have some left over from another beer. I think the chewy toffee character it will gove should work really well in this Porter.

Hops: For the hops I have again just balanced out the malt rather than gone for any hop aroma that will likely clash with the fruit so gone with good old English hops to provide bitterness.

Yeast: is a packet of dry S-04 which I have handy anyway.

Converting All Grain Recipes To Malt Extract

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CONVERTING All Grain to Extract

One of the things you see a lot when researching beer recipes is the vast majority of them are aimed all grain brewers. Even I am guilty of this very same bias, pretty much all of the recipes that I have posted here on Home Brew Answers are formulated for all grain brewers.

Having the ability to convert beer recipes from all grain to extract is something I think will really help unlock a whole variety of options not available otherwise. When looking for the next beer to brew you won’t have to skip over a recipe just because it’s formulated for all grain brewing, you will be able to sit down and work out exactly what is needed to turn it into a malt extract beer.

In this post I’m going to detail the steps that you’ll need to convert all grain recipes into extract recipes, in the majority of cases you will be able to get a pretty good match or even a like-for-like beer. There are some beers which can be troublesome to convert to extract, beers that rely on large portions of malts such as Vienna malt for instance where there may not be a suitable malt extract to match it with. In some of these cases you can make approximations to brew a similar style of beer and we will cover that further on in this article.

Before we continue I want to make a point about extract brewing in general. A lot of the information you read in forums and online generally relates to all grain brewing and it can seem like nobody brews extract beers.

The thing to take note of though Is that forums and online communities tend to have a high proportion of users who are completely obsessed by the hobby, this is great of course and means the collective knowledge about home brewing continues to grow. When you’re obsessed by a hobby you want to learn advanced skills and progress as far as you can, you then share those experiences online with other like-minded people.

This, I think is why you will find a lot of information about all grain brewing and not so much about extract brewing. That is not to say though that extract brewing is in any way worse than all grain brewing, both methods can produce exceptional beers and like all things in life the way to do something exceptionally is to practice.

Converting Recipes From All Grain To Extract

With that said, let’s continue onwards and learn how to convert all grain recipes to extract versions.