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Homebrew Beer Howto

  • 03-01-2006 10:32am
    Registered Users Posts: 7,276 ✭✭✭

    Here's the start of a thread on how to brew beer. I've only done it for extract kits, as that's the simplest way for people to get into it. In the future they may want to get into extract or even all grain brewing but that's a bit more work. The ready-hopped kits available are a reasonably simple and very drinkable introduction to the wonderful world of homebrew, without the need to understand too much of the science behind it.
    I hope that this will become a sticky and that people find it useful.

    Beer Instructions

    Step 1:
    You (should) have:
    - A Fermenting Bin (a big barrell with a lid with a hole)
    - A Rubber Bung with a hole in it
    - An Airlock
    - Sanitizing powder.
    - Beer Kit
    - Sugar according to beer kit (1KG is usual) - brown is best,
    or, if you can get it, and want a better tasting beer, buy some
    Dry Malt Extract from a homebrew supply shop (DME, or SprayMalt)
    and use this instead of sugar. It's a bit expensive though.
    Insert the airlock into the bung (If you put the bung in warm water for a bit
    this becomes easier).
    Sanitize the fermenter, airlock, lid, a plastic ladle (like you'd use for
    cooking) following the instructions on the sanitizer. (easy to lob everything
    into the fermenting bin and do it all in there). Rinse everything very well with
    cold water (tap water is fine).

    Follow the instructions on the beer kit - typically:
    Take the label off the kit and stand in boiling water for a while to soften.
    Boil <SOME> litres of water.
    Pour the beerkit into the fermenter. Add the boiling water and sugar. Top up to
    <23> litres with cold tap water. Stir very well. Sprinkle the yeast (from the
    beer kit) on top and stir again.

    [Another good thing to do though is to get a cup of boiled water and let it cool
    to about room temperature - you want it about 25-30 degrees C. Add the yeast to
    the cup of water and leave for about 10 mins. stir it all up and add to the
    fermenter. Also, it's good to get lots of splashing action when pouring the
    water into the fermenter - it oxygenates the water and the yeast does better.]

    Put the lid on the fermenter, the bung/airlock into the lid and leave in a
    warmish room for about 2 weeks or so, until you're only getting a bubble from
    the airlock every couple of minutes. DON'T OPEN THE FERMENTER TO PEAK!!!! You
    should see it bubbling every 5-10 seconds after about 24 hours. You will also
    be able to see a cruddy foam rise up the inside of the fermenter - this is all
    normal and good. The foam will recede.

    [If you have a second fermenter it is a good idea to transfer ("rack") the beer from
    the first fermenter to the second after about a week or 10 days with a syphon. This
    leaves a lot of "crud" behind which can add an off flavour (dead yeast) or certainly
    affect the clarity of the beer. But I've successfully made beer in 1 fermenter and
    straight to a bottle or Keg. See the bottling section for syphoning instructions]

    STEP 2 : Bottling
    You (should) have:
    - 46x0.5 litre bottles or 66x0.33litre bottles or some combination of this. NB
    do not use clear bottles, nor those with screw-off tops. Brown is best, followed
    by green.
    - Bottle brush
    - Caps for the number of bottles
    - syphon.
    - small amount of sugar - again brown is best, or DME if you can get it.
    - Sanitizer
    When the bubbles have mostly stopped, it's time to bottle! You need to sanitize
    all the bottles in sanitizer solution and wash out with a bottle brush. Rinse
    all the bottles well with tap water. Leave the bottles to drain in a drainer or on a
    bottling tree if you have one. Also you need to put the caps into a cup of
    sanitizer solution and also sanitize the syphon.

    Line up all the bottles and add about a teaspoon of sugar per 0.5l bottle, a bit
    less for smaller bottles. Put the fermenter up onto a kitchen table or counter.
    Take the lid off the fermenter (or the bung out of the lid is better) and stick
    the syphon down to the bottom. The syphon should have a doo-dah at the bottom to
    prevent too much solid stuff being sucked up this. Depending on the type of syphon
    you have you need to get it started. Some work by you blowing into a little tube
    into the fermenter which forces the beer out the tube. Other times you can start
    it by filling the syphon with (sanitized) water, put your finger over one end
    and starting the syphon by putting the other end into the beer and then taking
    your finger off the syphon but make sure it is lower than the fermenter otherwise
    the sanitized water goes into the fermenter. DON'T SUCK ON THE END OF THE TUBE
    DIRECTLY, IT CAN LEAD TO INFECTION (of the beer - not you). However, if you want
    you can shorten the syphon tube slightly and use the bit you cut off the tube to
    put on the end of the tube to suck on, but remove this when you have the syphon going.

    [An alternative to the syphon is a bottling wand which is a tube which goes onto
    a tap on the bottom of the barrel which has a valve on the bottom which is used to
    fill the bottle. much easier]

    Anyway - once you have worked out how to start your syphon, it's time to bottle
    - fill the bottles to about 2-3 cm from the top. try not to let the syphon splash
    - run it down the side of the bottle. Loosely put the lid on each bottles as you
    go until you are all done. Then go back to the first bottle you filled and start
    using the capper to lock the caps down. Invert each bottle a couple of times to
    let the sugar get mixed in a bit (and also to check for leaks). Place the bottles
    in a coolish dark place for as long as you can before drinking - at least 2 weeks,
    but the longer you leave them the better, it gets much better with age. When
    ready to drink, chill in fridge, pop and pour. Leave the last bit in the bottle
    as it will be largely yeast (this beer is bottle conditioned - thats how we get
    the fizz into it - thats why we add the sugar to the bottles) and will taste

    STEP 2A : Kegging (I have a King Keg)
    You (should) have:
    A Keg
    small amount of sugar - again brown is best, or DME if you can get it.
    Co2 Cannister for the keg.
    Kegging is much faster and simpler than bottling. However the downside is it doesn't
    fit into the fridge, and hence the beer is warm. Also you have to drink all the beer
    before you can keg again. Great for parties though.

    You need to sterlilze the keg as per the fermenter. Dissolve the recommended sugar in a
    small amount of water and add this to the keg (the kits usually tell how much sugar to
    use for kegging). Syphon the beer from the fermenter into the keg and put the lid on TIGHT.

    Leave in a coolish dark place for as long as you can before drinking- at least 2 weeks. The
    CO2 given off by the yeast when eating the sugar added to the keg is used to pump out the beer
    from the tap. When the CO2 runs out you will need to add more CO2 from a cannister via the valve.
    Too much will give very fizzy beer, too little will give flat beer, it's a bit of a guessing game
    to be honest I'm afraid, start with a little and add more.

    Hope this helps, feel free to PM for more details/questions, although I will be travelling the world for the next year (my Worldwide Beer Tour!)

    A good online book is Don't worry too much about the fact that they suggest boiling - don't do that to your kit, it's already been done for you - the book is referring to un-hopped malt kits, different things. There are plenty of other resources, each to their own, but
    In Ireland:

    In the UK.

    A very useful and friendly forum - you'll find me here also:

    There are plenty more.



  • Registered Users Posts: 32,379 ✭✭✭✭rubadub

    good to see. I would also like to see tips on the bare minimum you can get away with, i.e. any old container, no airlock etc. I know all the stuff and may post a cheap way to brew.

    I would advise that most brown sugar is only processed white sugar with molasses added back. tesco do a raw cane sugar which is only a bit brown. some would boil all water to remove the chlorine gas, this can ferment leaving a TCP taste and smell. there should not be much chlorine in the water this time of year, leave it settle overnight and it should come out of solution anyway.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 281 ✭✭bigears

    great pointers. wish i'd seen them sooner!

    i just started my first batch using a wheat beer kit over the weekend. i thought everything had gone to plan until i re-read the instructions. there are two things that concern me:

    1. the instructions stated that i should stir the mixture after adding the kit contents, sugar and boiling water. i gather this is to dissolve the sugar. i only stirred after topping up with cold water. will this make any difference?

    2. i stirred the complete mixture, both before and after adding the sachet of yeast, using a long wooden handled spatula. it was clean but hadn't been sterilised - is there a strong chance that i've introduced bacteria into the mix and therefore ruined me first brew?

    Any advice would be much appreciated!

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,114 ✭✭✭noby

    Excellent stuff, Ken. I typed up a bit on brewing extract with speciality grains before Christmas. If I can dig it out and put some shape to it I'll add it on here.

    1. Yes, you stir to disolve the extract/sugar. Otherwise you'll have a big brown lump at the end of the bin. I'm sure you would have noticed this when you stirred anyway.

    2. While you really should sanatise everything you use, and perhaps use a metal spoon for your next batch, it's too late to do anything now. It may well (I'd even say 'probably will', but that would just jinx it) be fine. There will be some strange smells during the fermentation, but in, say, a weeks time, if it doesn't taste like vinegar, then you should be good to go. It should taste like flat, possibly sweet, "green" beer.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 281 ✭✭bigears

    Cheers Noby,

    Yes, I did notice the brown lump, which made stirring a bit of a chore :) I did stir it then until it dissolved so hopefully it should be OK?

    I'll taste the beer after the week is out, before I go any further.

    Something else just occurred to me - I put the fermenter bin in the hotpress to 'keep it warm'. Now I read that this is a BAD idea as the fluctuating temperatures won't do it any favours. Is it OK to leave it at room temperature instead - specifically does it HAVE to be between a certain temperature range as in 18-24 degrees or is this just more desirable?

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,276 ✭✭✭kenmc

    I don't have a hotpress so I leave mine near the radiator in the kitchen. TO be fair though the temperature there probably fluctuates a fair bit, but it hasn't seemed to be too bad thus far, and I've made at a guess about 10 kits last year. Maybe when I come back from the WW Beer Tour, I'll look into building an insulated box I can put it into with a temperature control.
    If you're REALLY worried you can get heat mats that you put the fermenter onto/wrap around it. I don't have one of these though.

    edit: this thread is almost like an enid blyton book, with bigears and noby! Sorry - couldn't resist!.
    Anyway, bigears, make sure that you don't introduce an infection when tasting - syphon the beer out into a cup or something whilst bottling/kegging/racking. don't dip a cup in or anything. and for the love of all that is holy dump anything left in that cup down the drain, not into the fermenter.
    In fact, I'd say let it sit till it almost stops bubbling, better to leave it alone as much as possible then test it while bottling. I'd even say bottle anyway, in case it turns out good, rather than dump it in case it is bad. You can always dump the bottles, can't bottle from the drain though! Whats the worst that can happen?? :)

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,114 ✭✭✭noby

    bigears, I'd go along with what Ken said. I've had one infected batch, and it was so obviously rancid I just threw it down the drain. I've had batches that "should" have been infected, but I bottled anyway, and they turned out fine.

    Keeping the fermenter in the hotpress is fine. As long as there isn't severe fluctuations in temperature, you're ok. If you wrap the bin in an old blanket or sleeping bag it will keep the temp. more constant.

    I have built an insulated box, and have all the electronics, but haven't fitted them yet. The insulated box alone keeps the temp. constant. I'm copying a plan on the web, where you fill a seperate compartment with frozen 2L bottles, so with a temp. controller and fan you can get down to lagering temps. Alternatively, with a bulb you can keep constant ale temps. Some day I'll get around to finishing it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 32,379 ✭✭✭✭rubadub

    Heat pads/belts etc all give constant power which will fluctuate due to changing temps in the room. Best is those aquarium heaters (cheap on ebay), these have built in thermostats. I would also recommend brewing at lower temps of about 20C, higher temps lead to off-flavours and other nasty hangover inducing cogeners. Decent breweries ferment at lower temps, nasty muck like bud is done in 3 days at a high temp, resulting in the unpalatable crap they have the balls to call beer...

    Wrapping in blankets is a good idea, as suggested. It buffers heat loss and heat gain. The active fermentation actually generates its own heat. I know big home brewers online who actually have to cool down their brews since it warms so much due to fast fermenting yeasts, they toss in frozen 2 litre PET bottles of water. But those are 18% brews finishing in about 4 days

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 281 ✭✭bigears

    Thanks all for the tips. I'll post an update in a week or so and let you know how i got on as a first timer. whether it works out or not i hope it'll help another homebrew beginner!

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,114 ✭✭✭noby

    This is where the fun starts. While there’s nothing wrong with making kits, and a lot of people are happy to stick to kits, there’s something more satisfying with following a recipe, whether it’s your own or a ‘clone brew’. It can be tweaked to your own liking.
    At the same time, because you are still using extract, there is more margin for error than in the full mash method. Because you are not adding a Kilo of sugar to boost it, you will end up with a fuller tasting beer.

    Equipment needed:
    As before plus:
    Large pot.
    Large Sieve.


    With this method, instead of buying kits you are buying ingredients. You could also enhance a kits flavour with speciality grains and/or hops.

    You will need:
    Malt Extract (LME or DME)
    Speciality Grains

    Irish moss, isinglass or some other type of clarifying agent can be used, but is entirely optional.
    The most commonly used grains for steeping are Crystal malt or Roasted barley. When you buy them, if they don’t come crushed, you have to do it yourself before you start. Weigh out the amount you need, put into a bag and pound with a rolling pin. You don’t want to make flour out of them, just crush them enough so the

    I’m going to use a recipe for Basic Bitter to help describe the procedure
    This is a bitter I made based on the "Back to Basics Bitter" by David Weisberg on

    Like cooking, it’s best to have all your ingredients weighed out before you start.

    2 cans unhopped light LME (1.6Kg each)
    8oz crystal malt (crushed)
    1.5oz Golding hops
    2.5oz Fuggles hops
    Irish moss
    Ale yeast

    In a big pot, add 10 pints (or as much as you can) water and crushed crystal malt. Turn on heat
    Before water comes to boil, scoop out grains with sieve. Alternatively, bring your water to 70degC or so, add in the grains, and steep for 20 minutes. Scoop out the grains and bring water to the boil
    Add 2 cans LME. Stir to dissolve.
    Bring to rolling boil, and boil for 1 hour with the following hop additions: (counting down from 60 minutes)
    60min : add 1oz Goldings, 0.5oz Fuggles
    30min : add 0.5oz Goldings, 1oz Fuggles
    15min : add 1 spoon irish moss
    5 min : add 0.50z Fuggles

    Pour through strainer to fermenting bin, to catch hops.
    Add cold water to 19Litres (5 U.S. Gallons)
    Take hydrometer reading. This will give your original gravity (OG)
    Pitch Yeast
    Ferment as above.
    When transferring to secondary, dry hop with 0.5oz Fuggles (sprinkle the hop leaves onto the beer)
    Take another hydrometer reading. This will give your final gravity (FG)
    Bottle/Barrel with sugar.

    That’s the basic method for brewing with extract/steeping grains. Different beers will have different speciality grains, hops etc.

    Notes on ingredients:

    Hops can be bought as cones or pellets. In Ireland, it’s usually cones. They come in a vacuum pack, and can be frozen to keep fresh. There are usually (but not necessarily) three hop additions:
    Bittering hops. Added at start of boil
    Flavouring hops. Added with about 20 minutes to go.
    Aroma hops. Added in the last 2-5 minutes

    Speciality grains should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Crush the grains as needed.

    LME usually has a best before date, but can be ok beyond this.
    DME should be stored in an airtight container.

    Dry yeast should ideally be re-hydrated before you use it. Stir into a cup of warm water with a pinch of sugar an hour before you need it.
    Liquid yeast packets are also available, but are expensive.

    Most important question: how strong is my beer?

    This is the reason for taking specific gravity (SG) readings (OG & FG). Taking hydrometer readings will also let you know when fermentation is complete. As a rule of thumb, the same reading two days in a row means your fermentation is complete.

    The % abv of your beer is worked out with the following formula:

    %abv = (OG-FG)*133

    eg if your OG was 1.044, and your FG was 1.008, then

    %abv = (1.044-1.008)*133 = 4.8%abv

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,658 ✭✭✭✭The Sweeper


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  • Registered Users Posts: 32,379 ✭✭✭✭rubadub

    noby wrote:
    As a rule of thumb, the same reading two days in a row means your fermentation is complete.
    or dead :mad: This can happen with temp fluctuations or too high a sugar level to start with. This is if it is 2 days in a row and still has lots of sugar in it
    noby wrote:
    The % abv of your beer is worked out with the following formula:
    Most brewing hydrometers have a potential alcohol level on them too. I also have a alcoholometer for measuring spirits %

    I would also add that beginners should not be tempted to add excess sugar just to bump up the beers %. It ends up tasting crap, every brewer does it at some stage. If you brew to 8% it ends up a nasty tasting drink that takes you 3 times as long to drink (due to its vile taste) as a 4% beer brewed correctly

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,114 ✭✭✭noby

    Quite correct, rubadub. I was trying to keep things simple, but if your reading is well above the predicted FG, then, yes you have a stuck fermentation. This could also be down to your yeast.

    To expand a little on that, and without getting too bogged down in detail, the average yeast should have about 75% attenuation, depending on ingredients.
    So for the example above, if your OG is 1.044, your predicted FG should be roughly 1.011 (0.044 - 75%). If it only gets to, say, 1.030, you have a stuck fermentation.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 281 ✭✭bigears

    On second thoughts maybe I should call this second brew progress.

    Hopefully another beginner might learn from my mistakes by reading this:

    Results of the first brew: Down the sink!

    After almost a week there was no sign of fermenatation having even started. I made a few mistakes with this brew and I'm not sure which was most critical.

    1. I didn't dissolve the sugar by stirring after I poured in the boiling water - I waited until all the water was in before stirring the lumpy mess
    2. I stirred with a non-sterilised spatula.
    3. I didn't control the temperature when pitching the yeast.

    I am guessing that the sugar not dissolving properly was the biggest factor but I don't know for sure.

    Anyway, after I had dumped the sweet & sour mess down the sink I decided to start on the next batch.

    I made a few investments - thermometer, hydrometer and brewbelt. On Saturday I started off with the Cooper's IPA Kit, 500g Spraymalt and I also included 300g glucose (the kit recommended dextrose) which apparently adds to the alcohol content without impairing the flavour like sugar can.

    This time around I managed to avoid the mistakes above. I also sterilised a cup and added the yeast to lukewarm water for 10 minutes before stirring it and pitching. The hydrometer showed 1.038. I pitched the yeast into the fermenter at around 20 degrees and closed it up, inserting the bung and airlock.

    After attaching the brewbelt to keep the bin warm the fermentation had started within a couple of hours. Within the first twenty four hours the fermentation got active to the point that the airlock was bubbling constantly. The instructions that came with the brewbelt stated that the constant temperature would cause the fermentation to finish sooner than normal but I hadn't realised how much sooner. Within two days the the activity had slowed considerably and the airlock was now bubbling several times a minute. Another day later and there was hardly any activity.

    I took a hydrometer reading last night (Thursday) of 1.012. There has been no airlock activity for 2 days and the bubbles have stopped rising to the surface. I plan to leave it sit until Saturday which is 1 week since starting. I tasted my hydrometer sample and it seems to be on the right track.

    I don't have a second bin so a secondary fermentation is not an option for this batch - is there a benefit to be gained from leaving it in primary for any longer? Some posts I've read seem to suggest that leaving the beer to sit on the 'trub' for longer than necessary will result in off-flavours. Weighed against this the beer may clear a little more if I leave it in longer.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,114 ✭✭✭noby

    I'm glad to see you're having more success this time round.
    Leaving your beer too long on the trub will cause off-flavours, but you would be okay leaving it there for a week or ten days.
    If by Saturday you get the same hydro reading, there's nothing stopping you bottling. You can leave it longer in the bottle, where it will clear and condition.
    I would recommend getting another bin for decondary though, even if you picked onr up tomorrow. A week or two in secondary is a good habit to get in to. Plus, come bottling stage, there'll be a lot less sediment going into your bottles

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,733 ✭✭✭Blub2k4

    Lovely hurlin there Kenmc, always good with the brewing information.

    I haven't started yet as it is just something I will do over the next year or so when I have the cash to get all the kit.
    For a start I got a 25l fermenting bottle in a basket off of freecycle, it is being put to use at the moment just not for brewing but it will be.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 281 ✭✭bigears

    Cheeers for the tips noby.

    A thought struck me as i was at the water cooler earlier....

    The water bottles for the cooler are 18.9 litres, not much short of the fermenter bin capacity. If they're suitable to store water, they must be OK to store beer. I presume I could use one of these for secondary? I can always bottle the 4 litres that don't fit in. I guess the fact that the plastic is clear will mean that light will get through but i could wrap something around it to keep the light out.

    The opening is about an inch in diameter but the blue closures that are sitting on the empties look airtight - when i hold them upside down the small quantity of water left inside doesn't leak out. Does secondary fermentation need an airlock to release CO2 or is it necessary at this stage?

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,114 ✭✭✭noby

    Once the container is made from food-grade palstic it won't impart any flavours. As you say, just keep it from direct sunlight and it'll be fine.

    If you get a 1"bung, you could stick an airlock in it, but they're not entirely necessary. The airlock is essentially to stop foreign bodies getting in, aswell as letting gas out. If you cover the opening, but don't seal it, that should do the trick.

  • Registered Users Posts: 32,379 ✭✭✭✭rubadub

    A second container is highly recommended, you can get them free if you look around. Ask in fast food places, veg oil comes in 20 or 25l containers. I used to get 25l foodgrade washing up liquid bottles in college.
    You can syphon off the finished brew down to the last 4 litres. Put the last bit in 2x2 litre coke bottles. Since the bottles are tall and narrow the last dregs of good beer surface. By this time the seds will have dropped in your second barrel, now you can syphon it back into the first one (clean first obviously!). Pour in the good tops of the 2 litre bottles, you can put the second lot of seds into 2 litres if you want again.

    Now you have a barrel of pretty clear beer, instead of adding sugar to individual bottles you can just get a pint of beer out, warm it and mix in all the sugar you need fo the batch, now mix the warm pint in and bottle. Some people like to set aside some of the original unfermented brew, or a concentrate of it. You can store it unfermented in the fridge. This unfermented brew is used instead of sugar for the fizz in the bottle.

    It sounds like a fast fermentation, do you know what temperature it was brewing at, I know it was 20C at the start. I would aim for a longer fermentation next time, a brew belt gives out constant power, the way you alter the temperature is by moving the belt further up the barrel so less is heated.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 281 ✭✭bigears

    Just got to see the posts now, was too busy to check before.

    I racked to secondary (my water cooler bottle) on Friday night; there wasn't too much left over once I left the sediment behind. The beer is looking pretty clear in secondary and I'll probably leave it there until after this weekend and bottle at that stage. I like the idea of warming a pint of beer from the bottle and mixing sugar with this (I have some glucose left over so I may as well use that). Sounds a lot easier than priming individual bottles.

    I agree that the fermentation seemed quite fast; I'll aim for a slower pace next time around - I think moving the belt higher up the fermenter will ensure a lower fermentation temp; I guess it's all about finding the balance. I'm not too sure what temp it fermented at but I would guess low to mid twenties judging by the room temperature (approx. 15 degrees) plus the extra heat generated by the belt which was fitted was low down on the fermenter.

    It's interesting to read the comments about racking back and forth; seems like a good idea in terms of getting the beer clearer. Hopefully I won't introduce too much oxygen when siphoning or mixing priming solution.

  • Registered Users Posts: 32,379 ✭✭✭✭rubadub

    bigears wrote:
    300g glucose (the kit recommended dextrose)
    Glucose is available in supermarkets in the baby food section, usually cheaper than brew shops. On the shamrock food packet glucose is described as glucose (anhydrous dextrose). I forget the difference, but it is minimal. I think glucose actually gives slightly less alcohol per weight, it is said to impart less flavour.
    I would also recommend trying brews you never would usually try, like bitters, we used to brew a cheap kit called "scottish heavy", very nice stuff. Or try replacing sugars, tesco do an unrefined cane sugar which I found nice.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,114 ✭✭✭noby


    There's nothing wrong with a fast fermentation. The lag time between pitching yeast and the fermenting kicking in is when your wort is most open to infection. A fast starting fermentation will lessen the risk.

    Higher temperatures (up to mid 20's) will impart some flavours that are desireable in ales, but not so in lagers/pils etc. Try tasting a few ales. The fruity taste, and even a buttery/butterscotch taste (try a room temp smithwicks) comes from the higher fermentation temps.

  • Registered Users Posts: 32,379 ✭✭✭✭rubadub

    noby wrote:
    The lag time between pitching yeast and the fermenting kicking in is when your wort is most open to infection. A fast starting fermentation will lessen the risk.
    Certainly, I should have mentioned that. I like to start at about 25C But I would drop to around 20-22C for the remainder. If your wort is aerated you get a nice fast start to fermentation, this can be done with a fancy air pump and airstone, or get a big clean metal strainer and scoop up wort high letting it fall bringing oxygen into the mix. This is only for the start though, oxygen will cause intial rapid growth of yeast, when the oxygen is gone you start to get alcohol made instead, hence the airlock to keep nasties out and a head of CO2 gas on top so you get alcohol made.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 281 ✭✭bigears

    Well I said I'd update you on progress so here goes:

    I kept the beer in primary for 6 days and in secondary for 10 days before bottling. I tried one a week after bottling and it was a bit sharp and quite 'thin'. I tried another last night (bottling plus 2 weeks) and it's showing signs of improvement - the bitterness has mellowed a bit, it's got a little more body and the head retention is better. So overall I'm quite pleased :)

    The tips I got on here certainly made a difference. I'll leave the majority of the bottles to sit for another month or so and I'll try to keep some for a few months to see how they develop.

    I'm going to put down brew #2 this week which will be a Weissbier. One thing I have found is that it's hard to get more 'specialist' ingredients such as different beer styles like Wheat beers and liquid yeasts in Ireland and they need to be ordered from the UK. Does anyone have experience of an Irish based HB shop that holds a wider variety of stock? I get the impression that it's much more popular in UK/Oz/US than it is here which would explain why there is less choice available.

  • Registered Users Posts: 661 ✭✭✭conor_mc

    Great thread guys, very useful.

    Started my second attempt at a homebrew on Sunday evening. First attempt was about a year ago and well, it wasn't quite successful.

    Anyhow, I've corrected a few mistakes I made along the way so hopefully I'll do a better job this time. One major mistake I seem to have made the last time was when syphoning the lager into a keg, I sucked on the end of the syphon tube.

    I've since noticed the comments on this thread about this being a big mistake, and found this piece on
    How to Siphon
    When racking or bottling , you cannot start a siphon by sucking on it or you will contaminate and sour the batch with bacteria from your mouth.

    All parts of the siphon (racking cane, tubing, and cutoff valve or bottle filler) need to be sanitized, especially the inside. After sanitizing, leave the siphon full of sanitizer and carefully place the racking cane in your beer. Release the clamp/valve or your clean-and-sanitized thumb and allow the sanitizer to drain into a jar. Make sure the outlet is lower than the fermenter, or you will drain the sanitizer into your beer.

    As the sanitizer drains, it will draw the beer into the siphon and you can stop and transfer the outlet to your bottling bucket or bottles. Thus you can siphon without risk of contamination.

    All seems very straightforward, but to be honest, I have a feeling I'm gonna make a mess of it this time. I'm especially concerned about dipping a tube of sanitising solution into the beer - what would be the effect if this were to leak? Do you need to rinse off the outside of the tube after sanitising it? How do you fill the tube with sanitising solution without sucking on the end of it - or is it okay to do that at this point?

    Any help would be much appreciated folks!

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 281 ✭✭bigears

    Hi Conor,

    I've found a couple of things useful when racking:

    syphon tap - this fits into your syphon tube and you can twist the tap on and off - when it's switched to off position it will stop your sanitising liquid flowing down into your beer. you can also use your thumb but this is more tricky.

    racking cane and "u bend" - these normally come together - basically a long plastic cane with a little disc at the bottom to reduce sediment flow. this goes into your fermenter and connects to the other side of your syphon.

    I normally boil some water and let it cool a little. After sanitising the syphon, cane etc. I rinse through with some of the cooled boiled water and then assemble the cane with ubend and the syphon. I pour the water until the tube is full and then connect the syphon tap and switch it to the off position. This will stop the water flowing into your beer - if a little gets in I wouldn't worry about it. It's been boiled so the nasties should be gone.

    Then you pop the cane into the fermenter and start syphoning by opening the syphon tap. This starts the flow. I normally have a glass to catch the water and when the beer starts to come through you can put it into your keg/bottles or whatever. The syphon tap is very handy when you're bottling as you can stop/start the flow quite easily without creating much of a mess.

    The racking cane, ubend and tap should only cost a few quid in total.

    You can get an "autosyphon" which makes things even easier but I haven't bothered with that so far. It's a little more expensive.

    If you don't have the tap etc. you can use ken's suggestion at the start of the thread and cut off a little tubing to go over the end. you can suck on this and then remove it before the beer reaches the end of the tube.

    I'm not too far ahead of you Conor but I've made a handful of brews now and all but the first have been fine. If you plan it out beforehand it should run quite smoothly.

  • Registered Users Posts: 661 ✭✭✭conor_mc

    Thanks for the advice bigears, I've been following your progress and hope my own matches it!!!:D

    Unfortunately, being the twat that I am, the syphon tap was getting in the way last time, and since I wasn't bottling, it was duly binned.... so it looks like I'll be reinvesting in one this week!

    Other than that, how do people feel about fermenting in a bin without an airlock, leaving to lid slightly loose to vent CO2? From what I've read, the head of gas should keep the brew clean, however I'd imagine timing the end of the fermentation is more important (and also more difficult?) as it's more likely to become contaminated as the amount of CO2 decreases? Or have I got that wrong?

    If this attempt is successful, I think I'll invest in a fermentation bin with an airlock and bung, seems alot safer.

    Thanks again bigears, invaluable advice!

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,114 ✭✭✭noby


    A couple of things.
    Firstly, welcome to the world of brewing. I hope you stick with it.
    Everywhere I've read says not to use your mouth to start off a syphon. While that is sound advice, I always start off my syphon with my mouth. I know I shouldn't, but I've gotten away with it so far.
    To move away from this (bad) practice, I'm fitting taps to all my bins, as close to the end as you can. With this and a length of syphon tube attached, there's no more syphoning when you transfer. Just put your fermenter on a counter top, drop the tube from the tap to the bottom of the other bin, to eliminate splashing, and open the tap.


  • Registered Users Posts: 661 ✭✭✭conor_mc

    Thanks noby, actually I've been thinking the same thing too - the aforementioned investment in a fermenting barrel with airlock/bung etc should also have a tap for racking.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,114 ✭✭✭noby

    I curtailed my post because of lunch time.

    Anyway, I have several air locks, but rarely use them on plastic bins. Leaving the lid loose on top is fine. As you say, the CO2 blanket will protect your beer.
    When you say 'timing the end of the fermentation', do you mean by counting the bubbles in the airlock? This method won't work well with a plastic bin. You're better off using a hydrometer to judge when fermentation is complete.

    The amount of CO2 isn't going to decrease. If you leave the beer undisturbed, a blanket of CO2 will sit on top of the beer.
    There is a 1-2-3 rule of thumb that people use with no problems. One week primary; two weeks secondary; three weeks bottle. This makes weekend brewing easier. After a week your pirmary fermentation will be complete. Leaving it sit in the secondary for two weeks (or more) shouldn't have any ill-effect on your beer.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 661 ✭✭✭conor_mc

    Thanks noby, I'd seen the 1-2-3 thing mentioned but never knew what it meant.
    noby wrote:
    I curtailed my post because of lunch time.

    Anyway, I have several air locks, but rarely use them on plastic bins. Leaving the lid loose on top is fine. As you say, the CO2 blanket will protect your beer.
    When you say 'timing the end of the fermentation', do you mean by counting the bubbles in the airlock? This method won't work well with a plastic bin. You're better off using a hydrometer to judge when fermentation is complete.

    What I meant by timing the end of the fermentation was that in a sealed fermentation barrel with an airlock, you could see CO2 escaping hence could see when this process was slowing down. Safer as a guide rather than syphoning out a sample to test with a hydrometer each day.... but now that I think of it, is that necessary or can I just dip the sanitised hydrometer in the bin directly?

    I guess my point was more about the relative merits of using an airlocked fermentation barrel versus a loose-lidded bin.
    noby wrote:
    The amount of CO2 isn't going to decrease. If you leave the beer undisturbed, a blanket of CO2 will sit on top of the beer.
    There is a 1-2-3 rule of thumb that people use with no problems. One week primary; two weeks secondary; three weeks bottle. This makes weekend brewing easier. After a week your pirmary fermentation will be complete. Leaving it sit in the secondary for two weeks (or more) shouldn't have any ill-effect on your beer.

    I was assuming that the loose lid would allow the CO2 to vent away, didn't realise that the blanket would sit there once undisturbed. Thinking about it, its this behaviour of CO2 that makes it suitable as a fire extinguisher, isn't it?

    Which brings me to my final question - secondary fermentation. I have the bin for my primary, and a keg for storing, so should I just keg it with the required amount of sugar for pressurisation, or should I try to rack it from the bin into the keg temporarily, and back into the bin for a secondary fermentation after a quick sanitisation?

    Thanks again for the help.