Is my brew fermenting?
Many homebrewers wrongly assume that the yeast is not working because there is no bubbling through the airlock.
The airlock is fitted to allow gas to escape and prevent micro-organisms and wild yeasts from entering the fermenter.
Rather than rely on your airlock as an indicator of fermentation, look for condensation inside the lid, a scum ring at the top of the wort, sediment on the bottom, cloudy / turbid / foamy brew from the tap and the specific gravity dropping (use a hydrometer).
Why use a hydrometer?
Many brewers don't use a hydrometer and have never had exploding bottles. One day their luck will run out! Brewers Yeast is a living organism and, as such, may perform differently from brew to brew. We recommend the use of a hydrometer for checking that fermentation is complete before bottling. The hydrometer is a simple device which, when floated in a sample, gives an indication of the density of the brew. Two separate samples over 24hrs with the same reading indicates that fermentation is complete (Final Gravity - FG). Once FG is achieved, have a taste and smell of the brew (an infection is usually a sour taste). If it tastes and smells like beer you can bottle confidently in the knowledge that the correct amount of priming will produce the right amount of fizz with no explosions!
Should I use plastic or glass bottles?
It is becoming increasingly difficult for brewers to obtain the old crown seal bottles. The single use glass that commercial beer is sold in these days is too thin to stand up to the rigours of continual washing and capping.
The majority of PET bottles are porous (a beverage held in PET will eventually go flat). However, our PET bottles have a nylon barrier which helps to prevent both the ingress of oxygen and the loss of CO2 for up to 18 months. If you are wanting to bottle you beer for longer you may choose to use good quality glass bottles. These are available from Malthouse Home Brew Supplies.
The re-usable caps have a tamper evident collar which breaks off after the first use. This does not affect the airtight seal. When the caps eventually wear out, replacement caps can be purchased separately.
How do I get my brew to hold a head?
Head retention is adversely affected by the following:
- Glassware has residual detergent or grease.
- Young beer can produce a large foamy head that quickly dies away.
- Too much simple sugar (sucrose or dextrose) in the brew.
- Low carbonation level in the beer.
- A racing ferment due to high temperature.
Head retention can usually be improved by adding around 300g of maltodextrin to the wort. Replacing some of the sugar / dextrose with malt extract will have the same affect, with the added bonus of extra malt flavour. We don't recommend replacing all of the sugar with malt exract when using our home brew ale yeast.
There are a couple of options open to you when it comes to kegging. If you are in a hurry for the beer (a party on the weekend) and it will be consumed within a couple of months, then artificial carbonation is the best option. Natural conditioning will give you a better beer in our opinion but the conditioning period is much longer (several weeks as opposed to several days). Well made, naturally conditioned beer will last as long in the keg as it does in bottles (at least two years or so).
Artificially carbonated beer will deteriorate after a few months.
- Clean and sanitise the keg thoroughly.
- Prime with sugar at the rate of 4g per litre.
- Rack via a piece of sanitised, flexible tubing so that the beer runs to the bottom of the keg. Leave 5 – 10 cm of headspace at the top.
- Seal the keg and purge the headspace with CO2 then give it a shake.
- Maintain brewing temperature for a week, then allow the beer to condition for at least several weeks.
- Refrigerate for a week then pressurise at required pouring pressure 35 – 100 kPa, depending on your system. (Fifty litre kegs through a temprite or miracle box may require up to 300 kPa).
- Clean, sanitise, purge (purge by connecting the CO2 bottle to force the air out of the keg) and rack as per the natural conditioning procedure, without the priming sugar.
- If you are in a hurry for the beer, seal the keg, pressurise to 300 kPa and shake it about 100 times (for an 18 – 20 litre keg) with the gas connected. If there is no rush or you’re not feeling energetic, leave the gas connected with the regulator set at 300 kPa for 2 – 3 days. CO2 will be absorbed more quickly if the beer is refrigerated.
- Place in the fridge for several days then adjust to pouring pressure. The beer will be drinkable as soon as it is cold, but will improve for several weeks in the fridge.
For crystal clear beer, rack into a sanitised, airtight, food grade container (flush with CO2 first) and refrigerate for a week. Once the beer is clear, keg and carbonate artificially.
Degassing the keg over a day or two will usually rectify over-carbonation. Agitate the keg and release the CO2 several times a day until the beer has reached the desired level of carbonation. If the beer is pouring badly but appears to have little or no carbonation, check to ensure that there are no kinks or holes in the beer and gas lines. Contrary to logic, heady beer can be a result of low gas pressure and increasing the pressure via the regulator will often fix the problem.