7 Tips To Make Your Home-Brewed Beer Even Better

The articles you find in our blog contain many tips and background information, but of course they can’t go into every detail – after all, we do not want to give newcomers to the brew kettle a headache on the first bridal day!

If you have already used some of our tips and want to know it a bit more, then get ready now for concentrated professional knowledge:

1. Prepare brewing water

Beer is made of more than 90% water, so the water quality plays a not to be underestimated role in the brewing business. Some of the world’s most popular beer styles, such as the Pilsener or the Pale Ale, even got their characteristic taste first by the water from the area, in which they were originally brewed.

The good news first: most likely, your tap water is good for brewing. But it does not hurt to know that some minerals in the water are better tolerated by the enzymes in the mash, the bitterness of the hops and the yeast as well as others. The following factor plays an important role in particular: the residual alkalinity.

The residual alkalinity RA for short describes the brewing water with regards to its influence on the pH of the mash. High residual alkalinity increases the pH,which hampers enzyme activity. It also provides a darker beer color, slower fermentation and a scratchy hop bitterness in hops-flavored beers.

As a rule of thumb, light and hops-flavored beers such as pale ales, IPAs and wheat beers may have a low RA with a value less than 5° dH. Dark beers like stouts also tolerate higher RA to 10° dH because of the acidic action of dark malt.

How do I find out the residual alkalinity of my water?

For this you only need some values from the water analysis of your water supplier, which you can find on the internet for free or just call or e-mail them. For example you can find the water analyzes for Hamburg online. The required values are calcium content,magnesium content and acid capacity or carbonate hardness. This makes it easy to calculate the residual alkalinity using a website  that offers the service of “Hardness and residual alkalinity of brewing water” calculation.

How do I lower my residual alkalinity?

The easiest way is to use a water filter. If you brew with a brew box, you have it much easier than brewers with large-sized brewing kits, because you have to filter a maximum of 7 liters of water per brewing process.

Another option is the use of sour-malt. An addition of 2% sour-malt to the mash is already sufficient to lower the residual alkalinity by about 5 ° dH.

2. Control mash temperature

When mashing, according to the brewing instructions, you keep the temperature in your pan for one hour between 65° C and 69° C except for our wheat beer. At these temperatures, the enzymes most effectively dissolve the sugar from the malt, which the yeast later turns to alcohol. But you can already influence the taste of your future beer with the temperature of the mash: if you keep the temperature at 65° C, you will get a drier beer, because it will produce more fermentable maltose for the yeast. If you keep the temperature at 69° C, you will get a full-bodied beer with more residual sweetness, because it will produce more indigestible dextrins.

My tip: hit the 69° C side, because most beers especially those with a lot of hops do a good deal of wholesome sweetness.

3. Adjust hop yields

The hops provide for the bitterness in the beer, but also for the citrus-like fragrance in beer styles like pale ales and IPAs. As a rule of thumb, the sooner the hops are added to the hop cooking, the more bitter substances are dissolved out of it – the later the addition takes place, the more the aroma of the hop comes into its own. If your self-brewed food is too bitter for you, just add the first addition of hops 10-15 minutes later on the next bridal day. If the beer is not bitter enough for you, increase the amount of the first hops in the ratio. 

4. Rehydrate the yeast

If you use dry yeast as in the brew box, it is sufficient if you sprinkle the yeast on the wort in the fermentation bottle and shake the bottle well for one minute as described in the instructions. The fermentation usually starts after a few hours.

If you want to prepare the yeast for the fermentation, you can rehydrate it shortly before. Thereby, even more yeast cells become active and the occurrence of potential problems, such as for example a halting fermentation is reduced.

Briefly boil 50ml of water for rehydration and allow it to cool until the temperature has dropped to 25° C the fastest way to do this is to use an ice bath as if cooling down the wort.Now pour the water into a sterilized cup as you sterilize brewing equipment,you’ll find in most brewing instructions, sprinkle on the required amount of yeast and let it swell for 15 minutes. Then pour the yeast and water into the wort in the fermentation bottle and shake vigorously for one minute to add oxygen to the wort.

5. Low fermentation temperature

At high fermentation temperature from 20° C, the yeast works faster, but is also under higher stress. It can produce off-flavors. It can be imagined that the yeast starts to sweat because of the high temperatures at work – and who wants yeast sweat in the beer. The perfect fermentation temperature for most top-fermented beers,all beers from our shop are top-fermented, around 18-20° C. An exception are wheat beers, which form their typical banana and clove flavors at higher fermentation temperatures between 20-22° C.

6. Experiment

You have brewed all basic varieties from of beers and are hungry for more? Then you are ready for some fancier beer styles. Why not make the “dark pecan brown ale” with roasted pecans or give the pale ale a hint of ginger? Here are some tips on which ingredients fit which beer styles best, based on the amount of beer you brew using a brew box and how you use them best:

Ginger

Ginger brings a fresh spice and a slight spiciness in your beer. It goes well with fruity pale ales, IPAs or wheat beers. Simply add 50g of peeled and sliced ginger to the saucepan before cooling the wort.

Nuts

Add 50-100g of roasted and crushed nuts such as pecans, walnuts or even chestnuts directly into the mash to give dark beers a great nutty-caramel note.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin ales are a real highlight for autumn. Pumpkin gives the beer a sweetish-caramel note and blends perfectly with caramel malts in darker beers. Cut a small pumpkin into two halves and roast it at 150° C in the oven until it is soft and slightly caramelized. Remove the seeds, spoon the contents out of the bowl and put it directly into the mash.

Fruits

A bright red “Summer Ale Framboise” with raspberries or an apricot wheat complacent? Some fruits, such as raspberries, blackberries, cherries or apricots can bring a wonderfully fruity aroma and great colors to your beer.The high heat during the hop cooking or cooling down they usually do not stand very well. Therefore, it is advisable to “stuff” the fruits after fermentation. That sounds more brutal than it is:

Pump after the main fermentation as usual, the young beer from the fermentation bottle in a large pot of course, leave the yeast mixture in the bottle. Clean the fermentation bottle, sterilize it and put the below recommended amount of fruit into the bottle. Now pump the young beer from the pot back into the bottle and close it again with the sterilized fermentation plug and fermentation bung. Let the fruits rest with the beer for 1 week before carbonating and bottling the beer as usual.

Recommended amount of fruits to “stuff” in our fermentation bottle:

Raspberries and blackberries: 100 – 300 g, fresh or frozen and pureed

Cherries: 200 – 400 g frozen or fresh, gutted and pureed

Blueberries: 100 – 300 g, fresh or frozen and pureed

Strawberries: 200 – 400 g, fresh or frozen and pureed

Chili: exciting, but to enjoy with caution! It’s best to get the right amount of sharpness with some pieces of fresh or dried chili, by letting it draw for 2-3 days and then trying the green beer. Pump it with the sterilized beer pump and hose some of the green beer from the fermentation bottle into a glass – if it is sharp enough,you can carbonize it and fill it in bottles. If it is still too weak on the chest, add some slices of chilies and let them work for a few more days.

7. Have patience

Good things take time, and so it is with beer. It does not hurt to give your self-brewed a little more time than it is described in brewing instructions. Above all, dark beers usually get better if they mature in the bottle for a few weeks longer. Also 1 to 2 additional weeks refrigerator cold after maturation does the beer well.Thus the “yeasty” taste disappears, and the carbonic acid becomes finer. The exception are as often wheat beers: they taste “young” the best and should not mature for more than 2 weeks, then 2 days in the refrigerator are then also completely sufficient. 

You also want to brew your own beer in your kitchen now?

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