Brewing Tips and Generally Recognized Best Practices

written by Chris Rafalik for the BAM wiki

This page is discussed in detail on the BAM Best Practices thread of the Beer Science or Superstition forum. Understand that while these are generally considered best practices home brewing is considered by many to be an art form. Everyone has a different opinion about art. We encourage you to learn from this page, but always remember what works for one may not work for everyone.

Remember first and foremost — this is supposed to be a hobby — keep it fun!

Basic Beer Procedure

  • Sanitize Everything
  • Steep specialty grains (150-160 degrees for 30-40 minutes)
  • Remove specialty Grains (Never boil grains, boiling grains extracts off flavors)
  • Add malt Extract (if needed)
  • Boil (60 minutes or per recipe)
  • Add hops (per scheduled recipe)
  • Chill wort back to fermentation temp (see yeast for temp but normally 70 degrees for ales and 40-50 for lagers) while maintaining pristine sanitation
  • Pitch/add yeast and Ferment (10-14 days normally) (secondary fermentation optional)
  • Bottle or keg (age 2-4 weeks optionally)
  •  Bring sample bottle to group meetings for feedback from other brewers. (yay free beer!)

General Tips:

Thou Shalt Sanitize – Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize. We can’t stress this enough. The first time you lose a 5 gallon batch of beer due to improper sanitation procedures you’ll likely fully appreciate this rule. You just can’t be too careful. Most brewers use a combination of cleaners and sanitizers.  Cleaners, such as Powdered Brewery Wash (PBW) and B Brite help remove particles and residue.  Sanitizers, such as Starsan and Iodophor kill any remaining microscopic organisms.

Respect the Yeast – Yeast makes it all happen.  No yeast… no beer.  It only makes sense then that yeast should be treated with respect.

First, it is important to select the proper yeast.  Many new brewers often highly under-rate the affect that yeast can have on flavor.

Second, be sure to pitch enough yeast.  While a beer can be made with a single vial or packet of yeast, most brewers strongly believe in having a “starter”.  When using a starter, the amount of yeast pitched is greatly increased.  This headstart for the yeast often results in a much cleaner and infection-free beer.

Useful Website for determining starter volumes:

How to make a Yeast Starter

Proper temperature control on both ales and lagers – Temperature control during fermentation is critical. Different yeast strains operate most effectively in a temperature range. Ale yeasts are top fermenting and typically prefer temperatures in the 70’s. Lager yeast are bottom fermenting and prefer a cooler range, usually requiring refrigeration. Ideally, temperature should fluctuate as little as possible.

Turn Out the Lights – Light has a detrimental effect on beer. It’s generally accepted that when possible you should keep your beer in the dark and preferably bottle in dark containers that are not 100% light permeable (dark bottles).

Read “How to Brew” by John Palmer – This is considered by many to be the bible of home brewing. If John Palmer says it, you can generally take it to the bank.

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