25 Biggest Mistakes Homebrewers Can Easily Make
Brewing is a long, complex process. There are a hundred ways to ruin a batch of homebrew, and even seasoned homebrewers mess up every now and again! We’ve compiled the 25 biggest homebrew mistakes, as well as some advice on how you can avoid them.
Messing up is part of the homebrew experience, but hopefully, this list can save you some heartache down the road.
25 Biggest Homebrew Mistakes
1. Not Sanitizing Properly
It might be a pain, but there is no way to get around the importance of sanitization. You need to sanitize everything that will have contact with your beer, at every stage of the brewing process. No exceptions. If you don’t, you risk ending up with beer that tastes like old cabbage!
Using a no-rinse sanitizer like Star San is the quickest, easiest way to prevent unwanted contamination.
2. Not Cleaning Properly
Cleaning and sanitizing are different things, and they are both equally important. If your equipment isn’t clean then your sanitation solution cannot work as it is meant to.
Plus, dirty equipment can deposit unwanted proteins, fats and minerals into your beer.
3. Brewing With Bad Water
Just because you can drink water from your tap doesn’t mean you should brew beer with it.
Unfiltered, chlorine-containing tap water can impart metallic or even bandaid-like flavors on your beer. Plus, tap water can negatively impact the overall pH of your wort. Check out BrewCabin’s Ultimate Guide to Beer Brewing Water for more info.
4. Not Measuring Properly
Brewing is a science. Unless you want to risk the outcome, your ingredients need to be measured precisely. Never take shortcuts by approximating quantities or measuring ingredients by volume. Ingredients should always be measured by weight using a digital kitchen scale.
5. Using Old Ingredients
Grains, yeast, hops, and extract all degrade over time, especially once they’ve been opened. To ensure the best tasting beer, you should use the freshest ingredients possible.
6. Squeezing The Grain Bag
If you are steeping grains, it can be tempting to squeeze out all those malty juices after you remove the grain bag. Don’t do it! Squeezing the grain bag can release bitter tannins into your beer. It is much better to sparge your grains using hot water, or just let the bag drip-dry before discarding.
7. Burning Your Extract
It is very easy for malt extract to get stuck to the bottom of your brew kettle and burn. Be diligent about removing your kettle from the heat before adding extract, and stir constantly until the extract is totally dissolved.
8. The Dreaded Boil Over
Keep your eyes on the kettle at all times. Wort can boil over at a moment’s notice, and it makes for a hot, sticky mess all over the stove!
9. Covering Your Wort During The Boil
During the boil, wort releases sulphur compounds. If the kettle is covered, these compounds will condensate on the lid and drip back into the wort. If the compounds cannot escape, they will show up in the finished beer as cabbage or corn-like flavors.
Also, covering your kettle increases the likelihood of a boil-over!
10. Cooling Your Wort With The Lid Off
Taking the lid off your wort will cool it faster, but that doesn’t mean you should do it! Removing the lid makes it all too easy for foreign particles and bacteria to fall in and contaminate your wort.
Either keep the lid on and be patient or purchase a wort chiller to safely speed up the cooling process.
11. Forgetting to Filter Your Wort
It is really important to filter your wort through a sanitized strainer before it goes into the primary fermenter. If you don’t, you’ll have tons of hoppy, malty sludge floating around in your beer.
While the sediment can be filtered out before bottling, the excess starches and proteins can impact the flavor and overall fermentation of your beer.
12. Not Using Enough Yeast
It is all too easy to underpitch yeast, especially if you are making a large volume of beer or a high gravity brew. Pay attention to the cell count of your yeast package, and if one package isn’t enough then you should use multiple packages or create a yeast starter.
Without enough yeast, your beer will not ferment completely. This can lead to off-flavors, overly sweet beer, and a lower-than-expected final gravity.
13. Pitching Yeast When The Wort Is Too Hot
Wort should be cooled to about 70°F before the yeast is pitched. Pitching yeast in wort that is too hot can shock or kill the yeast. If the yeast survive, starting fermentation at such a high temperature can produce off-flavors.
14. Using Fermenter That Is Too Small
Beer creates foams while it is fermenting, and this can lead to messy eruptions and overflow if there is not adequate headspace in the fermenter. Try to use a fermenter which is 20% larger than the volume of your batch.
15. Not Aerating The Wort Sufficiently
Beer needs yeast, and yeast need oxygen. Sufficiently aerating your wort after it is cooled (< 80°F) and before you add the yeast is really important for proper fermentation.
16. Oxidizing Your Beer
Introducing oxygen into the beer after primary fermentation has started can lead to too many early fermentation compounds being released. These compounds, like diacetyl, can create off-flavors in your beer.
To prevent oxidation, it is important to carefully siphon beer from vessel to vessel and reduce disturbances as much as possible.
17. Starting The Siphon With Your Mouth
Starting your siphon with your mouth introduces all kinds of foreign bacteria into your beer. You are always better off using an auto siphon, which can purchased quite cheaply.
18. Leaving Your Beer in Direct Light
Photochemical reactions with hop compounds can give your beer a skunky flavor, so it is best to keep your beer out of direct sunlight. Brown bottles filter out the ultraviolet wavelengths which cause these reactions, but blue, green, and clear bottles do not.
19. Bottling Too Early
Brewing requires a lot of waiting. It is easy to get impatient and try to bottle your beer too early. Don’t do it! Your beer will continue to ferment during the bottle condition period, and the built-up pressure will eventually cause the bottles to explode.
20. Not Adding (Enough) Priming Sugar
Skimping on priming sugar (or forgetting it all together) will leave you with undercarbonated, unsatisfying beer. A great way to make sure each bottle has adequate priming sugar is to use carbonation conditioning tablets.
21. Adding Too Many Flavors
In addition to malt, hops, and yeast, beer can be flavored with all sorts of herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables. Experimenting with flavors is exciting, but adding too many different flavors at once can ruin a great beer.
Unless you know exactly how the flavors will work together, it is best to start out with just one or two.
22. Selecting A Recipe That Is Too Advanced
When you are just starting out, it can be really tempting to try everything at once. You’ll be better off sticking with simple recipes until you get the hang of everything.
When you do start to experiment, play around with one ingredient or aspect at a time.
23. Taking Short Cuts
Don’t skimp on cleaning. Let your wort cool completely. Weigh your hops. Siphon carefully. If you try to cut corners, your results will usually reflect it!
24. Setting Unreasonable Expectations
No one gets it right all the time. That is part of the fun of homebrewing! If you want to make perfect beer every time, you should look for a job at a commercial brewery.
25. Not Taking Good Notes
Without good notes, you’ll never be able to repeat what worked well nor avoid what didn’t. I’d recommend starting a brewing notebook. It helps keep things organized, plus it is a fun way to chronicle your growth as a homebrewer!
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