Common Homebrew mistakes
Common homebrew mistakes are common as most have made them. Every brewer has either made, or been given some kind of monstrosity that is supposed to be beer, wine or elderflower champagne. For some these early homebrew mistakes can be enough to stop the would be brewer in their tracks, which is a real shame. The fact of the matter is though, that the wise learn more from their mistakes and so rather than deter they should spur you on. The more mistakes you have made, the bigger your potential for wisdom.
Here are just some of the most common homebrew mistakes that luckily, are easy to avoid. Remember, you learn from your mistakes but really, it’s much cheaper to learn from other peoples! For more advice pick up one of my books, either Booze for Free or Brewing Britain or you might want to join the Booze Academy.
Common Homebrew mistake 1 – Improper sanitation
This can manifest itself in a number of ways, beer/wine tasting like eau de nail polish remover, wine/beer turning to a jelly like substance, mould forming on your wort and cider like flavours are just some of them.
How to rectify
Rinse and clean everything before and after use and perhaps even give a little spray with a non rinse cleaner such as Star San. It is especially important to keep all equipment that comes into contact with your wort or must (unfermented beer or wine) free of any contaminant. This means not just clean but sterile too. Check all plastic fermentation buckets for scratches as bacteria and yeast cells can lurk in these hard to clean areas.
Common Homebrew Mistake 2 – The wrong yeast
Every beer or wine you make will taste pretty similar. Or worse, they won’t fully ferment, no matter what you do. Try not to use bread yeast or super wine yeast both are considered relics of a bygone age of homebrewing when most things tasted like shit.
How to rectify
There are many amazing yeasts you can now buy from Danstar, Wyeast, White labs and fermentis (amongst others). These are readily available from good homebrew shops or online. Do some research, have a look on web forums and see what others recommended. Try matching up your beer, wine or cider with the correct yeast and never use bread yeast unless of course, you are making bread.
Common Homebrew Mistake 3 – Bottle’s blowing up
Quite self explanatory. You spend weeks if not months fermenting your beer or wine and boom*, shards of glass and sticky liquid is splattered all over your nice clean carpet.
* This is the correct and only useage for the late middle English word, “boom“.
How to rectify
If you bottle too early or over prime you can be in danger of exploding bottles. Try priming using a bottling bucket and working out the exact amount of sugar needed using a priming calculator. To avoid bottling too early allow around 10 days – 2 weeks in the secondary for your beer. As for wine and cider make sure it has been moved to a warmer place (up to 25c) and take three hydrometer readings over three days, ensure they are all the same.
If making Elderflower champagne, either use this recipe or put the bottles in the fridge. Colder temperatures will slow down the fermentation process. You may also wish to “burp” them, but opening up and allowing a bit of the gas to escape.
More common homebrew mistakes
Please feel free to post your mistakes below perhaps including how you rectified them.