Common Homebrew mistakes and how to rectify them

Common Homebrew mistakes

homebrew mistakes andy hamilton

That doesn’t taste quite right

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

Homebrew mistakes 3 broken bottles

Not a pretty sight

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.

 

 

Andy Hamilton

Brewer, forager, broadcaster, spaceman occasional liar

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4 Responses

  1. Ken says:

    1) Running the wort off into a 5 gallon bucket fitted with a tap, left the tap open from the previous usage, and walked away. Came back 10 mins later to find I’d only got about 5 litres of wort in the bucket and 10 litres all over the floor. Wooden floors, I didn’t stand a chance, it went through all the gaps 🙁

    2) My boiler has a tight fitting lid, useful for moving it when its full. Not so useful when you want to boil as it turns it into a bomb! Boom (*) the inside of my shed was covered with hot sweet sticky wort. Which turned mouldy 🙁

    (*) another correct usage!

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      1 is Easily done! I’ve never lost quite that amount though. I’m gutted for you.

      Thanks for posting and offering another correct useage of the word “Boom” too.

  2. Not just the wrong type of yeast (do people *really* still try brewing with bread or wine yeast??) but insufficient amounts, yeast of poor health and then using it at the wrong temperatures.

    Kits used to often be guilty in supplying woefully undersized sachets – and even then, just sprinkling onto the wort loses lots of viability in comparison to a properly rehydrated dry yeast.

    The same may be true for the White Labs / Wyeast packs – when fresh they can be direct pitched, but when they aren’t particularly fresh, a starter should be made to grow up the right number of cells. Lagers should always use starters as cold pitching doubles the pitching rates needed.

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      They do indeed Graeme, if you look at many of the older recipes they just state, “yeast”. At talks I often get people asking me about why there booze hasn’t brewed properly and often they have used bread yeast. But actually, I’ve brewed beer with champagne yeast and it works pretty well…

      Yeast starter are the way forward… but too, pitching at the right temperature.

      Anyway, some good points there mate thanks for your comment.

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