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5. The Brewing Process

Liquid Yeast

5.1 My William's Liquid Yeast arrived already swollen. What should I do?

Depends on how much it is swollen. If it is puffy but you can still feel the inner nutrient pack, the yeast is fine - go ahead and break the nutrient pack. Once the nutrient pack is broken, you will see your puffy pack grow larger, indicating it is ready to use. On the other hand, if the yeast arrives fully swollen and you cannot feel the inner pack to break it, please check this link or call us between 8-5 Pacific Time at 800-759-6025 (press option 4).

5.2 I made my wort, but the yeast has not swollen yet. What should I do?

This is a big problem, because until the liquid yeast pack swells, you do not know for sure if it is active. You can gamble by adding the yeast pack that has not swollen, hoping the yeast is active, or substitute a pack of good quality dry yeast. If you add a pack of liquid yeast that is not swollen, you have about a 40% chance of saving the batch, if you add a fresh pack of dry yeast, you have about a 90% chance of saving the wort from infection, although the resultant beer will not have the cleaner flavor imparted by the liquid yeast. Leaving the wort for several days without adding yeast will always result in bacterial infection and a sour flavor, so ordering more yeast from William's will probably not save the wort, especially liquid yeast, which needs to be started once it is received. Overnight delivery of yeast is very expensive, as overnight air charges start at $17.00 for a letter sized package.

Bottom line - add the yeast you have, and hope it turns out okay. If you happen to have good dried brewing yeast on hand, add this also, but it is not worth the overnight delivery charges to get fresh yeast, as even the 24 hours the wort sits without yeast is probably too long.  Next time, make sure you follow the directions on the pack and wait till the pack is swollen before making up the wort.

5.3 My William's Liquid Yeast was popped 4 days ago and hasn't swollen.

The first question is what temperature the yeast pack has been since the inner nutrient pouch was broken? If it has been over 65° F, leave it for an additional 3 days, placing it in a warmer (ideally a steady 75° to 80° F.) location. It must swell to at least 1 ½ " thick in 7 days or it is defective. See warranty information on the pack for free replacement information.

5.4 My William's Liquid Yeast was popped 7 days ago and hasn't swollen.

If it has been over 65° F. (a steady 65° F, ideally 75° to 80° F.) call the special toll free number on the pack between 8-5 Pacific Time weekdays for warranty replacement information. If has been cooler than 65° F. place it in a warmer area and wait an additional 4 days before calling.

5.5 My William's Liquid Yeast has only risen ¾ of an inch. Should I use it?

No, a healthy ferment inside the pack is needed to start your wort, and the sign of a healthy ferment is a pack that has swollen to at least 1 ½ " thick. If your pack only rises to ½ or ¾" of an inch after 7 days, do not use it, see this link, or call the toll free number on the pack for warranty information.

5.6 My William's Liquid Yeast pack is swollen tight and I cannot brew today. How long will it last?

After a pack has swollen tight, the yeast remains in the peak active state for about 2 days. If you cannot brew in this time frame, refrigerate the pack, and it will last an additional 5 days. Keep in mind that if you refrigerate the pack, it will become less active, and harder for it to start a full 5 gallons of wort, which increases the danger of bacterial infection in the beer. The best thing to do in this case is to make a yeast starter to reactivate the yeast (see the yeast starter section directly below).

5.7 Should I make a yeast starter, and how should I do it?

A yeast starter is simply a miniature version of the main ferment, and its purpose is to give inactive yeast a chance to activate and multiply. The starter must be sterile, as any bacteria in the starter will grow faster than the yeast and ruin your beer. It is always a good idea to make a yeast starter, as the amount of yeast in liquid and dry home brewing packages is always less than optimum for 5 gallons. However, yeast starters take more time, and must be done carefully, as a carelessly made starter that contains bacteria will become a bacteria starter, and will be worse than if you did not make a starter at all. If you have the time, and are very careful, make a starter, otherwise, use the swollen William's Liquid Yeast pack as soon as it swells, or use dry yeast.

To make a good yeast starter, you will need a  1000-3000 ml (2000-3000ml flask  for 10 gallon batches) Erlenmeyer Flask, 2 tablespoons of malt extract in dry or liquid form (dry is easier to measure), and a heat resistant foam stopper to fit your flask (see William's Catalog under yeast culturing).

First you will need to start the William's Liquid Yeast Package by hitting it to break the inner nutrient pack, and then waiting for the pack to swell, which takes 2 to 7 days. Once the pack is swollen, prepare your starter.

To make a yeast starter for 5 gallons of wort, add 2 level tablespoons of dry or liquid malt extract to 300 ml of hot water in a 500 ml or larger heat-resistant Erlenmeyer Flask, shake to stir and place it on a stove (preferably gas) or in a large microwave (double this amount to pitch 10 gallons).. Heat until the boil just starts and then turn off the heat to avoid a boil over which will rise. Repeat this 3 times (until the boil no longer produces a boil over), and then place a heat resistant foam stopper (see this link) in the mouth of the flask and boil one more time for about 30 seconds to sanitize. Watch carefully to make sure the nutrient does not boil over during this final boil.

Let the flask cool until it is body temperature or lower (minimum 70° F.) with the stopper in place to filter out incoming bacteria. Shake the swollen liquid yeast pack, and cut off one of the top corners. Pour the yeast mixture into the starter bottle, averting your breath, which contains bacteria. Once the mixture is poured in, replace the foam stopper. Let the starter sit for 1 to 3 days at 65°- 78° F. until you see a thin white layer of foam form on the surface, and a white sediment of yeast deposited on the bottom. You will also see rising bubbles in the starter, indicating it is ready to pitch. Once you see the signs of an active starter, make your wort and pitch within 48 hours. Your beer should start within 8 to 24 hours, and have less danger of bacterial infection (assuming your starter is clean) than beer made straight from the liquid yeast pack.

5.8 Can I use yeast in a bottle of home brew or commercial brew to make another batch?

You can, although without a microscope and cell isolation equipment, it can be a bit risky, as you never know exactly how pure the yeast in the bottom of the bottle is. A good general test is to taste the beer in the bottle, if it is clean without sourness or yeasty off-flavors, the yeast in the sediment is probably good enough to use, assuming the bottle is not too old (over 3 months) and the yeast is still alive. Obviously, it is safer to do this with domestic craft brews and your own home brew than with imports of uncertain age. Remember that many imported ales with yeast sediments are fermented with a different strain than the one used at bottling, the bottling strain chosen primarily for its good settling characteristics.

To start yeast in a bottle of beer with a yeast sediment, pour off the beer, and then pour the sediment into a yeast starter. Wait 1 to 4 days for it to start (see above for yeast starter instructions).

Dry Yeast

5.10 I added dry yeast two days ago and nothing is happening. What should I do?

The first question is, what is the temperature of the wort? If it is below 65°F. warm it up to 70° F. or warmer until the ferment starts. Otherwise, if it is above 65° F, try to warm it up to at least 70° F. Keep in mind that some dry strains, in particular Whitbread Ale Yeast, are much slower starting than others, and can occasionally take 3 days or longer to start.

5.11 I pitched my yeast at 100° F. Is it dead?

Probably not, particularly if it is an ale strain. Keep the wort at a minimum of 65° F. for 3 days and it should start. If it is a liquid lager strain, it could be dead, but give it three days anyway to see.

Mashing

5.12 How should I set my malt mill when crushing grain?

Set it to the point where all the kernels are crushed. This is best done by opening it up, and then closing the adjustment screw until you reach the point where all the kernels coming out are crushed. 

5.13 I am taking an iodine test and it keeps changing color. What is wrong?

Although the iodine test is generally reliable when using pale malt (use tincture of iodine available at licensed pharmacies), it can be less than reliable when mashing with wheat malt or adjuncts. If the iodine keeps changing color, and you have mashed for over an hour at 150° - 158° F., leave the mash for another 30 minutes. If the iodine still changes color, go ahead and start sparging, as you have converted all the starches you can with the available enzymes, and you will probably still get a good extraction rate.

5.14 When do I take a pH reading when mashing?

Take a pH reading when you first strike the mash, just after you have mixed the grain with the hot strike water. This is best done with a pH meter, as paper strips are hard to read, particularly when the color of the mash stains the paper. The ideal pH for mashing is 5.0 to 5.5. To lower a mash that has too high a reading, use food grade 88% lactic acid (sparingly, use 1 drop at a time and then recheck); to raise a mash that is too acid, use calcium carbonate (no more than 1 teaspoon of the powdery chalk in a mash for 5 gallons). Be careful when handling lactic acid, as it is hazardous.

Bottom line - if the water you use for brewing has a neutral pH of 7.0, you probably do not have to worry about the pH of you mash. Adding the grain during the strike will reduce the intial pH from 7.0 to 5.0 - 5.5.

5.15 Does it matter what pH my sparge water is?

Although the pH of your sparge water is not going to make or break your mash, for maximum sparge efficiency, the pH of sparge water should be 5.8 to 6.0

5.16 When do I add gypsum when mashing?

A predetermined amount of gypsum is added to the strike water before the mash is mixed. Generally, 1 to 3 teaspoons will be plenty to harden the water and lower the pH slightly with strike water of 30 to 120 PPM total hardness.

5.17 Single temperature or multiple temperature rest mashing?

We generally recommend single temperature (infusion) mashing for the beginner, as all William's grain malts are modified enough to convert fully at a single temperature rest of 150° - 158° F. held for one hour. Multiple temperature rests can help eliminate protein haze, although they generally do not result in more extract. For more on multiple temperature rest (decoction) mashing, see the New Brewing Lager Beer, by Gregory J Noonan (William's catalog #B41).

5.18 How do I do a partial mash?

A partial mash usually involves mashing 1 to 3 pounds of grain as a supplement to a malt extract brew. A partial mash is often employed so grains that must be mashed (such as flaked barley or vienna malt) can be used in an extract beer.

To make a partial mash, you will need to use at least 50% crushed pale malt, as it will provide the enzymes needed to convert adjuncts such as flaked barley, rice, or corn. Mix the crushed pale malt with the adjunct in a pot on a stove, and add ¼ gallon of 175° F. water per pound of grain used. Stir thoroughly to mix, and use a thermometer to keep the temperature at 150° - 160° F. for 1 hour (you will need to do a lot of stirring and using the stove burner for short periods).

After 1 hour, the mash will become sweet and loose some of its stiffness. At this point, ladle or dump the mashed grain into a lauter tank. Run 3 gallons of 170° F. water through the grain and into your boiling pot. Discard the grain after this sparging process, and use the runoff in the pot as your starter, bringing it to a boil and adding malt extract and hops to complete the wort. For more on mashing, see this book.

Malt Extract Brewing

5.19 How do I use grain when brewing with malt extract?

Malted grain like crushed crystal or roasted malt must be steeped before the boil when using malt extract, as the husks in grain, if left in the boil, will impart harsh tannin flavors. The best way to do this is to put the crystal (caramel) or roasted crushed malt in a muslin bag, tie off the end, and put it into your boiling pot as you are heating up the water for the boil. Let it steep like a big tea bag, removing it when the water comes to a boil. Discard the steeped grain and then add the malt extract and hops to the boil. The only grains that can be steeped are those without excessive starch content, like crystal malt, chocolate malt, black patent malt, and roasted malt. Other malted grain, like brown or pilsner, will become gummy with starch when steeping (not much flavor or extract will be obtained), and may add starch haze to the beer.

5.20 When making an extract beer, how many gallons should I boil?

Ideally, boil 5½ gallons when making a 5 gallon batch. You can get away with as little as 2½ gallons (add cold water after the boil to make 5 gallons), but the beer will be darker due to the more concentrated boil, and the danger of boil overs will be greatly increased.

5.21 Should I add all malt extracts, dry and liquid, at the start of the boil?

Yes, add all malt extracts and sugars if used, at the start of the one hour boil.

5.22 Should I worry about pH when using malt extract to brew?

No, pH is much more of a factor when mashing, and the pH of your water will not noticeably affect the final beer when using extract (as long as it is close to the neutral 7.0 level).

5.23 When do I add gypsum when using malt extract?

Add gypsum to the water before you add the malt extract. Generally 1-3 teaspoons is fine for a 5 gallon batch, each level teaspoon raising the total hardness of 5 gallons by about 163ppm. Many brewers claim you need to add some gypsum (3 tsp per 5 gallons)  to bring out the hop flavor of highly hopped IPA styles.

Boiling the Wort

5.24 Why boil for 1 hour? Why not just boil for a few minutes?

A boil of one hour may seem excessive, but it is vital in producing beer with a well-developed hop character and stable, clean flavor. Short boils as specified by some beginner kits do not allow the beer to develop its true stability and hop character.

Brewing is as much an art of shaping as of mixing. Malt and hops are not merely combined in hot water to form wort, they are boiled vigorously for 1 hour, ridding the malt through collision and coagulation of its raw haze and off-flavor causing proteins, and evaporating excessive aromatic hop oils while converting insoluble hop alpha acids into clean dissolved hop flavor. Like a lengthy slow simmer develops the flavor and texture of a delicate sauce, a vigorous boil shapes the flavor and polishes the look of beer.

5.25 How can I avoid a messy boil over?

Virtually all brewers have experienced a boil over at one time or another, and usually more than once. The danger of boil over is greatest when the pot first comes to a boil, and becomes unlikely after 5 minutes of boiling as the solution loses surface tension.

To avoid a boil over, boil as many gallons as you can (ideally 5 ½ gallons - a half gallon will boil off during the hour) and watch the pot like a hawk when it first comes to a boil. When you see the foam rise, stir the pot vigorously, and turn off the heat (easier on a gas stove). It helps also to blow on the foam to quell its rise. Turn the heat back on and watch again, when the malt foam rises again, repeat. Keep doing this (usually 2 to 4 times) until the pot develops a normal rolling boil without foaming.

5.26 I live at a high altitude. Should I do anything different when boiling?

There is no need to adjust boil times for high altitudes, boil for the usual 1 hour period.

Cooling the Wort

5.27 Do I need a wort chiller?

You do not need a wort chiller, although it is a great help in reducing the time it takes for wort to cool. Faster cooling times mean you can add the yeast sooner, reducing the time the wort sits without the protection of a fermentation produced C02 blanket. If you don't have a wort chiller, try putting the boiling pot (careful, it is heavy and hot!) into a cold water bath. See the section on brewing in warm Summer weather below for more on this.

5.28 How do I get the wort off the trub sediment and into a fermenter?

The best way to get it off the trub is to use a siphon. Fill a siphon hose with clean water, dip one end in the cooled wort and place the other below in a fermenter. The water in the hose will start the siphon without unsanitary mouth contact. Siphon until you start sucking up heavy sediment (a little trub can get into the fermenter without hurting anything).

5.29 What happens if some of the trub sediment gets into the fermenter?

The silty trub is hard to avoid, and you will always get some into the fermenter. Try to avoid getting the thickest sediment into the fermenter, by quitting siphoning when there is 1 to ½" of trub left in the boiling pot. Excessive trub in the fermenter has been linked to coarser-tasting beer and a shorter shelf life, although a little will not hurt the flavor, and has even been found to encourage yeast growth.

Yeast & Fermentation

5.30 I added the yeast two days ago and nothing is happening.

The temperature must be at least 65° F. for the yeast to start, even if you are brewing a lager. If the temperature is below 65° F., warm the wort and wait an additional two days. Otherwise, if the temperature is above 65° F., wait an additional two days, as some yeast strains, are slower than others, particularly when a starter has not been prepared in advance. For faster yeast starts in the future, prepare a yeast starter (see section above).

5.31 Do I need to add yeast nutrient?

When making an all malt beer, from extract or from grain, the answer is no. Malt contains a full variety of yeast nutrients, and additional yeast nutrient is not necessary. Yeast nutrient is only necessary when you are making wine or a mead, or when malt makes up 60% or less of the total fermentables in wort, such as some Belgian ales with a lot of added sugar.

5.32 My liquid yeast pack smells like rotten eggs when opened.

There is nothing wrong. Yeast, particularly lager strains, can produce sulfur smells when fermenting, so do not throw the pack out!

5.33 I added the yeast 4 days ago and nothing is happening.

First, make sure the temperature has been at least 65 F. for the past 4 days (even for lagers). Extreme temperature drops and rises will hinder the start of fermentation. If the temperature has been warm enough, you may need to add more yeast, if the beer does not start after the 5th day. See section 5.7 for information on making a yeast starter, which will help eliminate this problem in the future.

5.34 My airlock bubbled for a day or two and then stopped.

This is normal behavior in brewing, particularly for ales, and especially in warmer conditions. The bulk of the ferment occurs in a day or two, and the remaining ferment is so slight that it is often easier for the gas to seep out of the sides of the fermenter (when it is plastic) than to push up the water in the airlock. If you take a gravity reading, you will find that the beer is at or near its expected final gravity. Treat this batch like a normal batch, and ferment for the recommended 10-14 days.

5.35 My fermenter has overflowed the airlock. Is the batch bad?

Probably not. This is due to an extremely active ferment, and is more common with higher gravity ales in warmer weather. This overflowing will last for 8 to 20 hours, and then subside. Clean up the airlock and replace it on the fermenter. It may become clogged again, depending on how long before the overflowing subsides.

There is usually not a great danger of bacterial infection during this vigorous period, because fermentation produced C02 is being rapidly generated, shielding the beer from bacterial contamination. Carbon dioxide (C02) is heavier than air, and forms a blanket over the fermenting wort. Bacteria will suffocate in a C02 environment.

In the future, to avoid this situation, place the fermenter in a cooler area, or you might try switching to a glass carboy with 4' of 1" interior diameter blow off tubing attached.

5.36 My house gets warm in the Summer. How can I brew good beer?

You can brew very drinkable beer even if your temperatures average 78° F. during the Summer. The key is to brew only ales, as lagers are impossible at warmer temperatures. Try to brew in as cool an area as possible (a steady temperature is also very important), and use a water bath to help control the temperature if you do not have a spare refrigerator and a William's Controller (part #E26).

To make a water bath to help buffer temperature extremes, put the fermenter in a large laundry tub, adding water until the fermenter is immersed at least 1/3 of the way. Once filled, the water bath will assume the temperature of the beer inside the fermenter to within 1 degree after an hour. Placing a thermometer in the bath gives an accurate and easy to consult temperature reading of the fermenting beer.

The water bath controls fermentation temperature, buffering rises caused by fermentation (yeast action can raise the temperature by 9°). A tray of ice will provide about 2° of cooling in a typical 5 gallon fermenter - water bath setup. Some brewers place a T-Shirt over their fermenter in a water bath; the water wicks up into the cotton shirt and evaporates, cooling the fermenter by 2° to 3°. Placing a small electric fan pointed at the water bath (on a timer to go on during the heat of the day) will result in additional cooling.

5.37 What temperature range can I ferment ale yeast?

Ideally, ferment all ale yeast strains, liquid, dry and wheat beer yeast, at a steady 60° to 65° F. If you cannot maintain this narrow range, ferment at close to it as possible. The warmer the temperature, the more flavor yeast will contribute to the beer. This becomes objectionable at temperatures over 78° F. Temperatures below 60° F. will result in slowed or stopped fermentations, so try to keep ales from dropping below 60° F. during fermentation.

5.38 What temperature range can I ferment lager yeast?

Ideally, ferment at 52° to 57° F. If you cannot ferment at this narrow range, ferment as close to it as possible. Keep in mind that unless you make a large (1 quart) yeast starter, you will want to start your ferment at 65° F, and then cool it down by 8° per day to reach the desired 52° to 57° F. range. Temperatures over 65° F. will result in much stronger-flavored lagers that taste more like an ale than a lager. Do not ferment below 52° F., as ferments will be extremely slow and may stop, depending on the strain of yeast used.

5.39 My airlock has been bubbling for 3 weeks. What should I do?

First check to make sure the temperature is high enough for the type of yeast being used - 52° F. or higher for lagers, 60° F. or higher for ales and wheat beers.

Assuming the temperature is warm enough for the type of yeast being used, take two specific gravity readings in 4 days to determine if a stable final gravity reading has been reached. Record the first reading, and compare it to the second. If they both are identical (indicating a stable final gravity has been reached), and a reasonable finishing gravity has been reached (consult your recipe), the beer is safe to bottle. If not, let the beer sit for another 7 days and recheck. Beer can bubble on for months after it has finished fermenting, so do not rely on the airlock, rely on the hydrometer.

When beers are fermenting for periods of 3 weeks or more, it is always a good idea to transfer them to a secondary fermenter to get them off the yeast sediment. This will allow the beer to settle and clear without the potentially negative effective of a large yeast cake on the beers final flavor.

5.40 When do I take a hydrometer reading?

The hydrometer is employed twice while brewing: to determine the starting gravity, a good indication of the potential alcoholic strength of the beer, and later when the beer has finished fermenting, to determine if the beer has reached finishing gravity and is safe to bottle.

To find the starting gravity, the first reading is taken after the unfermented beer (wort) has cooled and before the yeast is added. The second reading should be taken after the beer has fermented for at least 10 days and the airlock has largely stopped bubbling to determine if the finishing gravity has been reached. For more on using the hydrometer, see Bill Moore's Home Beermaking book (see this link).

5.40a My starting gravity is way too high (or too low). What is wrong?

In a malt extract beer when less than 5 gallons is boiled , the problem usually stems from not adequately mixing the top-up cold water with the wort. Typical results will be very low (or very high) hydrometer readings.  Cold water and hot wort are a little like oil and water, and must be vigorously mixed for at least a minute to blend the hot sugars into the cold water.  Once mixed, you should get an accurate reading. Keep in mind that you also need to take a reading at 60° F. for accuracy. Spin the hydrometer before you take a reading, to get all the bubbles off the glass sides.

5.41 There are things floating in my beer. Should I worry?

Your beer is not spoiled, what you are seeing is coagulated protein flocs from the boil rising due to the bubbling action of yeast. This is more likely to happen when a lot of trub has been transferred from the boiling pot to the fermenter. To minimize this in the future, reduce the amount of trub that gets into the fermenter, by careful siphoning of the wort from the boiling pot to the fermenter. Using Irish moss and a little gypsum in the boil will also help settle out unwanted proteins, making siphoning easier.

5.42 There is a fine white dusty film on the surface of the beer.

This is a mold, caused by airborne spores dropping onto the surface of the beer. It generally will not hurt the beer or cause off-flavors, and will reappear in each bottle after bottling. This beer is not ruined, and you should go ahead and bottle it (tasting the beer before bottling is always a good idea to make sure it is not sour). To avoid this mold in the future, shield your fermenter from airborne drafts, or maybe move it to a different location.

5.43 My beer smells like sulfur (rotten eggs). What is wrong?

During the ferment, many beer yeast's, particularly lager strains, give off sulfur compounds. This is not a problem and your beer is not spoiled. As the ferment proceeds, the amount of sulfur smell will decrease, and sulfur smell will not be present in the finished beer.  Lager beers and wine ferments give off the most sulfur odor.

5.44 When should I transfer my beer to a secondary fermenter?

Transfer after the head produced by the primary fermentation has dropped back into the beer. This is generally after 5 to 8 days in the primary fermenter. Keep in mind that the bulk of the ferment takes place in the primary fermenter, and the secondary fermenter is used primarily as a settling tank, to clear the beer by sedimentation before bottling or kegging.

5.44a Should I use one fermenter or two?

We recommend that beginners use just one fermenter, to minimize beer handling and the chance of contamination. Once you have brewed a few batches, we recommend you try a primary and secondary fermenter - usually a Siphonless and a 5 gallon Better Bottle or glass carboy (although a Priming Tank with the Siphonless lid and airlock attached  will work as a secondary). This is done to encourage yeast settling and to minimize the effects of the large yeast sediment in the primary fermenter producing off-flavors which might taint the beer. This is more crucial in light flavored delicate beers than in heavy stouts and ales.

Bottling & Kegging

5.45 How do I know if my beer is ready to bottle?

Nine to twelve days after adding the yeast, the beer will probably be finished fermenting and ready to bottle. Before bottling or kegging, it is necessary to take 2 hydrometer readings in 4 days to make sure the final gravity has been reached.

Put a sanitized hydrometer into your beer and spin it to dislodge any bubbles that may distort the reading. The reading is taken at the point where the stem emerges from the beer. Take the first reading and record it. Wait 4 days and take a second reading - if it matches the first, and a reasonable finishing gravity has been reached (consult your recipe), the beer is safe to bottle, assuming fermentation temperature was high enough for the type of yeast used.

5.46 Do I need to sanitize bottle caps?

Here at William's, we do not sanitize bottle caps, as we do not believe they put the beer at risk. If you want to sanitize bottle caps, soak them briefly in diluted Brewer's Edge Cleanser or iodine solution, and then rinse before using. Oxygen absorber bottle caps should not be sanitized before use - just use them out of the bag. This is what the large brewers do.

5.47 How do I artificially carbonate keg beer?

This can be done in full sized Beverage Systems using Cornelius-type kegs, but not in Mini Keg systems. To inject carbonation, fill a 3 or 5 gallon keg with beer, and attach a gas line. Refrigerate to 45° F. or lower (beer will not carbonate at warmer temperatures), and turn up the gas to 25 PSI. Leave for 3 days.

After 3 days, turn off the gas and pull the top ring on the keg pressure relief valve to release the excess head pressure. Turn back on the gas and set the dispensing pressure to 3 PSI. It make take several hours for the beer to settle down after releasing the top pressure, so be patient. After 6 hours, the beer should dispense smoothly, and be carbonated. 

5.48 Will the yeast sediment in my keg beer be a problem when dispensing?

As long as the keg is not moved, the yeast sediment will remain on the bottom of the keg. The first glass or two to be dispensed from a keg system with Cornelia-type kegs will be yeasty, but then the area around the pick up tube will free of yeast, and the remaining beer will dispense clear. If you plan to move your keg beer, see 5.45 above to reduce the yeast sediment.

Priming

5.49 How much corn sugar should I use for a bottled batch?

Use 4½ ounces of corn sugar for a 5 gallon batch. This is approximately ¾ of a cup, but it is best to weigh it out, as corn sugar can vary in bulk from lot to lot, and it depends on how it is packed into the cup. Over carbonation caused by measuring errors can be dangerous, and can lead to personal injury. Always make sure the beer has finished fermenting before bottling by properly using a hydrometer.

5.50 How much corn sugar should I use for a kegged batch?

Use 3 ounces in 5 gallons by weight. This is approximately ½ a cup, but it is best to weigh it out, and corn sugar can vary in bulk from lot to lot, and over carbonation can be dangerous, and lead to personal injury. Always make sure the beer has finished fermenting before bottling by properly using a hydrometer.  For a single 1.3 gallon mini keg or Tap A Draft Bottle, use ¾ of an ounce per keg by weight. 

5.51 I am putting half the beer in Tap A Draft Bottles, and half in bottles. How much sugar do I use to carbonate both?

Kegged beer always has a lower carbonation level than bottled beer. Use 1.80 of an ounce for 2.5 gallons going into bottles, and 1.50 oz. for the 2.6 gallons going into the Tap A Draft bottles. . Weigh out the amounts to ensure accurate carbonation levels - do not rely on volume measurements, as excessive carbonation in mini kegs or bottles can be dangerous and lead to personal injury. Always make sure the beer has finished fermenting before kegging by properly using a hydrometer.

5.52 Can I prime with malt extract instead of corn sugar?

Yes, although the results can be less consistent, as malt extract, unlike corn sugar, varies in fermentable sugar content. To prime 5 gallons of beer for bottling with dry malt extract, use 5 ½ oz. by weight, or 1 ¼ cup by volume. Measuring by volume is not very accurate, and can lead to over carbonated beer which can be dangerous. For syrup extract, use 6 ½ oz. by weight. Mix the dry or syrup malt extract with 2 cups of hot water and boil for 5 minutes before stirring into the beer (you do not need to let it cool before adding).

5.53 Can I prime with honey or molasses instead of corn sugar?

Yes, although the results will be less consistent than when using corn sugar, due to the varying strength of the syrup and varying fermentable sugar content. Use 6 ½ ounces by weight, and be prepared for lighter than normal carbonation if the honey or molasses is thinner than 80% solids.

5.54 Can I prime with brown sugar instead of corn sugar?

Yes, use the same amount by weight (4 ½ ounces) per 5 gallons. You probably will not notice any difference in flavor.

5.55 Can I prime with fresh wort instead of corn sugar?

Yes, this is called krausening. You need to use enough (approximately 1 quart of 1.042 specific gravity wort) to raise the gravity of the finished beer by 3 or 4 points (from 1.040 to 1.043 for example). Stir in your fresh wort until the gravity rises by this amount. Keep in mind the wort must be freshly made up and sterile, as wort that has been sitting since the start of the brew (even if kept in the refrigerator sealed) will have some bacterial contamination. This is due to the fact that boiling for 1 hour does not kill heat resistant bacteria spores, which grow after a few days in freshly boiled wort. This is not a problem in freshly boiled wort, as the boiled bacteria spores will be dormant for long enough to let the yeast start and gain dominance before the bacteria can get going. The only way to truly sterilize wort is to pressure cook it at 250° F. for 20 minutes. This higher temperature and pressure is required to kill bacteria spores.

5.56 Can I prime with maple syrup instead of corn sugar?

Yes, first dilute the maple syrup with 50% boiling water, and then stir into the beer to raise the gravity by 3 - 4 points (see above). You will probably not notice any difference in flavor with this small amount of maple syrup compared with corn sugar.

Aging & Drinking

5.57 My beer has been bottled for 3 weeks but is flat. What is wrong?

The mostly likely cause of low or no carbonation is too low a temperature after capping. The yeast in beer needs a steady temperature of 65° F. minimum for 7 days to carbonate, and works better at 70° - 75° F. If the beer has been kept in too cold an area, move it to a warmer area and let it sit for an additional 9 days before checking again. After moving it to a warm area, shake all the bottles vigorously to rouse the yeast and get it back in suspension (do this every 3 days after moving). This will help the yeast eat the carbonating corn sugar and produce carbonation.

5.58 My beer has too much carbonation. What is wrong?

This is most likely caused by bottling before the ferment has finished. If the over carbonated beer tastes good, pour it into a pitcher first to let the excess gas escape before pouring it into a glass.

In the future, always take two hydrometer readings 4 days apart to determine if the beer has finished fermenting, assuming the temperature is warm enough for the type of yeast you are using. Take the first one after 12 days of fermentation, and the second 4 days later. If the second reading is lower than the first, take another reading until you get two that are the same.

5.59 My mini keg is bulging. What is wrong?

Your beer is over carbonated. You can sometimes relieve excess pressure by pushing a dull kitchen knife under the rubber bung until you hear hissing. This is a dangerous situation, and gloves and eye protection should be worn when dealing with a swollen keg. See section above.

5.60 My keg beer seems under carbonated

Keg beer, whether commercial or home brewed, always has less carbonation than bottled beer. If your keg beer seems really flat, try adding carbonation (this does not work on a Tap A Draft) by turning the pressure up to 25 PSI for 1 to 2 days while the beer is refrigerated. This will force more C02 into the beer. After a day or two, reduce the dispense pressure to 3 PSI and remove the excess head pressure by pulling on the relief valve on the center of the keg.

If your Tap A Draft System beers seems under carbonated, the only thing you can do is place the bottle in a warmer area and hope the yeast reactivates to further carbonate the keg (shake the bottle to facilitate this . In the future, be sure your kegs are kept in a warm area (a steady 65° F. minimum) for 9 days after sealing, to help the yeast work to eat all the priming sugar.

5.61 The head of my beer dissipates as soon as it is poured.

A short lived head can be caused by a lack of carbonation, over carbonation, lack of malt content, or most commonly, beer glasses with an oily or soapy film on the glass. To test if your glasses are 'beer clean', take one and scrub it with salt and water. Then fill it with beer and see if your head retention has improved. If not, the problem could be with the carbonation level, ingredients used, fermentation temperature, aging, and more.

Over carbonated beers tend to loose their heads quickly, as do beers fermented at very warm temperatures (75° F. or higher). Make sure you are using the freshest hops you can find, as oils from fresh hops increase head retention. Check the malt content - if you are using less than 6 lbs. of malt extract (or 9 lbs. of crushed grain) per 5 gallon batch, you might want to increase the malt content of the beer. Adding a pound of wheat malt or flaked barley (mashed beers only) will also help with head retention.

5.62 My draft beer is foamy. How do I adjust it?

If using a full sized Beverage System with Cornelius-type kegs, just turn down the dispensing pressure (the screw in the center of the regulator) and release headspace pressure by pulling on the keg pressure relief valve located in the center of the lid. Do this until the beer settles down (wait 3 hours after releasing the headspace pressure). Other causes of too foamy draft beer can be a too short tap hose (the tap hose should be at least 4' long to allow the beer to settle down after it has come out of the keg fitting), and serving beer at too warm a temperature. When you hose is 4' or shorter, make sure it is 3/16" inner diameter, as 1/4" inner diameter beer hose does not provide enough restriction of the flow to prevent foaming.

5.63 My beer has a haze that forms when chilled. What is this?

This is chill haze, formed by proteins that coagulate into a visible haze when the beer is chilled. Chill haze does not affect the flavor of beer. It will settle out naturally if you keep the beer refrigerated for 4 to 6 weeks. For those with less time or refrigerator space, chill haze proteins can be largely removed from the beer before bottling by using Silica Gel (William's product number A17).

5.64 My beer has a white layer on the bottom of each bottle. What is this?

The white layer is yeast, and is present in all home brewed beer that has been naturally carbonated by the action of the yeast eating priming sugar. Although it will not hurt you, and is full of vitamin B, it does taste yeasty. Decant the beer off the yeast sediment into a glass to avoid picking up the yeast sediment.

5.65 How long does beer last when bottled or kegged?

Beer will last for years, but is usually only fresh for 1 to 3 months. The exception to this is extremely strong beers like Barley Wines, Strong Ales, and Belgian Triple styles, with starting gravities over 1.070, which will mellow and mature for years is stored in a cool dark place (ideally 55° F). Other beers, particularly wheat beers and light ales, tend to reach their peak 2 - 3 weeks after bottling or kegging, and then start to lose their fresh aromatic quality after 6 to 8 weeks. For the longest shelf life, store beer refrigerated. Beer will last about the same amount of time, whether stored in bottles or kegs.

Taste

5.66 My beer tastes cidery. What is wrong?

Most likely too much (over 30% of the total fermentable sugar content) adjunct sugar was used. Try brewing with less corn or other sugar next time. To completely eliminate the cidery flavor, try brewing with 100% malt (either extract or grain). A cidery flavor, when the beer is heavy in malt content, can also be caused by a bacterial infection.

5.67 My beer has a sour taste. What is wrong?

Sour tastes are invariably caused by bacterial infections. The most common bacterial infection starts when the wort is cooled and before the yeast has started, because once yeast starts, it produces bacteria-suffocating C02 gas.

To reduce the danger of bacterial infections in the future, make sure all your equipment is sanitized, avoid airborne bacteria by brewing in an area that is not exposed to drafts or dust (furry or feathered pets are notorious for spreading airborne bacteria through dust), and try making a yeast starter, to reduce the lag time before fermentation starts.

5.68 My beer tastes thin. What is wrong?

This can be caused by a lack of malt dextrins in the beer, which is usually the result of insufficient malt content. Beers made with large amounts of corn or other sugars invariably taste watery. Try adding more malt extract or grain to the next batch. A thin flavor can also be caused by a bacterial infection, while is often accompanied by higher than anticipated carbonation levels.

5.69 My beer has a metallic or medicine-like taste

This is usually caused by a wild yeast or bacterial infection (see sour taste above).

5.70 My beer tastes yeasty

This can be caused by the stirred up yeast sediment on the bottom of the bottle or keg. Try to decant the beer with the next bottle you open, to avoid the silty yeast sediment. This can also be caused by wild yeast, or a poor quality strain (some dry yeast strains produce a yeasty flavor). Try switching the type of yeast used on your next batch. Finally, a 'yeast-bitten' flavor can be caused by too high fermentation temperatures. Too high for lagers is over 65° F., too high for ales is over 75° F.

5.71 My beer has a burnt flavor

This can be caused by burning the malt extract on the bottom of the pot. If this has happened, you might also notice black flakes in the wort after the boil. In the future, turn off the heat on your boiling pot when you mix the malt extract in, and mix it thoroughly (until all traces dissolve from your stirring spoon) before turning the heat back on. This is easier to do with a gas stove!

6. Equipment Questions

Mashing

6.1 What size sparge arm should I get for my mashing system?

Use one that is at least 1" less in diameter than your mash tun so the arm can spin. 

Boiling

6.2 Can I use an aluminum pot for brewing?

It is best not to use aluminum for brewing, as aluminum reacts with acids in wort. This can lead to off-flavor formation, and some believe the trace amounts of aluminum which end up in the wort are not good for you, although this has not been proven. It is best to use stainless steel or enameled steel when brewing.

6.3 How large a boiling pot do I need?

If you plan on only doing extract brewing, a 5 gallon brew pot will suffice, although a 7 gallon or larger will make your life easier, as you can boil the entire 5 gallon batch, which results in less danger of boil overs and less darkening of the beer.

6.4 Cache Cooker (Outdoor Burner) Questions and Answers

Question: Where is the temperature control on your Q20 Low Pressure and E53 High Pressure Burners? On the burner or on the hose?

Answer: The low pressure burner Q20 has a gas adjusting valve near the burner, while the high pressure burner E53 has one on the end of the hose, next to the propane tank connection. The low pressure Q20 burner allows for a finer range of gas adjustment, which is needed when mashing. The high pressure E53 burner is best for wort boiling, as it will bring 5 gallons to a boil in under 20 minutes (compared to under 40 minutes for the Q20 low pressure burner).

Question: What type of gas fittings are on both burners?

Answer: Both burners feature the current barbecue style safety fittings, and will fit current 20 lb. tanks sold in hardware and home center stores.

Question: How long does a standard 20 lb. propane tank last?

Answer: On average, the Q20 Low Pressure Burner will run for 15 hours on a 20 lb. propane tank when turned up, while the E53 High Pressure Burner will run for 4 hours on a 20 lb. tank when turned up fully. Keep in mind you usually back off the gas after the wort begins boiling, so your fuel consumption will probably be quite a bit better than these figures.

Question: I want to hold the temperature at 150 F. for an hour when mashing. Which burner should I buy?

Answer: Get the Q20 Low Pressure Burner. It features a much finer degree of gas control than the E53 High Pressure Burner. Keep in mind you will have to adjust the heat quite often, and stir the mash, as the burners do not come with any sort of thermostat.

Fermentation

6.5 Plastic or glass, what type of fermenter should I use?

For short term beer contact (under 3 weeks) plastic works well, and has the advantage of being easier to handle and clean. Better Bottles, made from non porous PET plastic, are the exception to this rule, and can be used for long (3-6 month) fermentation and storage times. Plastic can be used for both primary and secondary fermentation, as long as the total contact time of the beer with the plastic is three weeks or less. For long term lagering of beer, use a Better Bottle or glass carboy, as glass and PET plastic is completely non porous, and has the advantage of giving you a good look at the fermenting beer. Many brewers compromise by using a plastic primary fermenter (like the William's Siphonless), and a 5 gallon Better Bottle or glass carboy as a secondary.

6.6 How do I sanitize your Q38 and Q34 Foam Stoppers?

These can be cleaned by soaking them for 10 minutes in dilute Iodophor or Brewer's Edge Cleanser. Then squeeze them to dry. There is not need to sterilize the stoppers, as the steam rising during the boiling of the yeast starter solution or media will kill any bacteria present.

Kegging

6.7 Should I get a Tap A Draft a full sized Beverage System?

Tap A Draft systems are great for brewers who want to try out draft beer and have limited refrigerator space. However, they lack the durability of a full sized Beverage System, and do not allow you to carbonate beer (or soda) by C02 injection.

If you want a permanent system with maximum flexibility, and have a spare refrigerator, get a full sized Beverage System. If you want to experiment with draft beer and do not want to invest a lot at the start, Tap A Draft Systems are a good way to go. 

6.8 How long do Mini Kegs last?

Figure 6 to 12 uses, depending on how well you care for them. They are steel with a lacquer-lined interior, and will eventually rust at the seams or where a dent occurs. Cleaning thoroughly after use, using Keg Lube on the lip of the bung sealing hole, and letting them dry thoroughly will extend their life closer to the 12 uses than the six. You will know a Mini Keg is rusting when the beer gets a slight metallic taste, or by peering through the bung hole with a small flashlight for spots of rust.

Bottling

6.9 Can I use twist off bottles?

Twist off bottles can be used in a pinch, but expect occasional failures to seal, which may ruin a few bottles of beer. This is because the sealing lip on a twist off is very thin, giving the cap less area to seal. In addition, the glass is thinner and weaker, leading to more chips. It is always best to use non-twist off bottles when brewing.

6.10 How can I remove labels from beer bottles?

Use dilute Brewer's Edge Cleanser or PBW cleanser.  Use eye protection and gloves for safety when mixing any cleanser. Soak the bottles for 24 hours or longer, until the labels start to lift off the glass. Some labels, particularly waterproof foil labels, are very hard to remove, but many commercial labels will just lift off the glass. Rinse thoroughly when done.

6.11 Are oxygen barrier caps worth the extra cost?

That depends on what you are using them for. Oxygen barrier caps absorb the oxygen out of the bottle headspace. This can help preserve hop aroma in lightly flavored beers, and is recommended for beers bottled for competitions. Keep in mind, however, that most commercial brewers do not use oxygen barrier caps, and great beers can be capped with regular bottle caps!

6.12 Can I bottle beer in mason jars or wine bottles?

No! Beer must be bottled in glass designed to hold the pressure, which are beer bottles, soda bottles, or champagne bottles. Using wine bottles or mason jars is an invitation to disaster, as they will explode as the carbonation builds after sealing.

7. Other Beverages

7.1 Can I carbonate William's soda extracts with yeast?

No, this can result in dangerous exploding bottles. The problem with adding yeast to soda is the carbonation can be very uneven, depending on temperature, yeast strain, and more. If the yeast eats too much of the sugars, the bottles will explode, conversely, if the yeast decides not to eat the sugar, the soda will be flat. For safety, we recommend that soda be made only in Beverage Systems and injected with C02 to produce carbonation.

7.2 My cider is cloudy after 2 months. Is this okay?

Generally yes. Cider can take a long time to clear (3-6 months), so keep it in a cool dark place (55° F. is ideal) so it can continue to settle out.

7.3 My wine or mead has stopped bubbling after 15 days. Is this normal?

Your wine or mead is probably fine, assuming the fermentation temperature is at least 68° F. The bulk of mead fermentation occurs during the first two weeks. If you are concerned about the progress of fermentation, take a hydrometer reading. It should be 1.040 or less (probably much less) after two weeks.

 


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