Beer Brewing Tips & Tricks

The shoulder seasons – Spring and Autumn – are the transition between Summer and Winter. They are also the gateway to the heartbreak of a lesser known phenomenon –flat beer!

Wildly fluctuating temperatures bring warm days and chilly nights. Your freshly bottled beer needs constant warmth for bottle fermentation to occur properly. Bottle fermentation takes place over 10 to 14 days under optimal conditions.

A little science happens to your homebrew once it’s bottled. The viable yeast still left in suspension after bottling mingle freely with the priming sugar and fermentation ensues! The by-product CO2 is trapped under the cap and absorbed into your beer.

If your freshly bottled beer is in a spot where it is exposed to cool temperatures before the viable yeast still in suspension have had the chance to ‘do their thing’, then it will take a very long time for them to convert the priming sugar into alcohol; if ever.

In the Autumn especially, we’re all reluctant to turn on the heat for the first time. We throw a sweater on to stay warm but do nothing to protect the fledgling beer. This is not the right time to chill your beer!

When you bottle your beer, put one or two of your beer in a P.E.T. pop type bottle (500ml) – not a water bottle – and leave them with the rest of your beer which is in glass bottles. When the P.E.T. is rock hard (like a new bottle of Coke) and there are little pockets of sediment in the divets in the bottom of the bottle, then the ‘sentinel’ beer has done its job and the batch is ready to pile into the fridge. No guesswork involved.

Opening a beer after waiting for a couple of weeks, anticipating a frosty, fizzy pint only to find flat, slightly sweet beer is a cruel and terrible disappointment…….and a waste. For this reason:

Be sure to leave the whole batch someplace where it will be WARM. It doesn’t need to be tropical, just not cool or cold.

Here’s a couple of other common fermentation issues:

  • Waiting too long to bottle a beer after it’s finished.

  • Racking too frequently to ensure that you have a really clear beer at bottling time.

Both actions cause more yeast to drop out of suspension and can result in a beer that is ‘too clean’. It will take a long time for the remaining yeast to build up to a level where they can finish the job.

While you don’t want to bottle cloudy beer, you need to have some of the yeast culture alive and kicking in order to provide the all-important bottle fermentation that represents the essence of home brewing. There’s a certain difference between homebrew & commercial beer that I believe is due in part to the final fermentation.