Showing posts with label beer brewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beer brewing. Show all posts

How long should homebrew stay in the fermenter drum?

Monday, September 28, 2020
The short answer is provided you have sterile conditions, you can leave the beer in the fermenter for months and months to age quite nicely. It's almost a 'set and forget' kind of product which is ideal as a finely aged beer will be a fine drink indeed. 

So, there is no set maximum time limit, however, there are a few things consider as to timings.

A lot of 'casual' beer brewers will likely adhere to the beer recipe or instructions on the malt kit and leave their wort to ferment for around a week to ten or days.

This usually allows enough time for fermentation to have completed.

And technically that's OK, and it's time to bottle.

But such timings completely ignore that there is a whole range of chemical processes happening in that wort you're fermenting that benefit from time left in the fermenter.

Yes, your trust yeast will likely have fermented enough alcohol to make a very drinkable beer but there are still a few things that happen - for example the yeast has to get rid of smells and other leftovers from the fermentation process, so giving it more time in the drum is of great benefit here. 

Weeks and months is better than a couple of weeks.

Have you ever heard of acetaldehyde

It is a by-product of brewing that you will find in your wort. This chemical is formed at the start of the fermentation process. It tastes much like a sour green apple does and is not really conducive to a good brew. If you brew too early, you will get this taste in your beer (more so if it's a light beer and one with little hops).

By giving your beer batch time to dissipate the acetaldehyde, you'll have a beer tasting beer.

We're firm in our the view that it is better to leave your beer to address these kinds of smelly issues in the first fermentation rather than the secondary fermentation which occurs when bottle conditioning.

Is it true that a wort left for a long time is harder to carbonate when bottled conditioned?This is a maybe type answer.

If the beer has been left in the fermenter over winter, for example, the yeast could have become quite dormant so the bottled beer will need to be warmed for the yeast to come 'back to life'.

A trick some brewers have found is that when it comes time to bottling a long-settled wort, give it a small stir up 2 days before you bottle. It causes the yeast to mix back into the beer (it will have settled at the bottom of the fermenter. If you move the fermenter into a warmer place, then your bottled beer with have a shorter carbonation time.

So the true answer is maybe, because bottling conditions may vary. 

How do I get remove the 'apple taste' by beer wort?

Like we alluded to above, let the yeast take it's sweet time to convert the acetaldehyde into ethanol (alcohol).

Exceptions aside, the longer you condition your beer, the greater reduction in acetaldehyde that will occur and the beer your beer will take.

Stout beers have even more to work through so they can happily take longer in the primary.

We like clear beer

Another benefit of leaving the beer in the primary for longer is that there is a greater chance that your beer will clear more sediment to the bottom into the trub, thus giving you clearer drinking beer.

Many a brewer likes to see their lager look like a lager - that classic light yellow / orange combo.

At the end of the day this comes down to personal preference as the beer taste is not generally affected too much by sediment.

It's also important to consider the role temperature can play in brewing. If you want a short fermentation period but it's cold, then you may have to simply allow more time because the yeast slows down the alcohol production process when chilled.

What about leaving beer in for extra long times like 3 months?

Many brewers have reported leaving batches for months and suffered no issues.

I'd reason though that the beer was stored in a cool place - a beer wort left in a hot environment is sure to fail as the yeast would probably get cooked.

The lid was probably screwed on very tightly as well and the beer must be kept out of the light. Putting a sheet over it will certainly keep dust and spiders out!

The risk of developing 'autolysis'

Autolysis occurs when the yeast cells die, giving off some potentially 'off flavors'.

These could be hydrolytic enzymes, lipids, and metal cations that can contribute to off flavor.

If you've made a healthy batch with a quality yeast, pitched at a good temperature and brewed in a stable environment, then the risks of autolysis are quite low.

If you are quite concerned about this, you could counter by racking your beer to a secondary, thus removing the yeast cake from the equation and dying yeast is thus removed from the equation (yes there will be a residue of it but not so much it causes you an issue).

It's important to note, the same process begins again when the beer is bottle conditioned - more sugar is added to the beer for the yeast to eat - this is because CO2 is the by-product of fermentation and is trapped in the beer.

So how long should a condition my bottled beer then?

It's now quite a reasonable question to ask how long you should condition your beers for. All beers will strongly benefit from being bottle conditioned for at least three weeks before consumption. That's at a minimum.

In my experiences, my brews start to become very drinkable at the 5 week mark.

Time needs to be on your side if you wish to make good beer, so make that time. 

Be patient. 

While you're waiting, give your gear a good clean and plan out that next all grain recipe!

Can you die of methanol poisoning from homemade beer?

Friday, September 18, 2020

Can you accidentally make methanol when home brewing beer and go blind or die?

The short answer is no. 

Read on for why it's impossible to produce lethal levels of methanol when brewing beer. 

From time to time newbie brewers ask if they might accidentally distil methanol when getting into beer production.

This is because methanol is quite a dangerous alcohol and has a reputation of making those exposed to too much of it go blind. It is indeed quite toxic to the human body and it will cause some very nasty side effects - ranging from total blindness to the worst of which is death by poisoning.

Everyone has heard the stories of some hard Russian sailors on a fishing boat going blind from drinking homemade spirits right but is it really a common thing?

The answer to the question is that the ordinary beer home brewing process makes the alcohol called ethanol - not methanol. So you can't get methanol poisoning, no matter how much extra sugar you add when trying to make a high AVB batch.

Some methanol can be produced but this is at such minor levels that have no effect on the beer or effect on the body when consumed.

Fruit beers that contain pectin could have slightly higher levels of the spirit but the effect is still negligible.

The reality then is there no risk of making a beer batch of methanol and going blind. It's more likely that you will just get 'blind drunk' and have a wicked hangover on Sunday morning. 

There are however some genuine risks if one is distilling alcohol i.e. making spirits - backyard operations can indeed produce batches where the methanol content can be lethal (or more sinisterly methanol is added deliberately and sold on the bootleg market). 

It's for this reason, most countries in the world have made the distillation of spirits illegal - plenty of stills can be bought on Amazon though!

It is allowed in New Zealand but only for personal consumption, you can't sell it or share it with mates. 

The science of distillation is quite complicated and there appears to be a myth around methanol production. The key point to understand that if you are homebrew brewing beer, there's no risk of making a killer brew.

Distillation on the other hand... stay away from that unless you've been properly trained or are making a batch under the watchful eye of an experienced distiller. 

What is the treatment method for methanol poisoning?

Methanol toxicity is the result of consuming methanol...

The horrific symptoms may include a decreased level of consciousness, poor coordination, vomiting, abdominal pain, and a specific smell on the breath. The famous effect of decreased vision or blindness may start as early as twelve hours after exposure to the liquid.

The blindness is caused by the methanol being broken down by the body into formic acid when then has a debilitating and damaging effect on the eye's optic nerve.

There is a cure that is time-sensitive. The sooner the antidote, fomepizole, is taken, the increased likelihood of a good outcome for the victim.

Other treatment options include dialysis and consumption of sodium bicarbonate, folate, and thiamine.

This is of course, not medical advice. If you have a consumption incident, seek medical services assistance immediately. 

And stay away from dodgey Russian sailors...

pH meter ideas for testing homebrew beer mash

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
best ph tester for making beer

Never mind the bollocks, you just want to choose the best pH meter?

These are three quality meters that are really popular on Amazon's bestseller list:

Before I learned to know how to brew beer, all I knew about pH was that it meant lemons were sour, acid could eat through Knightrider's K.I.T.T. car, and that you used litmus paper to test if your solution was an acid or a base.

Beer brewers (and makers of health drink kombucha would you believe) are keen to know the pH of their beer and beverages because different levels of pH will cause the beer to have different characteristics of flavor.

And flavor is everything when it comes to beer!

The collective increased understanding of the important role that the pH level of the mash plays in brewing really good beer has driven both commercial and backyard brewers to closely focus on monitoring and then adjusting their mash pH levels as required.

So if you are making a particular style of beer for say a brewing competition, you really do want to ensure not only have you followed the brewing recipe, your brewing process is going correctly too!

And to do all this, you need to use the best pH tester you can.

A pH meter is a calibrated scientific instrument that measures the hydrogen-ion activity in water-based solutions, indicating its acidity or alkalinity.

The pH meter measures the difference in 'electrical potential' between a pH electrode and a reference electrode.

There are many several more reasons to use pH testers. Those in the food and beverage industry know too well the need to ensure food is not too tart (imagine selling customers drinks that are too sour) and there is plenty of agricultural uses too - such as checking for soil acidity testing and the classic 'hydroponic uses' are pretty common too.

If you didn't get that, we meant weed growers need to know the pH of the soil as well...

But enough's enough Commander Keen, back to beer testing.

This unit is a for the seasoned brewer who is dead set on ensuring they make a quality product so they can proudly share with friends at a BBQ.

Bluelab Combo pH Meter for beer brewing

bluelab combo ph meter
If you looking for an upmarket solution to measure your pH solutions then the tried and true Bluelabs brand has the measuring device you are looking for.

The Bluelab Combo Meter is a portable pH, conductivity, and temperature meter all in one combination.

The meter has two probes, a Bluelab pH Probe and a Bluelab Conductivity/Temperature Probe.

When taking a reading, simply place them into the solution and the selected reading is displayed on the screen.

Calibration of the pH probe is simple as instructions are supplied on the back of the meter and the easy push-button method makes this one of the most basic meters to use.

The pH probe is replaceable so you can use this meter for years to come and you should be able to do as Bluelab offers a five-year warranty on their meter is a demonstration of the quality of the product and the belief the manufacturer has in their product!

The Bluelab has the following features:
  • Measures pH, conductivity/nutrient (EC, CF, ppm 500 and ppm 700) and temperature (°C, °F)
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Large easy to read display
  • Simple push button pH calibration
  • Successful pH calibration indicator
  • No calibration required for conductivity and temperature
  • Replaceable double junction pH probe 
  • 2 x AAA alkaline batteries included with a low battery indicator
  • Auto-off function
This is a pricey unit and that's because it screams quality. If you are looking for a mid range device, Blue Lab's portable pens are in the hundred dollar range.

Check out the price on Amazon.

Seeing as we talked about probes, this is a good time to talk about their care as they can be fiddly little bastards and if not properly looked after, their expected lifetime will quickly shorten.

So here's the message about probes:

Don't forget to clean your electrode probes!

Electrodes can and will wear out after sustained use.

To prolong their operational life (so you continue to obtain correct readings), it is quite important that you get into the routine of properly cleaning them after every use.

A careful wipe with a clean cloth and 'ionized' water is a good technique. Or simply use fresh tissues.

A probe that has become 'dry' needs to be hydrated for at least three or four hours by placing in storage solution before calibration.

We will get to calibration solution soon but first up: The Milwaukee

This is truly one of the most popular testers that beer makers use, If you dare to check out any rabid brewing forum, you'll find plenty backyard brewers only too happy to chat about how well it works:

Milwaukee MW102 pH Meter for beer

The MW102 Standard Portable pH / Temperature Meter Standard is a standard portable meter that does the business.

milwaukee ph meter for testing beer

The Milwaukee brand is recognized as having a reputation for producing low cost yet durable meters which give quick readings and ones on which you can depend.

Milwaukee’s manufacturer boasts that their devices are "manufactured to be easy to use, practical and accurate. Ideal for the classroom, laboratory, or for general field use".

This means it works a treat for beer and kombucha.

The full package comes with the following:
  • The MW102 Unit
  • A 9 Volt Battery
  • Temperature Probe (MA830r)
  • PH Probe (MA911B/1)
  • PH Probe cover (a small bottle that fits on the PH Probe when not in use that holds storage solution)
  • Instruction Manual
  • Calibration Solution sachets
  • Storage Solution Packet
The battery life claims to be a massive 300 hours so that's a lot of brewing time! Especially as the Milwaukee features an auto-off that kicks in after 8 minutes of inactivity.

A keen brewer on Amazon reviewed the Milwaukee 102 as a "fantastic tool to have in my brewing arsenal. I originally bought it for taking readings while kettle souring, but it's been invaluable as I dove deeper into water profile and mash pH adjustment. It's a bit more expensive than some of the cheaper meters out there, but you get what you pay for. Worth every penny in my book, and I regularly recommend it to those in the market for a high-quality meter."

That's some fair praise indeed. Check out the price on Amazon.

Why is the mash pH level so important for brewing?

Beers that are brewed within a general range of pH tend to brew better than beers that are too acidic or too low in pH.

Brewers thus measure the pH of their mash to determine if that is is in the correct range for the beer they are endeavouring to produce.

The actual optimal pH range is generally considered to be pH 5.2 to 5.4. A high reading means the beer is too alkaline.

If a brewer's meter determines the pH is too high, they will then need to adjust the level downward by adding acid or calcium sulfate.

If your pH reading is starting to push the range of 5.3-5.6, you might get less of a tart character though you do run the risk of extracting tannins which can horribly impact your beer's taste.

Hach Pocket Pro + Plus 9532000 with replacement electrode for brewing

Manufacturer Hach reckons that their digital Pocket Pro + will "take the guesswork out of your measurements" which is entirely the point of a pH meter so a good start that we are on the same page.

Hach Pocket Pro+ is engineered to deliver accurate results. Hach boasts the Pro is backed up with built-in performance diagnostics, you never have to guess when to clean or calibrate the sensor.

Featuring a large, easy-to-read LCD screen, the pH range covers 0 to 14 pH meaning it can be used for more than beer brewing, like hydroponics.

The unit takes 4 Triple AAA batteries which are easy to replace. Hach recommends that the electrodes are replaced every 6 months. This unit comes with a replacement unit.

How to use a pH tester to measure beer mash?

Using a pH meter is a fairly simple process. It's kind like that science work you did in school. Start by drawing a small sample of the fresh wort and put it in a clean holding vessel such as a shot glass. Turn your calibrated meter on and dip both the probes fully into the liquid. The machine will kick into gear and you will get a pH reading. Write the reading down on paper, we both know you are going to forget it.

And remember, the mash can be quite hot, so be careful not to burn your skin

Hanna Instruments // Temperature Tester

The Hanna Instruments HI 98128 is a popular compact pH tester used for laboratory and industrial applications.

hanna ph meter kombucha
The device features:
  • Automatic Temperature Compensation
  • Automatic calibration
  • Dual-line LCD reader screen
  • Replaceable electrode cartridge
  • The dual-line LCD screen simultaneously shows the current measurement and the current temperature, and a hold function freezes readings for recording.

The meter has automatic calibration at one or two points with two sets of standard buffers (pH 4.01/7.01/10.01 or pH 4.01/6.86/9.18).

The meter has a water-resistant housing, a tactile grip casing, and it floats, which is quite handy for those who drink and brew at the same time...

The unit requires four 1.5V AA batteries which provide approximately 300 hours of continuous use. The Hanna meter switches off after eight minutes of inactivity to preserve battery life.

The meter also comes with an' HI 73127 pH electrode', an electrode removal tool, and instructions on how to properly use and care for the unit.

This is a cheap and affordable unit so its long-term resilience may be questionable.

Check out the price on Amazon.

How to calibrate a digital pH tester accurately?

You need an accurate reading so you can make the best decision for your beer and the best way to do this is to ensure you have properly calibrated your meter.

PH meters can 'drift' from their calibrated settings. It is important to regularly calibrate your pH meter often so that the accuracy of results is maintained.

Check out this video lesson which demonstrates how to do the calibration:

What is Automatic Temperature Compensation?

You may have seen this mentioned in some of the functionality descriptions of our recommended meters.

Many higher quality meters use ATC functionality. This is when the unit compensates for the response of the pH meter's electrode with varying temperature.

The mash's pH measurement is ideally conducted at room-temperature. This helps avoid measurement errors that can be caused by temperature effects on the probe and chemically in the mash. The reality though is you need to measure the pH of your wort NOW and can't wait for it to cool.

So ATC accounts for differing temperatures of the mash.

Things to think about when choosing the best pH meter

  • Keeping the meter's probe clean after each use will prolong their useful life - it's a good idea to clean the outside with a soft toothbrush and deionized water, being very gentle with the bulb part of the probe if this is the kind you have.
  • It's extremely important to never let the probe dry out and this is a common mistake when storing ph meters. To this end, it is imperative that you store the electrode as per the manufacturers' instructions.
  • Be wary of buying cheap ph meters, they will lose calibration quickly, their probes will likely deteriorate faster than quality items. 
  • Check this guide to the common mistakes made when using a meter.
  • The more serious brewers tend to go for benchtop units rather than the portable kind.
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