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Brewing your own beer is a fun hobby that has endless learning and growth possibilities. There is always something more to learn about brewing. It has been said that the best way to learn is by making mistakes. In this post, we will look at the top 5 mistakes made by new home-brewers. If you are just starting out, or have made a few bad batches in the past, this post is for you. Take a look at the top 5 mistakes and how to solve them. Have a mistake you think should be in this list? Post it in the comments below.
1. Lack Of Proper Sanitization
I cannot stress the importance of proper sanitization enough. Everything that touches your beer must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before coming in contact with it.
Remember, the goal in fermenting your beer is building a colony of tiny living things, also known as Yeast. The conditions you keep for fermentation are also ideal for other tiny living bacteria to thrive and grow. This is why you need to make sure everything is as clean and sanitized as it can be. Star San is your best friend here.
- A common mistake in sanitization is thinking that just cleaning your equipment is enough. You must sanitize as well.
- A second mistake is using plastic items that might have small scratches or imperfections in them. These scratches are breeding grounds for bacteria. If you use something plastic that has a scratch, throw it out and get a new one. Period.
2. Not Paying Attention To Temperature
Temperature plays a vital role in brewing. Everything from your mash, to your boil, to cooling and pitching yeast requires a specific temperature. Heck, even taking OG and FG readings require the liquid to be at a specific temperature!
Use a good thermometer or temperature probe to make sure each step of your brew is in the specific temperature range it needs to be. If this is ignored, it is almost guaranteed that something in your brew will go wrong.
3. Incorrect Pitching Of Yeast
Pitching yeast is one of the last steps of a brew day, so you are probably tired at this point. It is vital that yeast is pitched properly to avoid a multitude of issues, however. Here are the most common yeast issues:
- The wort has to be at the right temperature for the yeast you are using. No exceptions.
- Depending on the type of yeast you are using, you might need to make a starter. Make sure this is done as specified by the type of yeast.
- Yeast is stored improperly or is not fresh. Make sure the yeast you are using was stored the way it was intended to, whether that be kept cold, dry, or sealed in a vacum package. Also, make sure your yeast is not expired. Yeast has a very short life outside of your beer. IF it is expired, it is worthless.
- Wort is not aerated when pitching yeast. It’s usually a bad idea to introduce oxygen into your wort or beer, except when pitching yeast. Make sure to shake the heck out of your wort to mix the yeast in and to aerate it so the yeast have a good starting point to get going on thier task of growing in number.
Yeast is a key ingredient, and as such, you need to make sure it is used correctly.
4. Using Cheap Or Stale Ingredients
When starting off, most brewers use kits to brew their beer. These are the things I promote in my brew instructions. Kits are a great way to make sure you have exactly what you need to brew. You do need to make sure that the kit you get is fresh, and that the ingredients are not cheap or sub-par in quality. Your beer will only be as good as your ingredients.
- Make sure your grain is fresh, and if you buy it already cracked, that it is not expired. Grain has a short shelf life when milled.
- Check the expiration of your yeast. Liquid Yeast, like White Labs, has a VERY short life, and must be kept cold. Make sure the yeast you use is fresh and not near expiration. The older the yeast is, the less viable yeast strains there are, which means the harder it will be to get your beer to fully ferment.
- If brewing with Malt Extract, make sure it is high quality. This is the backbone of an extract beer, so if it is sub-par, your beer will be too.
5. Worrying Too Much
This is one that I am guilty of constantly. Brewing beer should be fun. If it isn’t fun, you shouldn’t be doing it. While brewing beer is a science, you need to have fun doing it! Plan your brew ahead of time so when you are actually doing it, there are few surprises. Having your equipment sanitized and ready, and your ingredients sorted, measured and set before you start will help your brew day to go smoothly and will let you have fun doing it! If you stress about your brewing, it won’t turn out correctly. I can speak to this personally.
- Plan ahead
- Prepare your equipment and ingredients
- Use a stop watch or timer
- Have a beer while you’re brewing!
That’s it! Those are my top 5 mistakes made when home-brewing.