Frequently Asked Questions

My brew failed to start fermenting because the airlock didn't start bubbling should I throw it out?
My brew has been down for 4 weeks and it still has the occasional bubble, has it finished fermenting?
Why is it when I open my beer and pour it into a glass I get all head and I've even had the odd bottle explode?
My beer is flat, should I throw it out?
My beer seems to have plenty of fizz when poured into a glass or jug but why does the head disappear very quickly?
Why does my beer have a strong yeasty flavour and a lot of sediment ?
I have made the same beer before and it tasted good, but why has this lot got a foul smell to it and a strange taste?
Once I have bottled my beer how long do I have to wait before I can drink it?
Is there an optimum time to leave my brew to condition before I should drink it?
What is the hydrometer for and how do I use it?
What is the ideal brewing temperature using kit beers?
Why is it my beer won’t clear in the bottle?
How do I avoid foaming beer coming out through the airlock?

My brew failed to start fermenting because the airlock didn't start bubbling should I throw it out?
The short answer is NO! Please don't rely on the airlock as the sole means of monitoring fermentation.
Quite often it is incorrectly assumed that fermentation has not commenced because the airlock is not bubbling, when in fact the brew is fermenting and CO2 gas is escaping via a poor sealing lid, or the airlock has a split in it, or the grommet may need replacing. This answer assumes that the correct temperature range is being maintained for the yeast you are using.

Visual signs of establishing whether the brew did, in fact, start fermenting are
* Signs of scum on the inside of the fermenter above the brew surface
* Signs of froth forming on top of the brew
* Hydrometer readings taken over a few days have dropped from the first reading.

If you have answered YES to any of the above do nothing as your brew is fermenting.
If you have answered NO to all of the above, sprinkle in a new yeast and close everything up.

Helpful hint :- if your fermenter has a screw on lid take off the lid, using your finger smear a small amount of honey around the top of the fermenter, reseal the lid and half fill the airlock with clean water. Top

My brew has been down for 4 weeks and it still has the occasional bubble, has it finished fermenting ?
Lower temperatures can change the time a brew usually takes to ferment, as the yeast is working slower than normal. It is quite common for intermittent bubbling activity to continue through the airlock after the completion of fermentation. This is caused by CO2 gas remaining in the fermenter and does not necessarily indicate that the brew is still fermenting. If the brew becomes infected an extended fermentation can occur, resulting in an off smell and sour taste. Also, white film usually develops on the surface of the brew.

The only accurate method of establishing when the brew has finished fermenting and is ready to bottle is by taking readings with the hydrometer and when you have two readings the same, 24 hours apart, it is safe to bottle. Top

Why is it when I open my beer and pour it into a glass I get all head and I've even had the odd bottle explode ?
Possibly, one or other of the following has occured :
* The brew was bottled before fermentation was complete - remember to
use the hydrometer
* Too much priming sugar was added to the bottles - it is important that the priming sugar is measured accurately
* An infection (wild yeast) has got into the brew - when this occurs the beer is likely to become overgassed. Top

My beer is flat, should I throw it out ?
Definitely not! There is every chance the beer will gas up over time. Be patient.

The most common causes of flat beer are as follows :
* Not enough time has elapsed for the beer to mature in the bottle
* Bottles stored at low temperature impeding secondary fermentation
* None or insufficient an amount of priming sugar added to the bottle
* The bottle cap has not been clamped on securely
* The sterilising liquid has not been thoroughly rinsed from the bottles
* The brew has been left in the fermenter too long after completion of fermentation. Top

My beer seems to have plenty of fizz when poured into a glass or jug but why does the head disappear very quickly ?
Don't worry. There is nothing wrong with your brewing technique. This problem is in fact a characteristic of the ingredients you are using and is readily solved. All you need to do is to use quality branded beer kits and malt based additives.

What you are trying to achieve is a beer which, after time in storage, will present a tight, creamy head that will cling to the inside of the glass to the very last drop.

Helpful hint :- keep your beer glasses clean and free of detergents and greasy foods.
The easy way to keep them clean is by briefly boiling water in the glass, in a microwave oven, then storing the clean dry glasses in the fridge (not the freezer). Top


Why does my beer have a strong yeasty flavour and a lot of sediment ?
The most common cause of the yeast flavour, which is often referred to as "yeast bite" is that the beer has been brewed at too high a temperature. In future, use a lower brewing temperature if possible and make sure you are using a good quality yeast.

As for excessive sediment in the bottle. This generally occurs when the brew is not given a chance to clear and you end up bottling yeast particles that would have normally dropped out of suspension and fallen to the bottom of the fermenter. After fermentation has finished give the brew 24 to 48 hours to clear before bottling. Top


I have made the same beer before and it tasted good, but why has this lot got a foul smell to it and a strange taste ?
Your beer has become contaminated from either lack of proper hygiene, or by leaving the brew stand too long in the fermenter before bottling, or by oxidation (splashing the beer, causing it to come into contact with oxygen). Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about this problem.....tip it out!

Pay particular attention to cleaning and sterilising all your equipment and avoid removing the lid during fermentation.

Helpful hint :- unscrew the tap from the fermenter after each brew and thoroughly clean the tap hole. The tap hole threads are the ideal place for bacteria to harbour. Top

Once I have bottled my beer how long do I have to wait before I can drink it?
To achieve maximum carbonation your brew needs at least 2 weeks in the bottle to enable the secondary fermentation to occur, provided the bottles have remained upright and at a temperature above 18º C. Many brewers are content to follow the directions on the can and get stuck into their brews after 2 weeks and you would be surprised at just how good the beer is at that stage. It depends on the brew style and your taste. Top

Is there an optimum time to leave my brew to condition before I should drink it?
Once your brew has reached maximum carbonation levels, any time after that is what they call conditioning time. Unlike most commercial beers, home brew contains live yeast. The yeast acts as a natural preservative. Conditioning will see the flavour improve, the bubbles reduce in size and yeast deposit become more compact. You should see a noticeable improvement in your brew over the first 3 months. After 3 months, perceived improvement is a subjective matter. Top

What is the hydrometer for and how do I use it?
The hydrometer is a simple instrument made of glass with a graduated scale at the pointy end and a weight at the fat end. Take care when handling your hydrometer as it is quite fragile.
When floated, the hydrometer will bob at a level corresponding to the density of the fluid with the graduated scale indicating specific gravity that is the density of the fluid with respect to water. So what does that mean? Well, in the context of brewing, you are measuring the difference in gravity (density) between pure water (1000) and water with sugar dissolved in it. The gravity will fall as the yeast consumes the sugars and alcohol is produced.
The hydrometer is a useful tool for the home brewer as you can use it to monitor the progress of your brew, determine when your brew has finished fermenting and calculate your brew’s approximate alcohol content.
If you are confident that the brew temperature has remained above 18º C for 7 days and the bubbling in the airlock has stopped take separate specific gravity readings over 2 days, and if you get the same reading each time your brew is ready for bottling or kegging. Usually the final gravity will finish between 1016 and 1006 depending on what combination of sugars and malts you have used. In addition, have a smell and taste of the sample before discarding, as it should taste and smell like beer even though it may taste a little yeasty. If you are not sure and think the brew smells or tastes strange, then bring your sample into the shop for testing before you bottle or keg it.

The following hints may help you to make accurate hydrometer readings:
* Before taking your sample unclip or loosen the fermenter lid just enough to let the pressure out, then draw off approximately half a cup of beer from the tap and discard this so as to reduce the chance of sediment being included in the sample and increasing the density.
* Make sure enough beer is in the test tube so that the hydrometer floats.
* Spin or tap the hydrometer to dislodge any bubbles. The hydrometer is more buoyant with bubbles attached, giving a false reading. If it is still too bubbly to read then leave the sample in the test jar and test again in a half hour or so.
* Try to balance the hydrometer in the sample so that it does not touch the wall of the test tube.
* Ensure that you hold the sample so that the bottom of the meniscus is at eye level. Top

What is the ideal brewing temperature using kit beers?
Although it is true that fermentation is faster when a brew is warmer, it is NOT TRUE that the brew will be better.
Different yeasts produce their best results at different temperatures, but a general rule for the dried yeasts that come with kits is to keep them somewhere between 18 & 28 ºC. As they probably produce best tasting results at the lower end of that range, aim for a brewing temperature of about 18 to 24 ºC.
Unfortunately, prevailing summer temperatures make it extremely difficult to maintain an optimum temperature. However, do not despair, the beer concentrates and their accompanying yeast are designed to cope with a range in temperature even as high as 40 ºC plus.
However, every effort should be made to keep our precious worts as comfortable as possible. So think, “Where do I have a cool spot, say under the house for example and definitely not the tin shed out the back”. The other point about temperature is that your brew will taste better if the temperature is reasonably constant and not allowed to go up during the day and down at night, this also applies to your bottle/keg conditioning. Top

Why is it my beer won’t clear in the bottle?
After bottling, all beers will take a week or so to gas up but then should settle out crystal clear. If your beer refuses to clear after a reasonable time, there is a good chance it’s affected by one or more of the following problems.

1. Contamination - If a beer becomes contaminated by airborne bacteria, which usually happens after fermentation, prior to or during bottling, the beer won’t clear properly. A waterline ring that forms in the bottle usually accompanies this type of haze.
2. Starch Haze - This haze is created by using too starchy products (unconverted sugars) in your brewing.
3. Chill Haze - Occasionally a beer can be quite clear but once chilled becomes slightly hazy. Caused by slightly higher than normal protein content, which has no effect on the beer. When a beer is chilled for drinking, these proteins partially precipitate forming a haze. Chill haze is usually regarded as a cosmetic problem. You cannot taste it. Top

How do I avoid foaming beer coming out through the airlock?
Plenty of foam, although messy, is not a bad thing, as it indicates healthy yeast and a strong fermentation. Excess foaming is more likely to occur when using ale yeast with darker brews and higher fermentation temperatures. Allow for extra headspace by using a bigger fermenter or fill to a lower level (around 18-20litre mark) then top up to normal mark with cool boiled water after initial foaming has subsided (normally after a day or two). Top

 
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353 Pacific Highway, Asquith, NSW 2077 Australia
Telephone & Facsimile: 612 9476 2022
Email: info@asquithhomebrewing.com.au