Homebrewing blogs

UK Brewing in World War I with Ron Pattinson – BeerSmith Podcast #201

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Thu, 10/17/2019 - 8:32am

Ron Pattinson joins me to discuss the history of brewing in the UK in World War I, a period of profound change for British breweries.

Subscribe on iTunes to Audio version or Video version or on Google Play

Download the MP3 File– Right Click and Save As to download this mp3 file

Topics in This Week’s Episode (44:45)
  • This week I welcome Ron Pattinson to discuss his new book Armistice! which covers the brewing industry in the UK in World War I. Ron has written many books about historical brewing and runs a blog called Shut Up about Barclay Perkins.
  • We start with a discussion of the state of UK brewing just prior to the outbreak of WWI.
  • Ron shares some of the types of beers brewed as well as where breweries sourced their ingredients.
  • We discuss how German U-Boats significantly limited supplied of imported ingredients and also government rationing kicked in.
  • As the war progressed, additional restrictions were placed on brewers many lasting well beyond the war itself.
  • Ron talks about the large increase in taxes on the “standard barrel” of beer and how it had a lasting impact on the strength of British beers.
  • We talk about “Government ale” and the wholesale takeover of certain industries
  • We discuss inflation which was huge during the war and shocked a population that had largely seen zero inflation in their lifetimes.
  • We talk a bit about distribution and public houses and how many of them were significantly impacted by the war.
  • Ron shares his thoughts on the flood of women entering the workforce for the first time to support wartime industry and how their tastes drove beer production.
  • He shares his closing thoughts including the long term impact of WWI on UK beer brewing.
Sponsors

Thanks to Ron Pattinson for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!
iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

BeerSmithRecipes Mobile Access and Web Based Brewing Tools

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Tue, 10/08/2019 - 7:42am

A lot of brewers have asked me over the years for more recipe access from the mobile devices as well as more access to BeerSmith’s features on the go. While our BeerSmith Mobile app is quite popular there are still times where you may not have the app handy.

In the interest of continuing to add value for BeerSmith users, pleased to announce that the 1 million+ recipes and most of the BeerSmith brewing and unit tools are now available in a mobile and desktop friendly web based form from BeerSmithRecipes.com.

I’ve ported 17 of the BeerSmith separate brewing tools for mead, wine and cider to the web as well as the 5 unit conversion tools. In addition the site is now mobile compatible meaning you can search, find, copy and bookmark great recipes from your mobile device as well as access the tools.

Basic Account Users and Above:

Anyone with a BeerSmith basic license or who has set up a free login at BeerSmithRecipes.com will be able to access the following:

  • Mobile compatible recipe search, bookmarking, private copies and recipe viewing including both public and private recipes.
  • Persistent login with the “Stay Logged In” feature
  • Access to the following unit conversion tools: Temperature, Pressure, Specific Gravity, Weight and Volume from any web device
Gold, Platinum and Pro Level Users:

All subscribers at the Gold, Platinum or Pro level will have access to all of the mobile and unit tool features above plus the following web/mobile based brewing tools:

  • Infusion Temperature Tool
  • Decoction Volume Tool
  • Mash Temperature Adjust Tool
  • Mash pH Adjust Tool
  • Yeast Starter Tool
  • Hydrometer Temperature Adjust Tool
  • Refractometer Tool
  • Percent Alcohol (ABV/ABW) Tool
  • Hop Age Tool
  • Mead Nutrient Tool
  • Backsweetening Tool
  • Sulfite/Sorbate Tool
  • Boil Off Tool
  • Dilution Tool
  • Adjust Original Gravity Tool
  • Weight Volume Tool
  • Carbonation Tool
Future Plans

In the near term I’m working on minor updates to the desktop and mobile versions of BeerSmith to address open issues and add a few key features.

After that I will be working to add recipe editing capability to the BeerSmithRecipes.com web site, so you can edit recipes from the web. The final phase of the project will offer ingredient/recipe sync between the web, mobile and desktop devices so you can work from one set of data from all of your devices.

To enjoy the new features, all you need to do is log into BeerSmithRecipes.com from your mobile or desktop web browser, and I recommend using the “Stay logged in” checkbox to avoid having to log in each session.

Thanks for your continued support of BeerSmith!

Brad Smith

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Backsweetening Beer, Mead and Cider Using BeerSmith

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Fri, 10/04/2019 - 12:18pm

This week I take a look at some basic concepts of backsweetening as well as how to use the backsweeten tool in BeerSmith to sweeten beers, meads, wines and ciders.

Backsweetening Basics

Backsweetening is the process of adding sugar, juice, honey or other sweeteners to beverages like mead, beer, wine or cider after the beverage has completely fermented. It adds sweetness to the final beverage, raising the finishing gravity to provide balance to an otherwise dull finish. Even beverages like hard soda use the same technique to achieve a sweet finish.

Since most fruits, juices, honey and sugars ferment completely the sweetness from these additives disappear in fermented beverages. For backsweetening, we first add sulfites and sorbates after fermentation which help to inhibit future fermentation and then add our sweetener. Typically the beverage is then kegged and not bottled as there is still some risk of further fermentation.

I cover the details of backsweetening in this article, but the basic process is to add some Potassium Metabisulfite (sulfites) and then Potassium Sorbate to inhibit fermentation and then add your sweetener.

Backsweetening Balance

A key concept to understand in backsweetening is achieving balance in the finished beverage. Typically backsweetened beverages may use hops, tannic fruits, acidic fruits, herbs or other flavorings that add some acidity, bitterness or tannins. These form a backbone against which the sweetener provides flavor balance. Sweetener is added to balance out the tannis, acids and bitterness of the fermented beverage. High levels of alcohol can also be counteracted by some swetness.

For a given level of acidity, bitterness or tannins there is a level of sweetness that provides proper balance to the beverage. This is usually reflected in the final gravity. So for example a mead made with a very acidic fruit like black currants and a lot of alcohol can handle a lot of residual sweetness and might target a finishing gravity of 1.040 or higher after backsweetening. While a similar mead made from soft fruits like apricots would require a lot lower final gravity after backsweetening.

Unfortunately there is no way to accurately estimate what the balance/FG should be so most brewers will start with a small sample of beverage and add sweetener “to taste” and then measure the gravity once the proper taste balance is achieved.

Using the Backsweeten Tool in BeerSmith

BeerSmith 3 has a utility under Tools->Backsweeten to help you calculate the amount of sweetener to add. Open the tool and enter the Beverage Volume and current Gravity at the top. In the next section enter the Desired Gravity which is the gravity you want to achieve after sweetening and finally choose the Sweetener to use.

If you are using a custom sweetener you can also enter the Brix (same as plato) value of the sweetener itself. For example if I’m using fruit juice, I can use a hydromter on the juice to get a Brix or Plato reading and enter that into the Sweetener Potential field.

After you enter these items the amount of sweetener by weight or volume will be displayed at the bottom of the dialog.

Typically when I make a sweetened beverage I will record the final sweetened gravity for the correct balance so I can easily recreate the beverage next time using the desired gravity.

That was an overview of backsweetening as well as the Backsweeten tool in BeerSmith. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube) for more great tips on homebrewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Q&A with John Palmer and Stan Hieronymus – BeerSmith Podcast #200

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Tue, 10/01/2019 - 10:17am

John Palmer and Stan Hieronymus join me this week for a special episode #200 beer brewing question and answer session.

Subscribe on iTunes to Audio version or Video version or on Google Play

Download the MP3 File– Right Click and Save As to download this mp3 file

Topics in This Week’s Episode (52:42)
  • This week I welcome John Palmer and Stan Hieronymus join me for a special episode #200 of the BeerSmith Podcast. We have an informal question and answer session with two of the best in home brewing.
  • We start with some thoughts on reaching the 200th episode of the BeerSmith podcast and almost 9 years of podcasting.
  • Stan kicks it off with a discussion on why IBU estimates are not always accurate and why even measured IBUs from a lab may not tell the entire story.
  • John explains his thoughts on water adjustments for extract beer brewers.
  • Stan shares some of the differences between brewing on a home system versus a large commercial size system and what changes.
  • John talks about mash pH and the best ways to approach adjusting your mash pH to get the best beer.
  • Stan talks about double and triple dry hopped beers as well as what some of the new hopping schemes really entail.
  • John shares his thoughts on the judicious use of crystal malts.
  • Stan shares his thoughts on crystal malts as well as the larger issue of designing recipes.
  • They both share their thoughts on the recent decline in homebrewing in the US as well as what it might take to turn things around.
  • They share closing thoughts.
Sponsors

Thanks to John Blichmann for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!
iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

The Business of Craft Beer with John Blichmann – BeerSmith Podcast #199

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Fri, 09/27/2019 - 10:58am

John Blichmann joins me this week to discuss the business aspects of starting a small craft brewery.

Subscribe on iTunes to Audio version or Video version or on Google Play

Download the MP3 File– Right Click and Save As to download this mp3 file

Topics in This Week’s Episode (1:00:00)
  • This week I welcome John Blichmann, the President of Blichmann Engineering, producers of both home brewing and pro brewing equipment. John has helped hundreds of brewers start small breweries.
  • John shares a few words about some of the new activities at Blichmann Engineering.
  • We quickly get into the subject of pro brewing including the fundamental decision of whether the business would primarily sell from a tap room (at high margin) or via wholesalers/retailers.
  • We discuss the importance of picking a location.
  • John shares some of the complexities of running a tap room including setup, employees, atmosphere, and finally food.
  • We talk about some of the realities of complying with tax laws, payroll, accounting, and licenses.
  • John tells us why you need to build plenty of margin into your business plan for unexpected rennovations and costs.
  • We discuss equipment and how to size a brewery depending on your business model and location.
  • John talks briefly about financing your new business.
  • We discuss picking a lineup of beers to sell and the importance of brewing what your customers like as well as what you enjoy.
  • John explains some strategies for managing growth, and shares his closing thoughts.
Sponsors

Thanks to John Blichmann for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!
iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Beer Brewing 101 – Our Book

Brew Dudes - Wed, 09/25/2019 - 6:27pm

After 12 years of writing this blog, the last 6 years focused on posting videos on YouTube and following up in this space, we were presented with a book writing opportunity. The book is called Beer Brewing 101 and it will be available in stores on October 1, 2019. Watch this video as we talk […]

The post Beer Brewing 101 – Our Book appeared first on Brew Dudes.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Cold Crashing Home Brewed Beer

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Mon, 09/23/2019 - 10:49am

This week we look at the advantages of cold crashing your beer which can aid with clarity and also reduce aging time.

Cold Crashing

Cold crashing is simply the process of rapidly dropping the temperature of your finished beer before you bottle, keg and carbonate it. Typically temperatures are rapidly lowered to just above freezing, and this is done after the beer has reached its terminal gravity.

Cold crashing historically was developed from the cold aging (lagering) process associated with lager beer styles, but it is now commonly used commercially for many ales. Cold crashing will improve the clarity of the finished beer but also has the significant advantage of reducing the aging time needed which is why it is used on many commercial beers.

How Cold Crashing Works

Cold crashing helps bits of proteins and tannins from the grains precipitate out more rapidly. This is due simply to the fact that many solids are less soluble at colder temperatures, and tend to precipitate out more quickly. You can further aid clarity using various finings.

Perhaps more important is the precipitation of yeast. Cold crashing yeast triggers a survival reaction that forces the yeast to “flocculate” or bond together in clumps. These larger clumps or “flocs” of yeast have a larger radius than individual yeast cells and will precipitate out more quickly due to Stokes law. Stokes law (broadly) says that larger radius particles have a higher settling velocity and will fall out more quickly. Again, certain finings like Irish moss can aid in flocculation of the yeast.

Cold Crashing at Home

While a commercial brewer can simply turn the temperature down on their glycol-chilled fermenter, home brewers most often use a refrigerator to cold crash their beer. Simply put your fermenter in the fridge or keezer and let it sit for a few days at cold temperature.

There are a few considerations that come into play for cold crashing:

  • You don’t want to cold crash your beer until fermentation is complete. There are still important biotransformations going on in the beer even late in the fermentation phase. Most commercial breweries wait until their beer has reached a stable terminal gravity, and verify that the beer stays there for a few days before cold crashing.
  • Generally the faster you can chill your beer, the better, though in practice even commercial brewers can’t chill their wort down in much less than a day. Putting your beer in a fridge or keezer will chill it fairly rapidly, but it may take 12 hours or more to reach cold temperatures.
  • Generally the closer you can get the beer to freezing the better. Many commercial breweries work between 0.5 C and 5 C (33-41 F), but obviously you don’t want to freeze the beer. Fortunately since the beer contains alcohol at this point it will have a freezing point slightly below 0 C (32 F).
  • The length of cold crashing can vary. While you can get some benefit in as little as 24 hours, most brewers cold crash for several days to a week. Note this is different than lagering where you may maintain a cold temperature for an extended period.
  • Some caution is needed if you have a one way airlock as cold crashing will result in negative pressure in the fermenter and can suck liquid from the airlock into your fermenter. Its best to use a two way (S-shaped) airlock or simply put some sanitized foil over the hole to avoid this problem.
  • In most cases you want to dry hop after you cold crash. The cold temperatures used will make it harder to get aroma oils in the beer, and dry hopping closer to bottling will preserve more aroma. You can raise the temperature of your beer back up before dry hopping and bottling.

Those are some tips on cold crashing your beer at home. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube) for more great tips on homebrewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Six Tips for Minimizing Beer Brewing Losses

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 10:45am

This week I have 6 tips for minimizing your beer brewing losses when home brewing:

  1. Bag or Strain Your Hops – Hops matter is one of the largest contributors to trub losses in your brewing kettle, particularly given today’s highly hopped beer styles. Whether you are boiling, whirlpooling or dry hopping it is best to bag your hops or use some kind of hop strainer device (this is the one I use) to reduce the losses from hops.
  2. Use a Refractometer – While it does require some extra calculations to determine the gravity of fermenting wort with a refractometer, you need only a few drops to take a reading, while a hydrometer requires roughly 8 oz (0.25 l) of beer to get a good reading.
  3. Do a Vourlauf for All Grain – The “vourlauf” is a step taken at the beginning of the sparge process in all grain brewing where you draw the first few quarts of wort and place it back in the mash tun. This is generally done until you get clear wort coming from the lauter tun with no visible grain bits. The purpose of the vourlauf is to allow your grain filter bed to “set up” so it is ready to filter out grain particles. This will result in less grain trub in the wort during and after the boil.
  4. Minimize Transfers – Every time you transfer your beer from one container to another you will lose some wort or beer. Unless you are aging your beer for an extended period, a secondary fermentation may not be needed. Even if you are transferring from pot to secondary you can, consider transferring the trub with the wort. Brulosophy did an interesting exBEERiment on this here.
  5. Consider a Conical Fermenter – Conical fermenters for beer brewing help by compacting your trub, yeast and sediment in the bottom of the fermenter, and also make it easy to remove it. This means you will have less wasted beer when using a conical. Here are some advantages of conicals and there are a wide variety of plastic and stainless conicals available now.
  6. Cold Crash Your Beer – Dropping the temperature of your finished beer will aid in the flocculation and settling process. It will help yeast, proteins and polyphenols to settle out of the beer more quickly and will reduce the required aging time. A compact sediment layer results in less waste when ready to bottle. In addition, cold crashing can improve your beer clarity.

Those are six useful tips to help minimize your beer brewing losses so you can enjoy more great home brewed beer! Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith blog! Please subscribe to the newsletter or podcast on iTunes for more articles and sessions on home brewing!

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Dealing with COLA, FONL, and Compliance

The Mad Fermentationist - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 6:59am
With our first anniversary (and party) coming up, I wanted to write a post on one of the many areas I didn't know anything about as a homebrewer that goes into an event like this. One of my many hats at Sapwood Cellars is compliance. It is a necessary part of the dream job, but luckily not the whole thing! It includes things like record keeping, filing excise taxes, and TTB submissions for formula and label approvals. The taxes took awhile to get used to, but aren't that bad now that we have adequate record keeping procedures in place.

We're lucky to be in that Maryland doesn't require federal COLA label approval for in-state distribution. So we're just now getting into that as we've recently been approved to sell beer in Virginia, DC, California, and Oregon. Don't get your hopes up, for now it's just small shipments for festivals and events (e.g., Modern Times Festival of Dankness, Aslin Anniversary Party, Snallygaster). So far it hasn't been too burdensome, mostly just getting the templates for our labels and keg collars in spec, and then learning what words are required or problematic. It is a bit more work given the wide variety of beers we produce (more than 150 in our first year), but most of those are tasting room only.



The more annoying piece is formula approvals (FONL). Despite what several brewers have told me, formula approvals are required any time you are adding ingredients not in the list of Exempt Ingredients and Processes regardless of whether label approval is required or where/if the beer will be distributed. I called the TTB and had my understanding confirmed. True, the odds of getting in trouble for not having an approved formula are low for a beer that stays in state (especially taproom only), but as a long-time government employee I'm just not an "ask for forgiveness" kind of person. The issue is that it seems approvals are really subjective/inconsistent.

Last fall I'd requested a formula with acorns, to do a small batch with the acorns I dry-fermented. I was rejected. Well that isn't entirely true, what the TTB usual responds is to request the GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) notification from the FDA for the ingredient in question. The issue is that they know well that the most ingredients aren't on there, and that the only way to get it there would be to fund a study showing its safety. As a result, most of "GRAS" substances are specific chemical compounds (e.g., Xylooligosaccharides from sugarcane, Ergothionine, and Synthetic dihydrocapsiate) that large companies have gotten through. You know what isn't on there? Apples, while apple peel powder is. Oranges, but orange pomace and enzyme-treated orange pomace is. You get the idea.



When I contacted the FDA about acorns they responded that while acorns were not GRAS, I could use "tannic acid extracted from nutgalls or excrescences that form on the young twigs of Quercus infectoria Oliver and related species of Quercus." Pass...

Recently I saw another brewer mention that they had gotten acorn flour approved (but were still requires submission of a "tannin leaching" process). I submitted a formula for a dark saison with acorn flour, and was rejected again, but this time for the reason that acorn flour is approved without a request being required. Not sure what grinding the acorns up does to change it from requiring FDA study to being allowed without even having to submit a formula request.

Something similar happened with Staghorn Sumac (which I'd used at home with wonderful results). GRAS notification was requested from my submission, which annoyed me because I've had several commercial beers brewed with. I responded:

Maybe I am misunderstanding the GRAS Notices? It doesn't seem to include most of the typical ingredients added to beer, e.g., hops or barley. Most of the entries are for chemical compounds or specific extractions from plants, not fruits, vegetables, or other commonly consumed foodstuffs? Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac) has been made into a lemonade-like drink for centuries. Here is an info sheet from North Dakota State on the species, that includes: "Food - Sumac lemonade made from berries."

Three weeks later and my formula was approved without further comment...

I've got nothing against safety rules on what goes into beer. I'd just prefer they were clearly delineated and widely followed.

Since both of these ingredients are foraged and thlimited, we decided to make 15 gallon variants with each for the anniversary party. A barrel-aged dark saison (based on Funky Dark #4) for the acorns and a pale sour fermented with The Yeast Bay Melange for the Sumac!



Categories: Homebrewing blogs

BeerSmith 3 Labor Day Sale – 20% off Through Monday

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Thu, 08/29/2019 - 4:14pm

I’m pleased to announce the BeerSmith 3 Labor Day Sale is open now through Monday, 2 Sept, 2019 at midnight Eastern time. Get 20% of BeerSmith 3 desktop here.

Whether you want the Gold, Platinum or Professional Subscription or the Basic (non subscroption) option, this is a great time to upgrade from BeerSmith 2 or get started as a new BeerSmith 3 customer. Get 20% off now if you order by Monday!

Other News

This week the BeerSmith Recipe Site surpassed 1 million total beer recipes making it the largest single repository of beer recipes in the world. I also will be announcing some new features and updates for the BeerSmith platform soon.

Thanks for your continued support and have a great Labor Day weekend!

Sincerely,

Brad Smith, PhD

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Gluten Free Beer Brewing with Robert Keifer- BeerSmith Podcast #198

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Wed, 08/28/2019 - 1:04pm

Robert Keifer joins us from Divine Sciences Brewing this week to discuss gluten free beer brewing recipe design.

Subscribe on iTunes to Audio version or Video version or on Google Play

Download the MP3 File– Right Click and Save As to download this mp3 file

Topics in This Week’s Episode (57:20)
  • This week I welcome Robert Keifer. Robert recently started a gluten free brewery called Divine Sciences Brewing and has also written on gluten free brewing for BYO magazine.
  • We start with a discussion of some of the changes since Robert last appeared on the show including the start of his new brewery.
  • Robert explains some of the differences between traditional recipe design and gluten free recipe design.
  • We talk about the exclusion of barley, wheat and rye and how that affects the flavor of the ber.
  • Robert tells us which alternative grains work best as base and specialty grains.
  • We discuss the issue of color which can be a bit different for gluten free grains than it is for barley grains.
  • Robert explains why some gluten free beers lack body and also what can be done to increase the body in a finished beer.
  • We explore mashing alternative grains and how the mash schedule often needs to be highly modified to properly convert non-barley grains.
  • Robert talks about enzymes which are needed for many gluten free grains as they lack sufficient enzymes of their own to self-convert.
  • We talk about fermentation and how to manage low final gravities.
  • Robert shares his closing thoughts.
Sponsors

Thanks to Robert Keifer for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!
iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Rating and Sharing Cloud Recipes in BeerSmith 3 Brewing Software

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Thu, 08/22/2019 - 10:18am

This video details how to rate and share recipes in BeerSmith 3 home brewing, mead, wine, and cider making software. It also features the new “unlisted” sharing options which make it easy to share with a friend even if you don’t want your recipe in the search results.

You can find additional tutorials on the main tutorial page and download a free trial copy of BeerSmith from BeerSmith.com.

Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Mead with Michael Fairbrother and Berniece Van Der Berg – BeerSmith Podcast #197

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Tue, 08/13/2019 - 11:36am

Michael Fairbrother and Berniece Van Der Berg from Moonlight Meadery join me this week to discuss mead.

Subscribe on iTunes to Audio version or Video version or on Google Play

Download the MP3 File– Right Click and Save As to download this mp3 file

Topics in This Week’s Episode (49:19)
  • This week I welcome Michael Fairbrother and Berniece Van Der Berg from Moonlight Meadery.  Michael is founder and head mead maker at Moonlight Meadery, and Berniece is co-founder and Vice President of Marketing.
  • We open with a brief discussion of some of the new things going on at Moonlight Meadery.
  • Michael talks a bit about National Mead Day which was August 3rd, including some of the activities surrounding this day.
  • Berneice talks a bit about National Honeybee Day coming up on August 17th and we also discuss how important honey bees are.
  • Michael tells us how he works very closely with honey suppliers and also how they have gone 100% organic with their suppliers
  • Berniece shares a bit about the US beekeeper industry and how it is still dominated by smaller family beekeepers
  • We discuss the state of craft mead making and how it has been rapidly expanding the last few years.
  • We discuss some new innovations at Moonlight meadery and also how Michael’s mead making has evolved over his last 9 years in business.
  • We discuss how the popular meads at Moonlight have evolved over time, as well as the offering of specialty meads.
  • Michael and Berniece give their thoughts on where they think the mead industry is going next as well as closing thoughts on craft mead.
Sponsors

Thanks to Michael Fairbrother and Berniece Van Der Berg for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!
iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Adjusting Sulfite Levels in Mead, Wine and Ciders

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Sun, 08/11/2019 - 11:31am

This week I look at how to adjust the free sulfite levels in your mead, wine or cider to achieve good shelf stability.

Most commercial wines, meads and ciders have the words “contains sulfites” somewhere on the label. Sulfites, a name for Sulfer Dioxide (SO2), is a preservative that is widely used in winemaking and the food industry. It has antibacterial properties, reducing the risk of infection and refermentation. It also has antioxident properties which means it can help prevent oxidation of the beverage while in the bottle. It is typically added in the form of Potassium Metabisulfite which is available from most beer and wine supply stores.

Sulfites are generally considered harmless, but roughly 1% of the US population is sulfite sensitive. This includes people who suffer from severe asthma or have a sulfite allergy. About 5-10% of those with asthma also have a sulfite allergy. Though many prepackaged foods have sulfite levels several times that of wine, most wine makers try to minimize the level of sulfites used to avoid triggering those with allergies.

Any wine with sulfite levels above 10 ppm must be labeled with “contains sulfites”, and the maximum levels for sulfites in the EU are 210 ppm for white, 400 ppm for sweet, and 160 ppm for red wines. In the US the limit is 350 ppm.

The sulfite needed for a beverage varies by slightly pH, sweetness and type. Sulfite is added in the form of Potassium Metabisulfite, which you can purchase from most brewing and wine supply stores.

As a first order, you can estimate the minimum sulfite level needed from a pH reading of your wine, mead or cider using the Tools->Sulfite Tool in BeerSmith. Just enter the batch volume and measured pH and it will estimate the free sulfite level needed. This is your minimum target level based on an average wine.

You may want to target a slightly higher sulfite level depending on your beverage. For example white wines and ciders could use a slightly higher level in many cases. Sweet wines and sweet meads also generally need a bit more sulfite to help prevent secondary fermentation. Finally if you plan to backsweeten your cider or mead, I do recommend targeting a level much higher than the recommended level, again to prevent fermentation.

Note that the target level is expressed as “free sulfite”. This is the amount of free SO2 in the beverage, which may be different than the amount added as potassium metabisulfite earlier in the process. The reason for this is that if you add a given weight of potassium metabisulfite, some of the free SO2 will react with the beverage itself as well as any free oxygen in the beverage. So the resulting “free sulfite” level may be lower than expected.

To precisely hit a given target “free sulfite” level, many wine and mead makers use a sulfite test kit. Home wine, mead and cider makers can also purchase home versions of this kit. Using the kit you can estimate exactly how much free sulfite is in your beverage, and then make small additions to get to the target level you want. Again the Sulfite Tool in BeerSmith can help with this calculation. Simply enter the current measured Free sulfite level, your target level and batch volume and the program will estimate the amount of Potassium Metabisulfite to add. It also shows optional potassium sorbate if you plan to backsweeten your mead or cider.

In practice, I often will adjust my sulfite levels with a few additions. I will usually add the first sulfite addition once fermentation is completely done as a preservative during aging. As the mead or wine ages, I’ll make a second addition when I transfer for clearing and then take a final free sulfite measurement with my test kit and final addition shortly before bottling.

Hopefully you enjoyed this article on sulfites in mead, wine and cider. Thank you for joining me this week on the BeerSmith blog – please subscribe to the newsletter or listen to my video podcast for more great material on homebrewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Running a Craft Brewery with Tomme Arthur – BeerSmith Podcast #196

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Tue, 07/30/2019 - 6:10pm

Tomme Arthur from The Lost Abbey joins me to discuss experiences the last 13 years building and running his craft brewery.

Subscribe on iTunes to Audio version or Video version or on Google Play

Download the MP3 File– Right Click and Save As to download this mp3 file

Topics in This Week’s Episode (38:11)
  • My guest this week is Tomme Arthur, co-founder and Director of Brewing Operations at The Lost Abbey brewery. Tomme has spent over 20 years in professional brewing working at breweries as well as White Labs and Pizza Port before founding The Lost Abbey in 2006.
  • Tomme holds dozens of GABF medals, as well as local, regional and World Beer Cup awards.
  • We start with a quick update on the consolidation at The Lost Abbey which has occupied a large part of Tomme’s time the last 18 months.
  • Tomme tells us what its like to operate a fairly large craft brewery, and shares what his typical work day looks like.
  • We talk about how they make basic descisions like what beers to brew and in what quantities.
  • He shares what the brewing production cycle is at Lost Abbey
  • We discuss how he comes up with new ideas for beers as well as how they bring them into production.
  • He shares his thoughts on quality control and quality assurance for beer.
  • Tomme tells us some of the ways the beer scene has changed over the years and we discuss the growing competition in craft beer.
  • We talk about long term planning for growth and expansion as well as how he finances growth.
  • He shares the biggest problem he ran into at The Lost Abbey and how they solved it.
  • We discuss the business vs brewing side of the job.
  • Tomme shares his advice for those looking to start a small brewery as well as his closing thoughts.
Sponsors

Thanks to Tomme Arthur for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!
iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Craft Brewing Equipment, Reviewed

The Mad Fermentationist - Tue, 07/30/2019 - 8:20am
There are so many reviews of homebrewing gear online, but when it comes to craft brewing equipment you're lucky if you can find a forum post or two. It makes sense as there are so many more homebrewers than craft brewers... I also had more time to write before I started making beer 60+ hours a week. Now that we're a year into brewing at Sapwood Cellars, it seemed like a good time to step back and get my thoughts down about the equipment we purchased. Hopefully what follows will help a brewer starting out, looking to add something, or just wanting a sense of what things cost.

Forgeworks 10 bbl Brewhouse - $71,306

The Good: Reasonable price, solid build quality, gets the wort production job done.

The Bad: A few design head-scratchers on the mash tun. It has a huge volume below the false bottom (~90 gallons/3 bbl). The under-screen spray balls spray directly into the supports making them useless (the connection for them is also around back making it difficult to access). The torsion ring on the rakes wasn't adequately tightened when we received it causing the rakes fell off mid-mash a few batches in. No issues since properly tightening. Originally the pickup arm in the kettle extended into the center (right into the trub cone), but they swapped us our for a shorter one that is now standard.

Verdict: Satisfied with it so far, but not thrilled given things like having to pull the false bottom to clean underneath/between after the last brew of the week (the plates can be annoying to remove, but not bad compared to some other systems).


MidCo EC300 Burner - $1,070

The Good: Plenty of heat to have the kettle close to a boil by the time run-off is finished.

The Bad: The burner's control board is incredibly sensitive to moisture, just a few drops and it is fried. A fact that it would have been nice to have a warning about from Forgeworks (they said some breweries have had it happen multiple times). Otherwise it has just been a learning curve to wait longer to turn it on and throttle the gas to avoid boil-overs. Our beers are 1-2 SRM darker than predicted thanks to direct fire, but not really the burner's fault.

Verdict: Steam would have been great, but wasn't in our budget. We haven't had issues since covering the control board with a plastic baggie (we've got a spare controller too). We were told that MidCo had a waterproof housing almost complete last fall, but haven't heard an update since.

Thermaline Heat Exchanger - $4,198.72

The Good: Their website allow you to input the parameters (volume, desired chilling rate, ground water/glycol temperature) and they build a unit to accommodate. That seemed to work for us as the chill times seem to line up reasonably.

The Bad: Nothing major to complain about. In the summer we do have to slow run-off as the second stage (glycol) doesn't lower the temperature compared to ground water by more than a degree or two at full blast.

Verdict: Might have been worth it to go a bit more over-sized, but no issues with the build-quality, durability etc.

Apex 10/20 bbl Fermenters - $7,500/10,700

The Good: The price is reasonable. We've got the "new style" 10 bbls that have an easy-rotate racking. The 2 inch dumps at the bottom rarely get clogged with hops, and the 4 inch dry hop ports work well, especially with our hop doser (below).

The Bad: The 20 bbl tank is the "old style" meaning the racking arm is just a tri-clamp. Not ideal, but it works fine especially after switching to a Teflon gasket. The big issue on that tank is with the hop port, the literature said it was a 6 inch, but it turned out to be a DIN150 (European fitting). Apex had been aware of this for 6 months and it took me ordering a gasket (to confirm the size) and then a customer reducer to resolve the issue.

There is a minor issue with one of the 10 bbl fermenters as well, the sparyball arm is just a little short which makes reassembly a two person operation (one to push, one to clamp).

Verdict: Given the issues and poor service with the 20 bbl, I'm hesitant to order more tanks from them when the time for expansion comes. Especially as they don't manufacture the tanks, the only advantage of going with them rather than directly from a Chinese manufacturer would be service.

Colorado Brewing Double Keg Washer - $6,370‬

The Good: Great price for an semi-automated keg washer. It rinses, washes, sanitizes, and purges two kegs at a time without intervention. As long as everything is connected and the reservoirs are filled, we rarely have an issue (other than hops in the occasional keg plugging up). The cycles are customizable, so we've tweaked them. We run a double cycle on our sour kegs, and no issues so far sharing them with clean beers.

The Bad: It's been a bit of a chore to deal with the issues that have arisen in one year of use: casters fell off, weld on one of the pots failed, software "disappeared", gas solenoid failed etc.

Verdict: The company has been great at dealing with these issues as they've occurred, shipping us replacement parts, paying for a welder etc. That said, I'd rather have not spent so much time dealing with it.

Marks Mini-Hop Doser - $495

The Good: Allows us to add hops with minimal oxygen pick-up. Safer than dry hopping loose (no risk of foam-up). Ability to add hops to a tank without venting the head pressure.

The Bad: Nothing big, although expect to double the cost of the unit itself in fittings. We have 4 inch butterfly valves on our tanks and move the doser between them as needed.

Verdict: Not sure what we'd do without it... oh I do because we we're able to use it on our 20 bbl because of the wonky port size (run CO2 and hope you don't get a face full of beer).

Navien Tankless Water Heater Standard Model - $1,260

The Good: Outputs up to 180F, plenty hot for collecting water for the mash and sparge or pasteurizing a line. Relatively inexpensive to buy and operate compared to a traditional always-on HLT.

The Bad: In the winter 180F output runs at 3 gallons/min. Helps to have a tank with an electric element to speed things up, or pre-collect water the night before.

Verdict: At our scale, and without steam this made the most sense and we're still happy with it. Two units can be daisy-chained together if we want to speed things up (e.g., first heats to 140F, second to 180F).


Uline Straddle Stacker: Semi-Electric - $3,245

The Good: It's considerably less expensive than even a used propane-powered forklift. It's good in tight spaces because it's human powered, and powerful enough to lift a rack with two barrels. Being electric, it doesn't produce fumes that could negatively effect barrel-aging beers.

The Bad: Given the legs in front, it can't get around larger pallets, or standard pallets the long way.  It is propelled by pushing, and weights over 1,200 lbs (plus whatever you are moving up to 2,200 lbs more). Only one wheel turns with steering making direction changes difficult. It also needs additional height above it, which can be tricky in a building with HVAC, lights, doorways etc.

Verdict: With our relatively cramped space, a forklift doesn't make sense, this gets the job done.

FlexTanks - $460-$1,190

The Good: They are inexpensive compared to stainless steel totes, while being easier to use than IBCs (international bulk containers). They have standard 1.5" tri-clamp fittings and sample ports. We mainly use the 300 gallon ones to hold bulk sour beer waiting for barrels, or to dilute barrel-aged beer that is too oaky (especially with so many first-use barrels). The 80 gallon FlexTanks are for fruit additions, where the large opening makes them easier to fill and empty than a barrel.

The Bad: They can only take ~1 PSI, so most of the movement has to be from gravity. The gasket on the lids is round and doesn't have a grove to sit in. This makes it is difficult to align without dropping in.

Verdict: They were a good place to start thanks to the price, but stainless would be more versatile and foolproof if you have the money.

EuroTransport Container Dimple Jacketed - $6,595

The Good: It's a movable, stainless-steel, temperature-controlled tank. We use it as our blending tank for sour barrel-aged beers. The bottom port is for liquid in/out (with a T for the sample port), and the two side ports for the temperature probe and carbonation stone. We currently have it off the pad, so it is nice to be able to pallet-jack it onto the pad for cleaning.

The Bad: It's odd that a jacketed tank doesn't have a built-in thermowell for the temperature probe. We use corny fittings for some kegs anyway, but it is weird to have a tank like this with a gas poppet on top. While the tank is jacketed, it isn't double walled so it sweats like crazy in the summer, we need to insulate it.

Verdict: Reasonably happy with it, but it requires a bit of a unique situation (like ours) to justify this over a standard brite tank.

XpressFill XF4500 - $6,295

The Good: It's a reasonable price for a four-head counter-pressure bottle filler. Does four bottles a minute when everything is humming along.

The Bad: We had some issues early on with the fill sensor. One or two heads would indicate that the bottle was filled even when it was empty. Turned out it was a drop of condensation on the CO2 line "falsely" completing the circuit. Not a problem now that we know what to do. One of the switches won't stay in the off position, which can cause the pneumatic foot to rise unexpectedly.

Verdict: I'm happy with it. Worth the added cost over a gravity filler for us because it reduces oxygen exposure, and allows us to bottle partially (or fully) carbonated beer. Our general approach is to chill the beer in the blending tank, prime with sugar and rehydrated yeast, agitate the tank, then pump in CO2 through the stone to get to ~1.5 volumes of CO2. The yeast does its job to bring the carbonation to target in the bottle, and we don't have to worry about predicting residual CO2 in barrels stored in ambient conditions.



Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Simple Homebrewing with Denny and Drew – BeerSmith Podcast #195

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Wed, 07/24/2019 - 8:52am

This week Denny Conn and Drew Beechum join me to discuss their new book Simple Homebrewing. The book is focused on making home brewing simple and fun again.

Subscribe on iTunes to Audio version or Video version or on Google Play

Download the MP3 File– Right Click and Save As to download this mp3 file

Topics in This Week’s Episode (46:29)
  • Today on the show I welcome back Drew Beechum and Denny Conn.  Drew is author of The Everything Homebrew Book, The Homebrewer’s Journal and The Everything Hard Cider book.  Denny is a nationally ranked beer judge, and author of Craft Beer for the Homebrewer. They wrote Experimental Brewing together and today they join me to discuss their new book Simple Homebrewing. [NOTE: All links are Amazon affiliate links].
  • We start with a short discussion of what Denny and Drew have been up to recently.
  • Denny explains the genesis behind the book “Simple Homebrewing” and also describes what simple means when it comes to homebrewing.
  • Drew provides some advice for simple extract brewing and talks about how extract brewers can improve their beer and save time.
  • Drew and Denny provide some simplificiation tips for all grain brewers including the importance of planning ahead to save time during brew day.
  • Denny talks about both small batch brewing and Brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) which can be big time savers and also allow you to make experimental batches that may not require 10 gallons (40 liters) of beer.
  • Drew discusses how technology can be a double edged sword with the potential to both save time and make the brew day more complex.
  • Drew introduces the concept of simplifying flavors by including only the ingredients needed to achieve the flavors you want.
  • Denny talks about recipe design, and how it can also be simplified by taking the right approach.
  • Denny takes on a simplified approach to water and advocates a two-stage approach where you adjust the water profile first and then address the mash pH separately.
  • We discuss briefly ingredients, as well as managing yeast and fermentation, and Drew finishes with a discussion on sour beers.
  • Both guests provide their closing thoughts.
Sponsors

Thanks to Denny Conn and Drew Beechum for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!
iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Unit Conversions and Settings in BeerSmith 3

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Fri, 07/19/2019 - 1:19pm

This week I provide an overview of how to adjust unit settings in BeerSmith 3, the unit conversion tools and some hidden features for converting units on the fly.

Global Unit Settings in BeerSmith

The basic unit settings can be set using the Options dialog. On the Windows/Linux versions this is available on the Tools->Options menu while on the Mac, the options dialog is under the BeerSmith->Preferences menu item. There is also a video on unit settings here.

From the options dialog, select the Units tab to display unit options. Here you can set individual unit settings for various units, or if you wish to set all of the unit settings at once you can click on the Set to English or Set to Metric buttons at the bottom to change the defaults to English (US) or metric units.

In addition to the basic unit settings, you can also specify the precision (number of digits after the decimal point) to display, and the defaults for weight and hop units. Note that there are two volume unit settings – one for Batch Volumes and one for Mash Volumes. The mash volume setting defaults to quarts, as some people prefer to calculate mash volumes in quarts.

In addition you can specify whether english units are shown as lbs/oz for things like grain weights. Checking this box will show a value as “2 lb 4 oz” instead of “2.25 lb” for many weight values. At the bottom you can change currency settings, date formats and also the decimal point character.

When you change the global settings above, it will affect all of the displayed values for recipes, profiles and ingredients except for Misc ingredients. Each Misc ingredient has its own unit setting to give some additional flexibility, so they will not change with the global settings.

Unit Conversion On the Fly

In addition to the global settings, each data entry field in BeerSmith 3 has a mini-calculator in it that can do unit conversions on the fly for you. All you need to do is enter a number followed by a unit abbreviation and the program will convert the unit in place.

For example if your global units are set to pounds and you enter 3.2 kg into a grain weight field and hit the tab key, the program will convert the 3.2 kg into pounds and display the equivalent weight. This actually works in any data entry field within BeerSmith 3 desktop, so you can enter temperatures, pressures, volumes or weights into any field along with the units and the program will convert it to the global system you are using.

You can also enter mixed lb-oz English weights, so for example entering “2 lb 3 oz” into a weight field will correctly convert it to the decimal equivalent.

Each field also incorporates basic math operations, so you can use math operators +, -, *, / as well as parenthesis to perform simple math in any field. For example entering “3/2” into a field will result in 1.5. Entering “4*1.2” will result in 4.8. This makes easy work of simple calculations without having to open a separate calculator.

Unit Conversion Tools

BeerSmith also has a separate set of stand-alone unit calculators on the desktop and mobile versions. These are available under the Unit Tools menu. The tools are for Temperature, Specific Gravity, Pressure, Weight and Volume. To use these, simply enter a value in one unit and it will automatically show the equivalent value in all of the other units in the dialog.

Tip: If you want to show the unit tools (or any tool) in a small separate window rather than creating a new tab, you can hold down the shift key on your keyboard while clicking on the tool. It will then show the unit tool in a small separate window you can move/adjust to use while building a recipe for instance.

I hope you enjoyed this quick overview of unit settings in BeerSmith 3. Thank you for joining me this week on the BeerSmith blog – please subscribe to the newsletter or listen to my video podcast for more great material on homebrewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

The BeerSmith Hop Age Tool and the Hop Stability Index

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Wed, 07/10/2019 - 7:20am

This week I take a look at how to use the Hop Age Tool in BeerSmith, as well as address the hop stability index, proper hop storage and how your hops age over time.

How Hops Age

Hops, like any organic ingredient, have a finite shelf life, and their aroma, bitterness and flavor will degrade over time. How quickly your hops degrade is a function of their form, packaging, temperature and time.

The enemies of hops are oxygen, heat, light and time. Hops exposed to oxygen will oxidize, which is why most modern hops are packaged in oxygen barrier packages, often vacuum or gas-purged made of foil or mylar. Once you open a package of hops, the oxygen will start the process of oxidizing it.

Light and heat are also enemies of hops, so proper packaging is opaque to prevent light from reaching the hops, and your hops should be stored in a freezer at or below freezing to maximize shelf life.

The form of the hops also plays a minor role. Compressed hop pellets and plugs which minimize the exposed surface area will degrade more slowly when exposed to oxygen than whole leaf hops, for example.

As hops age, the effectiveness of the hops will also degrade. Part of this degradation includes the alpha acid percentage which is usually printed on the label for the hops. As hops get older, less of the alpha acids will remain in a state where they can be isomerized during the boil to provide bitterness for the beer.

When the remaining alpha acids for a hop reach roughly 50% of their original fresh level, most sources consider the hops spoiled, and they should be discarded. Keep in mind that flavor, aroma oils and other compounds are also degrading as the hops age.

The Hop Stability Index

In addition to heat, light temperature and time, each hop variety ages at a slightly different rate. There is a measurement called the Hop Stability Index (HSI) that is used to determine how quickly a given hop degrades.

The HSI is expressed as a percentage of the hop alpha acids that are lost in 6 months at standard temperature of 68 F (20 C). So a hop variety that has a HSI of 25% means that it would lose 25% of its alpha acid content in 6 months if stored at 68F (20 C).

So if the original alpha acid percentage of the hops was 10%, it would lose 25% of that in 6 months, leaving an effective alpha percentage of only 7.5%.

The BeerSmith Hop Age Tool

Obviously few of us store our hops at 68F (20 C) and also with proper pelletization and oxygen barrier packaging the hops can last much longer. This is where the BeerSmith Hop Age Tool is useful as it takes into account the packaging, temperature and HSI to estimate the total aging effects for your hops.

Open the tool from Tools->Hop Age Tool on BeerSmith desktop. You can either enter your hop name, starting alpha and HSI at the top or select a hop variety by clicking on the Choose Hops button.

After you have entered the hop information at the top, you can enter the age of the hops, storage temperature and type of packaging in the Storage Conditions section.

The main output, the Adjusted Alpha is shown at the bottom of the tool window. A good rule of thumb is that you should discard hops when they reach approximately half their original alpha acid. So if the starting alpha acid was 10%, then you would want to discard the hops if their adjusted alpha drops below 5%.

The Adjusted Alpha number is the one you should use in your beer recipe as that percentage reflects the aged state of your hops. For properly stored, vacuum sealed hops, the change will be small over the first year, but for older or improperly stored hops the adjusted alpha can be significantly lower.

Keep in mind, also, that fragile hop oils may degrade more quickly than alpha acid, so you probably don’t want to use 3 year old hops as whirlpool/aroma/dry hops even if they still retain enough alpha acid. Use some hops from this year’s crops instead for your whirlpool/dry hop stages and save the older hops to use in the boil.

Thank you for joining me this week on the BeerSmith blog – please subscribe to the newsletter or listen to my video podcast for more great material on homebrewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

2019 Homebrew Con

Brew Dudes - Wed, 07/03/2019 - 12:21pm

These Brew Dudes are fresh from Homebrew Con 2019 and have some things to say about it. The conference took place in Providence, RI this year which was the first time in 28 years it was held in a New England state. Since it was our first time, we talk about what we learned from […]

The post 2019 Homebrew Con appeared first on Brew Dudes.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs