If youre new to brewing it can seem like there’s a lot to learn. It can be hard to figure out what areas to focus on for a better beer. Today we are going to simplify all that and focus on our top 5 tips to instantly improve your beer right now.
Improving your beer should be the goal every time you brew. You might think you need fancy equipment to make better beer but that’s not always the case. Sure it can make some aspects of your brewing easier but it won’t necessarily improve your beer. Most improvements can be done in your brewing practices and that’s exactly what we are going to go over today. All these improvements are things you can do right now without needing to buy any expensive gear.
If you are searching for more tips make sure to check our 10 Tips for Brewing your Best Beers for more beer brewing advice.
1. Managing the Temperature
It’s probably one of the biggest reasons your brew might have some off-flavors. The temperature during fermentation greatly impacts the flavor of your beer. If fermented too warm you have the potential to stress out the yeast. A good goal should be to get your fermenting beer under 67 F. That means during active fermentation when your beer ferments it creates exothermic heat so aim a little below 67 F to be safe.
For the most part, you should try to ferment lager strains below 55 F for the cleanest-tasting beer. The best way to do this is with a dedicated fermentation chamber. Or you can put your fermenter in a larger bucket and fill it with ice water. Then just swap ice packs every 8 to 12 hours to keep it cool.
If you have a really cold basement that can work too. Setting your beer at room temperature is often not enough. It’s a good idea if youre just starting out to use yeast that doesn’t mind warmer temperatures.
2. Up Your Yeast Count
This is the one we ignored for years and a lot of time our beer suffered and slugged through fermentation. The yeast packs are often jumping-off points. They contain just enough for you to make a very small beer or a very light beer.
Without building up your yeast youre have a very low cell count. The little guys will be working overtime to convert the sugars into alcohol and eventually get stressed out and die out. This can lead to unfinished beer or potential off-flavors.
Also, your fermentation will go extremely slow which is an increased risk for an infection to take place because the yeast hasn’t established itself as the dominant microorganism. Solving this issue is easy and inexpensive. It starts with buying dry malt extract. It can be used to make a mini beer that you can dump your yeast into to build up the cell count and give your beer a jump start.
3. Understand Oxygen
Oxygen is one of those things that can be pretty simple to overlook. It plays a major factor in the yeast health and flavor of your beer. At the start of fermentation, yeast needs oxygen to perform its job. They take in the sugar from the water as well as oxygen to produce the alcohol and carbon dioxide we desire and beer.
When there isnt enough oxygen the yeast will become stressed and die. Even low dissolved oxygen brewers still oxygenate their wort prior to pitching yeast. The yeast won’t survive without it. Roughly transferring and splashing your beer from the kettle and good 60 seconds shake while in the fermenter is plenty to get oxygen into your wort.
Once the fermentation is underway it’s the complete opposite. You don’t want any oxygen touching your beer. Any oxygen introduced moving forward will risk oxidation. It greatly impacts the flavor, aroma, and color of your beer.
4. Control Your Water
Water is the main base for all beer. The minerals in water have an important part in the way beer tastes. Depending on where you get your water it will have varying levels of key minerals that impact the taste and mouthfeel of your beer.
Without adjusting water minerals youre missing out on the extra lever that allows you to have more control over the final beer. Water chemistry can make a big difference in your beer. And you only need a few inexpensive water salts to start making a change today.
5. Go All Grain of Partial Mash
This might be the one tip that can cost you the most upfront. It will also definitely give you the biggest improvement on your beer. Brewing all-grain gives you the power to tweak your recipes to your taste buds and make the exact beer that you like. You can only get so far on extract beer and most of the time you don’t really know what youre getting or how fresh the ingredients are.
Brewing all-grain gets you to the raw ingredients of malt and you can really get experimenting with different flavor combinations. Brew in a bag only needs a kettle, a way to heat it, and a mash grain bag.
All grain is really not complicated and we recommend trying the partial mash. That’s when the main part of your wort comes from the extract. But a portion of wort is flavored with specialty malts that you do a mini-mash with a small pot. That will allow you to dip your toes in and see that it’s not difficult at all.
Probably the best way to improve your beer is just to keep brewing. At first, youre bound to brew some bad batches but don’t let that get you down. Learn from your mistakes. Write down the changes for next time and brew again. Cheers.