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We’ve all been there – that horrible moment when we suddenly realised we’ve made a big mistake whilst brewing a batch of beer. Whether it’s remembering, after three days of no fermentation activity, that we forgot to add the yeast on brewday, or realising that we forgot to put the lid on our airlock and that our beer’s been sitting exposed to all kinds of airborne beer-ruining bacteria overnight!

What do we do in these situations? Panic.

“Is it ruined?! What if it’s infected? I must tip it all away down the sink because I messed up and ruined my beer! :(

What should we do in these situations?


Or in laymans terms: Relax, Don’t Worry, Have A Home-Brew!

There’s very little you can do to completely ruin a batch of beer. I once heard a veteran brewer give a panicking newbie the sound advice, “Unless you actually defacated into the fermentation vessel, your beer is going to be just fine.”

Whatever you do, do NOT dump a batch of beer. See how it turns out, and if it’s undrinkable after the full brewing process (after 3 weeks in the bottle!) you are then still not permitted to dump the batch. Beer gets better in time, and the yeast know what they’re doing. Besides, even if you do have an infected batch, it won’t do you any harm! No pathogens can survive in beer, due to the PH level. Even if your beer tastes like a small animal died in it, all it will do is give you an ‘icky tummy’.

So before you tip away that beer you ‘ruined’, give the yeast a chance to do their thing and clean up after your mistakes!…

Airlocks & Blow-off Tubes

What is the difference between an Airlock and a blow-off tube?

An airlock is a water-barrier that allows co2 to escape during fermentation, without allowing airborne particles, bacteria or insects to enter the fermentation vessel.

A blow-off tube replaces the airlock in a fermentation vessel. One end attaches to the top of the fermentation vessel and the other end is submersed in a container full of water.

Which one should I use?

For most brews, an airlock is fine. The advantage of an airlock is that it is relatively small compared to the blow-off tube, and is much easier to maintain. The problem with airlocks is that a very aggressive fermentation can clog the airlock with Krausen, causing a build up of pressure in the fermentation vessel. When that pressure gets too much, either the airlock or the lid of the fermentation vessel will pop off with great force, causing a big mess. A blow-off tube is much less likely to clog up than an airlock.

If you are brewing a beer using a top-fermenting yeast (most wheat-beers are brewed using this type of yeast), then you should always use a blow-off tube. This is because top-fermenting yeast produce a much higher, thicker krausen than regular ale yeasts and are much more likely to cause problems when using an airlock.

How to make a blow-off tube.

1. Attach a piece of sanitised tubing to the opening of your demijohn (or lid of your fermentation bucket) using a sanitised stopper with a hole in it.
2. Half-fill a small container such as a measuring jug or pint glass with water, and place the other end of the tube inside, below the level of the water. You do NOT need to use bleach or sanitising solution for this!…

Gelatin Finings

Gelatin Finings are used to ‘clear’ beer before kegging or bottling. Gelatin is the most powerful organic fining agent available in brewing.

Note: Gelatin is not vegetarian. If you plan to serve your beer to vegetarian friends, do not use Gelatin finings!

Across the Internet on the various brewing forums there is a massive amount of conflicting opinion on the correct way to use gelatin finings. One of the main things that people get wrong, is they boil the gelatin before adding it to the beer. Boiling gelatin will render it useless; do NOT boil the gelatin finings before adding them to the beer! I hope to clear things up here with a definitive method to using gelatin finings to clear a 5 gallon batch of beer. This is a tried and tested method which I have used for many brews with great success.

How To Use Gelatin Finings

1. Ferment your beer as usual. If you have dry hopped the beer with loose hops, rack the beer from under the hops into a sanitised fermentation vessel in order to remove any hop matter.

2. Boil a kettle.

3. Weigh out 1.5 grams of Gelatin for every 5 Gallons of beer.

4. Pour the hot boiled water into a heatproof measuring jug or other heatproof bowl. Add the gelatin powder and stir until dissolved.

5. Cover and cool until it reaches close to the same temperature as the beer.

6. Add to the beer, stirring SLOWLY so as not to introduce oxygen to the beer.

7. Leave for 5 days or until clear.

8. Rack to bottling bucket or keg as usual, being careful not to suck up the layer of yeast sediment.

I hope this helps you get a clearer beer.…

How To: Dry Hopping

What is Dry Hopping?

Dry Hopping is a technique used by brewers to increase the hop aroma in their beer. Usually hops are boiled with the wort to give it bitterness and aroma, however much of the aroma from the hops is lost by boiling them, so dry-hopping adds the aroma that cannot be extracted from the hops during the boil. Many inexperienced home-brewers come across recipes that call for ‘dry hopping’ and do not understand how the process works. Dry hopping is actually a very simple technique which can give your beer greater depth of flavour and aroma with very little work.

How do you ‘dry hop’ a beer?

To dry hop your beer, simply add the amount of hops specified in your recipe at the beginning of secondary fermentation.
1. Ferment the beer as usual until it has finished primary fermentation (take a hydrometer reading and ensure that the beer has reached its final gravity).
2. Using a racking cane and auto-syphon, transfer the beer to an empty, sanitised fermentation vessel being careful not to suck up any of the yeast sediment at the bottom of the beer.
3. Add your hops to the beer – either just chuck them in loose, or put them in a hop sock or muslin bag.
4. Leave for at least 3 days.
5. Using a racking cane and auto-syphon, transfer the beer to a sanitised fermentation vessel before bottling or kegging. Try not to suck up any of the hops during this step, as they will be present in the final beer if you do!

Do you have to boil the hops first?

No. Hops are a natural preservative and do not need to be boiled before being added to the fermenting beer. If you are using a hop sock or muslin bag, you may want to boil that to sanitise it first.

Which hops should you use for dry hopping?

Dry hopping does not add bitterness to the beer, but it does add the aromatic oils that are lost when the hops are boiled. Therefore the best hops for dry hopping are aroma hops with low Alpha Acid content. All of the noble hop varieties including Saaz, Hallertauer, Goldings, Fuggles, and Cascade are great for dry-hopping.

Speciality Grain Guide

Amber Malt

Speciality grains are used by brewers to alter the flavour, colour, and aroma of beer. Speciality grains can be used in both extract and all-grain brewing. In an extract brew, the grains are steeped (soaked in hot water) and removed before the extract is added and the wort is boiled. In an all-grain brew the speciality grains are mashed with the rest of the grain bill.

Here’s a quick guide to some of the most popular speciality grains.

Amber Malt

Amber malt is a lightly roasted chocolate malt. It gives the beer a strong biscuity taste with a coffee and chocolate aroma. Amber malt is often used in English browns, milds and old ales. This malt should only make up 20% or less of the mash when used in an All-grain brew.
Colour: 43 EBC

Potential Gravity: 1.035 SG


Black Malt

Black Malt gives the beer a very dark colour, and a dry roasted flavour. Black Malt is commonly used in Porter and Stout style beers. When used in Porters and Stouts, Black Malt is used for flavour as well as colour. When used in lighter beers Black Malt is used mainly for colour.

Colour: 980 EBC
Potential Gravity: 1.025 SG


Caramalt is a very light crystal malt. It has a strong caramel flavour and is sweeter than regular crystal malt. Caramalt is often used to aid head retention and add flavour. We recommend using caramalt as no more than 10% of the grist.

Colour: 20 EBC

Potential Gravity: 1.035 SG

Chocolate Malt

Chocolate Malt is a very dark roasted malt. It is used primarily in Brown Ales, Porters, and some stouts to impart a deep red/brown colour and dark-chocolate flavour.
Colour: 20 EBC

Potential Gravity: 1.035 SG

Crystal Malt

Crystal Malt gives beer a golden amber colour. It is used in many different beer styles and gives beer a toffee and caramel flavour. Crystal malt also gives the beer more body, and improves head retention.
Colour: 120 EBC (Available in different levels of colour)

Potential Gravity: 1.033 – 1.036SG

Crystal Wheat Malt

Crystal Wheat Malt is a wheat malt with a deeper colour and stronger aroma. It is often used in darker wheat beer styles such as Dunkelweizens. Also known as Carawheat.
Colour: 125 EBC

Potential Gravity: 1.035 SG

Flaked Barley

Flaked Barley is used to add body to the beer and aid head retention. It is more commonly used in darker beers, due to the fact that its high protein content causes haze which is undesirable in lighter coloured beers.
Colour: 3 EBC

Potential Gravity: 1.032 SG

Flaked Maize

Flaked Maize is used to raise the specific gravity without adding body to the beer. It produces a better, less harsh taste than simply adding sugar. It is often seen in recipes for Best Bitters and is used to make the beer lighter and more summery.
Colour: 3 EBC

Potential Gravity: 1.035 SG

Roasted Barley

Roasted Barley gives the beer a burnt bitter coffee taste and very dark red to brown colour. It should only be used in small amounts of 10% or less of the total grain bill.
Colour: 1300 EBC

Potential Gravity: 1.025 SG

These are just a few of the many speciality grains used in brewing. Thanks to Barley Bottom Homebrew Supplies for supplying pictures of the different grains. We highly recommend their online store for homebrew ingredients in the

If you have any questions about this article, or wish to point out any mistakes we have made, please post a comment or email us at and I will get back to you as soon as possible.…