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Looking for homebrewing gift ideas? Check out Homebrew Dad's 2015 homebrewing gift guide!

How to Clean your Fermentor Without Scrubbing

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/28/2016 at 12:35:27 AM

No matter what you brew, no matter how often you brew, one constant remains - you have to clean your fermentor between batches. This can sometimes be easier said than done, as dried on krausen and fermentation byproducts can be difficult to remove - especially in vessels such as carboys, which have narrow openings that prevent easy scrubbing. And, of course, matters can be further complicated if you are using plastic fermentors that may not be compatible with scrubbing due to concerns about scratches.

Dirty Carboy

Luckily, there are ways around the problem that don't force you to rely on using a glass carboy and a carboy brush... nor do you have to resort to some high-tech microfiber cloth attachment for a power drill (though the tool nut in me does admit that these look pretty cool).

Method One: the Soak

To me, the best alternative to scrubbing is to simply not scrub at all. Fill your fermentor with a solution of hot tap water and PBW (OxiClean Free is a pretty good stand in, and costs a bit less). The manufacturer recommended strength for this application is one tablespoon of PBW per gallon of water; I have found that PBW is still quite effective at lower concentrations than this.

Allow the fermentor to soak for an hour or two; an occasional swirl seems to be helpful. I have let glass carboys sit overnight in this solution multiple times, though as I understand it, doing so may not be advisable (there is some evidence that extended soaks in strong cleaning solutions can cause damage to the surface of fermentors)... so I've stopped that practice.

Regardless, a good soak, followed by a thorough rinse, will take care of the vast majority of even the heaviest krausen deposits.

Method Two: the Rag
Unfortunately, there are occasions where even a...
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I utilize method 1. I quickly learned I could save $ by using less pbw. What I do is fill the better bottle up to about 2 gallons and add my PBW. Then I get some tin foil and a rubber band and tightly secure it to the top. I then flip the better bottle end-over-end and leave it like that in a bucket (to catch any slow drip). A virgorous shake once or twice over 30 mins and everything is gone. I have had issues with residual crud if I just let it sit for multiple hours

posted by Brettwasbtd on 1/28/2016 at 08:28:28 AM

I have a marks keg washer and love it. I'll make 4 litres of pbw solution and let the carboy sit on it for 20 minutes or so (while I do other things). Sometimes for the caked on stuff I'll take a brush to it then another 20 minutes or so.

posted by sniffton on 1/28/2016 at 11:12:43 PM

Tags for this post: clean, carboy, fermentor, soaking

A Mini Mash Experiment to Explore Home-Roasted Grains

Posted by Corbinaack on 1/22/2016 at 06:10:04 PM


The Idea

When signing up for the BrewUnited Challenge, in a brief moment of ambition I decided to rise to the challenge and attempt a brown porter from light grains, because... why not? Of course, I was soon kicking myself for picking a category requiring home-roasting malts, in which I had exactly zero experience. I'd surely be at a disadvantage up against more experienced roasters. I had plenty of time to put together my recipe though, so I planned for a little trial and error.

For simplicity's sake, I opted to roast Pilsner malt for most of my dark grains. After reading up a little to get the general idea, I ended up roasting five different types: pan-roasted to two different intensities, and oven roasted three different ways - about a half pound of each. In addition to the roasted pilsners, I also took a little bit of c60, briefly moistened, and oven toasted until it slightly darkened in appearance. I let them sit in paper bags for a couple weeks to waft away unwanted aromas, and tasted each of the grains to try to get an idea of flavors. This wasn't nearly as enlightening as I'd hoped. I happened to have an evening to kill, so...
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Tags for this post: mini-mash, home roasted grains, RIMS, mashing experiment

Introducing the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge Homebrew Heroes!

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/21/2016 at 01:54:09 PM

Back in the summer of 2015, the BrewUnited Challenge was nothing more than a pipe dream. My experience to that point with competitions consisted of me entering one local comp; to call me a neophyte would be putting it kindly.

I did at least recognize that I didn't know what I didn't know, and I recruited a core of really good guys (Matthew Chrispen, Matt Del Fiacco, and Aaron Collier) to serve not only as the head judges for each of their respective sites, but also to help plan, to make rules, to give creative feedback, to tell me when I was being a moron. I didn't always agree, but more often than not, I listened to what they had to say; we cast votes on pretty much everything of importance (and, truth be told, more than a few items that probably were not of importance). The only time my vote ever could have counted for extra was in the event of a tied vote... and I don't believe that I ever actually exercised this power.

We kicked a lot of ideas around, but Matt C. came up with a really unique concept - the Homebrew Hero. The idea was of a special award to celebrate those brewers who showed excellence across multiple entries.

We all thought this was a good idea, and eventually settled on a few tenets for the award.

To qualify, a brewer's entries all had to be medal worthy - i.e., they must score at...
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Tags for this post: homebrew, hero, BrewUnited, challenge, brewer

Liquid Yeast Storage Medium - Beer vs. Water

Posted by vinpaysdoc on 1/11/2016 at 12:02:20 PM


Shortly after I began brewing I ran across Brulosopher's yeast harvesting article and started my own liquid yeast bank. Initially, it was recommended that once the yeast settled you should decant the beer and replace it with sterile water. This was my practice until many of those re-using yeast started to leave the beer over the yeast cake, reasoning that the alcohol would provide some measure of protection from bacterial contamination. That sounded reasonable to me and I began to leave the beer over the yeast cake to store it. It has probably been over a year that I have been storing yeast that way and I have had this nagging feeling that it takes my starters longer to get going since I changed. I've started thinking about alcohol being toxic to cells and wondering if this is really the best practice, so, I decided to perform a little pseudo-science to see for myself if one was better than the other.

The Question

Is there a noticeable difference in starters where yeast was stored under sterile water versus yeast stored under beer?

The Method

The Yeast: WLP001 harvested from a starter 9/30/15 and WLP002 harvested 10/3/15 were used. They both were stored in the vials two months before these starters were done. One vial was stored under the beer and the other had the beer decanted off and replaced with boiled/chilled water. There were roughly 50 billion cells...
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Tags for this post: Yeast Harvesting, Yeast Storage Medium

On Judging and Organizing: Working on National Internet Competitions

Posted by Matt on 12/08/2015 at 12:12:54 AM


This past year, I've had quite a few beer-related honors. I was made a moderator of the /r/homebrewing community, a community I love and where I learned most of what I know about homebrewing. I've been named the technical czar of my local club, which essentially means I handle presentations and fill in if needed. I've been able to continue to bond with an awesome group of guys and learn from them. I was invited to work on a local barrel project, entirely by chance, and learned a lot from this group as well (plus, got some awesome bourbon barrel aged sour stout). 

There are other things, accomplishments I'm proud of, but none so much as the work I've been able to do with the homebrewing community, both in-person and online. The community, you, is what keeps me coming back. Without the community, I'd probably quit brewing tomorrow, which means nothing to you but quite a bit to me. Which is why I'm thrilled to have been involved in two fantastic competitions this year, the Reddit Homebrewing Competition (as the organizer) and the BrewUnited Challenge (as a site organizer/judge/steward). 

Both were huge learning experiences for me. I'd never done judging (I've been a steward), I'd never organized a competition, I'd never organized other judges. But, looking back, there are a few points that stand out that I feel the need to share about the experience. 

1. Judging is tough

When Olan...
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Tags for this post: beer, homebrew, homebrewing, competitions, online competitions, BrewUnited, BrewUnited Challenge, Reddit, Reddit Homebrewing Competition

The Evolution of a Homebrewer's Spouse

Posted by toklas on 12/03/2015 at 10:45:59 PM

Toklas: Hon, did I get a package in the mail? I am expecting a book.
Husband: Yes, there was a package for you, so I put it in the fridge.

And with that, the book I ordered was indeed in the refrigerator. This whole scenario led me down the path of just how much my husband has changed as the spouse of a brewer.

As a female brewer, I have always appreciated his help with lugging heavy stuff around, but this mail-in-the-fridge event made me realise just all of the crazy things I've asked him to do for the sake of brewing. So I've commented on the evolution of a homebrewer's spouse, with my husband as H and me as, well, T in the text below.

They understand the nuances of fermentation

stays far away from fermentation vessel, afraid it might explode.
A few years in (via text message):
H: Hon, your beer is making funny noises.
T: Is it like "blub blub blub"?
H: Yep
T: Awesome.
H: ...ok then.
H: Hon, your beer is really fermenting like crazy!

They get your puns now! (but they're still not funny)

T: Hey, let's call this beer "Walter Wheat"
H: I don't get it
T: It's a wheat beer...
H: Oh, I think I get it now.
T: Wow,...
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Tags for this post: spouse, evolution, homebrewer's, humour

How to Get (and Keep) Great Head in Your Beer

Posted by homebrewdad on 12/02/2015 at 08:41:25 AM

Good head - the kind embodied by that fluffy layer of bubbles that rests on top of your beer, the kind that lasts as long as you still have beer in the glass, the kind that leaves sticky lacing (aka the residual bubbles that cling to the sides of your glass) behind - is a topic that you'll see brought up over and over again on any homebrewing forum. A good head on a beer is not only attractive, but functional, as the bubbles in the foam tend to trap the aromas of the beer, which can lead to increased perception of this aspect (which is a huge deal for hoppier beers). With all else being equal, most homebrewers would prefer a beer with a great head to one without.

Beer with a nice head

However, good head retention in particular can be elusive. After all, one can usually get at least a decent head to form with an aggressive pour, but all too often - judging by the aforementioned popularity of this topic - getting that head to stick around is another matter altogether.

Beer foam is comprised of the bubbles that are formed as CO2 leaves solution. These bubbles attach themselves to certain compounds on the beer, which form a skin around the bubble. Obviously, lower carbonation levels lead to fewer overall bubbles, which can clearly impact formation of foam in the first place. However, the answer isn't simply...
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Tags for this post: head, retention, beer, homebrew, foam, lacing, formation, bubbles

Homebrew Dad's 2015 Homebrewing Gift Guide

Posted by homebrewdad on 11/25/2015 at 09:52:58 AM

Last year, perhaps my most popular post (aside from the one describing the disaster of having my beer reviewed by a pro brewer) was my gift idea guide. With Black Friday just around the corner - and the Christmas shopping season in full swing - I figured that it was time to do an updated gift guide for 2015. As with last year, I'm not trying to be all things to all people; you won't see me hawking Blichmann kettles, for instance, due to the simple fact that I have never used one (nor do I know anyone who has). Instead, I'm limiting my suggestions to items that I have personal experience with.

Full disclosure: many of the links in this article include affiliate codes that benefit In no case will you pay anything aside from the normal prices, but will receive a commission. Obviously, I very much appreciate you using these links, but if you prefer to not do so, feel free to Google the products I mention.

1. For the Brand New Brewer

If you are considering helping a loved one get into homebrewing, don't be tempted by those Mr. Beer kits at the mall. Sure, they are cheap to pick up, and easy to use, but they are pretty restrictive and lack a lot of the features that will likely be sought after the first brew or two. Instead, get...
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Tags for this post: gift, guide, brewing, brewer, homebrewing, homebrewer, Christmas, present

The Cost to Build a Homebrewery - End Game Brewing

Posted by zVulture on 11/24/2015 at 12:37:38 PM


In my previous posts I covered costs to starting a brewery then costs for Mash Tuns, Yeast Starter Equipment, and Kegging. In both I went for the least expensive recommended setup to give others an idea of how much it costs for this hobby. This time I am doing personal research for my own homebrewing setup in time for Black Friday. With my research I intend to move to a two pot and single mash tun setup that will allow me to do the most varieties of brewing processes. No Sparge, Batch Sparge, Fly Sparge, Cold Fly Sparge, Brew in a Bag, Decoction, and whatever else I can imagine.

Notes: The links here are un-affiliated and are there for pricing and ease of use. This is me planning for a build so costs and equipment might need adjustments. Due to the custom nature of this build, I don't see prices of items going on sale on black friday but doing this just in case there is. I am also quite open for suggestions if there are improvements!

It's Pot Time

I had an earlier post dedicated to just pots with my research. I initially decided on going with some custom hardware from Colorado Brew Systems as I can get a 20 gallon Boil pot with Tri-clamp fittings, whirlpool port and whirlpool elbow for $330 (without Valves or Thermometer). Note, they are currently moving facilities so ordering is on hold for pots....
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Tags for this post: equipment, pot, mash tun, sparge, DIY

Reviewing the Brewers' Ledger - Organize Your Brew Logs

Posted by homebrewdad on 11/20/2015 at 11:06:20 AM

A couple of weeks ago, my buddy Marshall (widely known as the great Brulosopher) put me in contact with a gentleman by the name of Tony Pawela. Tony was looking for someone to review his creation, the Brewers' Ledger, but Marshall just had too many irons in the fire to do so himself.

I'll admit that I thought about it for a bit before I volunteered to do the review. The fact of the matter is that I'm a huge fan of Beersmith, and I take pretty meticulous records in it already. Also, my handwriting is pretty poor - okay, my handwriting is downright atrocious - making written notes not exactly my thing. So, to be perfectly honest, I had my doubts as to how useful I would find such a product. That said, Beersmith is pretty clunky in terms of keeping your notes organized, so I figured that the Brewers' Ledger might be worth a look.

Full disclosure: as mentioned above, the Brewers' Ledger was provided to me at no cost, for the specific purpose of having me review it. Links in this page point to Amazon, where the book is self published; these links do include the BrewUnited affiliate code.

With that said, the following review is 100% true and accurate, and is in my own words. Tony Pawela did not suggest any portion of, edit, or even read my review prior to my public post.

The day that my copy...
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Tags for this post: brewers, ledger, brew, log, notes, book

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