In recent years the hobby of home beer-making has seen many significant changes. No longer is it just a means of producing cheap alcohol. We have reached such a degree of sophistication and excellence that there can be little doubt that home brewed beers are the best beers!
The availability of top quality equipment and ingredients has put home brewers almost on a level playing field with their commercial counterparts. Now, however, the final piece of the jigsaw is to hand. You now have access to the professional brewing aids that can make a good beer great. By properly treating your water, feeding the yeast and using clarifiers that work excellent beers are virtually guaranteed, whether you are a masher, extract brewer or quality kit maker. Please read on to find out the details.
As water is by far the main ingredient of beer, it is important that it is suitable for the purpose. Historically, beers were brewed to suit the water available, e.g. Stouts and Porters were produced primarily in London and Dublin where the water is high in carbonates, Pale Ales and Bitters, however, were far more suited to the gypseous water of Burton-On-Trent.
With the advance of science it is now possible to brew most beer styles with any type of water providing it is correctly treated. To illustrate this we have broken down the procedure into three operations.
Although most domestic water supplies are perfectly suited to brewing, they usually contain elements that are best removed. Foremost among these is chlorine, added to water for disinfectant purposes, but other substances such as sand, rust, polyphenols etc. also have a deleterious effect on the brewing process. Brewing beer with unfiltered water is leaving too much to chance! Most specialist home brew retailers will be able to offer a suitable water filter to remove these unwanted substances. Simple chlorine and chloramine removal can, however, be effected by the addition of potassium metabisulphite (campden).
In order to produce quality pale beers, the brewing liquor must be low in carbonates as they prevent the correct mash pH from being achieved. Quality Pale Ales, Bitters and Lagers cannot be made with such water, so appropriate measures must be taken to correct its composition. Brupaks CRS (Carbonate Reducing Solution) is an acid blend which, when added to brewing liquor, reduces the level of carbonate without the need to boil. Darker beers can tolerate higher levels of carbonates.
Calcium is a very important mineral in the brewing process for its effect on mash and wort pH. Calcium chloride and calcium sulphate (gypsum) are used to lower the pH (increase the acidity), whereas, when brewing dark beers with soft water, calcium carbonate is sometimes added to balance the inherent acidity of the roasted grains. Brupaks Dry Liquor Salts (DLS) is a carefully controlled blend of inorganic salts designed to increase calcium levels and lower pH. When brewing Pale Ales and Bitters it is usual to use both CRS and DLS to treat the liquor, as most water supplies have an excess of carbonate and insufficient calcium. For Lager it is recommended that CRS be used in the mashing liquor to reduce carbonate, followed by careful additions of lactic acid to the mash tun for lowering the pH. An alternative to lactic acid is to incorporate some German acid malt in the grist. This special malt is used extensively in Germany in the production of high class lagers.
Before you can start to treat your water you should first contact your water supply company and request the total alkalinity of your water in p.p.m. Unfortunately this is not as clear cut as it should be. Water authorities usually express alkalinity as HCO3 (hydrogen carbonate) whereas the brewing industry uses the traditional CaC03 (calcium carbonate). To use the tables below you will need to know the alkalinity expressed as CaC03. As you will probably have only the HC03 value, you can convert it to CaC03 simply by dividing this figure by 1.22. From this figure it is possible to determine the required amounts of CRS and DLS to be added for all styles of beer. An average Bitter or Pale Ale requires the water to have a total alkalinity of 30-50 p.p.m. and a calcium content of 180-220 p.p.m. If the total alkalinity of your water is below 50 p.p.m. you will not need to use CRS but will most probably need to increase the calcium with DLS.
Example: You are brewing a Bitter and the total alkalinity of your water as CaC03 is 195 p.p.m. In order to bring it within the target range of 30-50 p.p.m. you will need to reduce the alkalinity by 145-165 p.p.m. From the following table you can calculate the amount of CRS to be added. N.B. All brewing liquor should be treated with CRS, not just that used for mashing.
CRS in millilitres per litre
CRS 0.35 0.52 0.70 0.87 1.05 1.22 1.40 1.57 1.75
Alkalinity -64 -96 -128 -160 -192 -224 -256 -288 -320
The table shows that to reduce the alkalinity by 160 p.p.m. CRS should be added at a rate of 0.87ml per litre. Thus for a standard 25 litre brew, which will probably require 30 litres of liquor, 30 x 0.87 = 26mls of CRS should be added. After adding CRS, several minutes standing time should be allowed to release the carbon dioxide produced by the neutralisation of the excess acid.
Now that the carbonate level has been adjusted, you now have to correct the calcium content. Fortunately a close approximation of the amount of calcium present can be obtained by a simple piece of arithmetic:
Original alkalinity in ppm x 0.4 = Calcium in ppm
In the above example you have an original alkalinity of 195 p.p.m. Using the above formula the calcium content can be calculated as follows: 195 x 0.4 = 78 p.p.m.
A typical Bitter requires a calcium content of 180-220 p.p.m. As you already have 78 p.p.m. you will need an extra 102-142 p.p.m. The quantity of DLS required can be ascertained from the table below.
DLS in grams per litre
DLS 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1.0 1.1
Calcium 16 31 47 63 94 109 125 141 156 172 188
The table shows that in order to increase the calcium content by 125 p.p.m you will need to add 0.7 grams of DLS per litre.
When making a full mash brew, DLS should be added in two stages:
Weigh sufficient DLS to treat your mashing liquor (e.g. 10 litres x 0.7 = 7 grams). Mix DLS into the dry grains. This is most important as adding it to raw liquor will not affect the mash pH.
Weigh sufficient DLS to treat the balance of the total brewing liquor (e.g. 20 litres x 0.7 = 14 grams). Add to the wort at the commencement of the boil.
Extract brewers should add the total amount of DLS to the wort at the commencement of the boil.
From the above information you should be able to treat almost any water to brew first class Bitters and Pale Ales. Other styles of beer, however, require different levels of carbonate and calcium. These are the recommended alkalinity and calcium levels for the most common beer styles.
Bitter and Pale Ale. Alkalinity as CaC03 - up to 50 p.p.m. Calcium - 180 to 220 p.p.m.
Mild Ale. Alkalinity as CaC03 - 100 to 150 p.p.m. Calcium - 90 to 110 p.p.m.
Porter and Stout. Alkalinity as CaC03 - 100 to 150 p.p.m. Calcium - 100 to 120 p.p.m.
Pale Lager. Alkalinity as CaC03 - up to 30 p.p.m. Calcium - 100 to 120 p.p.m.
Brupaks supplies the following products for the treatment of brewing water. All of these products are available from good home brew shops throughout the UK.
For simple calcium additions. Available in 500g packs.
An acid blend that neutralises carbonates without the need to boil. Available in 250ml bottles.
A carefully controlled blend of inorganic salts for precise treatment of brewing liquor. Available in 100g and 250g packs.
For simple calcium additions. Available in 250g packs.
A blend of calcium sulphate and magnesium sulphate intended to 'Burtonise' the liquor. Available in 250g packs.
Used to acidify the mash and sparge water when brewing Lagers. A pH meter or indicator strips should always be used when adding lactic acid. Available in 100ml and 250ml bottles.
Accurate and easy to use. Liquid to be measured must first be cooled to around 20°C.
With built-in colour matching chart.
In an ideal world there would be no need for clearing agents, all beers would drop clear of their own accord. Unfortunately there are substances that have an influence on beer clarity. These substances generally need some assistance in vacating the brew.
There are three main haze-forming substances in beer; starch, protein and yeast. Providing the mash has been allowed to progress past 'starch end point' the former should not pose a problem. Starch haze should certainly not be present in an extract beer.
Protein haze is usually the result of inefficient boiling or excessive chilling of the beer. During the boil, proteins coagulate to form flocks which precipitate out on cooling, Brupaks Irish Moss and Protafloc assist this process. Proteins are positively or negatively charged depending on their structure. At the normal wort pH of 5.5 - 6.0 proteins are generally positively charged. Irish Moss and Protafloc are negatively charged which enables them to attract the haze forming proteins which will subsequently precipitate.
Yeast will form a haze if it is present in the finished beer at too high a concentration. Although given sufficient time the excess yeast should sediment naturally, in practice it is usual to employ a fining agent. The two main fining agents are isinglass and gelatine. Isinglass is produced from the swim bladder of the sturgeon and gelatine from pork. Isinglass is some three times more effective at clearing yeast than gelatine. Although ready-for-use isinglass is often seen for sale, it is only really effective for one month from date of manufacture (although some products have best before dates very much longer). Brupaks Dried Isinglass is available from all good home brew retailers. This product will last a considerable time in its dried state and for about 4 weeks when mixed. Dried isinglass is mixed with water, preferably in a blender or food processor, although a hand whisk will suffice. Finings should be prepared at least 24 hours before it is required. Also available is a new product, Brupaks Isinglass Paste. This paste must be mixed with citric acid and water before use.
Brupaks supplies the following top quality finings and clarifiers.
The highest quality copper finings available. Recommended dosage 1 teaspoon per 25 litres of wort. Dosage 10g per 25 litres.
An alternative to Irish Moss. Experimentation will determine which product works best for you.
Highly effective in the removal of excess yeast. Requires an electric blender for mixing. Recommended dosage 1 teaspoon in 500ml cold water (sufficient to clear 50 litres of beer).
Although not so easily stored as dried isinglass, this paste will keep for many months at room temperature. Dissolves more readily than dried isinglass but a blender is still recommended.
Although a properly prepared wort should contain all the necessary elements required by yeast for the purpose of fermentation, for any number of reasons this is rarely the case. If yeast do not receive nutrients in the correct balance they rapidly deteriorate and subsequently malfunction. Proper nutrition is particularly important if yeast are to be harvested for re-pitching (users of Wyeast liquid cultures will probably wish to do this although repitching dried yeast is not recommended).
A carefully formulated blend of soluble inorganic salts, vitamins, amino acids and trace elements designed to ensure correction of nutrient deficiencies in wort. It is pitched into well-aerated wort along with the yeast.
The need for thorough cleanliness and sterilisation cannot be overemphasised. Although airborne contaminants are always a risk, at least you can ensure that your vessels and utensils are clean and bacteria free. Brupaks supplies a variety of effective cleaning and sterilising products to the home brew trade. Bruclean is a highly effective cleaner/steriliser used by numerous commercial breweries. It is suitable for use on all brewing vessels and utensils and will remove even the most stubborn deposits; it can be used either hot or cold. Stayclean keeps all previously cleaned vessels and utensils bug-free for up to 6 weeks. It can be used to soak equipment such as airlocks, funnels, siphons etc. or it can be sprayed onto the inner surfaces of brewing vessels. A quick rinse with cold water and everything is ready for use. Chemipro OXI is a genuine no rinse cleaner/steriliser. Use on previously cleaned or lioghtly soiled items.
A very powerful cleaner/steriliser which is safe to use on all vessels and equipment, although prolonged contact with metals should be avoided. Bruclean is an alkaline but non caustic based detergent with an available chlorine donor as a sterilant. It does not foam, is readily rinsable and is non corrosive on aluminium. To make up a solution of Bruclean stir 2 teaspoons into 1 gallon of hot or cold water. This dosage can be doubled for heavily soiled items.
Probably the most universally used and effective liquid detergent/steriliser in the brewing industry. The product is uniquely formulated to give a stable, powerful combined cleaning and sterilising action that is readily rinseable. Compatible with most plastics and all metals except aluminium and zinc.
A very effective sterilant when used on pre-cleaned vessels and equipment. It is well suited for use in a food environment as it is of low corrosive character, almost odourless and possessing good rinsability. Stayclean is active against bacteria and wild yeast. To make up a solution of Stayclean add 1 teaspoon to 1 litre of cold water.
This very powerful cleaner is ideal for removing stubborn deposits in bottles and barrels and makes removing gummed labels easy.
A powerful acid based liquid cleaner/steriliser containing wetting agents to increase penetration, removal and suspension of soils. The acidic constituents remove scale, increase bactericidal and virucidal efficiency of the iodophor and provide chemical cleaning power.
A new, environmentally friendly, no rinse cleaner/steriliser for all light cleaning duties. Cleans and sterilises with with oxygen. After use simply allow cleaned items to drain.