Kit Brewing 101: Brew Good Beer Your Friends Will Drink With You
Tip #4 Its In The Finish.
If you implemented the first three tips to your brewing process – cleanliness and sanitisation, temperature control and hopping you will make a pretty good beer 80% of the time.
And if you’re happy with the finished product you’re creating there may not be a reason to try and improve your brews further.
For me brewing is about creating a finished product that you enjoy drinking, and if you want are happy to share with your friends and family.
But if you’re a little curious, if you like to experiment to see the result of process or ingredient changes, or if you like to find ways to continuously improve your brew then you might like to try any of these five things you can do to improve your finished product.
These five tips are not intentionally ordered. You can do any of them at any time. But if you were to do two straight off the bat it would be the last two.
5 Things you can do to improve the finished product of your brew
Finings are an agent that is added at or near completion of the fermentation process. Their purpose is to remove unwanted organic compounds to help improve beer clarity.
Do you need to use finings? No – on two fronts. First if you are going for a hazy finish then don’t use finings. Second your beer will also bottle clear, to a degree while maturing.
I use finings when I intentionally want a clean and clear finish which I tend to prefer.
When I use finings its either the Mangrove Jack’s Finings or the Mangrove Jack’s Liquid Finings. The standard finings are in powder form and need to be dissolved in water. Lately I have preferred the liquid finings as I can add to the fermenter directly from the packet without the need to sanitise any equipment.
When adding finings aim to add them 48-hours before you bottle or at least 24-hours. And before you bottle avoid any significant movement that will stir up the sediment at the base of the fermenter.
Note that you will still have some sediment in the bottom of your bottles. This is created during the secondary fermentation that occurs in your bottles during maturity. As a general rule you will have a slight cloudiness to your second glass when you pour. I never pour the last centimetre from my bottle to the glass, although I swig it. Never like to waste good beer.
Racking off is the process of transferring your brew from the fermentation vessel into a secondary vessel, normally directly before you bottle your brew. Undertaking the process of racking separates your brew from the sediment that is now sitting in the bottom of your fermentation vessel, before you bottle.
There are several reasons why you would rack off. Racking is another activity that will improve clarity, but you also prevent the risk of sediment transferring with your finished product into bottles, which can also lead to off-flavours. One example would be off-flavours from autolysis – which are flavours created from dying yeast and are sometimes described as yeast-bite, broth-like, meaty, sulphury, or dirty nappy.
There are also arguments against racking, primarily that racking increases the risk of oxidation to your brew which can also lead to off-flavours. But in my view the benefits outweigh the negatives and using a syphon in the transfer process generally mitigates the primary risks. In a nutshell you want to avoid any movement of liquid that allows oxygen to be mixed through your brew.
While I am an advocate of the process, there is controversy with the homebrewing community of the value of racking. I would encourage you to do your own research but more importantly experiment and determine what you think for your own brewing process – at the end of the day there is no right or wrong. Only what is right for you.
Again, another technique that is used to improve the clarity of the finished product. But this action does require the use of a fridge for your fermenter.
The process is simple. 24-hours before you bottle turn the fridge on to chill the temperature of your brew. Chilling the brew accelerates the time required for particles to drop out of suspension resulting in a cleaner looking and tasting beer. If I’m using finings I would put in finings 48-hours prior to bottling and then start the cold crash process 24-hours before bottling.
I do it because I can but if you don’t have a brewing fridge you will get a very similar result by only using finings – which is what I did for the first couple of years that I brewed.
Albeit at a very low level, your brew will undergo a secondary fermentation process while maturing in the bottles. Active yeast that is in your brew will react with the sugar from your carbonation drops to carbonate your brew.
The same way that temperature played a vital role in your fermentation process it plays a role in your secondary fermentation process. As a rule aim to place your bottles somewhere warm for one-two weeks before you place your bottles in their mid-term resting place which you want to be dry and coolish. For me this is in my garage where the brews stay until I drink them.
However – do not place bottles in direct sunlight (even in amber bottles) or you risk light strike – which is yet another factor which can cause off flavours in your brew. If you do have to rest your bottles in direct sunlight ensure they are closed in a box of covered with a blanket.
If you are using the Mangrove Jack’s starter Kit you will also be using plastic PET bottles. These are re-usable for 2-3 brews (or more at your discretion) but they are not entirely effective at retaining carbonation. I noticed a big difference in the carbonation of my beer after bottle maturity when I went to amber glass bottles and crown top caps.
Be patient - good things take time
Most instructions will advise you that you can drink your beer or cider from two weeks after you bottle.
For me I leave beer four weeks before I will try it and have often found, especially with hopped beers that the flavour profile doesn’t fully settle until eight-nine weeks. For cider I am happy to start drinking it after two weeks in the bottle. These are my personal preferences. Feel free to experiment.
The consideration if you follow this guideline is that this can make the end-to-end brewing process for beer six weeks including fermentation which is a looooong time to wait to drink a tipple.
If you’re anything like me you might like a more frequent tipple. I generally have three-four bottled brews in my garage at various stages of maturing or age. This allows me to counter the problem of having no beer while I wait for a brew to mature but also gives me some flexibility and choice if I decide I want to drink something different on any given day.
Can we ask you a favour?
Our goal is to help you make good brews that you enjoy drinking, and if you want to share that your friends and family will be happy to drink with you.
Would you take one minute to give us some comments on this article? Your feedback helps us improve our content.
And if there’s anything we missed we’re always happy to drop you an email.