If you have read my story you will know that I went on somewhat of a mission to learn how to make a good tasting beer. My story was very much like most people who get into homebrewing. My first batches of beer tasted horrible.
Most people will quit after one or two attempts at trying to make a good beer. I almost did but thankfully I stuck with it and went to work researching how to improve home brew.
And eventually after a ton of trial and error I did learn the tricks of the trade and eventually figured out how to make a good tasting beer…
So with that said my goal with this post is to save you all of the time and effort I put into figuring this out.
If you are new to the homebrewing hobby I recommend you also check out this post: How to Home Brew – The Complete Guide; as there are lost of tips on that post to help you up your game also.
7 Secrets of Good Beer
Secrets? Really Robb?
No not really… but I guess if you don’t know about them they are secrets to you right?
It was just fun to use that word; makes you think there is some conspiracies out there keeping you making bad beer unless you are in the know. And we all love a good conspiracy story. Unfortunately this is not one of them.
You just need to learn how to do this beer making thing the right way…
And what these 7 methods really are; are things you would learn over time as you brewed.
So in the end what this post is going to do for you is save you a ton of time and frustration by making sure you have all of this information up front.
You will find all 7 of these are simple tweaks and adjustments; as well as being inexpensive and something you can implement right away on your next batch.
So let’s get you started…
Secret #1: Sanitation
Beer is a finicky little creature. It is highly susceptible to bacteria. Any little piece of it can ruin your beer and give it some nasty off flavors.
You need to become obsessed with sanitation.
Now this is not a hard thing to accomplish… it just takes you doing a few things right on a regular basis.
First off make sure you clean all of your equipment very well… elbow grease (scrubbing hard) with unscented hand soap will do the trick in most cases.
Do not use an abrasive brush or sponge on plastic items such as your fermenter or mash plastic paddle as it can scratch the plastic creating areas that bacteria can hide in.
If you find that elbow grease and dish soap are not working, you can soak your items in PBW (powdered brewery wash) or even unscented oxyclean does the trick.
Secondly you need to sanitize everything that is not going into the boil. So any equipment that will not be sanitized by the boil stage of your brewing needs to be sanitized with a food grade sanitizer.
Star San is by far the best sanitizer for homebrewing. It goes a long way. I recommend getting a spray bottle and filling it with water and star san (following dilution instructions on bottle) and spraying all of your equipment on brew day.
You can also soak your bottles and fermenters in it. Become obsessed with sanitizing and it will go along way to ensuring you do not end up with any off flavors.
I did a post that explains in detail how to sanitize your beer making equipment, I highly recommend you check it out.
Click there for => How to Sanitize Beer Making Equipment – And Never Lose a Batch of Beer
Secret #2 – Use a Good Recipe or Beer Kit
So no all recipes are not created equal!
Grains work better with some grains than they do with others, when it comes to providing the flavor, mouth feel, head retention, color etc of a beer. Also the ratio of one kind of grain to the other is important.
As you get good at making beer and get more experience you will learn how to improve home brew recipes and even create your own.
But in the mean time you will want to use recipes that are tried and true winners.
There are lots of places you can get recipes from. In fact you can get some of my favorite recipes on here on my site at: All Grain Brewing Recipes
Another great way to get good recipes is to use beer kits.
My favorite place to get all grain beer kits from is Adventures in Homebrewing. They have a great selection of all grain kits that come with the recipes. What is cool is you can read the reviews of eash kit before you order it. So you can see what other people who have ordered the kit before thinks of it.
Click there for => for my Adventures in Homebrewing Review
Now if you are a partial mash brewer the best beer kits you can buy in order to make sure are brewing a good beer are from Brewer’s Best.
You can check them out by Clicking There => Brewer’s Best Beer Kits – Are They Any Good?
And lastly if you are making beer from Malt Extract Kits… Coopers Homebrew and Mr. Beer make the best beer kits in my opinion.
Go here for => Coopers Homebrew Kit Review
Go here for => Mr Beer Brewing Instructions
Secret #3 – Use New & Good Yeast
I can’t tell you how many times I have gone into a home brew supply store and looked at the yeast they were selling and noticed it had expired. Way too many times.
Yeast makes a huge difference in the taste of your beer.
Different yeasts produce different flavors.
Expired or out-of-date yeast can mean that when you pitch it into your fermenter that not all of it will come alive or wake up… meaning not all of the sugars will be eaten resulting in your beer having a lower ABV and also a sweeter taste to it.
And if you are using beer kits, make sure they are supplying you with good yeast. You should throw out the yeast that typically comes with the malt extract kits, as it is garbage. Instead pick up one of the following listed below…
I am a dry yeast guy; it is just so much easier and typically less expensive and they have some top-notch dry yeasts on the market these days.
I recommend the following:
- Safale US-05 for any American Style Brew
- Safale US-04 for European Ale’s
- Safale K-97 for a Kolsch
- And I also love Nottingham Ale Yeast for European Ale’s.
Secret #4 – Watch the Temperature When Pitching Yeast
Yeast is also a finicky little creature. It likes its beer temperature to be just right.
If when you are putting the yeast into the fermenter (pitching); and the wort (unfermented beer) is too hot it can kill the yeast.
And if when you are pitching the yeast and the wort is too cold it can put the yeast to sleep. Putting the yeast to sleep is better than killing it as it will wake up as the wort warms to the temperature of the room the fermenter is in.
Most yeasts have a fairly forgiving temperature range… Make sure you read the package the yeast comes in as it will list the range… safe zone!
I shoot for between 60 – 70 degrees F.
Secret #5 – Watch the Temperature You Ferment at.
This is a biggy. If the space you are fermenting in gets to warm it is going to produce some nasty off flavors in your homebrew.
I do live in Canada so most of the time I do not have to worry too much about the temperature getting to hot. However in the summer time it can surprisingly get quite warm where I live.
I usually ferment in a room on the main level of my home, and keep that room around 60 – 65 degrees F… however in the summer it gets much hotter than that so I have to move my beer to the basement where it is cooler.
I learned this lesson the hard way and lost an IPA because I fermented at to high of a temperature and the beer tasted terrible.
Again look on the packet of yeast for direction on what temperature to ferment at. I prefer to shoot for the lower end of the range they provide. I have found I get better results with my beers by doing that.
Keep in mind that as beer ferments it actually creates heat. So the temperature inside the wort will be anywhere from 3-6 degrees F warmer than the space you are fermenting in.
Secret #6 – Keep Oxygen Out of Your Beer
The only time you want to let Oxygen get into your beer is when you pitch the yeast. That is it. Any other time and you are asking for trouble.
The biggest result of letting oxygen into your beer is an off flavor or bad tasting beer.
A couple of things you can do to reduce the chance of letting Oxygen into your beer are:
=> Keep the lid on fermenter sealed.
=> If you are using an airlock make sure it stays filled with liquid (water and sanitizer)
=> When transferring your beer from fermenter to bottles or kegs make sure you are using a liquid line (hose) and that it is sitting on the bottom of the new container you are transferring to so that you do not get any splashing.
=> Don’t secondary. I never transfer my beer to a secondary fermenter. Most people who do this do so to help clear their beer. I find there is to great of a risk of getting oxygen into your beer during the transfer so I don’t do it.
There are many other ways to clear your beer and I cover them here: How to Clear Home Brew Beer
Secret #7 – Let Your Beer Get Old
And the last of the 7 secrets on how to improve home brew is let your beer get old before you drink it.
This is called conditioning.
This is why I am never in a rush to check to see if my beer has finished fermenting. I let it sit in the fermenter for typically 2 weeks.
And after I bottle or keg it I recommend letting it sit for at least 4 weeks before drinking it.
If you do this your beer will simply taste better. You can even take a Malt Extract kit and if you let it condition is it going to taste pretty good.
The only time you don’t want to do this if you are brewing a really hoppy beer. Hoppy beers need to be consumed fresh as the hop aroma and taste dissipates.
But any other beer definitely benefits from letting it age. I know waiting to drink your brew is a hard thing to do but it will be worth it.
Bonus Tip for Better Beer
Before I shut this post done I wanted to give you one more tip.
Some people construe a clear beer to being a good beer. Well obviously this is not always the case; but I do like a clear beer. I like a beer that looks good and to me that is part of making a good beer.
If you think the way I do, than here is a link to a post that I explain all of the methods I use to clear my beer.
You can check it out here => How to Clear Home Brew Beer
There you go my friend. If you follow those 7 tips on how to improve home brew you are going to make good beer.
If you have any questions at all put them in the comment section below and I will help you out.
Happy Brewing! Big Robb is out.