Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

Using a Hydrometer to Help with Homebrewing

Monday, January 5th, 2009

A hydrometer measures the weight, or gravity, of a liquid in relation to the weight of water. This is useful in the brewing of beer because the hydrometer will float higher in a liquid with sugar dissolved in it and lower in a liquid like alcohol. Since yeasts converts sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol during the brewing process, you can calculate how much alcohol resulted by knowing the amount of sugar you started and ended with.

A good first step for using the hydrometer is to sanitize everything involved and then to place the test cylinder on a flat surface. Then take a sample of beer or wine. If using wine, make sure that it does not contain any particles because they will affect the reading.

Next, fill a jar with enough of the beer or wine to make the hydrometer begin to float. Slowly lower the hydrometer into the test jar, making sure to spin the hydrometer as you release it. This prevents bubbles from sticking to the bottom of the hydrometer, which can affect the reading.

You should also make sure that the hydrometer is floating freely and not touching the sides. Take the reading from the bottom of the curve of the liquid, also called the meniscus. It is important to note that hydrometers are generally calibrated to give readings at 59-60 degrees, and any difference can lead to some error in the readings.

Homebrew Beer Fermentor Types

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

There are a variety of different types of fermentors that you can use for brewing your own beer, and they all have pros and cons which must be weighed up based on your own scenario.

All a fermentor really is is a container for holding your beer while it is fermenting, however it does have certain characteristics:

  • It needs to be air tight, so that oxygen does not get into the bucket during fermentation.
  • It needs to be easy to clean so that bacteria does not stick to the walls or lid

The three most common types of fermentors are the carboy, the pail and lid, and the less common demijohn.

Carboy

The carboy is my personal favorite and is the type of fermentor that I currently use. It is pretty much a large plastic container, which a hole in the lid for an airlock and a tap in the bottom.

Pail and Lid

The second most common type of fermentor is the pail and lid, which truly is a bucket with a lid. It also has a tap at the bottom.

Demijohn

Usually much smaller than the other two fermentors, the demijohn is made of glass, and is more useful for smaller batches of beer.

From my position I cannot choose which fermentor is best for your situation, however the most common is the carboy, and it is a good starting point for any homebrew beginner.

The Best Homebrew Beer Starter Kits

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

One of the most common questions I am asked by people interested in starting to brew their own beer at home is ‘What is the best starter kit?’

My answer is always the same: ‘Well, it depends…’

There are dozens of different starter kits available, each with their own features and at different prices. I suggest if you are interested in buying a homebrewing kit, then have a look at these. According to Amazon.com, these are the most popular homebrew beer kits, and they are all pretty good.

Coopers Brewing Micro Brewery Kit:

Coming with 50 PET bottles and caps, as well as books, an instructional DVD, your first brew’s ingredients, a hydrometer, and your fermentor. A great place for any beginner to start.

Mr. Beer Premium Edition Home Microbrewery System:

This is a much smaller kit, and probably wouldn’t be best for continual use, however it is pretty cool to look at. The most impressive feature is the fermentor/keg, however it doesn’t come with any important extras, such as cleaning products, spoons or funnels.

The Great American Micro-Brewery Co. The Beer Machine:

Again, this is different to most usual homebrewing kits, as it creates its own kegging system inbuilt into the fermentor. This would be a good way for a beginner to get involved, but is a bit limited for extended or advanced use.

Carboy Homebrew Kit for Home Made Beer:

One of the more extensive homebrew starter kits, this contains everything you can possibly need including 6 gallon glass carboy, 7.8 bottling bucket with spigot, Fermentation lock and bung, Siphon tubing, Siphon assembly, Bottle filler, Bottle brush, Adhesive Thermometer, Bottle capper, 144 bottle caps, Triple Scale Hydrometer, and sanitizer, and Brew Handbook. Perfect!

My biggest recommendation is the final kit, because it contains everything you possibly need. It is a little more expensive than the others, but it really does have everything that you will need.

Homebrew Beer Equipment

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Here is a short list of all the equipment you will need to begin brewing your own beer:

  • Brewing Pot
  • Fermentor
  • Air Lock
  • Large Spoon
  • Hydrometer
  • Thermometer
  • Bottles
  • Caps
  • Capper
  • Funnel

Naturally there will be several miscelaneous items that I have forgotten, but this is enough to get you started.