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Getting the recipe right for a great tasting homebrew beer is easy. There are loads and most brewers are not secretive! At the end of the day, make the beer you want to drink! Hoppy, malty, sweet or bitter. The skill for making it taste great however, is in the technique.
In my experience there are two main considerations when thinking about how to make beer taste better. These are Temperature control and reducing oxygen contact. We’ll have a look at both in more detail.
To get the best out of your yeast and reduce a multitude of off flavours, for the love of God, keep your temperature under control. Obviously what temperature is best varies from yeast to yeast. At the start of fermentation a consistent lower temperature is critical. At the end of the fermentation process it’s a good idea to let it rise a little as this allows the yeast to clean up more quickly. This will help prevent off flavours like Acetyl Aldehyde and Diacetyl. A lower temperature early on is critical as the yeast eats the sugars and produces alcohol it creates CO2, and this whole process creates a lot of heat. If your beer is fermented at too high a temperature it will create a whole world of off flavours, but also the actual alcohol produced by the yeast will be fusel alcohol. Fusel alcohol is f*cked alcohol. Drinking your beer will taste like you’re crushing a can of spray paint, not your long slaved over NEIPA.
At the end of fermentation, if you have the capacity to crash chill your beer then use it. It is particularly useful if you’re dry hopping as it enables the hop matter to drop out of the beer more quickly. If the dry hops stay in situ for too long you will loose your hop flavour and aroma. Not only that, the super juicy flavour fest your aiming for will turn into a vegetal sludgefest… and a total waste of time and money.
Reduce Oxygen Contact:
If your beer picks up too much oxygen during production it will dramatically reduce it’s shelf life and flavour stability. I’ve made many a homebrew that tastes great on bottling day, only to proudly present it to mates at a gathering the next week and be gutted with the greying feted fluid residing therein. Oh the shame! Oxygen is your best friend during the brew…. But very much to be avoided at any time after it!
The bad news is it’s crazily easy to get oxygen pick up while homebrewing as it’s such small batch. The good news is, you can absolutely do something about it, and knowing about it is half the battle! The irony is, yeast needs super oxygenated wort to grow and start fermentation. The yeast will use up all the available oxygen and replace it with CO2. Your off to a good start with natural CO2 production from the top of your beer. To ensure a good CO2 blanket at the top of your beer during fermentation, don’t leave too much head space. Basically use the correct sized vessel for the amount of beer you have brewed. Now, no matter how tempting it is, and how much you want to check on your little beer baby, don’t keep lifting the lid! Leave that sucker alone! Lifting the lid during fermentation causes massive air disturbance. If you are dry hopping, take extra care… be like a dry hop ninja…. Your wort should never know you were there.
Packaging is another flash point when it comes to picking up that pesky molecule… probably the riskiest one. When filling bottles or cans, you need a CO2 bottle to purge the vessels just before filling. For goodness sake, don’t splash the beer around into the vessels, fill from the bottom if you can. If canning or bottling you need the beer to have a decent level of carbonation, as the CO2 breaks out at the top it will drive off any residual oxygen out of the headspace. Cap it right now! Let the foam rise and cap the lid onto the foam. No gaps, no air.
If you are bottle conditioning then filling on foam isn’t an option. Luckily though the secondary fermentation should hopefully mop up an excess oxygen from filling flat.
Two things to consider when bottle conditioning are;
1) Make sure you aim to carbonate your beer enough to ensure the extra O2 is used up (but not so much you get a bomb!).
2) Leave just the right amount of head space. You need a bit for the gases to move into and so that you don’t get a beer shower when opening, but too much will inevitably leave too much O2.
It’s worth investing in a good capper if you’re using bottles. It’s very easy for air to enter through the seal, particularly with fluctuating storage temperatures (Remember Cool is King) as the bottle does not flex like a can and so drawers the air in.
So I think that’s the main points for temperature control and oxygenation. It’s a truly massive subject and I’m sure I’ll go into it again at some point! If you have any specific questions on any of our information or blog advice though, please get in touch!