Frequently Asked Beer Questions
Got questions about bottling? Is your fermentation stuck? What kind of caps should you be using? You will find all the answers here and more.
What type of bottles can I use to bottle my beer?
Your beer will be a carbonated beverage which will exert pressure on the bottle you store it in. You will need to make sure that you use bottles that were designed to package carbonated beverages. These include beer bottles, champagne bottles, carbonated soft drink bottles, carbonated juice bottles or any other bottles that were used to store fizzy drinks. It is dangerous to use bottles that were not properly designed for carbonated beverages because of the high risk of explosion. This could cause serious injury.
Can I use plastic PET bottles to store my beer?
Plastic PET (Pepsi, Coke, etc.) bottles are excellent for storing you beer. They have been designed to withstand pressure and have the convenience of being light-weight and easy to handle. You also use plastic screw-on caps with PET bottles so you will not need to use a capping machine. Some people find a slight difference in taste from beer packaged in plastic bottles compared to the same beer packaged in glass bottles.
What type of caps should I use?
If you use regular twist-off bottles, any of the crown caps available at our store will be fine. There is a cap especially suited to twist-off bottles called the universal cap. This cap is usually silver in colour and made from softer metal which makes it easier to twist off. The regular crown cap is most often gold in colour and made from a heavier metal. Some brewers prefer this cap because they feel it gives a better seal. We have used both and the only difference we have found is that the gold caps are very hard to twist off.
My beer gets very cloudy when I refrigerate it. What's up?
This a very common problem for some home brewers, while others just ignore it and enjoy the beer as it is. What you are seeing is called chill haze. Chill haze is the result of a combining reaction between proteins and tannins. It does not affect the taste of your beer but it annoys some people who are trying to make a crystal clear beer. If you are having a problem with chill haze there is a product called Polyclar which should solve the problem. You add it to your carboy after the fermentation is over and the beer is starting to settle. Follow the instructions on the bottle for the proper amounts to use.
I have bottled my beer about a week ago but it is flat when I open it. Is there a problem?
This is a question we seem to get constantly at our store. After 25 years and hundreds of batches of beer, I have never had a beer that didn't carbonate. This leaves me to believe that impatience may be playing a big part here. You say that your beer has been bottled a week. This is not enough time for proper carbonation.
Follow these steps and your beer will carbonate:
- Add the proper amount of priming sugar just before bottling. That will be one and a half cups of corn sugar for 23 litres. If you make more than 23 litres you will have to adjust the sugar accordingly.
- Keep your beer for 10 days at room temperature (20Âº - 25Âº C) raised off the floor and away from draughts.
- Store the beer for another 10 days at a cool temperature (not the refrigerator).
- Refrigerate and drink your carbonated beer.
Yuck! My beer has a horrible chemical taste. What's wrong?
Your beer is contaminated by bacteria. You will have to dump it and give your bottles and equipment a thorough over-night sanitation. This sort of contamination is usually caused by wort spoilage bacteria. This means the beer became infected before the fermentation got started. These bacteria cannot survive in fermented beer. That is why it is so important to get the fermentation off to a fast start.
Follow these steps:
- Buy fresh beer kits which will contain fresh active yeast.
- Buy an extra packet of fresh yeast and use the 2 packets.
- Make sure your wort is at the recommended temperature before adding the yeast.
- Rehydrate the yeast in a half cup of warm water at 43Âº Celsius for 15 minutes.
- Aerate the wort, add your yeast and attach an air lock.
I added yeast to my beer 24 hours ago and there is no sign of fermentation. What should I do?
First make sure that your fermentation has not started. If you are using a plastic bucket with a sealed lid and are looking for signs of bubbling in the air lock you could be mislead. The gas may be escaping out through the rim of the bucket. This is a very common occurrence. Remove the cover and make a visual check to see if the fermentation has begun. If it hasn't begun check the temperature and make sure that it is in the recommended range of 20° to 25° degrees Celsius. If it is too cold the fermentation may be slow starting. Move the bucket to a warmer spot and add another package of beer yeast as soon as possible. Your fermentation should begin in the next 12 hours.
Help! My beer is coming up through the air lock and spewing all over the place.
Don't panic. This is a very common beer making problem. Most beer yeasts ferment very vigorously, generating mountains of foam. If you are using a 25 or 30 litre bucket and have it topped up with 23 litres of wort, there is a good chance that the foaming will come up into the air lock.
Here are some solutions:
- You can avoid this by putting less wort in the primary fermenter- say 20 litres and adding the rest when you transfer or bottle. This is a common practice in commercial brewing called high-gravity brewing. Make sure you used boiled and cooled water to top up.
- You can use a larger fermenter. It would have to be 40 litres or bigger.
- You can also hook up a blow-off tube. Remove your air lock from the rubber bung. Force your siphon hose into the hole of the bung. Put the other end of the siphon hose into a quart or gallon jug with about 2 inches of water in it. Make sure the end of the siphon hose is submerged in the water. This will act as an air lock and will catch any overflow caused by the foaming. Replace your air lock when the foaming stops.
My beer stopped bubbling after 2 days. What should I do? Is it dead?
If your beer was fermenting and you kept it at the proper fermenting temperature there is nothing to worry about. If the beer kit was recently manufactured and used a fast starting yeast, it is possible that it completely fermented in 2 days. The best thing to do is to transfer it to your carboy and continue as you usually do.
I'm confused. What is the best sanitizer to use?
For many years sodium or potassium metabisulphite was the preferred sanitizing agent for wine and beer makers. These sanitizers work by generating a sulphur dioxide gas. This somewhat obnoxious gas acts as a bacteria inhibitor and a mild anti-bacterial agent. While this may be adequate for wine making it is very risky for beer making. Brewers need a more powerful sanitizer like Diversol (pink chlorinated cleaner) or iodine based products. These are far more effective, rinse easily and are highly recommended by us.
Can I sanitize my bottles in a dishwasher?
Yes. If your are sure your bottles are clean and unstained you can use a dishwasher to sanitize them. Run your bottles through the rinse and dry cycle. Make sure not to use dish washing powder. It may leave a residue.
Can I boil my bottles and equipment?
You can, but it can be dangerous and inconvenient. You will be exposing yourself to boiling water which could result in scalding accidents. You will not be able to use high heat on plastic pieces and hose. Bottles can become stressed and break easily if boiled or exposed to excessive heat. Sanitizers are safe, very effective and rinse off very well leaving little if any residue behind. If you are concerned about using chemicals and the environment, we have environmentally friendly cleansers and sanitizers available.