Homebrew Tips and FAQ's
An on going MoreBeer! series of interesting Homebrew tips and frequently asked questions. In this article we focus on Hops and Yeast.
Brewing Hops Homebrew Tips and FAQ's
Hops are the delicate female flower of the Humulus Lupulus plant, or hop vine. Considered the spice of beer, hops contribute flavor, aroma and bitterness. The bitterness is there to balance beer’s malty sweetness. Without the bitterness you would have a cloying, overly-sweet drink.
What Are Hops?
Bitterness, Flavor, Aroma —
By changing either the quantity of hops or when they are added you can completely control your beer’s bitterness, flavor and aroma. Hops added at the beginning of the boiling process will contribute bitterness, but not much flavor or aroma. Added at the end of the boil, hops will contribute flavor and aroma, but not much bitterness.
Three Hop Categories
Most brewers struggle to discriminate the wide spectrum of hop flavors. We have found that it helps to organize hops intothree main categories.
1) German/Czech Hops—A deep, rich spiciness that is a classic characteristic of European lagers.
2) English Hops—Mellow and floral, they blend into the malt gently, unless used in large volumes.
3) American Hops—Pungent, and sometimes citrusy, with jump-out-of-the-glass aromas. Note: German or English hops grown in the U.S. will retain most native characteristics.
Whole versus Pellet Hops
MoreBeer! sells hops in two forms: whole hops and pellets. Whole hops are the entire hop flower. Pellets are whole hops that have been pulverized and compressed. The majority of homebrewers prefer pellets. Yet, good quality beer can confidently be made with either type. Pellets are much more easily handled, measured and stored. They will also dissolve into the boil faster, making them the preferred choice for additions at the end of the boil. Whichever type you select, we strongly recommend using fine mesh, nylon Hop Bags to minimize the amount of the leftover hops that enter your fermenter.
Alpha Acid (AA) Ratings
Alpha acid is the chemical component in hops that creates bitterness. The higher the alpha percentage the more bitter the hops. But don’t be afraid to use hops with higher AA ratings; simply use less per batch. For example, when added at the beginning of the boil, 2 oz of, say, Northern Brewer hops with a 7.5% AA will yield the same bitterness as 1 oz of Magnum hops with a rating of 15%AA. We
list the typical Alpha Acid content for each hop.
Which Hop Should I Use?
Some hops are better for bittering, some are better for flavor/aroma, and some are actually dual purpose. Dual Purpose hops can be used for either bittering and/or flavor/aroma. The recipes you may have, along with our product descriptions, can help guide your choices. Kent (British) Goldings – Universally the first choice for an aroma hop in English Ales. Very mild with pleasant, flowery overtones. Most hops stand out against the malt. This unusual hop actually blends in and complements the malt flavors. You truly cannot add too much unless you are dry-hopping.
Discover Dry Hopping!
Do you want to experience absolutely incredible hop flavor and aroma? Try dry hopping — adding hops to the fermenter (or keg) after fermentation. Put one ounce of pellets into your bucket or carboy after the first week of fermentation. You won't need a bag as the pellets will sink to the bottom over the next week. Dry hopping can also be done in a keg with whole hops and a fine mesh, nylon hop bag.
Grow Hops at Home!
Homebrewers with a green thumb may find satisfaction in growing their own hops. MoreBeer! sells a large selection of high-quality root stock, called rhizomes, anually during late March to early May (only!). Sign up for our email newsletter on the front page of the site and we will alert you in February when we start pre-selling rhizomes.
Yeast Homebrew Tips and FAQ's
What is Beer Yeast?
Yeast is a very small, single-celled organism. Wild yeast can be found everywhere — on plants, in soil, and in the home. Over centuries, the yeast strains that have proven to make good beer have been carefully selected. MoreBeer! now offers over 40 unique strains of brewer’s yeast, each of which produces a significantly different beer flavor. There are two types of brewers yeast: dry and liquid. To make good beer it is essential that you pitch (Brewer's term for 'add to your fermenter') huge quantities of high-quality yeast. All of our yeast packages contain at least 60 billion cells. Considering that our most expensive yeast costs less than 12¢ per billion, yeast is quite a bargain! Most every commercial yeast strain can be categorized as either an ale or a lager. Ale strains (saccharomyces cerevisiae) ferment at warmer temperatures, between 60-72°, while lager strains(saccharomyces uvarum) ferment at cooler temperatures, between 48-55°.
Three characteristics that should be understood before selecting an appropriate yeast
Selecting the Right Yeast
Attenuation: The percentage of sugar that a yeast will be able to ferment. Low attenuation yeast result in maltier beers. High attenuation yeast results in drier, less sweet, beers.
Flocculation: This refers to yeast’s tendency to clump together at the end of fermentation and drop to the bottom of the fermenter. Yeast strains are separated into three main degrees of flocculation: High, Medium, and Low. A yeast strain that has low flocculation will take a longer time to settle out of solution, possibly resulting in cloudier beers. A yeast strain with high flocculation will settle out rapidly, resulting in beers that become clear much faster.
Optimum Fermentation Temperature: Each yeast performs best within a certain temperature range. § What happens if the ferment temperature is higher than the recommended range? High ester and sulfur levels are most commonly associated with high fermentation temperatures. The flavor of the beer becomes rough. This means the soft, mellow malt flavors and nice hop characteristics become muted and the resulting beer is not nearly as enjoyable as it could have been. Choose a yeast that is advised for your beer style, and ferment within advised temperature ranges.
What happens if the ferment temperature is lower than the optimum range?
Your ferment will be very sluggish, as the activity of the yeast is halted by colder temperatures. The yeast eventually become dormant, stop fermenting, and drop to the bottom of the fermenter. To resume normal fermentation, warm the wort to the optimum temperature range and swirl it to mix theyeast back into suspension.
Why has my beer not started fermenting?
Visual appearances are notoriously unreliable. The tools will tell you! To confirm that fermentation is occurring simply take another hydrometer reading. If the reading is less than the original reading (before fermentation) your beer is fermenting. Our
MoreBeer! hydrometer is under $7.00 and comes with full, easy-to-follow directions.
Has my beer completed fermenting?
Again, the tools will tell. Simply take another hydrometer reading (takes only 30 seconds). With most recipes and yeast strains, if the final gravity reading is around 25% of your original gravity reading the beer has completed fermentation.
Quick Answer: 4 Months
What is the shelf life of White Labs™ yeast?
Long Answer: Yeast is a living organism. As such, it needs to exist in certain conditions to survive. Dry yeast can stay alive for about one year, but yeast in liquid form — even though it’s superior in taste and performance — is more perishable. After 30 days in the vial, the viability (the percentage of living cells) of White Labs™ yeast is still up at 75-85%, which is very high for liquid yeast. Yeast that is harvested after a homebrew fermentation will typically have a viability of less then 50% after 30 days. White Lab's™ high viability of yeast cells is due to the very robust health of the yeast entering the vial as well as the excellent nutrient content of their proprietary liquid added at packaging. Yeast used after four months is usually still fine, but a better strategy is to create a yeast starter to avoid a long lag time between pitching the yeast and the onset of wort fermentation.
If fresh, the White Labs™ yeast will begin fermentation 5–15 hours after pitching. But after, say, 6 weeks of storage, fermentation will begin somewhat later, usually between 15–20 hours. The first sign of fermentation will be a raised airlock. This signals CO2 production. A fine layer of foam will begin forming on top of the liquid. Within a few hours the head of foam will become thicker and rocky, and the airlock will rapidly expel the CO2 gas. Fermentation will usually be complete in 7–14 days, depending on the strain, starting gravity and ferment temperature.
When should I see the signs of fermentation?
There are two methods of pitching lager yeasts. Brewers use both methods with success, but each brewer
At what temperature should I add a lager yeast?
tends to have a preferred approach.
A) Starting Warm – then Cool Down. This is the easiest method for the average homebrewer. Pitch yeastat 70–75°F, reduce the wort temperature 10°F per
each 12 hours until reaching the desired fermentation temperature of 50–55°F. This method works well without forming high amounts of esters because most esters are produced after the first 12 hours.
B) Starting Cold – using Twice the Yeast, or use a Yeast Starter to ‘Quick-Start’ Fermentation. Pitch two vials of yeast at the recommended fermentation temperature (48–55°F). Or, use a Yeast Starter
(see next page), to make a 1–2 liter yeast starter per each 5 gallons. Lager yeast ferment well at low temperatures, but they grow very slowly.
Add Lots of Yeast
One tiny vial of White Labs™ liquid yeast contains enough high-quality yeast cells (70-120 billion) to ferment a full five gallons of beer. This one vial quantity has proven to make great beer for hundreds of thousands of brewers worldwide. However, there are certain instances when we recommend pitching (adding) more than one vial of yeast per each five gallons. More yeast can be added in one of two ways. The easiest method is to simply pitch additional vials. The second, more economical method, is to increase the number of yeast cells by using a Yeast Starter. Having brewed, assisted with, and conducted troubleshooting for tens-of-thousands of batches, we offer the following typical scenarios that might require additional yeast: When you want to make a high-alcohol beer, When “Cold-Starting” Lager yeast, When yeast is past the “best before ...” date, When your last batch did not turn out well, When you want insurance that your batch turns out well.