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Tips and Techniques to Take Your Brewing to the Next Level

04/08/2024

By Onur Çaka

Homebrewing is an art, and like any art, it can always be refined. Trends are shaping the industry. The industry is shaping the way you brew, your garage or basement art gallery follows through.
 
Let's also be honest, aren't we all in pursuit of that perfect pint with almost 0 DO (Dissolved Oxygen), one that is true to style and brings a smile to our faces with every sip? As a brewer, I firmly believe in the principle of constant improvement. There's always something new to learn and ways to enhance our brewing techniques. In this spirit of continual growth, I will discuss some brewing trends and techniques that would take your hobby to the next level. While these might not be new to some, they are gradually gaining traction in the brewing community.
 

4 Tips To Help Improve Your Homebrewing

 

1. High Gravity Brewing

High gravity brewing involves brewing a beer with a high original gravity (OG), which is then diluted post-fermentation to achieve the desired alcohol content. This technique allows you to brew more beer with less water, reducing the time and energy needed for boiling and cooling. High gravity beers typically start at an original gravity of 1.080 and can go as high as 1.120. There is a very detailed article here, by By Victor E. Buckwold if you want to learn more about it:
 
 

What do you need to know?

Do's:
  • Use a yeast strain that can handle high alcohol levels.
  • Ensure proper oxygenation of your wort, as high gravity worts require more oxygen for yeast health.
  • High-gravity brewing is only practical when you are producing average- to medium-strength beers. If you are planning to brew that barleywine for winter, please review your plans.
Don'ts:
  • Don’t forget to adjust your hop additions. Hop utilization decreases in high gravity worts, so you may need to add more hops to achieve the same bitterness.
 

2. Pressure Fermentation

 
Pressure fermentation is the process of fermenting beer inside a closed and pressurized vessel. Unlike typical fermentations that allow CO2 to escape the fermenter through an airlock or blow-off tube, in pressurized fermentation, the fermenter is sealed, and the CO2 produced by the fermentation is trapped inside. This method is typically performed under a pressure that is higher than atmospheric pressure, often between 10-20 psi.
 
The trapped CO2 increases the internal pressure, which results in the beer being fermented under a pressure greater than the atmospheric pressure or 0 PSI. One of the outcomes of this process is that the beer absorbs the gas and becomes naturally carbonated.
 
Pressure fermentation offers several benefits. First and foremost, it allows you to ferment yeast at high temperatures faster, without losing flavor. This results in quicker and more efficient fermentation. Second, if you are a huge crisp boi fan, due to pressure build up, your beer will end up with fewer esters because less yeast grows inside your vessel, hence a cleaner beer. On the flip side, the reduced ester formation is not ideal for styles where esters are a desirable characteristic, like hefeweizen, witbier, and IPAs. Plus, higher pressures can reduce yeast cell division, which can lead to unhealthy fermentations and under-attenuation in some cases.
 

But here comes the best part: its closed-system nature shields the beer from oxygen exposure and minimizes oxidation.

Some things to keep in mind here:
  • Use a pressure-rated fermenter that can safely handle the pressure.
  • Monitor the pressure regularly to ensure it stays within safe limits
  • Don’t use a regular airlock. You’ll need a spunding valve to control the pressure.
Weigh the pros and cons before jumping into this setup. You may first need to talk to your partner and your bank, in this order.
 

3. Biotransformation Dry Hopping

 
With the rise of the haze craze, there has been a few terms and concepts that have been added to our hobby. And Biotransformation is one of them. After dry hopping during active fermentation, biotransformation is believed to enhance the flavors and aroma of the beer through chemical reactions between the yeast and hops.
 
In this natural process, one organic compound can chemically change into another. In dry hopping, fermentation can alter some oil compounds, like terpenes, into more volatile and flavor-active ones, which can lead to different tropical flavors in your IPAs (depending on the hop style of course)
 
It is still a little understood but powerful brewing process. Yeast will happily munch on these hops and transform them into flavors and aromas that you simply cannot get when adding them to the boil or whirlpool. This is the process that causes some of the juiciest NEIPAs you’ve ever tasted.
 
If you plan to give this a try, add your hops during active fermentation, usually a few days after pitching the yeast. And don’t leave the hops in for too long after fermentation has finished, as this can lead to grassy off-flavors.

4. The Kveik Magic

Kveik yeast is a traditional Norwegian yeast that has been used in farmhouse brewing for generations. The term “kveik” is a Norwegian word for yeast, specifically referring to a local strain of yeast used in traditional beer production in Norway. It can ferment at extremely high temperatures (up to about 110ºF) and at significantly higher alcohol concentrations. They are also known for their ability to ferment quickly at high temperatures without producing off-flavors.
 
In recent years, thanks to its unique qualities it became popular among homebrewers. When can kveik be a good option for you? You still have not invested in a temperature control setup or a fermentation chamber but are worried about off-flavors. Or your best friend is getting married, and he just tells you that you have 1 week to brew a beer for his wedding…Here comes Kveik to the rescue. Its speedy fermentation and unique flavor profile (from bold, ripe fruit notes to subtle whispers of smoke) make it a good choice for homebrewers who are seeking both efficiency and distinctiveness.
 
One thing to remember though, you may want to pitch less yeast than you normally would. Kveik strains are known for their high cell count and can be underpitched.
 
While these above methods may require careful consideration and adaptation, they hold the potential to elevate your brewing experience and bring you closer to that perfect pint. Remember, the key to mastering this art lies in thousands of batches, mistakes, and drain pours.

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