Today’s article is about “how to brew like a pro”. I’ve been brewing for 25 years now on various systems and in different countries.
I still don’t like being called a master brewer and feel I still have a lot to learn.
However, I have commercial brewers on an almost daily basis asking for advice. In most instances the information I provide is always appreciated and helps the brewer improve their process.
The free resource “Brewing Lager with Dry Yeast” was a quick guide I created to help my old assistant brew a lager for his new brand.
So, I thought why not put together a short article “how to brew like a pro” which I can direct home brewers to give them some quick take-aways to quickly help improve their processes.
So, let’s get straight into it with our first pro-brewing tip…
1. Clean, Clean…Oh and Clean Some More!
I can’t stress this enough 70% of my brewing life has been cleaning.
People, think brewing is a glamourous life but it isn’t always that way. I love brewing and couldn’t see myself in any other industry. But the cleaning even grates me some time.
One of the bosses in my first brewing job said “Neilly, remember cleanliness is next to godliness”. Although it was somewhat tongue-in-cheek this has stuck with me during my career.
To the point I was called the “anal brewer” for my devotion to cleanliness. Maybe not the most flattering moniker but one I took pride in.
Be Thorough in Your Cleaning
Your equipment has to be clean. Clean as soon as you’ve finished with a price of equipment. The longer you leave it the harder it becomes to clean as the material dries and cakes.
Regular cleaning of equipment and pacification will reduce the risk of infection. In pro-brewing one of the biggest points where infection is the heat exchanger.
We need to take it apart every 6 months or so to do a deep clean We clean the heat exchanger after every brew with caustic.
If you have a fermenter rather than a bucket break down all the parts and clean properly and then put it back together and sanitize before use.
Make sure you sanitize properly especially on the cold side (anything after and including the heat exchanger).
2. How to Brew like a Pro – Temperatures
I use a timer when I brew if I am not an automatic system. I cannot stress how important time and temperature in brewing. It can make or break your beer. In almost every step of brewing temperature is key:
Mashing in you brew
The mash is where starch in the malt turns to sugars that through an amylase reaction.
In the Beta amylase phase, which happens between 54-66C produces fermentable sugars that will turn to alcohol later in the brewing process are.
Although the range most pro-brewers use is 63-65C for optimal extraction of fermentable sugars. The temperature of the mash will determine the types of sugar you make and so much more. See the table 2 below:
In brewing you can step mash to can help with chill haze in your beer if you have a lot of unmodified malts in your grain bill.
The protein rest takes place at 50-55C. At this temp protein are broken down resulting in clearer beer less in need of downline fining or filtering.
Please note however; if you are using all modified malt in can lead to watery less full-bodied beer.
If you want your beer to be have some sweetness and more body then you can have a “step” in your mash at 66-71C. This is called an Alpha Amylase rest and produces non-fermentable sweet sugars.
However, 68C -71C will produce more of the unfermentable sugars for those sweeter stouts.
Sparging/Mash Out Temperature
When sparging if the water is too hot in can lead to tannins leaching out and making you beer extremely bitter. A good sparge water temperature us between 76-77C.
When fermenting the temperature is key. If you are too high it can lead to off-flavors. If you are making a wheat beer with WB-06 then lower temperatures will lead to more clove like temperatures whilst higher temperature lead to more banana like esters.
Diacetyl Rest for Lager
A “diacetyl rest” is important for diacetyl reduction so you don’t have “butter like” off-flavors in your final beer.
Diacetyl reduction is slower at colder temperatures, making vital to incorporate a Diacetyl rest when brewing cold fermenting lagers.
The process is quite simple; raise the fermentation temperature from lager temperatures (10-12.5C) for the duration of the fermentation when you’re between 2 to 5 points from final gravity. In traditional lager brewing you raise the temperature to
The process is simply to raise the fermentation temperature from lager temperatures (50-55F) to 65-68F for a two-day period near the close of the fermentation 20C.
Then once the fermentation is finished the temperature is lowered to conditioning temperature. For more information see my free resource on lager brewing.
3. How to Brew Like A Pro – Record Keeping IS Your Friend
As a brewer I try and record as much data as I can. My daily brew sheet has evolved over the years and it allows me to record a lot of critical information. Brewing is a process driven, if you follow a precise recipe and a specific plan every time you’ll end up with same beer.
Let’s break it down a little, shall we?
What is your grain bill? Did you step mash? Then what were your temperatures and times. What was the pH of your mash? Did you add brewing salts…if so what and how much?
Note the quantity and verity of hops used (what was the alpha acid of the hops?). What was the overall boil time? What was the volume of the wort before and after boil?
Take daily gravity readings. What was your original and final gravity? What was the temperature every day? Did you dry hop? If so, what were the varieties and quantities?
If you take more notes; it will provide more data to refer to for all subsequent brews. If a beer doesn’t turn out like you expect then your notes may provide a reason why. My notes from 25 years of brewing is my own personal brewing library and proves invaluable to me on a weekly basis.
4. Brew with other Brewers
I have been brewing for 25 years but still have a lot to learn so try pick-up something new on a daily basis. Ok, so I don’t get to brew with other brewers as much as I would like but I do often reach out to other brewers to ask question or to check what I am doing is right.
I am confident in what I am doing but no too proud to check with other brewers on certain processes. Often, they have a different perspective and their approach allows me to improve my process.
In homebrewing brewing with others not only provide comradery, it allows you to learn and bounce ideas off someone else. It may lead to a little tip that will help your beer shine. One reason I love brewing is the community…embrace that for fun and I guarantee you will learn too.
5. How to Brew Like A Pro – Keep on Learning
Thanks for reading this article but there is a whole host of ways to learn more brewing.
Podcasts – I listen to MBAA podcasts as a commercial brewer. They aren’t always the most in-depth but a great introduction to subjects that can lead to father reading.
Then my fellow British Brewer Nick Law has the Hop Forward Podcast that deals with brewing but subjects around brewing too. Then there is Brülosophy Podcast which is has a good catalogue for home brewers.
Google Scholar/Research Gate/Google Books – This has some very niche information that can go into the minutiae of one single aspect of a brewing process. I sometimes feel like getting my beer nerd on and hit Google Scholar for random brewing term. Here is what “brewing beer” brings up when put into Google Scholar.
There are some great online home-brewing resources that even I use from time to time to get some quick info. Some of the best are:
BYO – There are some good and fairly in-depth articles to be had here.
Brülosophy – I recommend for their podcast but there are some good articles here too.
Brewers Friend – Even pro-brewers use this for their useful calculators
There are a lot more for sure but these are some good places to start.
How to Brew Like A Pro – A Conclusion
I hope this article “How to Brew Like A Pro” has given you a few take-aways to improve your homebrewing.
As a brewer I am always learning, I record a lot of data down on a daily basis, I have cleaned soooooo many kegs and I’ve done collabaration brews.
These aren’t just tips for you, this is advice I follow myself. Brewing isn’t always glamourous but I love it and could not imagine doing anything else. Brewing is following procedures and processes but you can also experiment and have fun with it.
Enjoy Your Brewing!
Go brew and enjoy and if you have anything you would like to add then please comment below as I would love to hear from you.
Also please feel free to email at: [email protected]
Thanks for reading, have a good day and happy brewing!
Please Note: I’ve also written a series of posts on “How to Brew with Herbs” that you might find interesting.