Homebrew Notes and Tips



Lactose is only slightly fermentable, leaving a great deal of sugar behind to sweeten the beer. I've read that Dextrose is only 10% fermentable, but I've also read that it's completely fermentable, so I just don't know. (I use it in root beer and it leaves the beer sweet, so I think it's only partly fermentable.) Corn sugar (sucrose) ferments completely, leaving the sweetness of the beer unaffected.

Sugar adds nothing but alcohol, which isn't really the point, so many homebrewers dispense with it and instead use more malt extract. This raises the price quite a bit (a can of malt extract costs about $15, while 4 cups of corn sugar costs maybe a dollar), but it does make a better beer.


If you use the barrel type of airlock, let the wort cool before installing the airlock. Otherwise, the cooling air above the wort will contract and draw in air, sucking the water out of the airlock and into the wort, possibly contaminating it. If you use the S-type airlock, watch out for foam-overs, as they'll fill the airlock with gunk which is very hard to get back out.


I've added leaf and pelletized hops directly to the wort, and left some of it in the primary fermenter. Using a tea-ball or a tea-bag might be a better idea.


5-gallon glass carboys work REALLY well as both primary and secondary fermenters. (Just don't drop them.) 5-gallon plastic buckets have the advantage of being much easier to clean, and many have a spigot near the bottom so there is no need for a siphon. I've never used a bucket, however.

Sterilizing Solution

Bleach or Oxyclean in water is very cheap, but let it soak long enough, and don't forget to rinse well! Also, don't suck on the hose to start your siphon - you might contaminate the beer with mouth-cooties. Use a turkey baster, or try filling the hose with water. (I'd love to build a peristaltic pump to start my siphons.)



Cleaning bottles sucks. (I bet you've noticed.) I have a theory that my children are so well behaved because I told them that if they were naughty, they'd have to clean bottles for me.

The larger the bottles, however, the fewer you need to clean! For 5 gallons (640 oz) of beer, you'll need 53 (and one-third) 12-oz bottles, 40 16-oz bottles, or 20 32-oz (wine) bottles.

If you use 1-liter PET (soda) bottles, you'll only need 19 of them, and you can put the caps on by hand.

You can also avoid the hassle of capping by using Grolsh bottles, which have the bale top and rubber gaskets. Make sure the gaskets are still good - you can buy replacements on the internet. Grolsh bottles also have the advantage of being very strong - they won't explode, instead pushing the gasket out and spraying a fine mist beer all over the basement.

And you avoid the whole bottle business by using a keg. I know nothing about it, however.



© 2010 W. E. Johns