Homebrewing is a wonderful hobby that is very rewarding. After all, what could be better than sitting back enjoying a beer that you created? To make your first brew day a little less stressful, we put together this list of the biggest mistakes we see new homebrewers make.
1. Not Cleaning and Sanitizing
This may be the most important of all of these. You must clean and remove anything off of any surface that will touch your beer. You must also sanitize every one of these surfaces to make sure that any bacteria will not have the opportunity to grow. This means that even the scissors you use to cut your yeast pack need to be cleaned and sanitized. Prior to the boil, it is not an issue since boiling will kill off any organisms you don’t want hanging around in your beer. It is after the beer is cooled that you really need to make sure that every single surface touching your beer is properly cleaned and sanitized.
2. Not Pitching Enough Yeast
To get good fermentation of your beer, you need to pitch enough yeast cells to make sure it can handle the amount of sugar in your wort. If you don’t pitch enough cells, you can have challenges like stuck fermentation, development of off flavors, or fusel alcohols. New homebrewers are often working with dry yeast packs and forget to hydrate their yeast before pitching it. For batches using liquid yeast, we recommend making a yeast starter. This requires extra time and a few extra steps. For that reason, dry yeast packs for your first brew are your best bet.
3. Not Cooling Wort Efficiently
After your boil, you will need to cool your wort as fast as possible to a temperature where you can pitch your yeast. Usually new homebrewers will make an ice bath in the sink to cool their brew quickly to prevent off flavors from taking form in their beer.
4. Fermenting Too Warm
Different yeasts will have different recommended temperatures. It is important to stay within these ranges. Typically fermenting too hot is the problem for new brewers. This can cause the creation of some fusel alcohols which are not desirable. To avoid this we recommend converting an old fridge into a fermentation chamber. If this is not an option, fermenting in a dark closet or basement can help keep fermentation from getting too hot.
5. Using Water With High Chlorine Levels
Water is often overlooked as a beer ingredient, but beer is mostly water. Bad water equals bad beer. A simple way to fix this is leave your water out uncovered overnight and the chlorine problem should take care of itself.
6. Not Reviewing the Plan
This sounds obvious, but you need to read all of your instructions ahead of time. If you get to the cooling stage where you need ice, you need to make sure have enough of it to cool your beer. Nothing will ruin your brew day like running around trying to figure out what to do when you are missing ingredients or equipment.
Co-Founder of the #1 Beer Fan
Don is also founder of Beer Dogging, a 10,000 member international beer club dedicated to making beer education fun. He is an adjunct faculty member and board member for the Business of Craft Beer Program at College of DuPage in Illinois. Don loves training beer industry staff and those looking to get into the beer industry.