Fermentation Temperature Control

fermentation Temperature Control

The fermentation temperature that you ferment beer, wine or cider at is critically important. A constant temperature is the most important factor, you don’t want large fluctuations in temperature, some people have poor results because they ferment in garages and sheds without a means of controlling the fermentation temperature. I say again the temperature you ferment at is critical!

So if you have to ferment beer, cider or wine at home what is the best way to control temperature?

A heat belt or heat pad is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to maintain a constant temperature, many all grain brewers build themselves a little fermentation chamber with a heat tube, these can be as simple as some insulation boards and an inkbird or ITC1000 attached to a heat tube, if you want to make lagers or ciders you may want to ferment at say 10 degrees, so you will need a cooling aspect (Fridge) to the set up also.

So how is this acheived?, its again a fairly simple process, usually the brewers use a second hand fridge and add a dual temperature controller, so you plug the fridge into the dual temperature controller and place a heat tube inside and plug it into the other plug outlet on the dual temperature control and set the temperature on the digital display.

Mangrove Jacks have designed a Dual Temperature Controller and we feel its the best solution on the market currently, it doesn’t require and DIY wiring and its safe and tried and tested. It can be used with a fridge set up, heat pad or heat belt. The fridge and the heating option can be plugged into the controller at the same time allowing them to work in partnership. There is no additional wiring or probes just plug it in.

Pay attention to recommended fermentation temperatures, you will have great success if you can control what temperature you can ferment at, take a Wheat beer for example if you use a good quality wheat yeast like Munich Classic from Lallemand and you ferment it at 17 degrees it will produce beautiful banana notes, take the same yeast and ferment it at 23 degrees, it changes and becomes spicy and has more notes of clove. The ability to control temperature will hugely improve your beers, ciders and wines.

A constant temperature is critical and will make big differences in the quality of your homebrew

Brewing Sour Beers

A brief history of sour beers

Beer has been brewed for thousands of years and for the majority of this time has been produced using mixed culture fermentation via a complex spectrum of microflora, not just brewing yeast. Indeed, arguably, sourness (to some extent) has been an important and prevalent characteristic of beer throughout history. It is only in the last 500-600 years that hops have been used as the widespread and dominating flavouring of beer, with their bacteriostatic properties inhibiting the presence and activity of some bacteria in particular. In more recent history, the pioneering work of scientists such as Pasteur and Hansen saw the development of sterile culturing techniques and the isolation and purification of single cell cultures. This, coupled with technological developments in the mid-late Victorian period, saw a move away from mixed cultures and the rise of pure culture fermentations and greater homogeneity in beer which still dominates the global landscape (bearing in mind that lager/pilsner production accounts for 90%+ of world beer production).

However, pockets of unique and iconic beers using mixed microflora remained in Europe. Sour beer is certainly nothing new. We would perhaps associate sour beers chiefly with Belgium with styles such as Lambic, Flanders Red, Gose etc but so to could sour beers be found in Germany (Berliner Weisse) and the UK (Oak aged ales). Fast forward to modern day and we are now seeing an explosion in the popularity of sours, nothing short of a renaissance. This, like most phenomenon in the modern craft beer movement, is being fueled and influenced by the US. In the 1990s beer imports saw an influx of Belgian beers into the US which had a profound effect on brewers and consumers alike. 2002 saw the first time sours were entered as a standalone category at the great American Beer Festival (with only a handful of entries) but since then great expansion and popularity in sour beers now sees hundreds of entries. The diversity in sour styles, flavours and creativity is now going global and having been influenced by iconic European styles and techniques modern brewers worldwide are taking sours to exciting new places which is being reflected in demand for these beers.


Key microorganisms


Lactobacillus can largely be considered the primary souring bacteria and has a diverse range of subspecies (see R&D trials later in the article). Lactobacillus is at the heart and the dominating characteristic of sour beers such as Berliner Weisse and Gose but is also used as part of mixed fermentation in many sour styles. Lactobacillus produces lactic acid very rapidly, imparting a soft and tangy flavor. Temperature sensitivity is crucial for performance and this does vary by subspecies, 30-49°C being a common temperature range for Lactobacillus activity. They are typically very sensitive to hops (though again this is species dependent) and as little as c.8 IBU can inhibit growth and activity. Lactobacillus can be categorised as hetrofermentative (producing lactic acid and other byproducts such as CO2 and Ethanol) and homofermentative strains which produce lactic acid alone.


Pediocococcus is also a common souring bacteria but by contrast to lactobacillus is much slower (potentially taking months to reach lower pH levels) which may influence the technique selected to sour. Although slower in activity it is more resistant to hops as well as acids and thus can achieve pH levels of 3.0 and lower (Lactobacillus typically achieving 3.2-3.5 pH). The result being that Pedicoccus produces a much harsher and sharper taste as compared to Lactobacillus. Most species will produce diacetyl to varying concentrations, which is largely considered a negative by many brewers and in the right conditions can produce exopolysaccharides resulting in “sick” or “ropey” beer.


Brettanomyces, wild yeast and not bacteria, is often used to ferment sour beers. Unlike common brewing yeasts (S.Cerevisiae and S.Pastorianus) Brettanomyces can utilize a broad range of sugars including dextrin material but is typically slower. A common misconception of Brettanomyces is that it contributes to acidity similar to bacteria. It does not on its own but is often used alongside bacteria. Depending on the subspecies Brettanomyces can produce a diverse range of esters, phenols and other compounds resulting in flavours that lend themselves well to sour beer styles. For example, B.Bruxellenis tends to produce more earthy, woody and musty notes versus fruity, pineapple esters that would be associated with B.Claussenii.


Sources of Lactic Acid producing bacteria

In searching for preferable bacteria used for sour beer production brewers turn to many sources to achieve desired results. Some of the most common include:

Laboratory – Commercially available strains via laboratories are becoming increasingly available either as a pure or mixed culture (more common).

Bottle Cultures – Brewers and microbiologists harvest cultures found in the sediment/dregs of unpasteurized sour beers and then grow these cultures up. These would typically be mixed and often complex cultures.

Nature – Exposing wort or beer to atmosphere and allowing naturally present bacteria and wild yeasts to sour. A traditional technique especially favored in Belgium.

Yoghurt – A range of dairy products including yoghurt are fermented with Lactobacillus and adding yoghurt containing a spectrum to wort of beer has been used in sour beer production.

Un-mashed grains – Lactobacillus is often present on the grains/cereals used in brewing and the addition of crushed and un-mashed grains in the brew house can be used as a technique for souring.


Techniques for souring

  • Mash Souring
    • Liquor, grain adjustment
    • Bacteria from grain or inoculated
    • 2 – 3 days
  • Kettle Souring
    • Wort innoculated with LAB
    • 2 -3 days
  • Co-fermentation
    • Mixed sacc, LAB & Brett
    • Typical fermentation time
  • Barrel/Foeder/spontaneous ageing
    • Often in wood (or Keolschip)
    • Mixed spectrum of microflora
    • Greater complexity


Typical/example kettle sour process

Lallemand Research


With the increased consumption of sour beers (containing lactic acid) comes a demand to be able to produce such beers in a convenient and controlled way such as using dried bacteria in pitchable sizes. Based on encouraging results with a L. plantarum strain it was decided to evaluate a wider range of available dried lactic acid bacteria. The target is to achieve pH 3.5 or lower within 48 hours of fermentation with high lactic acid and low acetic acid concentrations. Here we test several lactic acid bacteria strains. L. plantarum was included as a control because it was the best performer in previous trials.

Sour beers are becoming more popular in the market today and brewers looking for an easy way to produce this beer style without propagating and maintaining their own lactic acid bacteria cultures. Using dried bacteria cultures in pitchable sizes would be a convenient solution. 6 lactic acid bacteria strains were fermented in 12 % unhoped malt extract at four different temperatures. L helveticus and L. acidophilus showed the highest activity at 40 ºC, which resulted in the highest lactic acid concentration. The highest acetic acid concentrations were produced at 20 ºC and in general decreased with increasing fermentation temperatures. L helveticus and L. acidophilus seem suitable candidates for sour beer production. L. delbrueckii might be an interesting addition to the portfolio of lactic acid bacteria for sour beer production because it produced some interesting fruity notes.

Materials and Methods


  1. plantarum
  2. delbrueckii
  3. delbrueckii
  4. helveticus
  5. plantarum
  6. brevis
  7. acidophilus


Beer fermentations with the samples were performed at 4 different temperatures (20 ºC, 30 ºC, 40 ºC and 50 ºC in 500ml media bottles. The wort was prepared from malt extract to 12° Plato and transferred into sterile bottles. Bacteria were rehydrated at room temperature for 15 minutes and pitched at 1g/hl except for L. plantarum (strain A) which was pitched at 10 g/hl as recommended. Daily measurements of gravity and pH were taken over the course of the fermentation.

Samples were taken at the end of each fermentation and analyzed for lactic acid, acetic acid and glycerol. The analysis was performed by HPLC with a column Jolie Waters Ic-Pak Ion-exclusion 50A 7um 7.8X150mm


Both Lactobacillus plantarum strains showed the highest activity at 20 ºC and 30 ºC resulting in the fastest pH drop and lowest pH after 3 days fermentation. At 30 ºC and 40 ºC all strains reached the target pH of 3.5 within 2 days with the exemption of L. brevis strain (30 ºC & 40 ºC) and L. delbrueckii (30 ºC). L. helveticus and L. acidophilus showed the highest activity at 40 ºC and were still active at 50 ºC whereas all other strains were almost inactive at that temperature (graphs 1 – 4).

HPLC results indicate that the highest lactic acid concentrations were produced at 40 ºC by L. helveticus followed by L. acidophilus. At 30 ºC all strains produced similar high concentrations of lactic acid. L brevis is the most sensitive strain to higher fermentation temperatures producing the highest concentration at 20 ºC (graph 5). The highest acetic acid concentrations were produced at 20 ºC and in general decreased with increasing fermentation temperatures (graph 6). The highest glycerol concentrations were measured at 30 ºC produced by L. plantarum and L helveticus (graph 7).

The fermentations were tasted after 3 days by a tasting panel. In general the fermentations with L helveticus and L. acidophilus were described as having the most intense sour taste and smell. L. delbrueckii produced some interesting fruity notes. One of the two bottles of L helveticus at 30 ºC produced a biofilm and smelled like “sweaty socks” and had a roasted aftertaste.

Graph 1

Graph 2

Graph 3

Graph 4

Graph 5

Graph 6


Graph 7


Sensory summary of fermentations


The production of sour beers is fast becoming increasingly prevalent and the requirement for reliable and consistent techniques and desirable flavor profile is highly relevant. The diversity in Lactobacillus sub species is evident in terms of performance, temperature sensitivity and optimal conditions. By identifying, characterizing and understanding how these subspecies work and moreover what techniques for souring they are best suited for continuing research and development of easy to handle high performance bacteria cultures can be of benefit to brewers producing sour beers. A number of strains available in the Lallemand culture collection and produced in freeze dried form appear to be ideal candidates for application in brewing.

The first product created as a result of the research

Lallemand Brewing recently introduced the first product of the WildBrew product line, they have a range of these exciting products in the pipeline, check out WildBrew Sour Pitch, a ready-to-use dried bacteria, a strain of Lactobacillus plantarum specifically selected for its ability to produce a wide range of sour beer styles, including Gose, Lambic and Berliner Weisse. WildBrew Sour Pitch will deliver unmatched consistency, effortless application, fully assured performance and unparalleled purity for brewing the sour beer style of your choice.


Article written by our friend

Robert Percival

Regional Sales Manager – Europe
Certified Doemens Beer Sommelier

Lallemand Brewing





Lallemand Dried Yeast:Why to Use it, When to Use and How to Use It


I’ve come across questions that seemed to plague brewers time and again. What are the benefits of dry yeast over liquid yeast? When is dry yeast a better choice than liquid? What are some things to consider when using dry yeast? In the next few paragraphs I’ll attempt to break some answers down for these questions and a few others.


Using liquid yeasts has its perks. First and foremost, the wide range of options to choose from. The available variety, all the wide offering of yeast strains listed out end up being a gift for every brewers’ creativity, a loaded palette of possible flavors and historical yeasts for those attempting to mimic or model after coveted beers the world over. On the other hand, dry yeast, due to the restrictions posed by the drying process, offers brewers a smaller variety of yeast strains. However, I think that the other benefits associated with using dry yeast make up for this smaller selection.

Dry yeast can create beautiful beer, and the options increase year after year. There are some really wonderful benefits to using dry yeast, and I will give you some of my top reasons below.

The obvious question is, then, what is so great about dry yeast? When asked, most people would reply “cost”. And this is true for a number of reasons. First, when thinking about the price you pay per cell by taking in consideration the total cell count you get in a package of dry yeast in comparison to liquid. Most of our Ale yeasts consist of a guaranteed minimum 5 x 10cells/g. When you compare this to the average cells/ml of liquid yeast (1.2 x 109) that means you are receiving almost 4 times as many yeast cells in dry compared to liquid. If rehydrated and treated properly, this can result in some significant savings. Dry yeast producers ensure the yeast has necessary amounts of trehalose (stress protector) available to survive the rehydration process. On average, the cost for the brewer is lower for dry yeast and you get more viable cells.

When using dry yeast, there is no need to make a starter. That means your yeast is ready to go within a few minutes of rehydration, and you do not need to prepare the yeast over days in any other way. I have received questions about difficulty of rehydration before and I can assure you that rehydration of dry yeast is not only easier but it also carries less risk of contamination than making a starter due purely to exposure and contact time out of packaging and fermenter. Rehydration is simple, and you can follow our suggested steps here:http://www.lallemandbrewing.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Rehydration-Ales.pdf.

Furthermore, shipping costs must also be taken in consideration, since shipping is expensive. For example, costs of shipping liquid yeast in the US can often be the same or even more than those of the yeast itself. On the contrary, shipping dry yeast is far less expensive, and these cost savings are always transferred to brewers. Geterbrewed ship yeast from America from Wyeast & Whitelabs and we know the expense involved in this is very significant

But cost reduction is not the only positive element of dry yeast. Convenience is certainly an excellent additional perk. Take oxygenation as an example: simply put, it is not necessary to oxygenate/aerate wort upon first pitch of Lallemand Brewing yeast. We have already taken that step for you during the propagation and production of our yeasts, ensuring that each cell has the proper amount of sterols and lipids needed for healthy fermentation. The convenience of taking the oxygenation step out of your brewing process is helpful for 2 reasons: 1) it will save you money on oxygen; and 2) it will simplify your production process. Additionally, since you will have fewer cell divisions (and new cells created) due to skipping a respiration phase, the amount of nutrients and trace minerals (essential for healthy fermentation) present in the initial wort will not be shared with times as with liquid, making for consistent fermentation and guarantee that your cells have what they need to do their job properly. When repitching Lallemand yeasts, please oxygenate the wort as you would for any liquid yeast.

Thanks to this convenience element and due to the longer shelf life of dry yeast (often ranging from 2-4 years from package date), it can be easily ordered in advance and stored in a cooler, leaving it there, readily available, and waiting for brewers to use.

When considering stress protectors, the availability of trehalose in Lallemand’s dry brewing yeast is particularly helpful when attempting to ferment beer in stressful conditions. Among other factors, stressful conditions can include low pH, limited availability of nutrients, high gravity, and temperature; all these can (and certainly will) appear as brewers continue to push the limits of style. So next time you are kettle souring or making that high gravity stout consider a robust dry yeast for your fermentation.

I would love to also take this opportunity to provide some answers to common questions we receive about our products:


Yes. Once rehydrated, you can use dry yeast just as you would liquid yeast. As long as you keep the yeast clean and healthy it can be reused just as you would for any other yeast; it is, after all, the same living organism. However, with any yeast (liquid or dry), if repitching yeast is the way you’ve chosen to go it is important to provide it with the necessary nutrients for healthy fermentation .


It’s important to understand that there are multiple variables when working with brewing yeast. When switching yeasts it would be advisable to try keeping all other variables the same: mashing and fermentation temperatures, pH, inoculation rate, and wort composition are just a few variables to try and keep in mind. This way you will be able to notice the changes in fermentation kinetics and flavor differences when switching yeasts. Once you do this you will be able to adjust the other variables as necessary so as to achieve the exact flavors you are looking for.


Our suggestions include:

  • Keep everything sterile when working with yeast; this is the most important tip for proper yeast management.
  • Minimize the time yeast is in contact with non-sterile environments, and limit contact with air/oxygen when pitching.
  • Do your research on proper inoculation rates for the style you are attempting to make.
  • Have a proper understanding of how each variable can affect the final flavor in your desired beer style:

o Just a few degrees changes in in temperature can create an entirely different flavor profile. This versatility is precisely the beauty of dry yeast; one single strain can be manipulated by a skilled brewer to achieve a large variety of beer styles and flavors.

o Factors, such as low pH or high gravity, can stress yeast and contribute to unwanted esters and phenolic flavors.

So our suggestion is a simple one: keep things as clean as possible and experiment with each variable to work to get the flavors you desire. Also, if making a high gravity beer it’s important to ensure the yeast has the essential nutrients that it needs for a healthy fermentation. Also, when in doubt, reach out to your technical representative! This is why we are here; it is our job and our passion to help you achieve your fermentation goals.


Supported by long-standing industry experience, an extensive support network, and strong technical expertise, Lallemand Brewing is perfectly positioned to help breweries achieve their most ambitious growth and quality goals by offering products, services, and education suited to fit your brewery’s needs, regardless of size. I hope this has provided you some insight into the world of dry yeast and answered any why, when or how you may have had regarding our products. Again, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have at [email protected] . You can check out our full selection of dry brewing yeasts and bacteria, along with many other brewing related products services and educational offerings online at www.lallemandbrewing.com .

Cheers to great beer,

Caroline Parnin Smith

East Coast Technical Manager, USA

Crisp Malt Craft Brewing Recommendations from Colin Johnston

Crisp Malt

With the waning of the long summer days and the start of the morning dews, the past few weeks have seen farmers bringing in the harvest much as they for hundreds of years. While the technology has changed the fundamentals have not and this is true also for Crisp Malt. We started back in 1870 in Norfolk, the Crisp family recognising that the area was especially well suited to site a maltings due to the abundance of some of the highest quality malting barley in the world. We’ve been working with local farmers to bring in that harvest every year since. The combine harvesters have got bigger and so to the silos, but the relationships remain the same. We work with some 270 farmers to ensure the barley is cut, dried and stored onsite at our Ryburgh malting’s in a swift manner to lock in the very best quality barley for the malt we produce.

In a month or 2, once the barley has woken from its deep sleep, known as dormancy, we will clean it, steep, germinate and kiln it to produce a range of malts suited to our 500 small brewery customers up and down the UK and Ireland. Some of our Maris Otter barley will move across our no. 19 floor maltings, one of the last surviving traditional maltings in the UK and the only one in Norfolk to survive the bombing runs of WWII. Nothing more that the maltsers touch and feel of the grain and a few temperature probes will determine the quality of this malt, but we believe that keeping the old methods alive is important. Other barley will be turned into rich Vienna and Munich malts for creating richness in flavour and colour and others still will be caramelised and roasted to produce crystal and dark malts for bitters and stouts. In the heart of Speyside we will take or local Aberdeenshire barley and dry it with local peat to produce the signature flavours and aromas for peated whisk(e)y making.

Crisp Malt started working with Jonathan at Geterbrewed back in February of this year as we recognised a demand for high quality malt in Northern Ireland. Jonathan approached us to work in partnership and once we saw the passion he has for his business and for beer we were delighted to start working together. It’s this same passion that we bring to our work every day. Our sales team come from either a malt or beer making background and so we pride ourselves on understanding what our customers need from a maltster. I myself have spent the past 8 years working in breweries in Scotland. For example, we know that crush is crucial in terms of balancing run-off and flavour extract and so we check every single batch for the different flour, course/fine grits and husk percentages and adjust the mill accordingly to ensure consistent malt every single time.

Sometimes the range of malts can be overwhelming. We’ve kept our range easy to understand and hopefully cover all the bases. If we don’t though, and you think we could be making something new then drop us an email and we will try to incorporate new ideas into our range. We want to innovate just as much as you.

Why not try some of the following malts in your next brew….
Dextrin Malt

Referred to recently by a Scottish customer as magic malt, this lightly kilned malt retains a high percentage of dextrins once mashed giving excellent mouth feel and head retention properties. Use it up to 10% much like Torrified Wheat.

Naked Oats Malt

Trying to create a New England IPA? Oats are an essential part of the mix as they add that creaminess and protein haze which is the hallmark of the style. Just watch as these oats are huskless so don’t use in too high a %. If you do then you might want to add rice hulls to open up the bed. Torrified Flaked Oats can also be used and these have the benefit of having the husk retained.

Clear Choice Malt

Having issues with chill haze in your final beer? The cycling of hot and cold in cellars, bar back fridges and bottle shop chillers can play havoc with the presentation of beers in bottle and keg. The old adage that people drink with their eyes is still true for the most part and so we developed Clear Choice Malt to combat this common haze issue. The malt has been selectively bred over several decades to ensure there is no polyphenol in the husk. Since chill (and permanent) haze in filtered beers is down to the complexing of polyphenols, this malt ensures a chill stable beer. Due to the lack of astringency caused by the polyphenol (also known as tannin) this malt imparts a lovely honey sweetness.

Maris Otter Malt

Maris Otter has been around for 53 years now and is the longest continually malted variety in the world. It’s famed amongst brewers due to its superb flavour in ales and also as a very forgiving malt in the brewhouse in terms of mashing run off and temperature tolerance.

Chevallier Heritage Malt

Chevallier malt was the dominant barley variety in the mid 19 th century but died out in the 20th and was replaced by more modern, higher yielding varieties. We worked with the national seed collection to revive this barley from just 7 seeds and we now produce just a few hundred tonnes every year. The malt produced from Chavellier is extremely rich and produces moreish beers packed full of malt flavour. A malt for a special occasion like an anniversary brew or special bottling. Plus, the sack it comes in pretty cool.

These are just some of the speciality malt we produce. As Jonathan at Geterbrewed for the full range and for our substitution table when you switching from another maltster and if you’ve any questions then please get in touch via email or twitter.

The link for malt substitutions is found here; https://www.geterbrewed.com/malt-substitution-guid…

If you need any technical assistance in relation to malt we are happy to help

Colin Johnston

Craft Brewing & Distilling Sales Manager at Crisp Malting Group

How To Read Malt Analysis

How To Read Malt Analysis

Typical British Pale Ale Malt Analysis
Variable Typical Value
Colour 4-6.5 °EBC
Moisture Content (MC) 2.8-3.3%
Hot Water Extract (HWE) 303-315 L°/kg
Cold Water Extract (CWE) 17-20.5%
Total Nitrogen (TN) 1.4-1.7%
Soluble Nitrogen Ratio (SNR) 36-45.5%
Diastatic Power (DP) 124-212 °WK
Screenings <2.2 mm 0.45%
Friability 85-95%

Colour: In most of the world, colour is measured according to a visual method developed by the European Brewing Convention (expressed as EBC units).

In the US, malt colour is expressed in terms of the Standard Research Method (SRM) set by the ASBC or in °Lovibond, an older method of visual measurement upon which SRM is based.

The formula °EBC = (°L X 2.65) gives a reasonably accurate conversion to °Lovibond values.

Moisture content: The closer a malt is to 1.5% MC, the less it risks mould growth and the less flavour and aroma it will lose over time

Hot water extract (HWE): Indicates how many litres of wort at S.G. 1.001 a kilogram of a malt will give at 65 °C, and reports it as hot water extract, or L°/kg.

HWE for two-row lager or pale ale malt should not be less than 300 at 0.2mm grind or 295 at 0.7mm grind.

Grind difference (% FG/CG): The fine grind/coarse grind (FG/CG) difference indicates the modification of the malt.

A “steely” malt, one suitable only for a mash cycle that includes a protein rest, will have an FG/CG difference of 1.8-2.2%, while a mealy and well-modified malt suited to infusion mashing will have an FG/CG difference of 0.5-1.0%.

Cold water extract (CWE): British maltsters rarely give FG/CG values; instead, they usually quote CWE. The CWE is the amount of extract that is soluble in cold water 20 °C, and this value has a loose relationship to the FG/CG difference as an indicator of malt modification. A CWE of 19-23% indicates the malt is acceptable for infusion mashing; lower values indicate the need for low-temperature mash rests.

Protein or Nitrogen (%): Because proteins are made of nitrogen-based compounds such as amino acids, maltsters use protein and nitrogen values interchangeably; each 1% of nitrogen equals 6.25% of protein.

European lager and British ale malts are usually below 1.6% TN. One of the major reasons brewers prefer these malts for all-malt beers is because their protein levels are adequate for head-formation, body, and healthy fermentation, yet low enough to present less chill haze potential than high-protein North American malts. When adjuncts are used, malts of more than 1.6% TN are required to achieve acceptable head, body, and yeast nutrition.

Soluble nitrogen (% TSN): The amount of nitrogen in soluble form, expressed as a percentage of malt weight. The TSN parameters are used to calculate the soluble nitrogen ratio.

Soluble Nitrogen Ratio (% SNR): This ratio (SN/TN [soluble nitrogen/total nitrogen], or Kolbach Index) is calculated by dividing the soluble nitrogen value by the percent total nitrogen.

The SNR is an important indicator of malt modification. The higher the number, the more highly modified the malt. Malts destined for infusion mashing should have an SNR of 36-42%, or up to 45% for light-bodied beer. At a percentage much over 45% SNR, the beer will be thin in body and mouthfeel. For traditional lager malts, 30-33% indicates under modification, and 37-40% indicates over modification.

Brewers can take account of increases in SNR by adding low-temperature rests. Conversely, a decrease in SNR can be allowed for by shortening the duration of low-temperature rests.

Starch conversion: Diastatic power (DP) expresses the strength of starch-reducing enzymes in the malt and is measured in oWindisch–Kolbach ( oWK) in Europe or °Lintner in the US. The diastatic power, considered together with mealiness/steeliness, indicates how well a malt will respond to mashing. For conversion oWK = (3.5 x oLintner) – 16

Screenings: this figure should be as low as possible indicating that the maltster has cleaned the malt adequately and you are not paying for excessive unproductive dust.

Friability is the measure of a malt’s readiness to crumble when subjected to crushing. Any malt should be at least 80% friable; for infusion mashing, malt should be at least 85% friable, in my experience 90%’ would be preferable. This measurement puts a figure on chewing the malt – it is always worth checking the quoted figure against a chew of five or six corns and storing the feel of the chew away in your memory!

George Thompson our friend has kindly written this article he has been a brewer and subsequent brewing consultant for his whole career, he always tells me UK malts are the superior malts for brewing.

Whole-Leaf Hops vs Pelletised Hops a contentious debate

Whole-cone hops or pellets this causes more heated debate among brewers than anything else.

I suggest that it is difficult to dispute that pellets are better where it counts – flavour, storage-capacity and easy-of-use.

This is not intended as anti-leaf propaganda and it should be noted that leaf hops do give off clearer floral notes – so if that is you are looking for in your beer, then whole-leaf hops are definitely advised. In any other sense, pellets are definitely a better choice even when it comes to the actual taste of the beer. They impart character quicker than leaf hops do, they provide more flavour, and most importantly, they are more consistent in flavour.

There is something romantic about using actual hops in your brewing and there is definitely something to be said for that. However there is nothing romantic about having to clean out the mess of spent hops from brewing and fermenting vessels including clogged valves – or ending up with a poorly hopped end-product because of the varying hop alpha and difficulty in estimating the hop utilization correctly.

Pelletised hops are essentially hops crushed into pellet form. This takes place within two or three days from harvest – while the hops are still very fresh. In the process, the leaves and stalks of the hop are removed, leaving only the cones in the pellets. Because pellets no longer look natural but instead industrial, some brewers have the notion that they are inferior to using actual hops, but this is simply not true.

Better Flavour

Firstly hop pellets give of more flavour than whole-cone hops. According to studies, hop pellets give roughly 10% more bitterness, flavour and aroma compared to whole-cone. In crushing hops for making hop pellets, the lupilin glands inside the hops are crushed, which means you get a better extraction rate of alpha acid – leading to more bitterness when the alpha acid is isomerised in the boil.

In many blind tests, pellet hops have come out on top in terms of flavour and scientists have found similar results by analysing the chemical compounds in the flavour profiles. Various tasting studies report similar results – that the flavour intensity was favourably affected by the use of hop pellets when comparing to whole-cone hops and it has also been shown that pellets increase the flavour stability brew-to-brew.

These are some of cited reasons that pellets are preferred to whole-cone by professionals, who want consistency in their product.

Having said all this, many people claim that whole-cone gives off a better flavour when it comes to dry hopping. However the results from blind tests are inconclusive. On top of which, whole cone hops introduce more oxygen to the beer and soak up more of the wort and they are also impractical in the brewing process for reasons given below.

Easier Storage

Having tried to deal with the big, contentious issue – which type tastes better – we can move on to talking about what everyone agrees on: pellets are way more practical, not least because how easy they are to store.

Pelletised hops take up less space, pellets have less surface area, so they oxidize more slowly which means they stay fresh longer and have a better flavour for longer. Pellets have a lower rate of alpha loss than whole-leaf hops, with only 10-20% loss over 12 months at 20oC and almost no loss at all in a frozen state. They last up to 3 years in a normal refrigerator. Whole leaf hops, on the other hand, last approximately 6 months and in the best-case scenario up to 1 year by which time they will not give anything close to their original flavour. Smelly socks and parmesan cheese have both been used to describe the smell of old hops.

Very, very fresh whole-leaf hops may be equally as good as (some would claim superior to) pellets, but the high alpha loss rate removes any advantage and only brewing with fresh, seasonal whole-leaf hops would restrict brewing to three months a year!

Easier Brewing

The use of whole-leaf hops produces more mess to clean up and can clog up the nozzles and valves of your brewing vessel. Dry hopping in the fermenter produces another difficult cleaning job. Pelletised hops are generally hosed out with very little effort.

It is advisable to use a muslin bag when dry hopping with whole-leaf and to weigh down the buoyant leaves ensuring that they are wetted and that the flavour gets into the liquid. This means you typically need to use more 10-15% more hops (because of the muslin bag retaining some flavour) increasing the cost of dry hopping with whole leaf hops.

Pellets, on the other hand, avoid many of these problems. They are small and easy to handle, and for home brewers, they eliminate most of the issues you will have with whole-leaf hops in the dry-hopping process. They also soak up less wort than whole-leaf hops, leaving you with more beer! The one problem with pellets is that they give of more trub if used loose in for example a dry hopping situation.

This may lead to some clogging issues similarly to whole-leaf hops, but these can be solved by using a muslin bag when brewing and/or by using a strainer on your siphon when siphoning the beer. Also, you should make sure to use a finer strainer when brewing with pellets so that less hop matter transfers to the bottle.

In short: Choose pellets (most of the time)

The bottom line is that pellets are not only easier to store and to use; they are more consistent when it comes to their flavour and they actually give off more flavour – seemingly contrary to popular belief among some brewers. While there definitely is something to be said for the romantic factor of using whole leaf hops “the way it has always been”, and they do give off better floral notes for example, pelletised hops in our opinion win in the long run on usability, storability, cost effectiveness and most importantly the end result.

I may be harbouring a certain bias because when I started brewing full time professionally on the 13th of August 1979 at a brewery with a German designed brewhouse it was specially designed for pelletised hops. It was several years before I became familiar with the problems associated with whole hop usage.

Written by our friend George Thompson Brewing Consultant

Finings Review

Finings Review


The visual appeal of what we eat and drink has a major effect on the mind of the consumer. For most consumers a bright clear liquid is preferable to a cloudy one. In recent years there has been a movement among some craft brewers to promote cloudy, or less bright, beers with arguments that the flavour, for whatever reason is somehow better. However since many of these brewers do not understand the practical application of finings or do not possess the technology for filtration their disdain for beer clarity would appear to be very convenient.

The vast majority of beer sold is bright and clear and its clarity is considered an extremely important attribute.

To produce a bright cask conditioned beer the brewer is totally dependent on the use of finings for clarification. The production of brewery conditioned beer is less dependent on finings. However many brewers choose to use both kettle finings and isinglass finings, and sometimes auxiliary finings, for pre-filtration clarification. Even where brewers have turned their back on the use of isinglass finings in favour of centrifugation etc. as pre-filtration treatments, most continue with the use of kettle finings.

To achieve the best fining results it is important to consider the whole system from the choice of raw materials to the design and operation of brewing equipment along with the choice of finings, as well as the dose rate and dose method. Furthermore it has been shown that optimising clarity at each stage in the process will help considerably to produce the most consistent and best clarity at least cost.

The exact mechanisms of wort and beer clarification are still not fully understood. This is undoubtedly due to the complex nature of wort and beer chemistry. However, sufficient of the critical factors are well enough understood to allow a better use of finings than was the case even as recently as thirty years ago.


The pre-history of finings is inevitably pure conjecture but it is possibly easier to see how Irish moss found its way into beer or wort than it is to imagine how acidified fish swim bladder found its way into beer. The monks who constituted most of the scientific community of medieval times reputedly used Irish moss to clarify wine, beer and honey. At some point fish swim bladders must have been subjected to the right set of circumstances which revealed its clarification potential.

Kettle finings

Historically kettle finings were flakes of a particular seaweed, Irish Moss, Chondrus crispus. However most kettle finings in use today are produced from Eucheuma Cottonii – mostly grown in warmer countries such as the Philippines. The active compound is the polysaccharide kappa carageenan. It is manufactured in granular, powder or tablet form, the tablets having about 40% active ingredient with the rest binding and effervescing agents.

As recently as the 1920s kettle finings were described as removing “protein bodies” and were thought of as an auxiliary finings for beer (Harman et al. 1927:203). More recently by the 1980s it was suggested “that carrageenans stimulate the precipitation of solids both in the hot wort and the cold wort” (Mathews 1986: 384). Kettle finings were reported to be responsible for the coagulation of fine particles into larger particles or flocs which then readily sediment as well as the reduction in the level of wort proteins (ibid). The reaction between kettle finings and soluble proteins alongside the reaction between kettle finings and non microbiological particles to create flocs were reported by (Vernon 1984:25),(Montgomery 1986). With (McMurrough 1985:93) indicating that kettle finings react with the proteins most likely to be involved with chill haze formation. Two papers examining firstly the molecular basis of wort clarification (Dale 1995:285) and looking at the mechanism of action of kettle finings (Dale 1996: 285) confirmed that kettle finings reacted with soluble polypeptides and with non microbiological particles to create flocs. They also put forward the importance of the change in carrageenan to a helical structure on cooling to enable reaction with these particles.

The importance of kettle finings as part of a complete fining pre-filtration system was now beginning to make better sense and there was confirmation that removing hot break and cold break at the relevant stage of the process was important to the later successful filtration and even beer stability. Producing a well-coordinated finings system requires the optimisation of each stage. Currently the practical way of predicting the optimal choice and addition rate of kettle finings is to carry out a series of tests on samples of wort, with the brightest supernatant and the lowest level of sediment indicating the optimal result (Thompson 1994). However there is hope for a more general predictive test with some work carried out by (South 1996).

Beer finings

Many of the early published papers on isinglass focus on the manufacture of isinglass from fish swim bladders. The importance of the choice and quality of the swim bladders is discussed (Berry 1907) along with the choice of cutting acid or acids, the time to cut, temperature control and the mechanical mixing (Burns 1944). This was obviously a process fraught with problems and pitfalls for the unwary brewer who would easily end up with substandard isinglass which would inevitably lead to poor beer clarity. The advent of isinglass floc and shred considerably improved the brewers chances of successful isinglass manufacture with a more rapid and even cutting process. The different fining ability of isinglass made from swim bladders from different sources was correlated with differences in the molecular size of some of the constituent collagen molecules (Leach 1967) and that longer molecules produced better fining results (Leach and Barrett 1967). The positive charge on isinglass attracted to the negative charge on the cell wall of yeast is set forward as the principal reaction of isinglass in beer as reported by (Wiles 1951: 84) which also explains the inability of isinglass to fine wild yeast. This same principal reaction is confirmed by (Vickers 1974: 19) and by (Taylor1993: 202). However there is a more recent hypothesis that the “soluble collagen reacting with a soluble beer component to form loose, fluffy flocs which as they form, first enmesh and then interact with yeast and non-biological particles to form tighter dense flocs which sediment to leave bright beer” (Leather 1994:432). This would help to explain why the same isinglass addition rate for a certain beer remains the same despite the yeast count varying from 0.5 to 2.0 million cells per ml. The levels of fine particles in beer have been shown to have a considerable effect on sediment volume and beer clarity. When these non-biological particles have been categorised into three fractions namely below 2 micron, 2 to 10 micron and above 10 micron it has been shown that the optimum fining performance is obtained when all three categories contain about one million particles per ml. If the beer contains too few particles while good initial clarity is obtained the sediment is loose and if disturbed the resettlement clarity is not as good. If the beer contains too many of these fine particles a greater volume of sediment is produced and initial clarity is poorer and any improvement is only possible with the addition of auxiliary finings (ibid). The only way to identify which particular isinglass blend to use and which auxiliary to use, if an auxiliary is required, and what the optimum dose rates are, is by empirical trials. This involves a series of tests on the beer and a visual determination of the clarity and sediment (Thompson 1994:474). The method of addition of isinglass to beer is of considerable importance to achieving the optimum result. However a compromise in favour of a simple system rather than a better much more complicated addition system is usually the practical solution. Adding finings to chill and filter beer should be done proportionately to the flow of beer during transfer. The finings should be diluted to as low a viscosity as is practicable and the point of addition should be at a point of turbulent flow. The same procedure is preferable for addition to cask by adding isinglass proportionately to the beer passing to the cask. However the normal compromise is to fill the cask, leaving enough space for the isinglass and then to squirt the isinglass into the beer filled cask. This improvement of performance due to the rapid and complete dispersal of isinglass in beer to achieve the best possible result is further confirmation that the initial reaction of isinglass in beer is more likely to be with a rapid reacting soluble component than with the yeast cell wall (ibid).

Auxiliary finings appear to react with and remove positively charged soluble material which would otherwise compete with isinglass, or indeed to react directly with isinglass itself to initiate the formation of flocs necessary for fining action. Polysaccharide and silicate auxiliaries react differently in beer and so it is likely that both mechanisms apply (Leather 1994:432) and as observed this would vary from beer to beer.

There is general agreement that a coordinated approach to fining is required to obtain the optimum result both for cask beer and for pre-filtration treatment of chilled and filtered beer. This approach is well presented in both (Leather 1998) in the 1996 Cambridge prize lecture and in the Brewers Supply Group (BSG) “Wort and Beer Clarification Manual” written by Ian L Ward. While there has been some further progress towards understanding the mechanism of kettle finings (Dale 1995), (Dale 1996), the BSG manual and the aforementioned 1996 Cambridge Prize Lecture together contain the most comprehensive presentation of how finings work and how they should be applied. It should be noted that the BSG manual relies heavily on previous research carried out and methodology employed by Savilles Clarification. This is embodied in the statement:

It has been demonstrated empirically, and has generally been accepted as best practice,

to remove particulates at as many stages of the brewing process as practical, since this

gives a more efficient and consistent process. In the case of cask beer, considerably

brighter beer is obtained using this principle than if all the clarification is left to the

post-fermentation stage. For filtered beer, both longer filter runs and lower post

filtration hazes are obtained (Ward, 2014)

Moreover, it is borne out by several observations including for example, the inclusion of Leather’s observation of the mechanism of kettle finings whereby the carrageenan in kettle finings can react with both soluble proteins and insoluble proteins in separate reactions, in the latter case leading directly to flocculation and in the former leading to first a soluble carrageenan-protein complex and then an insoluble carrageenan-protein complex. Furthermore, Ward makes an explicit recognition of the derivation of these ideas from Leather’s Cambridge Prize Lecture.

The whole concept of finings is under serious attack after many hundreds of years of service to the brewing industry. Concern has been raised at the possible allergic reaction to any remaining traces of fish collagen in beer treated by isinglass. Vegan vegetarians who have a very loud voice for such a small group have managed to persuade Diageo, the owners of the Guinness brand to stop using isinglass and instead use centrifugation. There is no mention of how much more expensive this treatment will be in both monetary and energy terms. Once brewers stop using products like isinglass the likelihood is that they will never restart and yet another part of the tradition of British and Irish brewing will have been lost. It will be interesting to see if the use of isinglass persists elsewhere in the world. In a recent paper on filtration choices (Boulton and Quain 2008) there was no mention of any finings as a pre-filtration treatment and the only pre-filtration treatment recommended for consideration was tannic acid.


After many hundreds of years of successful use of seaweed extract as kettle finings and isinglass as beer finings the mechanisms of these agents and how beer chemistry interacts with them are more clearly understood. There are still many aspects which need further investigation but for now the level of knowledge available in support of finings means that brewers using them can be confident of a reliably successful and low cost clarification system.


Barrett J, Leach AA (1967) The molecular weight and soluble collagen content of finings in relation to its fining potential. J. Inst. Brew73: 246-254

Berry AE (1907) The Manufacture of Brewers’ Finings. J. Inst. Brew. 13: 44-65

Boulton C, Quain D (2008) Making Choices. Brewers GuardianMay: 24-28

Burns JA (1944) II The fining of beer. J. Inst. Brew50: 119-123

Dale CJ, Morris LO, Lyddiatt A, Leather RV (1995) Studies on the molecular basis of wort clarification by copper fining agents (kappa carrageenan). J. Inst. Brew101: 285-288

Dale CJ, Tran HTN, Lyddiatt A, Leather RV (1996) Studies on the mechanism of action of copper fining agents (K carrageenan) J. Inst. Brew. 102: 285-289

Grimmett CM (1994) The Theory and Practice of Beer Clarification – Part 3. The BrewerDecember: 522 – 524

Harman HW, Oliver JH, Woodhouse P. (1927) Finings, J. Inst. Brew34: 203-213

Leather RV (1994) The Theory and Practice of Beer Clarification – Part 1 – Theory. The Brewer. October: 429-433

Leather RV, Ward IL, Dale CJ (1995) The effect of wort pH on copper fining performance. J. Inst. Brew101:187-190

Leather RV, Dali CJ, Morson BT (1997) Characterisation of beer particle charges and the role of particle charge in beer processing. J. Inst. Brew103: 377-380

Leather RV (1998) The Cambridge prize lecture 1996 From Field to Firkin: An integrated approach to beer clarification and quality. J. Inst. Brew104: 9-18

Mathews AJD (1986) Copper Finings – A New Insight. The Brewer, October: 384-386

McMurrough I, Hennigan GP, Cleary K (1985) Interactions of Proteoses and Polyphenols in Worts, Beers and Model Systems. J. Inst. Brew91:93-100

Montgomery GWG, Hough JS, Mathews AJD, Morrison KB, Morson BT (1986) Proceedings of the Convention of the Institute of Brewing (Australia and New Zealand Section), Hobart.

Morris TM (1986) The Effect of Cold Break on the Fining of Beer J. Inst. Brew92: 93-96

Taylor R (1993) The Fining of Cask Beer. The BrewerMay: 202-205

Thompson GJ (1994) The Theory and Practice of Beer Clarification – Part 2 – Practice. The BrewerNovember: 470 – 476

South JB (1996) Prediction of wort cold break performance of malt and its applications. J. Inst. Brew. 102: 149-154

Vernon PS (1985) Wort Clarification. The Brewers’ Guardian3:25-28

Vickers J, Ballard G (1974) Amelioration of Colloidal Conditions of Beer. The BrewerJanuary: 19-25

Ward IL https://bsgcraftbrewing.com/Resources%5CCraftBrewi… [Last Modified 11 Feb. 2014]

Wiles A (1951) The Action of Finings and its Relation to the Electrokenetic Properties of the Yeast Cell. European Brewery Convention Proceedings of the 3rd Congress, Brighton. 84-97

Written by our head brewer Alistair Thompson (Hillstown Brewery)

Beer Recipes Design

Beer Recipes Design

Starting point

Start by choosing a beer style. The beer style no longer defines the beer in the way it may have done in my early days as a brewer, there is plenty of room for imagination, rather the beer style creates the baseline to build from.

Internet sources (many are American so not always totally reliable from our perspective) will give you a guide to lots of beer styles. They will give suggestions on the range of colour and bitterness as well as strength, OG and PG etc. Another way to start is when you come across a beer that you really like – see if you can reproduce your version. Either by taste and see if you can guess the various ingredients and their proportions or by finding out a little more about the beer. Many publications claim to list the recipes of commercial beers. These are sometimes surprisingly accurate, especially if they have been provided by the brewer. They can also be a little misleading – I have seen published recipes for beers that I was once responsible for which bore no relation to the actual recipe. There are also beer recipe designing books – I have never read any so cannot comment.

The Ingredients

Beer is brewed with water, malt and hops with, occasionally, spices and of course fermented with yeast. All of these ingredients contribute to the final beer taste. It is worth doing a bit of research to determine what ingredients are typically used your target beer style, and in what proportions. At this stage it is easier to work in percentages for the malt grist for example 90% pale ale malt, 7% crystal malt and 3% roast barley etc.. As a rule, traditionally about 90% of the malt is normally the main or base malt there for flavour colour and fermentable sugars with the other 10% of malts there for flavour and colour. You will find a lot of new wave American influenced recipes with lower base malt % and consequently higher coloured malt % but trust me for the most part this is a passing fashion. By all means experiment but too much flavour is not always a good thing.

Having determined the ingredients and proportions that are appropriate to the beer style you are a long way towards producing a recipe which will taste the way it should.

Getting the numbers right

You have selected your list of ingredients and have the proportions roughly correct. It is now time to use a spreadsheet or program such as Brewers Friend or BeerSmith, and see how the numbers look. I still prefer to use an excel spreadsheet that I have been using for the last 20 years. Before that as a young brewer I used a pencil, paper and a calculator and spend many hours adjusting recipes until my Production Director was happy that he had asked me to try every single permutation he could think of. I take issue with some of the results you are given by the above mentioned online calculators but eventually you will have to brew the beer and see what it looks and tastes like and then make any alterations you think are needed. The calculators often try to take account of the equipment you will be using and offer all sorts of different ways of mashing and wort running this may help if you are using a system which affects the extract efficiency etc. I tend to keep to isothermal mashing, continuous sparging and balanced with wort running. However I have the luxury of a miniature scaled down traditional ale brewery which allows me to brew much like a commercial ale brewer.

With the numbers from your calculator now confirming the OG, PG, abv, colour and bitterness that you should expect from the recipe it is time to make any adjustments so that you get closer to what you had intended.

Original Gravity or OG is an indication of the amount of fermentable and unfermentable sugar you will extract. The original gravity along with the PG determines how much potential alcohol the recipe will produce.

Present Gravity or PG (sometimes referred to as the Final Gravity or FG) This figure determines the sweetness or dryness of the beer as well as the alcohol. A higher PG will give you a sweeter beer with less alcohol and vice versa. Lagers and IPAs tend to have a lower PG and full-bodied ales and stouts tend to have a higher PG. You can control this to some extent by adjusting the mash temperature to alter the fermentability. The choice of yeast will also have a big influence The yeast attenuation refers to the percentage of sugars consumed by the yeast, and some styles require high attenuating yeast to achieve a clean flavour, while others require a low attenuating yeasts for a more complex flavour.

Bitterness (IBU in the USA, EBU everywhere else but as far as we are concerned the same) Bitterness from hops balances the malty flavour from the malts and the fruity etc. flavours from the yeast. The alpha acid content of your hops and how your equipment interacts with the hops will allow you to calculate the bitterness. I use a simple bitterness calculation that I have been using for almost 40 years it never agrees with the fancy calculators on the internet but it works for me.

Colour (SRM Lovibond in the USA, EBC everywhere else) – You can calculate the colour of your beer from the grist used. Estimating the colour is important because we drink with our eyes as well as smell and taste.

Bitterness Ratio (IBU/GU) – The bitterness ratio gives you a very rough measurement of the bitterness to malt balance for the recipe.

Carbonation (Vols or g/l) (1 vol = 1.96 g/l) The carbonation of your beer should match the style. Carbonation is commonly measured in volumes, where one volume would essentially be a litre of carbon dioxide gas dissolved into a litre of beer. Fermented beer at room temperature and open to the atmosphere contains about 1.0 volumes of CO 2. Traditional English ales are often served with only the benefit of natural carbonation developed in the cask at 1.5 vols while many German beers are highly carbonated (up to 3.0 vols). If you research the style, you can often determine the traditional carbonation level for the beer.

Brewing Techniques

After you have the proper ingredients and have balanced the recipe by the numbers, the final step is to look at the techniques needed to brew this style of beer. Different styles definitely require application of a variety of brewing techniques. Some of the techniques to consider include:

Hop Techniques ­– A variety of hop techniques are available. Examples include first wort hopping, dry hopping, late hop additions, bittering hops, and use of a hopback. Different beer styles require different methods to achieve the appropriate balance.
Mash Techniques – For all grain and partial mash brewers, adjusting your mash temperature is critical to achieving the appropriate body for your beer. Lower mash temperature during the main conversion step will result in a lower body beer and higher mash temperatures result in more body. In addition, advanced brewers may want to consider advanced techniques like decoction mashing or programme mashing if appropriate to the style.
Fermenting, Lagering and Aging – The temperature for fermenting your beer should be appropriate for the yeast and beer you are using. Yeast manufacturers as well as most brewing software publish appropriate temperature ranges for fermentation of each yeast. Aging and lagering should also match your target style.
Beer design is partly art, and partly science, which for me makes it the interesting and enjoyable hobby it is.

If you do your homework, select quality ingredients, run the numbers and follow good brewing techniques you can make fantastic beer at home using your own recipes.

Written by our friend George Thompson ( Master Brewer & Brewing Consultant )

Water Treatment for Home Brewers & Craft Brewers

The Application of Water Treatment

Water treatment is all too often not given the attention it deserves by craft and home brewers. Some even justify their lack of understanding by condemning the use of “chemicals”.

If you want to brew beer that is not thin, watery, and lacking in character read on.

The application of water treatment for brewing is actually simple.

Around 95% of beer is water. As a young brewer I was taught that I should taste the water for every brew. The quality of the water you use to brew with will have a direct influence on the quality of the beer. Water treatment seeks to both correct undesirable water content and add in missing desirable content. Think of water treatment as if you were preparing a surface for painting – through preparation will yield the best results.

In medieval times, monks would taste the local water and from that decided whether it was suitable for brewing and indeed which style of beer it might best produce. After almost 40 years of professional brewing, I can taste water and determine at least some of its chemistry but that is no substitute for a water analysis from your water supply company. The standard water analysis will tell you some things and may alert you to a potential problem, but if you ask as well as the standard analysis they should be able to supply you with a list of the ions in their water that are important and you need to know about for brewing, more on this later.

The first treatment you need to consider for your brewing water is the removal of chlorine and chloramine. These are added by water companies as disinfectants. If these are not removed, they will react and cause off flavours most typically a chlorophenolic taste, which is not pleasant. Remember to treat all water involved in brewing not just the mash liquor.

Removal is simple either add the required level of crushed Campden tablets (1 tablet per 50L of water) the active sulphur dioxide diminishes rapidly as it reacts with chlorine and chloramine or alternatively pre filter your water with an active carbon filter.

Next let us look at mash pH – this is most influenced by alkalinity caused by carbonate and bicarbonate and if these ions are in sufficient concentration, you will need to remove them. This is most conveniently done by reacting with an acid. The amount of acid required is directly proportional to the alkalinity of the water the water companies will often express this as the concentration of carbonate (C03) or bicarbonate (HCO3). The aim here is to achieve a mash pH of 5.2 to 5.4. I prefer to use phosphoric acid if acid is needed to treat alkalinity where it is necessary this is because it does not significantly affect the taste or the sulphate chloride balance however other more easily obtained products are available such as, AMS which will also add sulphates and chlorides as it is a combination of hydrochloric and sulphuric acid. I would make any acid addition to the brewing liquor (mash and sparge liquor) not to the mash.

Since alkalinity in water can vary, it is important to check the mash pH as a routine.

I would recommend that you use an online water calculator to calculate all of your additions.

As discussed above if your water has high alkalinity and you want to brew a pale ale then you will need to add acid to reduce your pH. However, if you have low alkalinity you may need to add sodium carbonate to increase your pH when brewing a dark beer. This is because dark malts reduce the mash pH.

With your mash pH under control, you can look at the other important ions in your water. The ions which are relevant for brewing are Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), Chloride (Cl), Sulphate (SO4) and Sodium (Na).

Calcium – The ideal range is 100 – 200 ppm. Low levels of calcium will cause fermentation and clarification problems. Calcium is most easily added to the mash as Calcium Chloride and Calcium Sulphate (gypsum). The choice being whether you also want to add sulphate or chlorides or both see below.

Magnesium – Not above 10 ppm. Magnesium effects the alkalinity of the water although nothing like as much as calcium. Magnesium provides nutrition for the yeast and so aids healthy fermentation. Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) is usually added to increase magnesium and sulphate levels. Personally, I do not like the taste of magnesium and would avoid adding it but would accept natural magnesium below 10ppm.


Chloride and Sulphate – These two ions work together and will determine the flavour and character of your beer. The addition ratio will highlight the malt or the hop flavours in the beer. More sulphate will bring out the hops and bitterness and will create a hard dryness. More chloride will bring out the malt flavours and create a soft sweetness. A possible ratio for a hoppy beer would be 200 ppm sulphate : 100 ppm chloride. If you want more malt flavour then 150 ppm sulphate: 150ppm chloride would work better. As with all brewing taste the result and make alterations if you are not happy. As already inferred, the easiest way to add chloride and sulphate is as calcium chloride and calcium sulphate (gypsum).

Sodium – up to 100 ppm sodium increases the mouthfeel and fullness but too much will cause an unpleasant salty flavour. Common salt (sodium chloride) can be used to add sodium but note this will also add chloride. Avoid brewing with water that has been softened as the softening process adds a lot of salt. Personally I would avoid adding sodium to my brewing water.

In summary.

Obtain a water analysis from your water supply company including the important brewing ions as follows: Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Sulphate, Chloride, Hydrogen (pH), Bicarbonate (HCO3)

Then use an online water calculator to help determine what treatments are relevant to your recipe.

Finally taste the result and adjust if not quite right.

Written by our friend George Thompson (Master Brewer & Brewing Consultant)