News

Pros and Cons of Electric Brewing June 27 2017

Ever think about turning your gas powered home-brewery into an electric one? There are some factors you will want to consider, including:

  • Depending on the power in your house, you may have to put in a new circuit or at least some new outlets.
  • You will DEFINITELY want a GFCI outlet for safety purposes.
  • Electrical systems are harder to take on the road to brew at a buddy's house
  • You will need a way to deal with all of the moisture created during the brewing process. Setting your mash tun and boil kettle beneath a window into which you can install a fan is an easy way to do this.

There are many positives to brewing electrically, including:

  • You can brew inside, which often decreases setup and cleanup time.
  • You can brew year-round (more beer!).
  • Electric heating elements are much quieter than either natural gas or propane burners.
  • No propane, so especially if you brew in a garage or in a basement, you eliminate the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you have any questions about turning your gas brewhouse into an electric brewhouse, always feel free to ask us questions!


Using Pectic Enzyme in Wine September 07 2016

Winemakers, are you using pectic enzyme in your fruit wines? You should be! Even though it's an elective additive, we do recommend that you use it at the start of your wine fermentation. It not only helps your wine appear clear and bright and prevent haze, it also helps break down the fruit pulp, extract more tannins from the skins, and increase juice yield! Use 1/2 tsp. of pectic enzyme per gallon of must at the very beginning of your fermentation, and watch your fruit produce a nice yield of clear, beautiful wine!

Master your water chemistry June 10 2016

Don't fret water chemistry, master it. Below is one simple way to dive head-first (with floaties, of course) into a topic that can seem overwhelming at times.

The first step is to find out WHAT is in your water. Here's the steps for tracking down what's in your Madison Municipal Well Water:

1) Plug your address in here: http://www.cityofmadison.com/water/waterquality/mywells.cfm

2) When you know your wells, access the PDF of each well from this site: https://www.cityofmadison.com/…/water-quality-reports-for-m…

3) On that well report, under the section "Hardness and Other Minerals," click on the hyperlinked "Inorganics Table." That'll have all the good / relevant stuff for brewing.

If you want, John Palmer's spreadsheet is really helpful and fairly intuitive to use. You can download it from his online book's site at the link all the way at the bottom of the page (for the Residual Alkalinity spreadsheet): http://howtobrew.com/…/unde…/residual-alkalinity-and-mash-ph

And, as always, let us at The Shop know if you have any questions!


Washing your yeast June 09 2016

The next time you re-pitch yeast into a new batch, consider doing a quick Yeast Wash / Rinse first. This will help separate and capture all the viable, healthy yeast from the trub and old beer.

Here's a quick how-to:

1) Prior to re-pitching, boil 1 gallon of water for 10-15 minutes, then chill that water.
2) Decant off any beer/liquid from the yeast you plan to re-pitch from the container the yeast has been stored in.
3) Pour your boiled and chilled water into that storage container.
4) Swirl and re-suspend all the solids in that container.
5) Clean and sanitize another container (like a flask in the picture).
6) Pour the contents of the container into the freshly sanitized container. Top up with remaining boiled and chilled water and cover with sanitized stopper and airlock or aluminum foil.
7) Let settle for a couple of hours. You'll notice any remaining beer float to the top and hop particles, dead yeast sells, and other solids float to the bottom. You want to keep everything else.
8) Decant off the beer.
9) very gently swirl the container, not to aggressively to disrupt the darker solids on the bottom.
10) Pour into fermentor, leaving behind the darker solids.


Dry-Hopping January 27 2016

For that next beer with a big wallop of hops in the aroma, try dry hopping for only 24-36 hours at room temperature. Ryan at the Shop has had great luck with this method recently, especially when attempting to brew over-the-top hopped stuff, like Stone's Go-To IPA.

Dry-Hopping with the Wine and Hop Shop


Highly Acidic Wines September 22 2015

Here are some tips to dealing with highly acidic wines.

  1. Do nothing and then sweeten near bottling time until balanced.
  2. Blend with a low acid wine.
  3. Ameliorate - Add water, often distilled or reverse osmosis.
  4. Ferment with Lalvin 1122 yeast, which can transform malic acid in wine to lactic acid and Co2.
  5. Malolactic fermentation - Malolactic fermentation (MLF) is an excellent tool to lower the acidity of wine, improve mouthfeel, and remove some unripe, green flavor characteristics. It is used in many red wines and it works very well in some white wines. A malolactic culture is added after primary fermentation.
  6. Cold stabilization – Chill wine in a carboy prior to bottling to precipitate out excess tartaric acid. As cold as you can get it (without freezing it) for a month or so should do it.
  7. Chemical neutralization - Potassium or calcium carbonate can be used to remove wine acids. The addition is typically done prior to fermentation for a couple of reasons. One is because there is less danger of losing aroma compounds. However, you can add it post-fermentation.
  8. Carbonic maceration - Ferment a small percentage of your grapes whole cluster (uncrushed) during primary fermentation.

Make a Beer Engine September 01 2015

Here's a neat -- and cheap! -- project: Convert a barrel that's past its prime into the ornamental part of a beer engine. It cost less than $50 in parts (RV water pump, 1/4" beverage tubing, swivel nut, MFL disconnect), and he put it together in less than an hour. There is no sparkler tip necessary, just some 3/8" gas line to reach to the bottom of the glass.

You could build and install the engine anywhere, really, but it looks pretty sharp with the barrel.


HopShot Extract August 13 2015

Try HopShot in your next hop-forward beer. Super easy to use and no hop trub! Try letting the HopShot soak in hot (but not boiling water) before injecting your wort so that it flows nicely out of the syringe. And mind the (SUPER) sticky ring on the kettle when cleaning afterwards. Try rubbing alcohol to remove the sticky film...

Calculate a 5mL Hopshot to contribute 50 IBU in a 1.050 wort.

For Beersmith users, I found that setting the AA% to 75 contributed 50 IBU in a 5 gallon 1.050 wort. The bitterness contribution will change depending on wort density, as with any hop addition, so heads up on that, too!


Hop Harvesting August 08 2015

Your hops are growing like crazy and taking over your yard, by now you're probably seeing lots of those big bright hop cones and fantasizing about throwing them in to your next homebrew. You know that typically hop harvest begins in late August and continues through the beginning of October, but each variety reaches peak maturity at a different time, so when to harvest those hops in your yard? It is time to harvest your home-grown hops when you see:

1. The hop cones appear less tight, the leaves of the cone are opening and loosening
2. Bright yellow lupulin droplets are showing at the base of the leaves (this smells strongly like hops and is sticky when touched)
3. When you squeeze a cone, it emits a strong fragrant scent that you would expect from fresh hops
4. The hop cone feels papery and resilient, but not hard
5. The cone is no longer entirely bright green, the small leaves at the base of the stem are beginning to dry with the tips turning brown.

Keep monitoring those hops, harvest at the right time when you see the signs listed above, store the harvested hops properly or use them right away and before you know it you'll have a delicious homegrown homebrew! Let us know if you have any questions or want help making a recipe to use your fresh hops!


Purge CO2 from Kegs June 01 2015

For those of you who keg your beer, it's a good idea to purge your keg with CO2 prior to racking/transferring so that no air comes into contact with the beer.

Here's a couple ways to do this if you're racking from a fermentor to a keg:

1) Simply connect the gas disconnect to your gas-in post and allow the gas to enter the keg for 7-10 seconds. CO2 is heavier than air, so it will settle to the bottom of the keg, displacing the air as you rack your beer in to the bottom of the keg. 

Here's a variant of this step: Fill your keg with Co2 prior to racking, than use a screw driver to press the pop it valve on the liquid side to drive out all the pressure via the liquid dip tube.

2) Try connecting the gas disconnect to your liquid-in post, allowing the gas to enter the keg via the dip tube. Then rack into the bottom of the keg. A word of caution here: The gas disconnect is not designed to fit on a liquid post, so it might take some effort to remove the disconnect from the post.


Blow-Off Tube May 12 2015

Putting 5.5 gallons in a six gallon carboy? Planning to use a vigorous top-fermenting wheat yeast for your summer Hefeweizen? Adding blood oranges to your next batch of IPA? Then consider using a blow-off tube -- better that then coming home to a popped stopper or krausen gushing from your airlock.

Here's a few option for your blow-off setup, ***all of which have you placing ~1" of the tip of the tube into a bucket/pitcher of water or sanitizer:

  • Use Blow-off tubing, a 1" ID tube that fits neatly in the neck of a glass carboy.
  • Squeeze 1/2" ID over the middle part of a 3-piece airlock (see carboy on right in pic).
  • Jam 3/8" ID (or 5/16 ID) standard siphon tubing into a #6, 6.5, or 7 drilled rubber stopper (see carboy on left in pic). 
  • Fit 3/8" or 1/2" ID siphon tubing over one of the tips of a carboy cap.

Using Fruit in Brewing April 29 2015

Planning to use fruit in your next brew? A pineapple wheat for lounging on the deck or a cherry smoked imperial stout for winter, perhaps. Well, here's some things to consider:

  • Try freezing the fruit first, then gently smash and add to the secondary fermentor. Freezing bursts the fruit's cell walls, making the sugars more readily accessible to your beer yeasties!
  • Add some unfermentable sugar along with the fruit (or prior to bottling). A sugar like lactose or sweeteners like xylitol or nutri-sweet work. Start with just a bit, then add more to taste if needed. This will bring back some of the sweetness we expect from fruit, sweetness that's no longer present in the finished beer since all that sweet fructose will be eaten up by your beer yeasties!
  • You could also use a fruit flavor extract to supplement the actual fruit. A little goes a long way.
  • Expect any addition of fruit to restart fermentation, so have your blow-off tube or extra head space in the fermentor ready!

Carboy Cleaning Tabs April 27 2015

A nice, hot soak with a good cleanser works like a charm when getting that caked-on krausen off of the sides of your fermentors after primary fermentation. In addition to PBW and Straight A, we also have Keg & Carboy Cleaning Tablets from Craft Meister. Ryan just tried some out when cleaning a carboy from one of our 102 classes. "They worked like a charm," he said. "Three tabs plus hot water in a carboy was plenty!" he exclaimed. Why are you yelling, we asked. "Goooooo cleaning! That's why!" "...And sanitizing," he whispered.


Trimming Hop Bines April 24 2015

As your backyard hops get taller, usually above 6 inches, you'll want to pick the strongest bine per rhizome and cut the rest down. This way you'll get more energy poured into producing hop flowers and less on making "structure."

If this is the first year that you planted your hop rhizomes, don't trim them at all, just let them grow, since the first year you just want the plant to take hold, you're not really concerned about hop production.

Happy Hopping!


Yeast Pitching Rate March 17 2015

Hey Home-Brewers! Have you ever thought about your yeast pitching rate? If not, now is a great time to start! Basically, pitching rate is the number of yeast cells in billions that you add to a given volume of wort (usually in gallons). Pitching rate is extremely important for yeast health to help provide an active, healthy, complete fermentation. In general, the higher gravity your beer, the higher pitching rate you will need. Additionally, lagers need an even higher pitching rate than ales. To calculate your pitching rate, try a free online calculator tool like the Mr. Malty yeast calculator.

In cases where you need a higher pitching rate, you can either buy multiple packages of yeast or you can make a starter. Check out how to make a yeast starter on our website under our knowledge base.

If you're interested in learning more about yeast pitching rates, sign up for one of our intermediate or all-grain beer classes!


Oaking Your Wine February 25 2015

Winemakers, you STILL don't need to be bored in February! We've been talking about ways to put the finishing touches on your wine at this time of year, and today we're following up last week's post on Cold Stabilization with some tips on Oaking!:

Oaking your wine is a great way to alter the flavor, texture, stability, and character of your grape wines. Putting your wine in contact with oak will improve the wine's stability, soften harsher aspects of young wine, add lovely vanilla flavors, and smooth out the overall mouthfeel and texture of the wine. Even if you don't have an oak barrel handy, you can use French or American oak spirals or oak chips to oak your wine. For a 5 gallon batch, about 1-2 spirals or 3 oz of chips for 4-8 weeks (or longer if you like) is usually about right, but taste your wine periodically and simply rack the wine off the oak when you're happy with the results!

As always, feel free to contact us with questions or stop by the shop to check out our current wine kits!


Cold-Stabilize Your Wine February 18 2015

Winemakers, you don't need to be bored in February! Even if you're not starting a wine right now, you can put the finishing touches on your wines from last season's harvest (or any other grape wine kit) right now! 

Cold stabilizing will reduce the acidity of grape wines and is a good technique to use for some of those highly acidic local WI varietals. You can cold stabilize the wine by placing it in a cold spot (between about 28-40F) for couple weeks or months even -- so now is a great time to use an attic, garage, or basement for this purpose. These chilly temperatures cause tartaric acid to precipitate as potassium bitartrate crystals. You will see the wine will get cloudy and crystals will form on the bottom of the carboy. Wait until the sediment has settled and rack when the wine is still cold. Because the procedure works on tartaric acid, it will only work effectively on grape wines and the wine must be fermented out completely first.

Ferment Fast with S-04 January 14 2015

Need to get a beer ready in time for the Packer's final game of the season (aka the Super Bowl)? Consider making an ale using Safale S-04 from Fermentis. This British ESB yeast is a fast and vigorous fermenter that drops out quickly and leaves a very clear beer in as little as a week. This dry yeast also leaves a malty sweetness that is great in everything from pale ales to stouts. Several of our kits use S-04 yeast including our Zombie Sue Pale Ale, Badger Dark Ale, and the super quick Boogiepop Session Ale, which is great for all-day-game-day enjoyment. Check out this great yeast today and GO PACK!


Brew Fast, Ferment Fast December 20 2014

We recently added a new kit to our lineup: What the Fuggle Session Scotch Ale. This malt-forward beer exclusively features the Fuggle hop and only requires a 30 minute boil. It's definitively delicious. We recently whipped up a batch for the shop, and from brew day to packaging, it only took 7 days! It will be on tap at the Shop soon...


Bonus Tip/Trick: We also pitched the Clarity Ferm additive with the yeast. Clarity Ferm acts as a fining/clarifying agent as well as reduces the gluten levels in the finished product, a bonus for those of you trying to avoid gluten but still craving beer!


Dressing Up Wine Bottles December 19 2014

Consider using PVC Shrink Caps to dress up your bottles of wine. They're very easy to use: Just place them over the top of the bottle, submerge in boiling water for 1 second, and voila, you have bottles that look as good as the wine inside tastes! And that's a professional look for just under $3 for 30 bottles!

 


Cooling Your Wort December 17 2014

When brewing in the winter, you might be tempted to cool your boiling wort in a bank of snow (a la Jack in The Shining). But beware! Yes, that snow will chill the kettle for a short time, but quickly it will start to act as an insulator and have the opposite effect you intended.

A more productive way to use snow would be in your ice bath as you chill. You can also add a copper wort chiller to the equation for optimal cooling.


Utilize the Cold, Make a Lager December 16 2014

Get winter to work for you in your brewing: make a lager! If you have a space in your house that is a constant 45 - 58F, then you're all set to ferment at the cool temps lager yeasts requires. We have a great selection of lager kits and yeasts, so give one a try. We promise you that they're worth the cold and the time.

Maybe even try our newest lager kit: Helles Hath No Fury Munich Helles! This beer is the malty, crisp, and refreshing lager that you always see poured in 1 liters in biergartens. Channel Bavaria in your own home!


Yeast Lag Time December 15 2014

Ever notice how your yeast sometimes take a day or two to start fermentation? It can be concerning, for sure, and you might think that you got a bum yeast packet. But what might actually be going on inside your fermentor is the preliminary step of fermentation, a growth phase for the yeast. During this stage, the yeast cells are splitting, increasing vastly in number, getting ready to eat all those sugars in the wort. Once the yeast has grown up its colony, then begins that active fermentation that creates CO2 (we see in our fermentation lock) and krausen (the foamy head on the fermenting beer), two of the most visible signs of fermentation.
So, next time your beer doesn't kickoff to a vigorous fermentation within a day of pitching your yeast, you may want to wait just a bit longer before pitching more yeast.


Wash and Reuse Yeast November 12 2014

Do you need to save a couple dollars but NEED to brew? Try washing your yeast! It's a simple way to reuse viable yeast and save money. You'll do this washing immediately after transferring your beer off of the primary yeast cake.
  1. Boil one gallon of water for 15 minutes, while your waiting sanitize one large container (like a 1 gallon jug), a few large mason jars and lids and a funnel. Ideally, you'd boil the jars and lids, too.
  2. When your timer is up, chill the kettle of water in an ice bath (like you would wort). 
  3. Siphon your beer off the yeast into a secondary fermentor, bottles or a keg. Sanitize and return the airlock to the fermentor. 
  4. After your water has chilled, make sure it is at room temperature and pour it into the primary fermentor (that contains the yeast cake). Shake it up!
  5. Place carboy on its side and let it settle for 30 minutes. There should be definable layers. The yeast is the milky layer. 
  6. Carefully pour that milky, yeast layer into the sanitized 1 gallon jug , leaving as much of the dead yeast and hop particles behind as possible. Place an airlock on this container, and let settle for another 30 minutes.
  7. After it has settled, pour into sanitized jars, seal them up and place in refrigerator. 
  8. Use within 3 months or so -- as always with yeast, the fresher, the better!

Removing Chlorine/Chloramine from Brewing Water November 04 2014

Looking for another easy way to improve your beer? Most municipalities use chlorine or chloramine to sanitize their water. While it works well to make sure we don't get sick from drinking our tap water, it can impart off-flavors in beer. Here are a few easy ways to remove chlorine and chloramine from your water:

  1. Add campden tablets (our favorite way). Add 1 campden tablet per 20 gallons of water, let sit for 20 minutes (works for both chlorine and chloramine)
  2. Boil your water before you brew (works only for chlorine)
  3. Fill your kettle the night before and let sit over night (only works for chlorine)

 


Backup Yeast October 28 2014

A simple yet important tip. Whether you are a homebrewer or a winemaker, always keep a backup pack of dry yeast on hand. They keep for a few years, especially if you keep them in the refrigerator. Montrachet yeast is a great all-purpose choice for wine and Safale US-05 works for pretty much any ale. You never know when you'll have to save that precious batch with a backup yeast...


Change One Variable October 22 2014

A great way to experiment with your homebrew is by splitting a batch into multiple fermenters and changing one variable. For instance, pitch WLP001 California Ale into one fermenter and Wyeast 1450 Denny's Favorite 50 into the other. Or, us e the same yeast but dry-hop with Mosaic in one and Nelson Sauvin in the other. Because everything else is the same, it really allows you to notice and enjoy (or not) the differences between yeasts and hops.

This can be a great way to figure out which yeasts and hops you prefer in different beer styles.


Malolactic and Sweet White Wines October 21 2014

Make sure your white wines don't undergo malo-lactic fermentation. That buttery diacetyl mouthfeel can be avoided by keeping the wine in the coolest part of your house (62 degrees or lower) and keep ing the free SO2 level around 20-30 mg/l or stabilizing it with potassium sorbate post fermentation. Also, if you plan on backsweetening, MLF is the enemy. The result will be a sweet syrupy unpalatable mess.


OctoberFAST Beers October 14 2014

Hopefully you had a wonderful Oktoberfest this year! If you aren't ready to give up the wonderful, malty drinking of this time of year and you don't have the equipment to lager, consider brewing an ale version of all the tasty Oktoberfest l agers.

Try using Wyeast 2112 California Lager, which can ferment at low ale temps and preserve that clean lager character.

Or consider using WLP029 Alt/Kolsch yeast for a malt-forward fermentation.

Finally, our new Prost! OktoberFAST kit has been super popular this year, which is an ale version of an Oktoberfest.


Apple Cider Ideas October 07 2014

Looking to make hard cider for the first time or want to try something different? Here are some fun options:
-- Try a different yeast option. Our favorite is the White Labs English Cider yeast, which leaves a nice apple flavor without being too sweet. Make a dry cider using champagne yeast. Try a Belgian beer yeast for a truly unique cider. Or just let nature take its course and see what happens (only works with unpasteurized cider).
-- Add a flavor. Add some spices, like cinnamon, clove, allspice, nutmeg, and orange peel. Add some honey. Try some raspberry flavoring. The choices are endless.
-- Make a sparkling cider by adding a little sugar in each bottle (make sure to use champagne or beer bottles). If you've made sparkling cider, try a still-cider.
-- Drink it as is, it is quite yummy. And great for the kids!

 


Adding Malolactic Cultures to Wine October 07 2014

Have you added your Malo-lactic yeast culture yet? The 2014 harvest has been a turbulent one for most grape varieties. Creating a bit of havoc when trying to control Volatile acidity. Malo-lactic will help smooth out the puckering bite of malic acid in red or white wines. Use one Wyeast pouch ($7.99) or White Labs vial ($6.99) for 6 gallons.


Carbonating Wine with Juice September 19 2014

Here's one method to try while making sparkling wine. Save some unfermented juice from your batch and use it as your dosage when you bottle condition. The reserve juice is a truer expression of your source grapes. Also a simple sugar solution may dry your wine out much more than is prefered, depending on how much yeast is still in your young wine. Cheers!


When to Harvest Grapes September 09 2014

If you have backyard grapes and are wondering if they indeed are ready to be harvested, there are a couple ways to tell.

  1. Crush up enough grapes to fill a test jar with juice. Then use your hydrometer to read the brix* (sugar) in your sample.
  2. Use a refractometer, an instrument that refracts light in order to read brix*. The advantage being that you only need a grape or two to fill the refractometer slide with enough of a juice sample.

*Typically, a normal brix range for white wine varietals is 17-20; for reds 20-25.


Gluten-Free Brewing August 26 2014

Got a friend or family member who wants to try your homebrew but is going gluten-free? There's a couple of great ways to make a tasty brew without the gluten. Instead of using malt extract or brewing from malted barley, you can use sorghum extract, Belgian candi sugar, brown sugar, molasses, rice syrup solids, or corn sugar to make up your fermentables. Maltodextrin can be used to add body and mouthfeel to your beer and you can roast your own naturally gluten-free grains like wild rice, millet, quinoa, or gluten-free oats to add flavor and body as well. You can easily make everything from an IPA to a stout with these ingredients.

Above and beyond that, you can make a normal beer recipe into a almost-gluten-free beer by adding Clarity Ferm at the same time as your yeast. This wonderful clarifier will reduce the ppm of gluten below 20, the current international standard for gluten-free.

Using these tips, gluten-free doesn't have to be flavor free!


Make a False (Second) Wine August 21 2014

Looking to stretch your wine grapes even farther this year or want to try something new? Make a "second" or "false" wine with your grape skins. Here's how it works:
  1. Crush your red wine grapes and carry out the primary fermentation as normal.
  2. Press the juice from the skins and drain into the secondary fermenter as normal.
  3. Instead of tossing the skins, put the skins back in the fermenter and fill with water up to 1/2 the amount of wine you just pressed. That is, if you initially made 6 gallons of wine, add up to 3 gallons of water. If you want a little more color and body, add 1 liter of red grape concentrate per gallon of water.
  4. Add 2.5 lb of sugar (you may want to boil the sugar in the water you added in step 3 and cool down to room temperature before adding to skins), 3 tsp. acid blend, 1 tsp. yeast nutrient, and 1/8 tsp. wine tannin per gallon of water you added.
  5. Stir and cover. You don't need to add yeast, because the skins have lots of yeast left over from the first fermentation.
  6. Make the wine in the same fashion as your other wines.
The "false" wine will be thinner than the original, but with very little work and cost, you can have a delicious table wine. Happy winemaking!

Finishing Fermented Wine August 18 2014

Hey there Vintners, Garagistes, and winos! A few tips for your now brand new wine from this years harvest...have you cold stabilized? AKA, lowering the wine temp down to near freezing for a few weeks to drop out the tartaric acid in the wine. You will really tell the difference in mouthfeel next spring.

Tip #2: It is time to oak your wine, if you so desire. If the barrel route is cost prohibitive, try oak spirals. They come in American and French and are quite effective. I just threw one French light toast into my 3 gal. wild ferment Marquette and another into my 3 gal. 60%Noiret 40%Marquette.

Tip#3: Draw a sample on your palette, look into the future and be creative now, while the wine is still in its infancy.