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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Homebrew Hacks to Get You Out of a Pinch

Article originally written for and posted on Brewd Magazine

I’m sure every homebrewer has had their share of frustrating moments, no matter their experience level. As much as we try to plan and prepare for everything on brew day, Murphy’s Law will eventually kick in.
However, homebrewers are nothing if not creative, so I’ve compiled this list of solutions to some common homebrew problems to help keep your brew days running as smooth as possible.

Dropped Something in the Wort?

Big pots, lots of steam, sweaty hands, slippery StarSan. You’re bound to drop something in the wort at least once during your homebrew journey. When it happens, don’t panic!
If it’s something that won’t dissolve immediately in the liquid (spoon, thermometer, measuring cup, cell phone), use a pair of tongs, a slotted spoon, or mesh strainer to fish it out. Where you are in the brewing process will also determine if you need to sanitize them first or not (though it wouldn’t hurt to do it anyway).
Worried that your beer is contaminated?
Unless whatever fell in was disgustingly filthy, you can stop worrying. If you dropped it in before or during the boil, the heat will kill off any nasties. If you dropped it after the boil, it’s likely that whatever fell in was already sanitized. If it wasn't, say a little prayer to the homebrew gods and hope for the best!

Still Using an Ice Bath to Cool Your Wort?

Hey, no judgement here, so do I! It’s not the most efficient way to cool wort, but sometimes we have to work with what we got.
I’ve learned a couple tricks to speed up the cooling process.
1. Add rock/kosher salt to the ice bath to keep the water colder for a longer period of time.
2. If you have an auto siphon and some extra tubing, use it to circulate the cold water into warmer spots by manually pumping the siphon.
3. Drain excess hot water from the vessel containing the ice bath as the ice melts.
4. Finally, use a sanitized spoon to stir the wort occasionally during the cooling process. This will help keep the temperature of the wort even.

Runaway Carboy Bung

If you have a stubborn bung that won’t stay in your carboy, there are a few things you can try.
First, make sure that the bung and the opening on the carboy are dry enough to get a good grip on each other. Wipe them with a clean, dry, paper towel after sanitizing or simply allow ample time to air dry.
If you’re having this issue during fermentation, make sure your airlock or blow-off tube isn’t clogged. It could just be that the CO2 has nowhere to escape.
If it still won’t stay, tape that mother down!
Two long strips (one on either side of the airlock/blow-off tube should do the trick). Make sure the strips are long enough to get a good grip on the sides of the carboy, or the tape will just pop off, too. The type of tape doesn’t matter, but to preserve your sanity during cleanup, use something that won’t leave behind any sticky residue.

Lost Carboy Bung

Aluminum foil is a great temporary solution.
Rip a big piece off the roll and sanitize it. Wrap one side tightly around the end of a blow-off tube, insert the tube into the carboy, then secure the remaining foil around the mouth of the carboy. It’s not the best, but it will buy you some time to track down your bung or go buy a new one.

Easy Temperature Control

An old t-shirt or towel is a cheap and easy way to keep fermentation temps down (and block out light).
Wet it down with ice cold water or pop it in the freezer for a little while, then put it on the carboy. If you’re using a towel, you’ll need clips or tape to keep it securely wrapped. As the shirt/towel warms and dries, spray it with ice water to keep it cold.
You can also tuck ice packs or heating pads in between the wrap and the carboy if the fit is snug enough.

Short on Priming Sugar?

 If you’re lacking a few ounces of priming sugar on bottling day, any other type of fermentable sugar you have in the kitchen should do the trick; regular white sugar, honey, brown sugar.
In small amounts, the flavor should not be affected.
If you’re concerned about it, though, stick to plain white sugar, or choose a substitute that will blend well with the flavor of the beer.  For example, brown sugar in a fruit beer.
Tip: Avoid using confectioners (powdered) sugar, as it may contain cornstarch.

Have any other tips or tricks you’d like to add? Share them below!

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