Temperature controlled fermentation is the most popular and effective way of improving your homebrewed beer. The simple process of maintaining a constant temperature during fermentation will ensure the beer you’re brewing tastes so much better. Temperature control is so important that it can mean the difference between average beer and amazing beer. It will also ensure you can achieve the particular style of beer that you’re intending to brew.
Mother Nature Vs Beer
When you live in a place like I do, where quite often you’re subjected to 4 seasons in one day, you may have a fight on your hands. For those of us that live in Australia, you know straight away that I’m talking about Melbourne.
Brewing in the cooler months isn’t too bad. The worst thing that can happen is your yeast can go to sleep, work slower or give you a crisper flavour than your intending. Brewing in the summer can be more difficult, you can produce off flavours and potentially kill your yeast from heat stress.
Location, Location, Location….
As a beginner, you need to find a place in your house that has the most consistent temperature. For example, in the closet of a room somewhere in the middle of your house that will avoid sudden changes in temperature.
When I first started brewing I used the garage. Yes I know, not consistent at all, why would I put a fermenter in the only part of the house that’s not insulated? That’s simple, I didn’t have the knowledge at the time and the online resources we have today were not available.
It’s not as bad as it sounds because it was not in the middle of summer or anything like that. I did have some limited knowledge about brewing, so I used an immersion heater and wrapped the fermenter with a couple of beach towels. There is something about immersing a heater inside the fermenter that doesn’t quite sit well with me anymore. I’m not sure about how hot that heater is getting to maintain the temperature for 23 litres of beer.
Can immersion heaters kill off the yeast or produce unwanted flavours? Do you currently use one? I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments further down.
Get a Fridge
One of the pieces of advice any brewer would give a beginner is….. Get a fridge. As you think to yourself “I thought you had to keep the beer warm to ferment it?”
A fridge with a temperature controller and a heat source inside is the most popular method of temperature control during fermentation for most homebrewers. This is what we call a fermentation chamber.
Fridges for fermentation chambers are super easy to come across. Keep an eye out on buy swap and sell pages, garage sales or hit up friends and family for the fridge they may have sitting around not in use. You can easily pick one up for around $40 or sometimes even free.
The next bit of kit you will need after scoring a fridge is a temperature controller. There are heaps of these on the market but they all function the same. Temperature controllers have a sensor probe and 3 power sockets which are power inlet, heating outlet and cooling outlet.
What you do is tape the probe to the side of the fermenter inside the fridge. Set the desired temperature on the unit that you need to ferment at and the controller will then turn on the heat source or fridge as required to maintain that set temperature.
Other features usually included on temperature controllers are temperature differential, temperature profiles and compressor delay to avoid any damage to the fridge.
The STC-1000 is a popular temperature controller but it needs to be wired up. It’s recommended if you get an STC-1000 that it’s wired up by an electrician or at best someone that knows what they are doing. The last thing you want is to electrocute yourself, blow up the unit or burn your house down.
Then there are plug and play controllers such as the Keg Land MKII or the Inkbird ITC-308, that are good to go straight from the box. All you need to do with these controllers is program your desired settings.
A heat mat generally is the preferred type of heat source for a homemade fermentation chamber. Place the heat mat somewhere in the fridge not making contact with the fermenter. This will be enough to maintain your required temperature provided you’re not living in a really cold environment.
Once you have acquired the fridge, temp controller and heat source you’re just about good to go. But you’re most likely going to need to build some sort of shelf around the housing at the bottom of the fridge where the compressor is. Here you can use your creative side as I did with some bits and pieces I had laying around in the garage, which you can see in the pic below. If you have a full-size fridge without the freezer you should have the room to place the fermenter on the bottom shelf, make sure it’s well supported to hold a full fermenter of beer.
Are you lucky enough to have the perfect environment for fermenting? Do you live in an extreme environment? If so tell us about it in the comments below.
We would also love to see your set-ups, so why not post a pic to our Facebook page or tag us on Instagram!
Specific Gravity in homebrewing is a part of the brewing process that makes us feel like mad scientists. I’m a firm believer that as a homebrewer, beer makes you smarter. You can talk to your mates about specific gravity and sound really clever with how you apply science to brewing.
As usual, I’m going to keep this simple and aimed at the beginners, so let’s get into it.
What is Specific Gravity?
Specific Gravity or (SG) which it’s commonly abbreviated to, is the measure of density in a liquid compared to water. In the homebrew world, you will often hear people saying that SG is the amount of sugar in beer, but in fact, this is not exactly correct. For example, sea water which obviously has salt in it would give you an SG of 1.025, as compared to fresh water which is 1.000.
When it comes to measuring the specific gravity of the wort, sugars in water are generally what you’re measuring. However in some cases with beer, the things that can give you a slightly false SG reading are materials suspended in your beer or wort, These such things can be proteins, hop oils or un-fermentable starches.
Why do I need to measure Specific Gravity in Homebrewing?
Typically a homebrewer requires to measure the specific gravity of their wort just before pitching the yeast. This is known as the Original Gravity and will be referred to as OG.
After fermentation has finished, another specific gravity reading is taken. This reading is known as the Final Gravity (FG).
You will need to know the ABV for when sharing your homebrew with friends because quite often you will get asked: “What percentage is this?”
Confirming Fermentation has Finished
The other main reason for taking gravity readings is to ensure your beer has finished fermenting and is ready to bottle or keg. To ascertain that beer is ready to bottle or keg you will need gravity readings over 2 or 3 consecutive days that are exactly the same. If these readings are exactly the same then it’s safe to say your beer has finished fermenting and this is your Final Gravity (FG). This, of course, is only the case if your beer has been sitting at the recommended temperatures that your yeast requires to ferment.
1. Remove the airlock or loosen the fermenter lid so none of the water from the airlock gets sucked back into the fermenter. This is where the 2 or 3 piece airlocks come in handy because all you need to do it pull the top section off.
2. Fill the testing flask with wort or beer to about 3/4 full. You will learn after a few goes what volume you’re testing flask needs to float the hydrometer.
Filling Testing Flask to Take a Gravity Reading
3. Put the airlock back on or tighten the fermenter lid back on as soon as you have taken your sample.
4. Gently lower the hydrometer into the flask of wort and let it float. Don’t just drop it in because you will smash it.
5. Give the hydrometer a spin to clear off any attached bubbles and improve the accuracy of the reading.
6. Get down at eye level with the top of the wort and read the hydrometer from the top of the meniscus. Make sure you write this reading down in the following format 1.XXX.
The correct way to read a Hydrometer
Tip: Your hydrometer should have written on the side what temperature it’s been calibrated to. Try to take your reading close to this temperature if you can. There is a good temperature adjustment calculator on Brewers Friend if your wort is not close to the required temperature.
7. Remove the hydrometer, wash it and store it away.
Warning: Do not wash glass hydrometers in really hot water, because you can break them or cause the indicator inside to dislodge.
8. This step is vitally important! Taste a sample of the sample. I think it’s a good practice to taste your samples along the way just to understand what’s going on.
I have heard a lot of people say to take a gravity reading from the bottom of the meniscus. If this is you can you care to explain why in the comments, as we would love to put this debate to bed?
Subscribe To OurMailing List
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news on upcoming beers, competitions and updates from our team.
Brewing your first beer, kit & kilo style is the first method most home brewers in Australia usually begin with. It’s the result of receiving a home brew kit for Christmas or your Birthday. Kit & Kilo is the process of mixing a can of hopped malt extract, a kilo of brewing sugar, adding water and then adding (pitching) yeast.
This post will be brief, but more detailed than the label on most brew cans. The reason why I want to be brief is not to overwhelm you because frankly, the process is not really that difficult. Once you get your first brew out of the way I’ll teach you some methods that will greatly improve your beer. These include adding extra hops at different times during the brew to add extra bitterness, flavour and aroma or using a different yeasts rather than the packet that comes with your kit. The options are endless but I’ll leave it there for now and you can read about this in future posts.
Let’s get ready to brew your first beer kit & kilo style.
I assume that you have already got a beginners home brew kit, if not check out my post “Introduction to Homebrewing” here I give a list of the basic equipment you will need to start brewing.
For educational purposes let’s say your first brew is going to be a Australian Coopers Pale Ale. If you have already purchased a different brew can or fermentables the method is still the same. Before you start brewing please familiarise yourself with my post “Cleaning and Sanitising in Homebrewing” as sanitary practices in brewing is ESSENTIAL!
1.7kg Australian Coopers Pale Ale Can (Brew Can)
1kg Brew Enhancer 2 (Fermentable Sugars)
1 Packet of brewers yeast. (Comes with the can)
Tip: Clean and Sanitise about 4 soft drink bottles and fill with water then refrigerate overnight. This will assist in getting your cooling your wort to the correct temperature before pitching yeast. Better yet purchase a 10 litre water container from the supermarket and chill that.
Step 1 Make sure your equipment is clean and sanitised. A full clean may not be required for brand new equipment on the first brew, but sanitising most definitely is!
Tip: Get yourself a brand new clean bucket or flexitub from Bunnings. You will purely use this for holding your stirring spoon, can opener, scissors and airlock while brewing. I put some no rinse sanitiser in there during the brew to keep my gear sanitised because placing your stirring spoon on the bench is simply not good enough.
Step 2 Remove the label from your brew can. Take the plastic lid off and put the packet of yeast somewhere safe until it’s time to pitch.
Tip: When you purchase a brew can it’s a good idea to take the yeast out and store it somewhere cool such as your fridge to ensure the yeast stays as healthy as possible.
Fill your sink with hot water and place the brew can submerged for at least 10 minutes to soften up the mixture inside for ease of pouring it out when it’s time.
Place 2 litres of boiling water into the fermenter.
Pour the 1 kilo of brew enhancer 2 (or the fermentable you have) into the fermenter, then using a sanitised mixing spoon stir until it fully dissolved.
Tip: If you are using Light Dry Malt it may clump up, so a lot of stirring is required. If there are some clumps you can’t get to dissolve the yeast will still manage to eat it all up. Another option is to put the 2 litres of water in a pot, get it boiling and stir in the Light Dry Malt until its dissolved.
Step 6 With your sanitised can opener, open up your brew can and pour it into the fermenter then stir well. You mostly likely need to use a tea towel or oven mitt to hold the can because it may be hot.
Tip: if you want to get every drop of extract out of the brew can put a little bit of boiling water in there from the jug and give it a bit of a swirl or a stir with your mixing spoon. If you didn’t need the tea towel before you will now.
Step 7 Top up your fermenter with tap water to the 20 litre mark. Once you get to the 20 litre mark check the temperature with a sanitised thermometer or the one stuck on the side of your fermenter. At this point you will need to add boiled or refrigerated water up to the 23 litre mark to achieve a temperature range of 21°C – 27°C. This is the recommendation for the yeast used in the Australian Pale Ale brew can. For example if you had a Lager the required temperature is more in the range on 13°C – 21°C. I don’t know what yeast you are using in this brew I suggest you check the instructions on the packet. Also if you do have a Lager brew can I suggest trying an ale if this is your first brew.
Note: Yeast and Fermentation temperatures will be detailed in posts of their own in due course.
Tip: Before you pitch your yeast into the wort, aerate it as much as possible by vigorously stirring, shaking the fermenter or making a good splash when adding your water. The reason for this is because it gives the yeast a healthy head start to reproduce cells and start eating up all the sugars to produce alcohol. This is the only time oxygen is your friend in brewing.
Step 8 Now that you have your wort at the required volume and temperature, take a gravity reading with your hydrometer. Note down the reading for calculating the alcohol by volume (ABV) at the end of the ferment. This reading will be called your original gravity (OG).
Once you have taken your original gravity reading simply cut open the packet of yeast with sanitised scissors and sprinkle it over the top of your wort. You can re-hydrate the yeast before pitching but that’s also a topic for another future post.
Place the lid on the fermenter along with the airlock filled with water and place the fermenter in a place where it’s mostly dark and the temperature is constantly between 18°C and 24°C for minimum of 10 days. Again this temperature range depends on the yeast you are using.
Tip: To help keep the temperature steady and away from light, wrap the fermenter in a towel or blanket. Again another thing I will be posting in the future is a temperature controlled fermentation fridge.
Tip: For an extra level of protection put a small amount of no rinse sanitiser in your airlock water.
After a minimum of 10 days take a specific gravity reading with your hydrometer and note it down. Repeat this same step the next day. If the readings are exactly the same for 2 consecutive days and under 1.016 then it’s safe to say you can bottle your brew.
Note: This gravity reading is known as your final gravity (FG) and will be used with your original gravity (OG) the calculate the ABV. I will guide you through bottling in the next post along with a basic guide to hydrometer readings and calculating the ABV.
How did your first brew go? Did my instructions and tips help at all? Hit me up in the comments below.
East Gippsland is set to receive a unique beer/art collaboration in the form of a mini art exhibition/beer launch night on Friday 27th July with Red Bluff Brewers teaming up with 4 local East Gippsland artists in a beer project named Beer4Art18. The project sees 4 new limited release beer styles with 4 artists providing artwork for each bottle design. The beers are in addition to Red Bluff Brewers already 6 strong core range that they developed since they began brewing in November 2017.
Red Bluff Brewer, Damian Witham says “We always knew we’d need a core range. It’s what the local establishments have come to know and love, and we need to keep providing that. But being creative brewers, we also need to feed that part of our brewing drive, so we have come up with this project to not only share new beer recipes with locals who are discovering that beer can be more than just a swill on tap, but to also share some of the spotlight with our fantastic artist community. We have world-class artists living amongst us who have seen success here and abroad and this is just another way that their work can get into the hands of more people. It’s new and we want it to stay with a new batch of beers and artists every year.”
Silvertop – Kolsch
Dore Stockhausen – Silvertop – Kolsch
For the inaugural project there is a winter Kolsch titled Silvertop. It’s been paired to artist Dore Stockhausen, a German compatriot who has set up a studio in Nungurner. Dore’s painting technique involves layering paints and then pushing and scraping back to reveal what’s underneath. She then layers up paints again and combs, scraps and scratched until the desired effect is achieved. Dore spent time in the Colquhoun forests amongst the Silvertop Mountain Ash trees of Lakes Entrance to draw inspiration for her contribution to the project.
Dore Stockhausen – Adding Hops
The Silvertop Kolsch is a light, sweet styled beer with a bright white head that can be described as a silver top if you squint. It was cold conditioned for over 2 months which resulted in a super clear beer.
1924 – First Oil Dry Stout
Nephelle Watts – 1924 – First Oil Dry Stout
The dry stout in the pack is what a lot of Red Bluff fans have been asking for, for a long time. A dark beer. This one has a nice roasty taste with an all so subtle bitterness. A thick caramel head makes it reminiscent of it’s namesake, 1924 First Oil Stout. Australia’s very first oil discovery occurred in 1924, in a well just 530m from the Red Bluff Brewery. It’s a fitting name for their first stout and they hope to re-educate people with this little-known history lesson of Australian oil exploration.
Nephelle Watts Capping the Bottles
Providing artwork for 1924’s label is Lakes Entrance local girl Nephelle Watts. Nephelle creates unique designs using water and oils on handmade marine plyboard. Swirling liquids caught in time, each piece is unique in colour and form, yet unmistakably Nephelle’s work.
Snowy – Vanilla Cream Ale
Kye Jones – Snowy – Vanilla Cream Ale
The third beer in the project is a Vanilla Cream Ale titled ‘Snowy’. It’s a departure for the Red Bluff Brewers as it’s their first brew using additional ingredients for flavour and aroma, other than traditional malts and hops. The obvious addition in this one being vanilla. Vanilla pods sourced from Papua New Guinea were soaked in 80 proof vodka for 14 days, before adding to not only to the boil phase of the brew, but also after fermentation in the dry-hop phase. Other more unusual ingredients were added to give the beer a milky opaque finish. This beer is sure to polarise and please.
Kye Jones Taking a Gravity Reading
Drawing inspiration from the Snowy River and it’s sandy beaches, artist Kye Jones has created her swirling, colourful abstract piece that follows the river as it winds through East Gippsland and into the ocean at Marlo. In her Mt Taylor studio, Kye has an unusual technique in which she loosely, almost blindly, puts paint to canvas very quickly, then searches for shapes within to finesse and highlight by using colour and tone, ultimately tying her creation to the given theme.
Dusky – Red Bluff IPA
Jesse Kidd – Dusky – Red Bluff IPA
The last beer in the range is a very popular style at the moment. A Red IPA. The boys at the brewery are calling this one ‘Dusky Red Bluff IPA’. It’s a great opportunity to bring to attention the local landmark that the brewery is named after. The only local rock bottom surf break is very popular with surfers as when the swell hits, Red Bluff can produce both left and right hand waves. The beach is also a great place for walking, scavenging and exploring.
Dusky Red Bluff IPA uses the hop variety ‘Galaxy’ to produce a powerful aroma and taste that hop-heads are going to love. Jesse Kidd, hailing from Lake Tyers Beach, is the illustrator that was chosen to create the Dusky label. He uses black fineline pens to combine crosshatching and pointillism to effect. Scanning and final colouring is done with software. His illustration style is very appealing and his rendition of the Red Bluff point break will please all those who know of this area.
Where and When
The Beer4Art project is being packaged in 500ml bottles and boxed up as a commemorative 4 pack that the team are hoping will become a keepsake for not only art lovers but beer enthusiasts as well. The project is being launched at the newly reopened Kalimna Hotel on Friday night – 27th July. Tasting paddles, made with help from the Lakes Entrance Men’s Shed, of all 4 beers will be available so people can sample and discuss the flavours before purchasing their packs. An exhibition of the 4 artists involved will run alongside the launch and be open for the entire weekend. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see some local art and taste some local beers. Those interested can head up to Kalimna for a look or contact Red Bluff Brewers for more information.
When the news first broke that Burra Brewing Co was going to be opening in Korumburra I was excited, I have been closely following their progress on their facebook page ever since I saw an article about the opening earlier in the year.
I grew up in East Gippsland where I spent the first 26 years of my life before moving to the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I’m a country boy at heart so the one thing I really miss the most is rural Victoria in all its glory. The absence of living in an area I love has given me a soft spot for small independent breweries in regional Victoria where their focus is to support local communities and using local produce wherever possible.
This week I contacted Burra Brewing Co and this is some of what they had to say.
The Idea of Opening a Brewery
On a blokes golf weekend, 2 brothers and a mate come up with an idea of opening a brewery. How many of you could honestly say this same conversation has happened with your mates whether it be on the golf course, at the pub or anywhere beer is involved, I know this has happened with me many times. Over many beers, on this weekend Phill Dempster, Anthony Dempster and Luke Jones come up with a very rough plan to which Phill said: “It all seemed like a pipe dream”. After this weekend the guys started meeting up to discuss ideas on a venue, style, beers and how they would pull investments together to make the brewery dream a reality.
Burra Brewing Co consists of 3 owners.
Phill is the head brewer and has been crafting beers for well over 20 years, he brewed his first batch of beer when he was only 17. Phills brewing journey has been pretty typical as far as the homebrewing world goes. Starting out with a Coopers homebrew kit extract brewing, then moving on to adding addition hops, before moving on to all grain brewing 50-litre batches from scratch. He refined his skills by focusing largely on the water chemistry and temperatures before completing a Master Brewers Course with Vince Costanzo.
Phill is perfectly complemented by his business partners. Both Anthony and Luke have lived and travelled all through Europe discovering a vast array of the different beers that are on offer. Anthony owns an engineering and sheet metal business but also has worked in the hospitality industry. Luke is a financial planner who has a background of being a financial controller of some large hotel groups.
Through drive, resilience and mateship these three guys pulled off every bloke’s dream, to own a brewery. Their backgrounds combined should mean promising things to come from this brewery and I’m really looking forward to sampling some of their beers. Phill mentioned to me that, “we needed to get our wives involved and they’re all on board just as much as us”. They are definitely living the dream.
The owners of The Burra Brewing Co and their supporting wives. From Left. Phill and Ange, Anthony and Kim, Luke and Narelle.
A word from the Owners
Tell me a little bit about the venue?
At one stage we were looking to build in the 100 year heritage-listed train station, this wasn’t going to work with too many hoops to jump through. We found a few other buildings in town but nothing suits us better than what we’re in now. We started some small works on the building back in mid-2017 but the real construction didn’t start until Feb 2018. We had a big vision for the building and its all come together now but it hasn’t been light work. We’ve pulled about 180T of rock, concrete and dirt from the site, and poured countless loads of rock and concrete back in. We’ve worked with all local trades to make this old building we all know come back into life.
The Site Before Major Work Began
Why in Korumburra?
It was always intended for Korumburra, we are passionate about all things South Gippsland and the ever-growing list of producers of fine foods and wines/beverages. Korumburra is right in the sweet spot, its 1 1/2 from Melbourne CBD (45min from the outskirts) and its only 30min from the bass coast. (Inverloch).
What beer will be the inaugural brew?
Our Golden Ale for sure, it’s an easy drinking 3.4% lightly hopped beer. People are always asking if I am going to make a mid-strength beer and its something you don’t have to be a massive craft fan to enjoy.
What sort of beer do we expect to see first up?
Ales are what we will open with, and nothing over the top. We’ve plenty of time to present the “out there” beers to the public. I expect to open with our Golden, Dark, IPA, Pale and Summer Ales. We’ve some cool beers to follow them up with, and some we’ll use local produce to bring the extra pop to the beer.
Explain a bit about your equipment, capacities of new technologies etc.
Our equipment has been supplied by Spark Breweries and Distilleries. We looked at many options when it came to equipment. Very early in the process, we decided to brew on quality gear and not build a system. Sourcing a supplier is a process in itself, and Spark became a real standout with quality gear and friendly service. Our system is a 15hL 3 vessel brewhouse, with 90hL of fermentation space (2x 15hL and 2x 30hL) The fermentation tanks and brewhouse will allow for double batching larger volumes when the demand is right.
Burra Brewing Co Brewhouse
How has the experience been so far setting up the brewery?
The experience has been demanding but worth every moment, getting out of bed in the morning is much easier when its all about your own dreams. The industry is open and transparent when it comes to help and ideas. Suppliers are always happy to help and work with you when they know its a brewery.
When do we expect to see the brewery open and what have you got planned for when you do?
Not a day goes by without me being asked this very question “When are you opening….Have you got a date yet” Many plans have gone into our opening, it’s a staggered opening with us bringing the beer to the public first. The second stage we will open our kitchen up and over a period of time this will increase on what its got to offer. Our opening date hasn’t been set yet, we’ve made that mistake way too many times. It’s about making sure everything is right for when we open. That being said we tell people mid-year, this gives us a couple of months from now to make it happen.
Making progress on the venue.
Where Can I Find Burra Brewing Co
12 Commercial St Korumburra