There are plenty of ways to ruin a beer – you really can’t go long in the world of homebrewing without destroying a batch. The hours of work and all of the money that has gone into the brewing is irritating, to say the least. Not to mention, it’s downright disappointing when you realize you don’t have 5 gallons of beer to drink. Unfortunately for many of us, we doom ourselves before we even start brewing. There are numerous steps we take before putting the water in the pot that put us behind the eight ball.
The first of these is the usual culprit – sanitation. Everyone knows that you need to sanitize and sterilize equipment, but even the most attentive brewer can sometimes miss the nooks and crannies. This means you need to strip down any parts of your equipment where mold can hide. O-rings, spigots, and airlocks can all hide mold in their cracks and threads.
You’ll need to remove the O-rings, scrub them with detergent, and soak them in sanitizer. Inspect the O-rings as well – if they are cracked or dried out, they can be breeding grounds for problems going forward. You’ve got excuse not to, as O-rings are incredibly cheap and easy to find. If you are willing to let a batch spoil for the sake of some change you could dig out of your couch, homebrewing is probably not your thing.
Spigots can contaminate the beer two different ways. First of all, if you are flowing beer through the spigot at any point in your brewing process, you’ll need to flow detergent and sanitizer through it during the cleaning process. Too often, we just dunk it and don’t force sanitizer over all the areas that will come in contact with the beer. Secondly, the threads can trap and hold mold, and will need scrubbing, using detergent and a bristly brush. A spigot is yet another cheap part that you need to make sure doesn’t ruin your beer – you can dig up replacements for the cost of a pint.
It’s not just sanitization that can wreck your beer before you even start. Poor planning will also doom a beer from the start. Poor planning comes in two different versions – not planning in terms of time, and not planning in terms of the process.
The former effects the ingredients you use. If you fail to plan to set the proper time aside for brewing, you may have to delay your brew day. If your malts have been crushed ahead of time, they could oxidize, especially if they are stored in a wet and warm place. If you must crush them ahead of time, keep them in a cool, dry spot. The same goes for hops – they degrade in heat and sunlight, causing them to weaken. This will throw off the flavor, causing a skunky smell and flavor. All ingredients need to be stored properly – working with compromised ingredients can never make for a good outcome.
The latter effects the lead-up to brewing, the recipe and composition of the beer. Failing to plan out the steps you’ll take, such as amounts added and time of addition, can turn your brew day from a good time into a chaotic mess that will turn out a terrible end result. Not planning out the process and recording your plan also means you won’t have a recipe to look back on to recreate the batch if it’s good, or a way to diagnose any issues if it ends up being bad.
So when you are looking at your next batch of brewing, make sure that you don’t sabotage yourself before you start making your beer. This is the easiest point in the process to stop and repair possible issues – once you’ve started the boil, your ability to correct your brew will be quite limited.