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Frequently Asked Questions

What is in beer?

Water, grain, hops, yeast; anything else is against the German purity law. Major brewers will add rice or corn because it lightens up the beer and is less expensive.

Who invented beer?

God did. According to Ben Franklin "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy".

What sites deal with schools for learning how to become a brewmaster or related professions?

American Brewers Guild
Seibel Institute of Technology
UC Davis

What are your thoughts on bottling with malt instead of glucose?

I always recommend it because it produces a better quality product. You will need to use a little more malt extract than corn sugar because the malt doesn't have as much fermentables.

My beer tastes watery, why?

Watery could mean different things to people with different tastes. Here are some possible ideas...
Was the beer carbonated enough? (ie. were there a significant amount of bubbles and head?)
Sometimes an under carbonated or flat beer will taste watery because of the effect the CO2 has on the tongue.
The corrective action would be to use a little more priming sugar or store at room temperature longer after bottling.

The wateriness or lack of body could also be helped by adding malto-dextrin powder (8 oz/5 gal) or carapils malt (5% - 20%) to the recipe. Each of these add more body without adding any color or significant flavor. They have unfermentable sugars which give the beer a better mouthfeel by adding more body. They also aid in head retention.

Did the caps "hiss" when you opened the bottles? If not, this is a sign of poor carbonation or an improper capping procedure.

Do you know of a company that sells or distributes rice beer. Both my father and I have Celiac (gluten intolerance).

Check out our Gluten Free Beer Page.

Slow fermentation - I was wondering if I am really just being paranoid, or if 20 hours with no sign of life is in fact an indication of a problem.

I wouldn't worry about it yet. Let it go for another few days and check the specific gravity with a hydrometer to see if the sugar content has decreased (I'm assuming you checked the original gravity). Sometimes, if you are using a plastic bucket, the CO2 will escape out a bad lid seal instead of the airlock. This won't cause any problems, you just can't "see" the fermentation.

Rehydrating the yeast before you pitch it is a good idea. I use a cup of cooled (about 80 deg F) sterile wort to rehydrate it in and let it sit for a half hour or so.

I use a plastic primary fermentor -- I was told that leaving it in contact with bleach for too long will give the beer off-flavors.

Plastic is fine (I used the same plastic fermenter for five years). It is true about getting a chlorophenolic off flavor if the bleach sets too long (more than 30 minutes).

How long should my equipment be sanitized with bleach?

First, make sure you use unscented bleach. At least 10 minutes, no more than 30 minutes. When using bleach, always sanitize with cold water (the chlorine will evaporate with hot water and not sanitize properly) then rinse with very hot tap water thoroughly.

How do I keep some of the equipment sanitized when I use it?

Try to do everything as quick as possible and sanitize every surface that your equipment will come in contact with before you start (ie. counter top, bucket lid, etc.). You will always introduce some air into the beer during the bottling process; just keep it to a minimum. It helps to have someone helping during bottling. I even go to the extreme of shutting off the celing fan in the kitchen to reduce the amount air (bacteria) moving around the room. If you are using a siphon for bottling, I would recommend adding a faucet to your bottling bucket instead of siphoning.

The problem may be in your rinse water. There are "no rinse" sanitizers on the market; try them if you wish; just follow the instructions on the package. I have never used them so I can not comment on them.

My beer has a bit of a cidery smell and flavor.

Sometimes a slight cidery flavor is caused by excessive corn sugar. In any beer, the amount of corn sugar should be less than 20% of the weight of all the ingredients.

I am tring to make a beer miester out of a refrigerator do you have any suggestions on a site that may be able to help me?

There are several places that sell complete refrigerator conversion kits. Start Here The kits come with instructions.

Would fermenting at 70 degree F. be too warm?

Not for most ales, it kind of depends on the type of yeast. I ferment my ales at 68 F.
If you are brewing a lager, that is a different story; they need to be fermented colder.

Is there a chart that shows temperature and pressure for force carbonating?

One chart is located here.

My brew frothed out of the top and lost a lot of yeast, should I add more yeast as alot has come out or will it be fine?

There should be enough yeast remaining to complete the fermentation.

When is it too late to bottle?

In general, don't let the beer sit in the fermenter for more than 2 weeks after fermentation is complete.

Is there a special way to make the stout a draught style like Guinness has in their special cans and bottles?

I don't think there are nitrogen generators (widgets) available for homebrewers. A good description of how widgets work is here:

I have beer coming up in my CO2 Line. Is this due to keg overfilling?

Beer in the gas line is caused by a difference in pressure. The pressure in the keg is higher than the pressure coming out of the CO2 regulator and is forcing the beer through the gas line to the regulator.

Could you tell me the typical weight for an empty 16 gallon keg of beer and the kegs typical dimensions?

There are several different types of 1/2 BBL kegs. The empty weight can vary from 35 to 45 lbs. The newer ones are around 33 lbs. A good source for information on kegs is Sabco Industries. According to their site, the dimensions are 15.92" diameter, 23.25" height . Again, there are many different types of kegs so the dimensions will vary.

How do I cure a hangover?

Start here.

How long does an average bottle of beer last before it goes bad?

It all depends on how the beer is stored. If a bottle of beer was bottled properly and is kept dark and cold it will last for years.

There are four main things that cause a beer to go bad:

  • Light - If kept in direct sunlight the light will react with the hops and eventually cause the beer to have a skunky aroma and flavor. Some hop varieties are more sensitive than others.
  • Oxygen - If oxygen is introduced into the beer during the bottling process, it will eventually cause the beer to go stale. The more oxygen, the quicker the beer is damaged. An oxidized beer will start out with a cardboard flavor and aroma and will get much worse with time and elevated temperatures.
  • Bacteria - If there is any bacteria in the beer or bottles, it will eventually destroy the beer. The damage is also accelerated with time and temperature. Bacteria is usually not a problem in commercial beers.
  • Temperature - If the beer is stored at a high temperature for extended periods of time, any of the above problems will be accelerated and amplified.

The end. No more questions.

E-mail mike[AT] or check out the FAQ if your problem is not listed here.

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