Many of these homebrew myths have been debunked ages ago, but some of them have real staying power. Others are false on their own and others when taken out of context. Here are some of the most popular homebrew myths that I’m happy to debunk.
- Yeast Count Needs to Be Accurate: Yeast counts matter to a point, but most of the time, you’re going to get an excellent beer as long as the yeast can ferment your beer. There have been fermentation experiments that showed that, in the end, your beer is going to come out just fine, and probably exactly the same as if you accurately calculated your pitch rate. Is it better to be as accurate as you can? Yes. Is it something to worry a lot about? No.
- Oxydation of Wort is Not Needed for Fermentation: There have been a few “experiments” on the net where brewers claim that they cannot tell the difference between wort that has been aerated and those that haven’t without any noticeable difference. Well, perhaps they got away with it on one batch; perhaps it was a low gravity beer. But whatever the case, if you want to achieve consistency a good product, oxygen if vital. Oxygen is very important for yeast production and health, and if you have a high gravity beer, oxygen is even more important. You don’t have to go to great expense though. The most effective aeration method is just shaking and rocking. If you can spray your wort into your fermenter and with plenty of head space, give your fermenter a good shake for about a minute, you can achieve the target 8 to 10 ppm. You can also try the Fizz-X agitation rod to introduce as much oxygen as you can without going through the expense of buying a CO2 tank. If you’re going for a barleywine, oxygen is even more important. Add yeast nutrient when in doubt.
- Hop Material from Kettle Produces Grassy Flavours: Filtering the wort coming from the kettle will not impact on the taste of the beer. The only reason why I remove the kettle trub in my brewing process it is so that I can get more wort into my fermenter. Otherwise, it really doesn’t matter. Yeast do more than just ferment sugars. They also eat-up other off-flavour producing compounds. So hop trub from the kettle won’t be an issue.
- Tannins Are Extracted When Disturbing Grain Bed: Simply put, tannis are not extracted by disturbing the grain bed in the mash tun. Very hot water or grinding your grain too fine are more likely reasons for tannin extraction.
- Tannins Are Extracted When Squeezing the Bag (BIAB): Same as above; I’ve squeezed my grains many times when doing BIAB and I can tell you for certain that this has never extracted tannins.
- All Grain Makes Better Quality Beer than Extract: This is absolutely false. You can get just as good beer from extract brewing as you can from all-grain. The only real differences are that all grain is cheaper and you can more finely tune recipes when using grains because there are so many different kinds to choose from.
- Rinsing Stan San Suds Is Required: Don’t fear the foam! Star San suds do nothing to beer. It is completely tasteless. So go ahead, put that wort right into that left-over Star San foam and forget about it!
- Airlocks Are Not Good Signs of Fermentation: This is another point that cannot be taken out of context. Obviously, it does show you that fermentation is active if your airlock is going off like mad, you know that there is CO2 coming out of there, so you know that fermentation is occurring. However, be careful not to mistaken it for a sign that fermentation is complete. Rely on a few hydrometer readings over a period of days to ensure that fermentation is complete and at the right attenuation range. CO2 expulsion can also be a result of expansion of the beer if the temperature rises.
- Going All Grain Is Hard to Do: Nothing can be further to the truth. Making beer with all grain is just as easy as making it from a kit. It’s just a different process and it takes a bit longer.
- Grain Bill and Hop Quality Are More Important than Healthy Fermentation: I’ve brewed many beers with the same quality ingredients, only to find that the results came out drastically different due to the quality of the yeast. Ensure that your yeast is good and healthy in order to get good quality beer.
- Liquid Yeast is Superior to Dry Yeast: Yeast is yeast. Whether it’s liquid or dry doesn’t matter. With liquid yeast, there are more strains available in that format. Dry yeasts don’t require a starter and they are easier to use because you can just pitch them right into the fermenter. That’s about as far as it goes. Yeast are living organisms and they are either healthy and viable or they are not. Quality is not really a factor. In fact, dry yeast is more stable, and for the reason, often more desirable than liquid yeast.
- Off Flavours Go Away With Aging: Most homebrewers have brewed bad beer. Sadly, it happens. We equally know that the off flavours never go away. Some beers do get better with a little aging, but bad flavours due to process or ingredient issues never go away. A bad beer at 3 weeks will be a bad beer at 6 months.
- You Need to Chill Your Priming Sugar Solution Before Pitching Into the Beer: You see this a lot on YouTube videos where a homebrewer will advise you to chill the priming sugar solution before pitching into your beer because of the erroneous belief that the scalding hot water will kill the yeast. The truth is that the volume of the priming solution is so tiny compared to the beer that the heat dissipates very quickly and very little yeast die from the experience.
- Yeast Autolysis is a Myth: Although more rare now, autolysis from decaying yeast is indeed real. If you leave your beer in the primary for an extended period of time, you will certainly encounter that soy sauce taste and smell. It usually happens after about a month to 45 days after pitching, and it just becomes more pronounced thereafter.
- Priming with Table Sugar Leads to Cidery Taste: Due to the very small quantities that are used for priming, the risk of imparting any noticeable flavours from using table sugar is simply non-existent.
- You Can’t Get Good Beer from a Kit: The catalyst that got me into homebrewing was the success I got from brewing with a kit. In fact, my kit was not from an all-grain process, but I was so pleased with the results, I went all-in. You can get an excellent product from kits, just as long as they are quality. I wouldn’t get a beer from a can. I have yet to try one that was any good. (Correct me if I’m wrong on this.)
- All Beer Requires Conditioning Phase: Most beers are ready to drink once the fermentation is complete and doesn’t benefit much from aging. In fact, for many beer styles, beer is meant to be consumed young. For IPAs, some of the hop characteristics and flavours will dissipate over a period of time, so it’s better to drink it as soon as it’s done fermenting.
- Yeast Needs to Be Washed Before Reused: Actually, it’s better if you don’t wash your yeast. The risk of contamination and getting unhealthy yeast is higher with washed yeast. Often it’s better just to pitch right over the old yeast cake. Any reused yeast will degrade over time however. To propagate yeast the best way, it’s better to produce more yeast than you need in a starter, and save the extra in the fridge for use in a second batch.
- Aluminium Kettles Will Leave Metallic Flavours: This is completely false. Aluminium will not impart any flavours to your wort at all. In fact, for homebrewers on a budget, aluminium kettles are a great way to brew without incurring great costs.
- You Can’t Get Good Efficiency From BIAB: I have been able to achieve near 85% efficiency using the Brew-In-A-Bag method. All that you have to do is ensure that you’re sparging and squeezing the grain in the bag and you can bring your efficiencies up by about 5% or more.
- Kegging is Superior to Bottling: No. Not at all. This is just comes down to a matter of preference. You probably won’t save a lot of time kegging than you would bottling. With kegging, you have to clean lines, the keg, recharge CO2 tanks and clean other equipment that you wouldn’t have to worry about with bottling. The only things advantageous about kegging is that you can pour as much or as little as you want in a serving, and you can drink your beer sooner because you’re force carbonating. The down-side is that the start-up costs are more costly and you lose beer portability, so if your friends want some, they have to come to you. Maybe that’s a good thing. 😉
Do you have any homebrew myths to share? Leave us a comment and tell us about it.