Should I Dump It?

One of the most-asked questions on homebrewing forums is, “Should I dump it?” And, we’ve all likely been there. Something seems wrong with a batch and you are starting to fear that the worst has happened. With experience, you can learn which warning signs point to real trouble and which do not. For new brewers, however, unusual aromas, sights, or flavors can cause a panic. Here is a quick rundown of situations that lead brewers to ask this question, and what they should do. [Read more…]

BWJ Q and A (Aeration)


A common homebrew aeration setup.


Do you have any good links/posts on getting the correct PPM per gallon of wort? Micron size vs. rate vs. volume?


— Robert French


As homebrewer’s, it’s nice that we can measure many of the important variables in our process. We can measure the density of our wort with either a hydrometer or a refractometer. We can measure temperature with a thermometer. We can measure the pH of wort or beer with a pH meter. Unfortunately, there are no inexpensive ways to measure a few key variables. Most homebrewers, for example, do not measure the amount of alcohol in their beer. They estimate the percentage by volume via a calculation. Likewise, the level of carbonation in our beer may be estimated either via a temperature and pressure table for keggers, or by adding the appropriate amount of priming sugar for those who bottle condition their beer. Arguably more important, however, is the amount of oxygen in our worts before we pitch the yeast. For most fermentations, an oxygen level around 8 ppm is desired. However, some strains of yeast may respond better to slightly higher levels of oxygen.

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BWJ Q & A (Botulism)

Clostridium_botulinum_01My recent article on botulism generated some discussion among homebrewers. I’ve gathered most of the questions I’ve been asked in the comments section and via email here. I’ve also added a couple that might occur to someone with an interest in the subject. The original article also answers some potential questions.


Background Information

Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that produces the botulinum toxin, can grow in environments from 40–120 °F (4.4–49 °C) when the pH is above 4.6, the oxygen level is below 2%, and the water activity is above 0.85. (Solutions with 22 g of salt per 100 g of water or 67 g of sugar (sucrose) for each 100 g of have water activities less than 0.85.) The conditions for the growth of C. botulinum are met by boiled wort stored in a sealed container, but not beer.

Botulism bacteria can grow and produce enough toxin to kill a person in 3 days. And, the spores of C. botulinum are not killed by boiling. Commercial food packagers are required to heat low-acid foods (foods over pH 4.6) to 250 °F (121 °C) for 3 minutes to kill all the botulism spores. Boiling the liquid at 240 °F for 20 minutes, which can be done at sea level with a pressure cooker set to 10 PSI, and subsequently heating the food to above 185 °F (85 °C) for more than 5 minutes before serving are the guidelines given for home canners.

So, to be on the safe side, wort should be pitched the day after it is made. This way, the pH of the fermenting beer can drop below 4.6 and you will be safe. There is not a single case of botulism attributed to making beer in the normal manner. (Prison “brewers” have concocted batches of pruno that has been tainted, but these cases usually involve the use of root vegetables stored improperly before the beverage is fermented.)


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Should I Be Worried?


“Hmmm, I went to the barleywine festival yesterday and today I’m naked and sitting on a rock. Should I be worried?

A lot of unexpected things can crop up on brew day. After the fact, a brewer may wonder what the consequences will be. In some ways, brewing can be very forgiving. On the other hand, there are lines that can’t be crossed without yielding substandard beer. Brewers just learning the ropes may not know if their small mistake will have little consequence, or if it will will ruin their batch. In addition, a brewer who is just learning may not know which sights and smells are normal and which are indicators of a problem. Here are some common occurrences that lead brewers to wonder if they need to worry.


I brewed with old malt/malt extract/hops/yeast. Should I be worried?

Yes. In order to brew quality beer, you need to use fresh ingredients. If your malt is old (over 8 months), it may taste stale. If it is very old (years), it may not have the diastatic power required to convert the starches and sugars. Likewise, malt extract will go stale and darken. This is especially true for liquid malt extract, which should be used within a few months of manufacture. Old hops will have lost some of their alpha acids and may turn cheesy if they are stored improperly. Expired yeast packages may have very low viability. (If the yeast is only slightly out of date, you can usually make a yeast starter and revive it. For a tube or smack pack of liquid yeast, take a small volume of wort initially — around 250 mL — to revive the yeast. Then pitch that to a larger volume of starter wort as soon as any fermentation activity is seen.)

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BWJ Q and A (Root Beer Beer)


Once again, a Q and A cat pic.


I liked your recipes using Mt. Dew and other sodas in beer and I was wondering if the same thing would be possible with commercial root beer? I was thinking of making a stout/porter type ale and fermenting with root beer to get some of those flavors in the beer. My question is would you run into the problem of bottle bombs like you can with home made root beer?



— Russ Albright

Keizer, Oregon

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BWJ Q and A (Dilute the “Super Saison”?)

The Question


For no apparent reason, here’s a picture of a cat.

My name’s Michael. I’m a homebrewer originally from Austin but living far, far away. I hear you a bunch on Basic Brewing Radio and I read your article “Expand Your Output” and I had a quick question for the expert in diluting high gravity beers.

I brew BIAB and I made a “super saison” and I didn’t get too much wort (only 13 L) because I made a smaller beer out of the second runnings.

I pitched a healthy amount of WLP565 (farmed from a previous batch) and fermented fairly warm until it attenuated the crap out of this beer, with apparent ABV of over 11%. (OG 1.091. FG 1.006.)

I’d like to boil my priming sugar in 3 L of water, so I can bring my ABV down to the target 9%.

The beer has ~50 IBUs and will need at least 3 months of conditioning.

Will I ruin this beer by diluting it?

— Michael Maze

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