Homebrewing Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts!

Check out our collection of homebrew tips, tricks, money saving ideas, shortcuts and more.  Got something to add to the list?  Let us know!  Submit your tip for consideration. If your tip makes it, we’ll always give you the credit!

Tip 1: Use polypropylene bottles to rehydrate yeast

I use the pictured bottles – Bel-Art Precisionware Wide-Mouth 500ml (16oz) Autoclavable Polypropylene Bottles; Polypropylene Cap, 53mm Closure – Also search Amazon for Polypropylene Lab Bottles to see what else may be available – look for proper temp ratings and food safe materials

  • Place the appropriate amount of water in the bottle.  Most manufacturers recommend 10 grams of water per 1 gram of yeast.  Most packets are 11 grams.  That’s 110 grams.  I’ve marked a line on my bottle so that I can easily measure out 110 grams of water.  Use an accurate gram scale to weigh the water.
  • Place the lid on top of the bottle.  Do not thread or tighten the lid!  It will explode.  You just want the lid setting on top so that it can be sanitized by the steam.
  • Microwave until the water comes to a full boil.
  • Very, carefully tighten the cap down.  This is going to be hot, be very careful!
  • Shake the water around a bit to cover all sides of the bottle.  Again… careful!  I use heat resistant gloves for protection.
  • Let this sit until it gets to the proper rehydration temperature (I shoot for around 95 F) or run cool water over the bottle to cool down more quickly.  I use an Infrared thermometer to check the temp.
  • Sprinkle the dry yeast in the container and place the lid on back on the bottle.  Let this sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Gently swirl bottle to ensure the yeast is thoroughly mixed.
  • Pitch when you’re ready.
  • This method ensures a sanitary process.  The initial container and water are sanitized.  There is no touching of the water with thermometers or stirring devices!
  • You could use a similar method to produce yeast washing water.
  • You can use a similar technique to save yeast using a vacuum sealer/FoodSaver.  See Tip 18.
  • Review: Hands On: American Weigh 100g x 0.01g Digital Scale
  • Related Categories: YeastScales

Tip 2: Use Two Scales

  • Use one larger capacity scale for measuring grain.  Important features- Tare (allows you to subtract the weight of the container that’s being used), Pounds/Kilograms, Digital Readout, Either Auto Hold or a Removeable Face (this allows you to weigh large objects like a bucket of grain.  An AC Adapter is also nice to have.  This Ultraship scale is what I use.  I’ve used it for years and have been very happy with it.  It features a removable face to easily weigh larger objects.
  • Use one smaller, more accurate scale for weighing hops, spices and water salts.  Tare, Pounds/Kilograms and Digital Readout are important for this one.  You’ll want something that measures to an accuracy of 1/10th of a gram.  You’ll be using grams for water salts and you should consider using grams for hops.  Consider the AWS-100
  • Related: See Tip 16 – Use Metric
  • Reviews: Hands On: American Weigh 100g x 0.01g Digital Scale | Hands On: Ultraship 55 lb Digital Scale [Grain] With Removable Face
  • Related Categories: Scales

Tip 3: CO2 Tanks

  • Don’t buy a new CO2 tank unless you’re certain that you have a good local source that will refill tanks.  It doesn’t make any sense to buy a shiny new tank and then swap it out for an old, janky tank right away.  You’ve paid for a new tank and possibly paid for shipping it, only to swap it for a used one.  Save your money and just go to the supplier where you’re going to be swapping it out and buy a good, used tank.
  • Get a big CO2 tank.  At my supplier, it costs around $20 to swap out an empty 5 lb tank.  It costs around $25 to swap out an empty 20 lb tank.  It’s more than 3 times the cost to refill the smaller tank!  This will pay for itself quickly both in time and money.
  • Top Post: CO2 Tank Tips – New or Used & Tank Size
  • Related Categories: DraftCO2 Hardware, Tanks

Tip 4: Get your Propane Tank Refilled instead of swapping it

  • Most (maybe all?) propane tank swap services under fill.  The tank holds 20 lbs, refill places commonly fill to 15 lbs.  You’re only getting a 3/4 filled tank!
  • Find a local provider that fills your tank all the way up.  This is usually about the same price, supports local businesses and saves you time.
  • Top Post: Propane Tips – Refill vs Swaps and Extra Tanks

Tip 5: Use an Infrared Thermometer

PIctured: Etekcity Lasergrip 774 Non-contact Digital Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun -58℉~ 716℉ (-50℃ ~ 380℃), Yellow and Black | Also: Search Amazon for infrared thermometer

  • These are inexpensive and give you a no-touch way to measure the temperature of something.
  • Since this is no touch, you can check the temp of yeast washing and yeast rehydration water and your starter wort without the risk of infection.  I find mine particularly useful for rehydrating yeast (See Tip 1).
  • Infrared thermometers should not be considered a direct replacement for your standard thermometer.  A quality IR thermometer will give you a close approximation of surface temperatures.  Note that steam seems to throw off readings.
  • Uses include: Contained yeast rehydration water, chilled wort or starter temperature, kegerator, fermenter or fermenation area and beer tasting samples.
  • Related Categories: Thermometers

Tip 6: Checking for Draft System CO2 Leaks – the Pressure Gauge Method

This tip is a supplement to the standard “spray everything with Star San and look for bubbles technique”

  • Charge your keg with CO2 as usual.
  • Remove the CO2 line and replace with a pressure gauge or your Spunding Valve.  See: Build a Spunding Valve
  • Mark the current pressure with a wax pencil, or just remember what it reads
  • Wait for a couple hours or overnight to see if the gauge drops.
  • If it drops quickly, there is a leak.  If the beer is uncarbonated the pressure will drop some overnight (it is equalizing and carbonating the beer).  What you don’t want is a quick drop in pressure.
  • This tests technique tests the entire keg, but is particularly helpful to diagnose leaks at the gas post.  This is one area of the keg that cannot be tested using the standard bubble technique.  Because of the lip of the Quick Disconnect, you cannot see here.
  • You could also turn off the gas tank and use the gauge on the low pressure side of your regulator.  This would test your entire system.
  • In my experience, over long periods of time there will be some slow gauge movement.  I don’t know if these are micro leaks or further equalization, but don’t worry about that, you’re looking for a relatively quick drop in pressure.
  • Top Post: Checking for Draft System CO2 Leaks – the Pressure Gauge Method
  • Related Categories: DraftCO2 Hardware

Tip 7: Use High Quality Pitchers

Pictured: Thunder Group 4.0 Quart Liquid Aluminum Measure Cup | Also Consider: Hands On: Rubbermaid Commercial Product 1 Gallon Bouncer Pitcher

  • Keep a couple of high quality pitchers around to use for recirculation, utensil storage, water and wort transfer and more.
  • The 1 gallon aluminum pitchers that are used in food service are large, sturdy, food safe at high temps and reduce drips.  Another option to consider is Rubbermaid’s 1 Gallon Bouncer.  The advantage of the Rubbermaid option is… aluminum doesn’t play well with Star San.
  • This was a simple upgrade for me and a vast improvement over “use any two random, undersized pitchers that I could” find strategy I had employed prior to getting these.
  • Review: Hands On: Rubbermaid Commercial Product 1 Gallon Bouncer Pitcher
  • Related Categories: All Grain

Tip 8: Buy Keg O-Rings In Bulk

Tip 9: Get a Refractometer

Pictured: Magnum Media DUAL SCALE 0-32% Brix and 1.000-1.130SG Wort Refractometer RSG-100ATC Beer Home Brew | Also search Amazon Dual Scale Brix Refractometer

  • This model is dual scale (Gravity and Brix) and features ATC (Automatic Temperature Compensation)
  • You only need two or three drops to get a reading.  You are saving beer vs using a hydrometer.
  • An estimation of unfermented wort gravity is easy to calculate.  OG is around 4 times the Brix reading obtained from your refractometer.
  • Refractometers can also be used to measure gravity throughout the fermentation process.  Just plug your numbers into a calculator for correction after fermentation begins.  See: Sean Terrill’s Refractometer Calculator
  • Related Categories: Refractometers

Tip 10: Figure ABV Without a Starting Original Gravity

  • Forgot to take an original gravity and still want an estimate of ABV?  No problem.  You’ll need a refractometer and a hydrometer.
  • Take careful measurements with each.  Thoroughly de-gas the sample to get a more accurate reading.
  • Run those numbers through this equation.  SG is the gravity reading obtained from the hydrometer,  Brix is the reading obtained from the refractometer.  ABV = [277.8851 – 277.4(SG) + 0.9956(Brix) + 0.00523(Brix2) + 0.000013(Brix3)] x (SG/0.79) or use a priming sugar calculator.
  • Thanks to BYO for this formula.  Not a subscriber?  Subscribe to BYO and get a free issue.
  • Related Categories: FermentationRefractometers

Tip 11: Easiest way to seal a Mylar bag using a FoodSaver type vacuum sealer.

Mylar bags block oxygen and are a great way to store hops, but Mylar vacuum sealers are very expensive.

  • Insert a filled Mylar bag into a standard vacuum sealer bag.
  • Vacuum seal the standard bag.
  • The only entry path for oxygen is now the top of the Mylar bag.  After being sealing in a vacuum sealer bag, this is now a very, very small entry.  This entry is also protected by the oxygen resistant vacuum sealer bag.
  • Review: Hands on Review: FoodSaver V2244 Vacuum Sealer
  • Search Mylar Bags on Amazon.  Related Categories: FoodSaverVacuum SealingHops

Tip 12: Second easiest way to seal a Mylar bag using a FoodSaver type vacuum sealer.

  • Cut a 1″ strip off the top of a vacuum bag.
  • Fill the Mylar bag with hops or whatever you’re going to store.
  • Insert the 1″ strip into the filled bag so that the strip sticks out of the mylar bag.
  • Trim the end of this strip so that about 1/2″ is sticking out of the Mylar bag.
  • Insert the top of the Mylar bag into the vacuum sealer bag, ensuring that the 1″ strip of vacuum bag is sticking slightly out of the top of the Mylar bag.
  • Vacuum and Seal.
  • Trim the excess vacuum bag strip.
  • Review: Hands on Review: FoodSaver V2244 Vacuum Sealer
  • Search Mylar Bags on Amazon.  Related Categories: FoodSaverVacuum SealingHops

Tip 13: Make a CO2 “Utility” Line

Tip 14: Use a spray bottle and make your bottle of Star San last a long, long time.

Tip 15: Dry Malt Extract (DME) dissolves easily, with minimal clumping, in cool water.

Credit for this technique goes to John Palmer.  Related Categories: Extract BrewingYeast Starters

Tip 16: Use Metric for hops and yeast starters.

Grams are much easier and more accurate for measuring hops and water salts.  A starter is also easier in metric.  Water to DME ratio is always 10 to 1.  1,000 mL (1 L) to 100 grams of DME.  Example –  Need to make a 1.5 L Starter?  You need 150 grams of DME.  Resource Post: Yeast Starters & Fermentation Related Categories: HopsYeastYeast StartersFermentation

Tip 17: Cut pH Strips in half and save 50%

Narrow range (4-7) ColorpHast pH strips are, to my knowledge, the most accurate strips available for testing mash and finished (non soured) beer pH.  They are more expensive than economy strips but they are worth it.  Ask me how I know :).   Cut these in half the long way.  You’ve saved 50% and they are still easy to read.  Related Categories: All GrainpH

Tip 18: Save Dry Yeast with a Vacuum Sealer

Pictured: V2244 Vacuum SealerHands On Review: FoodSaver V2244 Vacuum Sealer

  • Determine the proper amount of yeast you’ll need to pitch using the pitching calculator.
  • Prepare the proper amount of rehydration water using your typical method. Generally, you’ll prepare 10 grams of water for every one gram of yeast needed.  See Tip 1.
  • Put the prepared rehydration water on an accurate gram scale
  • Zero the scale out using the tare feature.
  • Cut the yeast packet open and slowly pour the yeast into the rehydration water. Careful, there’s no going back if you pour too much. 🙂
  • When I get the amount of yeast I’m looking for, I immediately seal the yeast packet using the heat strip sealer on my vacuum sealer.
  • I write the amount of remaining yeast on the packet using a Sharpie and then seal that in vacuum bag for additional protection.
  • Review: Hands on Review: FoodSaver V2244 Vacuum Sealer
  • Related Categories: YeastFoodSaverVacuum Sealing

Tip 19: Repair Cornelius Keg Handles and Bases.

Thank you to Facebook Friend Jason for this technique!

  • Use automotive brake cleaner to clean the metal and rubber.
  • Scuff both the metal and rubber with an emery cloth.
  • Get an appropriate adhesive that works with rubber and metal.  Consider: 3M 08008 Black Super Weatherstrip Adhesive via Amazon.   HBF Reader Scott says Gorilla Glue also works great for this: “Gorilla Glue works great for reattaching rubber keg parts. It’s an expanding polyurethane so it really gets in there and grabs.” Thanks Scott!
  • Reattach the handle using the adhesive.  Follow the product specific instructions for application and curing.
  • Top Post: Bulk Keg Orings and Keg Repair Part Numbers
  • Related Categories: DraftKegsKeg Parts

Tip 20: Filling a quick bottle or growler from your kegerator faucet.

  • If you need a quick bottle or two or a growler filled from your kegerator, there’s no need to hook up your Beer Gun or Counter Pressure Bottle Filler.  Just slip a piece of tubing over your faucet and pour.
  • 3/8″ ID Tubing fits snugly over most picnic/cobra faucets.
  • 1/2″ ID Tubing fits snugly over most Perlick type faucets.
  • Make sure your length of tubing goes all the way to the bottom of the container you’re filling
  • Sanitize the tubing and the receiving bottle.
  • Reduce your regulator PSI down to 2 or 3 PSI and fill slowly from the bottom.
  • Cap on foam and you’re good to go.
  • Related Categories: DraftPortable ServingBottling

Tip 21: Tubing Tips

  • If you’re tubing is spotting because of hard water, spray it down with Star San as a last cleaning step.  Star San has a surfactant that causes a sheeting effect that cuts down on spots.  That sounded like a dish soap commercial.
  • After pooled water or Star San has dripped off, coil the tubing and hang it so that the openings of the tubing hang facing up.  I think this provides better air flow and lets moisture escape more quickly.
  • Also See: Tip 28 – Re-shaping Vinyl Tubing
  • Top Post: Tips: Cleaning, Drying & Storing Tubing
  • Related Categories: CleaningSanitationTubing

Tip 22: US Nickel as a calibration weight

  • According to the United States Mint a Nickel weighs 5 grams.  That makes a cheap an easy calibration weight to check the honesty of your gram scale – Details
  • Related Tag: Scales

Tip 22: Boil over tips

  • If you’re fighting a boil-over… stir the foam.  No need to stir the entire batch, just stir at the very top to break up the foam more quickly.
  • A spray bottle of water (set to a moderate mist) works well to combat foam
  • Related Categories: StirringMash PaddlesPropane BurnersKettles

Tip 23: Beer Bottle Label Removal

Put a little bit of PBW right on a label that’s giving you problems and scrub.  The grittiness of the PBW combined with it’s full strength application generally dissolves the label and adhesive in short order.  Related Categories: BottlingCleaning

Tip 24: Grain Storage Rule of Thumb

My rule of thumb on grain storage is… you can store 1.25 lbs of grain per liter of space.  See justification for that – Here.  That figures out to about 4.725 lbs of grain per gallon.  Related Categories: StorageContainersGrain Storage

Tip 25: Use a Full Size Sheet Pan to Make Bottling Easier

A full size sheet pan will hold around 54 bottles.  Use on bottling day to catch drips and keep your bottling area clean.  More Info – Related Categories: Bottling

Tip 26: Use a “Brew Day Box”

Develop a “Brew Day Box” with all your brew day needs conveniently stored in the same spot.  More Info – Related Categories: StorageContainersBrew Day

Tip 27: Buy PBW in bulk

Depending on vendor and size the cost of PBW on a per pound basis can vary wildly. More Info – Related Categories: CleaningSanitation

Tip 28: Straighten Vinyl Tubing

To straighten vinyl tubing take some boiling or close to boiling water (be careful) and let the tubing sit in it for about 30 seconds and then it will hold the shape it cools at.  Thanks to Google+ Friend Chris for this tip! Top Post: Tips: Cleaning, Drying & Storing Tubing – Related Categories: Tubing

Tip 29: Fix it, Instead of Replacing It

When possible, rehab kegs instead of replacing them.  Most kegs are designed for commercial service, they should have long lives and most parts are replaceable.  See Resource Post Bulk Keg Orings and Keg Repair Part Numbers for a slew of replacement keg replacement parts. Related Categories: DraftKegsKeg Parts

Tip 30: Use high temp gloves for minding yeast starters

Ove’ Gloves and the Like for Handling Erlenmeyer Flasks and Hot Valves

I use an Ove Glove when I’m making yeast starters in an Erlenmeyer Flask.  It’s really handy (pun intended) to swirl around the flask or to quickly remove to keep the flask from boiling over.

These are also handy on brew day for handling hot (but not wet) ball valves and such.

These are not waterproof. Along those lines, I wouldn’t suggest that you stick your hand in hot wort with one of these on. Or, without one of these on for that matter. I guess the take away here is… don’t stick your hand in hot wort. 🙂 See: Ove Glove.  Other Styles are available.

Tip 31: Wallpaper Prep Tray for cleaning, sanitizing and storage of longer items

71hCeeqaGeL._SL1500_Pictured: Zinsser 98030 30-Inch Wallpaper Prep Tray

Use a wallpaper try to clean and sanitize longer items like racking canes, auto-siphons, spoons, short pieces of tubing and beverage out dip tubes.  These also work well for storing longer items.  If you’re going to store things in these, I would recommend stacking a couple together to give them some extra strength.  Thanks to HBF Reader Travis for this tip!

Related Categories: CleaningSanitation

Tip 32: Build a Spunding Valve


A Spunding Valve allows you to maintain a set pressure.  If pressure in the pressure vessel exceeds the set point, it is expelled.  Some possible homebrewing applications include: Pressurized fermentation, Dry hop under pressure, Naturally and accurately carbonate beer right in the keg, As an airlock replacement, Keg to keg transfers, fix over-carbonated beers and more.

Top Post: Build a Spunding Valve – Categories: Fermentation, Carbonation

Tip 33: Consider Oetiker Clamps for Kegerator Tubing

I use stainless steel Oetiker Stepless clamps for most gas and beer applications.  I like the fact that they are… stainless steel, stepless (keep reading) and the fact that they stay tight (keep reading).  These clamps are designed so that there are no steps (gaps) on the inside.  That reduces the possibility that tubing will be torn or damaged.  These are single use clamps.  The upside of that is… Oetiker Stepless clamps will not loosen over time.  When they’re tight, they’re tight.  I really like that for kegerator applications because… A: I don’t like to empty CO2 tanks for no good reason and B: I don’t like standing beer in my kegerator.

A sizing note – Oetiker Stepless clamp sizes generally refer to the largest diameter in mm.  So a size 13.3 means that the Oetiker Stepless clamp is 13.3 millimeters (about .52″) in diameter uncrimped.  The largest size is usually easy to figure out.  The smallest (crimped) size sometimes can be harder to figure out.  Check out Oetiker’s Technical Data Sheet for that info.  Just search for the model number you’re interested in.

Some sizes to consider…

Top Posts: Oetiker Stepless Clamps for Kegerator Gas and Beer Lines | Tips: Cleaning, Drying & Storing Tubing – Resource Page: Tips and Gear for your Kegerator – Related Categories: DraftTubing

Tip 34: Saving Time on Brew Day

Brew more easily and more often!  See: Time Saving Homebrew Tips

Got a great tip?    Submit your tip for consideration. If your tip makes it, we’ll always give you the credit!

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Make sure the components you use are compatible and rated for your intended application.  Contact manufacturer with questions about suitability or a specific application.  Always read and follow manufacturer directions.

Safety Note: Always use caution when handling hot items or ingredients and always read and follow manufacturer directions.