Home Brewing Myths

by Karl Updated on July 3, 2021

When it comes to home brewing, at some point, you’ve probably been told information that may contradict your own findings or what you find to be true. Or maybe you were taught something and you just never questioned why.

It’s time to take a closer look at some common myths and misconceptions and see if they hold any weight.

I’m Trent Musho, and this is the Bru Sho. Let’s bust some myths.

When I first started home brewing, anyone with a bit of brewing experience, had a lot of advice to give. I love to learn, and I always appreciate with some people have to offer, but I can’t help to look back and wonder if there weren’t some false tales being spread.

For some reason, brewing knowledge can be a bit like a game of telephone. Someone reads information in a book or is told something by another brewer and they believe it to be the only truth. Thankfully, more and more brewers today have been questioning conventional wisdom and pushing the boundaries of what it takes to brew beer at home.

Today I hope to shed a bit of light on some of these brewing misconceptions, but before I jump into myths, please take a second to like this video and consider subscribing for more brewing tip videos like this.

Now let’s get into it. Let’s start with talking about a couple of myths the first time homebrewer may have heard. Number one, your home brewed beer can make you very sick or even be fatal.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase. I love to start home brewing, but I’m scared I’ll make myself sick. This might be one of the biggest hurdles that causes people not to get into home brewing.

But in reality, it’s near impossible to make something that will make you ill. I’m not saying you can’t under any circumstance, but it’s not very likely.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First beer in many other fermentations are acidic in nature. They’re higher acid content or lower pH makes for a hostile environment for harmful pathogens to exist.

Additionally, the alcohol that’s created during fermentation also makes for a toxic space that kills wild microorganisms.

If you make a mistake, you’re more likely to make a beer that tastes bad or has gone sour and then create a dangerous beverage. Don’t let this fear stop you from jumping in. You’re bound to make some mistakes when you first start, but those mishaps will likely only end up hurting your beer. Not yourself.

Number two, you can’t make high quality beer at home. I think the root of this myth comes from drinking someone’s bad Homebrew one time.

Just because of this beginner homebrew may have made some mistakes, you can’t think that all home-brewed beer is awful. There are thousands of home brewers out there doing delicious beer every day, whether in a basement garage or even closet.

Once you’ve developed your skills and honed in on your system, there’s nothing holding you back from making brewery quality beer. In fact, some larger breweries still use home brewery setups to develop recipes and test out new ingredients. And then they scale it up to accommodate their larger system.

So just know just cause one time your cousin, Chad made beer in a bathtub that tastes like hops sewage water, doesn’t mean your beer can’t have award-winning flavor. (thanks alot chad)

Next, I want to talk through a couple more myths geared towards the home brewing process.

Number three, don’t squeeze your grain back. This is one myth that I believed when I first started home brewing and using brew in the bag.

I was scared to even touch the brew bag because of all the awful things people told me about squeezing the bag, allegedly squeezing will extract more tannins and astringent flavors that can leave your beer with a harsh aftertaste.

I’m not entirely sure where this notion came from, but it’s something I absorbed along the way. Finally, one day I decided to give it a try and test it out for myself and get the last bit of wort out that was trapped in the bag.

In the end, that beer turned out fantastic with no notes of tenants and I’ve been squeezing the bag ever since throwing all caution to the wind, I’ll do anything to get those last drops.

Number four, you have to mash and boil for at least 60 minutes.

If you’ve read any brewing book, then you’ve probably seen this misconception before. For some reason, every recipe out there has an arbitrary number of 60 minutes for mash and 60 minutes for boil, not 45, not 90 but 60.

For the mash time, I believe the assumption is the longer you steep the grains, the more sugars you’ll extract. However, thanks to improve modifications at the brewing malts we use today, most of the starch to sugar conversion happens in the first 15 minutes or so. That means you really don’t need to go longer than 15 minutes to get solid wort out of your mash.

Now, if you’re the type of person who’s constantly aiming for higher efficiency, be my guest to mash all day, if that’s what you want. But I usually go for 30 to 45 minutes to save time and I add a little more grains to make up the difference.

For the boil time it was thought you needed to add hops near 60 minutes to extract the bitterness. Then add hops closer to the 30 to zero minute mark for aroma and flavor. We’re still learning a lot about hops. And even to this day, we don’t fully know everything about this mysterious plant.

But what we do know is that the lines are much more blurred when it comes to bitterness and flavor. You can get a ton of flavor from a raw ale that is heated up, just blow boiling and you’ll get a ton of bitterness as well. So if that’s true, why do you need to boil all?

The main reason in my opinion is to extract more bitterness and to condense the wort. It’s true that the longer the boil, the more bitterness you’ll get, but why not just cut down the amount of time you boil and add more hops to get more bitter hop character?

These days I rarely go longer than a 30 minute boil and just add a little more hops to get the right IBU range. On the larger brewery scale, adding more greens and hops can add a lot of costs. So I get why longer mash and boil times make sense for them.

But on homebrewing scale, it costs us cents to add a little more of these ingredients. So save yourself some time and consider reducing your mash and boiling for shorter brew days.

Number five, you have to use a secondary.

For years, secondary fermentation was believed to be a mandatory process. Homebrewing books and articles talked about how it was important to get your beer, wine, or cider off the yeast to prevent yeast autolysis or off flavors from stress yeast.

I’ll admit that secondary still had their place in the wine making world. Since wine is aged for months before bottling, and you don’t want to ruin all that hard work. But beer and cider are quick fermentations and usually not aged.

In fact, these days, beer and cider can be ready to drink in as little as a few days, thanks to quick for many farmhouse yeasts. So what’s the point of racking to another vessel that might be a potential point for contamination or oxidation?

Your beers fine on to sit for weeks with no negative effects and really you should be bottling or kegging way before any adverse reactions happen from stress yeast.

The one area I would say that secondaries are helpful are when you’re adding large amounts of adjuncts like fruit, but even then, it’s not necessary. I’ve made tons of fruit beverages just by adding in a bag of frozen fruit directly to the fermentor.

Or you can even add the fruit to a keg to ensure it’s purged with CO2 before adding your beverage in ensuring you won’t oxidize your beer. So next time, just skip the secondary and get to drinking faster.

The thing about myths is you don’t know that they’re myths until you test them out for yourself. And when you do, you’ll have peace of mind knowing what works for you and what makes your beers better.

Maybe you’ll find that what you’re doing is fine and you don’t want to change anything, or maybe you’ll find that you’re doing something for no reason, and it has no benefit to your brew. It’s always a good idea to look around at what you’re doing and ask yourself why? The answer might save you time and stress.

Anything I can do to make brewing less stressful, less complicated and less work all while still producing delicious beer is a major win in my book.

I put a pull out on Instagram to find out what myths you’ve been told over the years. And you guys had a lot of great reactions. I might have enough to do another video, but if there’s a major myth that I missed in this video, let me know in the comments. Thanks for watching.

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The invite link is in the description, happy brewing and cheers.

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Karl S: Lead marketer, brewer, dad, and husband. Pretty much an all-round awesome guy.