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Fermentation – What to Expect

Damson Wine

Brews ferment in different ways and at different speeds, there is no hard and fast rule of what to expect. Once a brew has been mixed up and the yeast added, a brew will then start it’s fermentation. In some cases you will see vigorous action, foam and froth, bubbles, the airlock or even the lid may need removing to allow for it, other times there will be very little to see and the airlock will never bubble. In the case of a vigorous ferment this will usually last for only a day or two, then it will calm right down and just slowly finish fermenting, or in the case of a much calmer ferment it may take longer, but it will get there.

You may or may not have bubbles rising though your airlock if using one, and the lid of the bucket may dome upwards with any pressure inside the vessel. An airlock will not always bubble but this is nothing to worry about, sometimes there is not enough pressure to force any gases past the water in the airlock, or there may be the tiniest of holes somewhere, either on the lid or where the airlock is fitted to the lid, and any gas will always escape through the point of least resistance. It does not matter, your brew does not need to be airtight during this initial stage, the main idea is just to keep any contaminants out. Indeed some starter kits do not come with an airlock, they just say to loosely fit the lid to allow any gases to escape, the main idea is that gas can escape to avoid any excess pressure in the vessel.

The speed and amount of action you will see from a fermentation depends on many factors, including the brew itself, the yeast used, temperature, etc. As a general guide warmer temperatures produce a more vigorous ferment, and cooler temperatures a slower fermentation, with some brews slower fermentations can improve the end result, but also test your patience!

It is common for the sediment to settle to the bottom of the vessel and cause a layer of debris, this can be in the form of a ‘sludge’ or thick layer, and sometimes you will get froth, or a ‘scum’ like appearance on the surface with bits in it, this is all part of the fermentation process and is nothing to worry about.

There is only one true way to know how your fermentation is doing – use a hydrometer to take readings. Ideally take a reading at the start once the brew is mixed then you have a number to compare progress to, then after a few days you can take another reading and monitor how it is doing, the reading will steadily get lower on the scale as it nears completion. It is not uncommon for people to think their brew is not fermenting, but when checked with a hydrometer the reading shows the brew has actually finished, so always check to be sure.

If a brew stops and you believe you have a ‘stuck’ fermentation, in the first instance giving it a stir will often get it going again, and making sure the temperature is nice and warm will give the yeast it’s best chance. ‘Re-start’ yeast is available if needed, but try stirring it first and check the reading a day or so later.

You know you are ready to either move on to the next stage or transfer your brew to a keg (barrel) or bottles when the reading is nice and low, some manufacturers give a reading on your hydrometer to aim for, and also when all signs of any small bubbles rising through the liquid to the surface have stopped completely (bubbles and froth may still be on the surface). The reading should then be checked again after 24 hours to be sure that it hasn’t changed and is exactly the same. No bubbles rising and a constant low reading show it is ready for moving on to the next stage. If you’re not sure, wait an extra day or so and check again, this is particularly important if transferring your brew to bottles as bottling too early means there could be gas still being produced, and in a bottle this excess pressure has nowhere to escape, at least in a barrel there is a safety vent for releasing any excess pressure if needed. The idea is simple;

– Try and maintain a nice warm temperature (as recommended by the manufacturers if applicable) – often around 20 to 24 degrees C
– Take an initial hydrometer reading. After the yeast is added cover the vessel and leave it to get on with it
– Take a reading after a couple of days to check on it’s progress if needed, otherwise wait for any bubbles to stop rising
– Check with your hydrometer that the reading is nice and low, then compare it to a second reading 24 hours later
– Once you are sure it is finished, move on to the next stage, if not sure, give it another day or so


Lisa’s Damson Wine Recipe

Damsons with a few Blackberries peaking through.

This makes a beautiful wine with plenty of flavour and for me it’s perfect because I like a sweet fruit wine.  As a side it also makes a very good jam so if you have any left over I recommend doing that.  I based my recipe on 130 New Winemaking Recipes however my method differs slightly.


Fermenting vessel
Glass demijohn
Chefs Muslin
Hydrometer (Not necessary but good to have so you know fermentation is complete)
Glass wine bottles (approx 6 bottles)IMG_3893


2.7kg Damsons for really good body
Campden tablet
1.3kg brewing sugar
Super Wine Yeast Compound

4.5 litres of water


  1. Give the Damsons a good soak in cold water just to make sure there are no creepy crawlies lingering.
  2. Pour 3.5 litres of boiling water over the damsons and half of the sugar then crush carefully. Stir well to ensure the sugar has dissolved and allow to cool to 25 degrees before adding the Pectolase (2 level teaspoons per gallon) and Super Wine Yeast, 1 heaped teaspoon will be fine. After a few hours mine still hadn’t cooled down so I topped it up to 4.5 litres using cold water which brought my temperature down to about 25 degrees C.
  3. Cover loosely and place somewhere warm about 20 degrees for 48 hours to allow fermentation to
    Primary ferment in initial fermenter for 48 hours.

    start.  The cover will just stop any dust or bits in general from dropping in.  Don’t worry about exposure to oxygen at this point as the yeast needs it for energy to reproduce.

  4. Put the remaining sugar into another vessel/demijohn and then syphon the wort onto it. If you don’t have enough liquid just top up to 4.5 litres with cold/warm water (keep an eye on your temperature it needs to stay around 20 degrees C). At this point the wort will be cloudy but because the pectolase was added earlier this will help to stop any haze from forming. Please note it will take a while for the yeast to get going again but don’t worry it will, just make sure it is at about 20 degrees C.

    Adding the sugar
  5. Transfer to another vessel when the wine is clear to remove it from the sediment bed. To ensure fermentation is complete take two hydrometer readings over a 48 hour period, if they remain the same it has finished if not ferment on until the readings are the same. Then add one crushed campden tablet per gallon to sterilise and preserve.
  6. Bottle and leave to mature. 



Colin’s Bramble (Blackberry) Wine Recipe




1.3Kg Brambles (Soak in water to remove any wee beasties and dirt)
1.25Kg Brewing sugar
4 Litres water
Super Wine Yeast Compound Sachet


Bowl or small bucket
Fermenting vessel it’s best to use a 1 gallon/4.5 litre fermenter.
Syphon tube
Sieve and colander

Method (makes approx 4.5 litres):

  • Sterilise all equipment thoroughly.IMG_20170815_194821
  • Put the fruit in a bowl and mash, then pour 4 litres of boiling water over the fruit, cover loosely and leave overnight.
  • Strain the liquid through a colander and then a sieve onto the sugar and stir to dissolve. You don’t have to get all the bits out at this stage. (This can be done in a bucket/fermenter)
  • Add super wine yeast sachet, leave to ferment for 7 days between 20 and 25 degrees C.
  • After this is complete stir and leave for 1 hour then transfer to a secondary fermenter, using a sieve to remove most of the bits. (You could put it back in your original clean bowl/bucket wash out your fermenter and put it back again.)IMG_20170814_200942
  • Then leave in a dark place at a slightly lower temperature of 18 degrees C for one month.
  • Syphon into into another fermenter and leave for a further 4 months.
  • Transfer into bottles and leave for 3 months for the flavour to develop. Waiting is the worst part!
  • Just a little tip, if there is any jelly left at the bottom of the bottles this goes really well with ice cream!

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout Recipe



A beautiful recipe to make with a massive grain bill producing a smooth, dark wort which looks fantastic! I tasted it before fermentation because I just couldn’t wait and there’s lots of different flavours going on in there, bring on the end product! Just to let you all know I made this beer using the Grainfather therefore the quantity of mash and sparge water used will be different to other all grain methods.  The amount of sparge water used is low because the Grainfather recirculates the wort through the mash when sparging which achieves an efficient yield of wort from the grain.

Makes approx 20 litres Pre boil amount approx 30 litres



Quantities for the Grainfather:
Mash water approx 21.00 litres
Sparge water approx 9.00 litres

If using a different all grain set up the general rule for the mash water is a ratio of 2.5:1 water/litres to grain/kilograms.  So here’s the maths:

Grain bill 6.7kg x 2.5 litres = 16.75 (mash water)
1kg of grain holds 1.1 litres water
Grain bill 6.7 x 1.1 = 7.37 litres of water saturated in the grain, this will never sparge out.
16.75 (mash water) – 7.37 = 9.38 amount of wort extracted if you didn’t sparge.
Pre boil amount 30 litres – 9.38 = 20.32 This is the amount of sparge water needed to reach a pre boil amount of 30 litres which should work out at a post boil amount of approximately 20 litres. Some people prefer to do a full volume mash at 30 litres to avoid sparging, often done using the brew in a bag method.

Approx ABV 6.94% – It can be watered down in the fermenting vessel to lower the ABV if required.

Start gravity approx: 1.070
Final gravity approx: 1.018

The Mash:
Mash at 70 degrees C for 90 minutes.  Mashing at this higher temperature produces a beer with more body due to the lower conversion of starch to fermentable sugars. Make sure that when mixing your grain into the water you get rid of any dough balls.


Heat your sparge water to 80 degrees C and ensure that you extract as much of the wort as possible.

The Boil:
Boil for 60 minutes in total.  Add 28 grams of the Goldings and 14 grams of the Northern Brewer hops at the start of the boil just after it’s calmed down into a nice rolling boil. At 45 minutes add 1 tablespoon of Irish Moss and then at 50 minutes add the remaining hops. Once the boil is complete cool as fast as possible to a fermentable temperature.  I used the Grainfather which has a counter flow cooling system which is extremely efficient, cooling the wort from 90 degrees C to 24 degrees C within minutes!

Fermentation and Bottling:
Ferment for 7 days at around 20-24 degrees C. Once finished you can transfer to another fermenter to take it away from the sediment bed and allow it to clear again, however this isn’t necessary I’ll bottle mine straight from the primary vessel into the bottles, with one carbonation drop per bottle as I don’t want it to be too fizzy. The Fermentis yeast S-04 compacts the sediment at the bottom to a jelly so the beer was lovely and clear even before bottling.   Once bottled I’ll leave it in a dark cool place for at least one month to secondary ferment and condition.  I’ll probably try one bottle and if it needs longer to mature I’ll give it another month.

Happy Brewing!

Fermentation in wine making

What to expect when making wine (includes kits and hedgerow/allotment):

Firstly your must can ferment at a different rate each time, even if you are making the same kit or following the same recipe due to factors such as temperature, oxygen and variation in sugar amounts. Some wines show very little sign of fermentation apart from a bowed lid on the fermentation vessel, some won’t even push bubbles through the airlock.  In most cases this doesn’t mean that your brew isn’t fermenting CO2  escapes through the path of least resistance so if there are any cracks around the lid it can escape through, it will.  Again this is nothing to worry about, an airtight fermenting vessel at this stage is unnecessary, some brewers don’t use an airlock at all but just place the lid on top of the vessel ensuring there is a small gap to allow CO2 to escape. The only true way to know whether your wine is fermenting or not is with a hydrometer, take two readings over a 48 hour period and if they have changed ferment on until the readings are the same.

Fermentation Process:

It is best to brew wine at a temperature of between 20 and 26 degrees C and to keep this as constant as possible, but don’t worry too much if your temperature does fluctuate a little as it can be difficult to maintain the correct temperature at all times. However do watch out for a rigorous fermentation as this could effect the taste of the wine, this is due to the yeast producing unwanted enzymes that will affect the finished product. Cooler and therefore slower fermentations are much more preferable.

Wine goes through two fermentation stages the first or primary fermentation is sometimes described as aerobic and the second fermentation is sometimes called anaerobic which will be discussed below.

Budding yeast cells

During primary fermentation, which can take between 4 and 7 days, oxygen is needed  for the yeast to reproduce this is called aerobic fermentation.  The yeast do not actually respire but use the oxygen as energy to reproduce through the process of budding, this is where a daughter cell forms on the parent cell and continues to grow until it separates from the parent cell. The more oxygen there is the more the yeast can reproduce.  If there is not enough oxygen the yeast will struggle to reproduce and therefore the fermentation will not be as efficient, this is why giving your must a good stir before pitching the yeast will ensure there is enough oxygen in the brew for primary fermentation.  During aerobic fermentation a small amount of alcohol is produced but most of the yeast’s energy is going towards reproducing. During primary fermentation a sachet of yeast suitable for a 5 gallon batch will multiply up to 100 or 200 times during the reproduction process. Once the oxygen is used the yeast move onto using the sugars in the must as an energy source.

Secondary fermentation is much slower than primary as a lot of the action has already taken place, unlike primary fermentation it is best practice to limit the musts exposure to oxygen. By limiting the yeast’s exposure to oxygen it then starts to concentrate on the remaining fermentables using it’s energy to eat up and convert these into alcohol and CO2. Secondary fermentation is often referred to as anerobic fermentation due to the lack of oxygen.

Wine Yeast:

The most common yeast used in wine making is Saccharomyces cerevisiae  which is also used in beer making. Only a few strains of this yeast are suitable for wine making. Final alcohol level depends on how much sugar is in the must and whether the yeast is allowed to ferment to dryness, if you prefer a sweeter wine then fermentation can be stopped at the desired sweetness which is a process commonly used with dessert wines.

Stuck Fermentation:

This is covered more extensively in another article but here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Temperature too high:  If the temperature goes over 26 degrees this could be too hot for the yeast which will kill it, you’ll then need to add a re-start yeast.
  • Too cool: If the temperature dips below 18 degrees this will cause the yeast to slow down or go dormant heating the must back up to around 21 degrees should kick start it back into action.
  • When making a hedgerow or allotment wine it is best to use yeast nutrient which keeps the yeast healthy and active.
  • If you have used concentrate juice from the supermarket they can sometimes contain preservatives which kill yeast.  Make sure to use those with out preservatives.

For more info on stuck fermentations see:

If you have any questions we’re always happy to help, contact us via email:

or call us on: 01904 791600

Happy Brewing!



Hop Inspiration – What to use and why

What would we do without hops? There are many different varieties adding a cacophony of flavours and aromas to our beers. However in Britain we haven’t always used hops in our beer, originally ‘ale’ was the term for beer which was made without hops and was commonly consumed before the 1400s when hops were probably introduced to Kent from Flanders. Hops were valued for their preservative quality and gradually ‘ale’ in it’s truest form disappeared as ‘beer’ containing hops became the nations favourite drink.

We are currently living in the craft brewing age where a wide variety of small breweries are creating all sorts of different beers.  Never before has there been so much choice, we are truly spoilt when it comes to beer  there is something for everyone from traditional porters to lime and chilli pale ale (Little Black Dog Beer Company)! Hops have played a crucial role in this explosion of craft beer as more have become available for the home brewer to use.

Brewer’s use specific terminology when describing hop characteristics here is a quick guide:

Alpha Acids: These are isomerised in the boil which allows them to impart bitterness to the wort.

Beta Acids: These are not bitter in their natural form or when they are in the boil.  A low beta acid content is desirable amongst many brewers.

Co-humulone: One of the compounds that makes up the alpha acids of a hop the other two are adhumulone and humulone.  All are bittering compononents, hops that have high cohumulone have a harsher bitterness whereas those with a low cohumulone are softer.

Myrcene, Humulene, Caryophyllene and Farnesene: They make up 60 – 80% of the essential oils found in most hops. Most of these compounds are lost in the boil and only add a slight flavour and aroma, this is why more hops are added as late additions.


Here is a guide to the different hops we stock, their alpha acid content, flavour characteristics, substitutes and what kind of beers each hop is good for:

All our hops are supplied by the top British hop merchant Charles Faram.


  • Country UK
  • Approx alpha Acid 14.2%
  • Co-Humulone 37%-45%
  • Characteristics citrus, orangey and herbal
  • Dual purpose
  • Similar hops are Chinook, Challenger, Centennial, Cascade (US), Amarillo, Target

Good for: IPA, Pale Ale, Bitter

Very good high alpha hop that will be mainly used as a replacement for Target in extracts and pellets where bitterness value is the main consideration. Not as harsh as Target in terms of quality of bitterness and has a very pleasant hoppy character.


  • Country USA
  • Approx alpha acid  8.0 – 10.0%
  • Co-Humulone 21%-24%
  • Characteristics: Citrus, floral and orange
  • Dual purpose
  • A similar hop is Cascade

Good for IPA, Bitter and Wheat Beer

Exceptional quality leaf hops with an orange-citrus flavour. Use sparingly for flavouring as the orange flavour can dominate. Superb for late/dry hopping.

Bramling Cross:

  • Country UK
  • Approx alpha acid 5.3%
  • Co-Humulone 33%-35%
  • Characteristics Blackcurrant, Spicy
  • Dual purpose
  • Similar hops are Progress

Good for all styles of beer inc Pale Ale and Bitter

A hop of considerable character. Its distinctive “American” aroma put many brewers off this variety in its early years. It has a strong spicy/blackcurrant flavour and good alpha characteristics. Bramling Cross has now made something of a comeback in traditional cask conditioned beers because of its very distinctive characteristics and has done very well in all styles of beer.


  • Country USA
  • Approx alpha acid 6.0-8.0%
  • Co-Humulone: 33%-40%
  • Characteristics floral, grapefruit, lychees
  • Dual purpose
  • A similar hop is Amarillo.

This hop is commonly used in American Pale Ales.

Cascade has a unique floral/spicy aroma both in the cone form and in the beer, mainly due to abnormal levels of some of the essential oils. It is very popular with some brewers due to the unique character imparted to the finished beer, others object to it because of its “perfume like” hoppy flavour. Trial brews and tastings also show a superior bitterness quality with Cascade even at high EBU levels (40+) there is little harshness or lingering bitterness.


  • Country UK
  • Co-Humulone 20%-25%
  • Approx alpha acid 6.0%
  • Characteristics cedar, green tea, spicy
  • Dual purpose, good for late hop additions.
  • Similar hops are Perle and Northern Brewer

Good for a wide range of beers including: English Bitter, Stout and English Pale Ale

An excellent all round hop with good alpha and aroma properties. As the main copper hop it provides a refreshing, full bodied and rounded bitterness which provides an excellent platform for a late hop. As the late addition it can give a very crisp, fruity character which has proved very popular in many beers.


  • Country USA
  • Co-Humulone 22-24%
  • Approx alpha acid 11-14%
  • Characteristics Lime, Mango and tropical fruit
  • Dual purpose
  • Similar hops are Chinook, Centennial and Simcoe

One of the hop variety’s which is in vogue at the moment giving your beer a tropical American craft beer flavour.

East Kent Goldings:

  • Country UK
  • Approx alpha acid 5.1%
  • Co-Humulone: 29%
  • Characteristics earthy, honey, spicy
  • Aroma hop good for late hop additions
  • A similar hop is Progress

Good for a range of British beers including Pale Ale. I’ve also seen American IPA recipes that use this hop.

Sweet, smooth and honey-like bittering characteristics. Good for bittering and late hopping.

First Gold:

  • Country UK
  • Alpha Acid 7.5%
  • Co-Humulone 31%-36%
  • Characteristics Marmalade, Orange, Spicy
  • Dual purpose
  • Similar hops are East Kent Golding, Styrian Golding and Williamette

Good for Bitter, Amber Ale, Celtic Ale, IPA, Porter and Wheat Beer
The variety is very suitable both as a general kettle hop and also for late and dry hopping in all types of beer. First Gold has good aroma and bittering qualities, much of the flavour of WGV seems to have been retained but with an added extra citrus quality, produces a well-balanced bitterness and a fruity, slightly spicy note in ales. An orangey quality has been observed in many beers brewed using this variety.


  • Country UK
  • Approx alpha acid 5.2%
  • Co-Humulone: 25%-29%
  • Characteristics earthy, grassy, minty
  • Aroma hop
  • Similar hops are Styrian Golding and Williamette

Good for a range of British beers including Stout and Porter.

The delicate, minty, grassy, slightly floral aroma produces a clean, refreshing, full-bodied flavour present in many traditional ales. Before the advent of dual-purpose and high-alpha hops, Fuggles were used as the main copper hop and were often complimented by an addition of Golding to give a rounded, full-bodied flavour for which English Ales became famous.


  • Country USA
  • Approx alpha acid 10-14%
  • Co-Humulone 36-40%
  • Characteristics Blackcurrant, Grapefruit, spicy
  • Bittering hop
  • Similar hop to use is Nugget

Galena is generally perceived as an excellent high alpha hop with balanced bittering potential. The very strong tomcat / blackcurrant aroma characteristics are similar to that of the old Bullion variety which for many years was used in Guinness. A very strong fruity character can be achieved with this variety.


  • Country UK
  • Approx alpha acid 5.2% approx
  • Co-Humulone:  25-30%
  • Characteristics earthy, honey, spicy
  • Aroma hop
  • Similar hops are East Kent Goldings

A good all rounder for British bitter.

A traditional English aroma variety valued for its smooth (almost sweet), delicate, slightly spicy aroma that produces the classic Golding finish. As with Fuggles, it forms the basis of many well-known and respected recipes.


  • Country Germany
  • Alpha Acid 2.8%
  • Co-Humulone 17 – 25%
  • Characteristics Floral, Herbal
  • Aroma hop
  • A similar hop to use is Hallertau

Good for Strong Ale, Pilsner, Altbier, Weizenbock, Golden Ale, Marzen, Pale Ale, Wheat, Specialty Ale, Hefeweizen, Lager

A delicate aroma hop used mainly over the years in Lager type beers. However, it has also been successful in the production of some of the lighter English cask conditioned ales. A floral, slightly fruity flavour


  • Country USA
  • Co-Humulone 24-30%
  • Alpha Acid 4.0%
  • Characteristics citrus, lemon, spicy
  • Aroma hop
  • A similar hop to use is Hallertau

Good for Pale and Lager

Liberty has many similarities to the Hallertauer Mittlefruh. The cones contain a moderate amount of lupulin that is a light yellow colour. The aroma is mild and clean. Liberty has shown many similarities to a Golding hop but has just a hint of lemon/citrus flavour that gives it an extra edge on the smooth Golding flavour.


  • Country Germany
  • Cohumulone 21-29
  • Approx alpha acid 12.7%
  • Characteristics Herbal, Pine, Resinous
  • Dual purpose
  • A similar hop is Nugget

Good for Pale Ale, IPA and Lager

A high alpha variety and a  late season variety with a very large and heavy cone structure and good yield.

Nelson Sauvin:

  • Country New Zealand
  • Approx alpha acid 10-13%
  • Co-Humulone 24%
  • Characteristics Gooseberry, Grapefruit
  • Dual purpose
  • Similar hops are Pacific Jade or Pacifica (which we unfortunately do not stock)

Good for Pale Ale, IPA and American Pale Ale

Nelson Sauvin is an excellent dual purpose hop; providing both intense, distinct flavour characteristics as well as high alphas. An excellent all-rounder, this hop is able to produce big punchy Ales as well as subtle yet bitter Lagers. In a nutshell Nelson Sauvin can be described as a “quintessentially New Zealand” variety that has gained an international reputation in the speciality craft and seasonal beer market.

Northern Brewer:

  • Country Germany
  • Approx Alpha acid 6.0%
  • Co-Humulone 27%-33%
  • Characteristics herbal, resinous, spicy
  • Dual purpose
  • A similar hop to use is Perle

Good for German Lager, Steam Beer and Porter

The English variety Northdown is a direct descendant of Northern Brewer and has very similar brewing characteristics. Used as a Dual-Purpose variety it gives excellent bittering properties and a pleasant aroma.


  • Country USA
  • Alpha Acid 15.3%
  • Co-Humulone 22%-30%
  • Characteristics peach, pear, spicy
  • Similar hops are Galena

Good for IPA

A high alpha acid hop with a good aroma profile.


  • Country Germany
  • Approx alpha acid 5.3%
  • Co-Humulone 28%
  • Characteristics Cedar, Orange, Spicy
  • Aroma hop
  • Similar hops are Northern Brewer

Good for Hefeweizen, Lager, Pilsner, Kölsch

Perle is generally perceived as an excellent aroma hop, with characteristics as good as those of Hallertau Mittlefruh but with a higher Alpha Acid content and better yield. Storage-ability is good to very good.


  • Country UK
  • Approx alpha acid 7.2%
  • Co-Humulone 36%-40%
  • Characteristics cedar, grapefruit, herbal
  • A similar hop to use is East Kent Golding

Good for IPA, Red Ale and Strong Bitter

The variety has proved to be quite unusual with a very pleasant, lemon, citrus aroma. Initial brews have proved to be very successful with very distinctive, hoppy characteristics.


  • Country UK
  • Approx alpha acid 5.2%
  • Co-Humulone 25%-34%
  • Characteristics grassy, honey, spicy
  • Good for the start and end of the boil
  • Similar hops are Fuggle and East Kent Golding

Good in a range different British ales.

Progress was originally introduced as a replacement for Fuggle and has very similar characteristics. Slightly sweeter and with a slightly softer bitterness it is has excellent potential at both the start and end of the boil.


  • Country Czech
  • Co-Humulone 22-30
  • Approx alpha Acid 2.1%
  • Aroma hop
  • Characteristics earthy, floral, grassy

Good for Pilsners and Lagers

Saaz hops have long been established as a high quality European aroma variety. Traditionally used for European lager type beers, they have now been used successfully in the UK imparting that earthy lager hop flavour found in the Czech version of Budweiser.


  • Country US
  • Approx alpha acid 12.0 – 14.0%
  • Co-Humulone 15%-20%
  • Characteristics earthy, herbal and piney aroma with a slight fruity edge
  • Similar hops are Summit

Good for many American beers, IPA and Pale Ale

A new variety of leaf hops released in 2000 by Yamika Chief Ranches, Simcoe is very versatile as it posses high bittering power with a somewhat unique, pine-like aroma. It can be detected in many high-class American ales

Southern Cross:

  • Country New Zealand
  • Co-Humulone 25-28%
  • Alpha Acid 13.6%
  • Characteristics Lemon peel, pine needles
  • Aroma characteristics
  • A similar hop to use is Fuggles

Good for Lager, IPA and Pale Ale

Excellent essential oil profiles, low cohumulone and consistent alpha acid levels with aroma characteristics to include lemon peel and pine needles underpinned by clean spicy notes. “A hop with many talents” – this variety (generally selected for its consistency in mainstream Lagers), will impart a soft bitterness with a subtle resinous quality, delivering a delicate balance of citrus and spice when added toward the end of the boil.


  • Country UK
  • Cohumulone 22-30%
  • Approx alpha acid 4.9%
  • Characteristics Earthy, Floral, Grassy
  • Dual purpose
  • Similar hops are Fuggles and Goldings, works well when paired with Goldings.

Good for a variety of English style beers along with Pilsners, Helles and Wheat Beers.

Light, sweet, floral character which can develop into subtle hints of fruit, Sovereign is a hop in the classic English style. It can be used as a refreshing alternative to Fuggles and Goldings in both light and dark beers.


  • Country USA
  • Approx alpha acid 14.3%
  • Co-Humulone 26%-33%
  • Characteristics Orange, Pink Grapefruit

Good for India pale ale, Pale ale, Stout, American Pale Ale, American Wheat Beer

Introduced in 2003, Summit’s™ high alpha content and strong, unique aroma has made it popular for bittering and as a late edition hop.


  • Country UK
  • Alpha Acid 8.0% approx
  • Co-Humulone 29%-35%
  • Characteristics Cedar, Liquorice, Pine
  • Similar hops are Williamette and Fuggle

Good for American Lager, Brown Ale, Bitter, Pale Ale and IPA
An excellent high alpha variety which gives bitterness at a very competitive price. Tends to be too harsh for aroma purposes late in the boil but has produced very good results when used as dry hop pellets in the cask.



  • Country USA
  • Characteristics Blackcurrant, Floral, Spicy
  • Alpha Acid 6.9%
  • Co-Humulone 28 – 32%
  • Bittering hop which is too harsh for aroma
  • Similar hops are Styrian Golding and Fuggle

Good for lots of varieties of ale but especially Pale Ale and Porter

Willamette is generally perceived as a new, yet good quality aroma hop. The rub of the hops gives an estery/blackcurrant/herbal aroma that is very pleasant but can be quite strong. Differing results have been achieved with this variety. Some brewers have found it to be a suitable replacement for Fuggle, others have had poor results when using it this way but have found that it stand up admirably as an aroma variety on its own merits.


Making Elderflower Champagne


Elderflower Champagne is a sharp refreshing summer drink and with a ready supply of Elderflower shrubs across the country you’ll always find some somewhere even in big cities. Elderflowers start to appear in April and last until June or early July, this does vary from year to year and in different parts of the UK.  Always pick the flowers that are higher up which means they won’t have been used as a toilet for any passing animals, it is also recommended to pick them at midday when the flowers are fully open. Make sure that you get the right shrub and if you are unsure see the photograph below which shows you what the flower heads are like.

The flower of the Elder Tree.  Ignore the pine like foliage in the background as this is a Yew Tree.


This makes about 6 litres of Elderflower Champagne:
5-8 large heads of elderflowers – make sure that they are fully open, preferably facing the
sun. The more elderflowers used will increase the flavour. Around 5 is generally best so
that the taste isn’t too strong.
(If using dried elderflowers use 1 x 50g bag)
600g of sugar
2 lemons
4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
6 litres of cold water
1 x sachet of Champagne yeast
Fermenting time: Approx 1 week
Maturing Time: 4 weeks it can be left longer for the flavours to develop.

This recipe is based on making 6 litres. To make larger batches, increase the quantities in proportion (apart from the yeast which you don’t need more of).

Equipment you will need:

Home Brew Online Elderflower Champagne Equipment Pack.   This has everything you need apart from the ingredients to make Elderflower Champagne however you can use any existing equipment and bottles you have.


1. Wash the lemons and use a potato-peeler to peel the lemon rind off as thinly as possible. Remove any insects, leaves or other unwanted objects from the Elderflowers.

2. Squeeze the lemons and put the juice into a fermenting vessel along with the lemon rind and flowers.

3. Add the sugar and the wine vinegar. Be careful not to crush the flower heads too much with the sugar.

4. Pour on the water. Sprinkle a sachet of yeast on the surface of the liquid. (Please note, there might be enough natural yeast present to start the fermentation without yeast. We recommend using it however to ensure a complete fermentation.) Put the lid on the fermenting vessel and leave to stand for approx 5-7 days or until the majority of the bubbling and fizzing has ceased. Stir gently every other day with a sterilised spoon.

5. Sterilise the bottles using a steriliser/sanitiser.

6. Place your fermenter higher than the bottles. Use a syphon tube to transfer the mixture through a funnel with a strainer fitted  into bottles. Take care not to disturb the sediment and avoid transferring any debris. The less sediment you pick up, the better the end result will be.

7. Once all the bottles are full, put the caps on firmly and place somewhere cool. Try and leave a gap of around 1½ inches between the liquid and top of bottle. A garage shelf is ideal to store. After four weeks the Champagne is ready for drinking. However, the taste does improve with time and can be left for a year or more. It is probably best to leave it for six months to a year to mature, as this means the full taste will have developed, without any fizz escaping. Open bottles gradually to avoid the contents spraying out. It is advisable to chill the champagne in the fridge before drinking.

Important Note: Take care when storing bottles of Elderflower Champagne, especially when using glass bottles. Our glass bottles are strong and shouldn’t explode, but varying factors such as heat and too much added sugar, along with the nature of brewing which is unpredictable, can result in unexpected breakages. We recommend storing in a garage with the bottles in a box or container.

Happy Brewing!

Making Rhubarb Wine


Rhubarb and strawberries (plus a few weeds!)

As you can see I had lots of rhubarb, although would have had more if I didn’t let it go to flower! Sooooo I decided to make some rhubarb wine, it’s the first time I have made it and I can’t wait to taste it. The recipe I followed was from First Steps in Winemaking by C J J Berry.


Bucket/fermenting vessel
IMG_3328Demijohn with rubber bung and airlock
chef’s muslin
Stick on thermometer


Rhubarb 1.25kg
Sugar 1.25kg
Water 4.5 litres (1 gallon)
Super wine yeast compound 1 heaped teaspoon per gallon
Campden tablet 1 crushed tablet per gallon at the end of fermentation to prevent oxidisation and bacterial infection.

  • Firstly make sure all your equipment is thoroughly sterilised. Chop the rhubarb thinly, do not peel, and cover with the sugar in a bucket and leave for 24 hours until most of the sugar has dissolved.


Rhubarb with the sugar covering it.


  • The next stage is to strain the juice into your fermenter using chef’s muslin or an IMG_3331equivalent fine mesh straining bag and a funnel, keep mixing the pulp with water and straining until you have filled to the 4.5 litre mark in your vessel. I measured 4.5 litres with water in my demijohn and marked the level.
The pulp mixed with water ready to put in the muslin to strain again.


  • Once your fermenter is filled to 4.5 litres add 1 heaped teaspoon of super wine yeast compound and leave to ferment at a temperature of between 16 – 20 degrees.  I fermented mine at a low temperature so it took about three weeks to fully ferment. Because my fruit was very green the must is white in colour rather than red like some rhubarb wines. Once the bubbles stop rising through the airlock fermentation should be complete however I always check mine with a hydrometer, I take two readings 48 hours apart and if they are both the same I know it’s definitely stopped fermenting however if the second reading has changed I wait until both readings are the same before moving onto bottling.IMG_3333
  • It is important to make sure that the wine has finished fermenting before bottling because if the wine is still fermenting when transferred to the bottles it can cause them to break.
  • At the end of fermentation add one crushed campden tablet, this will prevent oxidisation and any bacterial infection. Do not add this while the must is still fermenting as it will kill the yeast.
  • Once bottled leave for at least two months to mature. Here is a selection of bottles and bottling equipment that you may find useful:

Glass wine bottles available in green or clear:

Small auto syphon:

Simple syphon:

Corks and corker:

Happy Brewing!!


The Magic of Yeast

Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (top fermenting) Picture from Wikipedia.


Yeast is an amazing micro-organism and watching it in action you can see why early man and indeed later generations viewed it as a mystical and magical phenomenon.  Louis Pasteur was the first to identify that yeast caused fermentation in the 1860s but there had been other research before this by Charles Cagniard-Latour, Friedrich Traugott Kützing and Theodor Schwann in the 1830s and they all concluded that yeast was a living organism, before this scientists considered it to be a chemical.

Yeast is a part of the Fungi kingdom and has existed for millions of years it’s connection with humans is thousands of years old and it is thought that it is responsible for modern society as beer encouraged early humans to cultivate the land. Yeast has been nurtured by humans over the years and treasured for it’s apparently magical properties, today there are hundreds of different varieties that are used for different beers as each has an identity of it’s own which produces certain characteristics in a beer. There are two different kinds of brewer’s yeasts top fermenting and bottom fermenting, the former is used for ales and the latter for lagers. Each one ferments at a different temperature range and each one is crucial for producing the specific beer style. Bottom fermenting yeasts are capable of fermenting at low temperatures between 7 and 15 degrees and were first used in Bavaria. Top fermenting yeasts ferment between 10 and 25 degrees and have a variety of characteristics for example yeasts from Britain have a variety of different flavours that they can add to beer from fruity to spicy to woody.

Belgium has the most variety in yeast strains with different ones producing a variety of different flavours.  Generally they ferment at normal brewing temperatures between 16 and 20 degrees and are extremely efficient at eating their way through all the fermentable sugars in a wort. Lambic beers are often fermented with wild yeast, the wort is left exposed to the air and is then stored in wooden barrels where other vital yeasts aid fermentation.  This is what gives Lambic beer it’s distinctive flavour, although this fermenting process cannot be done during the summer months as there are too many nasties in the air at this point.

There are a number of different yeasts used in beer brewing here are the two most popular:

Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Ale Yeast):

Commonly known as ale yeast and is top fermenting working at temperatures above 16 degrees, some strains have been known to go lower but anything under 13 degrees will cause the yeast to go dormant.  It is generally best to brew between 18 and 20 degrees with as little fluctuation as possible to get the best performance from the yeast.  It is the most widely studied organism in molecular and cell biology. There is a wide variety of ale yeast available that impart different flavours. Here are a few examples of what we stock:nottingham yeast

  • Nottingham Ale Yeast: The Nottingham strain was selected for its highly flocculant & relatively full attenuation properties. It produces low concentrations of fruity and estery aromas and has been described as neutral for ale yeast, allowing the full natural flavour of malt & hops to develop.


  • safale 05Fermentis SafAle US-05: American ale yeast producing well balanced beers with low diacetyl and a very clean, crisp end palate. Forms a firm foam head and presents a very good ability to stay in suspension during fermentation.



  • m 36 libertyMangrove Jack’s Craft Series Yeast Liberty Bell Ale M36: A top fermenting ale yeast suitable for a wide variety of hoppy and distinctive style beers. This strain produces light, delicate fruity esters and helps to develop malt character. Suitable for both English and American Pale Ales, Extra Special Bitters, Golden Ales and more.


  • WYeast Activator Ringwood Ale 1187 A top
    WYeast Activator Ringwood Ale 1187

    cropping yeast strain with unique fermentation and flavor characteristics. Expect distinct fruit esters with a malty, complex profile. Flocculation is high, and the beer will clear well without filtration. A thorough diacetyl rest is recommended after fermentation is complete. This strain can be a slow starter and fermente




Saccharomyces Pastorianus (Lager Yeast)

This is a bottom fermenting yeast that can work at low temperatures down to about 4.4 degrees and is a close relative of S. Cerevisiae. It has also been known as Saccharomyces carlsbergensis which has caused debate in the scientific world however it’s name is now officially S. Pastorianus. This yeast was found by Emil Christian Hansen at the Carlsberg laboratory in 1883 which is possibly why for a time it bore the name S. Carlsbergensis. Here are a few examples of the lager yeasts we stock:

  • wyeastWYeast Activator Pilsen Lager 2007: Wyeast 2007 is the classic American lager strain. This mild, neutral strain produces beers with a nice malty character and a smooth palate. It ferments dry and crisp with minimal sulfur or diacetyl. Beers from this strain exhibit the characteristics of the most popular lager in America.


  • WYeast Activator Octoberfest Lager Blend wyeast2633 This blend of lager strains is designed to produce a rich, malty, complex and full bodied Octoberfest style beer. It attenuates well while leaving plenty of malt character and mouthfeel. This blend is low in sulfur production.




  • WYeast Activator Czech Pils 2278 wyeastOriginating from the home of great Pilsners in the Czech Republic, this classic strain will finish dry and malty. It is the perfect choice for Bohemian-style Pilsners. Sulfur produced during fermentation can be reduced with warmer fermentation temperatures 58°F (14°C) and will dissipate with conditioning.


  • Fermentis SafLager S-23 fermentis lagerOriginating from the famous VLB institute in Germany, true lager yeast capable of producing continental lagers with fruity, estery notes. Available in 11.5g sachetsBottom fermenting yeast originating from the VLB Berlin in Germany recommended for the production of fruity and estery lagers. Its lower attenuation profile gives beers with a good length on the palatte.


There are other yeasts used by brewers but they are not as heavily used in the UK, Brettanomyces is a Belgian style yeast and is best used in conjunction with another yeast usually Saccharomyces cerevisiae  because it is pretty slow going. Torulaspora Delbrueckii is another yeast which can be used in beer making but is more commonly used in bread and baking.  These yeasts were considered to be spoilage yeasts however a lot of research has gone into them to reveal that in mixed fermentations, along with Saccharomyces cerevisiae they add flavour to a beer, Brettanomyces for example will add spicy and fruity aromas. Perhaps less favourable, but each to their own, Brett can also add a barnyard aroma or ‘sweaty horse blanket’ (according to Wyeast) aroma found in Lambic beers.

Dictionary of Yeast Characteristics

Flocculation: The ability of the yeast to form clumps at the end of fermentation which then fall to the bottom of the fermenter resulting in a clear beer. Wild yeast does not flocculate well and remains suspended in the beer for a long period of time. Flocculation has been improved in brewer’s yeast over the years through human influence when brewer’s skim the yeast from the top or the bottom of the fermenter. Yeast flocculation is either high, medium or low.  For example low flocculation can lead to a cloudy and yeasty tasting beer Hefeweizen yeast is a good example of this. High flocculation will generally produce a clearer beer.  Flocculation is an extremely complicated process and is still the subject of much study at the moment as there are still a few mysteries to clear up.

AttenuationThis is the percentage of sugars converted by the yeast to CO2 and alcohol and gives you an idea of how different yeasts will perform.  Attentuation is measured with a hydrometer by taking a start/original gravity reading, which will then proceed to fall throughout the fermentation process as the fermentable sugars are eaten up by the yeast. The final gravity (FG) reading can be used together with your original gravity (OG) to calculate the attentuation using the following equation: [(OG-FG)/(OG-1)] x 100. In order to ensure fermentation is complete take two readings over the course of 48 hours, if they remain the same this is your final gravity reading however if they change you must wait until they are stable before recording your final reading to calculate with.

Aroma: Different yeasts will add different aroma characteristics to a beer from an estery/fruity aroma to a diacetyl aroma which adds a buttery smell and flavour. Each yeast strain is different so it’s a matter of experimenting and seeing which you prefer which is all part of the fun of brewing!

Yeast in Fermentation

The fermentation process is caused by the yeast eating it’s way through the fermentable sugars turning them into CO2 and alcohol which are the waste products that yeast excretes. Once the yeast is pitched there is an initial lag phase where the yeast becomes acclimatised to it’s new home, after this it springs into action, Oxygen is a crucial element to fermentation allowing the yeast to reproduce through the process of budding where each bud produced will become a new cell.  Oxygen is not used for respiration but helps in the production of new cell membranes, it is crucial to the yeast at this point. It’s worth noting that it is not possible to over aerate your wort most of it is used by the yeast and any that is left is lost from the wort in the first few hours of fermentation.

Achieving and maintaining the correct temperature with minimal fluctuation is needed for good yeast activity, if the temperature falls too far below the yeasts minimum toleration it will cause it to become dormant and if the temperature rises to far above it’s highest tolerated temperature the yeast may die so it is best to stay within the recommended temperature range of your yeast.

Yeast pitching amounts can vary depending on what type of beer you want to produce, worts with a higher gravity generally need more because they have more work to do and that work is harder. The yeast will also need to be tolerant to high levels of alcohol the Wyeast range has yeasts suitable for these types of beer such as. Wyeast recommended as a rough rule to ‘double pitch rates above 1.065 and triple pitch rates above 1.085.’ There website has a very useful question and answer page at

You can see the yeast activity as the wort ferments and bubbles fizz to the surface, a frothy top of foam then forms on the surface. Eventually this foam disappears as the yeast slows down, once it has finished it then drops to the bottom of the vessel.  At this point the beer will become clearer. It is best to take two hydrometer readings 48 hours apart to be sure that fermentation is complete. If the readings are stable it is fine to move onto the bottling/kegging stage however if the second reading has changed this means your wort is still fermenting and needs to be left until the two readings become the same.

The fermentation process can differ from batch to batch even if you are using the same recipe, some are vigorous and others are very quiet and do not produce any bubbles through the airlock. Many outside factors affect the speed of fermentation including temperature, amount of oxygen, amount of yeast pitched and yeast nutrient. It is always important to take hydrometer readings as this is the only true way of knowing how your fermentation is progressing.

I hope this guide has been useful if you have any further questions you can always contact us on 01904 791600 or  Happy Brewing!

Sources used:
Little Black Dog Brew School handbook

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