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Beer Brewing and Wine Making Blog

  • To Use, Or Not To Use An Air Lock On A Wine Fermentation

    Posted on January 24, 2015 by Ed Kraus

    3 Airlocks In SilhouetteOn many occasions we have been asked this simple question, "Should a wine making fermenter be sealed with an air-lock during the first few days of fermentation — the primary fermentation — or should it be left open, exposed to the air?"

    The Conflict
    This question arises because there is so much conflicting information floating around in wine making books, on the internet and in other places as to which method is correct. In fact, even our own wine making website recommends just covering the primary fermentation with a thin towel, while the instructions that come with the wine ingredient kits we sell recommend using an air-lock.

    Even commercial wineries are not consistent in this area. While most wineries will put white wines under an air-lock and expose red wines to air, there are many, many wineries that will do the very opposite.

    My Recomendation
    The reason I recommend leaving the wine must exposed to air during the primary fermentation is because this method leads a more vigorous fermentation, one that is able to complete more thoroughly and quickly. Wine making kit producers recommend sealing up the primary fermentation with an air-lock because they are more concerned about eliminating any risk of spoilage than providing the fastest fermentation possible.

    Spoilage can be of concern on those rare occasions when the fermentation does not start in a timely manner, but if the fermentation takes off quickly, spoilage is of no issue. The activity of the yeast will easily protect the must by impeding the growth of any unwanted organisms.

    So, What Should You Do?
    Shop Wine AirlocksWhile I recommend using a thin, clean towel to cover the fermenter during the primary fermentation and nothing more, if you are concerned about your fermentation not starting there is a compromising method you could follow:

    When you first pitch the wine yeast into the must, put an air-lock on the fermenter. After a few hours, once you see that the fermentation has begun--indicated by activity or foam on the surface--you can then take the air-lock off and safely allow air to get to the must. This is, in a sense, giving you the best of both worlds--the protection and an invigorated wine making fermentation.

    As A Side Note:
    It is important to note that an air-lock should always be used after the must has gone into its secondary fermentation. This is in agreement with most. This usually starts around the fifth or sixth day, or when the first racking is performed. It is about this time you will notice the fermentation's activity level starting to taper off.
    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

    This post was posted in Home Wine Making Tips, Wine Making Blog

  • Homebrew Hacks: How to Figure Out How Much Fuel is Left in Your Propane Tank

    Posted on January 23, 2015 by David Ackley

    Propane BurnerMany homebrewers enjoy using an outdoor gas burner and a propane tank for homebrewing. It’s usually faster than brewing on an electric stove and it allows you to brew outside. But how can make sure you don’t want to get caught halfway through your boil with an empty gas tank?

    One method to prevent a frustrating situation is to have a spare propane tank on hand. This is definitely a good idea. But if you’re DIY-er or haven’t had that chance to exchange a tank, you might find it helpful to know whether you have enough propane to get through a brew day.

    Here’s what you need in order to figure out how much fuel is left in your propane tank for homebrew day:


    • a propane tank
    • a scale with at least 40 lbs. capacity (for a 20 lb. tank)
    • records of how many brews you’ve done since the last fill up
    • a calculator


    Here’s how to figure out how much propane is left in your tank:


    1. Weigh your propane tank.
    1. Check the rim of the propane tank, near the handles, for a stamp that shows the tare weight of the tank. This is usually labeled “TW.” The tare weight is the weight of the tank when it’s empty.
    1. Subtract the tare weight from the weight of the tank to find the weight of the fuel left in the tank.


    Now, to calculate whether you have enough propane to get through a brew day:


    1. Determine how much fuel has been used so far by subtracting the remaining fuel from the fuel tank capacity. For example, you find that you have 5 lbs. of fuel left in the tank. Assuming the tank was a full 20 lbs. to begin with, that means you’ve gone through about 15 lbs. of fuel. (For best results, you will have weighed the tank right after you bought it to have an accurate starting point.)
    1. TShop Propane Burnersake the amount of fuel that has been used so far and divide by how many brews you’ve done on that tank. Checking your homebrew notes, you know that you’ve done five brews with this tank. Divide the total fuel used (15 lbs.) by the number of brews (5) to arrive at how much fuel you typically use per brew (3 lbs.).
    1. Estimate how many brews you have remaining. Continuing with the example above, if you have 5 lbs. of fuel left and you use an average of 3 lbs. of fuel per brew, you have about 1.67 brews left in that tank (5 / 3 = 1.67). After your next brew, you should definitely refill or exchange your propane tank!


    Are you curious whether propane burners save time over electric stoves when homebrewing? Check out Bryan Roth’s Water Boil ExBEERiment.
    David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog

  • Leigh Erwin: 2015 Plans

    Posted on January 22, 2015 by Leigh Erwin

    Woman Thinking About Winemaking PlansI hope everyone is having a great New Year so far! I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time improving my home winemaking technique in 2015, and hopefully cranking out some more quality wines!

    I’m so excited to have my own room dedicated to winemaking. It’s a great upgrade from the teeny tiny space we had previously in our old condo.

    In our new house, we also have a two car garage. While I probably can’t do too much with both of our vehicles in there, I am looking forward to using it as needed to do the more “messy” parts of home winemaking, including sorting and pressing fruit and the like. If I don’t have enough space when both cars are in there, I’ll just move one of them into the driveway for a day or so until I’m finished with whatever I’m doing related to home winemaking.

    Once I’ve got everything completely unpacked, I’ll finally be able to start making wine again. So excited!

    Here are my goals for this new chapter in my home winemaking adventures in 2015:

    • Get set up in the new “winery” room in the new house.
    • Start 2 wines at the same time instead of just working on one (maybe stagger the start time by a couple days or so).
    • Attempt to make wine starting with whole fruit instead of concentrate.
    • Make a rose style wine.
    • Make a “weird” wine (i.e. something that someone wouldn’t associate with ever being a flavor of wine).
    • Make another mead wine that actually tastes good (sigh).

    The first goals that I plan to do are to set up the new winery room, and to start two wines around the same time. Which wines should I try? I think I’ll do both a white and a red to get things started.

    Looking through the wide selection on the ECKraus website, for the red I’ve decided to order the Cellar Craft Showcase Collection: Rosso Fortissimo. The description listed sounds amazing: “Super-Tuscan styled wine vinted from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese and other native Italian varieties. Fermented on Yakima crushed Merlot grapes. A big, full-bodied wine with solid structure and bold fruit notes. Complex cassis, plum and cherry notes balance the bold tannins. French and American oaks contribute toasty vanilla and greater depth in this intense wine.”shop_wine_kits

    For the white, I’m going to try the California Connoisseur: Gewürztraminer. The description reads: “Its aroma is similar to that of raisins with some noticeable hits of anise and mint. Very spicy. Its flavors are intensely fruity and instantly bring to mind: apples, pears and grapefruit. Some cinnamon flavors as well.”

    To get back into the swing of things, I’m going to do complete kits for both wines, since it’s been a little while since I’ve actually be able to make any wine. I hope I’m not too rusty!
    leigh_erwin_bioMy name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I'll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.

    This post was posted in Wine Making Blog, Wine Making Kits

  • Get Sweet on Different Sugars for Priming Beer

    Posted on January 21, 2015 by Bryan Roth

    Opening Bottle Of HomebrewAfter fermentation is done, but before the beer hits my glass, my brew sits away in a corner of a small closet – dozens of sudsy brothers and sisters conditioning away. For many homebrewers – myself included – it's hard to come by the space for a keg setup, which is why I've always bottled my beer. Depending on what style I've brewed and its ABV, the wait time for all those bottles can vary. So can your method for adding priming sugar.

    What sugar you should use for priming your beer is not chiseled in stone. For homebrewers like me, priming a batch of beer before bottling offers some variation in what to use if you want to step away from regular, old corn sugar or DME. Here are a few alternative priming options to consider for your next bottled batch:

    Carbonation Tabs

    For sake of ease, these small, pill-like drops are my go-to option for bottling my homebrew. I love carbonation tabs because it's as easy as placing one drop into each bottle right before I transfer my finished beer to its final vessel. The best part: it takes the worry out of the conditioning process as I've never had a problem with an under or over-carbonated beer when I've used these.

    Some brands of carbonation tablets will have small drops the size of an aspirin and others will be oblong like a tiny football. They all work the same, but some brands may simply require one drop for ideal carbonation levels while you can use multiple small pills to adjust carbonation with other brands.


    Some ingredients, like honey, offer the chance to add a little extra layer of flavor to your beer. Curious to see what it may offer your next brew? Try it with a wheat beer, which might work nice if you've added fruit during fermentation, too.

    To add a little extra sweetness to your homebrew at bottling time, use 1 cup of honey per 5 gallons. Mix the honey with a little warm water to thin it out to make sure it blends in with your beer.

    Maple Syrup

    Making a brown ale? Consider experimenting with maple syrup as your priming ingredient to mash up flavors perfect for a cold fall or winter night. Whether it's grade A or B, use 1 1/4 cup for a 5-gallon batch and again, mix it with some water to dilute the syrup. As with any of these liquids, it's easy to over-carbonate if you add too much. Also check out this Maple Scotch Ale homebrew recipe.

    Brown Sugar/MolassesShop Beer Priming Mix

    When talking about the different sugars that can be used fro priming beer, one cannot leave these two out. Both of these options would work great for a porter or stout. Imagine that little extra bit of deep, earthy sweetness mixing with the roasted and chocolate flavors of those styles – a great mix for a holiday beer!

    The benefit of brown sugar is it can be used in the same fashion as cane sugar – boil 2/3 of a cup with two cups of water for a 5-gallon batch, then mix it in before bottling.

    If you're using molasses, use 1 cup with boiled water per 5 gallons and make sure this super-thick liquid breaks down a bit. You don't a mess on your hands.

    If you’re ready to change up your priming routine, one great resource is this priming sugar calculator from It has a variety of sugars listed that you can use from priming beer. This calculator will offer up specific amounts depending on your exact volume of beer, desired carbonation levels, and more.

    Happy Brewing!
    Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his award-winning blog, This Is Why I'm Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog, Beer Brewing Ingredients

  • 3 Reasons Why Your Starting Hydrometer Reading Is Wrong

    Posted on January 20, 2015 by Ed Kraus

    Guy Starring At HydrometerHaving a starting hydrometer reading is one of the most important things you can do when making any wine. This is a reading that is taken with a wine hydrometer before the fermentation has started. It is usually taken at the same time the yeast is added to the wine must.

    Having an accurate starting hydrometer reading will not only help you verify that you have an acceptable level of sugar in the wine must, it will allow you to determine the finished wine's alcohol level. This can be done when the starting reading is compared to the finished reading when the fermentation is done.

    The reading is taken on the Specific Gravity scale. This is a scale based on the weight of water. The weight of the wine is being compared to the weight of water. The more sugar in the wine must the heavier it will be. The more sugar in the wine, the more alcohol the yeast can make.

    Keeping in mind its importance, here are the 3 reasons why your starting hydrometer reading is wrong. These are scenarios that I have run across more than once while helping beginning winemakers. In each of these 3 situations the hydrometer reading can be thrown off dramatically.

    1. Too Much Water Was Added: This mostly applies to individuals that are making wine from a wine ingredient kit. These kits typically include around 2 to 4 gallons of concentrate to make 6 gallons. The idea is for the winemaker to add water to make up the difference of the 6 gallons. But on rare occasions a beginning winemaker will add a total 6 gallons of water by mistake giving them an 8, 9, 10... gallon batch of wine. This in turn will give them a very low starting sugar reading on their hydrometer.

    2. Sugars Are Not Mixing Evenly: Before taking a starting hydrometer reading it is important to have the sugars completely dissolved and dispersed evenly throughout the wine must. This is regardless if it is from a concentrate or granulated cane sugar. Not doing so can cause your hydrometer sample to be non-representative of the entire batch. The result is a wrong reading. For example, if the sugars are not completely dissolved and still hanging towards the bottom of the fermenter, the reading you get from a sample take from the top will be very different from the reading you get when taking a sample through a spigot at the bottom of the fermenter.

    3. Hydrometer Jar Not Being Used: Shop Hydrometer Jars One of the requirements for taking a starting hydrometer reading, is the hydrometer needs to be able to float. If the tube used to hold the sample isn't tall enough, the hydrometer will sit on the bottom. Again, this will give you a wrong reading. This normally happens when the winemaker is trying to use the plastic tube the hydrometer came in to take the reading. This is something I strongly urge against for the simple fact it is not tall enough. Instead, you should be using a hydrometer jar that is designed specifically for this purpose. It is more than tall enough and has a sturdy base so you can keep the wine sample steady and vertical while taking the reading.

    These are by far the 3 most common reasons. If you think you have a starting reading that is wrong, it is probably because of one of these three. There are other reasons as to why a hydrometer reading might not be completely accurate, such as not having your eye-level even with the surface of the wine, but these are the 3 "big ones". Avoid doing them and you'll be sure to have dependable readings.
    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

    This post was posted in Home Wine Making Tips, Wine Making Blog

  • Basic Water Management for Extract Brewing: Part 1

    Posted on January 19, 2015 by Matt Chrispen

    Water For Extract BrewingMatt Chrispen, a blogger at, shares some of his advice about water management for extract brewing. The first step: choosing the right water source.

    There is a myth that good tasting water makes good tasting beer… this is just not true. With many good water sources, you need to decide which will make the best beer. Water chemistry has less impact on the extract brewer, but starting with the right water will help you have the best chance at a great beer.

    Tap Water: Tap water contains either chlorine or chloramines to deliver safe water to your home. These chemicals must be removed or will cause off-flavors to form in the beer that taste strongly of chemical plastics, vinyl, or iodine. Filtering slowly with active charcoal, letting the water stand, or boiling the water will remove chlorine, but treatment with potassium metabisulfite or Campden tablets will fully eliminate both chemicals. Often it is best to both filter and use Campden tablets. Tap water quality can also fluctuate due to seasonal issues.

    • Using Campden Tablets: For brewing, use ¼ tablet per 5 gallons of brewing liquor. Crush the tablet and vigorously stir it into the bucket of water. The reaction is fairly immediate, and you may smell a bit of sulfur.

    If you have a water softener, use the water tap before the softener to avoid excessive levels of sodium or potassium in the water.

    Well Water: Professional tests should be run to ensure that organic, metallic, or chemical contamination is not present such as iron or fertilizer residue. If the water is safe, then evaluate its hardness. Low to moderately hard water, low in alkalinity is preferred for brewing.

    Store Bought Spring Water: Most bottled spring waters are filtered (the treatment varies) and have re-mineralized the water ensuring a good taste. You can also purchase these in convenient 5-gallon carboys. The mineral concentration will be added to the minerals in the extract. However, the consistency of bottled spring water is preferable to seasonable quality changes that often affect tap water.

    Shop GypsumTap, well and Spring Waters contain dissolved minerals that impart flavor and mouth feel to your beer. Be careful adding minerals, which might, in concert with minerals already in the extract, create strong mineral or metallic flavors. Experiment for the best results.

    Reverse Osmosis (RO), De-Ionized (DI) and Distilled Water: Some stores offer filtered water products in bulk. In addition, home RO or RO/DI filters have become quite common and inexpensive. Distilled water is also a good choice. These water sources are really ideal for extract brewing, and offer the best basis for adding minerals as part of your beer recipe.

    Water is the fundamental ingredient (up to 97%) in beer. Your tap water may make good beer, but try an alternative source and see if things improve. Choosing the best quality water will ensure your extract recipes have the best chance of becoming great beers!

    In Part Two, we will explore the use of common mineral additions to enhance and tweak your extract and partial mash recipes.
    Matt Chrispen is a passionate, experienced home brewer, craft beer fanatic, and collector of brewing gear. He also maintains a blog on advanced brewing topics at

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog, Beer Brewing Ingredients

  • Can I Legally Make Wine At Home?

    Posted on January 17, 2015 by Ed Kraus

    In Hand CuffsWhen my grandfather started E. C. Kraus back in 1966, wine making at home was illegal, so was home brewing. The truth of the matter was, he was selling supplies for the purpose of making an illegal substance. Never thought of it that way until just now, but that's how it was.

    But all that changed when legislation was carried into Congress by Senator Alan Cranston of California. This legislation would make it legal for both home winemakers and home brewers to make their delectable beverages. It was signed into law with little fuss by President Jimmy Carter and became law on February 1, 1979.

    The bill made it Federally legal for a single adult household to make up to 100 gallons of wine and beer each year, and up to 200 gallons for a households with two or more adults. This law still remains in effect to this day.

    Here are some things you should know:

    1. It is still very illegal to distill alcohol at home. Distilling is very different from wine or beer making and was not covered in the new legislation in any way.

    2. The bill does not allow for the sale of homemade wine or beer. So don't think this gives you a green light to set up shop.

    3. While shop_wine_making_kitsthis legislation made in okay to ferment alcohol at a Federal level, at the time of the signing there where laws in many States that still made it a crime to produce alcohol. It wasn't until 2013 that the last states made legal to make beer or wine in some capacity. Some States do have varying restrictions.

    Even with these few caveats, it's still great to know that you can legally make wine at home without fear of prosecution of some sort. So get some cookin' invite some friends over an share and have comfort knowing are doing it legally.

    Thanks Senator Cranston!
    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

    This post was posted in Home Wine Making

  • My First Mead!

    Posted on January 16, 2015 by David Ackley

    My First MeadAfter attending a mead-making workshop and listening to some tips from the pros, I’ve decided it’s time to make my first mead! Since it’s my first go-round, I’m keeping it simple: honey, water, yeast, and yeast nutrient. If the flavor needs adjusting later on, I can easily do that during secondary fermentation, but for now, I’d like to start with the basics of making mead.

    Preparing the mead couldn’t have been easier. I actually mixed it together while making a batch of homebrew, so it took essentially zero extra time out of my day. While the malted grains for my beer were steeping, I mixed the honey and the water for the mead in a fermenting bucket. Since this is my first try, I’m just doing a one-gallon batch.


    My First Mead Recipe (1 Gallon)

    1 qt. blackberry honey

    3 qts. reverse osmosis water

    1/2 pack Lalvin 71B wine yeast

    1 teaspoon yeast nutrient, added in fourths over 72 hrs


    Since there is no boiling or mashing in making mead, mixing the ingredients together was a cinch:


    • Pour the water into the sanitized fermenting bucket
    • Pour in the honey
    • Add 1/4 tsp. of the yeast nutrient
    • Mix well with a sanitized stirring spoon
    • Pitch the rehydrated yeast


    *Note: Rehydrating the yeast is simply placing the yeast in a small amount of pre-boiled water at about 100˚F. Just practice good sanitation and follow the directions on the packet.


    All in all, the mixing of the mead probably took about 30 minutes tops, including rehydrating the yeast and cleaning/sanitation. Per Michael Fairbrother’s recommendation, I set the fermenting bucket in my new fermentation chamber at 62˚F.


    Shop Gallon Glass JugsStaggered Nutrient Additions

    You probably noted that the yeast nutrient in the recipe was divided into four parts. Many mead makers suggest adding yeast nutrient gradually during the fermentation process. I followed Michael Fairbrother’s recommendation again, adding a quarter teaspoon of the yeast nutrient during the initial mixing step, then a quarter teaspoon each at 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours into fermentation. Pretty easy. Once again, sanitation is really important any time you open the fermenter. Sanitize the stirring spoon, the teaspoon, and anything else that may come in contact with the mead when adding the staggered yeast nutrient additions.


    So that’s it! I’m planning to leave the mead alone at 62˚F for about three months before transferring it to a one-gallon jug. I’ll taste the mead at that point to decide whether to add any tannin, acid blend, or any other flavorings to enhance the mead.


    Have you ever made mead? How did it turn out?
    David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog

  • Adding Fruit To Grape Wine Kits

    Posted on January 15, 2015 by Ed Kraus

    Fruits In Wine GlassesWe did a Chardonnay wine kit recently. The results were very good, by all accounts. What is your position on mixing peach, apricot or even persimmon into a batch of that? Wondering. Thanks in advance for your time.
    Hello Jeff,

    Adding fruit to grape wine kit is a great way to enhance any attractive characteristics that a particular grape may possess. For example: raspberries with Merlot grapes, strawberries with Zinfandel and pears with Pinot Grigio. The options are endless and there is always room for experimentation. It's a great way to have even more fun while making these wines.

    Usually when a home winemaker wants to make a wine in this style, they will mix the wine kit and fruits together in the fermenter and proceed with the fermentation from there. After the primary fermentation has completed, the fruit is then removed as the wine goes into a secondary fermenter. However there is another — more professional — way for adding fruit to a grape wine kit. One that will give you much better control over the end product. In other words, less chance of messing up.

    Instead of mixing the grape concentrate and fruit together at the beginning of fermentation, make the chosen fruit into its own wine, separately. In the case of your Chardonnay, you could make some peach wine — one or two gallons of it. When it is time to bottle, you can experiment with blending some or all of the peach wine with it.

    How much peach flavor you add is a matter of personal taste. You can add a little or a lot. You could do sample taste-testings with varying ratios of the two wines. This is the real power of making the two wines separately. You have complete control over the outcome. If you had added some peaches at the beginning of fermentation, all you could do is guess as to how much peach to add and hope for the best.

    Shop Niagara Mist Wine KitsBy adding fruit to your grape wine kits in this way, you will have total control over how much fruit flavor is in the wine. This method will also allow you to safely mix blending samples together without risking your entire batch.

    We have more information about blending wines together in an article on our website that you may want to take a look at: Blending To Improve Homemade Wines. This article should give you some better insights as to what you are look for when putting two wines together.

    As far as whether to try peach, apricot or persimmon, all I can say is that I have seen the most success using peach verses apricot and I have never tasted persimmon added to a Chardonnay. But having said this, I would never tell you not to try any combination. There no wrong answer here. Home wine making is about being creative, experimenting and seeing what you can come up with and adding fruit to your grape wine kits is just one more way to do that.

    Happy Winemaking,
    Ed Kraus
    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

    This post was posted in Q&A, Wine Making Blog, Wine Making Kits

  • 10 More Spices to Try in Your Homebrew Beer

    Posted on January 14, 2015 by David Ackley

    Beer With SpicesWe recently outlined ten spices to try in your homebrew, but the world of spices is quite broad and diverse. If you’re looking to exercise some creativity, here are ten more spices that you can use to give your homebrew a little something special.


    1. Cardamom – This spice is popular in Indian cuisine. Its flavor is reminiscent of chocolate with a hint of citrus, so it could make an interesting addition to a porter, stout, or chocolate stout. Randy Mosher recommends adding the crushed pods to a raspberry beer.

    2. Coffee – Though used more often as a beverage than a spice, coffee makes a great addition to dark beers (and dry rubs for that matter). If you like coffee, a coffee stout may be in order. Choose a fresh, high-quality coffee (one you would enjoy drinking) and add the beans directly to the fermenter. For optimal coffee flavor, you can also do a cold brew, as coffee that has been heated may be too astringent.

    3. Grains of Paradise – Said to be the secret ingredient in Hoegaarden witbier, grains of paradise are native to West Africa and similar in flavor to cardamom, but more peppery and resinous. Though grains of paradise are most often found in witbier, you might also find them in Belgian ales or Faro.

    4. Juniper Berries – Most well known for flavoring gin, juniper can also be used in brewing beer. Juniper is commonly found in traditional Nordic beers such as Sahti and Gotlandsdrika. Use 1-2 tablespoons of fresh berries late in the boil. Sometimes juniper branches are used in place of or together with the berries.

    5. Licorice – Licorice has traditionally been used in brewing for its sweet, pungent flavor and head retention properties. A licorice extract may also be used to contribute color to darker beers. Add about 1/4 oz. of dried root at the beginning of the boil for dark beers like porters, stouts, and Belgian dark ales, or try your hand at a hop-free licorice ale.

    6. Nutmeg – A complex and intense spice, nutmeg is most often used in combination with other spices like cinnamon and coriander in holiday spiced ales or pumpkin beer.

    7. SaffronShop Beer FlavoringsFor a truly special beer, try one of the world’s most expensive spices: saffron. Dogfish Head uses saffron in their famous Midas Touch. Used in gourmet cooking, saffron comes from the dried stigmas of the flower Crocus sativus. According to Stephen Buhner, it takes 4,320 flowers to produce one ounce of the spice! If you can get your hands on enough of it, try this saffron ale recipe.

    8. Salt – Though not technically a spice, salt lives in your kitchen among several of the other ingredients on this list. Various brewing salts can be used to adjust your brewing water, but other cooking salts like Kosher salt or sea salt (do not use iodized), can be used specifically for flavoring. Salt is most notoriously used in brewing German Gose, a pale, slightly sour beer brewed with wheat, coriander, and salt.

    9. Spruce – Spruce can give an interesting, piney touch to amber ales and holiday beers. Try using spruce essence or even the branches themselves. For a beer that features the spruce flavor, check out this spruce beer recipe.

    10. Star Anise/Anise – Both of these spices contribute a flavor reminiscent of licorice, though star anise tends to be less intense. Use it as you would licorice, in darker beers like porters and stouts.


    As I mentioned the previous post about spices, less is more. I find that subtlety is often the key in brewing with spices. Often times a 1/4 ounce is plenty of spice for your homebrew. You can also add more for your next batch.

    And remember – homebrewed beer made with spices also makes a great marinade!
    David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog, Beer Brewing Ingredients

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