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How Not To Brew

Here you can share your mess-ups, and things you had to learn the hard way.

We’ll start with mine.

Brewing in the summer, and having your energy bill rise for that month. Added heat and humidity made the A/C do extra work. Frequent brewing in the winter is not a problem, just that the heat comes from a different source.

Trying to do a lager and using a cold stair well for a cooler temperature. It got too cold, so cold that the fermenting beer partially froze and expanded out of carboy. Until I get a keezer or digital freezer controller, ales only.

Trying to mash a rye beer, without proper beta-glucan rest or rice hulls. Lost gravity points. After the first failure or so, I hit the books and internet, why is rye such a problem… If at first you don’t succeed, rye rye again.

Letting mash rest too long unattended. Stray microbes fell in and soured the mash, and starch would not convert.

Most recently, mashing fruit with the grain, instead of adding fruit juice after mash or boil. In this case it was limes, being added to a Saison. When I first added the blendered limes, I noticed some protein activity, forming, redissolving. Now the beer is muddy and won’t clarify.

I didn’t make all these mistakes at the same time, just over the course of my homebrew hobby, nearly ten years.

-Glass thermometers and hydrometers don’t bounce.
-Close the spigot on bottling bucket before filling.
-A watched kettle never boils…an unwatched kettle boils over in a second, drips onto the burner, starts smoking and sets of the smoke detector.
-One digital thermometer with no backup battery is not enough.
-If you decide to check what hops you have on hand after the boil starts, you may have to be flexible with what beer you will actually end up brewing.

So many more, but can’t think of them all.

-getting lazy and ‘not worrying’ about CO2-purging my kegs prior to racking to them. Oxidation is like a hand grenade going off in a beer’s flavor.

-boiling with the lid on to ‘conserve volume’ (don’t even ask me why I was worried about this…I guess because I wanted more beer)

-(this is the big one): TRYING TO BUILD RECIPES WITHOUT KNOWING WHAT I WAS DOING. I am not joking, this was one of my early recipes. This was the 5th beer I ever made.

72.7 12.00 lbs. Pale Malt(2-row) America 1.036 2
9.1 1.50 lbs. Meadowfoam Honey
9.1 1.50 lbs. Rye malt 1.034 2
3.0 0.50 lbs. Crystal 40L America 1.034 40
3.0 0.50 lbs. Aromatic Belgian 1.036 19
3.0 0.50 lbs. Dark Crystal
3.0 0.50 lbs. Cara-Pils Dextrine Malt 1.033 6


Amount Name Form Alpha IBU Boil Time

0.50 oz. Columbus Pellet 14.60 25.3 60 min
0.75 oz. Centennial Pellet 9.00 21.2 45 min.
0.50 oz. Northern Brewer 9.50 4.4 15 min.
0.50 oz. Mt. Hood Pellet 4.10 1.4 10 min.
0.75 oz. Cascade Pellet 6.00 2.6 5 min.
1.00 oz. Mt. Hood Whole 6.50 0.0 Dry Hop - 10 days


Amount Name Type Time

1.00 Tsp Irish Moss Fining 15 Min.(boil)


Wyeast California Ale w/ 1.5L starter

Mash at 158oF for 60 mins. Sparge at 173oF for ~45 mins.

Primary Fermentation: 10 days at 70oF
Secondary Fermentation: 10 days at 65oF, dry hop with 1 oz Mt. Hood in muslin bag…

To echo Pietro, kitchen-sink type beers usually suck.

First beer I ever made was a wheat extract kit from the lhbs. Decided I would make a blue moon clone. I wanted it light in color so I boiled 3 gallons of straight water with the hops and added the dme at the last five minutes. Then I made it over boil all over the stove. Tasted it after fermentation at 75 degrees decided it tasted like a bitter sulfur chalky band aid… flavored something. Added three oranges I cut up to give a more orange taste thinking it would cover it up. Next thing I know air lock bubbled more and it got worse. Didn’t sanitize priming sugar… got worse. Epic failure

[quote=“Machinist”]Didn’t sanitize priming sugar… [/quote] How do you sanitize priming sugar?

Now I always add my priming sugar to boiling water and then put a lid on. Boil for five minutes and then set it aside, go sanitize bottling bucket. Rack the beer by this time the priming sugar is cooled enough to add to the beer. I don’t by single use packets of sugar I buy atleast a pound and my wife has been known to put her measuring cups in it and steal some. It takes an extra five minutes but gives me peace of mind.

Don’t dry hop in a keg without a screen or hop bag. I just learned this the hard way. Dip tube keeps clogging with hop debris. it sucks. i’ve removed the dip tube and poppet 3 times, probably got 2-3 hop pellets worth each time. also put a hose over the top of the dip tube without the post, then applied about 5psi to the gas, and sprayed some hop debris (and beer!) into a bucket. it is still clogged

I had a very aggressive boil with my second batch I ever made and ended up with just over 3 gallons of wort going into my carboy from what was supposed to be a full boil 5.5 gallon batch. Never fear, I just added 2.5 gallons of cold tap water into the carboy. When all was said and done the beer tasted like hoppy pool water. Too much chlorine in the local water & without boiling it all the bad transferred over to the beer. Now if I need top off water I use RO water, but I have gotten a lot better at working out my initial volumes & have only needed top off water once in my last 5 batches.

haha, our very first brew went surprisingly well until it came time to chill the wort. We filled the sink with ice water and began the chill, which went much faster than anticipated and the next thing we knew we had wort at 45 degrees and a sink that was still full of ice. So, being the geniuses we are, we went up stairs and got the hair dryer and began to melt the ice in an attempt to bring the wort up to pitching temp…
It never once crossed out pedestrian minds to take the wort out of the ice bath.


Never attempt to take a gravity reading just after flame out…using the little plastic thingy your hydrometer came in…


dont know what the heck I was thinking…

First time I used Wyeast 1007 German Ale for a dark German Alt, didn’t realize it needs extra time to clear up. It was my first all grain thought I was going to end up throwing it out but it turned out to be my favorite recipe, so far that is. Never underestimate the importance of time and a secondary in brewing.

I think it was on my second batch. I got a Fat Tire clone kit from my brother in law. He worked at a homebrew shop and put the recipe together for me. So the recipe was pretty vague and I was a total nube. For the hop additions I thought you had to boil each for the total time. So, 60 min. addition went the full 60, then put the 30 min in and boil another 30 min, and so on. I think I had like a 2 hour boil or something crazy like that.

This has been a fantastic thread to read. Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only bonehead who had to pour out 2-6 weeks worth of work and worry.

My first and worst was the very first time I tried to do an all-grain, many ages ago, and the list of screw-ups is too long to put here.

More recently, don’t let your yeasties begin, nor continue their barley soup feast at anything higher than about 72 degrees for an ale, and realistically it should never start that high. I shoot for mid 60’s, and let the ferm heat itself up. But two years ago, I was in a huge hurry, and pitched at about 78, figuring it would cool off in my cellar (steady 60 degrees ambient). It didn’t. the yeast finished and dropped out in 3 days, it bubbled like mad in the meantime, and produced a type of alcohol that is undrinkable. Better suited for rocket fuel or nail polish remover than for drinking.

Now, I think I’m working on a new flub. I have produced two consecutive batches of unintended lambic (sour damn beer). The last one was so gross, I dumped it. This one is subtler, but still there. I need to address my process to see where I’m getting contamination, I’ve never had that problem before. I’m overlooking something, or there is a new wrinkle somewhere.

I’m thinking of changing sanitizers, anyone have a favorite? Been using an oxidizer, thinking of going for phosphoric acid or alkali. what’s best?


[quote=“The Mad Zymurgist”]I’m thinking of changing sanitizers, anyone have a favorite? Been using an oxidizer, thinking of going for phosphoric acid or alkali. what’s best?


I did 2 things to help myself in this area. I switched to Star San and started changing out my syphon hose every 6 months.

Check your finishing gravity BEFORE starting the bottling process.
My sencond brew I neglected to check till I was about halfway finished bottling. Turned out I had got a stuck fermentation somewhere, and the FG only got down to about 1.028 from 1.056 OG.
guess I’m lucky that none ended up as bottle bombs, but to this day, about 3 years later, it’s still undrinkable as a beer. I use it for cooking and in the water pan of my smoker. I think there’s only a few bottles left of it.

Forgot to add this one to my first post.

Remember not to put your glass thermometer used to check your mash temp on your recipe sheet, it sticks and bye bye goes your thermometer.

Fermenting your second batch in the summer in Phoenix without a fridge. My wife almost pulled the plug on my homebrewing hobby when she tasted that vile ale.

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