Additives and Preservatives For Homebrew

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clear glass jar with brown liquid

Using Additional Ingredients to Make Your Good Beer Great

The various “ingredients” discussed in this article have little or nothing to do with beer flavor, per se, and are not absolutely necessary for making good beer. However, homebrewers can use all of the elements defined here to “polish” a beer; to manipulate the beer in various ways that may affect the quality and perception of the finished product.

Additives and Preservatives

There’s a wide variety of ingredients that can be used to affect the outcome of your finished beer. These ingredients fall loosely into the additives and preservatives category.

Additives, generally speaking, are things that can affect the interaction between the basic ingredients (malt, hops, yeast, and water) — how they behave throughout the mashing, boiling, cooling, and fermentation phases of homebrewing. Preservatives, generally speaking, are used to preserve the character of the beer you create.

None of these things are absolutely necessary for making good beer, but they can be helpful.

  • Amylase enzyme: This enzyme breaks down malt, barley, and adjunct starches to soluble dextrins and small quantities of fermentable sugars, and therefore, reduces chill haze in the finished beer. Typically used in all-grain beers, amylase enzyme can be added to any high gravity wort (beer before it’s fermented) as it’s also effective at sustaining active fermentation. Add 1 teaspoon per 5-gallon batch. (Chill haze is a temporary cloudiness that forms in beer when the beer is refrigerated, caused by the combination and precipitation of protein matter and tannin molecules during secondary fermentation. Chill haze usually appears around 36° F and disappears around 64° F.)
  • Burton salts: This is a generic name for a blend of natural minerals that emulates the brewing water in the English brewing city of Burton-on-Trent. Burton salts increase the hardness of brewing water and they also help to prevent chill haze.
  • Foam control: Foam control inhibits the formation of foam during primary fermentation, which means that your brew hangs on to the head-forming compounds during the brewing process. Thus, the addition of foam control results in denser heads when you pour the finished beer for consumption. Foam control can be added to the wort at the same time that you add the yeast. One teaspoon per 5-gallon batch is all that you need.
  • Heading compound: This compound is designed to improve head retention in the finished beer and increase foam stability. This compound is available in both liquid and powdered form; the liquid form is more expensive but easier to work with than the powdered form. The average homebrew should not need the assistance of artificial heading compounds unless it has a very, very low original gravity or a very low malt content.
  • Malto-dextrin: Dextrins are the (beer) body-building constituents of malted grain; the more dextrins in the beer, the fuller the mouthfeel. Malto-dextrin powder is a convenient shortcut to creating body and mouthfeel in low gravity beers.
  • Yeast energizer: As the name suggests, this additive energizes old and tired yeast, which is great for reviving stuck or slow fermentations. Dissolve a teaspoon of energizer in a cup of boiling water, cool, and add directly to the fermenter. To avoid having to open a sealed fermenter, try anticipating the need for yeast energizer (such as beers with original gravities over 1.056), and add the energizer directly to the cooled wort as you add the yeast.
  • Yeast nutrient: Typically, this type of product consists of di-ammonium phosphate and nitrogen. This yeast “fertilizer” provides the yeast with a balanced diet and is perfect for yeast starters and low-malt content worts.

Also qualifying as beer preservatives are clarifying agents. You can find information on this topic by clicking on this link

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