There's plenty that can go wrong with homebrew, but with luck most of the consequences will be minor.
Following a few golden rules will give your beer every chance of success and avoid the prospect of undrinkable beer.
- Join a forum about homebrewing so you can learn from others and seek guidance.
- Study up about brewing, both from books and on the internet. But don't believe everything you read, particularly on the internet.
- Find a reputable homebrew store, even if you buy from them online, because they will be a wealth of knowledge.
- Make sure everything is clean. Dirt is the enemy of beer and can harbour bacteria that could ruin your brew.
- Be scrupulous with your sanitation. Anything that comes into contact with the beer after the boil is finished, except hops, must be sanitised.
- Measure everything: temperature, volumes, weights, gravities and times. That way you will be able to reproduce the same beer in future, know what to tweak next time or where you went wrong. Measuring is particularly important for all-grain brewers to know when conversion of starch to sugar has taken place, efficiency (how much sugar is extracted from the grain) and so on.
- Don't cut corners unless you understand the implications of doing so.
- Use quality ingredients.
- Control the fermentation temperature. Brewing too hot will produce off flavours, while brewing too cold risks the yeast becoming inactive. Also try and minimise temperature fluctuations.
- Get some brewing software.
- Relax, don't worry, have another homebrew. Seasoned homebrewers are often amused by how much novices worry about their beer and if they're doing things right. The bottom line is that if you have followed the steps above you will be well on the way to brewing a great beer, so there's no need to fret!
If you do need advice or to troubleshoot a problem you're having, head over to our forum.