Brewing Everything How to Make Your Beer Cider Mead Sake Kombucha and other Fermented Beverages

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Brewing at home is incredibly fun and satisfying. But you need to always be aware of certain safety risks and to take precautions to minimize them.


• Fermentation, which is the process by which beer and other drinks are brewed, literally involves growing and harnessing microbes, otherwise known as germs. This means that the brewing process does involve some risk of attracting unwanted mold or bacteria. But if you properly sanitize your equipment at the start and at each step along the way, you can minimize the risk of contamination. (Proper sanitizing also can protect against off flavors in the finished product.) Yeast, which is the key ingredient in most of these beverages, is a very strong organism, and in most conditions, as long as you are continually sanitizing, the yeast will naturally outcompete any bad bacteria.

• One popular sanitizing solution that I like is an acid-based, no-rinse brand called Star San, but there are other effective products such as iodine solutions. I recommend avoiding bleach or chlorine solutions, as they can impart unpleasant aromas or flavors to the finished brew. Whichever solution you use, just follow the directions on the bottle. Most sanitizing solutions come in concentrated form: you add a small amount of the sanitizer to a bucket of water and submerge the equipment you want to sanitize for at least a few minutes. Boiling your equipment for several minutes is another way to kill anything you might not want.

• MOLD: If, despite your best sanitizing efforts, you do see mold in or on one of your creations, throw the brew out immediately.

• ALLERGIES TO INGREDIENTS: If you’re brewing for yourself, obviously you shouldn’t include any ingredient to which you know you’re allergic. Beer that includes lactose should not be served to anyone who is lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy. If you want to serve a home-brewed beverage to someone who is allergic to gluten, try cider or mead, which are naturally gluten free, unless you add malt to them.

• FRESHNESS OF INGREDIENTS: Make sure bottled juice or any other packaged ingredient is not past its sale date. Examine apples and other fresh ingredients to make sure they are not stale.

• EXPLODING BOTTLES: You may have heard people talk about exploding home-brew bottles. Bottles do sometimes explode, but this happens relatively rarely, and when it does happen, it’s generally caused by pressure building up over time, after you’ve set your brew aside to ferment. The risk of a bottle explosion is really quite low as long as you follow the sugar measurements given in the recipes, but I recommend storing brew bottles in a closed space to lessen the possibility of damage or injury from flying glass if an explosion does occur.

• INJURIES FROM CARRYING HEAVY CONTAINERS: Large batches of beverages can be quite heavy. Use common sense to avoid back strain when you are lifting and moving pots of brew, as, for example, when transferring a pot into an ice bath.

• BURNS/SCALDING: You also will be handling boiling or very hot liquid a lot, like when you transfer the contents of the pot to a sanitized bucket or glass jug or drain liquid from mash into another container. Use common sense to avoid burns: keep your face well away from steam, and wear protective clothing (e.g., oven mitts and insulated aprons) as appropriate to prevent injury.

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