So you started brewing awhile ago, and you’ve gotten pretty good at it. You’ve brewed some ales, and some more ales. You’ve added more hops, and even more hops, to some of your beers and they were great. But maybe you’ve been noticing a certain sameness creeping into your brewdays and want to try something new — but what is there?
For intermediate brewers, there are a ton of “new” things you can try. Few of these are new to brewing as a whole, but most are underappreciated in the homebrewing community and mostly attempted only by advanced homebrewers. If you’re looking to try something new to you, consider the following options.
If you’re an extract brewer, you can try all-grain brewing — or at least move up to partial mashing. Both will increase the flexibility of your brewing. And, you don’t need a ton of space either; even apartment brewers who can manage 5.0-gallon (19-L) extract brews can easily — and affordably — switch to 3.0-gallon (11-L) all-grain brewing. And if you are going “full-size” all-grain, you can read our all-grain brewday walkthrough to acquaint you with the process.
For all-grain brewers, trying new things can start with milling the grains. For example, you can try malt conditioning — lightly wetting the grain immediately before crushing to get fewer small husk pieces. This can help with lautering and also yield better extract efficiency because you can close your mill gap a bit. If you want to evaluate your crush like the pros, you can use malt sieves to separate the fractions of your milled grain.
Most all-grain brewers stir their crushed grain into their brewing liquor. However, you can dough in by adding grain and water at the same time. This method can help you easily hit your target mash in temperature. If you’re a fan of big beers — and have some time on your hands — give reiterated mashing a try. In reiterated mashing, you mash your grains with wort instead of water. Two mashes yield wort that is (almost) twice the gravity of “regular” all-grain wort.
If you’ve started to measure the pH of your mash, be aware that boil pH is important to the quality of your beer, too. And there’s a quick way to assess and fix, if needed, your boil pH that doesn’t even require a pH meter.
For some ales, open fermentation and top cropping is an option. This can be an interesting process and top cropping yields fresh yeast for your next batch of ale.
Another option for fans of big beers is to brew even bigger beers. One technique that can help you brew the strongest beers is “feeding” the beers during fermentation.
If you dry hop your beers, you can avoid introducing oxygen (from the spaces between the hop bracts in whole hops) by purging your dry hops with CO2; all it takes is some dry ice.
Most bottle-conditioned homebrew recipes call for adding 3/4 cup (or some similar amount) of corn sugar to get the proper level of carbonation. If you’d like to fine tune your carbonation, however, there is one added thing you need to take into consideration — the amount of carbonation already in the fermented beer. This depends on the fermentation temperature. Use our easy charts to nail your level of carbonation exactly.
Want to get more beer than you have fermenter space for? Try high-gravity brewing. With high-gravity brewing, you brew a beer stronger than intended, then blend it down to working strength (with deaerated water) before serving. Great when you need to produce a lot of beer quickly.
And finally, if you want to try something new, but not in your brewhouse, you could plant a beer garden.