1.Pitch the right amount of yeast
It’s criminal that Wyeast and White Labs suggest that just one of their vials is enough for a five gallon batch. Even under the freshest of conditions each vial contains only 100 billion active cells. That’s not even enough to (properly) ferment a 5 gallon batch at 1.040 original gravity. But brewers continue to assume that one (5G) batch requires one vial of yeast. The result is off-flavors, stuck fermentations and dumped batches. The fix is simple. Figure out how much yeast you actually need and then pitch the right amount. The Mr. Malty Pitch Rate Calculator is a great tool for this. Just plug in your target O.G. and volume and Mr. Malty will tell you how many vials you need or how big of a starter to make. Problem solved.
2. Use a Brew Day Checklist
Brew days can be hectic, especially when entertaining guests and imbibing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten a critical step like adding yeast nutrient, aerating wort, or taking a pH reading. At some point along the way I wised up and started using a checklist. I ordered the tasks chronologically and divvy them up into their respective sections: Pre-Mash, Mash, Boil, Chill and Clean. I don’t move on to the next section of tasks until every task i the current list is checked off. This pretty much guarantees I forget nothing.
3. Switch to Kegs
This one is a bit controversial and is sure to get some people fired up, but hear me out. Beyond being infinitely faster and easier, kegging has several key advantages. Firstly, with bottling, carbonating your beers to just the right volume of CO2 can be very tricky. Not enough priming sugar and you’ve got flat beer. Too much and you’ve got bottle bombs. The margin of error is slim. Plus with a keg you can always taste a sample and dial the CO2 up or down depending on your preference. Kegs also double as a rugged, oxygen-proof container for storing and aging beer. So if I have a beer that I know needs to sit for a while (like a sour) I can transfer to a keg and never have to worry about oxygen seeping in and ruining my beer. Lastly, when kegging you only need to clean and sanitize one receptacle – the keg. With bottles you have to carefully clean and sanitize each bottle. It’s a lot of work and it’s easy to slack off and end up with a couple infected beers. Let me be clear – I love bottle conditioned beer; perhaps even slightly prefer it over kegged beer (when done right). But the unpredictability and the time and energy required to bottle make kegging the easy choice.