Full volume boils - Boiling the full volume of water reduces caramilization (prevents darker beer), improves hop utilization, and decreases the chance of contamination compared to adding water later.
Use good water - Have your water checked out to be sure it's suitable for brewing. If not, you can always buy 5 gallon jugs of spring water from the grocery store.
Late addition extract - Adding extract late prevents the sugar from caramilizing which may not be desirable for lighter style beers. Add it late enough to sterilize.. normally 15 minutes from the end of the boil.
Play with specialty grains - Add color, body, taste and aroma to your beer by steeping specialty grains for 20 minutes while the water is heating up.
Create your own recipes - We brewed on kits for a very long time and while they're great, it's also fun to create your own recipes as well. Start thinking about combinations of ingredients to try. Use dry malt extract to get used to a "base flavor" and play with different hop and yeast combinations!
Homebrewing Tips - Part 1
Temp Probes - Place wired temp probes, like the kind used in refrigerators and keezers into a jar filled with vodka to prevent temp swings and more closely match the temperature of the beer. When using water, add a little Star San and it will need to be replaced less frequently.
Prevent Scorching - When brewing BIAB, use a cooling rack in the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching.
Save The Stir Bar - Place a magnet on the starter container bottom to keep the stir bar out of the fermenter.
Mason Jars - Quart mason jars are made of tempered glass and can withstand being heated and cooled repeatedly. They are also very easily sanitized. With screw on, sealeable lids, they are perfect for everything from soaking oak chips in bourbon to rehydrating dry yeast and making premade starters.
Remove Painted Logos - Remove painted and silkscreened writing on bottles by soaking them in Star San.
Add A Label - To put your own paper label on a bottle, brush some milk on it and attach. When it's time for removal, water will take it off easily.
Lose The Old Tubing - Replace tubing every six months. I was terribly guilty of this one. There is no reason to have old, discolored, grody (yes i said grody) tubing to connect the auto siphon or bottling bucket. Don't risk infection...replacing them is not that expensive.
A Few Kegging Solutions
Problem: Regular (non-perlick) taps often stick when left unused for a few days. Solution: Fill a small spray bottle with vodka or better yet, grain alcohol and spray the nozzle in the end of the tap. Hold a bar towel around the end of the nozzle to prevent dripping.
Problem: Beer comes out foamy. Solution: Pull the tap on quickly. This is the number one mistake patrons make at my home bar. If this doesn't work, perhaps the problem is larger. Be sure each tap line is at least 4-5 feet long (longer is preferred). Warm beer will foam more. Finally, serving pressure can normally be very low. I have four taps and my psi is always below 10 and typically set between 5-7. Inspect the liquid side poppet and replace or lube if necessary.
Problem: Keg lid won't seal. Solution: Set your PSI to around 30 to "seat" the seal, then you can reduce it it whatever you like. Also be sure to lube the large o-ring with food grade keg lube. If you are still having trouble, try reversing the keg lid 180 degrees and see if that helps. Sometimes exchanging the lid with a different keg will do the trick. Finally, put a coin under one or both of lid arms to apply extra leverage to the seal. Spray some starsan around the o-ring or submerge in a tub to confirm it holds pressure.
Problem: How much beer is in my keg? Solution: Weigh the keg. A gallon weighs 8.34lbs so that puts a full keg at approx 51lbs factoring in 8.5lbs for the weight of the keg. This works out nicely because there are 52 beers in a keg.
Another solution is to put a temp sensitive strip on the side of the keg which will show you the approx beer level. Moving a keg from cold to room temp will show a condensation line after a few minutes also showing the level. In-line flow meters are another great option albeit expensive.
Problem: CO2 regulator PSI rises slowly over a few days. Solution: This usually means one or more of the kegs contain beer that is over carbonated--even if only slightly. Be sure to bleed off all the shared head space to be sure the set PSI is maintained. Periodic bleeding may also be necessary.
Problem: How can I bottle from the tap? Solution: It's easier than you think! First, the beer should be as cold as possible and you should spray and empty each bottle with sanitizer to reduce foaming. Next, set the PSI at the regulator very low (around 2-3) and bleed all the CO2 from the keg to be used.
Alternatively, you can remove the gas side ball lock from the keg and bleed the CO2 until the hissing sound begins to diminish. At this point, there's usually enough CO2 to fill a 22oz or 2-12 oz bottle. It also helps to considerably reduce foaming.
If you have a way to blow a burst of CO2 into the bottle before filling, this will reduce oxygen contacting the beer. Finally, place the end of bottle over the tap and pull the tap handle on very quickly being careful not to overfill. A cobra/picnic tap will also work using the same method.