Skip navigation

If you’ve read up on how to make beer yourself, you only have part of the story. There are a few hard-learned lessons that I wish someone had told me earlier in my brewing career. Here is a sampling of my favorite ideas that should make any home brewer’s life a little easier.

– Go Glass
No doubt about it, using a glass carboy is the way to go for fermentation. There are just so many upsides to glass versus plastic: it doesn’t scratch easily, it’s easy to clean, it lasts forever and you can see through it. Save the plastic bucket for when you bottle and when you soak items in sanitizer.

– Get A Carboy Handle
Ok, there is a downside to glass: it is slippery – and heavy – when wet. A simple carboy handle eliminates the danger forever. You’ll wonder how you ever did without it.

– Start A Siphon The Easy Way
Stop sucking on your siphon hose! I know that it’s an excuse to gargle with 100-proof vodka, but there are simply better ways to get the beer moving without the risk of contamination. I take my siphon hose, attach the straight plastic tube from my bottle filler, and then fill the whole thing with water from the faucet. When it comes out the other end, I use the plastic hose clamp that comes with most siphon hoses and clamp that end. I then quickly insert the bottle filler tube in the other hose end, making a complete loop. I usually hang the loop from some kind of hook until I’m ready for the siphon. By keeping the plastic hose clamp fully closed, and then pulling the ends apart, I can attach the remaining hose end to the racking tube without losing any water. When you are ready to start the flow, release the clamp and let the water run into any empty vessel until beer comes out. Practice it a few times with water to get the hang of it. It beats all other methods hands-down.

– Get A Bottle Washer
This beautifully simple piece of engineering costs between $10-15, but is worth its weight in gold. It screws onto your laundry tub faucet (typical hose fitting) and saves gallons of hot water. Rinse out you carboy and your bottles with more pressure, plus save energy – what’s not to like?

– Sanitize Your Strainer The Easy Way
Sanitizing solutions (bleach) will corrode metal mesh strainers that you likely use to filter out hop and grain residue. The easy way is to boil the strainer along with the beer ingredients. Just fashion a paper clip to hook into the strainer handle and for the other end to hook on to the edge of your brew kettle. Problem solved.

– Get Lots Of Mesh Bags
You’ve likely seen these at homebrew supply shops: little mesh bags with a drawstring at the top. I use these for adjunct grains before the boil and for hops during the boil. These handy and inexpensive bags virtually eliminate the tedious process of straining out chunks from your brew.

– Add A Little Something
Once you get the mesh bags, adding in hop pellets and adjunct grains will result in a beer with more complex character, and for very little extra work. Crushing a half-pound of crystal malt and putting it in your kettle before the boil adds a nice body to the finished product. And don’t get me started on the heavenly aroma your beer will have when you use hop leaf or hop pellets . . .

– Check Out The Dollar Store
Nobody said you have to buy everything at a homebrew supply store. I’ve bought turkey basters (cheaper than a glass wine thief), metal strainers, funnels and thermometers for less money at big box stores, and yes, even dollar stores.

– Grow Your Own
Growing your own barley is probably out of the question. Growing your own hops is not. With the recent run-up in the price of hops, buying a hops rhizome will set you back less than it might cost for the hops needed in two recipes. I have two Cascade vines that produce a lot of hops with pretty much zero care. Check out supply houses, all of which tend to ship in the Spring. You’ll be surprised at how cheap they are. Best of all, you can cut your rhizome back in a year or two and get another plant for free! Did I mention that I like free?

If these tips make for happier brewing, then mission accomplished on my part. After all, the goal of this hobby is to have fun. All I ask in return is a toast to me if your beer turns out better after following these tips. Don’t worry; I’ll hear it.

Image Credit


  1. Ten Top Tips for Home Brewing Beer – BeerSmith
  2. 20 Tips for New Brewers – Brew Your Own