I made this wiki to allow folks to post what upgrades in process or equipement really take one's beer brewing to the next level. The bottle-necks to better and better brewing if you will. (This was inspired be a couple comments on another post).

Where have you experienced large leaps in your beer's quality?

This is a community wiki post. Anyone with 100 or more reputation may edit the question and any answer. Editors get no reputation points for votes.

  • 1
    Can you list suggestions for how to control fermentation temperature? I pitched the yeast into my current batch at 69F and once the fermentation reached the violent stage, the LCD thermometer read 75F. This was in a 69F closet.
    – JackSmith
    Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 14:27
  • 2
    I've significantly revised the question and moved the suggestions you provided to individual answers. This way voting can bubble up the most popular steps and people will feel more like they can add their own suggestions. Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 14:41
  • This is a great post, and thanks for making it a community wiki. Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 14:45
  • I'm a huge fan of this question. Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 16:38
  • @JackSmith: See: brewadvice.com/questions/338/… Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 17:13

18 Answers 18


Temp Control for fermentation

Hitting the happy-yeast zone prevents high-temperature off-flavors like phenolics and low-temperature under attenuation.

There is a separate community wiki post on this subject.

  • This is on my short list of must-haves for getting good, consistent beer. Can't vote for my own posts, so consider this my upvote. Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 14:45
  • weird. that link doesn't go where it looks like it should.
    – baka
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 13:56
  • I think I've corrected the link, looks like it was broken in merging brewadvice into homebrew
    – STW
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 19:50


For me, this mostly applies to fermentation. Allow it to complete then wait a few more days. After packaging chill undisturbed for at least two weeks so suspended particles fall to the bottom. Like a good soup or pasta sauce, give the flavors a chance to mingle and mellow.

  • I really like this one.
    – brewchez
    Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 16:22
  • 1
    This is one of the hardest to learn when you have gallons of delicious homebrew waiting to be drunk. Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 17:10
  • This is one of the hardest "techniques" to learn when you have gallons of delicious homebrew waiting to be drunk. Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 17:11
  • 1
    get more equipment and brew again a couple of times, and it's less of an issue. :)
    – baka
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 13:55
  • This one is really hard to learn!
    – Poshpaws
    Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 9:54

Reading How to Brew

By John Palmer. It's available to read online for free, or you can buy a hard copy. How to Brew is an amazing book for beginners to read and experts to reference. No brewer should go without reading it.

  • 3
    Buy a copy! The third edition has updated and additional data not on the website. Also, John is a huge part of moving homebrew forward, and buying 10$ book to support him supports us all.
    – dana
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 21:45
  • It's worth noting, his online version is not the latest edition. I think it's the first edition, and not nearly as comprehensive. I believe as of this comment, his book is on its third edition, and he's currently working on a 4th edition.
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 16:18

Yeast Managment

Yeast produce different flavors during the phases in their lifecycle. Pitching the right quantity of healthy yeast is in the top two most important things you can do to control fermentation

  • Ester production occurs most strongly during the growth phase, when you first pitch.
  • Yeast uses oxygen to bud (grow). Insufficient aeration leads to incomplete fermentation.
  • voted up for the aeration comment....v important
    – Arlo427
    Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 20:41
  • I would add "make a starter". Unless you're fermenting a one-gallon batch, you're going to be seriously under-pitching with all liquid yeasts you can buy commercially. Even a 1L starter that's only been spinning for 24h will be better than simply dumping a tube or smack-pack into your fermenter. Dry yeast is better, but (in my area, at least) you can't get the variety you can with the liquid yeasts.
    – TMN
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 13:30

Write down everything you do. Don't kid yourself into thinking "I don't have to write this down, I'll remember", because you won't remember. The better you are about this, the easier it will be to do things repeatably. What temperature did you mash at? (not what temperature did the recipe say to mash at). What was the {pre,post} boil gravity, What was the {pre,post} boil volume. When did the hops go in. How long did chilling the wort take. What was the gravity after X days of fermentation...

  • 3
    I started taking pictures of EVERYTHING during my brew days. It was much easier for me to keep track of everything, and I can put the pics on the computer in a folder organized by date of all my brew days. I take pics of my hydrometer, thermometer, mash, boil, etc. This, coupled with writing things down really helps you find ways to improve your process, and maintain consistency between brews.
    – jsmith
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 13:25
  • Photos are a great idea.
    – Paolo
    Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 15:38

Using a Wort Chiller

This has a few advantages:

  • Better cold break
  • Less chance for unwanted organisms to get a foothold
  • Minimizes the time wort is in the DMS-precursor-producing temperature range
  • Better retention of Hop aromatics and flavor
  • This was one of the points where my homebrews took a noticeable leap in quality. Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 14:48
  • 5
    If you're still at the stage where you're doing partial boils of extract recipes, this isn't quite so necessary. I've got my cooling-method down pretty good where I fill my sink with ice-cold water, set the brew pot into it, and gently stir the wort while the faucet tricles into the sink, allowing the water to stay cold. The sink overflows into the other sink. My 3 gallon boils cool down to 75F in about 20 minutes and I get decent cold break, even from extract.
    – JackSmith
    Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 15:37
  • +1 JackSmith's comment about the relative ease of cooling partial boils. Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 22:51
  • 4
    I have a hard time getting over the water waste created here. In my city, dumping ~15 minutes of water flow is pretty much illegal. Any suggestions? Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 19:26
  • 1
    @MichaelMus It doesn't have to be waste. Save it for cleaning. Run it into your washing machine. Water plants. Make root beer with it. Pour it in your bath tub for a well-deserved post-brew soak. Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 20:44

Full Wort Boils

Boiling your full volume of wort — as opposed to boiling a concentrated portion of your wort and then adding water to the fermenter to reach your full volume — will significantly increase your hop utilization rates. Your hops simply cannot perform to their full potential in the high sugar concentration of a partial boil. Your IBUs will much better match the recipe's predictions if you perform a full-volume boil.

Full wort boils also helps prevent darkening of wort color. Full wort boils help keep your blonde ales from being golden ales and your pales from being ambers. Concentrated boils tend to promote more Maillard reactions within the wort, thus darkening the final beer slightly.

  • 2
    Most of the disadvantages of a partial boil are mitigated by adding much of the malt extract at the end of the boil. Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 22:49
  • also, it is now widely debated how much utilization differs between extract, PM, and all-grain brewing. This podcast has some of the best palettes in the beer world and they detected more hop flavor, aroma, and bitterness (with the same additions, time and weight) in brews other than the all-grain - beersmith.com/blog/2011/02/10/…
    – Pietro
    Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 14:46
  • A brewing book by Graham Wheeler gives a hop utilisation (alpha acid conversion) chart for various wort densities. The chart implies that boiling hops in water alone is the most efficient way to use hops. The most efficient way to use malt is IMHO to strain the hop tea into the fermentation vessel and then add the malt. As for the malt extract IMHO it does not need to be boiled at all. Pasterurisation in the boiled hop tea is sufficient to inhibit any micro-organisms. Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 17:02

Reading Designing Great Beers

By Ray Daniels. It's packed full of principles and practicalities.

Buy it on Amazon

  • 1
    Could we change this to just "Reading respected brewing books?" How to Brew is an amazing book for beginners to read and experts to reference. We could then list books by name underneath the heading. I don't want to just make this change unless it's appreciated.
    – JackSmith
    Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 15:44
  • 1
    I think I'd actually rather see books listed seperatly just to see how they are valued. Actually, maybe a new question about books for voting each one would be cool... but its probably redundant with this thread now.
    – brewchez
    Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 16:26
  • Fair enough. I'll add it as an answer. We can delete these comments.
    – JackSmith
    Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 16:34
  • Homebrewing Meta I might link all those books to our amazon account. just FYI. Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 16:38
  • Of all the brewing books I have read, this one really stands out to me. That's why I listed it individually. Homebrewing Meta I didn't link to their Amazon pages because I figured people could find it at their favor bookstore & I didn't want to play favorites. [/meta] Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 16:52

Repitition, Repitition, Repitition

The biggest leap in quality and consistency for myself was setting up an area where the brewing process becomes routine. This has many benifits, the biggest of which is an increase on success rate for a clean, uninfected home brew.

Think of it as almost a production line. I'm lucky enough to have a room i can dedicate exclusivly to brewing.

  • Starting off with a sanitization area where all my equipment can be cleaned and preped for use. This surface is the height of my "Strike zone" (the area at which tasks are carried out with the least amount of strain on the body). The advantage here is a relativly effortless cleaning process that cuts down cleaning time, but most of all makes it easier to fight the urge to cut corners which could lead to ruining my brew.
  • Next to this is a shelf where my tray of sanitized equipment, wort, yeast and any other ingredients can lay as I start the primary. which is already at the level (Strike Zone) required for racking into the carboy later.
  • Underneith this station hides said carboy which was cleaned with the other equipment at the start of fermentation and sealed. Now when the primary is finished I sanitize, rinse and rack. When in the carboy, the primary and all used equipment have been cleaned and stored underneith, where the carboy once sat.
  • Finally we have our cabinet of clean bottles waiting to be filled. They're pre-cleaned and ready for sanitation. Grolsch bottles of course, so no caps or machine required for capping.

Perhaps this sounds extensive? The scale of this 'massive' production line is a whopping 8" at most. It may sound silly to have such a setup but...

  • im never out of arms reach from anything I need for each process. So there is no searching for that elusive bottle of Diversol or running off because I forgot something.
  • Eliminates transporting my freshly sanitized equipment from my bathroom/kitchen to my brew station and collecting any nasties along the way.
  • All of the work becomes much easier, so starting a batch requires about as much thought as cracking a bottle from the last brew.
  • Last but not least: Ive increased my seccess rate and consistency

Going All-Grain

  • 2
    I know AG lets you make a wider variety of beers and gives you a greater control of the process. But I wouldn't say it's a step that immediately leads to higher quality beer. There's a learning curve with AG. At the end of it you might be making better beer, but for a while you may struggle.
    – Hopwise
    Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 15:56
  • 4
    I think going all grain has a much lower impact than proper fermentation, knowledge, sanitation, and pretty much everything else. You can get away with DME and a partial mash for many beers, leaving you time and money to focus on more important parameters.
    – dana
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 21:43
  • 2
    Frankly, to tell a new brewer (since almost all brewers start as extract or partial-mash) that they will be brewing inferior beers so long as they don't do all-grain is as misleading as it is flat out untrue. There's been a lot of award winning extract beers. I'd be discouraged if an all-grain brewer told me I'll never amount to good beer if I don't drop all the cash necessary to go all-grain. That kind of misguided perception needs to stop.
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 16:16
  • FWIW, if you go the BIAB route, you can do all-grain brews with a minimum investment (assuming you've got a pot big enough to do full-volume boils).
    – TMN
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 13:43

Sourcing the freshest ingredients (especially extracts)

  • This isn't quite as important to me. I've made some good beer with stale malt. With the possibly exception of really old hops, the difference between fresh & stale ingredients is small. Can't vote for my own posts, so this is my down-vote. Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 14:47
  • I used to have trouble with poor quality LME (meaning old). I switched to DME because of better shelf life properties. So this one is important to me.
    – brewchez
    Commented Mar 5, 2010 at 16:08

Oxygenating the Wort and use of Yeast (Micro)Nutrients

This made a noticeable difference to my beers, especially those over 1.070.


Good Vorlauf

Once you've gone all-grain improving your recirculation will leave proteins in the mash. This increases beer clarity.

  • Getting a nice clear sweet wort is a point of pride for me. Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 14:52
  • I like a nice clear pint as well. Does recirc really clean up proteins in particular? I thought it was just solids in general.
    – brewchez
    Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 16:27
  • 1
    When I have collected all the sweet wort there is always a grey, scummy protein layer on the top of my grainbed. This forms during vorlauf because the grainbed is fine enough to capture large protein clumps. Commented Feb 25, 2010 at 16:54
  • I've always thought that grey layer on top of the grainbed was grain dust.
    – Jeff Roe
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 4:07
  • Vorlauf improves your efficiency (maybe) but not necessarily the quality of your beer. BIAB requires no vorlauf (and no sparge) and can result in excellent beer. And if you have a enough water and a fine crush you can easily get efficiency over 75%.
    – paul
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 20:03

Know your water report & filter/treat your water to style

There's a good reason Ireland is known for their stouts and the Czech Republic is known for their Pils. They brew beers best suited for their water based on the minerals in them. At the very least, owe it to your beer to filter it through a charcoal filter, or add campden tablets to clear up chlorine if your water is treated. The largest ingredient in your beer is water. Treating it to get rid of chlorine or whatever well-water bugs exist and treating it to get the right pH and alkalinity is what separates good beers from great beers. Get a copy of your water report, know how to read it, and if you want to brew to style, make adjustments using various salts.

If you're doing an all-grain mash, use 5.2 pH stabilizer. Some brewers contest that 5.2 will add a salty flavor to the beer, while other proponents of 5.2 defend that it does not. The alternative is to add comparable salts to bring the pH down. Believe it or not, you'll get more tannins out of your grains from a higher than normal pH than what you'll typically get out of boiling your grains or squeezing the grain bag during a BIAB or partial-mash. Classic decoction mashing would involve brewers separating out a portion of the mash into a separate kettle, bring it to a boil, then add it back in to the main mash tun to bring the mash temperature up to the next decoction.

For all-grain brewing, knowing your water and filtering/treating it appropriately is an absolute must in order to brew excellent beers.

  • Good answer, but pH 5.2 is pretty rank stuff. Used in the quantity needed to bring hard water into line it will make the beer taste salty.
    – mdma
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 15:28
  • Oddly enough, I never had that problem, and I've been consistently using it. Maybe my quantities are off?
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 15:42


Leave the hot and cold break behind. Use your whirlfloc and Irish moss properly. If you use them in boil and put all the hop trub in your fermentor you're just wasting space and limiting your final volume. Calculate your postboil volume to account for trub loss.


Press your spent grain

Something often overlooked in all grain brewing, but will greatly boost your mash efficiency. A lot if methods and devices have been created.

The commercial HEBS system gets most of it's effeciency from the press that leaves spent grain almost dry.

  1. BIAB - hang mash bag over kettle and use high temp silicone gloves to squeeze out what you can.

  2. Method I've used a lot. A gravity hydro press. Basically once you have exposed grain on the sparge, put a garbage bag in the mash tun and fill with water to press the grain.

  3. Many contraptions have been made to do this in homebrew. Worth a Google.

If your grain is almost dry and not sticky, you're doing your mash and press right.


Using a glass carboy for fermentation instead of plastic pail

Especially necessary for long-term secondary fermentations/maturing of beer in order to prevent oxidation since glass is not permeable by oxygen, whereas plastic is.


Replaced mash tun washer hose with stainless false bottom

I took the stainless water hose out of my 10 gallon Rubbermaid mash tun and upgraded with a stainless steel false bottom. With the washer hose, there was channeling when fly sparging, but now it works great, and it increased my efficiency greatly. I also noticed that the vorlauf goes much faster with minimal loss in temperature over the washer hose. This might not have much of an effect on the end product, but saved me a lot of time an money due to a better method and resulting increase in efficiency.

  • I would disagree. When done right, a well made and placed stainless braided hose is a very effective false bottom. Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 13:25
  • @EvilZymurgist, this was simply my experience, and small change to my set-up that improved my mash significantly.. not sure it deserves a down-vote. I recall fighting with the stainless braided hose all the time, and went through 2 versions of it that were both very well made (I even purchased a stainless braided hose intended for covering radiator hoses in race cars). Dealing with grain ending up under the hose, and hitting it while stirring and the resulting damage just aren't worth it when a false bottom can be purchased for around $30.
    – jedi jay
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 15:00
  • maybe the wiki needs a rewrite on choosing a false bottom pros and cons for each style. Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 15:08

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