I'm looking at these instructions - http://www.geterbrewed.com/craft-a-beer-instructions/ (I promise I'm not selling anything).

In section 13, it says something along the lines of "Add the hops after 10 days ... the hops are added by placing the tea bag into a cup of boiling water...then add the contents of the cup including the tea bags to the fermenter."

Now my primary fermentation vessel has a handy tap on the side so I never take the lid off to check gravity during my brews. I'll have to break the rules for these instructions which means air and germs will get into the wort. How much of a risk is this? How can I minimise the contamination? Why do we even have air locks if we are in the habit of removing bucket lids during fermentation?

I'm still a bit new to this but this basic question has always vexed me.

3 Answers 3


How much of a risk is this? - To answer your first question the risk is minimal. once fermentation has begun in force the solution is mostly unfavorable for non yeast microorganisms. no this isn't to say that a bad bacteria cant get in and spoil every thing they certainly can and will but generally the yeast will take care of itself.

How can I minimize the contamination? - Contamination can be minimized by properly sanitizing everything first. I would recommend sanitizing the inside and outside of the vessel you are going to use to boil your hops in and then if possible pour directly from that into the fermenter.

Why do we even have air locks if we are in the habit of removing bucket lids during fermentation? - Air locks are as the name implies more about keeping air out than germs though they preform both functions. The reason for them is to keep oxygen out to keep the yeast fermenting and prevent oxidation of the organic compounds in the beer.

I hope this answers your questions.

  • I see. So a temporary bit of Oxygen isn't a problem because that will soon get blasted back out by the C02 being produced? Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 19:36
  • Essentially yes co2 production depends alot of the stage of fermentation but an insignificant amount of o2 will enter the fermenter as long as you don't leave it open too long. Also co2 is heavier than air and will tend to stay in the fermenter as long as it isn't agitated too much.
    – Gremwatch
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 19:44
  • Just out of curiosity, do you really need to boil the hops? Surely this would cause you to lose a lo of hop aroma? Could you instead just soak it in alcohol (say e.g. Vodka), for example?
    – FredrikH-R
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 12:31

I appreciate that you want to be careful and do this right, but you are way too uptight about this.

"Open fermentation" is a thing. I don't think it's really common these days, but it is a thing done by professional brewers, for example, Anchor. Think about that for a while. Let it sink in. Google it and look at some of the images. Then realize that you really don't need to worry about contamination from opening your fermenter to put in some dry hops.

I usually take the lid off of my primary bucket several times a day. I like to keep an eye (and nose) on things. Take the lid off! Stick your head in there! (Don't keep it in too long because of the CO2.) Don't drool! Don't sneeze! Your beer will be fine!


"Don't drool! Don't sneeze! Your beer will be fine!" LOL

When a beer will be in fermentation a long time, I use carboy to minimize oxidation.

When I am running a normal fermentation process (within 2 wks), I use a bucket and tend to open the top more than necessary to make sure stuff is happening and also to add stuff as it goes. More hops, flavors, etc.

I have never had any problems except once I got some weird yeast funk in a grapefruit pale (I think it was a bad yeast. Took 48 hrs to get going too.). I added 2 qts of grapefruit juice to the keg and keg dry hopped it. That offset the funk nicely.

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