Top 13 Beginner Brewing Mistakes

I’ve made more than my fair share of homebrewing mistakes, luckily most were fixable or at least didn’t end up as a disaster.

Here’s a list of the most common homebrewing mistakes that beginners make, based on my own mistakes and what I’ve learned talking to other homebrewers. Okay, mostly my mistakes, but you get the idea.

Not Cleaning And Sanitizing
I’ve mentioned this a lot and if you’ve read any homebrewing blogs or books, you’ve probably read this a dozen times. It’s not overkill and I know that no one likes cleaning and sanitizing, but if you don’t do it, it’s the easiest way to ruin your beer. There are literally thousands of tiny evil doers that want to destroy your beer. Don’t make it easier from them by not cleaning and sanitizing.

Relying On The Airlock
Bubbling in the airlock is just one sign that yeast are turning your wort into beer. That means that just because the bubbling has stopped doesn’t mean that your beer is done fermenting. The only way to really know if you’re beer is ready to be bottled is if you measure the gravity of your beer with a hydrometer and the gravity is no longer dropping.

Not Waiting Long Enough
I know, I hate waiting for my beer too. However, give the yeast enough time to do their job or you could end up with bad tasting beer or even worse bottle bombs (imagine your beer bottles exploding). Your beer will need at least 1-2 weeks in the primary, 1 week or longer in the secondary if you’re using one. Make sure that the gravity is no longer changing, not just that the bubbling is done in the airlock. It’s tough to be patient, but the results will be better. Also, it can take 1-2 weeks or longer for your beer to carbonate in the bottle. It’s a long time, but trust me on this one.

Starting Out With A Complicated Beer
This was one of the many mistakes I made and luckily my first beer turned out good, but it probably would’ve been a whole lot easier if I started out with a simpler first beer. I know that a simple beer isn’t as much fun, but once you get the hang of it, the homebrewing process gets a lot easier and it’ll be a lot easier to make a more complicated beer without making a ton of mistakes.

Not Following The Recipe
I’m guilt of this one too. On brew day things can happen kind of fast, that’s why I recommend reading the instructions that come with the recipe kit beforehand. That way if you have any questions, you can ask them before brew day and not when you’re on the clock. I recommend checking off each step so that you know that you did each step and that they’re doing them in the correct order.

Just Following The Recipe
I highly recommend that you start out by just following the recipe, but after you get a few batches in, you’ll probably be like me, unable to resist tweaking the recipe some. If you’re really like me, you’ll want to add chocolate or coffee whenever it’s appropriate (and sometimes when it’s not). Just limit what you add, trying one tweak at a time. Don’t get all crazy and completely change everything. At least not yet.

Using Old Ingredients
Whenever possible, get fresh ingredients. Buy your ingredients from a local homebrew shop that you trust and can ask when the hops came in or the malt extract was made. I’ve also found a few online shops that I trust, in case you don’t have a good local one. Avoid the cans of malt extract, there’s a good chance that they’ve been sitting in their for a long time.

Not Removing The Brew Pot To Add The Malt Extract
Speaking of malt extract, make sure that you take your brew pot off the hot burner when you add the malt extract. Stir the malt extract in evenly, then put it back on the burner so you don’t end up with malt extract that’s stuck to the bottom of pot, getting scorched and creating bad burnt flavors.

Boiling Over The Wort
This is a big one! Make sure you pay attention to the wort when it’s boiling. Don’t leave the house and run errands. I recommend not even leaving the kitchen. It’s like the wort knows when you’re not watching, because as soon as you turn away, it will boil over and create a huge mess all over your stove that’s a pain to clean up.

Keeping The Brew Pot Lid On
Sure keeping the lid on the pot will increase the temperature of the wort quicker, but it’ll also trap in complex sounding chemicals that want to give your beer off tasting flavors and aromas.

Oxidizing Your Beer
You want to make sure your wort has plenty of oxygen when you pitch your yeast, however you don’t want any oxygen to get into after that point. That means you have to be careful if you’re racking it a secondary or bottling your beer. That mean’s no shaking or stirring it after pitch the yeast.

Storing Your Beer At The Wrong Temperatures
I live in Florida and it gets pretty hot here in the summers, so I know a lot about storing beers at the wrong temperature. I have a chest freezer now so I can keep my fermenting wort at whatever temperature I want, however when I started out I just put my fermenting bucket in the closet. I didn’t realize it then, but that bucket was getting pretty hot, temperatures into the low 80’s. Each yeast has a different temperature that it likes (it’s usually listed in the recipe or on the packaging), but however you look at it, eighty degrees is too hot. If you’re up north, make sure you’re not storing your beer some place too cold during the winter.

Not Keeping Records
Another not so exciting part of homebrewing, but if you do make a mistake or if your beer comes out amazing, you’re going to want to know why. Taking notes won’t always ensure that you know why, but it does make it a lot easier. When I started out, I saved my recipe instructions in a folder. I wrote down notes right on that paper, so I would know places where I varied from the recipe or what mistakes I made on brew day.

What’s a mistake that you made, that other people could learn from?

If you’re new to homebrewing, and want to learn more, make sure you follow Passion For The Pint on Facebook or Twitter. If you’re looking to take it a step further, there’s an online course for homebrewing called the HomeBrew Academy. I’ll be reviewing it later this month.

About the author /


I'm a former coffee blogger, but I’ve been getting to know some really good craft beers and really getting into home brewing. I couldn’t resist starting this little project called Passion For The Pint. When I’m not blogging about coffee or beer, you can find me exploring New Orleans’ wide range of eateries, rooting for the New York Yankees (don’t hate me, I’m originally from New York), working out to burn off the beer calories or reading about beer.

  • Dave (The Beer Bru)

    Hi Mike,
    Another common mistake is to drink your beer too quickly after bottling! Leave your bottled beer in a dark cupboard for 3, 6, maybe even 12 months and record how your beer tastes as it ages. The longer you leave it the better it should get!
    Great site btw!
    Cheers
    Dave (The Beer Bru)
    http://www.TheBeerBru.co.za

    • http://www.passionforthepint.com Mike Crimmins

      That’s one of the hardest lessons, but I have beers that I brewed a year ago and I’m tasting more and more flavors from them, each time I try one.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Dave. Not a bad side over their either! I’ll be stopping by and checking in, as well as planning my trip for South Africa, looks like you have some good beer down there.