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Advice for every level homebrewer: Use these homebrewing tips from Bell's employees & General Store Clerks

Homebrew Tips

Homebrew has always been the heart of what we do. It's our roots. Larry Bell began brewing in the early 80’s on a 15-gallon soup pot, and ran a homebrew supply store before opening the brewery. Today this is still an important part of who we are. 

The Bell's General Store, adjacent to the Eccentric Cafe, has become a place not only for beer to-go and merchandise, but a place for local breweries and homebrewers to shop homebrew supplies. Our store offers supplies that appeal to every homebrewer, no matter the level of expertise.

With the help of our knowledgeable General Store clerks, as well as some Bell's employees who are experienced homebrewers, we are excited to share with you some tips that will hopefully help you on your next homebrew adventure.

Check back weekly for a new tip!

1. Are you having trouble getting consistency between batches? Start taking notes to figure out what is changing and say goodbye to surprise hydrometer readings! We even offer a free printable sheet to help get you started. Next time you're in the General Store be sure to ask one of our store clerks for a Brew Day Stats Sheet.

2. Oxygen Is Not Your Friend (Part 1)- Commercial breweries do everything they can to eliminate oxygen contact following wort aeration, measuring pick-up in parts per billion. Always purge vessels and packages with CO2, and consider transferring under a small amount of CO2 pressure and bottling with counter-pressure filling equipment.

3. Oxygen Is Not Your Friend (Part 2) - A single drop of water can contain up to 100 ppb of dissolved oxygen, and 5 drops of water in a 12oz bottle is enough to significantly impact long-term freshness. Sanitized and well-drained bottles and kegs help keep oxygen pick-up at a minimum.

4. Trouble with off flavors? Your tap water may be to blame. Here’s an easy trick to remove chlorine & chloramine without filtration: Add a campden tablet to your brew water! The potassium metabisulfite will react to neutralize the chlorine in your water and prevent nasty vinyl off flavors.

5. Focus on brewing base beers of good quality and repeatability, that means taking notes on EVERYTHING from the start of a brew day through packaging. Developing a sound process builds a foundation that will support a lot of experimentation and help with recipe development.

6. Want to take your NEIPA game to the next level? Dry hop with Cryo hops to bring the fresh dank, tropical, and resinous notes to your hazy monster.

7. Trying to work out the best dry hop schedule? Try this: Add 1/3 of your hops during active fermentation (day 3-5) & add the other 2/3 after fermentation, or at the tail end of fermentation (day 7-10). This technique will help you utilize the full potential of your hops and get you closer to that unforgettable hoppy juicy bomb!

8. Have you always wanted to make a sour beer but have been put off by the prospect of kettle souring? We have a solution for you! Try Lallemand Wildbrew Philly Sour Yeast - a yeast that produces a moderate amount of lactic acid during fermentation. It's also a high attenuating, high flocculating yeast with an alcohol tolerance of 9% ABV and an ideal fermentation range of 68-77 Degrees F. This yeast is well suited for a wide range of styles from Berliner Weisse to sour New England style IPAs. This yeast is now available through our online store.

9. Looking to boost your hot side hop schedule? Consider medium temperature whirlpool and lower your wort temp to around 160-170 Degrees F. Next, let your hops steep for 20-30 Mins. With this, not as much isomerization (bittering) will occur and you will pull out more hop oils/aroma juice that will make it into your pint at the end!

10. Tired of spending a fortune on sanitizer? Mix smaller batches and transfer into a spray bottle to sanitize everything that will come into contact with your beer after the boil!

11. Do you notice your beer bubbling after dry hopping? This is perfectly normal and in a lot of cases, good for your beer! Be sure to give your beer enough time to finish cleaning up nasty off flavors before racking.

12. Does your NEIPA hop character die off too quickly? Your beer may be experiencing the negative effects of hop flavor compound oxidation. Try adding a little bit of a crushed campden tablet or potassium metabisulfite powder to your beer before cold crashing. In the end, this should counteract oxygens impact on your lovingly crafted hazy beverage.

13. Here are a couple of ways to increase caramel flavor/aromatics for styles like Barleywine, Old Ale, or Scotch Ale:

  • Side Reduction: take some of your wort from the kettle and boil it in a much smaller pan until you reduce it into a syrup. Once you get the syrup, add it back to the kettle to give your beer interesting caramel aromatics!
  • Extended Boil: boil for 120 minutes. The additional time in the kettle allows for additional scorching of the sugars against the wall of your kettle. Avoid adding any bittering hops until you hit 90 minutes or less remaining in the boil and you will need to either add additional water to your kettle or sparge more through the mash (just be careful to not over-sparge) if you want to finish with a similar volume as a 90 minute boil.

14. Are you interested in nailing low gravity styles but your efficiency is just too high? We have a couple of methods that you may want to try to accomplish your goal! Both of the following tricks are designed to prevent the extraction of polyphenols from over sparging:

  1. Destroy your brewhouse efficiency by sparging at the same temperature as your mash. By keeping the sparge water cooler, around 150F, you will liquefy fewer sugars and lower efficiency.
  2. Add a significant amount of the water you would normally sparge with to your kettle (this usually amounts to about half.) An added benefit of this method is you can start heating your water earlier and achieve a boil faster!

15. Cryo Hops are very high quality concentrated hop pellets. This makes them perfect for dry hopping! They tend to have a lower amount of green matter, which means if you're dry hopping with them you get all the wonderful hop aroma and survivable compounds without any unwanted grassy or vegetal flavors. These hops will also increase your final yield because they are not absorbing as much of your beer. Use half the amount of cryo hops VS regular pelletized hops.

16. Temperature control for fermentation is arguably the most important equipment investment for homebrew quality.

17. Calibrate your measurement devices! (thermometers, hydrometers, etc.)

18. In the words of Charlie Papazian: “Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a Homebrew!"

Share your homebrew experience with us on social media using the hashtag #BellsAtHomebrew for a chance to be featured!


Our General Store has everything you need to start homebrewing or develop your next recipe. Check us out in person (355 E Kalamazoo Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49007) or online.

As always, if you have any questions about homebrewing or a specific brew, give us a call at (269) 382-5712 or drop us a note