Common Myths about Homebrewing
As there are so many untrue claims about homebrewing on the web, I would like to provide factual explanations about the most common myths.
- CaraMunich is made by caramelizing Munich malt
The first untrue claim I would like to address is that usual malts such as crystal differ from CaraMunich and CaraVienna. Allegedly, these brands are not made from pale malt but from the Munich malt or Vienna malt. The fact is that, in the beginning every malt is green. Therefore, this means that Weyermann’s medium-dark and medium-light caramelized malts are in fact the same as CaraMunich and CaraVienna that only have different copyrighted names.
- Citra tastes pretty much the same as every other “C” Hop
This is also not true — Citra has a different aroma when compared to usual citrus-flavored varieties from Pacific Northwest. Citra offers a melon-flavored aroma, which is more tropical. This is due to its high content of essential oils geraniol and linalool. Citra’s characteristic flavor is made when geraniol is turned into citronellol through the process of yeast activity.
- Entering homebrew contest is the best way new brewers can get feedback on their beer
At these contests, it’s hard to get feedback and constructive criticism. It’s most important to choose top beer. Judges need to make decisions quickly. If your beer has any flaws, you most likely won’t get any piece of advice how to make it better. Therefore, try offering your beer to a local brewer with experience. Otherwise, these contests are great if you want to find really excellent types of beer.
- Craft brewers do (insert technique) and use (insert technique) so homebrewers should aspire to as well
Commercially produced brew often uses techniques and equipment that just aren’t a good investment for the homebrewers. Certain processes would not give the same results. For instance, homebrewers cannot get as clean fermentation at higher temperatures as a craft brewer, as the ester production is being suppressed at higher pressure. Also, breweries often use equipment that might not be great for the homebrewer.
- I can’t taste the difference from (insert process) so no one should bother with it
How sensitive the sense of taste and smell are, varies greatly among people. If you aren’t able to taste or smell an ingredient, certain people are. According to some studies, many people aren’t able to taste diacetyl. Therefore, you should learn what ingredients you are sensitive to and in that way discover what you should put your efforts in.
- Kegging is a huge timesaver compared to bottling
As for saving time, you will in fact spend a similar amount of time on either kegging or bottling. So, you won’t save much time kegging. Kegging seems quick, but you actually need to get the keg disassembled and sanitized. You also need to add CO2 to the tank. Kegging has its advantages otherwise.
- How hopbacks work
People use it in a number of wrong ways. One example of a wrong use is when people get the wort pumped in the hop-back, which they then return to the pot. With proper configuration, the heat is allowed to extract the essential oils. Then, the chiller makes the temperature start dropping before anything is destroyed.
- Brettanomyces make beer sour
This type of yeast creates acid but in a very small amount, contrary to what many people believe. So, fermenting beer with this type of yeast, doesn’t mean it will be sour. The bacteria that cause acidity are actually Lactobacillus and Pediococcus.
- Sugar should be included in recipes as a percentage by weight of the grain bill
Adding sugar in this way is wrong, no matter if it’s brown, maple, table or any other kind. Consider adding 20% of sugar to a Belgium tripel by weight — that would not be right. When you think what amount of sugar to add, the best decision is to add sugar as fermentables’ percentage.
- Boiling wort for a long time caramelizes it
The fact is that sugars cannot be caramelized if the wort boils at the temperature around 213 F. It’s not hot enough. When it comes to caramelization of sugars, fructose will start caramelizing at the temperature of 230 F, making this the lowest temperature for caramelization. However, when it comes to Maillard reactions — the process in which amino acids with sugars create effects resembling caramelization — the boiling temperature is high enough. Certain types of beers that are boiled between two and four hours aren’t considered to be very malty despite boiling time.
These are some of the myths debunked. My advice is that you should try different things and see for yourself. Brewing good beer at home is just a matter of practice.