Tuesday, May 14, 2013

True Brews: Your Questions, Answered!

Hello! Welcome to this handy FAQ page regarding the new (and fabulous!) homebrewing book, True Brews. Wondering what this book is all about? Curious if it's the right book to adorn your shelf and/or coffee table? Live in Nowheresville and want to know where to find brewing supplies? You've come to the right place.

Is this book just about beer brewing?

Nope! We have eight whole chapters with eight entirely different fermented beverages going on in here: soda pop, kombucha, kefir (both milk and water kefir), hard cider, beer, mead, sake, and fruit wine. Each chapter starts with a master recipe that will walk you through the particular quirks and techniques for that particular beverage, and is followed by a whole bunch of recipes you can make at home.

My apartment is tiny. Can I still make these brews?

Definitely. All of the recipes in this book are scaled to 1-gallon batches or smaller. This means smaller equipment (and less of it) and less space needed to store all your goods.

Wait, 1-gallon batches? Why so small?

Aside from taking up less space,  I think 1-gallon batches are ideal for beginners just learning how to brew things like beer and mead. It's easier to keep track of all the various steps and avoid mistakes when you're working with a gallon or smaller. Plus, smaller batches means you'll drink through them more quickly, which means you get to brew another batch of something else! Also if something does go wrong, it's a lot less painful to pour 1 gallon down the drain than 5 gallons or more. Trust me on that one.

Once you master the 1-gallon batch, it's an easy step up to larger batches. The process is basically the same (using bigger pots and bigger carboys) and all the recipes can be scaled up.

How many bottles can you get out of a gallon?

About 10 bottles.

I've already been brewing beer [or mead, wine, etc.]. Will this book still have something for me?

I hope so! Part of the reason I wrote True Brews was because I wanted to try brewing all these different kinds of beverages — beer was my gateway into homebrewing, and it just made me all the more curious about brewing soda pop...and then mead...and eventually all the rest of them. I think that if you're already knee-deep into brewing one kind of homebrew, chances are good that there's another project in this book that's going to spark your interest.

If I'm brewing all these things, will I need to buy a lot of equipment?

Nah! All the recipes use the same basic brew kit, so you won't find yourself constantly buying new tools just for one project. A lot of the equipment will be things you probably already have in your kitchen, like soup pots and canning jars. The few truly brewing-specific tools, like carboys and racking canes, can easily be found at your local homebrew shop (and since this is the Age of the Hipster, I am willing to bet that you have a local homebrew shop somewhere closeby).

Not me! I live in Nowheresville and there's not a single homebrew shop to be found. Where can I pick up all the special equipment and ingredients I need to make these awesome brews?

The internet is your friend! Here are my favorite sources for homebrewing equipment and supplies:

MoreBeer - soda, beer, cider, mead, wine
Northern Brewer - soda, beer, cider, mead, sake, wine
Cultures for Health - kombucha and kefir

Hopefully this little FAQ takes care of your most burning questions! Wondering about something that I don't mention here? Leave a comment!

Photo Credit: Paige Green (c) 2013 for True Brews


  1. Emma,
    How did you finesse all the "issues" with home made sake making? My sake making info is terribly complex and comes from commercial sake makers in Japan. It involves buying or milling your own sake medium grain rice, cooking it and pitching a live fungal culture of Koji to create amylase to break down the starches, then pitching yeasts to convert the sugars to alcohol. The thought of trying that at home seems a bit "anxiety producing". But then again a sweet, cloudy bottle of Amazake on a hot summer day sounds fantastic enough to make it worth the trouble...

  2. The sake-making technique that I follow in the book is a much more simplified version than what they are able to do in actual sake breweries, and the result is a little more rustic and unrefined than professionally-made sake. It's still definitely the trickiest brew that I cover in the book (lots of steps, potentially fussy temperature control, etc), but it's a fun project for anyone who's really interested! I also give an "easy" sake recipe and an "advanced" sake recipe so you can choose the level you want to commit to!

  3. I consider myself novice brewer come up with already trying kombucha, beer ( making a lemon lime said on), ginger beer and currently in the process of a simple mead. I recently just purchased your new book and would like to know what recipe do you suggest for someone like myself, one that's fairly simple but has extraordinarily good results?

  4. @Wobbly -- Wow! It sounds like you're already well on your way with brewing! If you haven't tried making many sodas yet, I highly recommend the watermelon-mint soda or the strawberry soda. Both have been on permanent rotation in my fridge this summer. Also, take a look at the mulled cider -- it's technically a cyser (apple mead), and it's one of my favorites. I can't wait for apples to really start coming into season again here so I can make another batch! Happy brewing!

  5. I am really Into Kombucha Brewing Right Now. Are There A Sufficient Amount Of Recipes Kombucha Based?

  6. Hi there! Yes, there's a whole chapter on kombucha-brewing in True Brews. It includes a master recipe (which you can use to create your own recipes and flavors) as well as 5 of my favorite recipes. Thanks!

  7. Hello! I have a couple of questions regarding your book, True Brews, that I'm enjoying immensely!

    1. The cocoa nibs for the mocha stout: I have raw nibs, should I roast them somehow? Any suggestions?

    2. To make larger batches from the gallon recipe, is it as simple as multiplying everything by, say, 5 to get a 5 gallon batch?


    1. Hi, porkfat! (Great screen name!)

      1. Yes, I'd go ahead and toast them for a few minutes at 350-degrees F, until they're fragrant. I think you'll extract more flavor out of them this way.

      2. To scale up to 5-gallon batches, you can definitely just multiply everything by 5! If you're ready to geek-out, I'd recommend downloading some beer recipe software like BeerSmith (which is what I use) -- that way you can fine-tune the ingredients to your taste and also adjust bitterness levels from the hops (which don't always scale up perfectly). Also, you'll just need 1 tube of yeast for a 5-gallon batch -- no need to multiply that by 5.

      Happy brewing!

  8. Hello! I just got your book. I'm excited to try the soda recipes with my kids. Is it essential that we use plastic 2-litres to ferment the soda? What about using the glass bottles that you show in the book? In general, I try to avoid plastic to store our food/beverages.

    1. Hi, S.W.! The biggest reason to use plastic is that it's very easy to tell when your soda has fully carbonated -- just press on the side and when it's rock-hard, it's ready to go in the fridge. If you want to bottle in glass, I recommend setting aside a little soda to bottle in the smallest plastic soda bottle you can find -- use that soda bottle as an indicator for when all your bottles are carbonated. Once you've made several sodas, you'll start to get a feel for how quickly they carbonate and then you don't need to use the plastic indicator bottle if you don't want to. Hope that helps explain it!

  9. Hi there. Great book. I'm having an issue with getting my soda to carbonate (Orange Cream). I'm using 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1/8 teaspoon yeast. Should I add more yeast?

    1. Hi, Malik! So sorry to be late in responding! That recipe has been giving some people trouble, and I've finally figured out that it has to do with the water. In most soda recipes, using tap water is fine, but since this recipe is mostly water (as opposed to fruit juice), the chlorine in the water is interfering with the carbonation. Try using filtered water or de-chlorinating your water before making the soda (instructions on that are in the front section). Also, we'll be adding an extra note about this issue to this and the ginger ale recipes in the next printing of the book. Thanks!