Campden tablets are widely used for making wine and cider to prevent them from spoiling. They seem to be a must use additive when making wine or cider. However is it the same when brewing beer? Should I use Campden tablets for brewing beer?
Campden tablets are a pretty useful thing for brewing beer, and have several uses throughout the process. But are they necessary?
Should I Use Campden Tablets For Brewing Beer?
They are not actually necessary as long as all the brewing equipment is fully sanitized. And the water supply being used is of good quality. However they do have a number of uses in brewing beer. First Campden tablets can be used as a sanitizer. Second they can treat the water prior to brewing. Finally they can help prevent oxidation when packaging (bottling or kegging) the beer.
The third point is a bit of a debate, with some homebrewers reporting good results. While others report bad results. More on this later.
What Are Campden Tablets?
Campden tablets are used for a number of reasons during the process of making wine, cider or beer. They are a sulphur based product.
They come in tablet form as either sodium metabisulfite or potassium metabisulfite. Both do the same thing and give the same result.
They should be used as per the packaging instructions.
When Do I Use Campden Tablets?
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Like I said they have primary uses when brewing cider, wine or beer. So will be used at different stages of the brewing process.
However I would only use Campden tablets once in the beer brewing process.
They can be used for sanitizing, water treatment and for killing wild yeast, bacteria’s and preventing oxidation.
Using Campden Tablets as a Sanitizer
Every homebrewer will have their favourite sanitizer, whether they brew cider, wine or beer. That said Campden tablets can be used to sanitize all homebrew equipment.
So if you come to brew day and forgot to get your normal sanitizer. Then Campden tablets will do the job, if you have any.
The general amount of tablets for sanitizing is 16 tablets to 1 gallon of water. The instructions on the tub I have in my hand says 5 crushed tablets to a pint of hot water for sanitizing.
- Make sure all equipment is thoroughly wash prior to sanitizing
- Crush the tablets into a powder
- Mix the powder to the water, this can be done in the fermentation vessel
- Add all other equipment to the vessel and seal with the lid
- Leave for around ten minutes then empty and air dry
The last point is up for debate, some say you need to rinse others say you don’t
Campden Tablets For Water Treatment
If using bottled water, then there is no need to use Campden tablets for treating water prior to brewing. On the other hand if you are using tap water for brewing it may be beneficial to use Campden Tablets.
Tap water may contain chlorine and chloramine which can affect the yeast and produce off tastes. Campden can eliminate these from your water.
Prior to using your water in the brewing process, treat it using Campden.
The general amount to use for this purpose is 1/2 a Campden tablet to 5 gallons of water.
- Fill a large container with the required tap water for brewing
- Calculate the amount of Campden you need
- Crush the quantity of tablet you are using to powder
- Add the powder to your water and leave for 10 to 15 minutes
Your water will now be treated and free from chlorine and chloramine ready for brewing.
Campden And Preventing Oxidation
Although this is common practise in cider and wine making, it is debatable when it comes to brewing beer. After primary fermentation is finished it is time to package the beer in bottles or kegs.
Some say Campden can be used just before packaging to stop oxidation. And some have had great success with it.
However others have reported beer that smells like sulphur as well as weird tasting beer. This could be too much Campden added. So I will not go into quantities mainly because I wouldn’t know the right quantities, and don’t want to mislead anyone.
The argument against using Campden at this stage is the secondary fermentation process. When we bottle the beer we add sugar for the secondary fermentation to take place in the bottle.
This carbonates the beer, so effectively eats up the oxygen and protects against oxidation.
Who is right? Both probably, but I don’t see the need for Campden at this stage of the brewing process.
An experiment was done at Brulosophy where Campden was added to one batch at this stage, and not with another batch. Interesting read, I would just say, unless you are an experienced brewer, don’t bother with Campden for preventing oxidation.
So to answer the question Should I Use Campden Tablets For Brewing Beer? I would say yes, but choose where to use them.
For me, I just use them for treating the water prior to brewing. I have a sanitiser for my equipment. But if I found myself short would not hesitate to use Campden for sanitizing.
As for preventing oxidation, I am not going to use Campden for this, I will stick with what I know at the moment.
It would be interesting to know your views on this, do you use Campden tablets during your brewing process? If so, at what part of the process, share you thoughts below