Hard seltzer is everywhere. Commercials, billboards, your local grocery store aisle…You name it (within reason) and there’s probably a trace of seltzer there. It’s pretty easy to state that this is a trend in the brewing industry that shouldn’t be expected to go anywhere any time soon!
As a brewer, you know the importance of standing out in a crowded market. It’s evident that brewing seltzer is one of the latest and greatest trends to hit the industry. With so much competition how can you diversify? Well, we’re here to help.
Here’s how you can take your brewery to the next level by using these brewing techniques for seltzer and ways to market your new product lines.
Luckily, as an established brewer in your market, you have all the tools you already need to make hard seltzer. The two main ingredients are easy enough to find: water and sugar (either sucrose or dextrose).
The other flavors are up to you, but fruity flavors are typical during the fermenting process. For fruits, the most effective flavors come from concentrates, purees, and flavor extracts from natural sources. One reason to use flavor extracts is that they have precise ingredient labels that comply with FDA regulations.
When deciding how to make hard seltzers, planning ahead is a major key to making time for this process.
Consider starting your pilot batch during a slow time of year or when you typically sell fewer flavors of your ordinary brews. This will give you time to manage staff schedules, order ingredients and set up equipment.
Remember that your equipment may need a few days to create the batch. Also, storage bays will need extra room for two weeks while your hard seltzer ferments ahead of canning or bottling.
To Can or Not to Can?
To can or not to can – that is the question. Cans and bottles can affect how the seltzer tastes when someone takes their first swig. Even the color of the bottle can change the flavor profile of your product.
The answer? Stick with cans or bottles you already use because they work on your existing equipment. Depending on which one you go with, you will have to adjust flavors after your test batch to see what happens after the hard seltzer sits on the shelf for several weeks.
High Gravity & Target Strength Concerns
You have two choices for brewing at the beginning.
- Ferment your neutral base or sugar wash to working strength from the start
- Brew it to a higher gravity before diluting it
Either one works to get your desired strength and flavor. It largely depends on how many tanks you have available for the process when you divide your brew tanks into fermentors.
One option for small breweries is to use wine yeast for fermentation because it produces fewer esters without needing to dilute the mixture.
Your water selection isn’t as critical with beer because it has more flavor elements to it. However, chlorinated tap water may throw off the flavor of hard seltzer because you have fewer chemical processes. This can make any chlorinated flavors or smell disappear on someone’s palate.
We recommend brewers consider using purified water as the liquid base. Of course it makes hard seltzer taste better. But it also allows you to alter the chemistry and physical processes more easily because pure water has very specific physical properties you can easily work with for temperature and pressure.
You May Have to Supplement Your Yeast
Malt provides many nutrients for yeast to work with your beer. However, hard seltzer doesn’t have this advantage. Brewers need to use the right yeast, and then perhaps supplement it to have it ferment completely. Consider yeast hulls and nitrogen at around 275 parts per million for extra nutrition.
Then you have to tweak aeration, temperature and pitch to see what happens and if your flavor profile or alcohol content match what you expect. If it’s too warm you get too many esters. Too cold, and the nutrients don’t work right.
Start with the yeast you already use for beer because you already know how to tweak the fermentation. If that doesn’t work, distiller’s yeast for hard liquor may do the trick.
Watch Your pH
Your pH changes as the batch ferments, just like beer. It will start around 5 and you want it to bottom out at around 3.5 to 3.1. Any lower, and it’s too acidic. Any higher, and there’s not enough zing. You can add some sodium bicarbonate to neutralize some of the acids if the taste is too strong.
Even though flavor extracts and concentrates are popular, don’t be afraid of using 100% real fruit. While the cleanup is messier, it’s a great marketing tool to say your hard seltzer has natural ingredients in it. Who doesn’t love all-natural these days?
Experiment with flavor combinations that aren’t your normal, typical, single-fruit hard seltzers. Citrus fruits and strawberries are popular. But what about star fruit, dragonfruit, papaya and the list goes on.
Brew Seltzers with Beer30 Brewery Software
Beer30 brewery management software was designed for brewers by brewers. Our software puts a whole new meaning in “all-in-one” management. From scheduling tasks to yeast management to fermentation analysis to the brew process, Beer30 has your seltzer covered. Learn how you can brew more and brew better today.
Seltzer Recipe By Hendo
- Dextrose or Sucrose Sugar
- Yeast Nutrient such as Lallemand Servomyces
- Di-Ammonium Phosphate
- Citric Acid
- Original Gravity 1.046 SG or 11.4 Plato.
- Original pH 5.0
- Final Gravity 0.996 SG or -1.0 Plato.
- Final pH 3.25 +- 0.1
Fill your kettle with water and heat to 90C/194F.
Add Dextrose to a Gravity of 1.046 SG or 11.4 Plato.
Bring the wort back up to 90C/194F and hold for 20 minutes for pasteurization. Do not boil.
During the pasteurization step, add the following and mix:
- Citric Acid to lower the pH to 5.0. Check with your pH Meter.
- Yeast Nutrient such as Servomyces @ 25g/hL or 0.95oz/BBL.
- Di-Ammonium Phosphate @ 50g/hL or 1.76oz/BBL.
Knock out wort to FV @ 18C/64F.
Pitch Lallemand EC1118 yeast at 35g/hL or 1.4oz/BBL.
On each ferment day from day 2-6 or until the Seltzer reaches 1.012 SG or 3.0 Plato, add the following into the fermenter:
- Yeast Nutrient such as Servomyces @ 6.25g/hL or 0.22oz/BBL.
- Di-Ammonium Phosphate @ 12.5g/hL or 0.44oz/BBL.
Raise the Fermentation temperature to 20C/68F and wait until Final Gravity is reached.
Add Citric Acid to adjust pH to 3.25.
Filter with Active Carbon, dilute (if desired) and add your flavoring.
Drink and enjoy!
This will give you a brewed Seltzer base at about 6.6% ABV. This can then be diluted with De-aerated Water to sell strength. If you do not wish to dilute, use your favorite Beer recipe formulation tool to calculate your desired Original Gravity.