Although Campden tablets are more commonly used in winemaking, they have their place in homebrewing as well. In fact, Campden tablets can be a useful tool in your arsenal of techniques used to make beer, cider, and mead. So, using Campden tablets in homebrewing should not be all that surprising.
Camden tablets are made of sodium or potassium metabisulfite, and release sulphur dioxide gas when they come in contact with a liquid. This gas is an effective sanitizer, usually used to stabilize raw fruit juices or to sanitize fermenters and barrels. Though you might be more likely to use Campden tablets when making cider than making beer, if you have a bottle of them you might be interested in finding additional ways to use them.
Without further ado, here are 4 ways to use Campden tablets when homebrewing beer:
- Use Campden tablets to sanitize equipment – A sanitizing solution can be made by mixing 16 crushed Campden tablets per gallon of water. It’s a great way to sanitize brewing fermenters and barrels. Simply pour a few inches of the sanitizer solution into the vessel, seal it up, and allow the sulfur dioxide gas about 20 or 30 minutes to fill the vessel and sanitize it. You can place some of your other homebrewing equipment in the fermenter for convenience. Dispose of the solution, allow your equipment to air dry, and carry on with your brew day.
- Use Campden tablets to remove chlorine and chloramine from brewing water – Chlorine, a major component of bleach, is a common source of off-flavors in homebrewed beer. It contributes to something called chlorophenols, which can give your beer an unpleasant medicinal flavor. Some municipal water supplies use chlorine to make it safe to drink, others use chloramine. While chlorine can easily be boiled out of the water, chloramine is harder to remove. In either case, adding half of a crushed Campden tablet to 5 or 6 gallons brewing water will break down chlorine into chloride, sulfate, and ammonia, all of which tend to be beneficial to beer in small amounts. A few minutes is all it takes.
- Use Campden tablets to stabilize apple juice when making cider – Just like when making wine, Campden tablets can be used to kill off wild yeast and bacteria from raw apple juice. Use one crushed Campden tablet per gallon of apple juice, dissolving the tablet in a little water or juice before mixing it into the juice. Allow 24 hours for the sulfur dioxide to off-gas before pitching yeast.
- Use Campden tablets to stave off an infection – This is more commonly used in making cider and wine. If your cider has become infected, add one or two crushed Campden tablets per gallon of cider dissolved in a little water to a secondary fermenter. Rack the cider onto the Campden tablets, then bottle immediately. This will preserve the cider, at least in the short term.If it tastes good, go ahead and drink the cider and don’t let it age lest the infection returns.
I have gotten into the habit of treating all my brewing water with Campden tablets. It just doesn’t make sense not to use Campden tablets when homebrewing. There is no downside to it.
Have you found any other uses for Campden tablets when you’re homebrewing?
David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is the founder of the Local Beer Blog.
How long can a Campden tablet sanitizing solution be kept before it is no longer effective? Thanks
Anthony – since the Campden tablets begin off-gassing immediately, I would not recommend reusing the solution beyond the day you mix it.
How many or what fraction of a tablet should be used for a brew day’s worth of water, say 9 or so gallons?
Gordon, to remove the chlorine from 9 gallons of water, I would recommend going ahead an using 1 whole Campden tablet. Technically, 3/4 of a Campden tablet would be enough, but the extra is not enough to hurt anything. Just crush it up and stir it in the water until it is dissolved.
can I use campden tablets to sterilize my beer bottles for home brewing?
Jim, yes you can sanitize your beer bottles with campden tablets.
I usually have 5 gallons of clean water ready at all times. Can you dissolve the tablet to clarify the water if it isn’t used right away? Does the water have to be heated for it to work.
Mike, as long as the water is sealed up it should be fine. If you seal it up after adding the campden tablets, when you are ready to use the water you will want to cover it with a towel for 24 hours before use. This will allow the tablet to dissipate so that it does not affect the yeast.
Can campden tablets be used before bottling your beer in order to stop further fermentation?
Campden tablets are not effective in stopping a fermentation. They can slow down a fermentation, but that’s about it. What Campden tablets are really good at is reducing the chance of spoilage such as mold and bacteria. Potassium sorbate would be a better solution for this situation. If your fermentation has already completed potassium sorbate will keep the fermentation from starting up again. Having said all of this, if you plan on bottle conditioner your beer (creating CO2 in the bottle) you do not want to do any of the above. You need the yeast to be free and active in the bottle in order to create CO2 gas within the bottle.
Regarding a previous e-mail several months ago that I sent;
DO YOU STILL SELL BEECHWOOD CURLS? IF NOT, WHERE CAN I GET THEM?
Joseph, we are sorry but the Beech Wood Curls have been discontinued and we no longer have any in stock. Unfortunately, we do not have any information as to where you can get them.
Check your local budweiser brewery
Where i live The only available drinking water is ionized is it OK to use for brewing beer/wine ? thanks.
Brian, using ionized water has no significant difference to the out come of the wine or beer. It is fine to use.
Where I live the water is highly chlorinated and Chloramines are used as well. We have had a nightmare of a time with beer that has been tainted by our water source. I currently have 2-5.5 gallon batches of lager that will be coming out for bottling tomorrow, could I use half a campden tablet per batch dissolved in the priming sugar to treat the water?
Brad, if you are going to treat the water with campden tablets, it should be done before you make the beer. There is nothing that you can do at this point. If you add them now it will more than likely interfere with the conditioning of the beer and your beer will be flat. If you are concerned about your water source, you can always purchase bottled spring water for your next batch of beer.
hi, 10litres of finished mead at pH 3.5 ( approx)…how many Campden tabs should i use prior to bottling?
Ian, the dosage for campden tablets is one for each gallon of wine. For 10 liters, it would be approximately 2.5 campden tablets.
thanks, useful article. pretty new to the DIY thing.
Really useful article! Stumbled across this preparing for my first NEIPA. I use filtered tap water (~7 gal for 5 gal eBIAB batch) and have a hard time keeping hop flavor/aroma all the way into the keg. I have moved to a SS conical and forced transfers, which helps, but it sounds like treating the water with Campden ahead of the mash would be good too. Question is: how long before mashing should the water be treated with Campden so as to not inhibit or negatively affect the mash enzymes in any way? Is any particular water temperature better (i.e. can I toss the Campden in as I am heating the mash water), or does temps not matter?
MRose, The directions for water treatment for brewing is use 1 tablet per 5 gallons of Water. Crush the tablet and stir it into the bucket of water, or you can drop directly into your mash tun, or boil kettle. If adding to water prior, I would recommend letting the water sit overnight. In regards to temperature, we do not have any information that it affects the campden tablets.
hallo! was wondering if they can be used more than once? (Ive got hold of a solution consisting of 5 tablets to a pint)
Adam, if you are asking if you can save the sanitizing solution made from sulfites, the answer is yes. However, the solution must be stored airtight and used within 6 months.
Hi. This is my first time brewing cider and I (wrongly) didn’t sterilise the apple juice before beginning the fermentation. It has now been fermenting for just under 3 weeks – is there any benefit of adding a camden tablet now to kill any bad bacteria or would it affect the alcoholic content and/or taste?
Rory, At this point in the process, if the fermentation is not complete, I would just wait until it does and then add the tablets. If you decide to add them now and the fermentation is not complete, you will need to add more yeast to complete the process. For more information, please take a look at the article posted below.
I Forgot To Add Campden Tablets
That’s great, thanks for the info Ed. The fermentation is more or less complete so I think I’ll add some Camden tablets soon.
Is the stabilize apple juice safe to drink before applying the yeast
I also use half a Campden tablet in my keg prior to filling to help with oxygen scavenging. Beer stays fresh much longer now.