Wednesday 28 June 2023

All About Brewing Hard Seltzer at Home


We love beer (obviously), but we also enjoy a bit of variety and having other beverages available on tap - not just for us, but for others to enjoy as an alternative to beer. A popular option is spirit and soda mixtures like bourbon and cola, or our go to option which is Canadian Club and dry ginger ale. There is another option that's become increasingly popular in the past year or two and that is hard seltzer.

Fortunately, hard seltzer is relatively easy, and importantly very cheap to make, but there are a couple of pitfalls and things to be wary of before diving in so in this post we're going to take a closer look at how to make quality hard seltzer at home.

What is Hard Seltzer?

Hard Seltzer is essentially alcoholic sparkling (carbonated) water that is sweetened with fruit or other syrup extracts to get different flavours. The most popular brand would have to be White Claw, but at over AU$20 for a 4 pack, it's not particularly good value, especially when we look more closely at how cheap it is to make.

So how is it made? Add some sugar (typically corn/cane sugar) to some water, boil it to sanitise, pitch some yeast and other nutrients and let if ferment. The yeast consume the sugar, create alcohol and carbon dioxide, and you're left with alcoholic water - ie. seltzer. Add some flavour extract to the bottle, glass or keg for flavouring, and there you have it.

Addressing Yeast Health

It sounds pretty simple - and it is, but there are a couple of things we need to address as part of the process. Firstly, dextrose doesn't provide all the necessary nutrients required for yeast to do their job properly. When brewing beer, the malted grains used to create wort contain many other nutrients and compounds that yeast require (though we do often add yeast nutrient to our wort as well), but dextrose alone contains none of these, so we need to add some additions to our water to ensure we have healthy yeast and achieve full attenuation from the fermentation. If we don't, we'll be left with sugary sweet, partially alcoholic water which just won't taste right as not all the dextrose will be consumed (fermented) by the yeast.

There's a couple of ways to address yeast nutrition requirements. The easiest way would be to use a purpose made seltzer yeast nutrient pack, like Omega Yeasts Propper Seltzer Nutrient which is a 28g pack made to provide the nutrients required for a standard 5 gallon/19L batch. It's designed to be used with an Omega Yeast kveik strain but you could undoubtedly use it with almost any ale yeast. There's no specifics on what's contained in this pack, but we can likely guess, which brings us to option 2.

Our second option is to add the nutrients to our dextrose water ourselves. What should we add? Depending on where you look or who you ask you may get slightly different answers so we'll look at some popular options.

Martin from The Homebrew Challenge on YouTube only added 4.5g of gypsum and 4g DAP to his seltzer solution and achieved an excellent result.

Clawhammer Supply added 3g of calcium chloride and 3g of gypsum, and then used the previously mentioned Omega Yeasts Propper Seltzer Nutrient. They also appear to have created a nice looking seltzer with these additions.

Alternatively, you could just add general yeast nutrient, though you will likely need to increase the dosage compared to when using it for making beer since it's used to supplement the nutrients in wort - but with seltzer it will essentially be the sole source of nutrients for yeast.

Water Selection

One important characteristic of a hard seltzer is it should be nice and clear and water selection is an important factor in achieving this. For this reason, it's strongly advisable to use reverse osmosis (RO) or distilled water for making your seltzer and not regular town/tap water which contains many other minerals that will more than likely lead to a cloudy appearance in your seltzer, and potentially effect the clean, neutral flavour profile that you're after (prior to adding extract for sweetening).

Yeast Selection

Yeast is another important thing to consider. Any clean/neutral flavoured and high flocculating yeast will work well. Looking at our previous examples, Martin from The Homebrew Challenge used good old US-05, and Clawhammer Supply went with Omega Lutra OYL-071.

Interestingly, CJ from Homebrew 4 Life did a comparison using three different yeast varieties, Omega Lutra OYL-071, Turbo Yeast (distillers yeast), and wine yeast. Flavour wise, all three gave good results but the Omega Lutra was noticeably clearer, with the other two having a very cloudy appearance in the glass. For this reason, Lutra might be the way to go, plus it ferments quite warm so can be turned around very quickly - and since seltzer is typically a summer drink, it would likely be easier to make at this time of year since temperature control is less of an issue with kveik yeasts like this.

What Sugar & How Much?

By far the most popular fermentable sugar to use is dextrose, or corn sugar. It is the most easily dissolved in water as it's essentially powdered, but you can also use table sugar or cane sugar instead, or a mixture of both.

Shoot for an original gravity (OG) of around 1.040. Since dextrose is 100% fermentable by yeast, you can expect the final gravity to be around 1.000 which will give you a final ABV of a little over 5% - pretty much the sweet spot for a hard seltzer.

Brewing software like Brewfather will give you the answer to exactly how much dextrose you'll need to add to achieve this, but you're generally looking at around 2.2kg for a 19-20L batch.


It's important that you're dextrose water solution is boiled (10 minutes is sufficient) to ensure the solution is completely sanitised prior to pitching your yeast.

Getting that Clarity

We previously mentioned that seltzer's should have a nice, clear apperance. This is why we use distilled or RO water and a highly flocculating yeast. There are another couple of things we can also do to help achieve the clarity we're looking for. Firstly, once your seltzer fermentation is complete, we should cold crash the fermenter to help all the yeast drop out of suspension and flocculate to the bottom of the fermenter.

Fining agents like gelatin can also be added, but looking at the previous examples from The Homebrew Challenge, Clawhammer Supply and Homebrew 4 Life, they all achieved good levels of clarity without doing this. Water and yeast selection is far more important here.

It's known that some breweries use charcoal or other filters to help improve the clarity but this isn't a realistic option for most homebrewers.

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