Author Topic: Home brewing for novices  (Read 5876 times)

Teachstache

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Home brewing for novices
« on: September 19, 2017, 07:23:24 PM »
Spouse and I love dark beer (Porters, stouts). I want to try my hand at home brewing beer, but I'm a total novice. We don't have an adequate local supply shop. I have 50 saved glass bottles. What would you suggest I buy, kits or separate parts, knowing that I'm a true novice and am hoping to have a decent batch of stout or Amber Ale ready by December 24? Suggestions are appreciated.

Fudge102

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2017, 07:55:36 PM »
I once started out a novice myself.  Still am in many ways.  When I was living in the middle of the desert of California, I relied on Northern Brewer to get my goods.  They have kits that cover the basics of equipment from a one gallon kit to master's.  I personally got the deluxe (well it was a Christmas gift!).

And they also have recipe kits that you can follow as well as you slowly work your way up.  I started with kits and then fumbled around with recipes online, finally getting to know my local (ish....) home brew stores and getting to know more.

But yeah, Northern Brewer made it easy to start from scratch.

SharkStomper

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2017, 04:31:30 AM »
Start with an extract kit and see how you like it.  You'll make really good beer with those and it'll help you get your feet wet.  I looked on Northern Brewer and they have a deluxe starter kit that includes a kit to get you started.  Check with several online retailers to compare prices and shipping.

Once you do a few of those and get a feel for the process you can move up to boil in the bag, partial grain or all grain recipes.  Since you don't have a local brew store I'd suggest you get 2 of everything glass and order extra yeast.


Barbaebigode

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2017, 06:12:19 AM »
If you're going the all grain route, I recommend starting with BIAB. It's a simpler method that doesn't require a lot of equipment. I started fly sparging but now all I do is BIAB. I wish someone had told me that when I started brewing.

obs: If you're brewing to save money, keep in mind that perhaps you will do some experimenting until you find your preferred method. And that experimentation isn't free, usually. I bought stuff that I haven't touched for over a year.

obs 2: Still on the saving money thing, when I started brewing, I drank more and also, I wanted people to taste my beer and I also started taking my beer to parties and BBQs, so I end up spending more money on raw materials than I previously spent on bought beer. I changed that now, but brewing my own definitely didn't save me any money so far.

Obs 3: a controlled fermentation is the most overlooked part by newbies, but it's vital for a decent beer. Pitch healthy yeast, in sufficient quantities in a well oxygenated wort and then control the temperature for at least a week and you will be making good beer consistently.

BiochemicalDJ

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2017, 07:33:52 AM »
From square one, check Craigslist or Kijiji for used equipment. You can generally score carboys, fermenting buckets, stir rods, bottle washers, bottle racks, etc.- from people who don't have the room or the time. People often try to get into wine or beer making and then bail.

Buy a small bottle of Star San, read the instructions, execute, and profit. The only sanitizer I'm aware of that you can leave the glass wet and produce a great beer anyway (yeast can use it as a nutrient, bacteria get nuked by it).

Get yourself a double bottle washer attachment for your laundry sink if you're serious about bottling. It will make your life so much easier.

Host a swing-top themed party where every drink people bring has to be brought in swing top bottles (look it up, most famous brand is Grolsch.) When the party's over, you've got the easiest bottling system in the world.

Check out the book 'Booze for Free' from your local library for more cheapassed (or Mustachian!) brewing tips :p

trollwithamustache

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2017, 08:31:47 AM »
Another vote for the kit. its how we got started down that wonderful rat hole of home brew.

 The great thing about brewing is the kits make better than big box grocery store beer. So from there you can add as much equipment/complications as makes sense to satisfy your beer needs.  As others have noted you will likely end up at whole grain brewing, but get the mechanics of a few batches under your belt first.

bognish

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2017, 12:37:52 PM »
Beer extract kits make pretty good porters & stouts. I got a turkey fryer & 5 gal pot kit from home depot to cook & simmer on outside so I didn't have to worry about boil over or heating up the whole house. These should be on sale cheap pretty soon. I recommend buying & drinking 22oz beers between now and bottling day. Bottling a batch in 12 oz bottles is a drag. The cleaning, rinsing & bottling is what eventually killed the hobby for me.

Fudge102

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2017, 02:05:24 PM »
Beer extract kits make pretty good porters & stouts. I got a turkey fryer & 5 gal pot kit from home depot to cook & simmer on outside so I didn't have to worry about boil over or heating up the whole house. These should be on sale cheap pretty soon. I recommend buying & drinking 22oz beers between now and bottling day. Bottling a batch in 12 oz bottles is a drag. The cleaning, rinsing & bottling is what eventually killed the hobby for me.

Second.  I love making the beer, evening moving to the secondary is a nice treat as I get to sample the beer.  But yeah, bottling 60- 12 oz bottles of beer is a very repetitive process.  If you can go bigger for bottling, do it.  I hear flip seal bottles are not the way to go though.  They don't hold a seal as well after repeat uses?


PDX Citizen

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2017, 05:05:51 PM »
Beer brewing is a perfect Mustachian pursuit. You learn a new skill, get to have fun doing it, and save money. I've been doing it for about 5 years, and mostly just brew stouts - they are easier and always seem to taste good. When I first started, I heard the same thing about bottling being tedious from people I work with, so decided to just brew for a home keg instead. It's simple and quick that way, and if it's mostly you and your wife (or houseguests) drinking the beer, you don't need bottles. It's also nice to be able to pour as much as you want to drink at a time.

I brew from extract to keep it simple and short, but know others appreciate going all-grain. The basics I needed to get going were:

5 gallon stainless steel cooking pot
5 or 6 gallon carboy (glass or plastic)
airlock and stopper (for top of carboy)
mini-fridge (you can make your own kegerator from it, or just use a picnic tap)
soda keg (purchased used - there are tons out there in the restaurant industry)
CO2 tank w/ gage and tube to pressure keg
temperature probe
auto siphon (for transferring beer from carboy to keg without introducing extra oxygen)
sanitizer

Supplies (grain and extract) are a bit easier if you have a local store, but I think pretty much everything can be found online. For a 5-gallon batch, I spend about $20 each time, a couple dollars less when using homegrown hops.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2017, 05:22:33 PM by PDX Citizen »

chemistk

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2017, 05:57:09 AM »
Sort of hijacking the thread here, but very much on point and I think OP would probably ask the same question -

(I really don't feel like going over to the homebrewing forums to ask this - I've lurked around there and responses can vary wildly)

What are some specific supplies you recommend and what, in your opinion, is a good budget to set for them?

I had started to get into homebrewing - I did a couple kits from Craft A Brew and used the equipment to brew 3 or 4 batches of cider. I was starting to accumulate supplies to supplement the equipment from the kits and then our house flooded last year and I lost everything except my 4 4L carboys and a 10qt cook pot. I want to get back into it but I haven't yet because I can't decide if I want a ready to go kit (like http://www.northernbrewer.com/deluxe-brewing-starter-kit) or if I want to buy the supplies a la carte. Unfortunately my local Craigslists don't have much available so I'd have to buy everything new or make my own stuff. I're read through John Palmer's stuff and have The Complete Joy of Homebrewing but I wanted to get some tips of equipment from mustachian folks.

AlanStache

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2017, 07:42:02 AM »
@chemistk: I priced out one of Northern Brewers kits as parts and I think I recall it being about what it would cost as individual parts; and an extra carboy is not a bad thing.

@OP: Before starting out look at what temperatures you will need to maintain and think about what temperatures your home will be during the brew process.  I am still new to home brewing but I think my last batch came out slightly off because I could not keep it cool enough.

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2017, 04:43:24 AM »
If you're not into scrounging equipment piecemeal off of Craigslist, you can get a basic starter kit from Midwest, Northern, or other on-line sources for 50 bucks or so.  I still use my cheapo two-bucket brewing kit that I got a few years ago.  If you're fermenting in a bucket, you may have to use plastic wrap or something to make sure the lid seals.  Hell of a lot easier to carry and clean than a carboy.

You don't need a lot of expensive equipment.  I brew in two 3 gallon pots on the stove top.

As others have noted, try brewing a few extract kits first to see if you like brewing.  Once you've determined that you're going to keep brewing, you can start buying ingredients in bulk and decrease your costs significantly.  Farmhouse brewing supply seems to have the best prices on bulk ingredients.  With shipping, a 50 lb bag of base dry malt extract will set you back about 150 bucks, but if your consumption is moderate, it should last many months.  By buying ingredients in bulk and keeping the beer relatively simple (base extract, a pound of specialty grains, two 1-ounce hop additions, and dry yeast) I can make pretty good pale ale or stout for a good bit less than the cost of Bud Light.

The most important thing to know for a beginner: they aren't kidding when they say that sanitation is critical.  I thought I was being clean, but my first couple of batches turned out so sour I could barely drink them.  But I did anyway as a lesson to do better next time. ;)  Make damn sure that every piece of equipment and every surface that will touch your post-boil wort and your finished beer has been thoroughly sanitized.  After you've sanitized your bottles, keep them covered with something that has been sanitized (I use an aluminum cookie sheet) until right before you put your beer into them.

SharkStomper

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2017, 05:20:42 AM »
Once you've determined that you're going to keep brewing, you can start buying ingredients in bulk and decrease your costs significantly.  Farmhouse brewing supply seems to have the best prices on bulk ingredients.  With shipping, a 50 lb bag of base dry malt extract will set you back about 150 bucks, but if your consumption is moderate, it should last many months.

Wow, I had no idea that shipping was so much on bulk grains.  I guess I'm lucky to have a local brew shop.  An alternative to that might be to check some local microbreweries and see if they would sell you a bag of grains.  I've done some tours and those folks are pretty supportive of home brewers.

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2017, 07:00:01 AM »
Once you've determined that you're going to keep brewing, you can start buying ingredients in bulk and decrease your costs significantly.  Farmhouse brewing supply seems to have the best prices on bulk ingredients.  With shipping, a 50 lb bag of base dry malt extract will set you back about 150 bucks, but if your consumption is moderate, it should last many months.

Wow, I had no idea that shipping was so much on bulk grains.  I guess I'm lucky to have a local brew shop.  An alternative to that might be to check some local microbreweries and see if they would sell you a bag of grains.  I've done some tours and those folks are pretty supportive of home brewers.

Maybe my post wasn't clear.  The total cost of a 50 lb bag of DME plus shipping is around $150.  The DME costs $130 and the shipping is $20.

SharkStomper

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #15 on: September 22, 2017, 10:03:53 AM »
Once you've determined that you're going to keep brewing, you can start buying ingredients in bulk and decrease your costs significantly.  Farmhouse brewing supply seems to have the best prices on bulk ingredients.  With shipping, a 50 lb bag of base dry malt extract will set you back about 150 bucks, but if your consumption is moderate, it should last many months.

Wow, I had no idea that shipping was so much on bulk grains.  I guess I'm lucky to have a local brew shop.  An alternative to that might be to check some local microbreweries and see if they would sell you a bag of grains.  I've done some tours and those folks are pretty supportive of home brewers.

Maybe my post wasn't clear.  The total cost of a 50 lb bag of DME plus shipping is around $150.  The DME costs $130 and the shipping is $20.

Now that I reread it, it was clear.  That'll teach me to post before coffee.  :)

1now-or-300later

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #16 on: October 17, 2017, 02:13:49 AM »
After reading the brewing forums I decided to do beer in a bag.  It cost about $25 when buying in bulk to make 2 cases of beer , but you end up spending money to reduce your cost so pick wisely. 

Variable cost involved for me and you can adjust
$4 in propane from small tank (using natural gas will save you $3 - stove or tap into home gas line in backyard)
$2 for 8 gallons of water (tap water in san diego adds a harshness to the flavor that I don't like - IPA cover this up, but can taste it in stouts, browns and blondes.
$10 for grains - about 10lb of grain per recipe - 55lb pounds or grain cost between $40-$60 plus shipping (all recipes have about 90% of the same base grain in them)  The other pound of grain is a mix of light to dark color grain (color has an L after it ) The difference in the other grains is just how they are cooked - there are around 40 of them
$1 for adjunct (added stuff to make it taste smother or per type of beer you make)
$2 in bittering hops (plus $2 for flavor hops, plus $2 for aroma hops - pound of cascade hops cost around $22 delivered, payed $27 for my last pound of mosiac delivered) 
$1 for cleaning chemicals
$3 for dried yeast  (can reuse later when you get more equipment)

To start try biab - It allows  you to do all grain (cheaper) and really isn't that hard.

Steps:
Heat water to about 160 degrees - 30 mins
Add grains to heated water for 60 mins and try to maintain the heat.
  Start with premade kits - they cost between $15-30 on sale so no need to buy grains in bulk.
   Take all your grains dump the in the grain bag (beer in a bag) - You are making a tea called wort
After 60 mins remove the grains and squeeze out the excess water when heating to a boil - 30 minutes
Start you 60 minutes long boil - Follow the directions on the premaid kit or
   Add about an ounce of high AA (alpha) hops (a percentage number depending on the hops)
   After 45 minutes add the flavoring hops
   Near the end of the boil add the aroma hops (can be int he last 5 minutes, when cooling or in a keg - dry hopping)
Cool down is where you can have the beer go bad, so  you can rapid cool by using an immersion chiller, ice bath or plate chiller
  Eventually you get the beer down to about 65 degrees
  Then  you add the yeast
  Wait 2 weeks
  move the beer into bottles or kegs

If getting into this as someone mentioned the most overlooking thing is temperature control during fermentation.  I picked up a $130 costco 7 cubic foot chest freezer added a $35 temp control part.  Bad beers happen between cooling the beer down to about 2 days after the yeast is started.  Some harsh flavors are caused by fermenting at a high temperature.    The freezer can be used to store things when not brewing and I can make blocks of ice with it for camping in a day. 

To start get the turkey fryer setup, You can use it to make soups, crabs or of course turkeys. - Everything else is just to save time.  It takes about 4-5 hours per batch plus bottling time once the beer is complete.

So get a basic biab kit, with a chest cooler.  Cost you about $400?  Stouts cost about $1.50 per bottle to buy at the stores in bulk and about .50 cents to make. 

Things start to add up once you get into kegging and a keezer/kegorator.  I made a portable 3 gallon keg system that I bring to dinner parties and next door when drinking with neighbors. 

I am not spending money are breweries anymore   
Though I pay for much of the beers with neighbors I am not buying food when going to their houses
Guest are happy to hang out in the backyard and BBQ  instead of going out to eat or to a brewery

Plan your pipeline, 2 weeks fermentation and a week in the bottle to carbonate  (1-3 days if in a keg).  Will 53 beer last 21 days?  Will they last 14 days (if not then need 2 carboys)

10 gallon batches only take a little while longer to make then 5 gallon batches so consider that when buying a kettle. 





Teachstache

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #17 on: January 22, 2018, 06:50:39 AM »
Sorry for the very late update here. Thanks, all, for the suggestions and advice. I decided to start small by making homemade hard cider. Started with grocery store apple juice, a la MMM's recommendation. It went well. Will continue this for about a year, then see about sourcing used homebrewing supplies through Craigslist or garage sales if I want to continue homebrewing.

Cider is good. Cost was $24 for all supplies needed for cider making. Next project is homebrewed Mead!

brute

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #18 on: January 22, 2018, 08:08:27 AM »
Sorry for the very late update here. Thanks, all, for the suggestions and advice. I decided to start small by making homemade hard cider. Started with grocery store apple juice, a la MMM's recommendation. It went well. Will continue this for about a year, then see about sourcing used homebrewing supplies through Craigslist or garage sales if I want to continue homebrewing.

Cider is good. Cost was $24 for all supplies needed for cider making. Next project is homebrewed Mead!

Nice work! I've made several meads and wines over the past few years (not to mention a few hundred batches of beer). My biggest suggestion on mead is to add the the yeast nutrient in doses instead of all at once. This may go against common wisdom, but adding 1/2 up front, 1/4 a few days later, and the rest 8-9 days in produces a mead that is pleasant to drink in months rather than needing to wait a year+.

Allie

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2018, 04:24:15 PM »
Sorry for the very late update here. Thanks, all, for the suggestions and advice. I decided to start small by making homemade hard cider. Started with grocery store apple juice, a la MMM's recommendation. It went well. Will continue this for about a year, then see about sourcing used homebrewing supplies through Craigslist or garage sales if I want to continue homebrewing.

Cider is good. Cost was $24 for all supplies needed for cider making. Next project is homebrewed Mead!

Nice!  I'm posting in case any other ideas or tips get posted.  Last fall I started brewing beer and cider - my last was a really, really good milk stout - and I have gone a little overboard.  Now, I am trying to find someone who will talk me down from the ledge as I start hunting keg bit and pieces on Craigslist.

swinginbeef

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #20 on: April 10, 2018, 08:41:59 AM »
Now, I am trying to find someone who will talk me down from the ledge as I start hunting keg bit and pieces on Craigslist.

Not going to lie, kegging instead of bottling was the best thing I ever did in homebrew. Bottling is the worst time/effort suck.

brute

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #21 on: May 02, 2018, 11:15:47 AM »
Sorry for the very late update here. Thanks, all, for the suggestions and advice. I decided to start small by making homemade hard cider. Started with grocery store apple juice, a la MMM's recommendation. It went well. Will continue this for about a year, then see about sourcing used homebrewing supplies through Craigslist or garage sales if I want to continue homebrewing.

Cider is good. Cost was $24 for all supplies needed for cider making. Next project is homebrewed Mead!

Nice!  I'm posting in case any other ideas or tips get posted.  Last fall I started brewing beer and cider - my last was a really, really good milk stout - and I have gone a little overboard.  Now, I am trying to find someone who will talk me down from the ledge as I start hunting keg bit and pieces on Craigslist.

I have a keezer with 7 kegs of homebrew on tap. It's a dark path to go down. My least favorite thing however is how darn long it takes to clean the keg/lines/small bits. I guess it takes less time than bottling, but it's fairly intensive and I need an extra keg just for beer line cleaner. Also, the agony of finding out you had a small leak and losing a 20# CO2 tank is pretty rough. So yeah, kegging is great, but takes some getting used to and had it's own issues.

specialkayme

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #22 on: May 02, 2018, 12:51:40 PM »
Any suggestions on "cost effective" temp regulation system of the wort? Right now I just put a thermometer in every 5 min (too cold, turn up the heat, gets close turn it off), but I usually get it within 5-8 degrees of the target temp and not the 2 degrees I've read actually matters.

brute

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #23 on: May 02, 2018, 12:56:40 PM »
Any suggestions on "cost effective" temp regulation system of the wort? Right now I just put a thermometer in every 5 min (too cold, turn up the heat, gets close turn it off), but I usually get it within 5-8 degrees of the target temp and not the 2 degrees I've read actually matters.

During fermentation? Swamp cooling seems to work pretty well, i.e. putting the wort in a water bath and adding frozen water bottles to it. I just store it in the basement. As long as you're between 66 and 72 you're probably just fine. This is what I did when I lived in an apartment and didnt have much space that was below 80 in the summer. https://homebrewacademy.com/swamp-cooler-homebrew/

specialkayme

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #24 on: May 02, 2018, 01:01:32 PM »
Actually I was referring to maintaining the mash temp whens steeping the grains (for an all grain recipe).

As for maintaining temps during fermentation, I've always just put the carboy in my closet. I keep my house between 68-73, so I can't imagine it would get further from that range. Hasn't been an issue in the last 15 years at least.

Cromacster

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #25 on: May 02, 2018, 01:02:59 PM »
Any suggestions on "cost effective" temp regulation system of the wort? Right now I just put a thermometer in every 5 min (too cold, turn up the heat, gets close turn it off), but I usually get it within 5-8 degrees of the target temp and not the 2 degrees I've read actually matters.

Get a igloo cooler, the kind they dump on coaches after a game.  There have a size the can fit a carboy if you cut a hole in the top for the air lock.  Put the carboy in the cooler and fill with water.

I keep a thermometer in the water which should be approx the temp of the beer.  Then you can add cold/warm water as needed to adjust the temp.  My basement has a spot that's 50F year round so I keep a small aquarium heater in the cooler to keep my ales a touch warmer.  Lagers I will use cold water and ice to bring the temps down.

Cromacster

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #26 on: May 02, 2018, 01:05:32 PM »
Actually I was referring to maintaining the mash temp whens steeping the grains (for an all grain recipe).

As for maintaining temps during fermentation, I've always just put the carboy in my closet. I keep my house between 68-73, so I can't imagine it would get further from that range. Hasn't been an issue in the last 15 years at least.

Ah!

Some people use thermal wrap, that foil looking stuff, and make a sleeve for the pot and a cover for the lid.  You can't expose it directly to a flame, but it withstand the temps of a hot kettle.

specialkayme

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #27 on: May 02, 2018, 01:14:34 PM »
Lagers I will use cold water and ice to bring the temps down.

How often do you have to add cold water/ice to maintain your temp?

Some people use thermal wrap, that foil looking stuff, and make a sleeve for the pot and a cover for the lid.

I've never found insulation to be the problem as much as "hitting the right temp."

For example, last batch required grains to be maintained at something like 131 deg. for 20 min, 146 deg. for 60 min, and 168 deg. for 15 min. I brought the water up to strike temp, put in the grains, and found out I was at 123 deg. Darn. Crank up the heat, slowly rising . . . slowly rising . . . BAM, 136 degrees. Pfft. Add cool water to get down to 131. Put lid on, might slide down to 129 degrees in 20 min or so, but that's fine. To get to 146 deg., increase heat . . . slowly rising . . . slowly rising . . . 142 . . . slowly rising . . . 144 . . . slowly rising . . . BAM, 152. Pfft. Add cool water to get down to 146. You get the idea.

I've heard of others using thermometer controlled devices (seems expensive), or just adding boiling/cold water constantly which doesn't seem like the most efficient method. I tried it once and ended up with a volume that was too much. Ended up lowering my SG too much, resulting in a watered down beer.

Of course it doesn't help that I'm usually a few beers in by that point in time, and talking with friends/wife/playing with kids so I'm not 100% focused on the thermometer.

The beer is always drinkable, but I know my +/- 8-10 degree variations aren't good.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2018, 01:16:22 PM by specialkayme »

Cromacster

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #28 on: May 02, 2018, 01:31:01 PM »
Lagers I will use cold water and ice to bring the temps down.

How often do you have to add cold water/ice to maintain your temp?

When I am trying to keep the temp sub 40F I add ice in the morning and in the evening.  I don't have an ice maker so I buy a 20lb bag of ice when I am fermenting a lager.

Some people use thermal wrap, that foil looking stuff, and make a sleeve for the pot and a cover for the lid.

I've never found insulation to be the problem as much as "hitting the right temp."

For example, last batch required grains to be maintained at something like 131 deg. for 20 min, 146 deg. for 60 min, and 168 deg. for 15 min. I brought the water up to strike temp, put in the grains, and found out I was at 123 deg. Darn. Crank up the heat, slowly rising . . . slowly rising . . . BAM, 136 degrees. Pfft. Add cool water to get down to 131. Put lid on, might slide down to 129 degrees in 20 min or so, but that's fine. To get to 146 deg., increase heat . . . slowly rising . . . slowly rising . . . 142 . . . slowly rising . . . 144 . . . slowly rising . . . BAM, 152. Pfft. Add cool water to get down to 146. You get the idea.

I've heard of others using thermometer controlled devices (seems expensive), or just adding boiling/cold water constantly which doesn't seem like the most efficient method. I tried it once and ended up with a volume that was too much. Ended up lowering my SG too much, resulting in a watered down beer.

Of course it doesn't help that I'm usually a few beers in by that point in time, and talking with friends/wife/playing with kids so I'm not 100% focused on the thermometer.

The beer is always drinkable, but I know my +/- 8-10 degree variations aren't good.

I've never been the greatest at this.  I usually use the add hot/cold water method to dial it in.  I just start with less water than I need.  Over the years I know I'll add about 1/2-1 gallon of water dialing in temps.

brute

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #29 on: May 03, 2018, 07:44:52 AM »
I use brewers friend for mash calcs.

https://www.brewersfriend.com/mash/

Using this, I've never been off by more than 1.5F. I have a beat up cooler that I mash in. Also, I don't do step mashes. They're pretty unnecessary with the highly modified grains we used today. The only time I step mash is with my Hefe (GABF gold in 2014. bragging again, I know. sorry), and I do that as a decoction mash on a direct fired pro system. Aside from that, a cooler with the top on, adjusted for thermal mass of the cooler, temp of the grains, and your altitude and you should be all set.

specialkayme

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #30 on: May 03, 2018, 09:01:38 AM »
Using this, I've never been off by more than 1.5F.

I used a different calculator for strike temp, which was NOT accurate. I'll try this one next time. Thanks.

Also, I don't do step mashes. They're pretty unnecessary with the highly modified grains we used today.

First I've heard that mentioned before. Can you elaborate or do you know of an article that discusses it further?

The only time I step mash is with my Hefe (GABF gold in 2014. bragging again, I know. sorry), and I do that as a decoction mash on a direct fired pro system.

Let's see, where do I start . . .

A) CONGRATS ON THE AWARD!!! That's awesome. Hefe's are my favorite. Do you mind sharing your recipe?

B) Never done a decoction mash before. Sounds interesting.

From http://howtobrew.com/book/section-3/the-methods-of-mashing/decoction-mashing

Quote
Decoction Mashing is a way to conduct multi-step mashes without adding additional water or applying heat to the Mash Tun. It involves removing about a third of the Mash to another pot where it is heated to conversion temperature, then boiled and returned to the Mash Tun.

So I get the whole "take a third of the Mash to another pot and heat to conversion temp" but I don't understand what it means by "then boiled and returned to the Mash Tun." If it's at the conversion temp, why then boil it? Wouldn't boiling it, by definition, NOT bring it to the conversion temp that would require the Mash to be at the temp of the next rest?

C) a direct fired pro system sounds expensive . . . don't even know what it is . . .

Aside from that, a cooler with the top on, adjusted for thermal mass of the cooler, temp of the grains, and your altitude and you should be all set.

On paper it always seems easier than in practice (not that it's ever rocket science).

I've generally found that I'm able to either A) maintain a consistent temp with the mash, or B) obtain the desired volume of the finished beer. I'm never able to do both. Between:

1. The mash losing volume as it sits for 60-75 min
2. The mash losing volume from water absorbed by the grains
3. The "side pot" losing volume from boiling for an hour, which the left over becomes sparging water
4. The wort losing volume from boiling for an hour, and
5. Losing volume from the leeds every time I rack (typically twice)

I'm left somewhat guessing on starting volume. It doesn't help that my kettle doesn't have a volume indicator, of course. But I'll often do all my calculations (which change as I'm adding hot/cold water on the fly and typically three beers in, lol), think I'm right, add everything to the primary fermenter to find out my (hope to be) 5 gallon end batch has 4.5 gallons in the primary. To which I need to add water, which decreases my SG and bla bla bla. Or sometimes I'll rack what was 5.5 gallons in the primary and end up with 5.2 gallons going into the secondary (or better yet 5 gallons going into secondary and .2 gallons as taste testing), while other times I'll rack what was 5.5 gallons in the primary and end up with 4.5 gallons going into the secondary (to which I'm scrambling to find a half a gallon of marbles to add but can never find or just say screw it and add a half a gallon of water).

Doesn't make award winning beer. But I like the end result. But I'd also like to grow and get better :)

swinginbeef

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #31 on: May 03, 2018, 09:23:26 AM »
I use BeerSmith and have been happy with their mash and volume calcs. It took several brews to get my system dialed into the software (mash efficiency, dead spaces, etc), but now that I've got it set up, I'm always Extremely close on my mash temps, volumes and gravity.

brute

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #32 on: May 04, 2018, 12:50:03 PM »
Using this, I've never been off by more than 1.5F.

I used a different calculator for strike temp, which was NOT accurate. I'll try this one next time. Thanks.

Also, I don't do step mashes. They're pretty unnecessary with the highly modified grains we used today.

First I've heard that mentioned before. Can you elaborate or do you know of an article that discusses it further?

The only time I step mash is with my Hefe (GABF gold in 2014. bragging again, I know. sorry), and I do that as a decoction mash on a direct fired pro system.

Let's see, where do I start . . .

A) CONGRATS ON THE AWARD!!! That's awesome. Hefe's are my favorite. Do you mind sharing your recipe?

B) Never done a decoction mash before. Sounds interesting.

From http://howtobrew.com/book/section-3/the-methods-of-mashing/decoction-mashing

Quote
Decoction Mashing is a way to conduct multi-step mashes without adding additional water or applying heat to the Mash Tun. It involves removing about a third of the Mash to another pot where it is heated to conversion temperature, then boiled and returned to the Mash Tun.

So I get the whole "take a third of the Mash to another pot and heat to conversion temp" but I don't understand what it means by "then boiled and returned to the Mash Tun." If it's at the conversion temp, why then boil it? Wouldn't boiling it, by definition, NOT bring it to the conversion temp that would require the Mash to be at the temp of the next rest?

C) a direct fired pro system sounds expensive . . . don't even know what it is . . .

Aside from that, a cooler with the top on, adjusted for thermal mass of the cooler, temp of the grains, and your altitude and you should be all set.

On paper it always seems easier than in practice (not that it's ever rocket science).

I've generally found that I'm able to either A) maintain a consistent temp with the mash, or B) obtain the desired volume of the finished beer. I'm never able to do both. Between:

1. The mash losing volume as it sits for 60-75 min
2. The mash losing volume from water absorbed by the grains
3. The "side pot" losing volume from boiling for an hour, which the left over becomes sparging water
4. The wort losing volume from boiling for an hour, and
5. Losing volume from the leeds every time I rack (typically twice)

I'm left somewhat guessing on starting volume. It doesn't help that my kettle doesn't have a volume indicator, of course. But I'll often do all my calculations (which change as I'm adding hot/cold water on the fly and typically three beers in, lol), think I'm right, add everything to the primary fermenter to find out my (hope to be) 5 gallon end batch has 4.5 gallons in the primary. To which I need to add water, which decreases my SG and bla bla bla. Or sometimes I'll rack what was 5.5 gallons in the primary and end up with 5.2 gallons going into the secondary (or better yet 5 gallons going into secondary and .2 gallons as taste testing), while other times I'll rack what was 5.5 gallons in the primary and end up with 4.5 gallons going into the secondary (to which I'm scrambling to find a half a gallon of marbles to add but can never find or just say screw it and add a half a gallon of water).

Doesn't make award winning beer. But I like the end result. But I'd also like to grow and get better :)

For the step mash, essentially we used to need to do rests at different temps to activate various enzymes to break down proteins or other constituent components. This article covers it pretty well
https://byo.com/article/the-science-of-step-mashing/

I still do it for Hefe's because I want to create more of the specific proteins to the phenol creation via the yeast.

Decoction is pretty much just used to caramelize some of the sugars already extracted for enhanced flavor and body, then added back in to bring the mash up to the next temperature rest. Best time to do that is with the weizen type beers that rely heavily on the malt backbone. A dunkleweizen without a decoction often falls flat.

That profession system (which a friend of mine owns at his brewery) has big burners beneath the kettles as well as the mash tun, letting him add more heat to the mash that way rather than adding hot water.

This article is the base for how I began calculating my water needs to end up with the right amount

https://www.brewersfriend.com/2010/06/12/water-volume-management-in-all-grain-brewing/

As far as secondary conditioning, I only do that if I'm dry hopping, aging on oak/fruit, or souring a beer. My regular beers go straight from a 10-20 day primary into bottles or the keg.

specialkayme

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #33 on: May 04, 2018, 02:58:11 PM »
Thank you for taking the time to reply @brute . Much for me to read and consider.

As far as secondary conditioning, I only do that if I'm dry hopping, aging on oak/fruit, or souring a beer. My regular beers go straight from a 10-20 day primary into bottles or the keg.

I've always been told that the leeds will give an off flavor to the beer if it let sit for too long. That's why I've always done it. Well, that and because I use a plastic bucket as a primary and I've been told the plastic will produce an off flavor to the beer if you let it sit for too long.

I've never had a beer finish in 10 days either. I usually let mine settle down for 4-6 weeks (usually 7-14 days in primary, 14-28 days in the secondary).

brute

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #34 on: May 06, 2018, 02:04:27 PM »
Thank you for taking the time to reply @brute . Much for me to read and consider.

As far as secondary conditioning, I only do that if I'm dry hopping, aging on oak/fruit, or souring a beer. My regular beers go straight from a 10-20 day primary into bottles or the keg.

I've always been told that the leeds will give an off flavor to the beer if it let sit for too long. That's why I've always done it. Well, that and because I use a plastic bucket as a primary and I've been told the plastic will produce an off flavor to the beer if you let it sit for too long.

I've never had a beer finish in 10 days either. I usually let mine settle down for 4-6 weeks (usually 7-14 days in primary, 14-28 days in the secondary).

Here's the article that finally got me off secondary for most ales.

http://brulosophy.com/2014/08/12/primary-only-vs-transfer-to-secondary-exbeeriment-results/

Not that using a secondary is a bad thing though, i just avoid any extra work when possible.

specialkayme

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #35 on: May 10, 2018, 10:10:42 AM »
Here's the article that finally got me off secondary for most ales.

http://brulosophy.com/2014/08/12/primary-only-vs-transfer-to-secondary-exbeeriment-results/

Not that using a secondary is a bad thing though, i just avoid any extra work when possible.

Wow. What a great site. I've currently read about 8 of their ExBEERiments, and I have 11 more currently open in tabs in my "to-read" list. Thank you so much for that information.

I've been largely brewing in a bubble for the past 15 years. In part because avid homebrewers can often be a little "eccentric" if you know what I mean, and excessively opinionated. I'm not in it for awards. Just good beer and fun. Also in part because every time I run into a homebrewer they are always "strongly suggesting" I buy something else. Meh. I learned the self taught way, it works, why change. What I've been doing has been working fine for me, so why spend more cash?

The result is that I've been doing something for 15 years . . . that may not be necessary. For example, I've ALWAYS performed stepped mash temp changes, sparge, primary in a bucket, secondary 7 days later in a glass carboy with ZERO headspace, airlock, things like that. Only looking through the photos of some of the xbeeriments am I like "WTF? Look at that Headspace . . . in a plastic bottle . . . with FOIL ON TOP? That's crazy!" Thank you for the eye opening and exciting experience.

Although reading through some of the xbeeriments I can't say those things have a massive change on taste difference.

But one thing I still can't get my head around. When I learned to brew years ago, the advice was 1 week in primary and 2 weeks in secondary, or until finished. That's what I've (mostly) been doing, except for some of the higher gravity beers that take a little longer. For example, right now I"ve got a Belgian Strong Ale going. I did my mash/etc. on April 7th. On April 18th I transferred to my glass carboy. It's been sitting there ever since. But it's still bubbling (i.e. not done yet), which isn't entirely odd to me. But all of the recipes in the xbeeriments appear to be done, start to finish, in 7 to 10 days. Why have mine ALWAYS taken so much longer? What am I missing?

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #36 on: May 10, 2018, 06:49:43 PM »

But one thing I still can't get my head around. When I learned to brew years ago, the advice was 1 week in primary and 2 weeks in secondary, or until finished. That's what I've (mostly) been doing, except for some of the higher gravity beers that take a little longer. For example, right now I"ve got a Belgian Strong Ale going. I did my mash/etc. on April 7th. On April 18th I transferred to my glass carboy. It's been sitting there ever since. But it's still bubbling (i.e. not done yet), which isn't entirely odd to me. But all of the recipes in the xbeeriments appear to be done, start to finish, in 7 to 10 days. Why have mine ALWAYS taken so much longer? What am I missing?

As an extract brewer, I'm not in the same league with you all grain guys, so take what I say with a grain of salt.  But I've always just done 5 - 7 days in primary, then bottle and let it condition for 3 - 5 weeks, and that's it (ales of course).  I've only ever used dry yeast.  I've read that liquid yeasts are a lot slower.

grantmeaname

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #37 on: May 12, 2018, 06:34:34 AM »
Here's the article that finally got me off secondary for most ales.

http://brulosophy.com/2014/08/12/primary-only-vs-transfer-to-secondary-exbeeriment-results/

Not that using a secondary is a bad thing though, i just avoid any extra work when possible.

Wow. What a great site. I've currently read about 8 of their ExBEERiments, and I have 11 more currently open in tabs in my "to-read" list. Thank you so much for that information.
Agreed. This has taken over my whole morning.

brute

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #38 on: May 14, 2018, 08:21:24 AM »
Here's the article that finally got me off secondary for most ales.

http://brulosophy.com/2014/08/12/primary-only-vs-transfer-to-secondary-exbeeriment-results/

Not that using a secondary is a bad thing though, i just avoid any extra work when possible.

Wow. What a great site. I've currently read about 8 of their ExBEERiments, and I have 11 more currently open in tabs in my "to-read" list. Thank you so much for that information.

I've been largely brewing in a bubble for the past 15 years. In part because avid homebrewers can often be a little "eccentric" if you know what I mean, and excessively opinionated. I'm not in it for awards. Just good beer and fun. Also in part because every time I run into a homebrewer they are always "strongly suggesting" I buy something else. Meh. I learned the self taught way, it works, why change. What I've been doing has been working fine for me, so why spend more cash?

The result is that I've been doing something for 15 years . . . that may not be necessary. For example, I've ALWAYS performed stepped mash temp changes, sparge, primary in a bucket, secondary 7 days later in a glass carboy with ZERO headspace, airlock, things like that. Only looking through the photos of some of the xbeeriments am I like "WTF? Look at that Headspace . . . in a plastic bottle . . . with FOIL ON TOP? That's crazy!" Thank you for the eye opening and exciting experience.

Although reading through some of the xbeeriments I can't say those things have a massive change on taste difference.

But one thing I still can't get my head around. When I learned to brew years ago, the advice was 1 week in primary and 2 weeks in secondary, or until finished. That's what I've (mostly) been doing, except for some of the higher gravity beers that take a little longer. For example, right now I"ve got a Belgian Strong Ale going. I did my mash/etc. on April 7th. On April 18th I transferred to my glass carboy. It's been sitting there ever since. But it's still bubbling (i.e. not done yet), which isn't entirely odd to me. But all of the recipes in the xbeeriments appear to be done, start to finish, in 7 to 10 days. Why have mine ALWAYS taken so much longer? What am I missing?

Do you make yeast starters? These times assume that you're making a starter to pitch at least 1M cells per ml per degree plato. Without a starter and with lower pitch rates, it will take a lot longer for it to ferment out and increase risk of off flavors or incomplete fermentation. (Though I've only ever had true incomplete fermentation happen once out of 300+ brews)

swinginbeef

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #39 on: May 14, 2018, 09:49:58 AM »
As an extract brewer, I'm not in the same league with you all grain guys, so take what I say with a grain of salt.  But I've always just done 5 - 7 days in primary, then bottle and let it condition for 3 - 5 weeks, and that's it (ales of course).  I've only ever used dry yeast.  I've read that liquid yeasts are a lot slower.

Make sure your FG is where it's supposed to be before bottling or you run the risk of bottles exploding during conditioning. You need the ventilation while fermentation is active. 5-7 days will more than likely be fine on a lower OG beer with a good pitch rate, but something a little heavier (maybe 1.060+) with a slightly low pitch rate might not be finished after a week. Cleaning up beer and glass shards is a pain...

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #40 on: May 14, 2018, 07:02:50 PM »
As an extract brewer, I'm not in the same league with you all grain guys, so take what I say with a grain of salt.  But I've always just done 5 - 7 days in primary, then bottle and let it condition for 3 - 5 weeks, and that's it (ales of course).  I've only ever used dry yeast.  I've read that liquid yeasts are a lot slower.

Make sure your FG is where it's supposed to be before bottling or you run the risk of bottles exploding during conditioning. You need the ventilation while fermentation is active. 5-7 days will more than likely be fine on a lower OG beer with a good pitch rate, but something a little heavier (maybe 1.060+) with a slightly low pitch rate might not be finished after a week. Cleaning up beer and glass shards is a pain...

The heaviest things I do are around 1.060 OG, and I always end up around 1.008.  The fermenter is usually done bubbling a couple days before bottling, and it is completely depressurized (liquid level equalized in the air lock) by bottling day.  I've been brewing more or less the same way for several years and never had an explosion (knock on wood).  Once I did have a bottle break at the neck when I was opening it, but I think the bottle had been damaged and I just didn't catch it when I filled the bottle.

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #41 on: May 15, 2018, 06:50:03 AM »
Do you make yeast starters?

No. I've always preferred the "smack packs" although occasionally I've had to use the dry yeast packets (which when I do, I usually do a small starter for a few hours just to re-hydrate it). When I started learning how to brew, I was told that doing yeast starters greatly increases the chance of contamination. Perhaps that's different now.

I've noticed in the Exbeeriments that they do yeast starters in scientific equipment on stir plates. Any suggestions for someone making a yeast starter without that equipment?

Their articles about saving yeast cultures is very interesting to me. Although I don't know how often I'd re-use the yeast. I typically do about 4 or 5 brews a year, and I usually rotate between 3 or 4 different types, meaning I wouldn't re-use a particular yeast type for a year or so (maybe less). I'm not sure if it's worth saving the yeast for that long . . .

brute

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #42 on: May 15, 2018, 07:48:51 AM »
Do you make yeast starters?

No. I've always preferred the "smack packs" although occasionally I've had to use the dry yeast packets (which when I do, I usually do a small starter for a few hours just to re-hydrate it). When I started learning how to brew, I was told that doing yeast starters greatly increases the chance of contamination. Perhaps that's different now.

I've noticed in the Exbeeriments that they do yeast starters in scientific equipment on stir plates. Any suggestions for someone making a yeast starter without that equipment?

Their articles about saving yeast cultures is very interesting to me. Although I don't know how often I'd re-use the yeast. I typically do about 4 or 5 brews a year, and I usually rotate between 3 or 4 different types, meaning I wouldn't re-use a particular yeast type for a year or so (maybe less). I'm not sure if it's worth saving the yeast for that long . . .

So, there are a few options.

1. Get a 1/2 gallon jar (plastic is fine), fill it with 1 quart of wort at 1.030-1.035 SG, add the yeast, cover with sanitized muslin and a rubber band. Shake the jar around whenever you walk by it. This is how i did mine for about 6 months before i build a stir plate.

2. Build a stir plate
Get a computer fan, a couple hard drive magnets, and a phone charger and a box. Here's my ghetto one that works nicely.

Note that I had all this stuff laying around, and I got my flasks for free when a bio lab at my college was upgrading their glassware and gave away their old stuff.


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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #43 on: May 15, 2018, 08:12:52 AM »
Do you make yeast starters?

No. I've always preferred the "smack packs" although occasionally I've had to use the dry yeast packets (which when I do, I usually do a small starter for a few hours just to re-hydrate it). When I started learning how to brew, I was told that doing yeast starters greatly increases the chance of contamination. Perhaps that's different now.

I've noticed in the Exbeeriments that they do yeast starters in scientific equipment on stir plates. Any suggestions for someone making a yeast starter without that equipment?

Their articles about saving yeast cultures is very interesting to me. Although I don't know how often I'd re-use the yeast. I typically do about 4 or 5 brews a year, and I usually rotate between 3 or 4 different types, meaning I wouldn't re-use a particular yeast type for a year or so (maybe less). I'm not sure if it's worth saving the yeast for that long . . .

For the cost of dry yeast, I've never bothered with starters, even for big beers with a 12% ABV.  Just throw in more yeast packs if you want to make it start faster.


grantmeaname

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #44 on: May 15, 2018, 05:31:35 PM »
Or just wait. We've done a 13% ABV beer before with no adverse effects from pitching. That one might even have been from dry yeast.

specialkayme

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #45 on: June 29, 2018, 07:48:04 AM »
I've never had a beer finish in 10 days either. I usually let mine settle down for 4-6 weeks (usually 7-14 days in primary, 14-28 days in the secondary).

I finally got a temp controller and converted a chest freezer into a fermentation chamber. I put in a 3 gal batch of a Mint Chocolate Milk Stout and a 5 gal batch of a Pale Ale and held the temp at 66 deg.

The reason I bring it up - fermentation finished in 5 days. The Stout went from a SG of 1.074 on 6/23 to a SG of 1.020 on 6/28. The Pale Ale went from a SG of 1.068 on 6/23 to a SG of 1.010 on 6/28. The Stout is done done, but the Pale Ale could continue if I wanted it to. At 7.6% ABV and 1.010, I don't want it to go further than that, so I dropped the temp in the fermentation chamber to 38 degrees to cold crash it for a few days.

That was all without doing a yeast culture. The Pale Ale was a Wyeast smack pack, and the Stout was a White Labs packet.

I had no idea lowering the temp would chance the fermentation time SO MUCH. I would have expected it to take 2-4 weeks to be finished, not 5 days! Crazy!

grantmeaname

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #46 on: June 29, 2018, 09:28:51 AM »
Your yeast fermented faster at a lower temperature? Or you just decided to cold crash rather than do a secondary/tertiary fermentation? I don't understand.

Kierun

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #47 on: June 29, 2018, 10:08:25 AM »
Mint chocolate milk stout sounds absolutely delicious

specialkayme

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #48 on: June 29, 2018, 10:13:20 AM »
Your yeast fermented faster at a lower temperature?

Correct.

Well, I don't know that is what made it faster. But when I brewed at room temp (74 deg) I would always transfer to a secondary at 7 days, when it was still quite active, and it would take anywhere from 7 more days (quickest) to 21 more days in the secondary for it to finally finish (so total of 14-28 days). This time I chilled the wort faster (using a new wort chiller), pitched the yeast, and kept it at 66 days and I hit my FG in 5 days.

While it seems absurd that a lower temp would make it go faster, that is indeed what occurred.

And it happened to both a 5 gallon pale ale and a 3 gallon stout, both somewhat higher gravity beers. So odd.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2018, 10:18:31 AM by specialkayme »

specialkayme

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Re: Home brewing for novices
« Reply #49 on: June 29, 2018, 10:16:46 AM »
Mint chocolate milk stout sounds absolutely delicious

I'm not much of a stout fan in general, but I came across this recipe and it sparked an interest. I decided to do a 1 gallon "test" batch and bottle rather than keg. If it wasn't good, or I didn't like it, I could either toss it or give it away. No big deal.

When I ran the numbers I found it would cost $17 in supplies to do a 1 gallon batch, but $21 to do a 3 gallon batch (as ~$7 was tied in yeast either way, and the change in hops didn't require me to buy more 1 oz packets). So I said screw it and did a 3 gallon batch instead.

I tasted it yesterday. At 66 degrees and flat it was still very delicious. You can smell the mint, but the taste is subtle. Slight chocolate flavor but not over powering. A sweeter stout (1.020), but not candy sweet. Hopefully when it's chilled, cleared, and carbonated it tastes even better :)