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General Category => Equipment and Software => Topic started by: pehlman on November 06, 2012, 07:32:07 pm

Title: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: pehlman on November 06, 2012, 07:32:07 pm
Ive come to the point in my brewing where I feel I am at a crossroads. I would really like to make my brew day easier and shorter if possible. More importantly, I would also like to take my quality and consistancy up a few knotches.

So here is my question....

Is it best to put more focus into buying better equipment and having a better system overall?

or... To put less effort and worry into it, and just learn how to fully optimize the system that you currently have? Given the system you are using already does all the basics to a certain extent (mash, lauter, boil, cooling, fermenting, packaging).
 
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: euge on November 06, 2012, 07:38:00 pm
It's good you are asking these questions. Often an "upgrade" in equipment has a cascading effect of more "upgrades" in order for the first improvement to work properly. :(

I actually started getting rid of equipment and slimming down which actually made my process easier and faster. So I would say choose your approach wisely and try to streamline your experience to optimize what you have. A change in technique sometimes can make a huge difference too. One for me was doing my bittering charge at 45 minutes instead of 60. That's fifteen minutes right there.

The Major might have a say about this but he has been warning about posting non-grain topics in the All Grain section. This probably would have been better placed in the Equipment or even General sections.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: pehlman on November 06, 2012, 07:51:17 pm
Thanks! That makes a lot of sense!

I think youre right, I did post this in the wrong section... haha. Im going to repost in the equipment section. :)
Title: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: pehlman on November 06, 2012, 07:52:20 pm

Ive come to the point in my brewing where I feel I am at a crossroads. I would really like to make my brew day easier and shorter if possible. More importantly, I would also like to take my quality and consistancy up a few knotches.

So here is my question....

Is it best to put more focus into buying better equipment and having a better system overall?

or... To put less effort and worry into it, and just learn how to fully optimize the system that you currently have? Given the system you are using already does all the basics to a certain extent (mash, lauter, boil, cooling, fermenting, packaging).
 

Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: pehlman on November 06, 2012, 07:54:23 pm
*I HAVE REPOSTED THIS TOPIC IN THE "EQUIPMENT" CATEGORY*

My bad!
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: euge on November 06, 2012, 07:55:39 pm
*I HAVE REPOSTED THIS TOPIC IN THE "EQUIPMENT" CATEGORY*

My bad!

Well now let's get a mod to clean this mess up! ;D
Title: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: jlo on November 06, 2012, 09:30:20 pm
If your goal is to produce consistent beer than I would try and stick with the system you already have.  Mike McDole once mentioned that he only changed his system once a year after NHC and it took him a few batches to get the system change dialed in.

I can tell you from experience that you can never stop upgrading.  A few months ago I mentioned to a co-worker that I had bought everything I could ever buy.  That was a silly statement for me to make.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: pehlman on November 07, 2012, 02:28:19 am
I guess it really is a little bit of both. There are certain upgrades that could probably make things better, and there are certain things that would only make things easier...

Its probably just a matter of whether something is worth the cost and time needed for an upgrade.

Plus for consistency's sake, its probably good to not keep changing things because then I'll never really learn how to optimize what I have.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: mmitchem on November 07, 2012, 05:53:27 am
Regarding upgrades, be sure the upgrade is meeting a need that you have identified. Don't make a system upgrade because it "looks cool" or because "someone else has it". I hear guys in my club say things like this periodically and it always makes me wonder...

Denny has a pretty basic rig. It is simple and makes it easy for him to dial in on the ultimate goal - consistent, good beer. Stripping away the bells and whistles can really help put the focus on the real star of the show.

Not sure about your brewery, but before I would think of upgrading your brewhouse I would suggest upgrading your fermentation control capabilities. By this I mean fermentation space and temperature control.  If you are getting consistently great results on your system and it takes a little while longer, I say it is a fair trade-off.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: gmac on November 07, 2012, 06:38:15 am
Unless you go to a system where you basically just press "Start", it won't matter.  Buying new equipment just means a new system to learn.  Learn what you have now because how else do you know what to buy?  Identify the pinch points in what you have now so you can think about reducing them but you can't know what they are until you've learned every variable you have in your system today.

I'm working on moving to 15 gal batches and I want to keep my system as similar to what I do now as I can just so I don't have to learn a new system.  I batch sparge, I just want to scale everything I own up by 100% and keep doing what I'm doing cause it's working fine for me.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: Jimmy K on November 07, 2012, 06:46:02 am
You have two goals, so there are really two answers. Smart equipment upgrades are a good way to make the brew day shorter or easier. Think about your process and what steps take time or cause you headaches, then find equipment to make that better.
 
But as far as making better, more consistent beer, well that is different. Upgrades are rarely needed for better beer, though some items such as better measuring equipment might make better beer easier. Temperature control and yeast management are probably the best upgrades you can make for better beer and these have little to do with the one's brew system.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: weithman5 on November 07, 2012, 06:58:02 am
i am with euge, i have been trying to simplify and streamline to make my system work best for me. 

FWIW, i never notice what category a post is in.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: saintpierre on November 07, 2012, 07:30:39 am
You have two goals, so there are really two answers. Smart equipment upgrades are a good way to make the brew day shorter or easier. Think about your process and what steps take time or cause you headaches, then find equipment to make that better.
 
But as far as making better, more consistent beer, well that is different. Upgrades are rarely needed for better beer, though some items such as better measuring equipment might make better beer easier. Temperature control and yeast management are probably the best upgrades you can make for better beer and these have little to do with the one's brew system.
+1 ^^^^
FWIW I have two upgrades I'm considering with my system.  1) a more efficient burner to cut time off the brew day and 2) a pump so I don't have to lift my sparge water to its home on my top tier.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: AmandaK on November 07, 2012, 07:42:05 am
About a year into my brewing, I went ape s**t with buying upgrades because I could. I couldn't produce a consistent product, I spent too much money and I barely use the 'upgrades' that I thought were going to be useful.

That being said, I've concentrated the past two years on using the same simple brewing system and producing consistent results. Two things I did add that had either a great effect on my beer quality or produced time savings was fermentation temperature control (two wine coolers with Rancos) and a bottling tree with a Vinator. The wine coolers allowed me to dial in my fermentation - a must for great beer, obvi - and the bottle tree/Vinator cut 45 minutes off my bottling time. BUT, my brewing system is still exactly the same.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: euge on November 07, 2012, 07:58:14 am
The most valuable upgrades were my two chest-freezers, a digital Ranco and a Johnson analog controller. I would implore anyone without the elusive "year-round cool spot" (does it really exist?) that can do ales and lagers perfectly to make these their first major capital outlay. Not a bigger kettle, large burner, pump or brew sculpture. Not a kegging system. Controlling your fermentation temps will be the single most important thing one can do to improve and achieve consistency in the finished product. Without ferm control everything else goes out the window.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: anje on November 07, 2012, 08:06:44 am
Euge, I'm considering getting an outdoor burner and big enough kettle to do full boils and eventually allgrain (read: turkey fryer kit) and some sort of wort chiller before I get a fermentation chamber. But you're giving me pause, because I *do* want tight fermentation temp control. Suggestions on what to prioritize?
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: morticaixavier on November 07, 2012, 08:09:36 am
Euge, I'm considering getting an outdoor burner and big enough kettle to do full boils and eventually allgrain (read: turkey fryer kit) and some sort of wort chiller before I get a fermentation chamber. But you're giving me pause, because I *do* want tight fermentation temp control. Suggestions on what to prioritize?

all grain is wonderful but regardless of AG or extract or minimash, temp control is the best thing you can do for your beer. I am always right on the edge of saying that temp control is MORE important than sanitation. I say this because with lax sanitation you might well still end up with great beer but with poor temp control you really can't. 78* ferm temp will ALWAYS negatively impact your beer while poor sanitation might or might not cause a problem. Plus, if you get a hot estery beer I always feel a bit like I should struggle through it but if it gets infected and turns nasty it's easier to dump.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: mmitchem on November 07, 2012, 08:10:15 am
Here here - all in favor of fermentation equipment upgrades! A lot of people get trapped in the bigger MLT, BK mindset. The fermentation side of the house is where the magic happens.

If I could do it all over, I would go with a bayou classic burner, a 15 gallon pot and an igloo cooler. You can produce stellar wort with these things. I would buy Blichmann conicals and upright fridges with temp controllers for them. Put my money heavy on the fermentation end - for sure!
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: kylekohlmorgen on November 07, 2012, 08:22:55 am
I've given the argument before in this forum that a consistent process is more important than fancy equipment.

That being said - as you learn your process and its deficiencies, there is nothing wrong with making improvements as you grow as a home brewer. The easiest way to keep consistency while improving your equipment is to make one small change at a time and regain your confidence and consistency before making another. This is my only option

IMO - the best place to start making improvements is with fermentation control. Nail down your fermentation temperature, oxygenation, and pitching rates before messing with the brewhouse.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: sparkleberry on November 07, 2012, 08:36:00 am
i have an outdoor burner and a nice 10g kettle with sight glass which were both great upgrades. best upgrade i made was a chest freezer and tcd(finally got them in may). improved things right off the bat. the last upgrade i made was a rectangular cooler for batch sparging. i started ag with biab and liked it just fine. i was brewing more often and refining recipes for the first time. and the 3g batches allowed a bit more variety for me. i am doing the same thing now with the cooler and batch sparging. i bought a 70qt cooler for whatever future brewing i may do. but for the time being, i'm still very happy making 3 and 5 gallon batches. and i think i'm maybe two more brews away from having the system dialed in completely.

cheers.

ryan
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: a10t2 on November 07, 2012, 08:56:10 am
Euge, I'm considering getting an outdoor burner and big enough kettle to do full boils and eventually allgrain (read: turkey fryer kit) and some sort of wort chiller before I get a fermentation chamber. But you're giving me pause, because I *do* want tight fermentation temp control. Suggestions on what to prioritize?

I don't think that I would ever suggest full boils to someone brewing in an apartment, even with all-grain. Doing a concentrated boil and chilling/topping off with ice is just too easy. Temperature control, on the other hand, is all but mandatory.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: mmitchem on November 07, 2012, 08:59:29 am
Euge, I'm considering getting an outdoor burner and big enough kettle to do full boils and eventually allgrain (read: turkey fryer kit) and some sort of wort chiller before I get a fermentation chamber. But you're giving me pause, because I *do* want tight fermentation temp control. Suggestions on what to prioritize?

I don't think that I would ever suggest full boils to someone brewing in an apartment, even with all-grain. Doing a concentrated boil and chilling/topping off with ice is just too easy. Temperature control, on the other hand, is all but mandatory.

Good lawd - keep that LP outside! Fermentation all the way!
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: euge on November 07, 2012, 09:07:27 am
I think of a major reason why people want to upgrade to larger equipment: they cannot keep up with their own consumption- usually one has so called friends to help with this- so believe brewing more beer at once will solve this problem! This situation arrives early on in the brewing experience and promotes equipment purchases and developments that can be poorly planned and thought out due to inexperience- even with a fantastic resource at their disposal such as a beer forum.

I'd say get ferm-control right off the bat once one decides they're in this thing for the long haul. If just piddling and dabbling with brewing- no. Then get a kegging system before upgrading to a large brewing kit. Brew more often on the equipment one has and learn the process. Develop consistency. Make thoughtful decisions on which direction one needs to go- not "wants" to go. Will it be gas-fired or electric? HERMS/RIMS? How will one mash? How will one cool all that wort? How will the purchase of a single piece of equipment impact the entire system/method and overall experience?

I brought my 80qt back into the kitchen and it straddles two burners. Works fine for me but maybe not for others.

So I guess it would be: 1. Basic equipment (including the appropriate sized fermenters and type) coupled with appropriate chilling method. 2. Ferm-control- freezer(s) or fridge(s) 3. Serving system. 4. Larger kettle if needed- which will almost certainly change the heating and chilling method. 5. Wort transport if needed (pumps or gravity). 6. Perhaps then moving to AG, grain-mill and mash-tun type.

Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: anje on November 07, 2012, 09:11:42 am
Yes, the LP will go outside.  8)  I'm relocating ASAP, as I hate my apartment, and the new place has a stove with a glass top which makes me paranoid, so I've got an incentive to take it outside.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: safi on November 11, 2012, 07:57:33 pm

So I guess it would be: 1. Basic equipment (including the appropriate sized fermenters and type) coupled with appropriate chilling method. 2. Ferm-control- freezer(s) or fridge(s) 3. Serving system. 4. Larger kettle if needed- which will almost certainly change the heating and chilling method. 5. Wort transport if needed (pumps or gravity). 6. Perhaps then moving to AG, grain-mill and mash-tun type.

thanks euge, just what i needed, ive been reading "How to Brew" before i start my first batch, im trying to do everything right from the start
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: gsandel on November 11, 2012, 09:19:10 pm
If your beer is good, upgrade your system to meet other goals (volume, safety, temp control), if not, work on your procedure with the equipment you got....unless that equipment is hampering good beer (such as infected plastic fermenters and transfer tubing).

You can make good beer without exacting temperature control, btw....just don't expect to make a light lager or other very temp sensitive beers....if you have 78 degrees, make a damn good saison....but more likely, find a cooler place in the house to ferment and lager.

I suggest making the best beer you can with what you have....and then decide what your limitations are and design upgrades to solve for one at a time.  It is a bad practice to say temperature control is more important than sanitation....IMHO.  There is no substitute for (nor any excuse for not having) good sanitation practices.  I like upgrades that make my brewday easier and safer as well as eliminate mistakes and breakdowns....when you upgrade, I like durability...buy it to last.

Unless you are made of money, that is, then just go buy the best out of the gate....it won't make you brew better, but you won't be able to blame your equipment if things go awry.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: euge on November 11, 2012, 09:54:26 pm
Sanitation is important. Don't let anyone scare you into thinking this is of more value than fermentation temp control. You'll never make consistently great beer without it.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: Jimmy K on November 12, 2012, 06:58:19 am
Unless you are made of money, that is, then just go buy the best out of the gate....it won't make you brew better, but you won't be able to blame your equipment if things go awry.

I know a guy. Mega expensive equipment and terrible beer.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: weithman5 on November 12, 2012, 07:58:26 am
[

thanks euge, just what i needed, ive been reading "How to Brew" before i start my first batch, im trying to do everything right from the start

i spent so much time pondering how to do it right that it took me forever to start.  just start and make the changes that suit you.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: euge on November 12, 2012, 08:04:56 am
One really can make excellent beer with just a 2 gallon stock-pot and a food-grade bucket. That simple. I say start with what you got in the kitchen already.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: Joe Sr. on November 12, 2012, 08:42:05 am
I keep planning to upgrade to mashing in a cooler, instead of BIAB. I even bought the cooler.

And I also have that ol' turkey fryer sitting in the box in the basement for when I get around to brewing outside.  It's been there for six years or so at this point...

But when it comes down to it, I know my equipment and I know my process and changing it will take more time.

So I brewed 10 gallons this weekend on the stove top.  Hit my numbers (actually a little on the high-side, but that's OK by me).  Pitched the yeast and it's fermenting right now.

I have so little time to commit right now, that it seems better suited to staying with what I know works rather than investing the time in changing.

If you know your system, IMO you should invest your energy in improving your process and making better beer.  Don't change just to change.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: morticaixavier on November 12, 2012, 09:10:44 am
[...]It is a bad practice to say temperature control is more important than sanitation....IMHO.  There is no substitute for (nor any excuse for not having) good sanitation practices.  [...]

I did not mean to imply that sanitiation wasn't highly important. very little sucks more than getting foot smelling, sour, moldy beer. However sanitiation is really a sinch, and if you have a very basic understanding of it you will not have major problems there. But my point stands I think, you can make excellent beer with minimal or even non-existent sanitation, if you are lucky. with incorrect fermentation temperatures it is simply impossible. Now, temp control doesn't necessarily mean a dedicated cold room with two way digital temp control down to the .01th degree. Perhaps it's just a cool/warm place in your house, or a tub of water with frozen water bottles or a fish tank heater. but if you try to make a kolsch at 82* it WILL be nasty. If you forget to sanitize your clean fermenter but you ferment at around 58-62* it'll likely be just fine. Maybe even amazing.

Let's remember people have been making (by all accounts) amazing beer with zero understanding of sanitation for thousands of years. but climates that lend themselves to beer making tend to be temperate and cool during brewing season (eg. scotland, northern germany). Those climates that aren't tend to favor styles that don't mind as much (eg. saisons in a climate that tends to warm a bit during brewing season).

My point was simply that all things being equal, if you are already making beer temp control is going to give you more bang for your buck then just about anything else you can do to upgrade your system. But don't aerate the wort with your toilet plunger.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: weithman5 on November 12, 2012, 09:33:33 am


. But don't aerate the wort with your toilet plunger.

no wonder i make s***ty beer 8)
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: Joe Sr. on November 12, 2012, 09:54:43 am


. But don't aerate the wort with your toilet plunger.

no wonder i make s***ty beer 8)

I actually do keep a clean never-used-on-anything-else toilet brush for scrubbing cornies.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: a10t2 on November 12, 2012, 10:17:14 am
I actually do keep a clean never-used-on-anything-else toilet brush for scrubbing cornies.

That's a very dangerous game if you have roommates. ;)
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: Joe Sr. on November 12, 2012, 10:24:33 am
I actually do keep a clean never-used-on-anything-else toilet brush for scrubbing cornies.

That's a very dangerous game if you have roommates. ;)

Just a wife.  So no worries.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: denny on November 12, 2012, 10:28:59 am
Years ago I came to the conclusion that the brewer makes the beer, the equipment doesn't.  That's not to diss anyone who ises a fancy system.  That's a personal preference, not a requirement for good beer.  After all these years and all these brews (somebody cue "Still Crazy After All These Years"!), I'm still happy with my incredibly down scale Cheap'n'Easy system.  It fits my style of brewing, I make good beer and I have fun doing it.  Those should be the considerations.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: gsandel on November 12, 2012, 02:30:50 pm
I agree with Denny
Quote
It fits my style of brewing, I make good beer and I have fun doing it.  Those should be the considerations.

The gear should compliment the brewer's style....you need very little else except a little desire to make good beer.

I'll bet that Denny's cheap and easy system is pretty impressively clean where necessary, however...
Title: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: ckpash88 on November 12, 2012, 04:45:43 pm
Upgrading can be fun though. I get quite a bit of satisfaction from building and working things out but changing things or the sake of changing things is pointless.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: corkybstewart on November 12, 2012, 06:03:56 pm
I would also say that process trumps equipment every time.  After 10 years of brewing I had upgraded all my equipment, gone from a single burner system to a 3 tiered 3 burner 10 gallon system with a stainless conical.  I made more beer in less time, but not better beer.  About 7 or 8 years ago I started reading about temp control and how it relates to each beer style I liked to brew, and suddenly I have truly excellent beer.  I'm lax on sanitation, most of my kegs have not been taken apart and cleaned for 15 years and I use my equipment for brett and normal beers, but I am relentless in keeping my temps consistent.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: The Professor on November 12, 2012, 07:44:23 pm
Years ago I came to the conclusion that the brewer makes the beer, the equipment doesn't.  That's not to diss anyone who ises a fancy system.  That's a personal preference, not a requirement for good beer.  After all these years and all these brews (somebody cue "Still Crazy After All These Years"!), I'm still happy with my incredibly down scale Cheap'n'Easy system.  It fits my style of brewing, I make good beer and I have fun doing it.  Those should be the considerations.

I'm with Denny on this, 1000%.
The only upgrades to my 'system' were after I already had 15 years of brewing behind me:  so around 26 years ago I decided to ramp the hobby up a bit and  I built a very simple 3000watt electric 'keggle' (simple, as in just on/off, no fancy controls); I also bought a 5 gal Gott/Rubbermaid  cooler for mashing to replace the bucket I was using, and I started using a counterflow wort chiller.  Fortunately, I've always been a lunatic  about sanitation.
I've only just in the past year replaced the cooler with a new one (of the same type), and at some point soon will add a 10 gal one.  Other than that, I've essentially  been brewing on the same 'system' since 1986.  I know exactly  what to expect from it and get great results...certainly on par with or better than my local micros are putting.

It's definitely a 'ghetto' system without a doubt, and it's certainly more 'hands on' than an automated system would be, but I couldn't even imagine changing the setup now, since it has, for so long, consistently delivered what I want. 
Title: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: mpietropaoli on November 12, 2012, 08:21:38 pm
Some things you NEED decent gear for.  My answer would be to learn your system, but also learn what those critical components are and could benefit from either monetary or time investment if u are particularly handy.  In this order:

-Chest freezer/temp controller
-blichmann top tier burner
-stir plate
-kegging

Are all great brewing investments, with the first being out to a HUGE lead, and the second helping the most with beer made:time spent brewing ratio (my BIAB brew days are down to 4 hours, cleaned and on the couch with a coldie). 
Title: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: denny on November 13, 2012, 11:47:47 am
Upgrading can be fun though. I get quite a bit of satisfaction from building and working things out but changing things or the sake of changing things is pointless.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

That's kinda what I meant about having a system that fits your style.  I HATE building equipment and making changes.  I'd rather spend the time brewing.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: safi on November 14, 2012, 07:16:47 pm
thanks everyone i love reading this thread and getting advice from the experienced brewers!
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: Joe Sr. on November 15, 2012, 08:21:10 am
I HATE building equipment and making changes.  I'd rather spend the time brewing.

I really like building things, and I've bought a lot of parts to build a lot of things (hop spider, for one).

But I also don't like making changes and would rather spend the time brewing.

So I have lots of parts for things I will likely never build.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: mmitchem on November 15, 2012, 08:31:14 am
I HATE building equipment and making changes.  I'd rather spend the time brewing.

EXACTLY. If you know what is going to work for you and allows you to have a good time while making beer - make it happen and stick to it.

All the equipment upgrades and extras will not make up for poor brewing and fermenting practices. Master those things before wrangling a whole new set of obstacles. I would never buy anything with the hope of fixing the faults in my process.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: redbeerman on November 15, 2012, 01:50:54 pm
I HATE building equipment and making changes.  I'd rather spend the time brewing.

EXACTLY. If you know what is going to work for you and allows you to have a good time while making beer - make it happen and stick to it.

All the equipment upgrades and extras will not make up for poor brewing and fermenting practices. Master those things before wrangling a whole new set of obstacles. I would never buy anything with the hope of fixing the faults in my process.

I agree 100%.  Get the process working for you first.  Must understand the basics of brewing good beer before screwing it up with additional equipment. ;)
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: dcbc on November 26, 2012, 02:01:33 pm
Just to pile on to what others have said, but with my own experience.  Get to know your brew day.  All of our home breweries are differently situated.  Once you have yeast management and fermentation temp control nailed down, if you feel the need to make changes, do it with the idea of improving the process, i.e., make it easier and shorter.  Like Denny, I don't really enjoy building brew stands as much as I like brewing.  That's why I started off by copying his system.  Over time, I made adjustments to suit me.  But ultimately, I wanted a rig I could automate.  So given my desire not to spend a year building it, I had someone build it for me.  Because I don't like messing with wiring control panels, I saved up for a pair of the Blichmann TOP controllers.  I did some of the little things, but left the heavy lifting to the experts.  All of this doesn't necessarily make the beer better.  The improvements in the result is probably a bit of a coincidence coupled with the fact that I have been doing this for a while.  But having a system that holds the mash within 0.5 degrees of what I tell it to without my running around with pots of boiling water or standing and stirring to get that strike water temp just right as it drops from the preheated temp doesn't hurt.  I don't miss that extra effort.  I get just as big of a thrill out of watching the machine ramp up temperatures.  But everyone is different.  And no system is perfect for every brewer. 

Every major change to my brewing setup took about two batches to get dialed in. 
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: redbeerman on November 28, 2012, 05:51:45 am
Just to pile on to what others have said, but with my own experience.  Get to know your brew day.  All of our home breweries are differently situated.  Once you have yeast management and fermentation temp control nailed down, if you feel the need to make changes, do it with the idea of improving the process, i.e., make it easier and shorter.  Like Denny, I don't really enjoy building brew stands as much as I like brewing.  That's why I started off by copying his system.  Over time, I made adjustments to suit me.  But ultimately, I wanted a rig I could automate.  So given my desire not to spend a year building it, I had someone build it for me.  Because I don't like messing with wiring control panels, I saved up for a pair of the Blichmann TOP controllers.  I did some of the little things, but left the heavy lifting to the experts.  All of this doesn't necessarily make the beer better.  The improvements in the result is probably a bit of a coincidence coupled with the fact that I have been doing this for a while.  But having a system that holds the mash within 0.5 degrees of what I tell it to without my running around with pots of boiling water or standing and stirring to get that strike water temp just right as it drops from the preheated temp doesn't hurt.  I don't miss that extra effort.  I get just as big of a thrill out of watching the machine ramp up temperatures.  But everyone is different.  And no system is perfect for every brewer. 

Every major change to my brewing setup took about two batches to get dialed in.

Amen to that!
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: davidgzach on November 28, 2012, 06:53:07 am
To the OP-pehlman, what is your current set-up?  I don't think I saw it in the thread.  BIAB, extract, partial mash, all-grain?  And if all-grain, what equipment do you currently have?  As you can tell, there is a lot of advice to be had on this topic, but I'd like to know where you are now and what you are contemplating.  If this is in the thread, just point me backwards.

To safi-I'm assuming you are making an extract brew for your first beer?  Or are you diving in to all-grain?  I would make an extract as my first brew, maybe even a kit, and get through the process once before trying anything fancy.  As has been said, make sure to follow the instructions as best you can, pitch the appropriate amount of yeast in well aerated wort and enjoy the results of making your first brew.  Then make small improvements from there.

Happy brewing!  And rely heavily on the forum.  It's a great place to learn.

Dave
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: alcaponejunior on December 15, 2012, 02:21:21 pm
The most valuable upgrades were my two chest-freezers, a digital Ranco and a Johnson analog controller. I would implore anyone without the elusive "year-round cool spot" (does it really exist?) that can do ales and lagers perfectly to make these their first major capital outlay. Not a bigger kettle, large burner, pump or brew sculpture. Not a kegging system. Controlling your fermentation temps will be the single most important thing one can do to improve and achieve consistency in the finished product. Without ferm control everything else goes out the window.


I just picked up a chest freezer and a Johnson controller.  Will probably wind up being the single best investment I could make into my beer ($250 or so for both, brand new).  Since I'm now in TX, it's basically a MUST have setup to do beer at all, because it's way too hot here in the summer to brew without some form of temp control.
Title: Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
Post by: dcbc on December 15, 2012, 05:24:41 pm
The most valuable upgrades were my two chest-freezers, a digital Ranco and a Johnson analog controller. I would implore anyone without the elusive "year-round cool spot" (does it really exist?) that can do ales and lagers perfectly to make these their first major capital outlay. Not a bigger kettle, large burner, pump or brew sculpture. Not a kegging system. Controlling your fermentation temps will be the single most important thing one can do to improve and achieve consistency in the finished product. Without ferm control everything else goes out the window.


Ain't that the truth.  Where in Texas are you?
I just picked up a chest freezer and a Johnson controller.  Will probably wind up being the single best investment I could make into my beer ($250 or so for both, brand new).  Since I'm now in TX, it's basically a MUST have setup to do beer at all, because it's way too hot here in the summer to brew without some form of temp control.