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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: topher.bartos on March 04, 2013, 12:39:10 AM

Title: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: topher.bartos on March 04, 2013, 12:39:10 AM
I have a few ideas that I personally need to do for better beer. Please send me some suggestions.

1. Aeration system (aquarium pump / stone)

2. Yeast starter (using MrMalty.com or wyeast calculator)

3. Cooler fermentation temps (fridge / water tub / lowering my apartment temp, etc.)

4. Bru'n Water / 5.2 pH stabilizer (does this work) / John Palmers Nomograph

I think all these are very important but I haven't really worried about them because I was worrying more about mash efficiency more than anything else.

My question: Should I try these all at once or should I do each one one at a time?
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: hopfenundmalz on March 04, 2013, 12:51:39 AM
1. No better than shaking the carboy. O2 is better, but not always required.
2. Yes
3. yes, better to let it ramp up close to the end of fermentation.
4. yes to Brunwater, no to 5.2.

Try the ones you can, when you can.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: kmccaf on March 04, 2013, 01:20:05 AM
1. Yes. I use a mix-stir, and it works quite well for me. Shaking will work just fine, but it is too hard on my back.
2. Absolutely. Pitching healthy yeast will do wonders.
3. A swamp cooler has worked very well for me the last few years, but I also like my house temperature to be at 60F. I decided this year to ramp up my brewing during the winter, so as to make good use of the naturally lower temperatures, then take the summer off. My beer made during the summer just hasn't been that good, and it has been too much of a hassle to try and keep the temps steady.
4. Yes, I think getting a water report, and using bru'n water has resulted in the biggest improvement of my beer.

I think you have a great idea of were you want to go, and I would try as many as possible, as soon as possible. But there is something to be said for one step at a time. Getting the ph right for the mash, and pitching healthy yeast has resulted in a big improvement in my beer. Before I got those things right, I also brewed enough to learn my process, and figure out my equipment, which I feel to have been an important  towards working out the kinks.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: Wort-H.O.G. on March 04, 2013, 01:54:01 AM
I have a few ideas that I personally need to do for better beer. Please send me some suggestions.

1. Aeration system (aquarium pump / stone)

2. Yeast starter (using MrMalty.com or wyeast calculator)

3. Cooler fermentation temps (fridge / water tub / lowering my apartment temp, etc.)

4. Bru'n Water / 5.2 pH stabilizer (does this work) / John Palmers Nomograph

I think all these are very important but I haven't really worried about them because I was worrying more about mash efficiency more than anything else.

My question: Should I try these all at once or should I do each one one at a time?

1. I switched to oxygen- just realized there's no good way to get good levels of o2 without it, especially big beers and lagers. O2 cans at most hardware and depot/ lowe- $10.   O2 reg and infusion wand at http://www.williamsbrewing.com/WILLIAMS-OXYGEN-AERATION-SYSTEM-P699.aspx....$54
2.i like brewersfriend calc- more control over variables for your circumstances. http://www.brewersfriend.com/yeast-pitch-rate-and-starter-calculator/
3. Temp control can be maddening without controlled chamber(freezer or fridge with control unit). Just try to find areas of your house with the different typical temps for ales...then you can put your fermenter there.
4. Water is important. I brewed for sometime before getting report. Found out i had high alkalinity and sodium issues...mostly making ph control impossible without brewing salts and acids. Ether get a report, or use distilled or RO water, and absolutely use brunwater...it has made HUGE improvements in my beer.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: topher.bartos on March 04, 2013, 02:14:19 AM
When I brewed my 1st batch of all-grain 100% pale malt, I got a really astringent beer. I immediately looked at my water.

I got a water report from Ward Labs and realized that my water is okay for brown, porter or stout beers. So, I know how important water is. I just need a good way of checking it based on my water report so I think Bru'n Water is definitely what I'm going to look into for next batch.

Aeration is pretty minuscule on my end. I might pour my wort into a carboy and it bubbles up, but I think I should definitely add more O2.

I've never made a yeast starter. I just throw in some yeast and let it do what it does. I just recently bought Yeast by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff and I realize now that as a brewer I just make food for the brewer. The yeast need to be healthy.

Which brings me to temperature. If I make sure my yeast is healthy and strong with enough O2 and at a temperature that inhibits off-flavors I think my beer would be much better.

So, these things I'm going to be trying in the next couple batches to see what I can produce.

Thanks for the replies! I really appreciate it.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: Hokerer on March 04, 2013, 03:57:39 AM
I have a few ideas that I personally need to do for better beer. Please send me some suggestions.

1. Aeration system (aquarium pump / stone)

2. Yeast starter (using MrMalty.com or wyeast calculator)

3. Cooler fermentation temps (fridge / water tub / lowering my apartment temp, etc.)

4. Bru'n Water / 5.2 pH stabilizer (does this work) / John Palmers Nomograph

I think all these are very important but I haven't really worried about them because I was worrying more about mash efficiency more than anything else.

My question: Should I try these all at once or should I do each one one at a time?

If you're going to do them one at a time (which might be a good idea as you'd be able to tell which change or changes actually made a noticeable difference), do number 3 first, then number 2, then the others.  Fermentation temp control is probably most important followed by yeast starters (assuming you're using liquid yeast).
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: corkybstewart on March 04, 2013, 04:19:30 AM
Nothing improved the quality of my beer as much as controlling fermentation temp. 
My water sucks for drinking, but I've adapted my recipes to fit my water so I don't worry about that. 
I make a starter every time unless I'm using dry yeast.  No offense to anybody but mrmalty.com is way overrated.
I use pure O2 for every beer over 1.075 OG, otherwise I just let the wort splash against the side of the fermenter.
My advice is to start with fermentation temp and address the other things if needed.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: AmandaK on March 04, 2013, 01:36:02 PM
Nothing improved the quality of my beer as much as controlling fermentation temp. 

+eleventy

Start there. (And pitch properly!) Then worry about oxygen and your water.

BTW, I picked up some Vissani wine chillers from the Home Depot over a year ago for about $150 a piece - BEST investment I've ever made in homebrewing.

I aerate with a Mix-Stir - super easy & effective.

Pitching properly should go without saying.  8)
Title: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: majorvices on March 04, 2013, 02:52:04 PM
Brewing is a craft. Master as many steps as you feel comfortable with. But in the mean time if you don't feel comfortable messing with starters definitely pitch multiple packs/vials or stick with dry yeast (which does not require a starter). As far as aeration goes, at least shake the fermentor. The convenience of aeration stone is you can set it and walk away but with shaking you will need to shake it off and on for 15-30 minutes to it saturated with air enough. 
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: gmac on March 04, 2013, 04:05:38 PM
I can't say much more than the rest have said.

Temp control has been my number one improvement, especially for ales which I was making too warm and too fruity when I started out.

Starters are great but I would also suggest you could make improvements by picking one or two house yeast and get a rotation going for your brewing.  I re-pitch far more than I make starters because I try to plan my brews in some sort of succession.  I use WLP007 for most beers so I usually don't need to run a starter if I'm racking a beer off good yeast.  If I only brewed once every couple months that won't work but I brew almost weekly so I will often leave a beer on the yeast for an extra week to ensure I have a good pitch ready when it comes time to brew.  You will NOT get yeast autolysis after only a couple weeks and I've had no issues at all leaving beer on yeast for 3 weeks to work around my brewing schedule. 

I just pour into my bucket or shake my carboy and I don't screw around with water.  Tap water for dark beers, 1/2 distilled and 1/2 tap for lighter.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: DrewG on March 10, 2013, 12:55:31 PM
Quote
I make a starter every time unless I'm using dry yeast.  No offense to anybody but mrmalty.com is way overrated

How so?
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: alcaponejunior on March 10, 2013, 10:16:33 PM
#2 and #3

have helped me immensely

I sometimes use dry yeast tho.  Works great with straight rehydration.

for liquid yeast I make a starter, at least a 24h 1 quartH2O / 100g DME starter at the minimum.  Usually a bigger starter and longer, with refrigeration/decant.

The biggest and best thing is no doubt fermentation temperature control, with a freezer/johnson controller.  The freezer holds two fermenting buckets (one has to be an 8 gallon "short" bucket tho).  Temperature is a steady 64-66F.  I live in TX.  Result is "good beer."  It's TX, it's hot here.  Enough said.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: topher.bartos on April 11, 2013, 03:57:07 PM
I found this little gem:

http://morebeer.com/content/Controlling_Fermentation_With_Ice_Bath

I'm going to try it on my next beer for some temperature control... the last couple beer I've brewed were either phenolic-y or ester-y. I think temperature control is my number one priority, especially since I don't have a refrigerator...

Thanks for the input!
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: kylekohlmorgen on April 11, 2013, 04:09:51 PM
Brewing is a craft. Master as many steps as you feel comfortable with...

Best advice any homebrewer at any level can receive.

Improve one process, one piece of equipment, or one area of understanding at a time.

Take note of the difference it made on your beer, your brewday, or your level of enjoyment from the hobby.

Retain improvement for future brews.

Repeat.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: bluesman on April 11, 2013, 04:36:47 PM
Brewing is a craft. Master as many steps as you feel comfortable with...

Best advice any homebrewer at any level can receive.

Improve one process, one piece of equipment, or one area of understanding at a time.

Take note of the difference it made on your beer, your brewday, or your level of enjoyment from the hobby.

Retain improvement for future brews.

Repeat.

I agree.

Like building a house, it all starts with a solid foundation for which the framework to be built upon. Master the basics of good sanitation, proper yeast quantity/health and fermentation temperature control first, then build upon that with sound process enhancements one step at a time.

All good things come with time.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: gymrat on April 11, 2013, 05:43:58 PM
I pour my beer through a strainer into two buckets. This makes it easier to carry 5 gallons of beer down stairs. Then after pitching the yeast in one bucket I pour the other bucket into it. This areates like you would not believe. I don't think a pump and stone could match it.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: HoosierBrew on April 11, 2013, 06:34:57 PM
+1 to everything said.  I would add that when I started my improvement list (many years ago), I saved water until last.  I had a good handle on all those other items, but wasn't consistently making the kind of beer I wanted to make.  Some were great (if it happened to be a style favorable to my water), some not so much.  It was when I finally got serious about learning enough about water that my beer made the jump to what I had in mind originally.  Whenever you get a grip on the other things and want to look at water,  get Bru'nWater. It'll get you there.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: ynotbrusum on April 11, 2013, 06:48:13 PM
All said as above.  Great advice.  One more thing - if you don't mind the expense, you can get bottled spring water (ask the company for its spec sheet, because much of it is merely RO water, some add back sufficient minerals to make it perfect for brewing).  I use that and have since near the beginning of my brewing, because my tap water is hard and alkaline, so I could only make stouts and porters with it.  Add some calcium chloride if it is closer to pure RO water.  Most importantly, try to brew the same beer repeatedly to get your process and that beer style down.  Best of luck!
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: tomsawyer on April 11, 2013, 07:19:49 PM
+1 to hopfundmalz's advice to let the beer warm up towards the end of fermentation.

I bought an O2 regulator at Lowes in a little MAP gas welding kit.  Came with a bottle of O2 as well.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: reverseapachemaster on April 12, 2013, 04:36:03 AM
I definitely agree that temperature control during fermentation will have the biggest improvement on your beer. I tried to do the water tub/swamp cooler method but just couldn't get it to work well here (Dallas). I broke down and bought a fridge plus a temperature controller. Easily the best thing I ever did to improve beer quality. Sure, it's romantic to think about brewing with the seasons and all but there's a reason why there isn't a lot of brewing history at this latitude. It's not well done. Even in the summer in my house those beers were lucky to get into the low 70s during the day. I generally let my sours go at ambient and put my saisons out in the garage for super-hot fermentations (upper 80s) but anything else gets a cooler, controlled fermentation.

Generally though I think every part of the brewing process can benefit from some improved technique so whatever you can work to improve now will help your beers improve. If you can't buy a fermentation chamber you can work on improving your mash technique, water treatment, aeration, etc. Then come around to other parts of brewing as you can.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: joe_feist on April 13, 2013, 02:24:01 PM
I've generally used my basement for ales. I'm in Michigan and my basement stays at a pretty consistent 65-66. I know that's ambient, so true ferm temp is probably higher, but I just don't see a glass carboy holding heat. I used a fridge for my lagers until it finally gave out. It's been two years and I really want to do another lager. SWMBO recently gave me the green light to actually buy a new fridge; hopefully more reliable than than the used ones over the years.

Next is water for me. I'm on a well and I know the water is hard. I think better understanding my water will make the next biggest difference. I think the next big step is my very recent joining a local homebrew club. I need more objective feedback than friends and family.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: denny on April 13, 2013, 04:58:21 PM
I just don't see a glass carboy holding heat

You might be surprised.  Put a fermometer strip on the carboy to check it and you'll know for sure.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: joe_feist on April 13, 2013, 06:39:23 PM
You mean check my assumptions with quantifiable data? I don't know...but you may be on to something
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: denny on April 13, 2013, 06:44:18 PM
You mean check my assumptions with quantifiable data? I don't know...but you may be on to something

Yeah, I know...it's crazy, it's radical....but it just might work!  ;)
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: stlaleman on April 13, 2013, 08:39:19 PM
I just don't see a glass carboy holding heat

You might be surprised.  Put a fermometer strip on the carboy to check it and you'll know for sure.
I fail to see how a fermometer strip on the outside will tell you an accurate temperature. Go to a single pane window in your house put one on the inside, by this logic will tell you the outside temp accurately, as would putting one outside on the window would tell you how warm it is inside. Logic fails on this totally. If I'm wrong, please explain the fault of my logic.
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: klickitat jim on April 13, 2013, 11:45:41 PM
True, but not as drastically. No wind for one, and the heat source in the carboy is not much. I would guess there isn't but a couple degrees difference as long as ambient is stable

"Freedom is temporary unless you are also Brave!" - Patriot

Title: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: denny on April 14, 2013, 12:53:59 AM
I just don't see a glass carboy holding heat

You might be surprised.  Put a fermometer strip on the carboy to check it and you'll know for sure.
I fail to see how a fermometer strip on the outside will tell you an accurate temperature. Go to a single pane window in your house put one on the inside, by this logic will tell you the outside temp accurately, as would putting one outside on the window would tell you how warm it is inside. Logic fails on this totally. If I'm wrong, please explain the fault of my logic.

All I can tell you is that it does work.  I've put a thermometer in the fermenter and compared it to the strip.  Always within a degree or so.  The fault in your logic is reality.  :)
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: topher.bartos on April 14, 2013, 02:44:11 PM
This is my makeshift "refrigerator" the water is pretty stable at 58 degrees and it's been less than 24 hours since I pitched the yeast...

It's much better than my apartment temp which fluctuates from 65 to 75-ish... I'm looking forward to a cleaner tasting beer...

By the way, I pitched Wyeast 1098 anybody have any fermentation tips for this yeast strain?

I was trying to brew the Summer Ale (Homebrew of the Week - http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/pages/community/news/show?title=summer-ale-what-if-version-c-1830 ) but I put in dark brown sugar and it completely changed the color of the beer... Not very summer-y

(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-EVJloYidN80/UWojuBjNh6I/AAAAAAAACi0/_4CUhxXIXX4/s523/IMAG0092.jpg)
Title: Re: A few ideas for better beer.
Post by: Wort-H.O.G. on April 18, 2013, 09:00:33 PM
I just don't see a glass carboy holding heat

You might be surprised.  Put a fermometer strip on the carboy to check it and you'll know for sure.
I fail to see how a fermometer strip on the outside will tell you an accurate temperature. Go to a single pane window in your house put one on the inside, by this logic will tell you the outside temp accurately, as would putting one outside on the window would tell you how warm it is inside. Logic fails on this totally. If I'm wrong, please explain the fault of my logic.

All I can tell you is that it does work.  I've put a thermometer in the fermenter and compared it to the strip.  Always within a degree or so.  The fault in your logic is reality.  :)

a thermometer on a window is not a good comparison..it receives direct sunlight and we all know that inflates the actual temperature. I've found the temp strip is about 2 degrees warmer than the core, especially after active fermentation. its a good gauge, but a it depends upon when in the fermentation process your are using it...especially lagers IMO.