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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: klickitat jim on May 17, 2013, 10:41:51 AM

Title: Most and Least
Post by: klickitat jim on May 17, 2013, 10:41:51 AM
For the sake of brew discussion and debate, what have you found to be the most valuable equipment or technique upgrade and what is the least?  Or most underrated vs overrated?

Assume that we all start with good sanitation and ingredients.

My personal choices on the most valuable side are #1 fermentor temp control (I use a 14 cf freezer with a heat pad and Ranco 1100) #2 yeast starters

Least valuable is oxygenation. I considered a stone, valve, and bottle once but have had great cheap success with simple, low tech, splash airing. I dump between two buckets until the foam is about to over flow then pitch away. Always have action within six hours. I've also seen some YouTube comparisons that show little diff from O2 on the homebrew scale.

What other underrated overrated things have you experienced?
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: euge on May 17, 2013, 11:02:59 AM
Definitely temp control is #1...

Least valuable to use are air-locks. I just don't see the need.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: klickitat jim on May 17, 2013, 11:29:53 AM
Floor space is only reason I know. Lately I just leave the blowoff on till done.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: Slowbrew on May 17, 2013, 12:48:39 PM
Of the upgrades I've made over the years:

1) My grain mill - controlling your crush really helps stabilize your numbers.
2) Kegs - They make the process so much easier over all
3) The carboy cleaner thing that attaches to my drill (can't remember the name right now).  - Saves a ton of work with a brush.

Temp control would be great but I just don't have room for another freezer right now.

Paul
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: HoosierBrew on May 17, 2013, 12:56:32 PM
Most   1.  Temp measurement/control - thermometers and thermostats
          2.  Dennybrew - I fly sparged for a long time and never hit the level of consistency I wanted until I  switched to batch sparging. Got it now.

Least   1.  Most recipe books
           2. Glass carboys
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: tygo on May 17, 2013, 01:03:37 PM
My thermapen is probably my most used and valuable tools.  I'm really loving my March pump as well.

As far as least useful, off the top of my head I'd have to say the crappy little 5L mini-keg system I got before I decided to pull the trigger on the big boy kegs.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: dak0415 on May 17, 2013, 01:36:25 PM
Most:
Fermentation temp control
Fermentation temp control
Fermentation temp control
Fermentation temp control
Stir Plate(s) for starters
4L and 6L flasks for starters
O2 stone & little red tanks
Martin's Bru'n Water spreadsheet
RIMS mash (note: This does not make better beer, it does help with consistency)
Least:
Sooo many things
Lagering in those 6L Tap-a-Draft bottles
Chilling to pitch temps in the kettle (Now I just chill to ground water temps and stick 'em in the temp control freezer 'til they get to pitch temps)
Title: Re: Re: Most and Least
Post by: klickitat jim on May 17, 2013, 01:43:09 PM
stick 'em in the temp control freezer 'til they get to pitch temps)

Yup! Another trick I started doing a couple batches back. I toss my yeast in there two so yeast and wort are same temp at pitch.
Title: Re: Re: Most and Least
Post by: hubie on May 17, 2013, 02:22:15 PM
Yup! Another trick I started doing a couple batches back. I toss my yeast in there two so yeast and wort are same temp at pitch.

I've recently started doing the final chilling in the freezer as well, and I really like the technique.

I've thought about putting my yeast in the fridge as well, but I'm worried that because the carboy has a huge thermal mass as compared to the starter, that at some point my starter would get much colder than the carboy every time the freezer kicked on.  I figured this would particularly be the case when I first put the carboy in the freezer because the freezer is running all-out until the wort gets down to temp.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: klickitat jim on May 17, 2013, 02:51:04 PM
I pull my wort down to below 70 with the chiller, then drain to a bucket and crash overnight at 45. This is when I crash my yeast starter. Next day I rack the wort off cold break, decant and pitch the yeast and set my temp for fermentation. Works well for me.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: reverseapachemaster on May 17, 2013, 04:48:25 PM
Definitely agree that temperature controller on fermentation is the most important piece of equipment. Although I guess without a heat source I'd have to do only no-boil beers and have no way to heat the mash to appropriate temperatures, so maybe the stove or turkey fryer are most important.

I'm not sure what's least important. Maybe my erlynmeyer flask for starters. It does the trick for starters but I could use any number of other vessels. I only have an electric stove so no direct heating in the flask for me. A few months ago I would have said my party pig is my least useful piece of equipment but I've actually gotten a lot of use out of it by repurposing it. So much so that I bought a second one on ebay.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: hopfenundmalz on May 17, 2013, 05:28:47 PM
One of the most important things is the mop and bucket.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: erockrph on May 17, 2013, 05:39:37 PM
For me the most important process improvement was patience. The only time I'm even in the same room as my fermenters between pitching and bottling is if I'm adding dry hops. Otherwise I just let the yeast do their thing and come back in 2-3 weeks to claim my booty.

As far as equipment goes the most valuable piece for me was my grain mill. Prior to that my efficiency was all over the place from high 60's to low 80's depending on who milled my grain. Not I'm pretty much solidly in the 84-86% range.

The second most useful piece of new equipment is actually a silicone oven mitt. I BIAB, and this lets me squeeze the snot out of my bag (without burning my hands) to get most of the wort out of the grains. In conjunction with my grain mill this has really helped me hit a steady efficiency, because I can get both a consistent crush and a consistent squeeze.

Least valuable for me has been whirlfloc/irish moss. I stopped using it about a dozen batches ago and haven't noticed any difference in my finished beer by the time I'm ready to start drinking it.

One of the most important things is the mop and bucket.

For me it's my "brewery towel" - same idea.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: corkybstewart on May 18, 2013, 12:31:18 PM
Definitely temp control is #1...

Least valuable to use are air-locks. I just don't see the need.
I totally agree with temp control, that took my beer from drinkable to very good.
But I use airlocks or blowoffs to keep fruit flies out of my fermenters.  Loosely covering them with foil results in very buggy beer.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: dls5492 on May 18, 2013, 01:33:44 PM
I would say getting a Blichmann Floor Standing Burner. It is more efficient with the propane and cuts my brewing time by 30-45 minutes.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: kmccaf on May 19, 2013, 08:56:01 PM
Most Useful for me have been:

A Drill--Just makes my day easier for milling grain, and for aerating the wort.
Grain Mill
Refrigerator--Have a place to store hops makes my kitchen refrigerator much more useful  :).
A Large Plastic Box--Cheap and useful for fermentation temp control. In my current house I can get the temp down into the low 50's, and made some very good lagers this Winter.
Vacuum Sealer--Extends the life of my hops for a very long time. So, no worries about buying in bulk.

Least Useful:
Hydrometer--I still use it for every brew, but I have my process down pretty well at this point, and am never surprised. So, I think I could very well stop using it, and know what the numbers are for my brews.

Not too much else I find to be of little use. I'm not very fancy in my brewery, so pretty much everything has a good use.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: Podo on May 20, 2013, 12:22:42 PM
I think the most useful equipment upgrades I've made are fermentation temperature control and getting my own mill.  from a technique standpoint, conditioning the grain has probably been the most useful for me in getting my efficiency up.

Least useful has to be a hydrometer.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: AmandaK on May 20, 2013, 01:39:02 PM
Most: fermentation temperature control / lagering capabilities

Least: I've thrown away or given away most of my useless stuff (two bedroom apt)... tiny brew pots, tiny mash tuns, etc. Basically undersized equipment.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: cheshirecat on May 20, 2013, 03:54:10 PM
Most valuable: Temp control and mill.

Least valuable: That little float thermometer that came with my kit. Don't think I have used that thing in a couple years. Any and all of my bottling stuff. After I started kegging I told myself... oh I will still bottle sometimes... nope...
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: tcanova on May 20, 2013, 04:29:51 PM
Most Valuable : As I've gotten older, pumps to pump the wort so I have less to pick up.  10 Gallons of water is heavy.

Least: Lid to my brew pot.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: metron-brewer on May 20, 2013, 04:48:07 PM
Most:
Temp Control
BeerSmith
BrunWater
AHA and NB Forum
Denny's Cheap and Easy Batch sparging

Least:
Glass Carboys
Secondary Fermentor's
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: reverseapachemaster on May 20, 2013, 07:28:18 PM
Least valuable: That little float thermometer that came with my kit.

Definitely the least reliable piece of equipment. Mine is 13 degrees off at mash temperatures.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: rapurcell85 on May 24, 2013, 04:54:08 PM
Perhaps my most valuable piece of equipment is my propane burner. It allowed me to move out of the kitchen, which I was getting banned from after a boil over and a sticky mess.
Other than that, fermentation temp control.

Least valuable would probably be that cheap thermometer that came with my initial setup.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: joe_feist on May 26, 2013, 03:17:52 PM
Most- temp control; especially for brewing lagers.
A couple of books lately. Ok , not technically equipment, but loads of good info.

Least- maybe the auto siphon I bought. It worked, but plastic and I broke it quicker than I thought I would.
Title: Re: Most and Least
Post by: brewsumore on May 27, 2013, 01:05:39 AM
I like my:
1) thermowell/temp controller/fridge ferment chamber (although fridge needs to be upgraded since it's old and hence too slow to cool down temps and energy inefficient))
2) 2" diameter triple-roller Monster Mill and sturdy 1/2" drill to power it
3) Denny cheap n, easy rectangular cooler mashtuns I drilled and modified with straight Bazooka Screen and SS ball valve
4) Palmer-Wahl TM500 thermocouple thermometer and SS rod probe
5) notched culvert wind screen
6) corny kegs and chest freezer kegerator/lagering unit
7) plastic buckets that do NOT use rubber sealing o-ring
8)50' 1/2" copper immersion chiller from MoreBeer
9) 1/2" outflow auto-siphon
10) straight o2 using William's Brewing 22" aeration stone wand
11) two stir plates with 2000 ml flasks
12) fermwrap heater taped to back wall of ferment chamber fridge

Not crazy about my:
1) KAB4 Banjo Burner - it burns too much propane so i went back to my old burner
2) lab thermometers - too slow, although handy for calibrations
3) hop spider - anymore I just throw in pellet hops and strain out enroute to fermenters
4) carboys (have become unnecessary, although I use them for wine)
5) keg washer (I don't use it much for beer-related; although it's great for carboys)