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General Category => Equipment and Software => Topic started by: gmiller598 on March 17, 2016, 06:50:11 PM

Title: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: gmiller598 on March 17, 2016, 06:50:11 PM
I'm just looking for some opinions on what would help me make better beer. I currently have the following:

5 gallon stock pot to heat strike water and sparge water for batch sparging.
10 gallon rubbermaid cooler from Home Depot as a mash tun
10 gallon SS BrewTech kettle (on it's way to replace the 8 gallon aluminum pot I have been using)
Bayou Classic burner
copper immersion wort chiller
2 6 gallon glass carboys
2 5 gallon glass carboys for secondary fermentation when I choose to use them.

What is the next thing I should consider purchasing to make my beer better? I don't have any way to control my fermentation temperature other than keeping the carboy in an upstairs closet or my basement depending on the range of the yeast I'm using. Should I look into a mini fridge/freezer with a temperature control unit that will control my fermentation or is there something else I should consider as my next step?
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: mchrispen on March 17, 2016, 06:58:42 PM
I would lean toward fermentation controls, but don't discount some stuff to do yeast starters. That would be a couple of flasks, DME, etc. You don't need a stir plate, shaking is adequate, but might be something to explore.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: gmiller598 on March 17, 2016, 07:03:22 PM
I would lean toward fermentation controls, but don't discount some stuff to do yeast starters. That would be a couple of flasks, DME, etc. You don't need a stir plate, shaking is adequate, but might be something to explore.

Sorry, I forgot to mention I do have a flask and stir plate was well for doing a test started when needed.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: kpfoleyjr on March 17, 2016, 07:04:01 PM
I once was at the same level of equipment as you, and the next things I bought (in order) were a used 10 cu ft refrigerator with a Johnson controller, BeerSmith software, a yeast starter kit, and Bru'n Water software.  John Palmer has a good video on all-grain brewing, with 5 things to help make a better beer - proper sanitation, controlled fermentation, use of yeast starters, mixture of malts, and water treatment - I watched it to help me choose my next brewing equipment first.  Look for it on YouTube.


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Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: Stevie on March 17, 2016, 07:08:24 PM
Temp control is a no brainer
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: Philbrew on March 17, 2016, 07:20:06 PM
Temp control is a no brainer
Yes!
And make sure the controller you get does both cold and heat at the same time.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: HoosierBrew on March 17, 2016, 07:21:02 PM
Temp control above everything.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: gmiller598 on March 17, 2016, 07:23:50 PM
Temp control is a no brainer
Yes!
And make sure the controller you get does both cold and heat at the same time.

Is there a good recommendation for a controller?
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: toby on March 17, 2016, 07:27:13 PM
Temp control is always my first recommendation for somebody at your level.  Best ROI for making better beer.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: erockrph on March 17, 2016, 07:27:42 PM
Chest freezer plus temp control is a top option. The other is your own grain mill if you don't have one. I went with the mill first, since I have a basement that works well enough for fermentation temp control for the majority of my beers. Having your own mill leads to consistency in mash efficiency, and allows you to purchase unmilled grain in bulk.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: narcout on March 17, 2016, 07:32:01 PM
Is there a good recommendation for a controller?

For a dual stage controller, I really like this one:

http://www.auberins.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=8&products_id=334
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: riceral on March 17, 2016, 07:41:11 PM
I agree with the others on temperature control.

I would add something else. _Brewing Better Beer_ by Gordon Strong. Small investment with loads of information to take your beer to the next level. I'm still working on changes suggested in the book.

Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: pete b on March 17, 2016, 08:59:30 PM
I have one that's easier on your wallet: It looks like you do primary in carboys. A good old fashioned fermenting bucket is easier in every way.
I agree that temp control is key, but if you live in the north, have a cellar, and are willing to brew somewhat seasonally, it doesn't need to be an expense.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: 69franx on March 17, 2016, 09:48:38 PM
Is there a good recommendation for a controller?

For a dual stage controller, I really like this one:

http://www.auberins.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=8&products_id=334
+1, been very happy with mine
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: Steve Ruch on March 17, 2016, 09:54:13 PM
Chest freezer plus temp control is a top option. The other is your own grain mill if you don't have one. I went with the mill first, since I have a basement that works well enough for fermentation temp control for the majority of my beers. Having your own mill leads to consistency in mash efficiency, and allows you to purchase unmilled grain in bulk.

If you're getting a bit long in the tooth like I am an upright freezer might be easier on the old back. When my chest freezer crapped out a while ago I went with an upright.
#1 on the mill.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: kramerog on March 17, 2016, 10:18:14 PM
If you live somewhere cold enough, an aquarium heater, ice packs and a water bath can do the job.  That way you can save money for kegging.  Of course, there is always a need for more gadgets.  Since I already do water baths and kegs, I'm waiting for a fridge or freezer to come my way for even better fermentation control.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: euge on March 17, 2016, 10:38:38 PM
Temp control above everything.

This^^^!

First. Before a big brew kettle even kegging. First upgrade. Unless one has a magical spot in the basement/house as some have reported.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: klickitat jim on March 17, 2016, 11:32:54 PM
I've seen folks spend nearly $300 on a cool huge boil kettle with a valve and a sight glass and a thermometer,  but pass on doing temp control until they can afford it. Makes no sense to me. Reminds me of kids back in my high school days who put a huge decked out stereo in their 74 Pinto with bald tires. $300 invested in a small freezer and controller will improve beer infinity more than a $300 BK
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: tommymorris on March 18, 2016, 12:59:50 AM

I've seen folks spend nearly $300 on a cool huge boil kettle with a valve and a sight glass and a thermometer,  but pass on doing temp control until they can afford it. Makes no sense to me. Reminds me of kids back in my high school days who put a huge decked out stereo in their 74 Pinto with bald tires. $300 invested in a small freezer and controller will improve beer infinity more than a $300 BK
+1000
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: gmiller598 on March 18, 2016, 01:12:38 AM
I guess that all settles it.

I've had pretty good success with keeping good temperatures for the various yeasts in various places in my house but I would love to be able to move to the next step of lagering at some point as well. Looks like the search is on for a good size chest freezer to use. I've seen some in the range of 7 cu ft that look like they are big enough to hold 2 carboys in the event I have 2 batches going at the same time so that may be the route I go unless anyone has any suggestions based on what size the use.
Title: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: Stevie on March 18, 2016, 01:19:32 AM
Costco tends to stock a 7.1 cf danby for about $190. If your Costco doesn't stock them, ask the service desk to check other local stores. 15x26 without the hump. it holds two of the tall format 6gal glass carboys or two of the 6gal better bottles without issue. It's a Costco model number, but I believe it is identical to others of the same size.

You can also find something on CL for less, but I haven't had the best luck with used freezers lasting more than a couple of years.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: sonex on March 18, 2016, 02:47:03 AM
temp control, the inkbird itc308 plus is half the price of the auber temp controler. if your watching your pennies.

Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: kpfoleyjr on March 18, 2016, 05:54:09 AM
My most recent purchase was a 10 cu ft chest freezer with an Auber controller.  $259 from Menards and will hold up to six 5-gallon kegs and two 2-1/2 gallon kegs on the hump.  Can fit a carboy in for lagering if you take out a few kegs.


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Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: jmitchell3 on March 18, 2016, 08:26:42 AM
Checkout the inkbird controllers on Amazon. They are half the price of most others and come in dual stage prewired varieties. I just bought one last week (have two ranco units also) and fermented a batch with it, no problems.


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Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: cempt1 on March 18, 2016, 10:06:43 AM
I have a inkbird and a johnson.  The inkbird was way cheaper a way easier to use.  It also controls heat and cool at the same time.  The Johnson can only do heat or cold and you have to take it apart and move some ity bity jumpers to change its function. I use the inkbird with a 8.0 cf freezer and tape a fermentation wrap for heat if needed to the fermenter.  "The little black box" that Marshall mentions on his website looks cool but the guy makes a few at a time.  I put my name on his waiting list 2-3 months ago and haven't heard back.

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Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: homoeccentricus on March 18, 2016, 10:11:16 AM
I've had the Inkbird for a couple of months now. No complaints so far.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: hopfenundmalz on March 18, 2016, 11:32:48 AM
I agree with the others on temperature control.

I would add something else. _Brewing Better Beer_ by Gordon Strong. Small investment with loads of information to take your beer to the next level. I'm still working on changes suggested in the book.

+1

Procedure trumps gadgets. I am an engineer and love gadgets, but procedure is where you make the best beer.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: denny on March 18, 2016, 03:59:22 PM
Temp control is a no brainer

Yep.  We talked about this on the last podcast.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: mabrungard on March 18, 2016, 04:40:33 PM
Procedure trumps gadgets. I am an engineer and love gadgets, but procedure is where you make the best beer.

I'll go along with that after a point. I feel that having some correct and useful gadgets are important for success, but after that success is based on procedure.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: Wort-H.O.G. on March 18, 2016, 04:54:18 PM
+1 temp control. My basement is natural temp control for ales. stays at 60F and depending on where I put carboy, I can add temp or subtract temp very easily.

for lagers and cooler yeast ales, love my freezer with johnson controls.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: denny on March 18, 2016, 05:13:01 PM
Procedure trumps gadgets. I am an engineer and love gadgets, but procedure is where you make the best beer.

I'll go along with that after a point. I feel that having some correct and useful gadgets are important for success, but after that success is based on procedure.

Which ones, Martin?
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: toby on March 18, 2016, 05:23:14 PM
I would think a good thermometer and pH meter, no doubt.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: Stevie on March 18, 2016, 05:31:25 PM
pH meter so low on my list that I haven't bought one and have zero plans on getting one. Accurate thermometer is a good thing to have. Don't need to be expensive either.
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: Footballandhops on March 18, 2016, 06:15:56 PM
#1 is fermentation chamber
#2 would be a pH meter
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: Philbrew on March 18, 2016, 07:38:57 PM
After fermentation temp control there are lots of small items that will help make better beer.  How about a jewelry scale to accurately weigh water salts.
http://www.amazon.com/Smart-Weigh-GEM20-Precision-Milligram/dp/B00ESHDGOI/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1458329552&sr=8-6&keywords=gram+scale+jewelry (http://www.amazon.com/Smart-Weigh-GEM20-Precision-Milligram/dp/B00ESHDGOI/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1458329552&sr=8-6&keywords=gram+scale+jewelry)
Title: Re: Most important next purchase to make my brew better
Post by: Biran on March 19, 2016, 03:53:55 AM
Fermentation temp control for sure.