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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: my99thtry on December 11, 2009, 03:18:48 PM

Title: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: my99thtry on December 11, 2009, 03:18:48 PM
I am a beginner/intermediate home brewer and use basic equipment and instruction as might be found in David Miller's Home Brewing Guide. 

I use the following: Grain and Extract, standard SS brew kettle,  2 stage fermentation, bottle conditioning, no chiller, no finings/clarifiers, etc.


I was hoping some of the more experienced brewers could offer up one or two solid ideas that would have the biggest impact on smoothing out the brewing process or improving beer quality.  Perhaps some lessons-learned that you have encountered.


Thanks
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: blatz on December 11, 2009, 03:23:04 PM
all grain:  www.dennybrew.com?

chiller might help - my beers got a lot better once I got nice cold break.  YMMV.
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: a10t2 on December 11, 2009, 03:26:19 PM
Are you doing full boils? If not that would be a logical next step. Either way, a chiller would be a good investment too.

You might want to do a small mash, to get a feel for whether or not going all-grain is something you want to do in the near term. I'm not familiar with the Miller book, but I see from Amazon that it's pretty short; you might want to get a copy of How to Brew. I wrote a quick and dirty guide to mini-mashing that might help: http://seanterrill.com/2009/04/09/good-beer-easy-beer/ (http://seanterrill.com/2009/04/09/good-beer-easy-beer/)
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: ndcube on December 11, 2009, 03:36:38 PM
Yep.  Full boil first then all grain.

I planned on partial mashing for a while before AG but it was a pain w/o an AG setup.  It was easier just to steal the wife's picnic cooler and take the plunge.
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: karlh on December 11, 2009, 03:38:16 PM
A chiller is a great investment, and you should work on yeast starters everytime you brew.  If you haven't used liquid yeast cultures yet, they can open whole new worlds up, and making a good clean starter will improve your overall product.
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: wzl46 on December 11, 2009, 03:46:20 PM
My suggestions based on looking back at what I have done so far:
First:  Wort chiller
Second:  Fermentation temp control
Third:  Stir plate and flask
Fourth:  All grain
Fifth:  Send your old uncle Paul samples from each batch you make.

Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: dhacker on December 11, 2009, 03:46:59 PM
What the others said . .

 . . AND, (you may already be doing this), but make sure you have control over you fermentation temps. That's a biggie!




Dang it Wzl . . ya beat me by 39 seconds!   :D
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: hamiltont on December 11, 2009, 04:09:15 PM

I was hoping some of the more experienced brewers could offer up one or two solid ideas that would have the biggest impact on smoothing out the brewing process or improving beer quality.  Perhaps some lessons-learned that you have encountered.

Thanks

#1 - Take good notes.
#2 - Research, Research, Research and Research some more!  That will lead you down the path of importance. Sounds too philosophical but it's true...
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: majorvices on December 11, 2009, 04:31:47 PM
Forst off, you don't mention if you are making yeast starters - you should be doing that now before you take another step forward (or stick to dry yeast).

My advice is go with temp control first as you next step. Temperature control will make the biggest difference in your brewing and pitching/fermenting at the proper temps is as critical to the final outcome as sanitation.

After that, full boil and chiller. Then, maybe kegging. A stir plate is  agreat idea, however, far from being necessary for making starters. But you certainly want to be making starters NOW for liquid yeast, if you are not already.

I would also look at upgrading your knowledge. Miller's book was great for its time but is somewhat outdated. I'd pick up "How to Brew". Also, you mention 2 stage fermentation. Not necessary for most beers.
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: my99thtry on December 11, 2009, 04:32:26 PM
There's some great feedback here, and rather quickly I might add.

- Dave Miller's book is fairly comprehensive.  He has a "hand book" as well as full book I have.  Although I will check out your other reading suggestion as well.

- Chiller was likely going to be my next equipment investment

- All Grain: I am admittedly not ready for that.  Both from a skill level and I cannot yet justify the equipment investment

- I will look into the small mash process as an option

- I will look into yeast starters as well.  I just used a liquid yeast for my current batch.

- I do take detailed notes on just about everything and I've been reading up a lot.  That is one of the reasons that sparked my post.  The number of possible implementations is very large so I want to focus on one or two at a time in logical progression.


Questions:

- I saw "full boil" mentioned a couple of times, but am not really sure what this term means.

- As far as ferm. temp. control.  How sensitive are we talking here?  I am currently making a brown ale and my fermentation temp (ambient air) has been a solid 63-68 throughout the entire fermentation process.  Are you suggesting going to closed refrigerated systems or some sort of insulating jacket around the fermentor?
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: ndcube on December 11, 2009, 04:37:34 PM
The ambient air is irrelevant.  Wort temp is hotter, especially in the beginning when heat is given off during a vigorous fermentation.  You need to control the wort temp.

Full boil means (for a 5 gallon batch) you start out with 5+ gallons of water and end up with 5 gallons in the fermentor (no topping up or very little).
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: a10t2 on December 11, 2009, 04:42:26 PM
- I saw "full boil" mentioned a couple of times, but am not really sure what this term means.

As ndcube said, you start with more than 5 gal (something like 6.5 for most people) and don't use water to top up. As a practical matter at the homebrew level, it means using a propane burner.

- As far as ferm. temp. control.  How sensitive are we talking here?  I am currently making a brown ale and my fermentation temp (ambient air) has been a solid 63-68 throughout the entire fermentation process.  Are you suggesting going to closed refrigerated systems or some sort of insulating jacket around the fermentor?

If you can keep the ambient air temperatures in the 60s, then temperature control can be as simple as setting the fermenter in a bucket or cooler with 5+ gallons of water in it. The extra mass will keep the temperature very close to ambient. http://seanterrill.com/2009/05/20/regulating-fermentation-temperatures/ (http://seanterrill.com/2009/05/20/regulating-fermentation-temperatures/)
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: denny on December 11, 2009, 04:44:48 PM
- Dave Miller's book is fairly comprehensive.  He has a "hand book" as well as full book I have.  Although I will check out your other reading suggestion as well.

It's also very dated.  A lot has changed in terms of knowledge and ingredients since it was written.  You;s do yourself a BIG favor by picking up a copy of the 3rd. edition of Palmer's "How to Brew".
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: majorvices on December 11, 2009, 04:58:37 PM
Yeah, dave Miller's books are ancient comparatively speaking. Had them and Papzians books and they were great ... back in the early 90's.  ;)

As far as temp control goes, if your ambient is 68 that is far too high for most ales and, as was stated, you need to monitor beer fermentation temp - which can be 4-6+ degrees over ambient. A swamp cooler, as was described, works well. But nothing beats accurate control with a fridge/freezer and external thermostat such as a Johnson or Ranco.

Fermentation, and that includes Temp Control and Pitching enough yeast, is the single most important process of brewing. Even if all your other processes are sound, if you don't have good fermentation techniques your beer will never be as good as it could be.

And that is why I say it should be your next step.  ;)
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: akr71 on December 11, 2009, 05:01:21 PM
- All Grain: I am admittedly not ready for that.  Both from a skill level and I cannot yet justify the equipment investment

Its really not as complicated as it sounds and the equipment investment is minimal.  A 48qt cooler and a few bucks at the hardware store (see Denny's site).  The propane burner and kettle and chiller will be a bigger expense (but well worth it).  You can pick up a 'turkey fryer' at Walmart or someplace similar for under $60 - you'll have your burner and kettle to do a full boil.

Fermentation, and that includes Temp Control and Pitching enough yeast, is the single most important process of brewing. Even if all your other processes are sound, if you don't have good fermentation techniques your beer will never be as good as it could be.

And that is why I say it should be your next step.  ;)
I know my beer improved immensely, when I took major's advice about fermentation temps.  The burner and kettle will make your job easier on brew day.  The chiller and controling fermentation temperature will help you make better beer. 8)
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: majorvices on December 11, 2009, 06:07:51 PM


Its really not as complicated as it sounds and the equipment investment is minimal.  A 48qt cooler and a few bucks at the hardware store (see Denny's site).  The propane burner and kettle and chiller will be a bigger expense (but well worth it).  You can pick up a 'turkey fryer' at Walmart or someplace similar for under $60 - you'll have your burner and kettle to do a full boil.
d kettle will make your job easier on brew day.  The chiller and controling fermentation temperature will help you make better beer. 8)


+1, in fact, brewing all grain will save you lots and lots and LOTS of money over extract. The only expensive part is the kettle, but as was mentioned, you can find turkey fryers with 7-8 gallon kettles cheap right now. Use denny's batch sparge method, get a ball valve for your kettle, and you are there.

I can brew 10 gallons of all grain beer for probably cheaper than what you are paying for an extract batch. I buy my grains all in bulk and it ends up being about 15-25 bucks for a 10 gallon batch, or less!
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: pdbreen on December 11, 2009, 06:38:05 PM
My first big step after extract/grains was a switch to kegging.  I hated dealing with all the bottles and the switch to kegs made me enjoy things again.  Which for me was important, because I may have stopped brewing otherwise.  However, I did learn that I shouldn't have given my bottles away as I now keg, but like to bottle some of the better brews for portability/gifts/etc.

Next step was using starters and a stir plate.  This was followed by yeast washing which has saved a ton of money.

Next big step was to all grain.  I also hesitated with moving to all grain - it seemed so mysterious - but I'm so glad I did.  With batch sparging, it's really not that difficult to setup and get some great results.  It does make the brew day a bit longer, but I'm coming in right at 4 hours from first flame on to everything cleaned and put away.  And, there's lots of downtime during the mash and boil so I get lots of other things done as well.

Next on the list is building a keezer that will take me from 2 to 6 taps (or 4 taps and a lagering chamber).  I'm looking forward to being able to lager and experiment with a whole new set of beer styles and yeasties.
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: ndcube on December 11, 2009, 06:43:22 PM
I also hesitated with moving to all grain - it seemed so mysterious - but I'm so glad I did.

Ha!  Same here.  Seeing words like 2-row, mash tun, sparging, etc made it seem so far out there.
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: karlh on December 11, 2009, 09:02:50 PM
I also hesitated with moving to all grain - it seemed so mysterious - but I'm so glad I did.

Ha!  Same here.  Seeing words like 2-row, mash tun, sparging, etc made it seem so far out there.

I would add that you save a great deal of money on ingredients with all grain brewing, but you may spend more on equipment. 

I agree that temp control, chilling, and starters are all very important, and a grain mill was one of my early and best investments.  It has probably saved me hundreds of dollars (I'm not sure why the LHBS charges 10-20% more for milling, but they do).
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: makemehoppy on December 11, 2009, 09:27:26 PM
My progression was:
True-brew kits with partial boil, water bath chilling, ambient air fermentation
Making my own extract/steeping grain recipes
Partial Mash / extract recipes
temperature controlled fermentations with fridge and ranco controller
kegging vs bottling
full volume boil with immersion chiller
liquid yeast with starters
all grain

temperature control fermentations made the biggest impact followed by all grain.

the all grain difference is likely just keeping a closer eye on the process and just gaining experience. I still occasionally made an extract batch and like them.
stir plate for starters
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: my99thtry on December 13, 2009, 03:20:44 AM
I've gotten a lot of great feedback and it is much appreciated.  I will definitely be implementing some of these techniques in my next batch and hopefully implement all of them eventually.


It seems fermentation temp control was a popular theme with everyone.  What kind of refrigeration are people using?  I would need to find something that I can put in my apartment and doesn't take up too much space.  Do the mini fridges fit buckets/carboys?

Also, with regards to doing full boils, is it possible to do this on a regular gas stove?  I saw someone mentioned getting a separate propane burner, but again i'm not sure I can swing this in the apartment.  This leads to the question on what a good size kettle is for a 5 gallon batch?  And is there a good kettle to have for full grain brewing?

I thought it was really interesting that with the exception of doing a yeast starter no one really mentioned ingredients at all. 

Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: tygo on December 13, 2009, 03:28:35 AM
Doing a full boil for a 5 gallon batch on a stove probably isn't going to work.  That's what prevented me from moving up to all grain until just recently.  You need to be able to boil around 7 gallons of wort, give or take and that's difficult to pull off on a stove.  Probably impossible on an electric range and not much easier even if you have gas.  I have a 10 gallon brewpot and it works great for 5 gallon batches but I'm boiling on a Bayou burner outside.  I don't think I could get that sucker to a boil easily on my stove.
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: tygo on December 13, 2009, 05:00:14 AM
Just out of curiosity I put 7 gallons of water in the brew pot on my gas stove and cranked up the heat.  After over an hour I still didn't have a boil although it was getting close.
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: Podo on December 13, 2009, 07:55:41 PM
I have to echo hamiltont's recommendation to take good notes.  I have the occasional issue with my beers, and good notes help me to figure out what I could've done better. 
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: makemehoppy on December 13, 2009, 09:00:55 PM
It seems fermentation temp control was a popular theme with everyone.  What kind of refrigeration are people using?  I would need to find something that I can put in my apartment and doesn't take up too much space.  Do the mini fridges fit buckets/carboys?

Also, with regards to doing full boils, is it possible to do this on a regular gas stove?  I saw someone mentioned getting a separate propane burner, but again i'm not sure I can swing this in the apartment.  This leads to the question on what a good size kettle is for a 5 gallon batch?  And is there a good kettle to have for full grain brewing?

I use a store bought kegerator for ferment in. Most mini fridges don't have a large enough level area on the bottom to support the carboy/bucket.

I can do a full boil on my stove by splitting the wort into two pots about 4 gallons on the big burner and 2-1/2 on the next biggest burner. Once I get both pots to boil I can combine and easily maintain a good boil. I believe this is refered to as texas two step.
Just using a single burner I can get NEAR a boil okay but I just can't get it ACTUALLY to a boil for a very long time.
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: beersk on December 18, 2009, 07:43:21 PM
My progression was:
Extract/grain partial boils on the stove with dry yeast
Cooled wort with ice bath/cold water while stirring
Started using liquid yeast
Moved to partial mash and partial boil with liquid yeast
Moved to all-grain, got a wort chiller, did full boils outside
Started using 6.5 gallon carboys for primary instead of bucket
Stopped doing secondaries so often
Started buying hops in bulk
Started kegging (bottling was about to make me quit brewing, as often anyway...)


I actually digressed and started using more dry yeast because it's cheaper and there are some decent ones out there (US-05, S-04, etc).  I can't afford $6 for liquid yeast right now as money is tight. 
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: jeremybrown_9 on December 21, 2009, 04:39:07 PM
O.K. I looked for this answer on the forum, but I couldn't find it.  So here it goes...This question seems really trivial but I don't want to waste anything.  I recently picked up equipment to brew 10 gallon batches.  Is it as simple as doubling everything in a 5 gallon recipe?  Including 2 packets of Wyeast Activator?  Any insight would be most helpful, Thanks.
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: a10t2 on December 21, 2009, 04:46:44 PM
O.K. I looked for this answer on the forum, but I couldn't find it.  So here it goes...This question seems really trivial but I don't want to waste anything.  I recently picked up equipment to brew 10 gallon batches.  Is it as simple as doubling everything in a 5 gallon recipe?  Including 2 packets of Wyeast Activator?  Any insight would be most helpful, Thanks.

Yes, you can simply double everything. That means doubling the amount of yeast too. So if you're asking "do I pitch two smack packs into my starter instead of one?" the answer is no, you can almost always use one pack and build a larger starter. If you aren't making starters, 10 gallons of stardard-gravity ale requires about 4 smack packs, a lager would need 8 packs, etc. http://www.mrmalty.com/starter_faq.htm (http://www.mrmalty.com/starter_faq.htm)
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: coypoo on December 21, 2009, 06:57:24 PM
I started doing extract, partial boils and pitching dry yeast.  Then saving yeast and making starters. After 6 batches of decent beer, each batch got better, i was able to score a mash tun and a kettle for $40 and made the jump to all grain 2 weeks ago. As everyone has said, going AG isnt as complicated and scary as it might seem. The only thing was since we were doing full boils we built a 50', 3/8" copper immersion chiller for $55. For the OP, I think the best thing to do would be to get fermentation  under control. Making starters, pitching enough yeast, and controlling temperature will have the greatest effect on their beer. Reading up on saving/reusing yeast is also a great way to save money.
Title: Re: What Are the Next Steps for Beg.- Intermediate Home Brewer?
Post by: BrewArk on December 21, 2009, 07:05:54 PM
Mark your calendar.  Order your hop rhizomes in March.  I got enough Cascade for four batches last year (the other varieties were not as good though). :)