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Messages - leejoreilly

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1
Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Am I ready to bottle?
« on: September 29, 2016, 06:21:09 AM »
I use refractometer to determine if I'm done, and hydrometer to get the actual number. My refractometer is garbage, so I'd maybe us it if it was higher quality.

This^^^. You're not using the refractometer to MEASURE FG, just to see whether it's stable yet. Taking repeated measurements with a hydrometer uses much more beer (though you can drink the sample after you take your measurement).

2
Kegging and Bottling / Re: CO2 supply source and gas filtration
« on: July 10, 2016, 05:34:59 AM »
I wonder how long it will be before some enterprising supplier starts selling "organic" CO2?

I'm not using it unless it's "artisanal", too.

3
Kegging and Bottling / Re: CO 2 Questions
« on: June 22, 2016, 06:24:34 AM »
CO2 is sold by weight, not fill level; e.g., I have a 20 lb canister, which is 20 lbs of (mostly liquid) CO2. All of the canisters I've seen also have a tare weight (weight of the container) stamped into their sides. So you can measure the fill of your can by weighting it and subtracting the tare weight.

My gauge reads in psi, at about 800 psi new and stays steady as the level decreases. When it gets close to empty, it'll drop fairly quickly to maybe 200-300 psi. I keep a second 5 lb can as a back-up, to use until I can get the 20 refilled.

I also keep the gas connected constantly. And I fully agree with HoosierBrew's liberal use of keg lube - cheap insurance - and the 30 psi seat-the-lid process.

4
General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Rut, but ok with it
« on: June 09, 2016, 05:05:27 AM »
Maybe plateau is the proper word, so long as it doesn't imply summit. And it's not a boredom thing, I still look forward to brewing. I'm actually brewing right now. Its more of a plateau/rut as far as trying to learn new stuff, explore new styles, bla bla bla.

The brew day is fun and relaxing, the beer is good, I just don't care anymore about science and proving things.

Jim, I'm in much the same boat, but I think of it as "focused" rather than in a rut. I make the styles of beer that I like, and they're pretty darned good (says he, throwing his shoulder out while patting himself on the back). There are some styles (sours come to mind) that I enjoy occasionally, but I'm not very interested in brewing; those I drink at one of my local taprooms. I do enjoy IPAs and pales right now, plus some sort of Belgian now and then. I have some "standards" that are pretty much always on tap (because my wife, my friends and I like 'em). When I want to do something a bit different, I'm likely to try something like Denny's Rye IPA - not a big departure from my "usual", but I can be pretty sure I'll enjoy it. I love brewing and my beers, and that's what it's all about for me.

5

Yeah, keeping the ferment cool is my greatest challenge right now. I try like hell to keep it under 70 and if possible 68 or lower.

Cooling your fermenter (to ale temps) can be pretty simple. I ferment in a bucket; I put the bucket in a Rubbermaid 37 gallon tub (Home Depot, $20 or so), fill the tub with cold tap water up to the level of the wort in the fermenter, and throw a wet towel over the exposed top of the bucket. Drop in a frozen one liter water bottle or two and I can easily keep the water temp at 60-62F just by changing the bottles out in the morning and evening. I keep the full tub in the spare bathtub to make filling and emptying easier.

6
All Grain Brewing / Re: Adjusting IBU's
« on: May 20, 2016, 04:31:50 AM »

Does anybody really know what time it is?  Does anybody really care?  ;)

Nice "Chicago" reference.

7
I think there's some "pride of craftsmanship" or "pure joy of sharing" aspect to posting these videos, too. Sort of similar to our "Pics of Recent Brews" thread that's been active for nearly six years and has over a hundred pages of "pride" pictures. You could argue that there's not a ton of value in them (I do think there is), but nobody requires you to watch them...

8
Buckets will have an alcohol/beer smell to them after fermentation.  This smell will degrade over time provided the lid is kept off and the bucket kept in a well ventilated area.

Buckets will become stained/discolored with use.  This has no adverse effects on future beers.

As long you clean the bucket by soaking it with brewery wash (PBW) and sanitizing it (Starsan or Iodophor) the bucket will be fine for many years to come.

It's best not to use harsh scrubbing pads or anything that will leave scratches in the plastic.  A soft sponge or towel should be all that's necessary to wipe clean the bucket after soaking with brewery wash.

I agree with Trent. I also use Mark C's process of putting an ounce of bleach and and ounce of vinegar into a fermenter full of warm water (always put the water in first) and allowing it to soak overnight the evening before brew day. That removes any remaining smell and apparently does a fine job of sanitizing.

9
Ingredients / Re: Tobacco
« on: April 20, 2016, 05:13:39 AM »
So far, I see two camps forming.

Camp "I like tobacco notes in beer if they don't actually come from tobacco"

and Camp Barf.

Neither camp seems to encourage adding tobacco to beer.

Now why does that only strengthen my resolve?

So, if you wanted barnyard notes, would you dry-horse?

10
Equipment and Software / Re: Brewing Software - Recommendations?
« on: April 19, 2016, 06:34:17 AM »
I started with BeerSmith 1.0 and upgraded to 2.0. I like it a lot, especially for recipe formulation, and the fact that I get a very usable set of instructions in the Brew Steps brew day worksheet. It also has a fairly complete set of additional tools and calculators. I don't recommend its water profile tool - BrunWater is miles better.

On the one hand, BeerSmith is very flexible, and allows you to set up all kinds of profiles, most notably for your equipment and various mashes. The downside is that these profiles require a bit of work to set up and maybe adjust a touch over time. But for me it's been time well spent.

One caveat - any software is just a rough model of the brewing process - some rougher than others. Use it as a guide, not a gospel.

11
For the first 14-15 years I brewed, I put the fermenter in a large tub of water.  I could ice packs to the water to cool it down or an aquarium heater to warm it up.  I won a lot of awards for beers brewed with that method, but it is labor intensive.  You have to check it a couple times a day for the first 3-4 days.  The good news is that after that temp is less of an an issue.  A couple years ago I used a book advance to buy a chest freezer and temp controller.  Works a lot better and is a lot easier, but a LOT more expensive!  I'd suggest you start with the water bath method, then as you see how the hobby goes you could move to a temp controlled freezer if you thought it was worthwhile.

I live in the Midwest, and I've been using Denny's "tub o' cold water" method successfully for some time now. I've found that ambient temps in my basement stay fairly steady, so that I don't need to add ice packs in winter at all, and maybe one or two one-liter frozen water bottles twice a day in the dead of summer. Once you've done it a time or two, you get the rhythm down, and you don't need to monitor constantly. I can maintain ferm temps around 60-62 easily.

As far as racking to secondary goes, I've found that unless you have a specific goal in mind, like a secondary fermentation from added fruit, or the need to rack off a yeast cake to use it in another fermentation, it's just flat unnecessary and may expose your fermenting wort to possible infection or oxidation.

12
All Grain Brewing / Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« on: March 20, 2016, 07:39:10 AM »
While I fully agree with the recommendations on crush, etc., one area you might want to look at is how you calculate your expected OG. For example, I use BeerSmith 2, and experience tells me that my "Total Efficiency" should be set to around 70% or so, for the 1.050 - 1.070 beers that I brew most often. That number matches my current process well - I used to be down around 62 - 65 % when I first started doing all grain, but improved as I fine-tuned. If I would set my efficiency to 80-85% or so, I would easily read an "expected OG" around 10 points higher than I'm really likely to get.

13
All Grain Brewing / Re: Brewing Water
« on: March 17, 2016, 06:04:46 AM »
Straight tap water with a campden tab, plus whatever adjustments BrunWater calls for.

14
A couple of thoughts:

- Careful attention to measurement and process probably affects consistency more than quality. If you are meticulous about brewing a beer that would score 30 points, you'll always end up with a (roughly) 30 point beer (absent judging subjectivity). If you are more cavalier, you could end up with a 20 pointer this time and a 40 pointer next.

- Precise measurement alone doesn't bring much to the party; it's what you do about those measurements that matter. Just measuring pH or gravity doesn't make your beer any different than not measuring it; making any resulting water or grist adjustments will make some difference.

- You should pursue what you enjoy about brewing. You can be a brewing engineer (glorious precision, little deviation) or a brewing artist (glorious deviation, little precision). Or a little of both. It's YOUR BEER, after all.

15
Ingredients / Re: Chestnuts
« on: February 26, 2016, 07:17:42 AM »
I've never used chestnuts in a beer, but the latest issue of Brew Your Own magazine (March-April 2016) has a recipe for a chestnut beer in an article about craft brewing in Italy.

As far as BeerSmith goes, you can add new ingredients to BeerSmith's data files. I think I'd likely add chestnuts as a miscellaneous flavor ingredient, like coffee, rather than a malt. But I haven't done any research to support this.

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