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Messages - leejoreilly

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Ingredients / Re: Water adjustment approach?
« on: May 07, 2015, 05:06:00 AM »
I've found that our Michigan tap water is a pretty good starting point for brewing. I add some campden tabs to get rid of chloramines, and then fine-tune according to BrunWater - usually fairly minor additions depending on style and grain bill.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Keg Coming....Now What?
« on: April 25, 2015, 06:25:14 AM »
I know I'll need a couple of quick disconnects, and some lines as well. Why are there so many options here?

Do you also need some sort of clips or clamps for the gas/ beer lines?

I use hose clamps on my gas lines because I initially turn the pressure up to about 30 psi to seal the keg and jump-start carbing. Probably belt-and-suspenders, but that's what us anal guys do. I don't use them on beer lines, since they only see serving pressure.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Cold Crashing
« on: April 25, 2015, 06:04:47 AM »
I go from the fermenter straight to a keg, into the kegerator to carb and cold crash at the same time.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: try at batch sparging
« on: March 24, 2015, 03:16:39 PM »
If changing won't make better beer, why change? Great question!

At some point this question might come up. If person A is doing something that works great for them, why would person B be so adamant that person A should change? Especially if person B has nothing riding on it and will never try person A's beer. If A is struggling and looking for a remedy, I get it.

And I believe kludge is in the eye of the beholder guys. Just sayin...

I agree with you Jim.  My responses to Lee were based on his assertions that pumps and a sparge arm are necessary to continuous sparge, and that anything short of a complex setup when continuous sparging was a kludge. 

Mark, I think we're on the same page. My point was only that I'd have to do SOMETHING different to perform a continuous sparge - either acquire some additional equipment or what I was terming a "kludge", or both. My definition for "kludge" in this case was some (relatively) inelegant rearrangement of existing equipment in my kitchen to support a continuous sparge via gravity feed. And if that effort wouldn't be likely to result in better beer, it would be simply for the experience of trying something different.

To that point, do you think that either sparge method makes a significant difference in the beer, at homebrew scale?

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: try at batch sparging
« on: March 23, 2015, 06:13:59 AM »
If I were to go to fly sparging, I'd need a pump, some valves, hoses and a sparge arm, or some sort of Rube Goldberg kludge.

I continuous sparge in my kitchen without a pump or a sparge arm in the cold winter months.  In fact, I have never used a pump to continuous sparge, and I have been continuous sparging since 1993.  I place my hot liquor back (HLB) on my counter.  My mash/lauter tun (MLT) rests on a chair, and the vessel in which I collect runoff sits atop an insulator on my kitchen floor.  While nice to have, a sparge arm is not a "must have" when continuous sparging.   All one needs to do is maintain the liquid level in one's MLT such that it is about an inch above the top of the mash bed, which is easily accomplished by running tubing from one's HLB into one's MLT and adjusting the HLB and MLT flow rates such that they match.  The end of the tubing from the HLB can be left danging in the MLT.

I'm sure it would be do-able; kludgey, maybe, but do-able. My major argument against the process change is based more on inertia - if the change won't result in better beer, why change? I can see some value in trying it just for the sake of the experience, but that's not a huge impetus.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: try at batch sparging
« on: March 21, 2015, 06:38:54 AM »
From where I sit, it appears that the fly/batch sparge question is really centers around personal preference. There may be some (minor) differences in efficiencies and time requirements, but 1) I'm retired, so I'm pretty much immune to time-based arguments, and 2) this is my hobby, so some inefficiency is perfectly acceptable so long as my enjoyment level stays high. I'm sure I'd feel differently if I ran a commercial brewhouse. Or if there was some evidence that one technique produced measurably better beer. But I don't, and there isn't (that I've seen).

There is one point that does seem to differentiate the techniques, though: the equipment requirements. I do a batch sparge in a version of a Denny-cooler in my kitchen, using two 5 gallon HLT/BKs. My kettles don't have any valves, and I don't use a pump. I usually heat pre-measured water for my mash in one kettle and sparge water in the second (I actually have a smaller third kettle for top-off or additional sparge, if needed). If I were to go to fly sparging, I'd need a pump, some valves, hoses and a sparge arm, or some sort of Rube Goldberg kludge. Not a huge deal, but i would take some degree of cost and effort to switch, and I'm not likely to do so without the potential of a better result.

Nothing against fly sparging; just nothing pushing me toward it.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Gravity/volume adjustment
« on: March 16, 2015, 06:27:11 AM »
Chlorophenolic off flavors are a very common result when folks top off with tap water, more often than infection.

I highly recommend treating all water to remove chlorine/chloramine before brewing with it.  Campden tablets are cheap and effective in this regard.  A half an aspirin-sized campden tablet is effective in removing the chlorine compounds in 10 gallons of water.  A packet is usually only a couple of dollars.


^^^THIS. I have an older, small kettle that I fill and treat with campden, and boil along with my boil kettles (I use two boil kettles on our kitchen gas range). If I need top-off water, it's ready to go. If not, I have hot water for clean-up. Our water has significant chloramine; I wouldn't top off from the tap.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Delaying pitching
« on: March 13, 2015, 07:27:23 AM »
I live in MI and my son is in MD. We've done a few "individual collaboration" brews with a delayed pitching. For example, about this time last year, we each brewed a RIS using essentially the same recipe. He pitched his yeast normally in MD; I brewed here in MI, and after chilling to maybe 80F or so, I racked into a keg, purged with CO2 and stored it in my garage (fairly cool) for a day or two until we drove down to MD with it. There we racked my brew out of the keg into a carboy and pitched. Both beers stayed in MD through fermentation, then were blended and conditioned in a bourbon barrel for a few weeks and bottled. Outstanding stuff that's getting better by the month. We're going to try this technique again with a KBS sorta-clone later this month.

I use the purged keg approach to simplify transport (a fermenting carboy sloshing around for 500 miles didn't seem as attractive as a sealed pre-fermentation keg), but I imagine that I could use it to store the wort here for a few days, too. I probably wouldn't go beyond a few days, though.

All Grain Brewing / Re: Decoction
« on: March 13, 2015, 07:04:40 AM »
I've been under the impression that decoction was a technique designed for mash temperature control in the days before the availability of accurate thermometers. Do you think it may add something to the beer beyond this? Or do you think it's just an interesting technique that's worth trying, but has been supplanted by Thermapens?

If you want towers and don't mind some extra work, you could build the towers into your bar. Then place the keezer nearby and connect it to the tower with beer lines run through flexible, insulated tubing. You'll need to rig a fan to keep cold air flowing through that tubing. Then you have the best of both options.

You could also build the keezer door as a sort of horizontal Dutch door, like two half-doors. Mount the towers on one side and use the other side to access the kegs. In fact only the "non-tower" side would actually need to swing open.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Yeast starter? Psshhhhhh.... Whatever ;)
« on: February 28, 2015, 06:48:08 AM »
In my experience, Wort WANTS to become beer, and there are few absolutes in brewing. You can make fine beer with minimal concern for sanitation, recipe design, mash times, water chemistry, yeast health, fermentation temperatures, carbonation procedures etc. But each point of increased care and attention adds a few percentage points to your chances of making GREAT beer, and reduces by a few points your chances of disappointment. Sure, you can bag the yeast starter, never use O2 or a stir plate, "sanitize" with tap water, and so on, and still do OK; maybe for a few batches, maybe for a bunch. But I think the odds favor those who take the extra effort along the way.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Brew Weekend 2/28
« on: February 28, 2015, 06:24:36 AM »
I'm not brewing today, but I'll be dry hopping my IPA with some Ahtanum, Amarillo and Huell Melon.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Kolsch kit
« on: February 25, 2015, 07:48:38 AM »
I'd advise leaving it alone for at least another week. After active fermentation, your yeast needs some time to "clean up" after itself by metabolizing some fermentation by-products. My standard is to never touch my fermenter for at least two weeks, and even longer for bigger beers. And visible activity is a poor indicator of continuing fermentation. After a couple of weeks, check Final Gravity with a hydrometer; it's done when you get the same reading three days apart.

Patience, Grasshopper...

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Old yeast slurry
« on: February 18, 2015, 07:57:42 AM »
I had some Vermont IPA yeast that I harvested from a batch of 1.080 FG IIPA about seven months ago. I wasn't too confident that it was still viable, but I wanted to use that particular yeast in a smaller (1.060) IPA this week. So I made a starter Sunday, got a nice krausen by Monday, crashed it and pitched it yesterday, and it was bubbling happily within about eight hours.

I did give the sample and the starter a serious sniff test, and I had some freshly harvested 1056 standing by just in case. But it seems to have come through OK. The proof will be in the tasting.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Extreme Weather Brewing
« on: February 17, 2015, 06:39:04 AM »
Southeastern Michigan is down around minus-OMG this morning ("Michigan" is from the Native American word for "my ears just froze off), and I plan to brew a nice IPA. But I will show great wisdom by combining two of prehistory's greatest discoveries - "Inside" and "Fire". This combination will provide a warm and toasty kitchen in which to practice the zymurgial arts. If I feel the need to commune with Winter, I'll have a beer and wait for the feeling to pass.

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