If I was to is no more than 50% vienna along with Marris Otter, would you still recommend a step mash?
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The malt bill is based on a 1st place Amber (Michigan State Fair, may it rest in peace),
The concept is to push the flavor and aroma envelope while maintaining the same bitterness.
I've used anywhere from 10% to 100% Vienna in an IPA. If you go with all of it, step it and convert low. It will seem like it has a higher FG than it does because it will be super malty.
Especially if you're making SSOS; then you need all the malt you can get. I think you should go all in. That beer can take it.
I also like a 50/50 mix of Vienna and Maris Otter as a base malt in a lot of styles. It's one of my signature combos.
Go see someone do it end-to-end before doing it yourself, though. A lot of what you do is visual, so you need to know what "looks right."
While that's undoubtedly the best way to do it, that's not the way I did it. I'd never seen anyone do AG before I started. I just read a lot of books and the usenet group rec.crafts.brewing and jumped in. Once I was done, it was kind if like "wow, is that all?". The point being that if you can't brew with someone else to learn, don't let it stop you.
I use a Johnson Temp Controller with a single dial. Should I disconnect it during the winter months, and just run the refrigerator/freezer in normal mode, i.e., use the refrigerator's own internal thermostat? Just wondering which would be easier on the fridge. It seems that using the Johnson might still be the way to go as I could more easily dial in the exact temp.
If the ambient temp where you keep the fridge is below your ale fermenting temp, you can rewire the controller to heat instead of cool and connect the lightbulb to that. It was pretty simple to do on mine, you just take off the cover and switch the wires.
If the ambient temp is warmer, you might as well stick with the controller.
A 40 watt light is enough to heat my chest freezer in the winter. I could have rewired my temp controller to heat mode but I just let the freezer to cool it down if it gets too hot.