Author Topic: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions  (Read 1929 times)

Offline erockrph

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About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« on: January 20, 2012, 12:09:06 PM »
So I just got the kit for my first homebrew (a Copper Ale) and I had a few questions. The instructions says to steep the specialty grains at 155F in 2 gallons of water. I will be doing this on my stovetop in a 20-quart stockpot. Do I just heat my water until it comes up to 155, then cut the heat and drop in the grain bag? Or do I need to keep an eye on the temp and adjust my stove to maintain a constant 155 water temp?

The directions also call for dry-hopping in a secondary fermenter for two weeks after the initial fermentation gets to within a few points of the expected FG. I don't have another vessel to move to for secondary fermentation, can I just dry-hop in my primary? If so, do I wait until the initial fermentation starts to wind down to add them or can I just dump them right in with the wort? Should I put them in a hops bag (using 1/2 oz of Tettnang pellets), or can I dump them right in?

Finally, my primary fermenter is a 6-gal glass carboy (not 6.5 gal). Should I expect to need a blowoff tube, or is a 6 gallon carboy usually big enough to ferment a 5 gallon batch without blowing out the krausen?

Thanks in advance for your help. I've already learned quite a lot in the past few weeks of coming to this forum.

-Eric
Eric B.

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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2012, 12:37:16 PM »
For the temp, it depends on what the grains are.  If they need to be mashed, I'd try to keep the temp at 155F.  If it is just crystal malts then the temp doesn't really matter.  How long is the steep?  You probably don't need to worry about it.

Dry hop in primary after the yeast has settled out.  You can drop the pellets right in, they will break up and sink to the bottom.  You can rack off of them when you are ready to package.

A 6-gallon carboy is generally big enough, but whether you get blow off or not depends on the SG, yeast variety, pitching rate, fermentation temp, etc.  I don't know if I'd expect to need a blowoff tube, but I'd be prepared for it.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline repo

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2012, 01:08:16 PM »
You will want to keep the grains above 150 and under 170, so yes you will need to keep the stove on enough to keep it warm. It should be steeped for 30 minutes.  Use about 3/4 gallons of water per pound of grain for best results.

You can absolutely dry hop in primary, in fact many will say thats the only sane way to do it. You must wait till fermentation is almost complete. The 7 days should be fine. The hops will sink very slowly over the two weeks.

Yes be prepared and have a blowoff available.

Offline euge

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2012, 04:19:34 PM »
If you have an oven that keeps steady temps that low (mine will) you can mash in that. Bring the pot to temp on a burner, cover and then pop in oven for 30 minutes to an hour depending per Tom's recommendations.

Me? If it is specialty malts like crystal and roast malt, chocolate malt etc I just dunk them in the brew kettle like a tea-bag for thirty minutes. If there's base malt in there I'll mash at 2 quarts per pound at 146-155 depending on beer style.

Congrats on brewing with grain! You'll make some good beer like that.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline mripa

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2012, 04:49:03 PM »
If you think you need a blow off tube this is what I do.
Put rubber stopper in top of carboy then just put tubing in about 1 inch below.
It should be tight.
I use an empty plastic extract container with 4 holes in lid.
Fill container half way with sanatizer and close lid.
Put tube through one hole and leave others for air release.
This needs to be lower than top of carboy.
I sometimes set inside a bucket because the over flow bubbles like crazy.
I don't have money for fancy equipment so have to invent as I go.
Good Luck on your brewing adventures!

Offline erockrph

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2012, 10:33:56 PM »
Thanks for the responses. The grain bag is 8oz each of Crystal 90L and Munich malts and 1oz each of Black Roasted Barley and Chocolate Malt. Do any of these need to be mashed? The kit says to bring 2 gallons of water to 155, cut the heat, then soak the grains for 25 minutes. Does that sound reasonable, or am I better off tweaking something?
Eric B.

Finally got around to starting a homebrewing blog: The Hop Whisperer

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2012, 10:49:10 PM »
Yes, Munich malt needs to be mashed.  The rest don't.  My concern is that 2 gallons of water is a lot for 18 ounces of malt, and the pH might not drop into the right range for mashing depending on your water.  Then again, crystal and the dark malts are pretty acidic so it could be fine.

I'm assuming you've never had your water tested, but if you go to the water company website then you should be able to look up a water report.

That said, you can just follow their directions and see how it turns out, then worry about water chemistry some other time (or not at all).

At this point, the biggest thing you can do to make better beer is to control your fermentation temperature.  Whatever the recommended range is for the yeast they supplied, go on the low end.  Also keep in mind that fermentation will warm it up, so you want ambient to be cooler than your desired fermentation temp.  This is very easy to do cheaply, as long as you plan ahead.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline erockrph

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2012, 05:41:20 AM »
I'm assuming you've never had your water tested, but if you go to the water company website then you should be able to look up a water report.

I have a well, so I don't have to worry about chlorine/chloramine/etc. I don't remember what the dissolved bicarbonates were when we had the well tested a few years back, but I think they weren't too high. (I'm pretty sure I could tell if we had really hard water since I grew up down the street from a limestone quarry and our well water tasted like skim milk from all the dissolved calcium)

My biggest concern with my water is that we have a lot of dissolved iron and manganese. It only takes a day or two after a cleaning before I start seeing orange rust stains in the shower and toilets (and this is going through a double-sized whole house filter). Anyone know if either iron or manganese would cause a problem with brewing? I'm thinking of using bottled water for now just to be safe anyways.
Eric B.

Finally got around to starting a homebrewing blog: The Hop Whisperer

Offline repo

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2012, 06:20:38 AM »
Your kit is designed so that you are getting color and flavor from the grains, thats why its having you steep them. You will get a minute amount of sugar from the specialty grains, but what the recipe is after is the color and flavor.  It is trying to keep things simple while still creating decent beer. 

If your water tastes metallic then yes use something else.

Offline malzig

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2012, 08:49:45 AM »
Your kit is designed so that you are getting color and flavor from the grains, thats why its having you steep them. You will get a minute amount of sugar from the specialty grains, but what the recipe is after is the color and flavor.
And haze apparently :(, since that grain bill will definitely add starch to the wort.

I'd steep them in the 148-158°F range, at 1.5-3 qt/# for 30-60 minutes.  That should effectively convert the starch.

It seems that a lot of Crystal Malts also contain significant amounts of unconverted starch, though, which might help explain a lot of cloudy extract beers.

Offline erockrph

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2012, 09:46:42 AM »
Your kit is designed so that you are getting color and flavor from the grains, thats why its having you steep them. You will get a minute amount of sugar from the specialty grains, but what the recipe is after is the color and flavor.
And haze apparently :(, since that grain bill will definitely add starch to the wort.

I'd steep them in the 148-158°F range, at 1.5-3 qt/# for 30-60 minutes.  That should effectively convert the starch.

It seems that a lot of Crystal Malts also contain significant amounts of unconverted starch, though, which might help explain a lot of cloudy extract beers.

If I end up mashing more sugars out of the grains will that have any appreciable affect on my OG and target FG? Does it really matter if it does? I'm using a packet of Nottingham dry yeast if that makes any difference.
Eric B.

Finally got around to starting a homebrewing blog: The Hop Whisperer

Offline denny

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2012, 09:50:07 AM »
Your kit is designed so that you are getting color and flavor from the grains, thats why its having you steep them. You will get a minute amount of sugar from the specialty grains, but what the recipe is after is the color and flavor.
And haze apparently :(, since that grain bill will definitely add starch to the wort.

I'd steep them in the 148-158°F range, at 1.5-3 qt/# for 30-60 minutes.  That should effectively convert the starch.

It seems that a lot of Crystal Malts also contain significant amounts of unconverted starch, though, which might help explain a lot of cloudy extract beers.

If I end up mashing more sugars out of the grains will that have any appreciable affect on my OG and target FG? Does it really matter if it does? I'm using a packet of Nottingham dry yeast if that makes any difference.

For the small amounts of grain you have, it won't really matter if you mash or steep.  If you steep at a temp between 145 and 160 for 60 min., it's the same thing as mashing.  Don't get too technical about it your first time.  Follow the lit directions, assess the results and make changes the next time after you have a handle on the basics.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2012, 01:35:07 PM »
For the small amounts of grain you have, it won't really matter if you mash or steep.  If you steep at a temp between 145 and 160 for 60 min., it's the same thing as mashing.  Don't get too technical about it your first time.  Follow the lit directions, assess the results and make changes the next time after you have a handle on the basics.
I agree with what Denny said, but use bottled water.  Manganese is less of a problem than iron, but if there is enough iron to stain your shower then it is way too much for good beer.  You can use spring or drinking water for the whole thing or at the very least to steep the grains.  You can top up with distilled water if you want, but don't steep in distilled water.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline goudron

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2012, 09:27:41 AM »
I agree with what Denny said, but use bottled water.  Manganese is less of a problem than iron, but if there is enough iron to stain your shower then it is way too much for good beer.  You can use spring or drinking water for the whole thing or at the very least to steep the grains.  You can top up with distilled water if you want, but don't steep in distilled water.
What's wrong with steeping in distilled?

Offline euge

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Re: About to brew my first kit - have a few questions
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2012, 10:35:16 AM »
Malt needs to be mashed within a certain pH range. If there are no minerals in the water then most likely the mash will be too acidic and harsh flavors will be extracted from the grain, especially if there are dark malts in the mix.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman