Author Topic: Tips for the beginner  (Read 4246 times)

Offline ikari

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Tips for the beginner
« on: October 05, 2012, 04:34:53 PM »
Hey all! I hope this is the appropriate forum for this topic. So recently a friend and I decided that we’re going to start learning to brew our own beer. Part out of necessity (Northern New Jersey…ain’t a lot of local micro brews and such) and part out of boredom (Northern New Jersey, ain’t nothing out here). Heheh. Actually I had been quite interested in some time and I had some friends back in CO that used to brew like mad men.

But we are new to the home brew world, and are taking our first steps. I was wondering if there are any tips that y’all would have for a beginner. Our first experiment is with an IPA, doing the partial mash thing. We figure a physicist and an engineer should be able to work through the intermediate stages. We got a basic starter kit, food grade buckets and blah blah blah. We don’t have a glass carboy (we’re looking into it) or any real fancy stuff. However, we did notice a few things with our first try.

First off…didn’t really notice bubbles through the air lock. This one has got me worried as all documentation claims that you should see it. Still our OG was 1.055 and our FG was 1.012. That made us feel a bit better, but still we’re waiting on our second stage fermentation to finish up so we can bottle and wait some more before we can see if we messed up. Not sure if the food grade bucket is appropriate as a second stage as some of the things I have read said you want to minimize the oxygen in the fermenter.

We used a kitchen stove, gas, to boil our wort…had to partially cover it a bit in order to maintain the rolling boil. Was this OK? I’ve seen mixed messages on that.

Water, since this is the primary ingredient it seems important. We bought a bunch of distilled water in jugs from the store and we used that. In retrospect I wonder if that was a good idea or if we should still boil it or do other things to ensure quality.

Homebrewers Association has been a great source of information, we watched the videos over and over again to make sure we “knew” what we were doing, tried to gather as much information as we could before hand. But now as we sit waiting for our beer to mature, we are thinking about starting another batch (I think we’re going with a stout) when we bottle the current bucket.

In general I suppose I’m soliciting advice, maybe common mistakes beginners make, or things to watch out for, our equipment we may want to upgrade to, etc. Thanks for the time and advice all!

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2012, 05:11:17 PM »
If you have not read howtobrew.com go there and read that.

The best advice I can give is to find a club in your area. This should help.
http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/pages/directories/find-a-club

Jeff Rankert
Ann Arbor Brewers Guild, AHA Member, BJCP Certified
Home-brewing, not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle!

Offline denny

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2012, 09:38:21 AM »
Boy, for your first batch it sounds like you did pretty much everything right!  I have 3 tips for you....most of the time you'll need to make a starter if you use liquid yeast, so stick to dry yeast until you feel like you're ready for that.  A "second stage" fermentation is almost never necessary.  It's an old idea that most us us avoid most of the time.  And temperature control during fermentation is about the biggest part of making great beer.  Find a way to keep the beer temp (not the room temp) in the mid 60 to 70F range and your beer and you will both be a lot happier!
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline gmac

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2012, 09:55:50 AM »
And none of my buckets ever bubble.  The seal on the lid just isn't tight enough to get bubbles in the fermentation lock (although I still use them).  Maybe at the very height of fermentation when there is CO2 coming off like mad but otherwise, there may not be any bubbles.  It doesn't matter either.  Don't worry about it, it'll be just fine.

Offline Mark G

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2012, 11:05:10 AM »
All good advice so far. One final thing... Start that 2nd batch ASAP. The first one will be gone before you know it.
Mark Gres

Offline saintpierre

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2012, 11:51:51 AM »
All the advise so far is spot on. 

Since you are using distilled water (made by collecting condensation from boiling water) as you progress you will need to find a way to oxygenate the wort as distilled water does not have dissolved oxygen and has been stripped of most minerials.  Oxygen and certain minerials are essential for yeast health.

+1000 on starting that 2nd batch ASAP.
Mike St. Pierre
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Offline maxieboy

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2012, 12:38:24 PM »
One final thing... Start that 2nd batch ASAP. The first one will be gone before you know it.

SO this... Welcome to the madness, err, hobby, uh, lifestyle...  8)
A dog can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes." Gene Hill

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Offline redbeerman

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2012, 12:52:09 PM »
As said before, secondary is not really necessary for most beers.  Read John Palmer's book (How to Brew).  A physicisst and engineer should be able to get through that without any problem.  Lots of good technical info in that book.  Don't worry too much and enjoy the hobby, er obsession, well maybe not yet, but just wait, it will happen. 8)
CH3CH2OH - Without it, life itself would be impossible.

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Offline euge

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2012, 03:35:22 PM »
And none of my buckets ever bubble.  The seal on the lid just isn't tight enough to get bubbles in the fermentation lock (although I still use them).  Maybe at the very height of fermentation when there is CO2 coming off like mad but otherwise, there may not be any bubbles.  It doesn't matter either.  Don't worry about it, it'll be just fine.

My experience as well. So now I just lay the lids without snapping down and no ferm-lock. I can tell visually how the fermentation progresses. Then the hydrometer should be the judge of things. Generally fermentation is done once the krausen subsides. I'll rack then.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline garc_mall

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2012, 03:53:38 PM »
I agree with everything said here. Make more beer. Drink more beer. The nice thing is, as long as you maintain sanitation, and are close on fermentation temps, you will have beer that tastes pretty good. As you become more familiar with your personal tastes, you can start honing your beer in on what you like. Until then, Relax, Don't worry, and have a homebrew. RDWHAHB.
In a Keg: Flanders Red Ale, Rye Altbier, Cascade/Topaz Pale
Fermenting: Flanders Red, Saison

Offline bboy9000

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2012, 07:42:45 PM »
1). Relax.  Brew days felt like a chore until about my fourth batch.

2). Have your web browser open to "How to Brew" the first few times.

3). Make a yeast stater on you next batch.  One gram of DME for every 10 mL of water for the wort.  You can use a plastic pitcher (or whatever) with foil on top to make your starter. I waited until my 15th batch to make one and mow I cant believe I waited so long. It is so easy and once you see your beer fermenting in less than an hour you'll be sold too.  Search this forum for "simple starter."
Brian
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Offline duboman

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2012, 01:55:29 PM »
Welcome to a great community and hobby!

1. Always inventory your kit/ingredients before starting your brew day
2. Make a checklist of your day to ensure you cover all steps involved
3. Take notes so you can reference them the next time
4. PBW/Oxyclean and Star San need to become your best friends
5. Fermentation temperatures are key-ales like 62-68 degrees so figure out how you plan on maintaining those temperatures-swamp cooler is cheap and easy
6. Take your time and always be patient
7. RDWHAHB!

You mentioned having a hard time with the boil. Ideally you do not want a cover on the boil, with extract this is less an issue but if you move to partial mash or all grain you will want to move to full boils so a Propane burner should be in your future and boiling with the lid is not encouraged.

Glass carboys are not all they are cut out to be as they are heavy, slippery and they break. If you are extremely careful with them they will last you a long time. You can also look into Better Bottles, plastic, lighter and if taken care of they too will last a long time.

Secondary vessels are somewhat old school unless you are adding fruit or oak or bulk conditioning for a long time. Most people today just use a primary for a minimum of 2 weeks, sometimes 4 and then package. You can even dry hop in them.

Remember, if you elect to use a secondary ensure that Final Gravity has been reached before moving the beer off the yeast.

Cheers!
Peace....Love......Beer......

The Commune Brewing Company-Perfecting the craft of beer since 2010

Offline gmac

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2012, 02:09:11 PM »
Oh, and avoid the temptation to drink on brew days.  Seems like half the time I brew, someone stops by, we have a couple beers and then things get missed/forgotten/generally F'd up.  Wait until at least the end of the boil to crack one.  Listen to the voice (liver) of experience on this one.

Offline euge

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2012, 04:04:56 PM »
Oh, and avoid the temptation to drink on brew days.  Seems like half the time I brew, someone stops by, we have a couple beers and then things get missed/forgotten/generally F'd up.  Wait until at least the end of the boil to crack one.  Listen to the voice (liver) of experience on this one.

That is sage advice.

As far as the boil goes you can partially cover the kettle by leaving a gap for the steam to escape. I use a long spoon to create a 1/2" gap by propping the lid on the spoon laying across the edge of the kettle.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline nateo

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Re: Tips for the beginner
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2012, 04:21:44 PM »
My only advice is to never lose the attitude that you're "still learning." I know after a few years doing this, I thought my beer was the best and that I knew it all.

Holy crap, was I wrong.
In der Kürze liegt die Würze.