Author Topic: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System  (Read 6287 times)

Offline pehlman

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Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« on: November 06, 2012, 07:32:07 PM »
Ive come to the point in my brewing where I feel I am at a crossroads. I would really like to make my brew day easier and shorter if possible. More importantly, I would also like to take my quality and consistancy up a few knotches.

So here is my question....

Is it best to put more focus into buying better equipment and having a better system overall?

or... To put less effort and worry into it, and just learn how to fully optimize the system that you currently have? Given the system you are using already does all the basics to a certain extent (mash, lauter, boil, cooling, fermenting, packaging).
 
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Fermenting: Chocolate Rye Ale Please (C.R.A.P.)
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Offline euge

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Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2012, 07:38:00 PM »
It's good you are asking these questions. Often an "upgrade" in equipment has a cascading effect of more "upgrades" in order for the first improvement to work properly. :(

I actually started getting rid of equipment and slimming down which actually made my process easier and faster. So I would say choose your approach wisely and try to streamline your experience to optimize what you have. A change in technique sometimes can make a huge difference too. One for me was doing my bittering charge at 45 minutes instead of 60. That's fifteen minutes right there.

The Major might have a say about this but he has been warning about posting non-grain topics in the All Grain section. This probably would have been better placed in the Equipment or even General sections.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2012, 07:40:12 PM by euge »
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline pehlman

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Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2012, 07:51:17 PM »
Thanks! That makes a lot of sense!

I think youre right, I did post this in the wrong section... haha. Im going to repost in the equipment section. :)
Beer: It's what's for dinner.

-Mike Pehl (Certified Cicerone TM)

Fermenting: Chocolate Rye Ale Please (C.R.A.P.)
                 Kern River "Citra" DIPA Clone
Drinking: All the lovely fall seasonal beers! My Favorites!

Offline pehlman

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Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2012, 07:52:20 PM »

Ive come to the point in my brewing where I feel I am at a crossroads. I would really like to make my brew day easier and shorter if possible. More importantly, I would also like to take my quality and consistancy up a few knotches.

So here is my question....

Is it best to put more focus into buying better equipment and having a better system overall?

or... To put less effort and worry into it, and just learn how to fully optimize the system that you currently have? Given the system you are using already does all the basics to a certain extent (mash, lauter, boil, cooling, fermenting, packaging).
 

Beer: It's what's for dinner.

-Mike Pehl (Certified Cicerone TM)

Fermenting: Chocolate Rye Ale Please (C.R.A.P.)
                 Kern River "Citra" DIPA Clone
Drinking: All the lovely fall seasonal beers! My Favorites!

Offline pehlman

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Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2012, 07:54:23 PM »
*I HAVE REPOSTED THIS TOPIC IN THE "EQUIPMENT" CATEGORY*

My bad!
Beer: It's what's for dinner.

-Mike Pehl (Certified Cicerone TM)

Fermenting: Chocolate Rye Ale Please (C.R.A.P.)
                 Kern River "Citra" DIPA Clone
Drinking: All the lovely fall seasonal beers! My Favorites!

Offline euge

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Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2012, 07:55:39 PM »
*I HAVE REPOSTED THIS TOPIC IN THE "EQUIPMENT" CATEGORY*

My bad!

Well now let's get a mod to clean this mess up! ;D
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline jlo

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Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2012, 09:30:20 PM »
If your goal is to produce consistent beer than I would try and stick with the system you already have.  Mike McDole once mentioned that he only changed his system once a year after NHC and it took him a few batches to get the system change dialed in.

I can tell you from experience that you can never stop upgrading.  A few months ago I mentioned to a co-worker that I had bought everything I could ever buy.  That was a silly statement for me to make.

Offline pehlman

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Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2012, 02:28:19 AM »
I guess it really is a little bit of both. There are certain upgrades that could probably make things better, and there are certain things that would only make things easier...

Its probably just a matter of whether something is worth the cost and time needed for an upgrade.

Plus for consistency's sake, its probably good to not keep changing things because then I'll never really learn how to optimize what I have.
Beer: It's what's for dinner.

-Mike Pehl (Certified Cicerone TM)

Fermenting: Chocolate Rye Ale Please (C.R.A.P.)
                 Kern River "Citra" DIPA Clone
Drinking: All the lovely fall seasonal beers! My Favorites!

Offline mmitchem

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Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2012, 05:53:27 AM »
Regarding upgrades, be sure the upgrade is meeting a need that you have identified. Don't make a system upgrade because it "looks cool" or because "someone else has it". I hear guys in my club say things like this periodically and it always makes me wonder...

Denny has a pretty basic rig. It is simple and makes it easy for him to dial in on the ultimate goal - consistent, good beer. Stripping away the bells and whistles can really help put the focus on the real star of the show.

Not sure about your brewery, but before I would think of upgrading your brewhouse I would suggest upgrading your fermentation control capabilities. By this I mean fermentation space and temperature control.  If you are getting consistently great results on your system and it takes a little while longer, I say it is a fair trade-off.
Michael P Mitchem
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Offline gmac

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Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2012, 06:38:15 AM »
Unless you go to a system where you basically just press "Start", it won't matter.  Buying new equipment just means a new system to learn.  Learn what you have now because how else do you know what to buy?  Identify the pinch points in what you have now so you can think about reducing them but you can't know what they are until you've learned every variable you have in your system today.

I'm working on moving to 15 gal batches and I want to keep my system as similar to what I do now as I can just so I don't have to learn a new system.  I batch sparge, I just want to scale everything I own up by 100% and keep doing what I'm doing cause it's working fine for me.

Offline mtnrockhopper

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Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2012, 06:46:02 AM »
You have two goals, so there are really two answers. Smart equipment upgrades are a good way to make the brew day shorter or easier. Think about your process and what steps take time or cause you headaches, then find equipment to make that better.
 
But as far as making better, more consistent beer, well that is different. Upgrades are rarely needed for better beer, though some items such as better measuring equipment might make better beer easier. Temperature control and yeast management are probably the best upgrades you can make for better beer and these have little to do with the one's brew system.
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Offline weithman5

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Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2012, 06:58:02 AM »
i am with euge, i have been trying to simplify and streamline to make my system work best for me. 

FWIW, i never notice what category a post is in.
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Offline saintpierre

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Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2012, 07:30:39 AM »
You have two goals, so there are really two answers. Smart equipment upgrades are a good way to make the brew day shorter or easier. Think about your process and what steps take time or cause you headaches, then find equipment to make that better.
 
But as far as making better, more consistent beer, well that is different. Upgrades are rarely needed for better beer, though some items such as better measuring equipment might make better beer easier. Temperature control and yeast management are probably the best upgrades you can make for better beer and these have little to do with the one's brew system.
+1 ^^^^
FWIW I have two upgrades I'm considering with my system.  1) a more efficient burner to cut time off the brew day and 2) a pump so I don't have to lift my sparge water to its home on my top tier.
Mike St. Pierre
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Online AmandaK

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Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2012, 07:42:05 AM »
About a year into my brewing, I went ape s**t with buying upgrades because I could. I couldn't produce a consistent product, I spent too much money and I barely use the 'upgrades' that I thought were going to be useful.

That being said, I've concentrated the past two years on using the same simple brewing system and producing consistent results. Two things I did add that had either a great effect on my beer quality or produced time savings was fermentation temperature control (two wine coolers with Rancos) and a bottling tree with a Vinator. The wine coolers allowed me to dial in my fermentation - a must for great beer, obvi - and the bottle tree/Vinator cut 45 minutes off my bottling time. BUT, my brewing system is still exactly the same.
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Offline euge

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Re: Upgrading Equipment vs Learning Your System
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2012, 07:58:14 AM »
The most valuable upgrades were my two chest-freezers, a digital Ranco and a Johnson analog controller. I would implore anyone without the elusive "year-round cool spot" (does it really exist?) that can do ales and lagers perfectly to make these their first major capital outlay. Not a bigger kettle, large burner, pump or brew sculpture. Not a kegging system. Controlling your fermentation temps will be the single most important thing one can do to improve and achieve consistency in the finished product. Without ferm control everything else goes out the window.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman