Author Topic: New to HomeBrewing  (Read 729 times)

Offline Balogue_Ale

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New to HomeBrewing
« on: July 24, 2014, 02:07:01 PM »
Hey Everyone,

Im new to the forum and I want to get started to AG brewing. My girlfriend got me a Mr.Beer kit a year or two ago, and while that was fun, I definitely want to start brewing my own beer. I was just curious as to what are some good starter kits are? I was thinking about going to kegging (seems easier), and MidWest seemed to have a good kit for that. Also I wanted to know if there is a good source for how to setup your own Mash/lauter tun.

Thanks

Online Steve in TX

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Re: New to HomeBrewing
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2014, 02:17:52 PM »
dennybrew.com for the mash tun. Can't get much simpler.

Any of the "starter" kits from the reputable online sources will do you well. I recommend sourcing one from a local home brew supply. Many will offer similar kits or will have everything you need. This will also let you ask questions in person and meet your local staff.

You can find your closest LHBS here - http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/how-to-brew/find-a-homebrew-supply-shop/

Offline happywanderer

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Re: New to HomeBrewing
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2014, 02:30:24 PM »
Northernbrewer has a kit for AG brewing. It consists of two 7.6-gallon water coolers (1 for mash tun, 1 for hot liquor tank).  That'll set you back $199.00. 

You can make your own rig.  You'd likely save a few bucks ... but $199 ready to go isn't bad at all.
http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/brewing/brewing-equipment/all-grain-equipment/fermenters-favorites-essential-all-grain-brewing-starter-kit-7-gallon.html

For AG brewing, assuming you are going to be doing 5-gallon batches, you are going to need a pot capable of holding and boiling 7-8 gallons with room.  So - a 10-gallon pot.

Then you need a way to actually get that volume of water up to a boil.  Most stoves can't handle that volume easily (or at all in my case).  So you'll likely be in the market for a propane burner.  Many options available.  More BTU = better.  30psi regulator = better.  Need one that will be stable and able to hold the weight of 7 gallons+ of liquid.

---

I bottle and am going to step up to kegging soon.  Northernbrewer has nice single and double keg kits.  Figure on $200-$400 for full kegging kit (keg, regulator, lines, o-rings, CO2 tank, etc...)

Once it is kegged, you need to keep it cool/cold to force carbonate.  So that requires a fridge/kegorator.  That's another $150-$800 depending on how crafty you are and lucky with craigslist.org 

---

All this said, you can get into All-grain brewing with minimal cost by doing Brew-in-a-bag brewing.  This method requires only 1 or 2 large pots (7-10 gallons and a 5-gallon).  You will also need a grain bag.  Many options and if you can sew - you can make your own. 

---

If money is an object, you can also start off with extract brewing then slowly add equipment over time till you can do the full-on all-grain brewing.  I am using this method.  One small step at a time. 

---
Btw - bottling isn't that big a hassle.  Biggest hassle is finding a place to store all those bottles of liquid gold. 



Offline BrewBama

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« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2014, 03:59:03 AM »
Both answers above are chock full of great advice. Welcome to the hobby. Ck out the tutorials on AHA. You'll see what you need. Here are a couple ideas to save money.

If you have a turkey frier you can use that as your heat source. I've used the same one since Thanksgiving '96.

+1 for dennybrew.com on the mash/lauter tun. When I went from syrup to grain that's how I made mine and never looked back. 

You'll need a big kettle and spoon to boil your wort. If you can food see how big your enameled canning pot is. It'll could get you started. Having a spigot in it is nice for draining into the fermenter. Careful opening it with hot wort or water. It'll spit steam.

And you'll need a fermenter with air lock. I use a six gal food grade plastic bucket with lid. I bought it from a brew house but you can get them local cheaper. Mine has a drain spigot and gal markings which is pretty nice.

Good Luck.

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« Last Edit: July 25, 2014, 04:13:59 AM by BrewBama »
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Offline theDarkSide

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Re: New to HomeBrewing
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2014, 05:33:46 AM »
I used these instructions for setting up my mash tun and I'm still using it years later.

http://brewing.lustreking.com/gear/mashtun.html

Also, I got my starter keg setup from http://kegconnection.com but have built it up from there (from 1 cobra tap to a 6 tap kegerator with perlick taps).
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Offline leejoreilly

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Re: New to HomeBrewing
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2014, 05:48:32 AM »
All good advice above. One thing to consider early on is whether you want to use glass carboys or not. Some folks swear by them, others prefer to avoid handling heavy slippery glass containers in favor of plastic carboys or pails. Better to decide early than to have to change out later. I'm in the "no glass" camp; I ferment in pails and on the rare occasions that I need a secondary, I use a keg - no problems.

I agree that most stoves may have difficulty handling the heating of a large a single container (e.g., hot liquor tun or boil kettle) of water/wort. But if you prefer to brew indoors, I've found that my gas stove handles two 4 gallon kettles just fine (plus a third for top-up/clean-up water), so weather is never an issue for me. Just a thought. And it's a bit easier to hump around the 4 gallon weigh than 7 or 8 (absent a pump).

Offline Slowbrew

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Re: New to HomeBrewing
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2014, 05:57:44 AM »
All good advice so far.  One thing (I don't think) that hasn't been mentioned yet is a chiller.  Cooling 5-6 gallons of wort is a bit more of a challenge than 2.5-3 gallons.  An immersion chiller (IC) is easy, reasonably low cost and can really save a ton of time.

You have other options but when just getting started an IC is a good place to start.

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Offline Jimmy K

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Re: New to HomeBrewing
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2014, 06:45:48 AM »
Northernbrewer has a kit for AG brewing. It consists of two 7.6-gallon water coolers (1 for mash tun, 1 for hot liquor tank).  That'll set you back $199.00. 
I have and like the NB mash tun. But wouldn't go with the cooler for a HLT. You loose heat transferring from kettle to HLT and then you have no way to reheat without transferring back. For the price you could just buy a second, cheap burner w/ aluminum pot. --- Not that it can't work, just seams like a PITA having to worry about that as a beginner.
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Offline santoch

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Re: New to HomeBrewing
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2014, 10:17:29 AM »
Good old Mr. Beer -- the crack cocaine dealer of homebrewing.
There are a LOT of us (me included) who got addicted exactly like you did -  a Mr. Beer birthday/Christmas gift. 

Great advice above, The biggest thing you need to know is that moving to all grain batches means full boils.
You need a boil pot big enough to hold everything and provide room for hot break without boilovers.
You simply can't boil 7+ gallons of wort on the stove.
You will wait forever for 5.5 gallons of wort to chill.

This means you MUST get the big boil pot (10g or greater), the heat source (usually a turkey fryer) and a wort chiller together.  If you are missing one, you will have a hard time dealing with the increased volume.

Good Luck!

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Offline erockrph

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Re: New to HomeBrewing
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2014, 11:42:35 AM »
One thing nobody mentions is that you can simply brew smaller batches and still be able to move to AG with most of your extract setup. Since I'm the only one drinking in my house, 3 gallon batches suit me just fine, and I can still brew on my stove and chill in my sink.
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Offline CroceBrewing

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Re: New to HomeBrewing
« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2014, 11:44:29 AM »
All of the advice here on equipment needs is excellent! But I'd like to offer you some other advice that it took me a while to learn. Now that I know about these things, we're making beer that is so much better than when we started brewing back in March.

You'll learn fast that mashing and making wort if not all that complicated. The more challenging part is what you should do once your boil is through, and you flame out your kettle.

The three things that most raised the quality of our beer (in a dramatic way) were the following:

1. Always make and pitch a yeast starter. Lots of instructions online for the best way to do that. And you really should consider investing in a stir plate and flask to grow your starters. It's the best way, and a 2L stir plate will only set you back about $45. Well worth the investment! Even without a stir plate, though, you can still gently agitate your flask as a way to get it oxygenated. But pitching the right amount of yeast cells is really important!

2. Make sure you pitch your yeast at the right temperature.  I feel that for ale yeasts, your post-boil wort temp should be somewhere in the mid 60s F. Yeast manufacturers will tell you the optimum temp for ale yeasts in 70-75, but I feel that's too warm to start, since the fermentation process will naturally raise the temp inside your bucket or carboy.

3. Find a way to control your fermentation temperature. This has been the most-important lesson for us. If your ambient room temp, where you keep your bucket or carboy is 70 degrees, chances are it's between 75-80 inside your fermenter, which is fine for yeast growth, but risks you creating off flavors, and unwanted esters. The last two beers we did (an American stout and an IPA) fermented even and clean in about 7 days because we built a fermentation chamber where we could keep the temp outside of the bucket at a constant 63 degrees.

There are lots of low-tech methods (including swamp coolers) that you can learn how to make as a way to better control temp during fermentation. We were fortunate to have an old fridge in the garage, which we added a  temperature controller to, but there are less expensive ways to get this done. Controlling temp is also the best way to make beer that is consistent.

Good luck, and welcome to the hobby. If you're like us, you'll get obsessed too! :)

 
« Last Edit: July 27, 2014, 11:47:06 AM by CroceBrewing »
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: New to HomeBrewing
« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2014, 12:05:43 PM »
All of the advice here on equipment needs is excellent! But I'd like to offer you some other advice that it took me a while to learn. Now that I know about these things, we're making beer that is so much better than when we started brewing back in March.

You'll learn fast that mashing and making wort if not all that complicated. The more challenging part is what you should do once your boil is through, and you flame out your kettle.

The three things that most raised the quality of our beer (in a dramatic way) were the following:

1. Always make and pitch a yeast starter. Lots of instructions online for the best way to do that. And you really should consider investing in a stir plate and flask to grow your starters. It's the best way, and a 2L stir plate will only set you back about $45. Well worth the investment! Even without a stir plate, though, you can still gently agitate your flask as a way to get it oxygenated. But pitching the right amount of yeast cells is really important!

2. Make sure you pitch your yeast at the right temperature.  I feel that for ale yeasts, your post-boil wort temp should be somewhere in the mid 60s F. Yeast manufacturers will tell you the optimum temp for ale yeasts in 70-75, but I feel that's too warm to start, since the fermentation process will naturally raise the temp inside your bucket or carboy.

3. Find a way to control your fermentation temperature. This has been the most-important lesson for us. If your ambient room temp, where you keep your bucket or carboy is 70 degrees, chances are it's between 75-80 inside your fermenter, which is fine for yeast growth, but risks you creating off flavors, and unwanted esters. The last two beers we did (an American stout and an IPA) fermented even and clean in about 7 days because we built a fermentation chamber where we could keep the temp outside of the bucket at a constant 63 degrees.

There are lots of low-tech methods (including swamp coolers) that you can learn how to make as a way to better control temp during fermentation. We were fortunate to have an old fridge in the garage, which we added a  temperature controller to, but there are less expensive ways to get this done. Controlling temp is also the best way to make beer that is consistent.

Good luck, and welcome to the hobby. If you're like us, you'll get obsessed too! :)

 


+1.  Good advice. Also, unless you're pretty lucky to live in a part of the country with good water ( no luck in most of the Midwest in my case), it's important to use good water even in extract brews. Even more important in AG brewing, because you need good pH control to basically make what is your own extract. It's a really good idea to download one of the good brewing water software programs.

EDIT - I would use RO water for extract beers, and RO + added water salts for AG beers to achieve a good pH. Good luck !
« Last Edit: July 28, 2014, 08:28:20 AM by HoosierBrew »
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Offline Balogue_Ale

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Re: New to HomeBrewing
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2014, 07:57:01 AM »
Thanks for the advice guys, this seems like a great website and I'll be sure to share how my first batch goes.

Offline Thomas_TK_Kinzer

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Re: New to HomeBrewing
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2014, 06:15:36 PM »
All of the advice here on equipment needs is excellent! But I'd like to offer you some other advice that it took me a while to learn. Now that I know about these things, we're making beer that is so much better than when we started brewing back in March.

You'll learn fast that mashing and making wort if not all that complicated. The more challenging part is what you should do once your boil is through, and you flame out your kettle.

The three things that most raised the quality of our beer (in a dramatic way) were the following:

1. Always make and pitch a yeast starter. Lots of instructions online for the best way to do that. And you really should consider investing in a stir plate and flask to grow your starters. It's the best way, and a 2L stir plate will only set you back about $45. Well worth the investment! Even without a stir plate, though, you can still gently agitate your flask as a way to get it oxygenated. But pitching the right amount of yeast cells is really important!

2. Make sure you pitch your yeast at the right temperature.  I feel that for ale yeasts, your post-boil wort temp should be somewhere in the mid 60s F. Yeast manufacturers will tell you the optimum temp for ale yeasts in 70-75, but I feel that's too warm to start, since the fermentation process will naturally raise the temp inside your bucket or carboy.

3. Find a way to control your fermentation temperature. This has been the most-important lesson for us. If your ambient room temp, where you keep your bucket or carboy is 70 degrees, chances are it's between 75-80 inside your fermenter, which is fine for yeast growth, but risks you creating off flavors, and unwanted esters. The last two beers we did (an American stout and an IPA) fermented even and clean in about 7 days because we built a fermentation chamber where we could keep the temp outside of the bucket at a constant 63 degrees.

There are lots of low-tech methods (including swamp coolers) that you can learn how to make as a way to better control temp during fermentation. We were fortunate to have an old fridge in the garage, which we added a  temperature controller to, but there are less expensive ways to get this done. Controlling temp is also the best way to make beer that is consistent.

Good luck, and welcome to the hobby. If you're like us, you'll get obsessed too! :)

+1

Chill quickly and completely, pitch healthy yeast in the right amounts and control ferment temps. Those are more important than going AG at all--and are all things you can learn to do while you're still doing extract.


Offline morticaixavier

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Re: New to HomeBrewing
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2014, 07:30:34 PM »
[...]
+1

Chill quickly and completely, pitch healthy yeast in the right amounts and control ferment temps. Those are more important than going AG at all--and are all things you can learn to do while you're still doing extract.

I will agree with all your points except a quick chill being vital to good beer. chill as well as you can and as fast as you can but if you can't get to a good pitching temp (~5 below your target ferm temp) then put that sucker somewhere cold and let it finish chilling. nothing bad will happen to your wort in 12-24 hours while it gets to an ideal pitch temp.
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