Author Topic: My reason for signing up here...  (Read 2064 times)

Offline MO

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My reason for signing up here...
« on: August 13, 2014, 04:03:53 PM »
...is to make the best quality beer for myself that I can.  I'm a rookie and will have rookie questions.  Where should I start asking questions?  The equipment I use or the water I use?  I have a basic start up kit that I use from Brewers Best that my son bought me for Christmas.  A plastic bucket with a lid that has an o-ring, a stainless steel pot that I make my wort in and everything else that came with that kit.  I've upgraded nothing because the beer tastes fine to me.  Then again, I LOVE beer and it all tastes good to me.  That being said, there is a noticeable taste upgrade in what I've made compared to the commercially brewed beer I've always bought.  I'm a Belgian Ale and IPA guy.  I would appreciate someone jumping in here with suggestions.  I read a lot before I posted and it's pretty overwhelming.  The water I use is from Wal-Mart...it's spring water that comes in plastic jugs.  How do I tell if that's "good water"?  What equipment upgrades should I start with?  Thanks in advance.
"Trying my best to be who my dog thinks I am"

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2014, 04:25:23 PM »
If you are brewing with extract your best bet on water may well be Reverse Osmosis or even distilled. The water that the maltsters used to make you extract had, in theory, a desirable and controlled mineral content and alkalinity. using distilled water means, at least, you are using the wort the maltster intended you to use.

If the styles you are most interested in are Belgians and IPAs then the big areas for improvement right now for you include:

Hops, and how/when best to use them to get the results you are after.
Yeast, strains and their individual quirks and desires. Pitching rates, nutrient needs, and temperature targets.

From an overall perspective and an immediate bump in beer quality I would look into temperature control for your fermentation. this, along with yeast handling, will make a huge difference in your beer over not controlling these factors.

as brewers we walk a bit of a a tightrope with yeast. we want it to be happy so it doesn't produce stress compounds that we don't want, but we also want to keep in under control so it doesn't produce exuberance residue (I'm here by coining that term) that we also don't want.

Yeast want to be in a warm (80-90) environment with lot's of sugar. but they get overly exuberant at those temps and it gives me a headache (fusel alcohols). so we keep the temps in the low to mid 60's (for ale) and the yeast are happy enough so they are not overly stressed but no so exuberant that I wake up with a pounding headache the next day.

There are notable exceptions in either direction but this is a good staring point.
"Creativity is the residue of wasted time"
-A Einstein

"errors are [...] the portals of discovery"
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Offline duboman

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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2014, 05:21:49 PM »
+1 to The above suggestions! Temperature control of fermentation and proper pitch rates will improve things greatly so start with that.

As you move forward try and pick one thing to improve/adjust on at a time to get your process refined, take good notes when you brew.

If you try to make too many changes at one time you'll introduce too many variables without really knowing which one made the right or wrong thing happen.

Welcome to the forum and the obsession, you joined the right place!
Peace....Love......Beer......

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

Offline majorvices

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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2014, 05:29:14 PM »
If you haven't picked up a good homebrewing book yet I recommend "How To Brew" by John Palmer.

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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2014, 06:24:11 PM »
If you haven't picked up a good homebrewing book yet I recommend "How To Brew" by John Palmer.

+1

You're showing your brewing maturity here!  Back in the bad old days of brewing, we all learned how to brew from reading books.  It is still the approach that I recommend to new brewers.  Brewing is like engineering in that it is a discipline that is combination of theory + practice.   


Offline kramerog

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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2014, 06:34:07 PM »
You need software!  There are lots of threads on software here already.  Even if you are a kit brewer, you should get software to calculate your bitterness.  If you only boil part of the water necessary for a batch, you can increase your bitterness by adding the malt extract in the last 15 minutes of the boil and even then your bitterness levels will still likely be low when using a kit, perhaps less than 50% of what you should be targeting for an IPA.  The software will help you figure out your bitterness levels and what you need to do to improve it.  The benefits of software increases once you start formulating your own recipes.

You need quality thermometers such as LCD strips for your fermentor and a good digital thermometer.  There are plenty of threads on digital thermometers here that are accurate.  The more you spend the quicker the response.  You are going to need at least one good thermometer for measuring (and controlling) your fermentation temp.

Read a good homebrewing book too.

Offline majorvices

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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2014, 06:36:43 PM »
If you haven't picked up a good homebrewing book yet I recommend "How To Brew" by John Palmer.

+1

You're showing your brewing maturity here!  Back in the bad old days of brewing, we all learned how to brew from reading books.  It is still the approach that I recommend to new brewers.  Brewing is like engineering in that it is a discipline that is combination of theory + practice.

Yep, I learned to brew from reading books, before there were interwebs. And I think books and experience are still the best way to learn how to brew. Online forums are excellent ways to supplement and expand that knowledge, for certain.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2014, 07:17:38 PM by majorvices »

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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2014, 07:31:52 PM »
You need software! 

If the OP reads a brewing book first, he will not need software to perform basic brewing calculations. The calculations encountered in recipe formation do not require a great deal of mathematical maturity.  Brew house calculations are middle school level at best.  I have formulated several hundred batches of beer without the aid of brewing software. 

Offline kramerog

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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2014, 08:44:27 PM »
You need software! 

If the OP reads a brewing book first, he will not need software to perform basic brewing calculations. The calculations encountered in recipe formation do not require a great deal of mathematical maturity.  Brew house calculations are middle school level at best.  I have formulated several hundred batches of beer without the aid of brewing software. 

I don't disagree with you, but software is cheap (and there is even some free stuff) especially when you compare it to other parts of the brewery and my time.  I can't imagine not using software.

Offline MO

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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2014, 09:02:00 PM »
What is "software"...are you talking about thermometers (which I have...a stick on strip that came with the kit for the fermenter) and I use a digital thermometer to test temperatures of the wort when steeping my grains and at the cool-down period...or something else?
"Trying my best to be who my dog thinks I am"

Offline majorvices

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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2014, 09:08:21 PM »
What is "software"...are you talking about thermometers (which I have...a stick on strip that came with the kit for the fermenter) and I use a digital thermometer to test temperatures of the wort when steeping my grains and at the cool-down period...or something else?

Software
... like, computer programs and such. Seriously, ya'll aren't that backwards in West Va/GA are ya? ;)

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2014, 09:24:34 PM »

Yep, I learned to brew from reading books, before there were interwebs. And I think books and experience are still the best way to learn how to brew. Online forums are excellent ways to supplement and expand that knowledge, for certain.

Yep, I feel the same. Started out with books before the web was a brewer's option. Forums, namely this one, are an excellent outlet though. Can't believe I waited so long. The quality of info here is stellar.
Jon H.

Offline jeffy

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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2014, 09:52:33 PM »
I recently remembered a really good brewing book that was the first one to make sense of the whole process for me back in the early 90's.  Making Beer by William Mares.  This was written not by an engineer or a scientist, but a journalist and homebrewer.  A lot of things fell into place for me from this book.  I can still recommend it.
Jeff Gladish, Tampa (989.3, 175.1 Apparent Rennarian)
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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2014, 01:40:28 AM »
I can't imagine not using software.

I cannot imagine being dependent on software.  I can formulate a recipe on the back of a cocktail napkin faster than I can enter data into a program, and I can type pretty darn fast.  I have brewing data in my collection of paper brewing logs that dates back to early 1993.  If I had used software back then, the data would be unusable today.  Well, that's kind of lie because I would just write a data conversion program, but the average brewer does not have that skill.

The main reason why I do not use software is because I have spent over three decades of my life designing software and hardware professionally (my undergraduate and graduate degrees are on the computer engineering side of computer science).  The last thing that I want to do when I come home is spend time entering data into yet another piece of software.  The only way that software is going to enter my brewery is if I decide to design an embedded control system for my brew house.


Offline erockrph

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Re: My reason for signing up here...
« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2014, 03:00:10 AM »
You need software! 

If the OP reads a brewing book first, he will not need software to perform basic brewing calculations. The calculations encountered in recipe formation do not require a great deal of mathematical maturity.  Brew house calculations are middle school level at best.  I have formulated several hundred batches of beer without the aid of brewing software. 

I don't disagree with you, but software is cheap (and there is even some free stuff) especially when you compare it to other parts of the brewery and my time.  I can't imagine not using software.

I can imagine not using software. It starts with me hunting for a pad and pen, and ends with me going "eff this" and logging onto my computer/tablet/cell phone about two minutes later. Even if there was no brewing software, I'd just build an Excel spreadsheet that does everything I want. That's just how I work. I have a tendency to spend an hour building and tweaking a spreadsheet to solve a 20 minute problem, knowing the next time it will only take me 30 seconds.

I appreciate and respect the skill of writing a recipe and calculating by hand, but I'm kind of glad I started brewing at a time where that isn't necessary.
Eric B.

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