Author Topic: New Brewer With Some General Questions  (Read 965 times)

Offline XxSTOZZYxX

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 6
    • View Profile
New Brewer With Some General Questions
« on: April 01, 2016, 07:08:19 PM »
Hello, Everyone.

New hobbyist brewer. I'm going on my 3rd batch just went in the closet, 2nd nearing bottling.

I was wondering if I could poll you guys for getting a proper method on future brews.

First off, my 1st batch, a Dunkelweisen, did not turn out well. At the time I believed it to have been infected, but after research and discussion at the local brew shop, it was likely the fermentation temp. My FG barely hit 1.02, and my ferm temp was probably sub 60 due to not factoring in a glass carboy on a concrete floor with the midwest 'spring' we get... It was drinkable, but you could tell she didn't finish off them sugars.

Batch 2, a Honey Ale, I honestly don't remember the process as we did this during a party that we all got a little loose at. The brewing went on point per Beer Best instruction, but we might have pitched at a higher temp than desired (believe it wanted the wort chilled to 60+, we might have pitched at 80 ish). However, she bubbled just fine. This was one sat in an upstairs closest with an ambient temp of 65-70. Still got minute amount of co2 bubbling out as it nears it's expected completion date.

Batch 3, a Robust Porter, just went in the bucket. Sitting in the closet, I'm gonna monitor this one like a hawk because I don't want to run into a 'but it's drinkable' batch again...

So here is where I need the words of wisdom...

I don't believe there is any problem in my santization process, and I am perfectly comfortable making and cooling the wort (ice batch thus far, but will jump to a wort chiller by batch 4). I believe my major obstacle is temperature control.

So big question, what do you guys use to regulate fermentation temps so precisely? I feel that just leaving it sit in a room somewhere isn't a good method on my end because the ambient temperature around here changes day to day and to a great degree.

Secondly... and I know this is a 50/50 battle... but secondaries. I've used 3 Brewers Best kits now, and each of them 'highly recommends' using a secondary, but my concern is that I'm losing something in the end... whether it's fermentability, flavor profile, or risking over oxygenating.

Lastly, I've read that taking multiple samples is usually a no go, because you risk introducing contaminants, but if that's the case, how else would you monitor SG? Likewise, if you do sample through the process, do you dispose of the sample or return it? Personally, I just don't like the idea of wasting a beer, much less numerous samples.

Just lookin for some insight from some vets... my biggest curiosity is the temp control, and if there any tools you'd recommend for it.

Offline euge

  • I must live here
  • **********
  • Posts: 8022
  • Ego ceruisam ad bibere cervisiam
    • View Profile
Re: New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2016, 07:18:36 PM »
Temp control is the single best thing one can do for their beer.

Many of us use freezers and refrigerators that are precisely controlled by external thermostats. I've found that the results are excellent.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Laws are spider-webs, which catch the little flies, but cannot hold the big ones. -Anacharsis

Offline FaradayUncaged

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 75
    • View Profile
Re: New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2016, 07:24:09 PM »
I'm sure someone that has brewed a lot longer than me will chime in, let alone someone that's been around here with more clout but...

The best thing I did to improve my beers (after proper sanitation) was setting up a temperature chamber.  Originally that consisted of a small closet under my basement stairs with a small heater and a basic temp controller (ex: http://www.amazon.com/Inkbird-Itc-308-Temperature-Controller-Thermostat/dp/B011296704?ie=UTF8&keywords=temperature%20controller%20inkbird&qid=1459538280&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1).  Others do the same thing inside a mini fridge or chest freezer.

Second improvement was pitching yeast at proper rates using any of the online calendars (mr. malty, etc).  This allowed me to properly hit targeted final gravity without worrying or sampling.  The temp controller listed above also allowed for ramping temperature at the end of fermentation if a diacetyl rest was desired.

I've also transitioned away from using secondary fermentation vessels altogether, but that seems more of a personal preference item.

Good luck with the new hobby!  Cheers!

Offline denny

  • Administrator
  • Retired with too much time on my hands
  • *****
  • Posts: 19932
  • Noti OR [1991.4, 287.6deg] AR
    • View Profile
    • Dennybrew
Re: New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2016, 07:30:26 PM »
For the first 14-15 years I brewed, I put the fermenter in a large tub of water.  I could ice packs to the water to cool it down or an aquarium heater to warm it up.  I won a lot of awards for beers brewed with that method, but it is labor intensive.  You have to check it a couple times a day for the first 3-4 days.  The good news is that after that temp is less of an an issue.  A couple years ago I used a book advance to buy a chest freezer and temp controller.  Works a lot better and is a lot easier, but a LOT more expensive!  I'd suggest you start with the water bath method, then as you see how the hobby goes you could move to a temp controlled freezer if you thought it was worthwhile.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

www.dennybrew.com

The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

Offline pete b

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 3123
  • Barre, Ma
    • View Profile
Re: New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2016, 07:36:51 PM »
Well it sounds like your a quick learner.
You already learned:
1. You need to control fermentation temps
2. Making beer while drinking and socializing doesn't provide the best results.

And you are on the verge of learning: unless you want to rack onto fruit or are ageing for months, transferring to a secondary vessel is at best a waste of time and possibly risky in terms of infection and oxygenation. Also, and this is probably the most common problem caused by this practice, if fermentation isn't finished racking off the yeast cake can cause stuck fermentation and/or not allow yeast to do its other job, cleaning up the by-products of turning yeast into alcohol and CO2. This isn't really considered 50/50 or personal preference here.
Don't pour gravity samples back in, drink them. Just don't take too many. Once primary seems done take one then take one two or more days later to see if its stopped.
Good luck, and have fun (but not too much fun on brew day before your done.!)
Don't let the bastards cheer you up.

Offline XxSTOZZYxX

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 6
    • View Profile
Re: New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2016, 12:13:56 PM »
Appreciate the input guys. Seems kinda on the path I was thinkin here.

I've seen that Inkbird a few times in research, and have seens some gnarly DIYs for temp controlled boxes using plywood and old mini fridges, which I actually have available so I may make one after the move.

I have also been worried about the move to a secondary and per the instructions i specifies to leave behind as much trub as possible... but this immediately made me think "Won't that stall the process?". It just seemed wrong to separate the liquid from the meat a week in when it needs to work it's magic 3-4.

I'm thinkin with my porter I'm gonna leave it in the primary for the duration and see how that works out. My Honey Ale is still tossin out a few bubbles after I moved it so I'm gonna give it some more time and throw a heater and Inkbird in the closet with them and check back on the temps.

Really, thank you for the advice guys.

Offline Hooper

  • Brewer
  • ****
  • Posts: 260
    • View Profile
Re: New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2016, 01:07:14 PM »
14 years without a fermentation fridge!

    "Now, churn us some butter, boy. And then make your own clothes."
“Stay with the beer. Beer is continuous blood. A continuous lover.”
—   Charles Bukowski

Offline HoosierBrew

  • Global Moderator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 13030
  • Indianapolis,IN
    • View Profile
Re: New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2016, 01:50:09 PM »
14 years without a fermentation fridge!

    "Now, churn us some butter, boy. And then make your own clothes."


Funny stuff.
Jon H.

Offline leejoreilly

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 238
  • Washington, MI
    • View Profile
Re: New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2016, 02:11:23 PM »
For the first 14-15 years I brewed, I put the fermenter in a large tub of water.  I could ice packs to the water to cool it down or an aquarium heater to warm it up.  I won a lot of awards for beers brewed with that method, but it is labor intensive.  You have to check it a couple times a day for the first 3-4 days.  The good news is that after that temp is less of an an issue.  A couple years ago I used a book advance to buy a chest freezer and temp controller.  Works a lot better and is a lot easier, but a LOT more expensive!  I'd suggest you start with the water bath method, then as you see how the hobby goes you could move to a temp controlled freezer if you thought it was worthwhile.

I live in the Midwest, and I've been using Denny's "tub o' cold water" method successfully for some time now. I've found that ambient temps in my basement stay fairly steady, so that I don't need to add ice packs in winter at all, and maybe one or two one-liter frozen water bottles twice a day in the dead of summer. Once you've done it a time or two, you get the rhythm down, and you don't need to monitor constantly. I can maintain ferm temps around 60-62 easily.

As far as racking to secondary goes, I've found that unless you have a specific goal in mind, like a secondary fermentation from added fruit, or the need to rack off a yeast cake to use it in another fermentation, it's just flat unnecessary and may expose your fermenting wort to possible infection or oxidation.

Offline Philbrew

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 867
    • View Profile
Re: New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2016, 03:45:42 PM »
I know it's a huge temptation but don't go nuts trying to brew all the delicious beers out there.  Pick two beers that you really like to drink and brew them over and over until you've got your process sorted out.  Then branch out. 
And welcome to the hobby.  Cheers.
Many of us would be on a strict liquid diet if it weren't for pretzels.

Offline denny

  • Administrator
  • Retired with too much time on my hands
  • *****
  • Posts: 19932
  • Noti OR [1991.4, 287.6deg] AR
    • View Profile
    • Dennybrew
Re: New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2016, 03:51:24 PM »
I know it's a huge temptation but don't go nuts trying to brew all the delicious beers out there.  Pick two beers that you really like to drink and brew them over and over until you've got your process sorted out.  Then branch out. 
And welcome to the hobby.  Cheers.

Wisdom^^^^^
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

www.dennybrew.com

The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

Offline euge

  • I must live here
  • **********
  • Posts: 8022
  • Ego ceruisam ad bibere cervisiam
    • View Profile
Re: New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2016, 04:02:20 PM »
Yup. I pretty much only brew a narrow range of beers these days and they are all 100% pilsner malt. Consistency and repeatability is the goal.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Laws are spider-webs, which catch the little flies, but cannot hold the big ones. -Anacharsis

Offline Philbrew

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 867
    • View Profile
Re: New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2016, 04:35:07 PM »
I know it's a huge temptation but don't go nuts trying to brew all the delicious beers out there.  Pick two beers that you really like to drink and brew them over and over until you've got your process sorted out.  Then branch out. 
And welcome to the hobby.  Cheers.

Wisdom^^^^^
Unfortunately, wisdom learned the old fashioned way.  :-[
Many of us would be on a strict liquid diet if it weren't for pretzels.

Offline blair.streit

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 516
    • View Profile
New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2016, 10:59:43 PM »
Moving to a secondary vessel after some arbitrary period is old advice that was misappropriated from commercial brewing.

If you have several hundred (or several thousand) pounds of liquid putting pressure on your yeast you have to be careful of autolysis. For homebrewing scale, it's a non issue. Transferring to another vessel is just an opportunity to contaminate or otherwise stunt your fermentation.

Palmer is updating How to Brew to stop people the world over from doing this. Don't worry, I did it for my first several batches because that's what I read too
« Last Edit: April 02, 2016, 11:02:50 PM by blair.streit »

Offline war2112

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 78
    • View Profile
Re: New Brewer With Some General Questions
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2016, 11:57:25 PM »
Just want to say that I am a newbie too and I have seen great advice here. I for one appreciate it. I tried this 20 years ago with mixed results but giving it a more professional approach this time.

I currently have 5 gallons of an APA in the primary right now.I think it's coming along fairly well. I too live in the midwest and don't have temp control. But I have the primary in a dark closet and my temp has stayed between 66 and 74 degrees F. That high was after 30-36 hours of vigorous fermentation. I could see the top of the krasuen through the airlock. So I assume the elevated temp was due to the heavy lifting by the yeast.

Should be ready to bottle in a couple days. Last time I checked, I did notice a slight fruit aroma coming off. This may not be bad, not sure yet. As I understand, in ales you might get some of that from the yeast. Not sure but believe I have seen that.

Anyway, welcome.