Author Topic: Returning Noob mistakes  (Read 1144 times)

Offline Kevan

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Returning Noob mistakes
« on: November 05, 2016, 06:50:02 PM »

Hi Gang.

Just started brewing again after ~15 year layoff.  Did what I always do which is to jump into the deep end and try to change everything at once.  Went from extract brewing by throwing ice into the mash (these were the Old Days for you  youngsters out there), to full grain, brew in a bag, small batch (2 gallons) for my first try.

Let go down the quick lists of mistakes I made.

1) Do you know how much a pound is?

After choosing a recipe (Grimm Brothers Brewhouse Snowdrop (Kottbusser)) I ran over to MoreBeer to buy the ingredients.  I printed out the grain bill in metric, tried to weigh things in metric, then switched over to standard mid-stream.  Some how my 3+ lb bag of grain ended up weighing about .5 lbs.  Hmmmmm

Of course I didn't realize this until I got home.  So, back to MoreBeer I went.  This time everything went fine.

2) Read the F*$#ing recipe!!!

Or, more accurately, follow the recipe.  After all the embarrassment around the grains, I forgot that one of the ingredients (Flaked Oats) wasn't in with the grains that I ground up, but in a separate bag.  Which I completely left out of the mash.  And didn't notice until this morning.  I bottled last night.

Here's the actual grain list from the 5 gallon recipe.

6.0 lbs (2.7 kg) Pilsen malt
3.0 lbs (1.4 kg) Wheat malt
0.7 lbs (0.3 kg) Flaked Oats

Hopefully the small amount of flaked oats won't impact the end product too much.

3) Too much yeast?

Maybe a problem?  When I started reading/watching videos to get back into brewing I found out a ton about yeast.  However, because I am an idiot, when I actually brewed my small (2 gallon) batch, I just threw in the whole yeast pack.  Which, I believe, is designed for 5 gallons.

The good news (bad news?) is that the yeast really took off and fermentation was robust.  Did I really mess up here?  Should I have used only 40% of the yeast packet for a 40% sized batch?  Also it seemed to finish fermenting after just 6-7 days.  I thought that might have been a problem but then I thought:

"There's only 40% as much to ferment, so maybe it doesn't take as long to ferment as a full batch".

Any ideas? 

4) Specific Gravity?  Bah.  Who needs it?

My thinking around starting with a small batch is that if I really screw it up, no worry, just dump it and try again.  I am slowly building up my tool chest, but I didn't buy a Hydrometer before starting this batch.  Of course I bought one just before bottling but didn't even use it.  I am sure my next batch will work better. 

I hope. 

Either way I will start using the hydrometer and figuring out all the fun science stuff.

5) Write it down!!!!

Reading one of the books I bought (Palmer's "How To Brew"?) the author mentions that all good brewers are meticulous about writing down every step and every measurement. 

This is definitely one of the things I need to improve on.  This batch was really just for fun and for learning.  If it turns out that the beer doesn't suck, Bonus!!!!  If it does, well there are a list of reasons why that might have happened (see above).

I hope to keep brewing and learning and maybe even posting here.  Looking forward to any guidance from the gurus here.

Cheers

Kevan Garrett

Beer and Bikes, what a combo!





Offline flars

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2016, 08:35:01 PM »
Let us know how the beer turned out or you didn't get to taste it because the bottles exploded.  I hope there were no bottle bombs.  Report the results.

Offline GS

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2016, 04:07:10 PM »
Welcome back to brewing! Now, lets see...

1) I remember a few years back that the European Space Agency lost a Mars probe because someone forgot to convert metric to standard. Moral of the story here is pick one and go with it. You can't really switch measuring systems mid-stream.

2) I did that once with flaked oats. My local store gets a little irritated when they run stuff like flaked oats and rice hulls thru their mill, so they get bagged separately. I finished a brew day and was cleaning up, when I saw a lonely-looking .5lb bag of flaked oats sitting on the table. D-oh! Now when I am using flakes of some stripe or rice hulls, I add it to the bag of freshly milled grains right there in the store. Embarrassment avoided.

3) No, I don't think that was too much yeast. 6-7 days for an ale yeast to ferment out sounds about right.

4) You might think about getting a refractometer. They make life so much easier than a hydrometer.

5) I'm not the greatest at taking notes when I brew. I also don't see anything in your process that will make a "bad" beer, unless you did bottle too soon and you get some bombs. There is only one way to find out...let us know the results!

Offline Kevan

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2016, 06:16:13 PM »

Hey Flars.

Thanks for the response.  I am cautiously optimistic.  Homebrewing occasionally allows for happy surprises.

Hopefully this will be an acceptable batch.

Regarding refractometer vs hydrometer.  It's funny.  I never used either device back in the day.  Never really cared.  I figured if I did everything right (or close to it) the final product would be tasty and there would be some ethanol too.

Now I am more interested in testing the steps to make sure I really am doing them right.  Still more interested in the end product.

Current plan is to brew a new batch tomorrow.  Going for the Deschutes Black Butte Porter Clone.  I love the real thing so this should be fun.

Regards

Kevan

Offline mabrungard

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2016, 07:23:06 PM »
Been there! Mistakes are great ways to reinforce those things that you want to remember...to not do again. Let them burn their imprint into your brain so you're less likely to do them again.

Keeping some record of your brewing is important, in my experience. Not only do I right down all the mistakes, the rest of the activities, measurements, and observations go into the record too. That way when the beer is great or not so great, I can look back and have a better idea of things I should or shouldn't do.
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Offline bboy9000

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2016, 07:24:10 PM »

Hey Flars.

Thanks for the response.  I am cautiously optimistic.  Homebrewing occasionally allows for happy surprises.

Hopefully this will be an acceptable batch.

Regarding refractometer vs hydrometer.  It's funny.  I never used either device back in the day.  Never really cared.  I figured if I did everything right (or close to it) the final product would be tasty and there would be some ethanol too.
It is kind of funny how we obsess over something people did just fine for thousands of years without using a hydrometer.  I'm betting it will be drinkable.  Welcome to the AHA forum.
Brian
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Offline Kevan

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2016, 02:00:12 AM »
Last night I brewed my second batch.  This one was a Deschutes Black Butte Porter Clone.

I was very excited to use my new hydrometer that I had just picked up.  Got to that part of the brewing, opened up the tube and....

Found out that I had cracked my new hydrometer.  Doh!

So I still don't know what kind of efficiency I am getting or SG or whatever else you can do with a hydrometer.

Oh well. 

Cheers

Kevan

Offline bboy9000

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2016, 05:52:32 AM »
LOL.  We've all broken a few.  Hopefully you have a local shop so you can get one quickly and cheap
Brian
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Offline JJeffers09

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2016, 02:28:22 AM »
They are never cheap enough though...

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Offline 802Chris

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2016, 01:23:31 PM »
For me, it always comes down to your fifth point. For years I flew by my pants and made some great... and some truly awful beer. Sincr it was good more often than not, I almost always got lazy and didnt take great notes. When you start to get dozens of batches under your belt again, you wont be able to help but forget what went roght and what went wrong with each batch. I woukd highly recommend using some simple, free brewing software and printing out your recipe sheet each time. You can then scribble down notes throughout your brew day and reference them later if need be. It doesn't need to be a novel every time, but sometimes noting down simple parts of your process can highlight important trends over time.

Offline Kevan

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2016, 02:51:00 AM »
Well I am continuing to have fun brewing.

The first brew turned out well.  Finally tried it the other night with a friend and we both agreed it tasted good.  A bit of a citrus-y note at the beginning.  Not sure what it's supposed to taste like, but it tastes good to me.

Bottled the Black Butte Porter and am looking forward to trying that too.

And just to keep my wife happy I am brewing up a Kolsch based Ginger beer.  I have been listening to a lot of podcasts lately and the one thing I keep hearing about is the importance of temperature control.  I have been just fermenting in the garage at whatever the temp was.

With this batch I decided to at least do something as it's a bit cool here in the S.F. Bay Area.  Temps are in the 40's at night and just the high 50's during the day.  So today I bought a little aquarium heater, put my carboy in some water and put the heater in the water.

Just a first step but it's a start.

Happy Holidays All.

Kevan


Offline flars

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2016, 03:40:47 AM »
Good to hear you are having fun.  Watch the maximum temperature using an aquarium heater.  The yeast will produce heat as it works.  Too high of temperature for the yeast you are using can produce some funky to very bad off flavors.

Offline Hooper

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2016, 05:34:43 AM »
Kevan...I love your approach...your beer is gonna be crap...but hey...who cares...better luck next time...
“Stay with the beer. Beer is continuous blood. A continuous lover.”
—   Charles Bukowski

Offline Hooper

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2016, 05:48:47 AM »
Kevan...Excuse my first post which I wrote after reading you first post...sounds like you are succeeding and making drinkable brew...beer wants to be beer...good on you...great hobby...
“Stay with the beer. Beer is continuous blood. A continuous lover.”
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Offline Kevan

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Re: Returning Noob mistakes
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2016, 08:16:47 PM »

Hello Gang.

Well I am really enjoying brewing again.  Have done 4 small batches so far with good results.

The latest batch is a Barley Wine which I haven't even bottled yet so many months away from judgement.

The porter turned out nice but am hoping it improves a bit with age.

The Kolsch Ginger beer is good, but not a strong ginger flavor.  It's actually a very nice summery, light brew.

Even if it is in December.  Heh.

Thanks to all of you who have read/responded.

New Years Resolutions:

1) Continue to brew
2) Start writing things down
3) Start measuring specific gravity (and seeing how well I am mashing/fermenting)

I have brought a friend into the hobby (lifestyle?) and he wants to start brewing too.

Happy Holidays to All

Be safe, brew often, hug your loved ones.

Kevan