Author Topic: Top 3 - Bottom 3  (Read 2405 times)

Offline 802Chris

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Top 3 - Bottom 3
« on: March 05, 2017, 08:33:07 PM »
I'm interested to see everyone take on this, and hopefully some useful information can be gleaned for some newer brewers. In thinking about your ENTIRE brewing "career" what in your mind stand out as the top 3 BEST on bottom 3 WORST upgrades/equipment purchases/tips you have tried.

I know for myself anyway, I spend WAY too much time "brewing" only in my head, drooling over every new piece of equipment, reading countless blog articles and the like. I will spend hours daydreaming and "brewing" in my head, going over every detail, only to totally BLOW IT on brew day or have my shiny new equipment that should have taken me to the next level, sit idly on a shelf. Or worse yet, try something that makes my beer worse.

I'll start with the bottom, since they were hard learned lessons, but lessons I needed to learn none the less.

WORST / BOTTOM 3

1. Starting out extract brewing. While this got me into brewing, I spent YEARS making sub par beer simply out of fear of "going all grain". The amount of money I spent on extract kits and equipment that would prove to not be big enough when I made the jump would have EASILY been enough to purchase a simple batch sparge all grain setup.

2. TAP-a-Draft mini keg kit. This one is tough since it more than likely saved my brewing career and kept me brewing when I really didn't want to bottle more beer. Unfortunately it was just as expensive as a simple kegging setup when all was said and done with modifications etc, and now I barely use it.

3. One-Step cleaner/sanitizer. Not bashing the brand,  but I lost a few batches before I realized I needed to totally revamp how I clean and sanitize. Faster is NOT better, and no time saved is worth losing a batch of beer.


BEST / TOP 3

1. A $20 Coleman 48QT RED square cooler. Thank you denny from the bottom of my heart. You made the transition to all grain easy and cheap, just the way you wanted. I would not be brewing today had I not gone all grain, its the best $20 I ever spent (my wife would argue that..)

2. Bayou Classic SQ14 propane burner. Only $48 on amazon. This got me out of the house and most importantly has grown with me. This is a solid burner that would easily boil a 10 gallon batch and it is rugged as all get out.

3. My "Corona" mill. Don't let anyone ever tell you this mill cannot produce a great crush and provide excellent efficiency. For $20 you can introduce an element into your brewing that no online kit seller or LHBS can, CONSISTANCY, by milling your own grain at home.


Thank guys, hope to hear from everyone on their top and bottom 3!

Offline denny

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2017, 09:29:11 PM »
Hey, Chris, thanks so much for the kind words!
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline Lazy Ant Brewing

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2017, 10:06:54 PM »
This forum is one of the best things.  I'm constantly sweating some detail--often unnecessarily--or asking a question and getting good advice.

Controller for a fridge to get control of fermentation temps.

Vinator to make sanitizing bottles a snap.

Worst things are wanting to try too much too quickly.  Sometimes I'll buy some ingredients and then change my mind and brew something else, wasting money on yeast or other ingredients.
It's easier to read brewing books and get information from the forum than to sacrifice virgins to appease the brewing gods when bad beer happens!

Offline braufessor

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2017, 10:38:44 PM »
Best 3 purchases/upgrades:

1.) Morebeer 3 tier  5 gallon gravity brewsystem..... Bought it 17 years ago and can't even quantify how much enjoyment I have gotten brewing on it.
2.) Temp. Control/keezer
3.) SS Brewbuckets for fermenters

Worst 3
1.) V-Vessel fermenters  - they were just terrible in every way
2.) Barley Crusher Grain mill... it was fine for a while, but gradually quit working and would not grab grain.  Should have just bought a Monster Mill right off the bat.
3.)I did the mini kegs too when I started... those were about worthless.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2017, 01:11:25 AM »
Worst 3:
1.  5.2 stabilizer - once I brewed enough AG styles that were subpar , I got 'serious' and bought this crap. Worthless crap product. Took beers that needed pH control, gave them no control but did leave a nice Alka Seltzer aftertaste.

2.  Another mini keg waste of money story here. Junk product.

3.   Most all recipe and definitely all clone recipe books. Lots of money wasted on a crappy return nearly every time.

Good 3:
1. Batch sparging in a cooler - I was getting frustrated with the transition from extract to fly sparging and read Denny's site. The light bulb came on big time.

2.  Kegging - there has been lots of debate here on actual time, but I just like kegging my beer better and hated cleaning bottles for every batch. I do bottle Belgians though.

3.  Brunwater - it helped me realize how good homebrew could actually be. It made me realize that homebrew didn't have to be 'nearly' as good as commercial, it could be better than many if done correctly.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2017, 01:13:40 AM by HoosierBrew »
Jon H.

Offline natebrews

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2017, 01:51:02 AM »
I'm sure there are more, but I'm just going to toss out the first things that come to mind.

Worst 3:

1 - Fast Ferment Conical.  Used it 10 times, had it plug up 8 of those and had to rebuild my ferment chamber to fit it.  Hard to handle, just a pain.  Back to carboys (and now big mouth bubblers).
2 - Not kegging.  Whichever version of it I was doing, bottles, tap-a-draft, whatever.  Just should have gotten the kegs up front.
3 - 1lb bags of hops.  I just can't use them fast enough but the price is so much better!  Yes dear, I know the freezer is full of hops...I'm working on it.

Best 3:
1 - Electric 3-tier gravity fed brewing system in the basement.  It is ghetto, made from a bent 4x4 and shelving brackets and scrap plywood, but oh man is it better than dragging crap out to the garage every time.
2 - Chugger pump.  Especially with the 3 tier system, this is really required. 
3 - Patience.  With many years of brewing, I think I have some now and it really improves the beer.
Risk of failure should be no deterrent to trying.

Offline waltsmalt

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2017, 02:11:30 AM »
Worst:
1. 5.2 Agree with previous post.  Made sense in my brain at the time...
2. Growing Hops.  I don't really have an interest in gardening, and the work is just not worth it if you don't enjoy gardening.  Too much uncertainty in the hops that I ended up with.  I gave all my rhizomes away to a start-up hop farm in northern MN. 
3. Keeping all my Zymurgy and BYO magazines in a box downstairs.  It's heavy to move around and every time I see them I think "will I really ever look back through old issues?"  Pack rats run in the family though.

Best:
1. Going electric with a dedicated room.  Just brought brewing back to fun instead of a chore dragging everything out.  I'm blessed with a  wife who supported me 100% in building out a room.  All I have to do is make sure I have RIS and Quads available from time to time. 
2. Forums.  I've learned so much from everyone else, but I don't say it enough.  So thanks to everyone who has contributed.  Learned here to ultimately not take yourself so seriously.  Like most of our jobs, we are not saving people on a daily basis.  Same for making beer.
3.  16 gallon sanke keg that I had a corny keg lid welded into.  Great for 10 gallons batches, and easy transfer when time to keg.  Every time I use it I'm glad I did that.  Not as blingy as a conical, but much cheaper to build out.

Offline fmader

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2017, 01:23:28 PM »
Worst:

1. Extract brewing. I did 8 batches. They were all dumpable. It was a complete waste of 4 months. My suggestion to any new brewer would be to put in the extra time and learn how to all grain brew first. You have to learn how to do it anyways, you might as well learn how to do it sooner than later.

2. 5.2 stabilizer

3. 5 gallon "secondary" Better Bottle carboys. I don't use a secondary hardly at all. When I do, a 5 gallon carboy won't do the trick.

dishonorable mention: All of the stupid crap that I bought or built in order to contain hop matter during the boil or for dry hopping. Filtering through a $.19 leg stocking into the fermenter and/or the carboy works perfectly to catch hop matter.

Best:

1. AHA membership for access to this forum and all of you wonderful resources.

2. Kegging system... If I was still bottling, I probably wouldn't be brewing any longer.

3. Bru'n Water... I went from brewing good beer to great beer with this gem of a tool. It makes water chemistry stupid easy. I like stupid easy.

Honorable mention: A BLUE cooler for mashing. The blue cooler obviously increased my mash efficiency to approximately 247%.
Frank

Offline natebrews

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2017, 01:57:39 PM »

Honorable mention: A BLUE cooler for mashing. The blue cooler obviously increased my mash efficiency to approximately 247%.

Oh man, I always knew that orange cooler was the problem.
Risk of failure should be no deterrent to trying.

Offline pkrone

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2017, 02:17:11 PM »
Bottom 3-
Inverted carboy fermenting system (can't remember the name).  Worthless as a fermentation set-up, but I did get a couple of nice SS racking canes and carboy drying stands out of my investment.

Not learning about water chemistry early in my AG experience.

Not keeping good notes.

Top 3-
My BrewMagic RIMS system I invested in 12 years ago.

Brunwater

Patience, attention to detail, and keeping detailed notes.
I like beer.  I like to make beer.   I don't like to argue about beer or making beer.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2017, 02:22:50 PM »
Honorable mention: A BLUE cooler for mashing. The blue cooler obviously increased my mash efficiency to approximately 247%.

For sure, and that's a conservative estimate.  :)
Jon H.

Offline blatz

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2017, 03:08:35 PM »
Worst:

1). stainless steel hop spider - great idea in theory, but when all the liquid in the cylinder became trapped due to protein break clogging the pores of the screen, it became a nuisance.

2). plate chillers - too hard to clean. they are never clean, there is always crud trapped in them somewhere.  much easier for me with a CFC.

3). overcomplicated grain bills.  as I've evolved, my beer has gotten so much better, often with only 1 or 2 specialty grains, and I have very few that have over 5 malts total.

Best:

1). similar to a comment above - having a dedicated brew room with an electric brew system has made me happier than I expected. 

2). brun water

3). fermentation chest freezers - best thing I did to upgrade my beer.
The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.

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Offline fmader

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2017, 03:34:48 PM »
Honorable mention: A BLUE cooler for mashing. The blue cooler obviously increased my mash efficiency to approximately 247%.

For sure, and that's a conservative estimate.  :)

Of course... I had to leave a margin of error for poor crushes lol
Frank

Offline pete b

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2017, 04:05:17 PM »
I'll add a caveat to the original post: One Step is a great product if you don't rely on it as a sanitizer. I use it as a cleaner and its great and I get the added benefit that it also sanitizes. I use other sanitizers too, which means I'm hitting with two different sanitizers, usually one step plus starsan. It also is a perfectly good sanitizer for mead making.
3 worst
1. Pump: just because its not really necessary for my system and so the cleaning makes it more trouble than its worth and I rarely use it. Someday I suspect it will come in handy
2. Bottles. Wish I started kegging earlier. I just got rid of most of my bottles which were taking up room in the cellar.
3.Strap carboy carrier. Only time I ever dropped one was using one of these. A milk crate is better.

3 best
1. Monster mill
2.Kegs and keezer
3. 15 gallon kettle. I use it for making tomato sauce from my garden in the fall too.
Don't let the bastards cheer you up.

Offline denny

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Re: Top 3 - Bottom 3
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2017, 05:05:40 PM »
Best:
Chest freezer with Auber controller for fermentation
Hydra chiller with whirlpool arm
indoor/outdoor carpet on garage floor

Worst:
5.2 "stabilizer"
carboys
more carboys
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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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