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Author Topic: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.  (Read 3983 times)

Offline Megary

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Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« on: May 07, 2019, 12:25:58 pm »
It has been over 20 years since I last made beer at home.  Those days it was all extract, 5 gallon batches.  I have fond memories of the experience. Some were good, like an unforgettable Cherry Wheat where I somehow guessed the perfect hop additions.  And some...well not so much, like quickly realizing that sanitizing isn't just a suggestion.  First rule of brewing I suppose.

Anyway, I have been recently searching and reading many of the threads here trying to figure out what is my best way back into homebrewing. I have to say that this community is quite impressive, not just for the information available but also for the civilized tone to the discussions. Much appreciated.

I have decided that I'm going to give small batch (2.5 gal) BIAB a go. Mash, boil, ferment, bottle, lose my mind waiting, drink. Reasons are the usual: I like to tinker with recipes, I'm the primary beer drinker, 5 gallons of one style is too repetitive, keep it simple for now, brew in the kitchen on the stove etc. etc.

Before I brew my first one though, I was hoping to get some opinions first.

1.  For the first beer, I was hoping to keep it simple.  I was leaning towards an English Pale Ale (Marris Otter based, fuggles and goldings, some English ale yeast) but started worrying that this seemingly straight-forward beer might expose my rusty abilities.  Maybe I should try something a little more bold, like a stout or porter, to mask any off flavors?

2.  In scaling down 5 gallon recipes, is it as simple as dividing by 2 across the board?  10lbs of grain becomes 5...2oz hops becomes 1.  Or is there more nuance to it?  What to do about the yeast?  Is this why I need Brewers Friend or Beer Smith?  :D

3.  I am petrified of contamination.  My cleaning thought process is to wash all equipment with dishwashing liquid, rinse thoroughly and then Star San for sanitizing.  I saw a video where the brewer used a bucket to keep the StarSan solution, then rinsed his spoon in the solution and went right to the brew pot to stir without rinsing the spoon under water first.  Is that legal?  That feels so wrong to me. 
Does anyone use a dishwasher for cleaning and/or sanitizing bottles?  I'm assuming no, but was looking for a shortcut.

4.  I bought some new equipment from a local beer distributor that doubles as a mini homebrew supply.  I found him on the AHA website, he pays his dues.  I want to give the local guy as much business as I can, but equipment is one thing, ingredients are another.  I'm not sure how much beer making stuff he moves (he seemed to have a fair selection of grains but a small selection of hops and yeast) and I'm concerned about quality.  Has anyone had a problem buying ingredients local, and if you don't buy local, what on-line sites are your favorites.

5. One beer-making book that I NEED to have handy.  I lost most of my old books in a move and was hoping to have something equivalent to a Homebrewers Bible by my side.


Thanks in advance to all.  Any answer to any question is greatly, greatly appreciated!

Cheers!

Offline ulander6206

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Re: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2019, 01:33:03 pm »
First - welcome back to brewing. Things have changed a lot on 20 years. We also brew 2.5 gallon BIAB. See the link for a neat (free) BIAB calculator. https://www.biabrewer.info/. Our kettle is stainless with a triclad bottom from Costco. My wife made the bag from voile from the fabric shop. Dividing a 5 gallon recipe by 2 is a place to start and then tweak. As you have noted, people go from the star san bucket to the wort/beer. It has no ill effects. Your are right to start simple. We still brew simple. There is no need to have a grain bill or hop schedule that looks like a Tolstoy novel. As for books, I like Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher and How to Brew by John Palmer. There are a lot of other good books. Most people really like these 2 for starters. In addition, hang around the AHA forum and think about joining a club - lots of good info to be had.

Happy Brewing

Offline Robert

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Re: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2019, 01:38:50 pm »
Welcome back to brewing, and to the forum!   A few ideas...

1.  Brew something you like, that's why we brew.  If it happens to reveal faults in your process, well, better sooner than later to address the problem, right?

2.  There probably are nuances, but simply scaling up or down should do just fine. 

3.  Dishwashing liquid is a good, cheap cleaner for many applications.  (Some people say use unscented, but I figure when you can't smell it, you know it's properly rinsed.)  Alkaline cleaners like PBW, Craftmeister Alkaline Wash, or even plain Oxiclean are good for soaking fermenters and bottles with gunk on them. 

Star San is considered a no rinse sanitizer.  A caveat is that it kills most bacteria, but not yeast (including wild yeast,) fungi, or any spores.  Back in the day you likely used bleach, which kills everything stone dead, but the residue causes horrible flavors in beer.  Iodophor is as lethal as bleach, but also a no rinse brewing sanitizer.  Try to make it your primary sanitizer.

Dishwashers probably won't get into the insides of the bottles adequately.   Better to soak the bottles in one of the aforementioned alkaline cleaners, rinse, and sanitize.  Rinsing a bottle immediately after pouring a beer makes everything easier.

4.  There are lots of good online retailers.   Shop around.  Better to go directly through one of the homebrew retailers' websites than Amazon in my experience.

5.  Probably the go-to first book nowadays is the latest (4th?) edition of John Palmer's How to Brew.

And remember the old mantra, RDWHAHB (relax, don't worry, have a homebrew.)
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Offline BrewBama

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Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2019, 03:08:58 pm »
I recommend brewing something lighter this time of year. A stout is a bit much on a hot day after gardening, mowing the lawn, or even sitting out back BBQing while listening to music. I’d do the Pale Ale or even a Kölsch, Czech Lager, or Helles. Let the chips fall where they may.

I also recommend an online retailer that sells grain by the portions of a pound.  Having 3/4 lb of this, half pound of that, etc just causes storage requirements. Great Fermentations and Atlantic Brew Supply are a couple. There may be others.  If not at least get free shipping.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
« Last Edit: May 07, 2019, 07:23:43 pm by BrewBama »

Offline Megary

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Re: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2019, 07:25:43 am »
Thanks for the replies.  I ordered the suggested books and I am very interested to find out what's inside.  I'm really looking for reading material/charts/graphs/whatever regarding what amount of fermentable sugars I can expect from certain grains, color, calculating IBU's etc...

Before I start using software to help design recipes, I'd like to have the background first.

I also recommend an online retailer that sells grain by the portions of a pound.  Having 3/4 lb of this, half pound of that, etc just causes storage requirements. Great Fermentations and Atlantic Brew Supply are a couple. There may be others.  If not at least get free shipping.


Thanks for that.  Great idea.


For the BIABers...
Single or Double Crush on the grain?  I have a mill for my Kitchen Aid and thought about crushing my own to get a feel for what works best.  But maybe I should just let the supplier crush them??

Offline kramerog

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Re: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2019, 08:01:32 am »
Other changes not mentioned,
-Mash chemistry calculators; Bru'n Water works best for me
-Crush; used to be that barely crushing the grain was though to be optimal as a way to control extraction of tannins.  Now that we know how to control tannins through mash chemistry and if necessary acidfying sparge water, a finer crush to maximize efficiency is thought to be better.

Offline Mardoo

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Re: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2019, 12:18:14 am »
1. My first all-grain was a kolsch. Go figure. It’s still described by mates and my FIL as the best beer I’ve done. Did my research, got my ducks in a row, sanitised twice. I myself quite liked it. I’ve definitely brewed much more skilfully since.

Guess your choice depends on whether or not you’re a member of the church of last resort. “If that’s our last resort, we’ll drink it.”

2. Yes. Just cut in half. At that level of scaling there’s no need to change the recipe. Scaling up to 500 or 1000 litres, or down from 1000 etc., yes, recipe alteration is a very good idea.

Yeast, download Mr. Malty, or go to Captain Brew on the web and use their yeast calculator.

3. Don’t use dish soap. Use a blended cleanerof 3G of sodium percarbonate and 2g of sodium metasilicate, per litre of water to fill the vessel you want to clean. (Do not pre-blend. Store the perc and met separately.) Cover and soak overnight, or add your water at 60C and let soak for a couple hours (for your fermenter). Then sanitise with Starsan.

Starsan - Do not fear the foam. It just breaks down into stuff the yeast can utilise over time. Do not rinse with water after sanitising with Starsan.

Dishwasher - heard of it. Haven’t tried. I’ve chosen to use the blended cleaner and Starsan in bottles, as described above.

4. Home brew shops can vary greatly. I’ve always bought local where possible, but where freshness and quality of advice become a genuine concern, I find a good, local online shop and use them too. The rest of the question I can’t really comment on.

5. How to Brew, by John Palmer. Get the most recent edition.

Offline Megary

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Re: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2019, 09:07:40 am »

Yeast, download Mr. Malty, or go to Captain Brew on the web and use their yeast calculator.



Thanks for the great reply and especially for the above.


I plan on brewing a 2.5 gallon batch and fermenting in a 3 gallon carboy.  Maybe the batch hits 2.5 gallons, maybe it will be a little less.  But it won't be more than 2.5 even if I have to increase the boil time.  Does anyone see a problem with a fermentation blowout using the 3 gallon carboy (typical bung and 3pc air-lock)?  I do have a 5 gallon carboy, but thought the big headspace might cause O2 problems (myth?) or just a difficulty in obtaining a FG reading.  I have a beer thief, but have to believe its easier to get the beer out when its a lot closer to the top of the carboy.

I appreciate everyone's patience with this novice but this site has been gold to me.

Offline denny

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Re: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2019, 09:12:19 am »
Or forget about yeast calculators and do it the easy, effective way....https://www.experimentalbrew.com/blogs/denny/old-dognew-tricks
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline dbeechum

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Re: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2019, 01:16:56 pm »
I'll also throw out a link to our podcast where we talk about thihs: https://www.experimentalbrew.com/podcast/brew-files-episode-52-getting-back-brewing
Drew Beechum - Maltosefalcons.com
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Offline 4swan

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Re: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2019, 02:13:58 pm »
There are plenty of good dried yeasts available these days.  I would probably just use a whole package of dried yeast, even though it is supposed to be for 5 gallons.  If you are mail ordering they can handle the heat during summer shipping better than liquid yeast.  Later you can explore the variety of liquid yeasts. 

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2019, 06:18:18 pm »
Welcome back to the hobby!  As you know, a LOT has changed in 20 years.  Some things are the same, but the knowledge in this hobby is infinitely more now than it was back then.  Here on the AHA forum, you’ve come to a great place to get some of the best advice.

My own input on your specific questions:

1.  An English Pale Ale is a great style to start out with.  Or go with any style you like.  If you have any questions or want to run recipes past someone, post it here and we will help.

2.  Yes, for 2.5 gallons you can easily divide all the ingredients by 2.  This includes the yeast.  Software can help with recipe design for sure.  Most software can do all the conversions for you if you like.

3.  StarSan is an excellent no-rinse sanitizer.  Don’t worry about off-flavors.  You’d have to use an awful lot to be able to taste any of it in the final beer.  But I do NOT recommend using a dishwasher.

4.  My local homebrew shop doesn’t supply all of the ingredients I need, so I often buy online.  My favorite online shop is MoreBeer.com.  Fast and low cost shipping, and they have EVERYTHING.

5.  Best book recommendation I think is Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher.  This is a really great all-around book.  If you like Belgian beers then Brew Like A Monk by Stan Hieronymous is also outstanding.  And if you just want the basics, can’t go wrong with How To Brew by John Palmer.  Most other books I think are helpful but really not as essential as these few.

Homebrew shops typically mill the grains very very coarse and it results in terrible efficiency.  Better off milling your own.

Cheers!
« Last Edit: May 09, 2019, 06:20:01 pm by dmtaylor »
Dave

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Offline Mardoo

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Re: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2019, 10:52:25 pm »
Starsan anecdote: I pressure ferment, and due to one wrong connection at the wrong time, transferred 2.5L of Starsan into a 20L batch I had just pitched the yeast into ( 2/3 of a gallon Starsan into 5 1/4 gallons of wort).

I had a lot of people taste the final beer without introduction or explanation, including judges, and only one picked anything off, and that was a fermentation issue.

So yeah, RDWAHAHB.

Offline Megary

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Re: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2019, 08:08:08 am »
Thanks to all the replies.  I have so re-immersed myself into this hobby that I'm starting to miss the point.  I have read so many threads, visited so many sites, printed out grain info, hops AAU charts, brewing instructions, bought equipment (and then bought more equipment), and I'm now deep into Palmer's How to Brew.  I have all kinds of information highlighted and various notes everywhere!  I've learned more about making beer in the last two weeks than I ever knew brewing extract for years way back when...but I've turned into a bit of a crazy obsessive.  The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know.  And the wheel keeps spinning around.  I might burn out before I ever brew a batch!   :D

Well, no.  That won't happen, but I do need to RDWAHAHB (I admit, I had to use google)  Sage advice, that.

I've learned enough to get myself into trouble.  So a recipe is coming soon and I'll probably brew on Memorial weekend.  Right after I finish Palmer, fully understand steeping vs. mashing, go over my equipment one more time, consider kegging, calculate hop chemistry at various times and temps... ;)


Offline denny

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Re: Getting Back at it. Any tips appreciated.
« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2019, 08:14:57 am »
Always remember, malted barley WANTS to become beer.  It's easy.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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