Author Topic: Help a veteran  (Read 1075 times)

Offline micsager

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Help a veteran
« on: December 07, 2010, 08:57:35 AM »
Well, a veteran brewer that is.....

I posted on another thread that I think I have done all I can to improve my processes over the last couple years, here's a rundown:

10 gallon, Blichmann Top Teir, with keggles. 
I have two stir plates, and always start with two smack packs.
I do a batch sparge
Cool with standard copper coil wort chiller.
Ferment in plastic buckets, that I replace every ten brews or so. 
Huge chest freezer with dual temp control for fermenting. 
Smaller chest freezer with single temp control for long term storage/lagering.

And I just sent my water to Wardlabs, to see if there is anything there I can do.

Can anyone think of other things I could do?  I always like improving the system, but unsure where to go from here.  (other than a brew-magic) 

Offline James Lorden

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2010, 09:08:07 AM »
how's your beer taste... if it's good then why change.... maybe go in a different direction and start doing ingredient tests to hone your recipe formulation skills.  Split batches, use various yeasts, dry hops, and specialty grain to get a better understanding of how to use them.
James Lorden
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Offline dcbc

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2010, 09:09:38 AM »
Sounds as if you have enough equipment to make excellent beer.  A lot of improvement will come from becoming familiar enough with using this equipment to standardize your process.

You say you are a veteran brewer.  So you probably know all of this.  Nonetheless, here are a few thoughts.  

You mention two smack packs and stir plates.  Hopefully, you are making starters from those packs to pitch enough viable yeast for your beers.  

Immersion chillers are fine.  They're even better when you have a method of moving the wort around them so that they can chill it efficiently.  A sanitized spoon will do the trick.  A pump with a whirlpool attachment is easier and equally effective if not superior.

Understanding your water chemistry is a fantastic thing.  A sample to Ward Labs is a great way to go.  Mine varied greatly from my City's report.

Temp control is crucial and it sounds like you have that covered.  Make sure the probe is not hanging freely in the chamber, but rather, attached to the vessel and covered with some insulating material.  Some people use thermowells, but this isn't critical IMO.

Aerate/Oxygenate your wort well before pitching.  

Finally, I'm a big fan of brewing software over math.

Good luck.
I've consumed all of my home brew and still can't relax!  Now what!

Offline micsager

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2010, 09:18:34 AM »
Yea, I do all that, except oxygenating the wort.  hmmmmmm. 

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2010, 09:33:38 AM »
Oxygenation helps for bigger beers, but for normal beers a good mix-stir on a drill should be sufficient.

Having good gear and having sufficient practice with it are two different things.  I'd advise you to hold off on making more equipment changes and start getting repeat practice with your setup.  Take more measurements as you are learning it, just to make sure that you're hitting various targets.  Learn where you need to focus your time; not all parts of your process require equal attention.

You can make great beer with minimal equipment, but you have to really know your system.  I advise people to put in the time and practice to get to know it well.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2010, 09:59:41 AM »
A good pH meter can be of use.

I agree with Gordon, work on the process, get it down.

A guy in our club won a Gold at the NHC this year with a beer done on a minimal system, on his stove top.
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2010, 10:09:57 AM »
Getting to know one's equipment is important. As Gordon stated, practice makes perfect.
Duplicating, replicating and repeating one's recipes is also an important part.
I want to start doing some more blending.
Knowing and understanding every single aspect of the process is a never ending process.

...the day that I think I know everything is the day I need to reflect on my process
because that day is unlikely to happen.

I like to believe it's a never ending process of improvement.
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Offline beersk

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2010, 10:39:29 AM »

I like to believe it's a never ending process of improvement.

I agree.  I'm not a veteran brewer by any stretch of the meaning, only been brewing for a couple years.  But just when you think you're doing pretty good, you find something else that needs improvement to take the beer and the process to the next level.  I think my beer is pretty good (and have been told it's good by plenty of people), but there is a long list of things I can think of that need improvement to take my process and skill to the next level.
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Offline euge

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2010, 10:51:26 AM »
Mic are you satisfied with the quality of your brew? Otherwise the equipment looks fine. As mentioned before a pump is nice to have.

Also, my opinion is that your buckets are good for more than 10 ferments. Unless they are terribly and deeply jaggedly scratched or cracked all over the insides theres no reason to toss them even if they've become stained. And there's ways to sterilize them even if they are scratched.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline micsager

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2010, 11:53:25 AM »
Mic are you satisfied with the quality of your brew? Otherwise the equipment looks fine. As mentioned before a pump is nice to have.

Also, my opinion is that your buckets are good for more than 10 ferments. Unless they are terribly and deeply jaggedly scratched or cracked all over the insides theres no reason to toss them even if they've become stained. And there's ways to sterilize them even if they are scratched.

9 times out of 10, I am.  And since I can only brew 10, 10 gallon batches a year, I ususal have to stop brewing by about March 1st.   <snicker, snicker>

Offline micsager

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2010, 12:30:30 PM »
Thanks guys.  I think my next step (after water) will be to do some split batches with different yeast strains.  I pretty much use 1056 for my four mainstays.  (IPA, Black IPA, Pale, and an Amber)  Maybe I'll try something different with one bucket, and stick with the 1056 on one. 

Any suggestions?

Offline glitterbug

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2010, 12:40:52 PM »
Perhaps you should try experimenting with unconventional methods such as "No chill" and "Brew in a bag". The guys in Oz and round the internets seem to have great results using really simple processes and equipment.
A witty saying proves nothing - Voltaire

Offline denny

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2010, 12:52:36 PM »
Oxygenation helps for bigger beers, but for normal beers a good mix-stir on a drill should be sufficient.

Having good gear and having sufficient practice with it are two different things.  I'd advise you to hold off on making more equipment changes and start getting repeat practice with your setup.  Take more measurements as you are learning it, just to make sure that you're hitting various targets.  Learn where you need to focus your time; not all parts of your process require equal attention.

You can make great beer with minimal equipment, but you have to really know your system.  I advise people to put in the time and practice to get to know it well.

As always, wise advice from Gordon.   Remember, the equipment doesn't make the beer...the brewer does!  You've got plenty of great gear.  Now, learn how to make the most of it.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline denny

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2010, 12:54:07 PM »
Ferment in plastic buckets, that I replace every ten brews or so. 

Unnecessary and wasteful.
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Offline micsager

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Re: Help a veteran
« Reply #14 on: December 07, 2010, 02:26:02 PM »
Ferment in plastic buckets, that I replace every ten brews or so. 

Unnecessary and wasteful.

Others have said the same thing.  I guess it's time for me to reconsider that provision........