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Brewing beer
Old 01-02-2008, 01:07 PM   #1
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Brewing beer

I got a beer brewing kit for xmas. Anyone out there brew their own?
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Old 01-02-2008, 01:24 PM   #2
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Yes, about 9 months ago I got a kit by the Mr. Beer company. I've been enjoying it a lot.
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Old 01-02-2008, 01:42 PM   #3
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Used to brew beer. Not so much now. DW doesn't drink beer, so she won't help me make it - but she does drink wine on occasion, so she'll hlep me make that.

Happy to answer any questions you have on brewing beer or wine.
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Old 01-02-2008, 02:06 PM   #4
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I have been homebrewing for, uh, 15 years now. Do all-grain in a customized stainless 10 gallon system that is propane fired. Serving fridge, kegging system, lagering fridge, pH meter, the works. Lots of fun and a relatively cheap hobby. Since I have lots of thirsty neighbors, I sometimes hurry t o keep up with local market demand.
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Old 01-02-2008, 02:29 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by jIMOh View Post
I got a beer brewing kit for xmas. Anyone out there brew their own?
Please post the specifics of the kit that you got. A link to the instruction sheets would really help. If it is one of the mass-market kits, you can usually improve the brews a *lot* with a few simple steps and some higher quality (and probably cheaper) ingredients from one of the mail-order home-brew shops, or from a local place.

It can be about as simple or as complex as you wish to make it. But if you stick to a style within the capabilities of the equipment you have and the time/effort you want to put into it, you can make some awesome beer.

Caveat - if the bud/miller/coors bland beer style is what you like, it's probably best to just buy it. But if you want flavorful beer, making it yourself is fun, and cheaper than buying the quality stuff.

I opened some of the more complex stuff that I've ever brewed on new years, and a number of people enjoyed it. My beer club has an oak barrel, and they brewed and aged an intentionally sour beer with a number of 'infusions' of various micro-biological beasts to provide the sour profile. I did a second fermentation with a pound of cherries per gallon and wine yeast and got it bottled in time for New Years. Sour-Cherry-oak-aged-barrel beer - it was/is really good, but an acquired taste for some.

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Old 01-02-2008, 08:31 PM   #6
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If'n you're interested in learning more, I recommend either The Complete Joy Of Homebrewing, 3rd Edition, by Papazian or How To Brew by Palmer. Papazian has more of a lighter writing style, while Palmer is an engineer and writes like one. Both are good books.
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Old 01-02-2008, 11:05 PM   #7
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I got a beer brewing kit for xmas. Anyone out there brew their own?
I got one too, so I'll be giving it a try.
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Old 01-03-2008, 02:55 AM   #8
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I brew beer. I never quite graduated to the level brewer has achieved... Mainly used the Malt syrups.

My batches turned out pretty good. But I have not brewed a batch in quite awhile. When I do, I bottle it. I do not use a filtering system... just let the yeast settle. Natural carbonation...etc.

I agree with ERD's assertion about brewing. Low-cost run of the mill beer is not worth brewing. If you are going to put the effort into it... try something a little different.

I like stouts and porters myself.
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Old 01-03-2008, 07:46 AM   #9
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I've been doing home brew for 6 years. Started with Mr. Beer and now brew small, 3 gallon batches using dried malt extract, dry yeast, pellet hops, and specialty grains. I make ales and bottle them. As mentioned, doing light lagers requires more tightly controlled and lower temperatures than are normally available in your home. I only brew in the winter (in NY) when the heat is on and the temps stay around 68 all day. Home brewing with malt extract instead of all grain is akin to the difference between instant coffee and the real stuff. You can noodle around with the hops and yeast a bit to get some decent ales, but if you want the real deal, you need to go all grain like brewer12345. Good ingredients matter. The few kits I've tried have been marginal, at best. I've had much more success adapting recipes from books or the internet.

I'm planning to move to Florida in a few months. It is too warm there (unless you run the AC all the time) for the kinds of ales I make. As such, I am selling my home brew books. I have quite a few (e.g., Papazian, Home brewing for dummies, Clone Brews). PM me if you are interested. It's a great hobby and helps to make the long, cold winters here a bit more tolerable.
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Old 01-03-2008, 09:31 AM   #10
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Palmer's How-to-Brew (mentioned above) is very good - he does get into the technical side, but you can skim for the 'how to' and skip the 'why'. He put most of the book on-line:

How to Brew - By John Palmer


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Home brewing with malt extract instead of all grain is akin to the difference between instant coffee and the real stuff. You can noodle around with the hops and yeast a bit to get some decent ales, but if you want the real deal, you need to go all grain ...
Well, the extract vs all grain debate is the home-brew version of 'should I pay off the mortgage' multiple 20 page threads every six months....

I'll just leave it at: You *can* make excellent (even award winning) beers with extract. You need to get a fresh source, some prefer the dried for it's better shelf life. And you will be more limited as to style. If you like stouts and porters like chinaco (and me), I think you can do great with extract - the roasted 'specialty grains' add so much of the flavor that the underlying base grain/extract is less of a factor.

BTW, most extract brewers that are serious about it use a light base extract for everything they make, and get their color/flavor from steeping some specialty grains (very easy to do), or as a partial mash (just a bit more work/time). This opens up a lot of styles and experimentation. And you are not so dependent upon one suppliers version of 'dark' extract', which may be different from another's.


two good mail order sources:

NORTHERN BREWER

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Old 01-03-2008, 09:33 AM   #11
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I'm planning to move to Florida in a few months. It is too warm there (unless you run the AC all the time) for the kinds of ales I make.
Lots of people in hot climates just put their fermentor in a big insulated cooler, and swap out some 2 liter bottles of ice each day. You can get fancier with a fan and temp control and everything.

some links:

http://home.elp.rr.com/brewbeer/chiller/chiller.PDF

many more here:

GOOGLE: fermentation chiller ice site:forum.northernbrewer.com

-ERD50
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Old 01-03-2008, 09:39 AM   #12
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first- if you are beer drinker and drink bud, coors or miller, you are not really a beer drinker. LOL.

I get mad when we host a party and my wife buys a 12 pack of bud light and then people only drink 2 or 3 of the 12. The other 9 sit in the fridge until the next party. Taking up valuable space which could chill my Sam Adams. Priorities.

The kit I got is a Mr Beer kit. I need to drink enough Sam Adams now to get enough bottles for 2 gallons of beer. I should be ready to start by next weekend.

The mix is a canadian ale which came with the Mr Beer kit. I will try some of the other Mr Beer pre-mixes, then move on to actually mixing it myself once I get the process down.
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Old 01-03-2008, 09:39 AM   #13
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I have been homebrewing for, uh, 15 years now. Do all-grain in a customized stainless 10 gallon system that is propane fired. Serving fridge, kegging system, lagering fridge, pH meter, the works. Lots of fun and a relatively cheap hobby. Since I have lots of thirsty neighbors, I sometimes hurry t o keep up with local market demand.
how did you design this system, and where did you get the equipment?
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Old 01-03-2008, 09:48 AM   #14
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How hard is it to make your own wine?
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Old 01-03-2008, 09:55 AM   #15
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how did you design this system, and where did you get the equipment?

Ok, you asked: MoreBeer | Welcome I really only buy equipment from these guys, since they are on the other side of the country from me. But they have a really, really extensive selection of gear and they will custom make just about anything you could want. If had a garage I could use for brewing, I would probably have $10k of equipment by now. But I brew outdoors.

I mostly order supplies from these guys: http://www.grapeandgranary.com/
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Old 01-03-2008, 10:17 AM   #16
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How hard is it to make your own wine?
It can be as easy or as difficult as you want to make it.

Basically, you crush grapes, let them ferment, press, and bottle.

Some of the questions you want to ask your self are:
  • What kind of grapes do you want to use?
  • What kind of yeast will you use?
  • Will you do a malolactic fermentation?
  • Will you do a blend?
You will also need to consider how many measurements and adjustments you will make. At the very least, you will need a hydrometer ($12). This will measure Brix, temperature, specific gravity. You may want to check the acid and free SO2, so some other kits may be needed. You will need buckets, access to a grape crusher and grape press, 5 or 6-gallon carboys, and glass bottles.

Of course, you can make it easier on yourself and just buy a wine kit that is already juiced, yeast injected and acid balanced. You just need to ferment, siphon, bottle, and age.
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Old 01-03-2008, 12:51 PM   #17
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Well, the extract vs all grain debate is the home-brew version of 'should I pay off the mortgage' multiple 20 page threads every six months....

I'll just leave it at: You *can* make excellent (even award winning) beers with extract. You need to get a fresh source, some prefer the dried for it's better shelf life. And you will be more limited as to style. If you like stouts and porters like chinaco (and me), I think you can do great with extract - the roasted 'specialty grains' add so much of the flavor that the underlying base grain/extract is less of a factor.
-ERD50
I agree with your analogy on extract vs grain. The arguments I've read remind me of the pay off the mortgage discussions on this board. The best extract beers I've made have been the darker types that rely on specialty malts for their distinctive flavor. Fresh ingredients are the key.

I had heard about the cooler suggestion in Florida, which is why I'm keeping my brewing equipment and just dumping the books. You never know when you will need a bottle capper.
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Old 01-03-2008, 01:08 PM   #18
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I agree with your analogy on extract vs grain. The arguments I've read remind me of the pay off the mortgage discussions on this board. The best extract beers I've made have been the darker types that rely on specialty malts for their distinctive flavor. Fresh ingredients are the key.

I had heard about the cooler suggestion in Florida, which is why I'm keeping my brewing equipment and just dumping the books. You never know when you will need a bottle capper.
I've made and tasted excellent extract beers. I've even managed some pretty fair lighter beer with extract. But I prefer brewing all grain, and I like having more flexibility in what I make. Different strokes.


If I were to move to a tropical clime, I would just buy a chest freezer and attach an external thermostat to covert it to a fridge (which I have in my basement in NJ). You can dial up any temp you like (can do lagers even) and chest freezers are very energy efficient as these things go. Definately not giving up my homebrew!
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Old 01-03-2008, 02:49 PM   #19
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How hard is it to make your own wine?
Easier than beer, as you don't have the boiling step.

I recommend The Joy Of Home Wine Making by Terry Garey. She writes in a style that I would describe as somewhat ditzy (hopefully on purpose); I get the impression she is trying to calm the fears of someone new to wine making. Lots of good info in the book, though.

DW and I make both grape and fruit wines. There's a Canadian company called winexpert that makes good pre-packaged grape wine kits.

RIght now we have 8 gallons of persimmon and 6 gallons of cranberry wine fermenting.
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Old 01-05-2008, 10:56 PM   #20
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MrBeer.com - Deluxe Edition Beer Kit


That link has the instructions for Mr Beer. I know a friend of mine has one of these, so I've also been thinking about helping him to use it.

From some other discussions, one criticism of the Mr Beer thing is that there is no real 'airlock' on the thing, just some 'vents'. Brewers almost always use a liquid filled airlock to let the fermenting CO2 escape, but keep air and contaminants out. The release of the bubbles gives you some indication of how the fermentation is going. Like this (the cap ~ 1" diameter):



For about $23 you can get a ferment bucket for 5 gallons, with a lid for the airlock and a spigot for bottling.

NORTHERN BREWER: Fermenters and Accessories

A couple bucks more, and you get some tubing and a little bottling valve thing that makes it easy to fill the bottles and reduce oxygen exposure (something the instructions do not address). Oxygen contact can give the beer stale, cardboard-like flavors. You only want oxygen in the cool unfermented wort, just before adding the yeast - they eat up the O2 to grow, then turn anaerobic to finish the job.

NORTHERN BREWER: Bottling

One misleading thing in the Mr Beer instructions - after they sanitize the equipment, they say 'no rinsing required'. They should say 'Do Not Rinse' - you just sanitized it, leave it alone!

Also, they just say to boil and top off with tap water. This could be a problem depending on the chlorine/chloramine, mineral and salt levels in your water. With extract brewing, the minerals are in the water that was concentrated with the extract, so you are probably best off with distilled or a low mineral drinking water.

The 'booster' pack is apparently mostly corn sugar - it will increase the alcohol, but will not add much (if anything) in the way of real beer flavor and body. Some people just use an equal amount of malt extract from a home brew supply store.

The Mr Beer packs are packaged with hop extracts. If you want to take step up in quality (and save money), a home brew store will have un-hopped extract that you boil for an hour with an ounce or so of hops. You can also add about a pound of roasted grain (steeped in a bag like tea) to add color and flavor (types/amounts vary by recipe).

And dry yeasts from a homebrew source are probably higher quality than the Mr Beer stuff. And it really helps (depending on the yeast and style) to keep fermentation temperatures down in the low to mid 60's. Warmer can produce a lot of off flavors.

Look for a home brew club in your area - you can learn a lot, and sample some amazing beers from experienced brewers.

-ERD50
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