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Old 12-31-2011, 05:30 PM   #1
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Homebrewing Thread

By popula request in another thread, I am starting a homebrewing thread for any and all who are interested.

If you want to jump into this hobby, you can pick up a starter kit at pretty much any homebrew supply shop for under $100 (or take a look at your local Craigslist). The local store (or mailorder) can also supply you with a kit of ingredients for your first batch. Pick a simple style, like a pale ale, stout, or something similar and use dry yeast for your first time out. It would also be helpful to get a copy of a book on the subject, which your local library will most likely have (The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing is not a bad place to start).

An extract batch (what you will be starting with) takes 2 to 3 hours to prepare. After that, you will need to let it ferment for a couple of weeks. You will then need something on the order of 2 or 3 hours to bottle your beer. A few weeks in the bottle and you are ready to start drinking.

Typically you will start doing 5 gallon batches, which yield about two cases of beer.

Ask away if there are any questions. If you enjoy doing this, most areas also have homebrewing clubs where you can get a lot of knowledge quickly and also have a good time with like-minded people. My club meets monthly for dinner, a lecture, sharing of beer and camaraderie. We also do non-meeting events like an annual picnic, a bike tour of local breweries and a bus tour/pub crawl.
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Old 12-31-2011, 05:45 PM   #2
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Well said Brewer!

I do two five gallon batches a month, back to back on the same day. I keep it simple- pale ales,stouts, IPA's. I started in June, 2010, and have brewed 28 batches, the last 20 being all grain. We also have a local group of brewers that get together, but we meet only 4 times a year.

I read John Palmer's book How to Brew online, and it's been a great help
http://www.howtobrew.com/

I'm really looking forward to researching ways to improve my procedures, and beer clarity and taste with each batch.
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Old 12-31-2011, 06:12 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by brewer12345 View Post
By popula request in another thread, I am starting a homebrewing thread for any and all who are interested.
Great idea, thanks for starting one and count me in. I have never brewed a thing in my life but would love to learn
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Old 12-31-2011, 06:27 PM   #4
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I've been homebrewing since early 1987, and still enjoy it as much as ever.

After tinkering with my system for the past quarter century, I've got it pretty much to the point where I'm satisfied. I mostly brew 10 gallon batches, although my system is capable of twice that quantity.

As Brewer12345 implied, the best way to quickly acquire practical knowledge is to join a local club of homebrewers. Watching (and helping) someone else brew a batch will give you enough confidence to go home and do it yourself.

Even though it's not rocket surgery, I'm still learning about brewing even after 25 years, and that's what I love the most about it. Brewing is, IMNSHO, equal parts art and science, so it appeals to both sides of my brain.

I still do some consulting for small breweries, mostly designing recipes for them, and I'm more than willing to answer questions about any aspect of this great hobby.
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Old 12-31-2011, 06:31 PM   #5
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I should add that if anyone is local to me I would be happy to set up a group brew session.
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Old 12-31-2011, 06:34 PM   #6
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Hi guys - as I mentioned in another thread the other day, my wife is a homebrewer, and she is really into it. She has been brewing for about 6-7 years now. She has an all-electric half-barrel HERMS, for her all-grain brewing. We both prefer IPAs and hoppy pale ales these days, but she has brewed a wide variety of both ales and lagers. Right now, we have a an American brown ale, an American pale ale, and an American amber on tap in the kegerator. I know that probably sounds excessive for just the two of us, but we don't really drink large quantities of beer........it's just nice to have a quality brew on tap when you want one. She is the brains of the whole operation, and I mainly provide the grunt labor, so I'm not sure what I can add to the discussion. But she sits about 6 feet from me most of the time while we are on the computers, so I can certainly ask her for her input on any brewing-related topics that may come up. In addition to providing grunt labor, I do cultivate and grow several varieties of hops that we grow out in the backyard........including harvesting and drying them in the late summer every year, for future brewing.
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Old 12-31-2011, 06:49 PM   #7
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Wow, Brewer, great idea!

I will follow this thread.
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Old 12-31-2011, 09:06 PM   #8
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I have a new kit I received for xmas.

I have brewed about 4-5 batches on a Mr Beer kit. That plastic keg melted on the 3rd or 4th batch, so I have upgraded to a kit which allows me to use grains.

My first beer is a Belgian Wheat, no malted extracts... (all dry grain).

My questions-

1) kit has a lot more set up with less instructions than expected. Suggestions? I am reading the book which came with it now...

2) should I use tap water, filtered water or distilled water to brew? I used distilled with Mr Beer.

3) There was a part of instruction which suggested I brew using a technique which sounded like making tea (just soaking a bag in water, but removing it). please explain.

4) I have 2 plastic buckets and 1 glass carbide. There is also a tube (??) to transfer.

I assume I make wort over stove
then pour into either plastic bucket or carbide. Which one and why?
Then I transfer to other plastic bucket to bottle (the other bucket has a spout).

Why would I not ferment in the bucket with the spout?
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Old 12-31-2011, 09:07 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by brewer12345 View Post
I should add that if anyone is local to me I would be happy to set up a group brew session.
Or schedule an outing at Great American Beer Festival
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Old 12-31-2011, 10:32 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by jIMOh View Post
I have a new kit I received for xmas.

I have brewed about 4-5 batches on a Mr Beer kit. That plastic keg melted on the 3rd or 4th batch, so I have upgraded to a kit which allows me to use grains.

My first beer is a Belgian Wheat, no malted extracts... (all dry grain).

My questions-

1) kit has a lot more set up with less instructions than expected. Suggestions? I am reading the book which came with it now...

2) should I use tap water, filtered water or distilled water to brew? I used distilled with Mr Beer.

3) There was a part of instruction which suggested I brew using a technique which sounded like making tea (just soaking a bag in water, but removing it). please explain.

4) I have 2 plastic buckets and 1 glass carbide. There is also a tube (??) to transfer.

I assume I make wort over stove
then pour into either plastic bucket or carbide. Which one and why?
Then I transfer to other plastic bucket to bottle (the other bucket has a spout).

Why would I not ferment in the bucket with the spout?
So you have a big pile of grain, not just dry (powder) malt extract?

You want to use filtered tap water in most cases.

If you have a big pile of grain, what you do is dough in about 1 quart of water per pound of grain. I would start with the water at 170F or so and aim to get to 150 to 155F once you add the grain (take the temperature of your mash). You hold the grain mash at that temp for an hour and then drain off the mash liquid while adding more 170F water to the top of the mash (never let the grain bed go dry) until you have 6 gallons or so of wort. Then you would boil with hops and proceed as you have with extract. You probably need a wort chiller to cool the wort after the boil is over.

Before you do this I would suggest getting your hands on a book and reading through it thoroughly.

If you know any other brewers locally, having them show you or help you on your batch would be very helpful. This is really pretty simple, but it helps to see it done. If I had to, I could do this with no insruments (not even a thermometer or scale) and nothing but ingrediets a pot and a fire. If ancient Mesopotamians can do it, so can you.
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Old 12-31-2011, 10:54 PM   #11
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Great idea for a thread. I started homebrewing this last year, now have made 5 beers, all excellent. It wasn't as difficult as I originally imagined, however I have been uber careful on the cleaninng and sanitation side as that seems to be the area where most people fail.

This last beer though I bumped up to the keg system and am much happier with the result over bottling.

I find it just such an interesting process. And as an Architect, I like braumeister I like that it appeals to both sides of my brain.

I usually take bottles to friends but with the keg that will be more difficult. However my wife got me a 'beer gun' for Christmas which allows bottling from the keg. I haven't used it yet, but I am sure it works great--but my question is why do I need to use this?

When I take my growler to a micro brewery they fill it up right there, and the beer is fine. So why couldn't I do the same with the bottles? My gut is that it is introducing the air--is that it? But isn't air introduced to my growler?

My last beer (which I am enjoying right now in fact!) is a smoked scotch ale and it is the awesome! So far I haven't made a beer that I haven't enjoyed which has surprised me.
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Old 12-31-2011, 11:35 PM   #12
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You probably need a wort chiller to cool the wort after the boil is over.
I think I've seen Dr. Rich use that exact same sentence...
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Old 01-01-2012, 07:21 AM   #13
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Brewer,
Thanks for starting this. Now I've got to get down to my local brew shop and see what I've got to buy to do this. I've been purchasing faucets and thermometer strips from them, and he's tried to get me into brewing. It's time to give it a try now that I have a cast of experienced experts right here a keyboard away.
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Old 01-01-2012, 09:47 AM   #14
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Great idea for a thread. I started homebrewing this last year, now have made 5 beers, all excellent. It wasn't as difficult as I originally imagined, however I have been uber careful on the cleaninng and sanitation side as that seems to be the area where most people fail.

This last beer though I bumped up to the keg system and am much happier with the result over bottling.

I find it just such an interesting process. And as an Architect, I like braumeister I like that it appeals to both sides of my brain.

I usually take bottles to friends but with the keg that will be more difficult. However my wife got me a 'beer gun' for Christmas which allows bottling from the keg. I haven't used it yet, but I am sure it works great--but my question is why do I need to use this?

When I take my growler to a micro brewery they fill it up right there, and the beer is fine. So why couldn't I do the same with the bottles? My gut is that it is introducing the air--is that it? But isn't air introduced to my growler?

My last beer (which I am enjoying right now in fact!) is a smoked scotch ale and it is the awesome! So far I haven't made a beer that I haven't enjoyed which has surprised me.

Basically, the beer gun allows you to get tighter quality control over what you bottle. Remember, the growler is generally intended to be consumed within a few days. Your homebrew competition entry might need to be stable for 2 or 3 weeks or longer.
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Old 01-01-2012, 03:36 PM   #15
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I should probably put this thread on ignore ...

Seriously, great idea for a thread and great comments so far. For my 2 cents, I'll also say that if you want to really limit your initial investment, you can really do this on the cheap, w/o sacrificing quality, but it will take a smidgen more research than just buying the starter kit from a home-brew store.

Here are some great forums:

The Northern Brewer Homebrew Forum • Index page
HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Previously mentioned, John Palmer's site with on-line book (the 1st edition). But I suggest you buy the current edition of his book. Some of that 1st edition info is outdated and has been corrected in recent editions, but it is still a great site. I sometimes go to it, since I can search faster than digging out my copy, and I know which parts are current. Anyway, people who have met him all say John is a great guy, so buy his book!

How to Brew - By John Palmer

Here's an interesting wiki/blog from a very scientific home brewer interested in obsessed with German Brewing techniques. It's a deep dive for a beginner, but you might find it interesting - don't be scared off if you aren't the geeky type, you don't have to know this stuff, but you might find it interesting to see where this can lead if you are so inclined.

Braukaiser.com - German brewing and more Kai pops in the forums pretty regularly, and appears on some brewing podcasts, with authentic German accent.



Now, just like some threads in this er.org forum will be overwhelming to someone just starting out in personal financial management, much of the stuff on those brewing forums may seem intimidating. Don't worry - just tell them you are new to brewing and many helpful people will jump in to answer your questions.

For my (attempted) contribution, I'm going to use jIMOh's post #8 with questions about grains and extracts as a jumping off point to describe some basics:

What most people think of as the actual 'brewing' step in making beer involves 'cooking' malt extract to produce a 'wort' (unfermented beer). Then the wort is cooled, fermented, and bottled or kegged. It helps to understand what malt extract is and the terms used in home-brewing.


The wort you will produce is made up of sugars, mostly maltose (malt sugar), some residual 'stuff' from the grain that was used, hops (for bittering and flavor/aroma) and water. The wort is generally boiled for about an hour, and the hops are added at various times for different effects, just like spices can be added at different points in a recipe.

A key point here is that yeast will ferment sugars, but not starches - and we all know that grain is a starch. This is where 'malting' and 'mashing' the grain comes in, malting is a step in converting starches to sugars for the yeast (and ultimately for us). Almost all brewers will purchase their malted grains from their supplier, so this next paragraph is just FYI to understand the process.

Malting is a process of soaking the grain until it sprouts, then drying it and removing the sprouts. This activates the enzymes in the grain that allow the plant to convert its starch to sugars, but the process is halted by drying before this occurs. We just want the enzymes to get activated. Again, this is done for you by the maltster.

What this means to the home-brewer

There are a few basic ways a home-brewer goes about making their wort.

1) The so-called 'all-grain' approach - Take the purchased malted grain, crush it (or have it crushed), soak it in hot water (~150F - this is where the enzymes work fast) for about an hour, and those enzymes will have converted the starches to sugar. This is called 'mashing'. It is actually pretty amazing to see this happen - you start with an oatmeal-like porridge, and an hour later it's sticky-sweet liquid. Drain the sugar water off, and (optionally) rinse it to get more of the remaining sugars out, and then you start with the boiling process. You discard the spent grain/hulls (compost, cattle feed, garbage...). A typical 5 gallon recipe will use ~ 10 #'s of grain.


2) Using pre-made, condensed extract - Most people start out this way. The malting and mashing is done on a commercial scale, and the sugar water is condensed to either a thick syrup, or a dry powder. So the home-brewer just adds the syrup or powder to water, and brings that to a boil, and proceeds the same as the 'all-grain' brewer. This is why I hate the term 'all-grain' - the extract you purchase is made from grain too, the difference is who mashed it, and the condensing process. People have made award winning beers with condensed extract. A typical 5 gallon recipe will use ~ 6 #'s of condensed extract.

3) Condensed extract, with 'specialty grains' - For flavor variety, and/or to make a darker beer, brewers will add some roasted grain to the process. Everything from a light toasting or stewing, to a black as coal roast (again, usually purchased, but a few brewers do some home roasting of grains). Generally - these roasted grains have already had their starch converted to sugar, so they don't need to be 'mashed', they can simply be steeped in a little warm water to get the flavor/color/sugars out. So an extract brewer can add variety to a basic malt extract with these 'specialty grains'. The 'all-grain' brewer will generally just include these in their mash.

4) Condensed extract, with a 'mini-mash' (also called 'partial-mash', but I hate that term too) - if you want to use a grain or starchy adjunct (corn, rice, etc) that needs to be mashed, and it only makes up a relatively small portion of the total grains used, it's really easy to do a small-scale mash of a few pounds of grain, and add this sugar water to the boil along with the extract.


For extract brewers who want to do anything beyond absolute basics (purchased recipe kits), I highly recommend that you base your recipes on the light colored extracts, and get your color/flavor from steeping the 'specialty grains'. They do sell amber and dark extracts, but then you don't really know what went into the recipe, and if you move to 'all-grain', it will be harder to duplicate those beers.

For the beginner, an advantage of pre-made extracts is that it simplifies things (skip the mash), plus, you can do a concentrated boil. With all-grain, you generally collect about 6 gallons of wort and it boils down to 5 gallons, so you need big pots and big burners. With extract, people generally boil 3 gallons, and then add ~ 2 gallons cold (sanitary) water at the end (this can go in the fermentor). Three gallons can be done on the stove top pretty easily.

( I warned you I should have ignored this thread .... )

Anyway, if jIMOh could post the list of ingredients with amounts in his kit, I think we could give more specific directions. From his description, I'm not 100% certain if he is looking at a steep of some specialty grains, or a full mash (all-grain).

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Old 01-01-2012, 03:56 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jIMOh View Post
I assume I make wort over stove
then pour into either plastic bucket or carbide. Which one and why?
Then I transfer to other plastic bucket to bottle (the other bucket has a spout).

Why would I not ferment in the bucket with the spout?
For a few specific answers -

In addition to my comments previously, if you got your kit online, can you post a link?

If you kit is indeed all-grain, you will need to mash it (can be done as a 'brew-in-a-bag' process, it's what I do), but that is generally for steeping or a mini-mash.

Here's a link to a cooler style 'batch-sparge' mash tun -

dennybrew

or google BIAB or brew-in-a-bag or MIAB (mash-in-a-bag) in one of the forums I listed.

NEVER pour hot wort into a glass carboy. It WILL crack.

Well, you CAN ferment in a plastic fermenting bucket with a spigot (I've done it many times), but it needs to be a bucket that you can fit with a lid and airlock, and it needs to be 6.5 gallons to allow head-space for the krausen (foam) when it's fermenting. And you have to be certain you have taken the spigot apart and fully sanitized it, and that you have a good seal. Your bottling bucket may or may not not fit the bill, but a drilled fermenting bucket will. Looks like NB's bottling bucket is just a drilled fermentor, but that's not always the case.

6.5 Gallon Bottling Bucket : Northern Brewer
Bottling Spigot for Bottling Bucket : Northern Brewer





Quote:
Originally Posted by brewer12345 View Post
Basically, the beer gun allows you to get tighter quality control over what you bottle. Remember, the growler is generally intended to be consumed within a few days. Your homebrew competition entry might need to be stable for 2 or 3 weeks or longer.
Right. The 'beer gun', also called a counter-pressure bottle filler, has a port for CO2, so it flushes air from the bottle, and by maintaining the counter pressure, it can help reduce foaming.

Brew Your Own: The How-To Homebrew Beer Magazine - Techniques - Counter-Pressure Bottling: Techniques

-ERD50
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Old 01-03-2012, 04:11 PM   #17
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I will post more later when I get home.

I am clearly doing this

Quote:
1) The so-called 'all-grain' approach - Take the purchased malted grain, crush it (or have it crushed), soak it in hot water (~150F - this is where the enzymes work fast) for about an hour, and those enzymes will have converted the starches to sugar. This is called 'mashing'. It is actually pretty amazing to see this happen - you start with an oatmeal-like porridge, and an hour later it's sticky-sweet liquid. Drain the sugar water off, and (optionally) rinse it to get more of the remaining sugars out, and then you start with the boiling process. You discard the spent grain/hulls (compost, cattle feed, garbage...). A typical 5 gallon recipe will use ~ 10 #'s of grain.
I have not made a mash before, and the instructions for that step confused me.

Setting up the system also did not have detailed pictures, so that is another point of confusion too.
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Old 01-03-2012, 04:24 PM   #18
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jIMOh, this has been brought up before, but if you watch someone do these steps one time, you'll slap yourself upside the head and say "Hey, that was all so obvious!"

There are two large, active, and absolutely outstanding homebrewing clubs near you, and both have frequent "group brews" along with their technical and social activities. Join one or both of them and you'll get all your questions answered in no time at all.

Bloatarian Brewing League
Cincinnati Malt Infusers
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Old 01-03-2012, 05:16 PM   #19
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When I take my growler to a micro brewery they fill it up right there, and the beer is fine. So why couldn't I do the same with the bottles? My gut is that it is introducing the air--is that it? But isn't air introduced to my growler?
Some air will be in the growler, and after time, it will oxidize the beer and will start to taste bad. Growlers are usually not sealed well either, so it'll go flat before it will oxidize, but both are reasons that Growlers should only be used if you're drinking the beer within a few days. (I do find that electrical tape around the growler lid helps keep the carbonation in).

The beer gun will be great if you need to bottle for longer than a few days. It purges all the oxygen out of the bottle and puts CO2 in.


I'm excited about this thread as well. I've brewed a handful of batches in the past, but even though I don't brew that much, I'm really in to beer. I just concentrate on drinking more than brewing.
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Old 01-03-2012, 05:48 PM   #20
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I will ignore this thread - with a tear in my eye.

1961 - 1987. I started young(underage) when Safeway's in the PacNW had a homebrew section. ?Berg and Son's malt extract from Tacoma Washington was better than Pabst in the can.

heh heh heh - when I quit - she turned handsprings of joy -"no more smell. I get my kitchen back!"
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