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Jo3sh
Oct 19, 2002

Like all girls I love unicorns!

Well, it seems like we got caught up in the whirling peas and pruned/goldmined. I'm still not done discussing homebrewing, though, and I don't think the rest of you are either.

The first thread got us through about a year and a half and 80 pages before the size became a problem for the forums software. The code was improved, and so was the thread, and the second thread lasted drat near three years and over 450 pages. It seems like we're accelerating to me, rather than running out of things to talk about. There was some rumbling a while ago the we ought to have a reboot, so those of you who were rumbling, you got your wish.

For those who might not have participated in the earlier threads, or who are just starting to get curious about homebrewing,this is the thread to talk about making your own beer at home. We get the occasional wine question, and the crowd so far has been helpful where it could be. There is occasional talk about beer in general, but I think most of the discussion of commercial beer goes on in the beer discussion thread.

As I did with HBT2, here are some FAQs, updated for your pleasure:

Q: How hard is homebrewing?

A: Not terribly. If you can read moderately complex recipes and convert them into tasty food, you can very likely brew. If you've ever done any cooking that took a while to yield results and had some finicky elements, you have all the experience you need. There's a crapload more information available to new brewers today than there was when I started, and we're here to help you if you want.


Q: Am I going to like homebrewing?

A: I and lots of others in this thread do. I've been brewing at this writing for over 18 years, and I only seem to be enjoying it more as time passes. However, it's not for everyone. We have had some people find they didn't care for it and stop brewing. There are much easier ways to get good beer, it has to be said, and no shortage of craft beer in the marketplace these days. Brewing takes time, space, and energy not everyone has. Not everyone enjoys the process. Not everyone has success (but as was recently pointed out in the last thread, some people react to adversity by trying harder - much, much harder). I do encourage you to try it if you have any interest at all - I find there is very little that is finer in the world than having a glass of beer you made yourself with a good friend.


Q: You said homebrew was good for sharing with friends, but I don't have any friends. Can I still brew?

A: Sure, you can brew all you want, and either drink it all yourself, alone, with the curtains drawn, or join a club (of which there are many across the US and around the world). I am a member of the Maltose Falcons, which is the club in the Los Angeles area, and I have had the pleasure of crashing a really excellent meeting of the Oregon Brew Crew in Portland. There is very likely a club in your area if you live in a city of any size at all.


Q: Am I going to get arrested for manufacturing alcohol? Is the ATF going to go all Branch Davidian on my rear end?

A: Probably not. In the US, nearly every state allows homebrewing these days. Even Utah has finally allowed it. It's technically illegal in Alabama, but largely unenforced. In Mississippi, home winemaking is legal, but making beer at home is still technically illegal. As of 5/10/2013, homebrewing is legal in all fifty states for the first time since Prohibition. There are doubtless smaller jurisdictions such as dry counties where you'll get in trouble. Check your local laws if you're not sure, because the sheriff won't be impressed if you tell him some guy from the Internet with numbers in his name told you it was okay.


Q: Big breweries must do all kinds of fancy poo poo to keep things safe, right? There's no way I can do this without killing someone, because alcohol is mysterious and makes people go blind when you make it at home.

A: Really, the process of brewing at home is pretty much exactly like any commercial brewery's process, just at a smaller scale. Oh, we don't pasteurize our beer or sterile filter it like the really giant guys, but that's not necessary to make great beer that's safe to drink (although someone from A-B InBev might disagree with me). We're using the same ingredients as the big boys and doing the same things with them. Of course drinking too much of any alcoholic beverage will give you a headache and can even kill you, but that's a problem of quantity and has nothing to do with the source of the beer.


Q: Ok, you sold me. Where can I get more information?

A: There are a number of very good books on the subject. For first-timers, How To Brew is an excellent resource. It's a free edition of one of the better books on the subject, and it has lots of great stuff in it. You could absolutely brew great beer with only that web page. I started brewing before the Web got big, so I started with a copy of The Complete Joy of Home Brewing. It's still a good book, but not everyone likes Charlie Papazian's very relaxed style.


Q: Brewing must need a whole bunch of really weird equipment that costs an arm and a leg, right?

A: Not really. There are a few things like a bottle capper that you just won't see outside a homebrew shop, but even the specialty stuff is pretty drat cheap. Starter kits can be had for under $100, and if you have a decent kitchen set up, that's all you need to get started apart from an ingredient kit, which will set you back another $20-50 in most cases. You definitely can spend more if you want to as you improve and expand your equipment and process. That same $100 investment can last you a long time, though, and expansion is entirely optional.


Q: How much beer do I get for that?

A: That setup, like most homebrewing setups, makes five-gallon batches, or about two cases of beer at a time. Not terrible for call it $40 of ingredients.


Q: So it's a little cheaper than buying beer at retail, right?

A: For starters, yes. If you decide to stay with the hobby and get into some advanced methods, you can buy a lot of ingredients in bulk and even grow some of them yourself to bring costs down - way down. One friend of mine makes his house pale ale for fifteen bucks a batch - and that's a ten-gallon batch. That's the equivalent of under four bucks a case for tasty beer.


Q: Can I brew beer like my favorite brand?

A: I don't think there's a single style of beer that is outside the reach of a really dedicated homebrewer. Some of the farther-out styles take some dedication, but the real meat of the craft beer scene is in ale styles like IPA, porter, stout, etc., and these styles are all easy to make at home. If you want the very palest lagers or some of the sour styles, you're probably going to want to get some batches under your belt before you dive in - but you can get there eventually if you're serious.


Q: Okay, I bought all the gear and made my first batch last night, but it hasn't started bubbling yet, and I am freaking out.

A: Relax. Everyone goes through this the first couple of times. It is almost certainly going to be just fine. This is the lag phase, during which the yeast are waking up and multiplying. This doesn't make visible activity in the fermenter, but it will. Give it a while - it can sometimes take up to three days for this to get moving. If, after three days, you still don't see any activity, then you can worry. Until then, have a beer and relax.


Q: poo poo, you were right - now it's going. But how long will it be before I have actual beer in my glass?

A: For most "normal" styles of beer, it's about right to figure on four weeks or so. The fermenting will be about two weeks, then you will bottle it. It will take another two weeks to get carbonated, and then it will be ready to drink.


Q: So now I have a batch or two under my belt and I definitely want to keep going. What should my next investments in equipment be?

A: From the perspective of consistency and control, a temperature-controlled fermenting area is a giant help. The best and easiest way to do this is to acquire a cheap fridge or freezer from a garage sale, Craigslist, etc., and get an external thermostat (available at any good homebrew shop) to control it. This will allow you to brew even in summer heat without having to keep your whole house at 65 degrees F. Alternatively, you can simply place your fermenter in a tub of water and wrap a towel around the fermenter with the edge in the water - this will provide some evaporative cooling. Put some soda bottles filled with ice in the tub and point a fan at the whole thing for extra cooling power.

Another investment that goes a long way toward a satisfying brewing experience is a propane-fired burner that you can use to brew outdoors. These make anywhere from 4 to 20 times as much heat as a crappy apartment stove, so it's much much easier to get things up to boiling in a reasonable period of time. This will also let you get a larger pot and do full-volume boils, which is the next baby step to all-grain brewing. We'll talk about that more later, though - it's just the beginning of the rabbit hole, and it's a long way down. Again, entry into the rabbit hole is completely optional, and you can stop anytime you want (suuuuure...).


Q: So I was at the homebrew shop, and there are, like, a jillion different kinds of yeast. Why so many kinds? What's the difference? Why not just make one yeast that can do everything?

A: The yeast you choose can have a surprisingly large impact on the beer you make. Different yeasts emphasize malt, or hops, or create their own complex of flavors. Belgian yeasts, for example, often create spicy, fruity kinds of flavors. English yeasts tend to build malt character. American strains tend to be cleaner-tasting, and let the hops shine through. You will want to choose a yeast that's appropriate for the style you are brewing so that you can get the flavors you want in your glass.

Frankly, there's a crapload of information out there, scattered all over the place. Fortunately, our own rage-saq has put together the YeastBot database, which has a tremendous amount of useful information in it. Don't worry about this too much when you are just starting out, as ingredient kits will come with a suitable yeast, but if you have to make a substitution, or if you want to change up the beer a bit, or if you just want to wade through row after row of really great information, that's a spectacular place to start.


Q: What's your rig like? What's your process?

A: That could take pages and pages to answer. Long story short, I do ten-gallon, all-grain batches. My three brewing vessels are converted half-barrel beer kegs. I brew on a stand I made myself out of angle iron and crappy welding. My ferments are done in plastic brew buckets in a fridge with a thermostat to keep the temperatures stable. I serve from Corny kegs (there's the edge of the rabbit hole again...) through Ventmatic faucets, mounted on the door of my other beer fridge. Most of my brews are ales, and mostly I do single infusion mashes.


Q: Holy hell, this is a big thread. Ain't no one got time to read all this!

A: True. But there's a lot of good info in it (and its predecessors), so it's a good idea to read it anyway. But the people in it are good about answering questions, so do ask. We can't really expect you to get through however many hundred pages it is right now before we let you get started - we'd rather have you ask questions and get started brewing sooner, so you can be happier with the whole thing.

Q: Ok, I've gone whole hog. I've got all the gear, including a kegging rig, and all my friends and neighbors come to me for beer. But now I'm in a jam because I need to get some beer carbonated fast for a barbecue. Help me out, brewing thread!

A: Josh Wow has you covered. HOW TO FORCE CARB YOUR BEER LIKE A TOTAL BALLER


TL,DR: Beer is good; stick with us and we will teach you how to take control of your beer-drinking destiny.

We now return you to the new thread. Welcome back, everyone!

Edit: fixed a couple typos, added a line or two.

Jo3sh fucked around with this message at Apr 9, 2015 around 04:11

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mewse
May 2, 2006





Haha, I literally just PMed you asking about a new thread. Hello

I want to thank indigi who gave me advice for a special bitter recipe in the last thread. I screwed up volumes and ended up with 7 gallons instead of 6, but apparently it just became a standard bitter and it tastes great.

Prefect Six
Mar 27, 2009



Glad to see the thread back for another round!

Hold on while I think of more puns

mattdev
Sep 30, 2004

Gentlemen of taste, refinement, luxury.

Women want us, men want to be us.

I'm taking inventory on all of my hops and it really makes me feel like a drug dealer.

mindphlux
Jan 8, 2004





I haven't brewed in a couple months - for shame :/

I still have like 10 oz of vacuum packed 'brewers gold' hops in my freezer (that I won in a brew competition) that I don't know what to do with. I've read a lot that IBU kind of maxes out at some point, and you can add as much of hops as you want and it won't really make it any more bitter - guess I could just throw them all in a test batch and see what happens...

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

REMEMBER ME!


Sweet, new thread. Not much news on brewing for me since I've been working more on weird wines lately, but today I noticed that the almost empty bucket of DME I have on a kitchen shelf was unsealed, and presumably had been since the last time I did brew. No bugs or anything, but boy was it in just the right place to catch not just summer humidity but any steam rolling off the stove that didn't go out the wall vent.



It's like little plastic lumps on the bottom of the bucket. So glad it was almost empty.

Mr. Hoppy
Jul 23, 2006

this is how you lose it. just disappear into whatever lame shit you obsess over when you get depressed. stop growing. pod opens up and replaces the real you with your romanticized, mythologized doppleganger.

I brewed a stout a few days ago for a beer festival, and did some first wort hopping with bramling cross hops (trying to get a mixture between an imperial stout and a commercial beer that was always popular at said festival that used bramling cross) and I'm looking forward to trying it, does anyone have any experience with fist wort hopping? I hear it gives a good aroma and flavour from the hops instead of adding them later on, but I was wondering what other people's experience has been with it.

wafflesnsegways
Jan 12, 2008
And that's why I was forced to surgically attach your hands to your face.

Oh thank god! What would I do without the brewing thread?

Does anyone have a recipe similar to rogue saint red? It's a nice red ale with plenty of hop flavor and aroma, and only some hop bitterness.

Here are the ingredients (but not the proportions) listed on the website:


Malts: Great Western Harrington, Klages, Munich & Hugh Baird Carastan 30-37 & 13-17, Crystal 70-80.
Hops: Chinook & Centennial.

Huge_Midget
Jun 6, 2002

I don't like the look of it...

So does anyone have any experience with Nelson Sauvin hops? I recently ordered a pound of them because they were just harvested, and I am making Tomme Arthur's Saison Blanc. I've read that they have a very unique, grape-y flavor to them. Our local homebrew club is going to be doing a SMaSH series next month to showcase a bunch of different hop profiles, basically Maris Otter, Safale US-05, and 40 IBUs of hops in a basic American pale. I'm going to try it with the Nelsons.

hbf
Jul 26, 2003
No Dice.

Huge_Midget posted:

So does anyone have any experience with Nelson Sauvin hops? I recently ordered a pound of them because they were just harvested, and I am making Tomme Arthur's Saison Blanc. I've read that they have a very unique, grape-y flavor to them. Our local homebrew club is going to be doing a SMaSH series next month to showcase a bunch of different hop profiles, basically Maris Otter, Safale US-05, and 40 IBUs of hops in a basic American pale. I'm going to try it with the Nelsons.

I had an Elysian beer brewed with only those and it was actually amazing. Definitely a unique fruity flavor, and not at all mango/tropical fruits like a lot of hops. I went out and spent the money on the Mikkeller and was pretty underwhelmed, but it was far far older than the Elysian batch so that could be it.

Tedronai66
Aug 24, 2006
Better to Reign in Hell...

Tedronai66 posted:

So I got an opportunity to get some nugget hops last night from a guy who grows them in his community garden plot but doesn't brew. Split with another person, i got ~6 liters in volume of them. He had been leaving them without water for the past couple days so they'd dry out a little bit, but the internal stems don't seem to be dry enough yet (still somewhat bendy). I think I'll get roughly half a pound to a pound once dry.

What's the best way to dry them without over-drying? I have them sitting on a window screen right now in my garage (light protected) since it gets warmer there, but I don't know how "wet" these things really were. Some of the comes were starting to get a little brown on them on the vine.

I'd brew with them right now if I had the time, but i might have to freeze them soon, or refrigerate until the weekend/next week.

Also, assuming I don't gently caress these up, any good extract IPA/IIPA recipes involving nugget hops?

From the last thread, never did see an answer. Anyone?

Jo3sh
Oct 19, 2002

Like all girls I love unicorns!

One of the ways that gets advocated a lot is air conditioner air filters with hops flowers spread across them, stacked up and bungeed to the face of a box fan - lots of air movement but no additional applied heat. I think you could also use a clean window screen lying in a warm place as you are doing now. Again, the key is air circulation.

When they are "dry enough," they will weigh about 20% of their harvest weight, I think I remember reading. The will be papery but not too brittle, and a well-shaped cone will still feel springy between your fingers.

mattdev
Sep 30, 2004

Gentlemen of taste, refinement, luxury.

Women want us, men want to be us.

Harvest time is the best time.



That's Daniel Del Grande (of Bison Brewing) in front of a fuckton of Tettnanger. It took every inch of willpower not to jump into this.





mattdev fucked around with this message at Sep 17, 2011 around 20:12

Jo3sh
Oct 19, 2002

Like all girls I love unicorns!

mattdev posted:

Harvest time is the best time.

I'd be stuffing my pockets. I'd wear cargo pants just to have more pocket volume to stuff.

Jacobey000
Jul 17, 2005

We will be cruising at a speed of 55mph swiftly away from the twisted wreckage of my shattered life!

At first I didn't see the little read next post thingy and almost pooped myself.

Brew news: Got a regular pump tap from my father-in-law for commercial kegs - not sure what I'm going to do with it... hang it up as an art piece?

BoyMeetsWorld
Aug 31, 2006


I brewed a batch of pumpkin beer from kit using spices and canned pumpkin. I followed the instruction to the letter (this is my fifth batch of home brewed beer), but the taste is off somewhat. I've referenced books, but the only way I can describe it is that it tastes like the fermentation gas that comes out of the airlock.

Any explanation for this? Has this happened to anyone else? This batch has also been my slowest to carbonate. 2 weeks in and it has only a very slight fizz. I know it can take nearly a month though..

tesilential
Nov 22, 2004

You're a credit to your community!

Many smells come out of a fermenting airlock amigo. At first I assumed you meant the sharp punch of co2, which adds acidity to an over carbed beer. However thats unlikely as you say the beer is not very carbonated.
Did it have the same off flavor at bottling? What was your fermentation temperature?

BoyMeetsWorld
Aug 31, 2006


tesilential posted:

Many smells come out of a fermenting airlock amigo. At first I assumed you meant the sharp punch of co2, which adds acidity to an over carbed beer. However thats unlikely as you say the beer is not very carbonated.
Did it have the same off flavor at bottling? What was your fermentation temperature?

It tastes about like it did at bottling, and I remember noticing the same off flavor.

I have a mini fridge thermostat so it was a solid 68 to 70 degrees during fermentation. My only guess was that the fermenter may not have gotten enough ventilation locked in the air tight fridge, and the gas built up too much. That couldn't be related could it?...

James Bont
Apr 20, 2007
do you expect me to talk?

Holy poo poo a new thread. I'll probably still read through the other 250 pages or whatever the gently caress I have left in the old one since it's totally educational and entertaining, ajaarg drama was educaining or something, but thanks for a new thread.

So, my second batch is fermenting and I really hate extract. I guess since I'm used to cooking and having total control over what the gently caress's going in my poo poo, it's really annoying to me, I feel like I'm cheating myself big time. So I'm going to start to convert a cooler to a mash tun after I get paid this week. I do 3 gallon batches, so I'm thinking a 7 gallon would be fine for handling pretty much any all grain beer in that size batch, including barley wine and stouts and stuff. I think the most convenient way to go would be getting a cylindrical cooler, the drink dispensers or whatever, swapping out the spigot for a ball valve, and then using a false bottom. Would that pretty much be all I need to do? Any brands insulate temp better than the others or is it all pretty much the same poo poo? Any other aspects I'm overlooking for moving to all grain or does my plan seem pretty sound? And while I'm asking a bunch of poo poo, I kinda just want to be lazy and pitch my next batch on to the saison yeast, and since I'm in so cal the temp will probably still be fine, but I don't want to do another saison. Any suggestions for styles that might take well to a saison yeast? WLP568, specifically. A part of me just wants to try with a beer that totally doesn't seem like it'd go with the yeast just to see what the gently caress the combination yields, maybe I'll come up with something good. Or at least not horrible, guess we'll see. It's only a matter of time until I try it haha, even if I don't do it the upcoming batch.

Oh yeah, I also hate hydrometers and want to get a refractometer. Anybody know what I should look for in one/ where a good place to get one is?

James Bont fucked around with this message at Sep 18, 2011 around 08:48

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

REMEMBER ME!


Cylindrical cooler with false bottom is a great way to go. That's what I have and no complaints. I have a 10 gallon Rubbermaid: one inside wall warped a bit from hot water once, but it still holds heat quite well. I think most coolers of that size and form factor are roughly equivalent in performance, anyway.

Seven gallons should be fine: even if you move to five gallon batches you should only need more if you want to make something very high gravity and then you can always just add a couple pounds of extract to whatever will fit in the tun.

As for refractometers, I don't have one, but I can give one warning. They're great for brew days, but they're more unreliable when it comes to measuring gravity during/after fermentation. You can overcome this, but it looks like it takes more complex calculations and accepting more range of error than a hydrometer. If that means not having to worry about large samples and broken glass though, sounds good to me.

Bleston Humenthal
Nov 5, 2008

What are you doing, Julian! The chicken fingers aren’t even cooked! You want us to get sasparilla or something, you dick!

Quick question. I'm on a strict brewing schedule for an upcoming wedding, and right now my 2 primaries and secondary are all full. Need to brew today, and the Kolsch that was supposed to be done with primary isnt quite done. Yeast/krausen hasn't fully dropped, still bubbling about once every 10 seconds or so. So my options are:

1) Transfer kolsch to secondary

2) Brew new batch into the 5g secondary fermenter with a blowoff (Cream ale, usually fairly vigorous fermentation)

3) Go buy a new fermenter (trying to avoid)

Any input is appreciated.

Acceptableloss
May 2, 2011

Numerous, effective and tenacious: We must remember to hire them next time....oh, nevermind.

So I made the switch from extract to all grain relatively recently. I've brewed with others doing all grain before, and I've done several batches of all grain on my own. With the exception of batches in which I've used Beano to get complete coversion, I've had basically the same problem: My final gravity comes out low. In one case, very low.

Obviously I'm not getting very good conversion during the mash, which I can work on, but how do I measure conversion on brew day? Do I need to get a refractometer or are there other ways to do it?

Josh Wow
Feb 28, 2005

We need more beer up here!


wafflesnsegways posted:

Does anyone have a recipe similar to rogue saint red?

This is from an old issue of BYO that had a bunch of clone recipes in it. I've never brewed it and it uses a fuckton of crystal malt. Also Rogue uses the Pacman yeast for most (all?) of their beers and I think that's available from Wyeast year-round now so use that if you can.

St. Rogue Red Ale Clone

5 Gallons, All Grain

OG: 1052
FG: 1015
IBU: 42
SRM: 26
ABV: 4.8%

7 lb. 2 row malt
1 lb. Munich
1 lb. Crystal 15
1.25 lb Crystal 40
1 lb. Crystal 75
10.5 AAU Chinook hops (90 min)
(0.95 oz of 11% alpha)
9.5 AAU Centennial hops (whirlpool or hopback)
(1 oz of 9.5% alpha)
Wyeast 1056 of WLP 001

Mash at 155 for 60 min. Ferment at 67

recipe assumes 65% efficiency

BoyMeetsWorld posted:

My only guess was that the fermenter may not have gotten enough ventilation locked in the air tight fridge, and the gas built up too much. That couldn't be related could it?...

No matter what kind of container your fermentor is in it won't stop the gas from being released from the airlock. If you could describe the smell it'd help to identify the problem. Some yeasts give off a sulfury smell which will smell like eggs or farts, you usually just need to let it sit in primary for a while for that to go away. If you bottle while it still smells sulfurous I don't think it goes away for a long time.

Bleston Humenthal posted:

2) Brew new batch into the 5g secondary fermenter with a blowoff (Cream ale, usually fairly vigorous fermentation)

3) Go buy a new fermenter (trying to avoid)

These two are your best options. If you move a beer out of primary before it's finished it can stall out since you're taking it off of the majority of the yeast.

Acceptableloss posted:

I've had basically the same problem: My final gravity comes out low. In one case, very low.

Obviously I'm not getting very good conversion during the mash, which I can work on, but how do I measure conversion on brew day? Do I need to get a refractometer or are there other ways to do it?

You said your final gravity comes out low but I'm going to assume you meant your starting gravity. We need some more info to help you out. What exactly is low? Give us some numbers of what your gravity should have been and what it actually was. To measure conversion on brewday a refractometer is the easiest thing to use. You can also use your hydrometer, you just have to get the sample cooled down to 60-70* to get an accurate measurement. Since you only need about a cup of wort to take a reading it's not that hard to do with a small ice bath and stirring the sample.

Josh Wow fucked around with this message at Sep 18, 2011 around 15:06

wafflesnsegways
Jan 12, 2008
And that's why I was forced to surgically attach your hands to your face.

Is the issue that you use the larger plastic buckets as primaries, and the exactly 5 gallon carboys as secondaries?

If so, I would just brew a slightly smaller batch and put it in the carboy with a blow off tube. I wouldn't transfer a beer while it's still working.

wafflesnsegways
Jan 12, 2008
And that's why I was forced to surgically attach your hands to your face.

I've seen that BYO recipe online, and it doesn't look right to me. So much crystal! The beer has a more mild sweetness and a decent amount of hop bitterness.

I ended up making up a recipe yesterday that I think is what I want. A little bit of crystal 120, and a lot of the IBUs coming from late hop additions for a smoother bitterness, as recommended in this Jamil article.. It may not match the rogue beer exactly, but it should taste good.

Jo3sh
Oct 19, 2002

Like all girls I love unicorns!

James Bont posted:

I'm going to start to convert a cooler to a mash tun after I get paid this week. I do 3 gallon batches, so I'm thinking a 7 gallon would be fine for handling pretty much any all grain beer in that size batch, including barley wine and stouts and stuff. I think the most convenient way to go would be getting a cylindrical cooler, the drink dispensers or whatever, swapping out the spigot for a ball valve, and then using a false bottom. Would that pretty much be all I need to do?

Oh yeah, I also hate hydrometers and want to get a refractometer. Anybody know what I should look for in one/ where a good place to get one is?

I agree with Killer Robot that the cylindrical cooler is a great way to go. I am pretty sure that I have only seen them in 5 and 10 gallon sizes, but if you have something else already scoped out, run with it. Be sure the false bottom you have earmarked will fit before you get nuts.

The typical all-grain system uses three vessels: the mash/lauter tun, which you have planned there, a boiler, which you evidently already have, and a hot liquor tank, which is a place to store hot water used for sparging. The hot liquor tank can be a kettle you heat directly, or another cooler that you transfer hot water into after heating in your boiler.

One very common setup is to make a sort of waterfall out of all your vessels so that gravity will move your liquids around for you. This puts the hot liquor tank at the top, the mash/lauter tun below that, and the boiler at the bottom. Remember that the boiler does need to have some kind of elevation so that you can drain to your fermenter, though.



As to refractometers, there are a few good vendors on eBay and the like. You can also find them at any good homebrew retailer; you may pay more, but you'll probably get it faster, and may have less anxiety about dealing with potentially flaky people in far-off places.

A lot of them read in Brix only, which is okay but requires a conversion to specific gravity if you want to use the units you're used to. If you choose a Brix-only unit, you want one that reads up to 28 or 30 Brix to cover the full range homebrewers work in.

The one I have, and a lot of the ones being sold to homebrewers today, read on both Brix and specific gravity scales. I think this is the easiest way to go, as you don't have to keep a lookup chart or do arithmetic to relate your readings to recipes, etc.

One thing you will need to understand about refractometers is that they can't help you directly once the ferment has started. They are invaluable for catching gravity readings during the sparge, during the boil, and before pitching the yeast simply because you don't have to wait for 4-6 ounces of hot liquid to cool to 60 degrees F before you can get an accurate reading. Once the yeast start working, though, the alcohol present in the sample will throw everything off and the readings you will get will be wildly inaccurate. You can correct for this with more arithmetic, but only if you have a good gravity reading from before the ferment started.

It is for this reason I still keep my hydrometer around and prefer it for readings during and after the ferment. By then, obviously, the beer is not hot and doesn't need to cool, and I don't have to fiddle with things to get the output I am looking for. Plus, of course, drinking the sample afterward gives my insight into how things are coming along - licking the two drops off the refractometer slide is not nearly as useful.

Jo3sh
Oct 19, 2002

Like all girls I love unicorns!

Acceptableloss posted:

So I made the switch from extract to all grain relatively recently. I've brewed with others doing all grain before, and I've done several batches of all grain on my own. With the exception of batches in which I've used Beano to get complete coversion, I've had basically the same problem: My final gravity comes out low. In one case, very low.

Obviously I'm not getting very good conversion during the mash, which I can work on, but how do I measure conversion on brew day? Do I need to get a refractometer or are there other ways to do it?

To me "final gravity comes out low" means that the reading is smaller than you are expecting after the ferment. E.g., the OG was 1.060 and the recipe says the FG should be about 1.012-1.015, but the actual FG was 1.008 or something. This is a dryer beer than expected, but doesn't represent a conversion problem in the mash.

What I am now thinking you actually mean is that your Original Gravity (OG) is lower than expected. This is usually caused by some inefficiency in the mash.

Some things you can do about that:
* Mill your grain more finely. Tighten the gap of the mill you are using, or if it's a shop mill you can't / aren't allowed to adjust, get your own mill and adjust that.

* Watch your temperatures - make sure you are hitting what you are aiming for, and understand what it is you need.

* A big one for me was switching from a fly sparge, where I got channeling, to a batch sparge, which allowed me to stir the mash then rebuild my filter bed by additional recirculation.

* If using Beano helped your OG, then you may have a batch of malt with low diastatic power. Try switching brands for a batch or two and see if that helps. You might also try a longer saccharification rest.


As to measuring your gravity on brewday, yes, a refractometer is a very very easy way to measure this (see my post above).

MJP
Jun 17, 2007

Are you looking at me Senpai?

Grimey Drawer

Just finished a batch of nut brown ale, and after I sealed up the lid of the brew bucket and pushed in the airlock, the little rubber bung around the hole of the airlock lid fell into the bucket and sank to the bottom.

Am I screwed or should I RDWHAHB and wait 48-72 hours to see if fermentation starts successfully, and hope nobody detects a slight rubbery flavor?

Docjowles
Apr 9, 2009

COME ON WORK!


It will be fine, RDWHAHB.

Prefect Six
Mar 27, 2009



Has BYO gotten any better in the last year and a half or so?

Kraven Moorhed
Jan 5, 2006

So wrong, yet so right.

Soiled Meat

How likely are blowoffs? I'm cooking up a Russian Imperial Stout from extract right now, but I have things to do tonight and no access to a tube that will fit either my airlock or the grommet. Am I better off staying in to make sure things go well, or will it be fine 12 hours after pitching?

Joe Camel
May 13, 2005


Kraven Moorhed posted:

How likely are blowoffs? I'm cooking up a Russian Imperial Stout from extract right now, but I have things to do tonight and no access to a tube that will fit either my airlock or the grommet. Am I better off staying in to make sure things go well, or will it be fine 12 hours after pitching?

Do you have this kind of airlock?


I've had to start in my 5gal before because my 6.5 was still full. I just leave it in the shower for the first couple days and let everything blow out the top. Then run the shower to wash off the carboy.
I don't know if it'll work with the other kind of airlocks though. It might blow the cap and cup out the top.

crazyfish
Sep 19, 2002



MJP posted:

Just finished a batch of nut brown ale, and after I sealed up the lid of the brew bucket and pushed in the airlock, the little rubber bung around the hole of the airlock lid fell into the bucket and sank to the bottom.

Am I screwed or should I RDWHAHB and wait 48-72 hours to see if fermentation starts successfully, and hope nobody detects a slight rubbery flavor?

This exact thing happened to me on my first batch. I sprayed my arm with iodaphor, waited about a minute for it to do its thing, and reached in and grabbed the o-ring. No infection, the beer tastes great.

RiggenBlaque
Jan 13, 2006

I think he's ready for a chair

Anyone have recommendations for places to buy keg o-rings? I can't imagine one set costing $3.50 is right

RiggenBlaque fucked around with this message at Sep 18, 2011 around 20:53

Acceptableloss
May 2, 2011

Numerous, effective and tenacious: We must remember to hire them next time....oh, nevermind.

Jo3sh posted:

To me "final gravity comes out low" means that the reading is smaller than you are expecting after the ferment. E.g., the OG was 1.060 and the recipe says the FG should be about 1.012-1.015, but the actual FG was 1.008 or something. This is a dryer beer than expected, but doesn't represent a conversion problem in the mash.

What I am now thinking you actually mean is that your Original Gravity (OG) is lower than expected. This is usually caused by some inefficiency in the mash.

Some things you can do about that:
* Mill your grain more finely. Tighten the gap of the mill you are using, or if it's a shop mill you can't / aren't allowed to adjust, get your own mill and adjust that.

* Watch your temperatures - make sure you are hitting what you are aiming for, and understand what it is you need.

* A big one for me was switching from a fly sparge, where I got channeling, to a batch sparge, which allowed me to stir the mash then rebuild my filter bed by additional recirculation.

* If using Beano helped your OG, then you may have a batch of malt with low diastatic power. Try switching brands for a batch or two and see if that helps. You might also try a longer saccharification rest.


As to measuring your gravity on brewday, yes, a refractometer is a very very easy way to measure this (see my post above).

Yes you are correct. I meant OG not FG. I'm using Maris Otter primarily so I can't imagine it's got low diastatic power. I think I've been missing my target temperatures during the mash, which I can correct. I was just looking for a good way to measure OG so I will know when my mash is done.

I've been using a hydrometer and correcting for temperature. I was just wondering if there was another way to measure it other than a refractometer.

MJP posted:

Just finished a batch of nut brown ale, and after I sealed up the lid of the brew bucket and pushed in the airlock, the little rubber bung around the hole of the airlock lid fell into the bucket and sank to the bottom.

Am I screwed or should I RDWHAHB and wait 48-72 hours to see if fermentation starts successfully, and hope nobody detects a slight rubbery flavor?

I've done that too. I would just leave the O-ring in there. It should not affect the flavor of the beer.

Jo3sh
Oct 19, 2002

Like all girls I love unicorns!

MJP posted:

Just finished a batch of nut brown ale, and after I sealed up the lid of the brew bucket and pushed in the airlock, the little rubber bung around the hole of the airlock lid fell into the bucket and sank to the bottom.

I hate airlock grommets. They constantly fall in. I used a 1.25 inch holesaw to make holes in my lids, and I just use a #7 stopper for my airlock. It's never going to fall in, and the hole is large enough that I can put a thief or easy-siphon through it without having to pull the whole lid.

Acceptableloss posted:

I've been using a hydrometer and correcting for temperature. I was just wondering if there was another way to measure it other than a refractometer.

Not that I can think of - a refractometer is really your best bet for in-process gravity readings.

Doom Rooster
Sep 3, 2008


Pillbug

Why not just get a hydrometer that is calibrated to mash temperature? It's what I use and I love it.

http://www.austinhomebrew.com/produ...oducts_id=12972

TOMSOVERBAGHDAD
Dec 26, 2004

HA HA HITLERS EATING WATERMELON ISNT THAT FUNNY



So I did my first-ever brew (a saison that saq helped me with) today, and I think I screwed a couple things up:

1. I added the hops before hot-break.
2. We had to pour the beer from the kettle into the carboy.

Will either of these affect the beer in any real way?

SoftNum
Mar 31, 2011



TOMSOVERBAGHDAD posted:

So I did my first-ever brew (a saison that saq helped me with) today, and I think I screwed a couple things up:

1. I added the hops before hot-break.
2. We had to pour the beer from the kettle into the carboy.

Will either of these affect the beer in any real way?

No.

In fact #2 is a good way to do it, because you want oxygen in your beer cause the yeasts need it.

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Docjowles
Apr 9, 2009

COME ON WORK!


Acceptableloss posted:

I've been using a hydrometer and correcting for temperature. I was just wondering if there was another way to measure it other than a refractometer.

You don't need a refractometer, but they are a nice time saver. What I do is take a sample after sparging, chill it down in the freezer while the wort is heating to a boil and get the pre-boil gravity. It's a simple calculation from there to what your OG will be after a 60 minute boil. If I find I am low, I always keep a pound of dry extract on hand to bump me back up to my target. I've never come in too high but you could just add some more water or boil less vigorously or something to account for that.

Keep good records and you'll quickly get a feel for the efficiency of your system. I'm at the point now where I almost always hit my desired gravity but I still take the sample just in case. If you find you are always a few points low, just take it into account and add an extra pound of base malt to your recipes. You aren't brewing on the same system with the exact same ingredients as the dude who wrote the recipe.

---
Edit: unrelated question, any tips for brewing with chili peppers? I have a really, really lovely ESB that I may end up dumping, but then I figured it would be a good chance to experiment with heat and flavor contribution from chilis. It's something I've wanted to do for a while anyway. I can get roasted Hatch peppers for like $1/lb this time of year so I'd be using those. Would you soak them in vodka or something to sanitize?

Docjowles fucked around with this message at Sep 19, 2011 around 04:59

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