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Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Pillbug

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.

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Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Pillbug

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.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Pillbug

Sorbate dissolves well, and it's got the toxicity of table salt. I wouldn't worry about adding some.

Almonds, even "malted", would be presumably useless as a major mash ingredient. They're only some 15% starch/sugar by weight, and are mostly fat and protein. It'd be like all the problems of using too much oats in your beer only magnified.

The infusion idea is potentially neat though.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Pillbug

BerkerkLurk posted:

Also the entire time, farmers were allowed to make and sell hard cider. Because it was a tradition for the rural, white, protestant voting block behind the Prohibition movement. It makes me wonder why this didn't really survive Prohibition.

It never came back partly because it was already on its way out before Prohibition. Because the demographics most into making and drinking it were heavily involved in the temperance movement, and with progress in bottling and refrigeration techniques, sweet cider had mostly already displaced hard by the time Prohibition started, and by the time it ended it had become "that stuff grandpa used to drink."

It being made and sold with little successful legal challenge also had a lot to do with even the genuinely non-alcoholic product being juice with active yeast, made in very laid-back fashion. In contrast to the hopped extract kits or compressed grape bricks, it was something that you might buy perfectly innocently just for a product to use as-is. Further, no instructions needed past "let it sit a while and don't seal it up too tight", and if you were selling some cider that was partly fermented(which was as far as was typically openly tolerated) you could just say "oops, guess it had gone over" with more plausibility than if you'd somehow diluted the hopped malt extract and added yeast. It was really a perfect case for sneaking around the law, so really as I type I more wonder why it didn't have a bigger upsurge during Prohibition than why it didn't recover after.

two_beer_bishes posted:

The reviews for the kit have some people saying it actually needs more bourbon, and at least one guy put in 20oz instead. I love bourbon, so I don't see a problem with adding that much, but I certainly don't want to ruin the beer.

Hey, I figure worst case is that it tastes like a boilermaker?

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Pillbug

I am back into it today. Haven't made an all-grain beer in nearly a year, the malt was about that old too, and atop it there was enough non-barley in it to risk a stuck sparge (and I forgot to add rice hulls), but my whole process took under five hours from grind to pitch and I hit the target OG spot on, so pretty happy. Relaxing with some of the wine I made while I wasn't making beer. And I see there's a new thread since last time I did any.

I'm a little out of touch though, where's good for basic ingredient buys these days? In the past I've mostly bought from AHS or Midwest.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Pillbug


Adding to what Jo3sh said:

From some quick calculations, with a gallon (12 pounds) of honey in a 6+ gallon batch you're going to be looking at about 8.5-9% alcohol, and it will probably ferment out quite dry. If that's not what you're looking for you can stabilize and sweeten when you bottle too, but sounds like you're close enough to the top of the fermenter to not really have the option to add more honey now unless you pour some out now.

A couple of general notes: I don't think you really want to fill the primary fermenter very close to the top with anything just since it might foam up and blow the top off, it's when you transfer to secondary storage later that you worry about oxidation. Also, with mead I understand it's usually good practice to add some yeast nutrient especially when using a wine yeast, since honey is very low on essential nutrients even compared to fruit juice. Not strictly necessary though: you can make mead fine without it.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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BDawg posted:

Just finished yeasting my first beer (porter). The instructions say the initial specific gravity should be about 1.043. I read mine as 1.034. Other than me taking a wrong reading, what does having a low initial specific gravity mean?

Also, the rubber stopper on my carboy keeps slipping out. How long do I have to worry about pushing it back in?

How do people stir in yeast in a carboy? None of my spoons were long or narrow enough. I ended up using a sanitized handle of a bottle cleaner then shook the carboy from side to side.

Low specific gravity means less sugar in the beer. Assuming you're doing extract that could mean you misread (which is fine), it could mean you didn't mix it thoroughly enough and there's a bunch of thicker syrup at the bottom (it'll mix in in time), or it could mean you used too little extract or two much water, which will just give you a weaker beer in the end. What temperature was it at when you did the measurement? It's only a few points difference if it's near fermentation temperature, but if it was still actually warm when you measured that makes more difference.

I can't speak on the carboy stopper, I've always done my main fermentation in buckets and used carboys for aging/settling.

I never bother with stirring yeast in, I just sprinkle/pour it in depending whether it's dry or liquid, and figure it will mix on its own. There's a lot of convective flow during fermentation and it's in there for weeks even if it wasn't so you don't really need to worry about stirring anything.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Pillbug

BDawg posted:

What are people using for a thermometer? Optimally, I'd like one that I can leave in the pot for the boil and the cooldown. The $15 one I bought apparently wasn't very waterproof and that's why it was telling me my boiling water was over 350 degrees.

I've used a few things. I started with a dairy style floating thermometer and while I have one I managed to break a few along the way due to the glass construction. It's good to leave in the mash undisturbed, but when I'm actively working with things I prefer to use a digital kitchen thermometer for precise results. That can't be submersed, but it doesn't take too long to get a reading and it's good for a lot of other kitchen uses. One of my favorite gadgets is my infrared thermometer that I picked up when it was under $20. It's only accurate within a couple degrees so not for precise things, but it's totally instant and just fun to use wherever.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Pillbug

Angry Grimace posted:

I use a regular old instant digital read meat thermometer, although I've noticed at the very least it only reads 208* in a rolling boil, which leads me to believe either a) it's only accurate in the meat range (which is where mashes are anyways) or its just inaccurate in general.

Depends, if you're in an area around 2000 feet above sea level that's where boiling should be. If you're on the coast, yeah it's a problem.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Pillbug


The stories about off flavors or Alzheimer's or what have you aren't true, but as I understand there are a couple extra concerns with aluminum. First, you need to pre-cook the pot to form an oxide layer when you first get it and if anything cleans the layer off (for example if you scour it out after scorching the bottom.) Second, you can't use more caustic or oxygen-based cleaners on it, so no oxi-clean soaks or anything. Other than that it's light, cheap, and conducts heat well. So even if aluminum isn't bad, it's still good to know exactly what material you're using since it does affect your procedure.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Splizwarf posted:

What is the upshot of the stainless wort chiller they're advertising? Metal neutrality? It's certainly not as good of a heat exchanger.


Stainless steel wort chillers are typically cheaper, with what copper prices are like these days. The heat exchange capacity is less, but in actual practice it seems to be a pretty small factor, well behind water temperature and total surface area. I use a copper one, but if I was shopping and saw a significant price difference I'd happily buy steel.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Rozzbot posted:

I'm going to have my first shot at an all grain brew in the next week or so and was planning on freezing some big soda bottles filled with water so I could sterilize the outside and then drop them the wort to cool it.
Do you recon this will be too slow as well?

I'm in New Zealand and I cant find anywhere that sells premade stainless steel chillers and copper ones are just way too expensive for me at the moment.

That could work for getting it the final distance to pitching temperature, if you're agitating it enough.

Really though, once you get the wort to where it's no longer hot, which is perfectly doable with ice bath and stirring, I don't think the cooling speed really matters so much. If it's too warm to pitch yeast when you get tired of chilling, put it in the carboy/bucket with a swamp cooler and pitch in the morning.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Angry Grimace posted:

The bottles will melt and/or leach plastic into your wort.

Only if you drop them in boiling wort. If you take it down from "boiling" to "hot tap water" or so in an ice or cold water bath then use ice immersion to get it to pitching temperature that's fine. Which works fairly well: the slow part of ice bath cooling is after most of the temperature difference is gone.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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GORDON posted:

tl;dr - the batch seems to be coming along fine, in spite of my accidentally having added the malt 30 minutes too late in the boil.

You're probably better off for that anyway. Malt extract has already been boiled once, so all putting it in for a full hour does is darken it up more. Unless you're mashing, the full boil time is pretty much just for the benefit of your bittering hops and they can do that with little or no malt in the water.

Just make sure that if you add extract mid-boil in the future, you take it off the heat. It sinks right to the bottom, so can stick or scorch if there's active heat underneath while you're still stirring it in.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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GORDON posted:

I was already planning that if this turns out nice, to continue tweaking my personal recipe to add the malt mid-boil. Are you saying that I could/should add it right at the end of the boil?

It varies. I've seen people add the extract at the end of the boil, and some fifteen minutes before the end just to make sure it's fully sanitized in case it got contaminated during packaging/storage. Either way gives a lighter color and possibly better taste than a full boil of all your extract. Most also add a half cup or so at the start: the theory is that a little sugar in the mix helps the hops isomerize better, but I don't know if the chemistry really works that way or not.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Pillbug

Even juice preserved with potassium sorbate is only enough to impair yeast multiplication and keep it from fermenting with wild yeast that gets in there. If you add a whole packet of yeast it will ferment fine from my experience. Still, agreed you're better off just getting pasteurized juice that has nothing added. If it says "ascorbic acid" on the label that's not a problem, just means they added Vitamin C, won't impair yeast.

Down side: it's not going to taste too much like commercial hard cider, especially after two months. Expect it to be dry, tart, and not too strongly apple flavored. Up side: if you put in too much sugar for the yeast you're using, it ferments itself out with some sugar still in and leaves you a sweeter and maybe more drinkable product. Fallback either way:, if you're looking for budget party drinks, mix it into a punch or something like people have done with cheap hooch for centuries.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Pillbug

Starters are usually less important for dry yeasts, since they both have more live cells, and are cheaper so it's easy to just add a second pack if you're making a really strong beer. I do them when I use liquid yeasts, but I wouldn't bother with a dry yeast unless it was supposed to be upward of 8% ABV.

When you do make a starter, best shortcut I've found is to get a bottle of malta. Unfermented wort sold as a soda, probably available in the Latin foods section of the supermarket. A 50/50 mix of malta and water poured in a sanitized vessel is probably the easiest way I've found to make a starter.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Pillbug

Today I picked up a gallon of grade B maple syrup to make...wine? Mead? What do you call fermented maple? Tried this once before, but it was just grade A and some fruit flies got in to drown and made it taste nasty. Hoping for better luck this time.

Anyone do this stuff before?

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Daedalus Esquire posted:

So does anyone have any experience in trying to get maple sap? Not syrup, but the actual tree sap that they boil down for syrup.

I was thinking it might be a cool idea to brew a beer using sap instead of water.

I've heard of people doing this: unfortunately I live in another state from my uncle that makes syrup or I'd have an easy source. But from what I gather it's a matter of finding someone that does, and asking them if they'll sell you a few gallons of sap: you're just only going to be able to get it when it's in season, late winter or early spring when the temperatures are first reliably breaking freezing.

It takes 40 or 50 volumes of sap to make one volume of syrup, so a full boil worth of maple sap should give you equivalent maple content to a pint of syrup or so.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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crazyfish posted:

Problem with maple syrup is you need to use way more of it than you think you do to get a noticeable maple flavour after it ferments down. I've never done a maple beer, but I hear that fenugreek is what people use to approximate it.

I gather it does help to use Grade B dark syrup since it's got a much stronger maple flavor that survives fermentation better. But even then, if you don't want to use a significant amount of syrup use fenugreek, right. Or just imitation maple flavor, which is made from fenugreek anyway.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Splizwarf posted:

Having never done a starter I am really confused about why the yeast would be producing a beer that tastes like butt in the starter wort but switch to more lovely flavors as soon as they're dumped in the wort proper. Is the starter being made with something horrible for a wort? I thought it was usually just a sugar solution of some variety.

One part is that you ferment a starter in a highly aerated fashion, as opposed to the anaerobic conditions of making actual beer. This encourages healthy yeast reproduction, but it doesn't generate the same chemical output or alcohol content. Another is that generally you're not going to temperature control a starter too rigorously and it's probably going to be fermenting warmer than you'd want the actual beer. This makes more off flavors. If the conditions for making ideal starter were the same as for making ideal beer, you wouldn't need to make a starter in the first place.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Cpt.Wacky posted:


Does anyone use marbles to top up stuff in the carboy when bulk aging? MoreBeer has them for $5/pound but I found one seller on Amazon that offers them for about $2/pound. It looks like 1 pound displaces about a quart of liquid.

If they sink, 1 pound displaces less than a pint of liquid.

I never thought of doing that though. If you want cheap, I'd suggest the rounded stones or glass beads they sell for vase fillers, gardening, that sort of thing. Ideally something safe for aquarium use, though as long as it's not lead crystal or anything it should be safe enough for even bulk aging times.

Toebone posted:

Has anyone here brewed with saffron before? I'm thinking of doing a triple for the holidays, and making a saffron tincture or tea to be added at kegging.

I made a Midas Touch clone once. I probably should have used more saffron, there wasn't anything recognizable of it, but then I think I added at flameout.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Angry Grimace posted:

I haven't done it so I could be talking out of my rear end, but we're talking about the same volume as a can of soda into 5 gallons.

Yeah, but for strongly flavored ingredients that can be a fair amount. That's about how much cherry lambic goes into Three Philosophers (which I've considered cloning too) and that's pretty distinct in the end result.

What I wonder at is if the listed alcohol/calories are with or without the bourbon, since if you're using a 100 proof bourbon for example that's going to bump ABV by about 1% on its own.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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LaserWash posted:

I like beer just like the next guy, but drat, how do you go through so much beer?

This is much of why I don't brew nearly as much as I did when I was fresh in the hobby. I like what I make, I have some friends that do, but none of us go through it all that rapidly. Trying some dietary cutbacks doesn't help either.

Though I do have a couple things sitting in secondary and some plans for what comes next, it's just not "whoo, brew day this week, and week after next, and maybe a cider between!" like a couple years ago.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Jacobey000 posted:

I think this is most suprising to those new to the hobby and the people they share with. A lot of "craft" places really do make poo poo and a decent amount of them don't condition what-so-ever, pushing beer through their stream in days.

The one brewery up the street from me makes pretty good stuff, but talking to them in a tour once it sounds like their biggest challenge is dealing with turnaround time. Their demand has really outgrown their facilities even with expansion so they really can't let things condition long, even the scotch ale or other heavier ones.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Splizwarf posted:

What I don't understand about cider is why you can't throw unfermentables in from the get-go and end up with sweet cider. Is all the apple flavor consumed by the yeast as well?

I've made cider using some DME added so that it didn't come out quite so dry, so you could do something like that. Also could help to add tannin since most juice you're going to find is going to be low on it. Still, if your taste is like most commercial ciders, even "dry" ones, it's tricky to get.

Depending on the yeast, it can consume a lot of the apple flavor too. It comes back with aging, but on a fresh ferment it's often pretty faded.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Docjowles posted:

Some people say CO2 from bottle conditioning is "finer" or "softer" or something. Personally I think that chemically it's all just CO2 and that's romantic mumbo jumbo.

Chemically speaking a bottle conditioned beer will have another .5% alcohol or so and be a little drier as though you'd added that much extra corn sugar in the boil. But that's about it. The CO2 molecules don't have any memory of what process created them, and the beer has no memory of what caused it to dissolve.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Bad Munki posted:

I don't know, there's probably a market for homeopathic beer.

That would be something like this, I imagine.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Pillbug

A serving tip especially for young cider: if you or friends don't like it that dry, serve it in glasses rather than bottles and make some simple syrup to mix in to taste.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Nanpa posted:

How come using yeast strains that give up early on fermentation doesn't seem to be a big thing in cider? I would have thought it you loaded up on malt extract and sugar, and had a yeast that didn't like too much alcohol you'd have a fair amount of residual sweetness.


If you add malt extract instead of sugar it's easier to get some good residual sweetness, though it will take it away from a pure apple flavor too. And if you're going the route of stocking up with LME and yeast nutrient and other things rather than just putting juice in a bucket, it's also useful to add some tannin when you're dealing with juice apples: there's usually less of those there than in an apple meant for hard cider, and adding some helps to balance tartness.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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If you want to strengthen up apple cider, an alternative to sugar is to just add several cans of apple juice concentrate. A 12 ounce can has about half a pound (1 cup) of sugar and costs under $2 last I checked, though the apple harvest this year might have pushed it up. While this costs more than the cheap apple juice + white sugar rocket fuel, four gallons of juice plus ten cans of concentrate will have double the apple flavor. Though also will be more tart, so keep that in mind too.

Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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Josh Wow posted:

You can use star san in the airlock without an issue, that's what I always use. Even with a super vigorous fermentation I've never had it run completely dry. My guess is you either didn't fill it up all the way to the fill line or you had a temperature drop that cause the liquid to suck back into the fermentor. I'm always wary of using vodka or everclear in the airlock because the alcohol evaporates over time.

Worst was when I was using some 160 proof vodka. It really evaporated fast during vigorous fermentation.

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Killer robot
Sep 6, 2010

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kitten smoothie posted:

Ding ding. I clearly seem to have forgotten the chapter on gases from high school chemistry.

It is high school chemistry, but it's easy to forget when the second dial is put on the tank like it's something meaningful rather than just a binary "is the cylinder empty yet" indicator.

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