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Old 02-27-2008, 09:07 PM   #1
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Default Learning to create recipes

Hey everyone,
I'm pretty new to brewing - 5th batch in the fermenter right now. I'm looking to learn how changing techniques and ingredients affects the product. Dave Miller recommends starting with a SMaSH recipe (one type of malt & one type of hop), and repeating it several time until you're making consistent batches. Then he says to move on to modifying ingredients one at a time. This is the process I intend to follow, but it looks like it'll take a while to really learn something, so I'm also looking for a fast track to get started quicker. Here's a few questions:

- Is there a large difference in the flavor of base malts?

- Would steeping a small amount of different specialty malts help me learn what each contributes to the final beer? If so, steep what poundage in what volume of H2O?

- Hops: I can smell a slight difference between hop varieties, but the difference is hard to distinguish. Would steeping hops help me better understand the distinction between hops?

- What are the top 5 hop varieties that I should know about?

Any other tips/suggestions/must knows?

Thx

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Old 02-27-2008, 09:13 PM   #2
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-I think so. I mean the difference between an American two row and a German two row are likely negligible, but I can certainly taste a difference between MO and Pilsner malt for example.

-As for steeping, it is going to differ with each grain. a lb of black patent is going to be more potent than a lb of crystal 20. So it is kind of hard to give you a certain poundage and run with it.

-No, just use different hops in the same grain bill and eventually you will notice. There may be a better way, but that is how I did it. It is tough to distinguish on the bittering side, but as far as flavor and aroma, it is pretty easy to tell a difference.

-EKG, Cascades, Columbus, Hallertauer, and oh, I dunno, liberty. Those are some of my favorites. This is another one of those things though. I don't know if there are 5 hops you HAVE to know about. EKG I would certainly experiment with, I love it. Cascades is a good one to know just because it is used so wildly in American brews. Hallertauer is a relatively popular one too. Honestly though, of those listed, I only use EKG and Liberty. Just figure out what you like.

- my tip. Pick up Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels. I think it would be a great source looking for information regarding designing recipes and what flavors and attributes certain ingredients impart.

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Old 02-27-2008, 09:26 PM   #3
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I would say to get to know the ingredients raw.

Grains, any grain (base, specialty) and even adjuncts in their raw/malted form will lend a hints as to what they will contribute into the finished product. It's the "highlights" that you want to discern the differences of.

Pop a pinch or two of a grain in your mouth and suck on it a bit to get "some" enzymatic conversion (from you spit).

Hops, well your are pretty much just going to note the aroma difference unless you can tolerate popping a small bit of a pellet in your mouth. It's hard to discern much of the flavor from the hop this way.

Beyond that, the best way to learn an ingredient is to use a lot of it in different but familiar ways. I brewed through 3 sacks of Marris Otter, making everything I could think of before I was satisfied that I knew what it does for a recipe and when or where to use it. Now, I am on my second sack of Munich. Later Vienna, Aromatic, Biscuit, etc...

The same goes for hops. If you really want to know a hop maybe the best way is to plan a lot of small batch experiments. A six pack brew. Use the same malt base and hop that differently. (Different hops, aroma addition, FWH, etc...)

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Old 02-27-2008, 10:06 PM   #4
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Read a couple of ingredient guides. They're stickied. Read the BJCP guidelines for what you're making. Look up a couple of other people's recipes for the same thing. Make up your own, keeping it as simple as possible (really - I started off with absurdly complicated things and it's just not worth it. Simpler will be better to start.) Run it through a recipe calculator (if you don't own software, there's a good online one at tastybrew.com) to see what it'll be like, and tweak as necessary.

Read read read. Designing Great Beers will help, as will just about any pirece of brewing trivium you discover.

Not a simple answer, sorry.

EDIT: re: tasting hops - after smelling it I put a tiny amount in my mouth for <5 seconds and remove it, you get the flavour without (much) of the tongue-killing bitterness.

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Old 02-27-2008, 10:15 PM   #5
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I understand what you are saying, with wanting to learn all about different ingredients. But try not to be too systematic and rigid because you probably won't be happy.

Maybe pick three or four styles you really enjoy, then brew several different recipes within each style. Most (good) recipes within a style are pretty similar, but they do have differences. Over time, you will be able to tell what adding special roast does for an ordinary bitter, for example, or how Munich instead of Vienna will change an APA. I also find it instructive to repeat the same recipes from time to time.

This is the approach I'm taking, and I'm having a lot of fun with it.

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Old 02-27-2008, 10:42 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cubbies
Pick up Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels. I think it would be a great source looking for information regarding designing recipes and what flavors and attributes certain ingredients impart.
Ditto.

Taste everything from start to finish. Taste the grains before you use them, taste the mash before and after it's done. Read descriptions of the grains when creating your recipes. read, read, read, read. taste, taste, taste, taste. that's the way i do it. eventually it becomes almost 2nd nature. i can look at most recipes now and have a good feeling about how they're going to taste.

If you find a recipe you like, tweak it a little bit each time you brew. throw in a small amount of a different grain or change the hops. if you already like the brew and are going to brew it again anyway, why not change it up just a slight bit to see the difference?

experiment with small amounts of chocolate malt in your brews, trust me

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Old 02-28-2008, 12:33 AM   #7
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Cool, I'm def. going to get some books w/ the Amazon gift certificate that I forgot I had

Designing Great Beers is in the queue.

I was thinking about getting "Clone Brews". I was thinking this might allow me to sip some beer & review its recipe @ the same time. Would this be a useful learning tool (although it might be nice to have on hand regardless)? Is the book any good?

Thx

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Old 02-28-2008, 12:39 AM   #8
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Check out the Basic Brewing Video Podcast of the Jan 28th episode.

http://www.basicbrewing.com/index.php?page=video (Right now it's the top video on the page.)

They do a great demo on grains, by steeping several of them up as "teas." Then they taste them and talk about them...And they talk about how to conduct your own experiments to get to know them....

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Old 02-28-2008, 03:08 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Revvy
Check out the Basic Brewing Video Podcast of the Jan 28th episode.

http://www.basicbrewing.com/index.php?page=video (Right now it's the top video on the page.)
That video was very helpful. Thanks!!!

I'm def going to the LHBS this weekend and running the same experiments
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Old 02-28-2008, 03:10 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlendieOfIndie
That video was very helpful. Thanks!!!

I'm def going to the LHBS this weekend and running the same experiments
Glad I could help. I wish they'd have tried a few other grains....Guess we have to do it ourselves.
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