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Old 12-08-2005, 09:50 AM   #1
trevlyn13
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Default A couple questions from new brewer

I've recently taken an interest in homebrewing, and I have a couple questions. First of all, how much can you vary the taste of homebrewed beer? I would imagine the range would be pretty wide. My main concern is that I really dislike traditional store-bought beers like budweiser and the like, but I would imagine that you could homebrew something much more pleasant. Would it be possible to do something such as make coconut flavored beer? I do like liquors, but the strength is sometimes too much for casual drinking.

Second, is it possible to homebrew vodka, or is that beyond the abilities of an average brewer? I took enough college chemistry to understand the basic process, but I'm not exactly sure how vodka works. I know that real liquors like rum and schnapps would be pretty much impossible to homebrew, but where does vodka fit into the mix? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 12-08-2005, 10:08 AM   #2
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Yes my friend you can make beer to your own taste and strength requirements.
There are somethings that may not work too well if you add it at the start of the brew or the taste may get lost. You can always add them at the end of the brew. I can't see a reason why you can't make beer with coconut in it!
As for the strength of beer you can easily make beer with a range of around 2% up to 10%
You can also alter the sweetness and the body of the finished beer to suite your taste.

Vodka. While true vodka requires a still you can brew a high alcohol vodka style liquor type drink (Special yeast is required) I've never tried but there are plenty who do. ( I believe you can get away with just a 2.5 gallon bucket for this)

If you are starting brewing you need to decide at what level you want to start and your budget. Keep in mind if you start with cheap equipment and you progress then you'll end up wasting some of the money you spent. So it is better to get the better equipment to start.
Most peole start (and a lot stay) with extract brewing. A pretty standard set of a equipment for this would be a pot big enought to boil around 2 gallon of water. A 6.5 gallon glass carboy, a 5 gallon plastic fermenting bucket and enough bottles. If you want to save money and time you could forgo the glass carboy and stick with one or two plastic buckets with lids, bungs and airlocks. Apart from that you should try and get a thermometer, a hydrometer and some syphoning tube.

It is very difficult to make beer that does not taste better than store bough mass produced stuff.

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Old 12-08-2005, 04:19 PM   #3
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theres a huge range of styles you can make, and almost sounds like you might want to try making mead or braggot, which you can do with standard homebrewing equipment and the ingredients at the homebrew supply store. anything a microbrewery can brew...you can too, and doesnt take long to get pretty good at it.

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Old 12-08-2005, 04:45 PM   #4
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You cannot make vodka without distillation. Whether this process is legal in your area or not is up to you.

Fermenting sugars produced through a mash process is brewing.
Brewing is legal almost everywhere.
Distilling is not.

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Old 12-08-2005, 05:22 PM   #5
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Default my goal...

My goal is to make a drink that is about 10% abv and that is not bitter. The "fuzzier" the better, as well. Something that is a pleasure to drink, which most beer definitely is NOT. So if I'm making a drink by fermenting sugars, I assume that what sugars I use alter the taste? Also, not taking equipment into account, how much does a batch of decent brew end up costing, in terms of price per bottle or liter?

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Old 12-08-2005, 05:25 PM   #6
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In the uk it costs me from 30p to 80p a litre.
At 10% I'm guessing you're on th limit of standard ale yeasts.

I'd try standard kits before playing around. If you mess up on the first batch it will spoil the esxperience.

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Old 12-08-2005, 05:50 PM   #7
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trevlyn13-

You stated that most beer is NOT pleasurable to drink, but in your first post you only referenced "budweiser and the like". Have you exposed your tastebuds to the full range of beer styles? If storebought lager (i.e. bud/coors/miller/etc.) is all you've tried then I can't blame you for not being impressed. If you have tried a broad selection of microbrewed ales and you're still dissatisfied with the taste of beer then I would recommend not spending your money on homebrewing. As orfy previously posted, if you go cheap on the equipment/ingredients you'll only continue to be disappointed with beer. But if you like microbrewed ales and want make a reasonable investment in equipment and ingredients you can make custom beer to suit any taste you like.

Before I started brewing I read "Homebrewing for Dummies" (Amazon $13.59) and it answered all my questions about the brewing process, types of equipment needed for beginner/intermediate/advanced, ingredients, etc. I highly recommend it.

If you live in the U.S. distilling vodka is illegal without proper licensing. But that Schmirnoff Ice stuff, for example, is a malted beverage and actually contains no vodka. I don't know how it's produced but if that's what you're in to and that's what you mean by something "fuzzier" then, as a malted beverage, it would be perfectly legal for you to attempt to reproduce it.

How much does it cost? The extract kits I buy range from $25 - $30 and I live in BFE so I end up paying about $10 shipping. Factor in a couple bucks for ice (I don't have wort chiller yet) and propane and I average about $0.75 per 12oz. bottle. From what I've read on other threads regarding cost per beer, I'm at the high end of the cost spectrum. I've seen some all-grain brewers who buy grain/hops in volume and reuse yeast boast as little as $0.25 or $0.30 per bottle.

Have fun if decide to get into it!

AHU

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Old 12-08-2005, 07:11 PM   #8
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Brewing beer is very different from making grain alcohol. What you get with a still (pot, reflux, or other) is grain alcohol (ethanol) which is, I think, pretty much vodka.. you can run your car on it. You create an alcohol through fermentation (like beer) but the alcohol contains both methyl as well ethyl alcohol. Because methyl alcohol is toxic (causes blindness as well as death) you use a still to seperate the good alcohol from the bad. Because I prefer flavored alcohols that do not taste like medicine (tequila, rum, and.. yum.. bourbon wiskey - Jim Beam anyone?) I've never bothered with distillation. Of course, distilling alcohol is also ILLEGAL here.. so that factors in aswell.

Beer making is a very simple process... but it can, if you want, become quite complex. If you are doing all grain batches with decoction mashes it can become somewhat complex...

Surprisingly, the clydesdale piss they sell in the supermarkets is a fairly difficult beer to make. For one, such a clean, flavorless beer leaves no room for off flavors to hide. Second, those beers are lagers which require extended storage/fermenting at cold temperatures (lagering) - most of us don't have space or money for a lagerin chest/fridge. Most of us make ales. Ales include everything from pale ales (like sierra nevada pale ale, liberty pale ale, etc) to cream ales (also light in color but not nearly as bitter - bittersweet actually and they contain corn typically) to porters (yuengling porter, black and tan has similar profile) to stouts (sweet stouts like mackeson, dry stouts like guiness, coffee stouts, oatmeal stouts, etc.). Oh, and don't forget wheat beers.. those are very popular as of late - blue moon, tucher, etc. There are smoked beers and fruit beers (I hear apricot is good BTW). A good pumpkin beer with some of those pumpkin pie spices is great also (try shipyard ale's pumpkinhead brew). Especially if you're an all grain brewer then the possibilities are endless.

In terms of abv, english milds are 3% while imperial stouts are 8-10% abv. Barely wines are upwards of 10% as well. As someone else mentioned you can also use your beer equipment to make mead (honey based alcohol - I hear it's absolutely incredible but haven't had any yet as it takes serious aging to develop and I can't wait 2+ years to drink my product!). Braggot is a mixture of mead and beer and I hear it is also quite tasty.

Careful though, this is an addictive hobby.. you may start with extract brews as I did but you'll soon be doing all grain brews and dreaming of kegging equipment as I am now.

For a good, free, info try palmer's "how to brew" It's also available in paper.. but the online version is free. www.howtobrew.com it's a good read for beginner and expert alike. Also, check out your local homebrew shop for the proper equipment. You can get a very basic brew kit with everything you need to get started for under $80.

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Old 12-08-2005, 07:49 PM   #9
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Default Beginning Home Brewing

I think the greatest problem with home brewing is the amount of trials to find the "ideal beer." Tastes are often limited to the major beers and maybe a small sampling of import and microbrews. Takes a while to home in on the right recipes. Looking back there have beeen disappointments, but never a truly bad batch. One really noticable thing is my increased craving of hops since I first started.

I use honey in most of my brews and avoid using cane sugar. If using honey, best to really load up in bulk. I get 20 gallons at a time and a pretty good price between $2.12 and $2.65 per gallon depending on the type from a local apiary. It' s raw, a bit waxy and unfiltered etc but great for brewing. Honey is about as close as I get to adding fruit, I really like blackberry honey.

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Old 12-08-2005, 07:55 PM   #10
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Default Correction

I really meant to say I spend $ 2.12 to $2.65 per pound of honey in one and 5 gallon containers.

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