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Old 07-09-2008, 05:21 AM   #1
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Default Discrepencies in Methodology

Let me preface this by saying I'm very new at this, so I appreciate all the help you folks provide I seem to have two conflicting sources of information regarding technique, and I'm wondering if there's a consensus on these issues. My local brew shop provides some basic brewing instructions that are quite in contrast with what I'm reading in Wheeler & Protz's Brew Your Own British Real Ale.

For example, the brew shop says to mix the malt extract (with our without partial mash, all that) into 2.5 gallons of boiling water, and boil it for an hour, then top it off in the primary fermenter with cool water to bring the temp down. The book says that you really should use as close as you can to the same quantity you're brewing, so you should have 5 gallons of wort, then use a chiller or such to cool the wort. The book also notes that the boil time should be 1.5 - 2 hours, not the one recommended by the shop.

In addition, the home brew shop's instructions say to ferment for (usually) 7-10 days, then add wort to a priming sugar solution in a bottling bucket and bottle. I think Graham Wheeler would have a heart-attack on reading that! He is quite adamant that a good beer should never need priming, and states specifically that going from fermentation straight to bottling is "bad practice." The instructions in the book are to bottle after fermenting, a second fermentation (which they refer to as 'dropping'), and then a maturation period in a barrel.

It would seem the brew shop suggestions are for total novices, and the book's suggestions for people who are more "hard-core" about their home brewing. What do you guys do?

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Old 07-09-2008, 05:36 AM   #2
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It sounds like that book is talking about cask conditioned ale because if you don't prime your beer, you won't get any carbonation in it. If you bottle it before fermentation is done, you risk bottles blowing up.

As to how much to boil, generally I think most people like to boil as much of the total volume as they can. I put it all in italics so people will know I'm stressing the generalities and hopefully not lynch me!

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Old 07-09-2008, 05:45 AM   #3
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As to how much to boil, generally I think most people like to boil as much of the total volume as they can. I
I think this is true, because the thinner the wort in the boil, the more effective you hop utilization. I accidentally WAY over bittered a cream ale because I decided to do a full boil of an extract kit with no hop compensation.

Who is your LHBS? That could be part of your issue or not depending on where you're going.
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Old 07-09-2008, 05:46 AM   #4
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Yes, the book is catered to hard-core "real ale" brewing. Just one style of many.
Your brew shop is simply giving a beginner some easy instructions.

Boiling more wort and chilling with a chiller (properly) always makes better beer verses topping off to chill. If you are topping off, it makes a certain extract twang even more noticeable, while making the finished product simply taste more watered down.

Most beers benefit from additional maturation but those bloody English blokes have some some strange rules if y'ask me. Like drinking flat, oxygenated, warm pale ale.

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Old 07-09-2008, 06:01 AM   #5
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I'm surprised that book doesn't recommend cooling your wort in a coldship and decry wort chillers as a serious deviation with tradition.

In regards to the comments you bring up, most homebrewers would consider it best practice that you:
1. do full wort boils
2. condition your beer in a glass carboy for at least two weeks, depending on the style and gravity, after airlock activity ceases before bottling. This helps give you more
3. prime your beer with an appropriate amount of priming sugar for the style you're brewing

That said, if you do partial boils, don't bulk condition your beer, and underprime your beer you will still end up with a good product.

I'm not sure what reason there is to boil your wort for more than 60 minutes when you use malt extract. When you make beer the all-grain way, many of us boil for 90 minutes or more to reduce the volume.

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Old 07-09-2008, 06:15 AM   #6
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I accidentally WAY over bittered a cream ale because I decided to do a full boil of an extract kit with no hop compensation.

Who is your LHBS?
I didn't realize you had to adjust the hop quantity in an extract kit if you go full boil, that's good to know. Hopefully I'll just dive right in on my next batch with a full grain job, and just call it a learning experience

The closest shop to me is Hops & Berries in Fort Collins, CO. There used to be one in Boulder, but they closed under rather sad circumstances. There are a few in Denver that might be better, but I haven't been to them.
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Old 07-09-2008, 06:16 AM   #7
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...but those bloody English blokes have some some strange rules if y'ask me. Like drinking flat, oxygenated, warm pale ale.
Oh, but if you've ever experienced the joy of a pint of Real Ale in a London pub, you'd understand why I've gotten into this hobby specifically to recreate a bit of that. Heaven, my friend - heaven in a glass.
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Old 07-09-2008, 06:22 AM   #8
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That said, if you do partial boils, don't bulk condition your beer, and underprime your beer you will still end up with a good product.
So are you saying that if I go with partial boil,
don't bulk condition the beer
do under prime the beer?
I think I must be mis-reading you.

Also, just quickly - the best way to brew, in general, seems to be a primary fermentation of 3-7 days in, say, a 6 gal carboy, a secondary fermentation (does this one need an airlock too?) in another carboy (size?) for another 7 days or so, and 2-3 weeks in a sealed, say, 5 gal carboy for maturation? What is the best practice there?

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Old 07-09-2008, 06:53 AM   #9
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So are you saying that if I go with partial boil,
don't bulk condition the beer
do under prime the beer?
I think I must be mis-reading you.

Also, just quickly - the best way to brew, in general, seems to be a primary fermentation of 3-7 days in, say, a 6 gal carboy, a secondary fermentation (does this one need an airlock too?) in another carboy (size?) for another 7 days or so, and 2-3 weeks in a sealed, say, 5 gal carboy for maturation? What is the best practice there?

You guys are the best
The three factors I mentioned are really largely unrelated to each other, and you can chose to follow them or not depending on your interest.

To avoid getting in trouble by trying to say what is best, I'll just say what I would do.

I would boil the full amount of wort and chill it with any suitable chiller (if available). If you don't have a chiller available, you can do what I do and fill up the sink with ice and stir very gently with a sanitized spoon. Replace the ice as often as necessary to achieve pitching temperatures.

Then I would follow the 1-2-3 rule: 1 week in a glass primary fermenter, 2 weeks in a glass secondary fermenter, and 3 weeks in the bottle before drinking. Secondary fermenters aren't strictly necessary so if you don't have one, I would leave it in a glass primary for 2-4 weeks or a plastic primary for 1-2 weeks.

The amount of priming sugar you add will only affect how carbonated you want the beer to be. Traditional British ales have very little carbonation whereas most American beers have significant amounts of carbonation. If you feel like being traditional, take the recommended amount from the homebrewers' club and divide it by two. If you want a nicely carbonated ale (which you'll probably enjoy more), add the amount the folks at the LHBS recommend.
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Old 07-09-2008, 07:01 AM   #10
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Then I would follow the 1-2-3 rule: 1 week in a glass primary fermenter, 2 weeks in a glass secondary fermenter, and 3 weeks in the bottle before drinking.
I like that, sounds good.

So the secondary fermenter - you just move (siphon, what-have-you) the beer from the primary fermenter to the secondary, leaving behind the yeast on the bottom and any yeast head/foam left on the top? And then do you use an airlock on the secondary as well? And finally, I use a 6 gal primary for a 5 gal batch. Should my secondary be a 6 gal too, or should I reduce the head space by using a 5 gal or something?
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