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Old 11-10-2007, 07:38 AM   #1
Vels
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Default Help me brew better (long)

Hi

I have come to the point where i think my learning curve is flattening and i would like some input to improve or just change for the fun of it my brewing techniques.
I am brewing ales only as i dont have the facilities to control fermentaion temp.

My equipment is....
Italian POS mill until yesterday, now a new C&S 3D
10 Gal mash cooler with circulation pump.
Brewpot is a 6 gal keg with 2x2kw internal electric elements.
Plate heat exchanger cooler.
Plastic primaries, glass secondaries.
Im bottling all my brews.

My brew process is....
Grains are crushed same day or evening before. ( i allready tested my new C&S and i can see that it is more crush and less flour)
I do all my mashing as single infusion, stirring a couple of times and maybe adjusting temp. Circulation pump really help with an even temp and keeping the wort clear and grain free come runoff time. Also the pump help efficiency.
I do a contious sparge over 20-30 mins with a 5 gal batch.
Wort is heated to boiling with 4 kw and then turn 1 element off and keep the rolling boil with 1 2kw element. Whole leaf hops are added in socks during boil. irish moss and yeast nutrient go in at 10 mins to flameout.
Wort goes thru heat exchanger and is instantly cooled. Switching from coopper coil dip cooler to plate exchanger really did a lot for chill haze.
Primary in a bucket for 4-7 days until trub and airlock activity has settled. Usually a starter is used.
Secondary in glass for 2-3 weeks.
Siphoned to bottling bucket and bottled.

Thats pretty much it.
Two changes i could think of would be....
Trying a step mashing (decoction) and stop using socks for my hops.

Would it make any difference to step mash ales and would it make a difference to have hops free floating as opposed to socks. If im going to part with the socks i need to modify some equipment.

Any other thoughts ??



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Planned: Xmas ale, weitzen, 2 different stouts and a fat tire
Primary 1:
Air
Primary 2:
Air
Secondary 1: Air
Secondary 2:
Air
Secondary 3:
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Mini 1: Air

Mini 2: Air
Bottle: Chimay GR clone 1, Fat Tire clone, WhIPA, Oat rye stout, Chimay GR clone 2, Deep Dark Night stout, SNPA clone

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Old 11-10-2007, 07:44 AM   #2
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Modern modified malts don't need step mashing. If you want to alter flavour profiles you can do it with speciality malts.

I like free floating whole leaf. I find they add a nice filter bed to the keggle when draining


As for modifying the equipment.


The only thing I would say from others experiences (I batch sparge)
20-30 minutes for a fly sparge seems short compared to what others are doing.



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Old 11-10-2007, 08:02 AM   #3
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For me the one thing that caused a step change in the quality of my beers was fermentation temperature control. You don't say if you have this covered but if you don't you should perhaps consider it.

Other than that, loose hops.

/Phil.

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Old 11-10-2007, 08:21 AM   #4
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Thx for the input so far.

Well fermentation temp control is pretty hard to do in a 2 room condo. I usually ferment at an ambient temp of 19-21 deg C and store/age bottles at 18 deg C.

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Jakob

Planned: Xmas ale, weitzen, 2 different stouts and a fat tire
Primary 1:
Air
Primary 2:
Air
Secondary 1: Air
Secondary 2:
Air
Secondary 3:
Air
Mini 1: Air

Mini 2: Air
Bottle: Chimay GR clone 1, Fat Tire clone, WhIPA, Oat rye stout, Chimay GR clone 2, Deep Dark Night stout, SNPA clone

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Old 11-10-2007, 08:30 AM   #5
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What do you want to improve about your beers?

I see now that you did actually say you can't control fermentation temperature.

/Phil.

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Old 11-10-2007, 08:51 AM   #6
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2 points where i find it hard to achieve consistency is mouthfeel and head.

I can brew the same recipe over and over and have great diff in mouthfeel (sometimes very full and smooth, other times thin and prickly). Same with head - same recipe and process, sometimes the result is grat lasting head, other times its like pouring a glass of cola, head dissappers very quick with a fizzy sound.
i have planned to do a little cara pils in all my brews from now on to improve head.

I also have a conditioning issue. Some of my beers will condition well and stay drinkable for very long. Others will condition and very soon start to develop the sherry like notes associated with beer conditioned for a very long time, especially the darker ones.

The reason i asked about socks vs loose hopping was that when i taste other brewers beer and commercial microbrew i think there is a diff in my perception of hop taste and aroma. I have tried to pin it down and the only 4 ways to actually change this could be...
1. Free flow hops instead - i would like to hear from other if that *will* make a difference before modding my kettle.
2. Cool quicker - but after changing to plate cooler boiling beer will sit in the kettle 0 to 10 minutes before being instantly cooled in plate cooler. I think this have improved both hop aroma and chill haze.
3. change hop bill - but now and then i use recipes found in here or else where that has gotten a great review from other brewers. But i still lack this small last extra to hit other brewers quality in hop aroma and taste.
4. i keep my hops in the freezer to preserve them. But every other food that is frozen will loose taste and aroma. So what happen to hops when thay are frozen ?

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Cheers from Copenhagen, Denmark
Jakob

Planned: Xmas ale, weitzen, 2 different stouts and a fat tire
Primary 1:
Air
Primary 2:
Air
Secondary 1: Air
Secondary 2:
Air
Secondary 3:
Air
Mini 1: Air

Mini 2: Air
Bottle: Chimay GR clone 1, Fat Tire clone, WhIPA, Oat rye stout, Chimay GR clone 2, Deep Dark Night stout, SNPA clone

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Old 11-10-2007, 09:53 AM   #7
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I had a couple of batches in the summer that took on that sherry taste very quickly. I still don't know what caused it but I suspect it was possibly HSA, although I'm opening a can of works even mentioning it

I run a HERMS system and at the time was having problems with an airlock in my heat exchanger which caused the wort to be quite heavily aerated while recirculating. Since resolving the airlock issue I've not experienced that taste since.

I assume you're not using a HERMS set-up but is it possible that you could be splashing the wort from the mash tun to the boiler?

I know a lot of people get good results from using a cooler mash tun but I struggled to hit and maintain an exact mash temperature. Some beers turned out very thin, presumeably due to a low mash temp. That was what pushed me down the HERMS route.

As for the hop aroma, I'd modify your equipment to be able to use loose hops.

I hope some of this is helpful.

/Phil.

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Old 11-10-2007, 12:29 PM   #8
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Sherry-like notes are a sign of oxidation, definitely. Somewhere in your process, you are exposing the beer to oxygen. Maybe those changes you made will correct it, but sherry-like flavors can come from post fermentation oxidation.

20-30 minutes seems like a too short a time for the continuous sparge, but I batch sparge so I'm no expert on that. I've read it should take an hour or so.

The carapils should help head retention, so that should work.

I think free flowing hops will increase hops utilization so I recommend you do that- I freeze my hops in vacuum sealed bag and they maintain freshness pretty well. You could try larger hops bags before you modify anything.

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Old 11-10-2007, 01:38 PM   #9
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I know this as unspecific as it gets, but my brewing techniques and results improved dramatically when I began listening to the brewing network, specifically the jamil show. the show is an hour long and isolates one particular style. however, he covers a tremendous amount of general and specific info on brewing in general.

3 specific things i learned from the shows are (1) forget 1-2-3 ... leave the beer in primary longer, let the yeast do its thing, and forget secondary (in most cases), (2) when pitching yeast for lagers, cool the wort BELOW ferment temp, say 45, pitch and let the temp rise to ferment temp, say 50. (3) use 90 minute boils when using pilsner malt (which i prefer over 2row)

all these techniques have made my beers better, and no one has ever mentioned them during a monthly brew club meeting ... theres obviously a lot of knowledge out there thats not in books ... i think the brewing network is getting a lot it out there.

I download the podcasts from the website and put them on my ipod and listen while walking the dog, or driving.

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Old 11-11-2007, 04:01 AM   #10
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I have only done about a dozen batches, but I really prefer the flavor of loose leaf hops to pellets. Never used a sock, I can't imagine it would improve hop utilization.

The only other thing I see is ~maybe~ efficiency. If you make the same recipe over and over, are you hitting the same gravities over and over?



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