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Old 03-10-2005, 07:28 PM   #1
ryser2k
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Default Lots of Questions

Quick intro -- I found this site by searching google... I had a lot of doubts about the way I have been brewing and I wanted to get some advice and opinions, and this looks like the place to be. I read through most of what's out there already, so forgive me if I ask a question that has been asked a thousand times already.

First off, I've been brewing for just under a year. Every batch I've made so far has been a mini-mash kit from Austin Homebrew Supply (http://www.austinhomebrew.com/). I have followed the instructions included with the kit, adding in new things I have learned from the internet or from Papazian's New Joy of Homebrewing.

To the questions:
1. Is the One-Step cleaner also considered a sanitizer? I usually mix two gallons of it and use that for my entire brewing "session", to sanitize the fermenters, equipment, bottles, etc. Is this OK?

2. The mini-mash kit I use includes several pounds of malted grain, a bucket of malt extract syrup, pellet hops, and dry yeast, all in sealed containers. Several questions related to this:
a. As a whole, how long can I store the kit on a shelf before using it? I usually order two kits at once (to get the free shipping from AHS) and I only have enough equipment to do one kit at a time.
b. AHS lets you choose which type of yeast you would like: dry, Wyeast liquid, or White Labs liquid. I choose dry because I heard it has a longer shelf life. Is this true? Does liquid yeast result in better beer?

3. The AHS instructions don't tell you to strain the wort before pouring it into the primary fermenter, however the Papazian book does. I tried this last time using an ordinary wire mesh strainer, but it was kind of a pain because the strainer would get clogged with hop gunk, forcing me to rinse it several times. Is straining necessary? Is there a better way? (I saw Alton Brown on Good Eats suggest using a plastic colander on top of the mesh strainer during his homebrew episode, which got me thinking about this whole thing)

4. What, in your opinion, is the best way to clarify your beer? I've seen lots of talk of Polyclar, but haven't tried it yet. I am going to try Super Kleer K.C. Finings for the first time with my current batch, and Gelatin with my next batch. I also add Irish Moss to the wort in the last 15 minutes of the boil. Is there anything else I can be doing?

5. I live in a rural area, and get my water from the township. From what I can tell, the water quality is rather good (they bottle a lot of "spring water" from the same reservoirs we get our water from). Is there anything I can do to make sure my water is the best it can be for homebrewing?

6. I only have a 3 gallon pot currently, so I only use around 2-2.5 gallons of water instead of the 3 gallons that my recipes always recommend. I assumed this wouldn't have much effect on the end result, am I right?

7. Is All Grain worth it, i.e. is the beer that much better that it is worth the added work (and equipment costs)?

8. Does anyone know of another mail-order homebrew site with free shipping? AHS has free shipping for all orders over $60... without that the rates are pretty high. Plus, I live in eastern PA so shipping from Austin, TX is not exactly fast.


I actually thought I had more questions but that's all I can think of right now... and it's probably plenty for you guys to answer. Just want to mention that I'll enter all of these questions and answers on the Homebrew FAQ here.

Thanks for the help!

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Old 03-10-2005, 08:16 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forum!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ryser2k
1. Is the One-Step cleaner also considered a sanitizer? I usually mix two gallons of it and use that for my entire brewing "session", to sanitize the fermenters, equipment, bottles, etc. Is this OK?
Probably...what is the cleaner? It's probably a no-rinse sanitizer, but you should make sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ryser2k
a. As a whole, how long can I store the kit on a shelf before using it? I usually order two kits at once (to get the free shipping from AHS) and I only have enough equipment to do one kit at a time.
It'll store for a few weeks/months easy. Hops are best kept refrigerated or frozen. Grains are best kept dry. Dry extract and dry yeast will last forever if kept dry and at reasonable temperature. Liquid malt extract will darken as it sits in the can and is best used as fresh as possible. Dry extract is pretty much always the better option.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ryser2k
b. AHS lets you choose which type of yeast you would like: dry, Wyeast liquid, or White Labs liquid. I choose dry because I heard it has a longer shelf life. Is this true? Does liquid yeast result in better beer?
Liquid yeast can store for months or longer in the fridge. The older it is, the slower it is to come to life. I have used liquid yeast that was waaaay past the expiration date and I just had to make a starter a day or two earlier than I otherwise would have.

Liquid yeast definitely results in better beer. In my opinion, it's one of the best things you can do to improve the quality of your beer. You should always make a starter with liquid yeast, which is really easy. I'd go with the White Labs option. I like their yeast a lot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ryser2k
3. The AHS instructions don't tell you to strain the wort before pouring it into the primary fermenter, however the Papazian book does. I tried this last time using an ordinary wire mesh strainer, but it was kind of a pain because the strainer would get clogged with hop gunk, forcing me to rinse it several times. Is straining necessary? Is there a better way? (I saw Alton Brown on Good Eats suggest using a plastic colander on top of the mesh strainer during his homebrew episode, which got me thinking about this whole thing)
This has been much discussed here lately (see http://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=594) You really do want to keep hops out of the fermenter. They can cause off flavors, and basically aren't doing anything but decomposing in there. Filtering is definitely a pain. My solution is to use whole hops. They taste better and are far more convenient (except for the stores ) I think whole hops are another big way to drastically improve your beer, if only because hops stay out of the fermenter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ryser2k
4. What, in your opinion, is the best way to clarify your beer? I've seen lots of talk of Polyclar, but haven't tried it yet. I am going to try Super Kleer K.C. Finings for the first time with my current batch, and Gelatin with my next batch. I also add Irish Moss to the wort in the last 15 minutes of the boil. Is there anything else I can be doing?
I never use finings, but that's just me. I don't like to add extra stuff to my beer, and I honestly don't mind the occasional bit of haze.

The very best way to clarify is to go all-grain, buy a pump, and recirculate your mash for about 15-20 minutes at the end of the mash. You will get crystal clear beer. That was the single qualitative advantage of the RIMS system I used to use. I'm going to add a pump to my infusion system soon.

Breweries use centerfuges and DE filters. That's not a great option for us.

Chilling your beer really cold and letting it sit will settle out a lot of cold break. A common form of haze in homebrews is chill haze.

Or try some finings. I think homebrewer_99 uses them. Maybe he'll chime in

As long as you're using extract, you probably won't get crystal clear beer like the breweries. It's one of the more challenging features of beer to get right. Fortunately, it doesn't affect the flavor or anything and can be ignored..

Quote:
Originally Posted by ryser2k
5. I live in a rural area, and get my water from the township. From what I can tell, the water quality is rather good (they bottle a lot of "spring water" from the same reservoirs we get our water from). Is there anything I can do to make sure my water is the best it can be for homebrewing?
I live in a *really* rural area and my water comes out of the hill behind my house Does your water taste good? If so, don't mess with it. If it aint broke, don't fix it. If you want to make the perfect pilsner or something once you go all-grain, then start messing with water chemistry, but if it tastes good, it's fine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ryser2k
6. Is All Grain worth it, i.e. is the beer that much better that it is worth the added work (and equipment costs)?
Yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ryser2k
7. Does anyone know of another mail-order homebrew site with free shipping? AHS has free shipping for all orders over $60... without that the rates are pretty high. Plus, I live in eastern PA so shipping from Austin, TX is not exactly fast.
www.morebeer.com ! It's unbelievable and I don't know how they do it, but I just ordered 300 pounds of grain from them and it was free shipping. I'm not affiliated, just a happy customer. I think they're the best of the best. Great selection and fantastic quality.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ryser2k
I actually thought I had more questions but that's all I can think of right now... and it's probably plenty for you guys to answer. Just want to mention that I'll enter all of these questions and answers on the Homebrew FAQ here.
We're going to be working on compiling some standard answers based on all the postings here, so hopefully the FAQ will get fleshed out soon. Glad you found the forum. Hope you stick around. Cheers!
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Old 03-10-2005, 08:23 PM   #3
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haha thanks for the quick and detailed reply. I must have added that last question about the size of my brewing pot while you were answering me.

I was looking at MoreBeer after seeing you mention it in another thread... it looks good, but they don't have many ingredient kits. I guess I'll just have to break out on my own and start doing recipes

PS - Yes, the One Step is definitely no-rinse... says so on the package

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Old 03-10-2005, 08:34 PM   #4
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In answer, to your brewpot question - it's best to boil all of the wort if possible. It's best to boil as much as possible if you can't boil it all. Hop utilization is lowered with more concentrated wort. Also, there are santiation issues. Your beer will be better if you buy a pot that can boil all 5 gallons.

I don't do extract or kits, but I did see morebeer had a lot of all-grain kits. I figured they must have extract ones, too.

If you get yourself a recipe book like Beer Captured and some software like ProMash or SUDS, making up recipes or tweaking someone else's recipe is easy. You just need to be able calculate color, gravity and IBU's. Plus, when you order ingredients seperately, you can choose better ingredients like dry extract, liquid yeast and whole hops, none of which usually come with kits.

Have fun!

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Old 03-10-2005, 08:39 PM   #5
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I'm definitely going to try that on my next order, unfortunately I have one kit on the shelf and two more on the way from Austin Homebrew, so I've got some time to wait!

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Old 03-10-2005, 08:59 PM   #6
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Janx...thanks for the plug...

I was reading just this morning about culturing yeast and the write said he keeps his liquid yeast 6-12 months and does a starter a couple of days prior. I could see needing the extra days if the potency diminishes over time.

ryser2k: You got a bunch of good advice.

As for finings, well, I use Polyclar in my secondaries. It's a powdered for of PVC or something close to that. Just sprinkle 2 tsp on top and let it sit for a couple of days. The beer will get pretty clear. Other than that I just use Irish Moss in my brew pot 15 mins before the end of boil as noted in many recipes.

Janx is right about not being able attain crystal clear clarity, but I still strive to get as close as possible. With the Hefe Weizens I always add the yeast from the bottle so ... is it really important to use them there too? Just remember if you brew dark beers you don't even have to wasting those ingredients.

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Old 03-10-2005, 09:38 PM   #7
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I knew I would get good advice from Janx, I've been reading up on him around here

Anyway, I think most of my clarity problem is just chill haze, my beers are pretty clear if you let them warm up to room temp. I'm going to try the Polyclar next time I order and see how that goes.

Either that or I could start drinking my beers English-style, nice and warm

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Old 03-10-2005, 09:49 PM   #8
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One thing that may cause chill haze is hot side aeration, so try to minimize aerating the wort when it's hot and that may help. Cheers!

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Old 03-11-2005, 01:02 PM   #9
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I drink a lot of my beers at room temp also, except for the Weizen's, I tend to put a slight chill on them somewhere in the 60 F range. Not too cold.

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Old 03-11-2005, 07:29 PM   #10
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One step can be safely used as a no-rinse sanitizer. On the package it will read cleanser, but that is because for something to be labeled sanitizer it has to go through the FDA and a bunch of paper and tons of money. It'll sanitize anything on contact, from what I understand a tbsp of it turns a gallon of water into a bunch of hydrogen peroxide. I use it with great results, you say you've been brewing for a year with it? If you haven't had any problems either then keep doing what your doing I say.

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