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Old 11-28-2012, 02:05 AM   #1
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Default The ever changing opinions of proper techniques in brewing

I've been brewing for two years now so I'm past most doubts and worries, been there done that and I've got my processes down, but one thing I've noticed that still intrigues me is the extremely varied opinions on what is proper and what is not over time. I know overall even if one screws up big time we nearly always end up with beer. And most of the time perfectly drinkable beer. But having read a number of respected books and being on here for all this time really has me intrigued as to the changes in opinions on processes between the brewing literature and current day brewing. I will list a few of the examples I can think of off the top of my head:

1. (Original recommendation) Don't squeeze the grain bag, it will extract tannins. (Modern day recommendation) It doesn't make any difference at all. Many people doing steeping or BIAB squeeze the living Jesus out of their bags with no ill effects.

2. (Original recommendation) Fly Sparging gives the best effeciency and if you batch sparge the more sparges the better effeciency. (Modern day recommendation) It doesn't matter much at all and the efficiency difference is so minute that a single sparge is all that is necessary.

3. (Original recommendation) Do a protein rest for pilsener malt. (Modern day recommendation) Most malts today are well modified so it's not necessary unless you know for sure the malt is under modified - hence a single infusion is often all that is necessary.

4. (Original recommendation) Decoction mashing is necessary for a true German beer taste. (Modern day recommendation) So and so has done extensive tests and finds no difference in taste therefore decocting is not necessary and a waste of time.

5. (Original recommendation) For a hefeweizen a ferulic acid rest creates compounds that bring out more of the "clove" taste. (Modern day recommendation) So and so has done extensive tests and finds no difference in taste therefore it's an unnecessary step.

6. (Original recommendation) As according to the bottle label it says to use one tablet of Whirlfloc at 15 minutes near the end of boil. (Modern day recommendation) It's been written online that people have spoken with the actual manufacturer and they say one tablet is good for up to 12 gallons so only half a tablet is needed and it's most effective at the last 5 minutes of the boil.

7. (One opinion) It's not necessary to decant a one liter starter since it's only about 5% of the total volume of a 5 gallon batch therefore won't affect the taste. (Second opinion) Always decant the starter because you don't want sour oxidized starter wort in your beer.

8. (Original recommendation) Cool your priming suger solution before you add it to the beer. (Modern day recommendation) It's not necessary to cool the priming sugar solution since it's so small an amount any yeast it might immmediately contact and shock/kill is so small as to be insignificant.

9. (Original recommendation) After adding your sparge water allow ten minutes for the grain bed to set. (Modern day recommendation) Don't waste the time, vorlaufing sets the grain bed so start vorlaufing immediately.

Well, these are what I could think of off the top of my head. I'd like to state right up front I am NOT challenging any of the recommendations either old or new. I've found and gone with my own processes and am quite happy with the beers I brew so no trouble there. I'm only creating this thread to see if anyone else has been intrigued by the large degree of difference in process opinions in this wonderful hobby/field of ours. Again, either way you are making beer, I just find it rather interesting that on one hand there are those that tout things as the "proper way" and yet there are many hardened experienced others that say, "Umm no... that isn't necessary at all".


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Old 11-28-2012, 02:47 AM   #2
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Adding to #3, I think people go a bit overboard with the whole "pilsner malt means you must boil vigorously for 90+ minutes, and cool rapidly to avoid DMS". Maybe it's just my maltser (Canada Malting Co) but I've never had an issue with DMS using pilsner malt during a shorter boil. I won't rule out other variables that probably help lower the chance of off-flavours in what/how I brew, but still.

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Old 11-28-2012, 03:44 AM   #3
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Adding to #3, I think people go a bit overboard with the whole "pilsner malt means you must boil vigorously for 90+ minutes, and cool rapidly to avoid DMS". Maybe it's just my maltser (Canada Malting Co) but I've never had an issue with DMS using pilsner malt during a shorter boil. I won't rule out other variables that probably help lower the chance of off-flavours in what/how I brew, but still.
I've done mostly ales but I've done several ales using pilsner malts including a couple of batches using 100% pilsner malts (such as NortherBrewer's Patersbier). With the Paterbier since it's 100% Belgian pilsner malt I did the first one at 90 minutes boil and the second time I brewed it I did a 75 minute boil, though I can't recall exactly why at this time, but there was no difference between the two in taste. The other beers, Hefeweizens, Belgian Wits, etc I never bothered due to the lower pilsner malt amount and also never saw a difference.

Not that those anecdotal results mean anything factual of course, and as a result is why I still boil all-pils grain bills longer than 60 minutes, but it's still quite interesting.


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Old 11-28-2012, 03:45 AM   #4
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You forgot about it not being necessary to use a secondary.

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Old 11-28-2012, 03:50 AM   #5
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Awesome thread!

I think the differences over time in best brewing practices have to do with the growth of the hobby and craft beer in general. That has meant growth in demand for ingredients. That means fresher, higher quality ingredients are more readily available. It also means there are more people testing out the established wisdom, to see if it is actually true. So, whether or not the 'old' way of doing things was good/necessary at some time in the past, that doesn't mean that it always will be. And that doesn't necessarily mean those techniques/practices are bad to do now. Maybe unnecessary...

Anyway, the list you put together is great for newbies to take a look at. When they are given some advice, they can reference this list and see if it is an old technique that has somehow been passed down to them, even if it isn't necessarily true anymore.

And I'm sure there are more that can be added to the list (I'm thinking things related to no-chill brewing techniques), but I'm just getting close to 1 year of brewing experience, so I can't add anything specific.

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Old 11-28-2012, 03:58 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xpertskir View Post
You forgot about it not being necessary to use a secondary.
Ah yes, that's another great example. I was sitting in the Heartland Brewery in NYC and I always wind up in a conversation whether want it or not. The guy talking to me turned out to be a homebrewer as well and he was HARDCORE in his "must secondary" opinion. I mentioned how on this online community (Homebrewtalk) it's common opinion that a secondary isn't really necessary unless one wants to add things to their beer (fruit, dry hop, etc) and even then many just do it right in the primary with no issues. He looked at me with a face and I felt annoyed - he was an older guy. Then as we're talking he says he doesn't do more than 6 batches a year because he ages and "conditions" them all for the necessary ridiculously long several months time that is way longer than necessary for the fair majority of beer types. Anyhow, it was then that I just shrugged him off. In my two years of brewing I've done waaaay more batches than he. I typically brew every weekend that I am in season. I only stop during late spring and start up again in September - probably close to 32 batches a year to his 6, so whatever. Some people are just set in their ways


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Old 11-28-2012, 04:06 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by signpost View Post
It also means there are more people testing out the established wisdom, to see if it is actually true. So, whether or not the 'old' way of doing things was good/necessary at some time in the past, that doesn't mean that it always will be. And that doesn't necessarily mean those techniques/practices are bad to do now. Maybe unnecessary...
True, though one other thing I've read a lot of people say is that doing a protein rest on well modified malts will kill head and head retention. I've personally never seen that once and I've used malts that are said to be well modified. After doing a recent number of single infusion batches I've decided that on the beers I usually do a protein rest on in the past I am going to continue doing it, mostly because I've noticed significantly less chill haze on them. But that is what is so intriguing, I'm sure many have experience no difference or the reverse!


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Old 11-29-2012, 01:34 AM   #8
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Just recalled another one - hotside aeration. I've read in some brewing books to avoid this but most current day opinions are that it's not a threat at all. I seem to recall even Dr. Charles Bamforth doesn't think it's a problem either but I'd have to look it up. Anyhow, I hope there can be a little more discussion about this.... I hope I didn't spend the time typing up the first post for nothing I'd specifically like to hear back from those of us that have tried different techniques and found/not found any difference from recommendations either past or present.


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Old 11-29-2012, 01:52 AM   #9
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You left out hot side aeration.

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Old 11-29-2012, 02:23 AM   #10
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Quote:
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You left out hot side aeration.
That was my last post.


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