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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Beer Discussion > What I've learned
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Old 07-27-2011, 01:59 PM   #1
Brewham
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Default What I've learned

I started brewing over ten years ago and gave up - because the results were at best - dubious. I got back into home brewing two years ago (total batches now 60 = 300 gallons) and the results are finally - impressive. I only do extract ales. I look back at my recipes and they are basically the same as today. 6-7 pounds of extract (more if liquid) 2-4 ozs hops (OK more if it is a hop-bomb) yeast and time. What changed? Ingredients today are better, fresher more available - but that is not enough to account for the difference. Here is what I have learned.

1. Temperature control. To get the right flavors you have to ferment at the right temperature. I got a mini chest freezer and hooked it up with an external thermostat so I could keep the fermentation within the yeast's profile and noticed a big improvement in flavor. The cost is not insignificant - you have to get the freezer and the external thermostat - maybe $225 for a small chest freezer and thermostat (new) but it will make a huge difference in the final product. No more off flavors or esters. If you can't justify spending the money to get a freezer, use a wet towel and try to fool yourself into thinking it is the same ( it isn't).

2. Use a starter. I am convinced that under-pitching is the number 1 cause of infections, stuck fermentation, funkiness and the national debt. You have got to pitch a monster batch of yeast that will overwhelm the weeds, get and keep the batch going. If you use liquid yeast, whether it is in a vial or a smack pack, you should start it in a starter - preferably a starter plate that swirls the liquid for a few days to make lots of yeast babies. Cost $70 or so plus the flask to put it all in. Frankly the flask is so cool looking , it is worth every penny as a conversation piece. Get a white lab coat and act like Professor Irwin Corey. Your family already thinks you are nuts so getting the lab coat and Erlenmeyer flask makes you look eccentric and intelligent instead of crazy. (Think how cool it is to say "Erlenmeyer flask" when someone asks, "What's that?"). If you use dry yeast, hydrate it first so it hits the wort ready to go. Having a second pack in reserve is not a bad idea.

3. Practice safe sex. Sanitation is not a big deal - until it is. Be reasonable and smart. In 60 batches, I have had 1 that was funked. I don't know why and I could not tell you what I did wrong but it is sour and undrinkable after months. Maybe, I got lazy. Now, I rinse everything while it is still wet to get rid of the gunk - then use StarSan. Every couple of batches I soak it all in one of the OxiClean, type solutions. I brew in plastic buckets. I wash my bottles in the sanitize cycle of the dishwasher - no soap.

4. Oxygenate. The first stage of yeast reproduction requires lots of oxygen. Shaking or pouring back and forth is one way but it is very inefficient, difficult and messy. It is much easier with an Oxyigenator. You can buy a little flask of oxygen in the Plumbing section of Lowes for $10 and it will last forever. You'll need an interface (air-stone) to get tiny bubbles of the O2 into the liquid. A 30 second blast is enough to supercharge the atmosphere and make your yeasties very happy because you gave them the air they need to breed.

Can you make beer without all this? Probably, but if you are serious about your hobby, these 4 tips will make a big difference in the final product.

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Old 07-27-2011, 02:08 PM   #2
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Great post!

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Old 07-27-2011, 04:40 PM   #3
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Quote:
3. Practice safe sex.
I followed your advise. This girl came home with me from the bar, things were starting to get hot and heavy, so I sprayed her all over with StarSan. After the many, many, many, MANY bubbles subsided, she slapped me and left.

What did I do wrong?
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Old 07-27-2011, 05:05 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TopherM View Post
I followed your advise. This girl came home with me from the bar, things were starting to get hot and heavy, so I sprayed her all over with StarSan. After the many, many, many, MANY bubbles subsided, she slapped me and left.

What did I do wrong?
Do you have a beard? Wielding starsan beardless is the #1 cause of your problem.
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Old 07-27-2011, 05:13 PM   #5
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I love this post, and I'm not sure if you intentionally put temperature control as #1, but to me, that has made the biggest difference. I used to be all over the place, from 68 to 80 degrees fermentation temps, varying from season to season as well as hour-to-hour depending on temperatures in my house. As soon as I got a refrigerator hooked up to a Johnson controller, and enabled my yeast to ferment properly at a consistent 65 degrees (or whatever the commercial brewers fermentation temperature was for a clone), I've been having much better results.

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