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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > All Grain & Partial Mash Brewing > Do Not Fear All-Grain Brewing - A Primer
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Old 07-15-2011, 01:04 PM   #41
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Beersmith is always technically correct, the problem is we don't live in a technically correct world. The OP actually points this out when he states something about temp dropping a few degrees more while transferring on a cool day compared to a warm day. That being said, when I was fooling around with beersmith 2.0 I thought I remember seeing an option to input ambient air temp. but I never used it because it's just as easy to stop short and fill until I hit my mash temp.
I don't know, I've used BeerSmith and brewed in all kinds of weather, and I always seem to hit my temps right on. Maybe I'm just lucky.
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Old 07-15-2011, 01:42 PM   #42
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Nice write up. I can only speak from my experience, but by plugging my system (10 gal round cooler with SS braid) into BeerSmith, I never have to "dump and pray". I follow the directions and hit my mash temps dead on every time, without fail. I also hit my pre-boil and pitching gravities dead on 9 out of 10 times without thinking about it.

The $20 for good brewing software us the best investment I've made as a home brewer. If you know your system, it works great and you don't have to sweat this kind of stuff.

*shrug*
Don't get me wrong. I have used Beer Alchemy on my Mac since my first batch of beer. I have to imagine it is using similar formulas to BeerSmith - as it does allow entry points for ambient temperature, (estimated) thermal mass, and water:grain ratio in the mash calculation field. As I said, it does a pretty good job of calculating strike water temperature and volume, and if followed correctly, it will get you pretty close to your desired rest.

However, the best formula in the world can not match steady, hands-on control, and that is exactly what my method will give you. No formula I have seen accounts for an individual brewhouse's deadspace, feet of tubing (or tubing material), number of valves, etc. All of those things can throw the formulas for a loop. Notice, I only mentioned variables that are out of your control. Once you account for a brewer's propensity to make errors in volume and temperature measurements, you can throw the formula out the window.

It would be nice to think that everyone is error free on brewday, but it just doesn't happen. It is impressive that you've had such great success just following the software, but I think it is more of a testiment to your consistency as a brewer than a testament to the software. On the flip-side, you also said "If you know your system, it works great and you don't have to sweat this kind of stuff." The key words there are "know your system". The software doesn't "know your system"; you do. That is kind of my point. Use the software to get you pointed in the right direction, but know your system and learn how to control the outcome. It is great that you are already at that point - many others are not. The primer just offers some strategies to get them there.

Joe
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Old 07-15-2011, 02:11 PM   #43
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However, the best formula in the world can not match steady, hands-on control, and that is exactly what my method will give you. No formula I have seen accounts for an individual brewhouse's deadspace, feet of tubing (or tubing material), number of valves, etc. All of those things can throw the formulas for a loop. Notice, I only mentioned variables that are out of your control. Once you account for a brewer's propensity to make errors in volume and temperature measurements, you can throw the formula out the window.
I'm going to have to disagree. Steady, hands-on control may give you good beer, but will likely not allow you to brew the same beer twice. All of the brewing programs allow for input of dead space and numerous other variables that should get things close to perfect. Probably not the first time, because some of the numbers (ie mash tun thermal mass) are not really measurable, but obtained from trial and error. However, once these numbers are dialed in (2-3 batches at most), all the numbers should be spot on. From this point on, the software should be very accurate. If you have found significant variation, then most likely you're not going through the same process each time - and that brings me back to my first point: you may well get good beer, but you will not get the same beer every time you brew the same recipe.

L

Edit: Note that I have nothing against "steady, hands-on control." Whatever works for you. And under any circumstances, you have to be on the lookout for anything that may go wrong. If your volumes or gravity are wrong, the most likely thing is that you screwed something up. The brewing software isn't going to fix that for you. You will have to adjust things on your own.
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Old 07-15-2011, 02:33 PM   #44
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However, the best formula in the world can not match steady, hands-on control, and that is exactly what my method will give you. No formula I have seen accounts for an individual brewhouse's deadspace, feet of tubing (or tubing material), number of valves, etc. All of those things can throw the formulas for a loop. Notice, I only mentioned variables that are out of your control. Once you account for a brewer's propensity to make errors in volume and temperature measurements, you can throw the formula out the window.
I think your approach and reasoning are sound and helps new AG brewers to better understand the nuts and bolts of the process. Kudos for taking the time to write it up. I'm just saying that in my experience, it seems like a bit of overkill and may even make the process seem more daunting than it is. Using standard equipment and entering the correct information into the software will get the majority of homebrewers very close in terms of accuracy, precision, and reproducibility, once he/she has a few trial and error batches under his/her belt. I had my process fully dialed in by my 3rd AG batch. YMMV.
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Old 07-15-2011, 04:08 PM   #45
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I don't mind a little back and forth, but I think you are missing the tone of what I was going for.

My primer is really like a supplemental to the other AG instructions we have all read. I was making the assumption that a reader knew the all grain process very well, but didn't know what they could do to get their process more repeatable. Telling me that keeping portions of your day "hands-on" results in inconsistency is completely off base. I thought I made a real effort to show that by learning which brew processes need a hands-on approach, you will hit your mash rests, volume levels, and gravities dead-on every time. I was not talking about "reasonably close" , or "pretty accurate"; I was talking dead-on. If that didn't come across, then I failed. In fact, I opened the intro talking about how people who are happy with "reasonably close" will see my approach as overkill - but for those who want to make the same recipe twice, it may be valuable.

I think "daunting" was actually a good descriptor, because it was my goal to start to spell out all the little tweaks you need to make to learn your system - and that is a daunting task. AG brewing is not hard, but getting your wort-production to that 10th level of consistency is very hard. It took you three batches - it took me about three years (and I am still learning).

Please take a few minutes and re-read my thoughts about nailing rest temperatures and the neccessity of exacting volume measurements throughout the brew day. You will notice that my instructions are really not a "how-to", they are a "how-to-think-3-steps-ahead". You will clearly see that I use the formulas and instructions you like so much, but I also explain how to use them in conjunction with your own set-up (in this case - my set-up). I really wanted brewers to think about the ways I learned to protect myself from potential issues (ie: infusing from cooler->hotter, knowing the exact constraints of your tun ahead of time, and overcompensating on sparge water and cutting off collection at your own discretion) and think about how those protections could be implemented to improve the predictability of their own results.

If things have been working great for you; awesome. I am not asking those with previous success to change their ways - I wouldn't want you to. On the other hand, if someone is finding difficulty with conducting a consistent brewday, "you must be using the software wrong" is not a very helpful answer.

So please, if you care to continue the discussion, carefully read again and let me know if you still disagree with my thoughts. If you still don't see how a bit of well placed hands-on control can get your consistency to the next level, then I am cool with dropping the issue.

Joe

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Old 07-15-2011, 04:17 PM   #46
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So please, if you care tocontinue the discussion, carefully read again and let me know if you still disagree with my thoughts. If you still don't see how a bit of well placed hands-on control can get your consistency to the next level, then I am cool with dropping the issue.
I don't disagree with your thoughts. Like I said, it is a great write up, informative, and useful. I just personally don't believe it's necessary to follow those steps to the nth degree to produce good or even great beer in a reproducible manner.

It's just a different perspective, and part of the hobby is the different paths we all travel to reach a final result. Please don't take any offense. I think (and most would agree) that you have made a valuable contribution.

Cheers.
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Old 07-15-2011, 04:22 PM   #47
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It's just a different perspective, and part of the hobby is the different paths we all travel to reach a final result. Cheers.
I am very cool with that - cheers to you too!

Joe
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Old 07-16-2011, 04:27 AM   #48
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I thought your mash plan made a ton of sense but I decided to use a hybrid method...I first figured out all the heat loss variables and entered into Beersmith. Dead space, tun weight etc. I was quite anal about it. As a contingency plan, I heated some extra water with the philosophy that if I needed more than the calculated strike water to get up to temp, I'd have it at the ready, being willing to increase the water to grain ratio for the perfect temp. Turns out the extra work was worth it as I came out on the nuts without the need for any extra water addition. I plan to use this method until I gain full confidence in my numbers as related to my equipment specs but after my first two AG batches, so far so good. In any event, your thread really made me think deeper about the process and ultimately understand it better. I do think its possible though to strike a given volume with full confidence. But it certainly takes some extra legwork and potentially some trial and error before absolute confidence is secured.

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Old 07-16-2011, 04:35 PM   #49
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That was a great write up...but it makes me glad I do BIAB...much simpler/easier to get consistent results IMO...and less equipment.

But seriously, that was a very nice treatment of the subject.

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Old 07-16-2011, 05:54 PM   #50
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Great thread!
I am preparing to brew my 1st AG and I"m happy that I found this thread.
Thanks man!

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