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Old 11-08-2008, 03:48 PM   #1
BOBTHEukBREWER
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Hi all, again,
a few weeks ago you gave me advice to improve my beers, and the general consensus was keep the fermentation temperature controlled, and bottle using syphon tube rather than jug and funnel.

I made a 4% bitter, kept it cool during fermentation so that it took 8 days rather than 2 to 3, then I bottled 3 gals in pint bottles using syphon tube, the other 3 gallons using jug and funnel.

After 7 days I tried one of each, the syphoned beer was much better. I left it another 4 weeks, and then tried them again, I couldn't tell any difference between them.

The beer is quite nice, but still along way from a commercial bottled beer, I repeat the experiment soon using a liquid yeast - I used safale 04 for the first trial.

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Old 11-08-2008, 04:01 PM   #2
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Being sanitary is key when handling beer at any stage of brewing. Commercial brewers perform most processes as a closed system thus preventing contamination. I do not believe that your testing has any useful purpose as you have no means to test for contamination (bacteria). The less you expose beer to the environment the better.

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Old 11-08-2008, 04:03 PM   #3
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Bob, thanks for taking the time to do the experiment. We need more brewers like you around! My experience with bitters is that they hit their peak really quickly and then go down hill pretty fast. That may have something to do with your beers eventually matching up in flavor even though the difference in techniques. However, you are pulling your beer off of the yeast way too quick. The old rule is 2-3-4. Two weeks in primary, three in secondary, and four in bottles before you drink. I know it's hard but try not to drink your beer too soon. This will help you to make better beer. This is why most brewers have multiple batches going at the same time. So you can kinda forget about one while you work on the other. It's also pretty killer to have all of that beer around! Anyways, to know a little more about this beer we're talking about I'll need a recipe. Make sure to include gravity readings, original and final.

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Old 11-08-2008, 04:04 PM   #4
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Actually, if I suspect contamination, I call in my friend who is a microbiologist. A few years ago I had a bad batch, and he found all sorts of typical airborne bacteria. I have been brewing for 40 years, I believe I can recognise slight contamination, not crystal clear, floaters, smell, excess pressure in bottles. This test brew was not contaminated.

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Old 11-08-2008, 04:12 PM   #5
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the recipe was 10 lbs maris otter crushed pale malt mashed 75 minutes starting at 67.5, falling to 66 deg c, hot water added to take it back to 67. 1 oz goldings boiled 60 minutes, 1 oz boiled 30 mins, 1 oz boiled 15 mins, 1 oz fuggles boiled 5 mins. Irish moss for last 30 minutes of boil. Cooled to fermentation temperature within 15 minutes.

Question - if I leave it in primary for 2 weeks, it will be very clear and flat, will it reprime in bottles without adding more yeast?

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Old 11-08-2008, 04:21 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BOBTHEukBREWER View Post
Actually, if I suspect contamination, I call in my friend who is a microbiologist. A few years ago I had a bad batch, and he found all sorts of typical airborne bacteria. I have been brewing for 40 years, I believe I can recognise slight contamination, not crystal clear, floaters, smell, excess pressure in bottles. This test brew was not contaminated.
I too have been brewing a while (since 1972) and practice being the best I can be on every batch. Pulling samples at ay time before 5 weeks is not any fair test when tasting either. You should try to create a closed system after the boil. That will be the best change you can make to eliminate any bacteria. I use a microscope to look at samples and that has been a great tool to learn from as I can check for bacteria and other uses as well. Read all you can find online about sanitary practices if you have not done so as there are many other ways to do things.
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Old 11-08-2008, 04:52 PM   #7
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I appreciate the feedback, but would disagree about time in bottles, I brewed a batch for a friend once, and he started drinking it at 7 days in bottle. He said it was excellent at first, then after another 7 days it was not so good, it stayed about the same for 4 weeks, then he reported it improving again. Not a scientific test, especially as he had very few samples left after 4 weeks.

I often taste 1 bottle after 7 days, and sometimes, but not always, it is at its best then.

I will ask my friend to (a) drink a pint of my test brew and then (b) take it to the laboratory and see what is in the sediment. I trust him to do all the "transfer to sterile container etc". Will report back in due course.

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Old 11-08-2008, 04:52 PM   #8
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Here are some of the things I have tweaked in my process. I generally concentrated on improving one area per batch until I felt my brews have reached commercial quality (which was after all of these elements were in place):

Sanitation - after use all equipment gets a soak in oxyclean and is sanitized before storing. I rinse equipment and sanitize again with StarSan before use, leaving all equipment in the bucket of sanitizer until it is pulled out and used. I mix 1oz StarSan in 4 gallons of water which is slightly stronger than the recommended ratio. I have found it lasts for 3 weeks, I discard when it starts to turn cloudy. I allow sanitizer to contact my fermenter for one hour before racking the wort since I use plastic. My transfer tubing gets replaced every 10 batches or when I notice it is starting to discolor. All parts which touch beer or wort get broken down and cleaned/sanitized after every brew (racking cane, keg dip tubes, keg O-rings, etc) to ensure there are no voids which could harbor bacteria. I don't use fermenters or bottling buckets with spigots because spigots are very difficult to sanitize properly. When I prepare yeast starters I sanitize the flask and then boil and cool the starter wort in the flask whenever I can. This way I know the starter wort is sterile, not just sanitized, particularly if I plan to harvest the yeast.

Water quality - I slowly carbon filter my tap water and dilute with R.O. water to reach the desired hardness level. I then add gypsum or calcium chloride to the mash to get back to over 50ppm calcium. The calcium not only provides proper mash pH, it is an essential yeast nutrient.

Mash - I don't over-crush my grains (my mill is at 0.036 which gives me about 80% efficiency), I runoff and vorlauf slowly to ensure the wort going to the kettle is clear, I sparge with the grainbed between 165*F and 170*F, and I am careful to maintain runnings below a pH of 6. 5.2 stabilizer is helpful for batch sparging, when fly sparging I add phosphoric acid to the sparge water and check the pH of my last runnings. I try to minimize HSA as much as is practical but I am not psychotic about it.

Boil - I boil very hard, use Whirlfloc to coagulate proteins, and chill using an immersion chiller to get below 140*F as quickly as possible to rid DMS. I keep the kettle covered below 140*F to keep out contaminants. I use a hop strainer to remove hop material and whirlpool/syphon from the kettle to leave behind most break material. This allows for a clean compact yeast cake in the fermenter that will stay behind when the beer is racked to the keg.

Yeast - I pitch a minimum of the yeast recommended by Jamil's pitching rate calculator. I use yeast nutrient containing zinc in every batch which helps reduce lag time since most brewing water is zinc deficient. I use O2 to aerate with a stone, aiming for at least 20ppm of O2. Shaking a carboy will only get to 8ppm or so.

Fermentation - I pitch at the bottom end of the yeast's recommended range and hold the temp there until visible fermentation, then I maintain temps in the middle of the recommended range until fermentation slows. I use a minimum two week primary, typically I will primary for 3 weeks except on really small session beers. I don't secondary unless I am doing a really big beer because the extra racking is just another opportunity for oxidation and contamination to occur. This goes back to WBC's comments of having a closed system. When I transfer I avoid splashing the beer, I use an autosiphon, and I keep the fermenter and keg covered up as much as possible.

Storage/serving - I use kegs with 1/2" cut off of the dip tube and force carbonate my brews. The exception is beers where bottle conditioning is part of the style -- eg. some Belgians (dubel, tripel, saison). A couple of weeks in the keg before tapping provides ample time for yeast to drop out, leaving a crystal clear beer. Bottle conditioned beers, no matter how carefully handled, always have some residual yeast which gives a yeasty flavor and clouds the brew. Unless you are trying to emulate a cask-conditioned beer, I really think force carbonating in kegs is the way to go, and it makes a huge difference in the perception of the brew. (I have had folks over who said they never liked homebrew before mine because it was always "yeasty") If you do have to bottle condition, you can do what some German breweries do: use finings or filter to drop the ale yeast out, and add a lager yeast at bottling time. Then allow to carbonate at 50*F for 3-4 weeks. The lager yeast will not remain in suspension in the bottle like an ale yeast will.

Hopefully some of this helps.

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Old 11-08-2008, 04:58 PM   #9
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Quote:
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I often taste 1 bottle after 7 days, and sometimes, but not always, it is at its best then.
Really depends on the brew of course.

I serve Witbier 3-4 weeks grain to glass and find it is at its peak when it is fresh. Bitters and blondes are good after 3 weeks and best after 4-5 weeks, they go downhill after that. Hoppy beers peak after about 6 weeks and then the hops fade. Light lagers seem at their peak two months after brew day. Dark beers I like to condition for 2-3 months before tapping since the darker malts really mellow out with age. Big beers like tripels and barleywines are best aged at least six months. A big and dark beer like a RIS I would age for a year, minimum, before drinking.

There are differences in opinion as to what peak of flavor is, too. Some folks won't mind the roasty notes of patent malt in a young stout, whereas I find it makes the beer almost undrinkable. Some folks like really young hoppy beers when the hops are grassy. I prefer to let them age for about six weeks so the hops aren't grassy even though the bitterness fades somewhat. YMMV, void where prohibited, etc. The nice thing about this hobby is you get to do things the way YOU want to to produce the beer YOU like best.
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Old 11-08-2008, 05:04 PM   #10
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many many thanks, I assume you are the head brewer of a major brewery (smiles).

Seriously the only equipment I have is a hydrometer and a thermometer, I sterilise with supermarket own "thin" bleach diluted 1:1 with tap water, then rinsed off with hot water from the sink tap (fawcet ?)

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