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stewart194 11-30-2012 12:45 PM

Random Questions
A friend of mine got me into brewing about 3 months ago, and I can already tell that I will be doing this for a very long time. I really enjoy it and am having a lot of fun. I had no idea there was so much to learn. I've only done 3 NB extract kits so far. All of them turned out pretty well and are all definitely drinkable to say the least. But they all have similar off flavors, almost like a faint soapy kind of taste that I'm hoping to eliminate. Recently, thanks to this website and the people at NB, I've learned about several tips to try and I plan on doing them with my next kit which is the Dead Ringer IPA kit.

First of all, I brewed all 3 batches with Reverse Osmosis water before finding out that I shouldn't do this. Our water here is treated with Chlorine and who knows what else, so I'm going to start with tap water and a 1/4 of a Campden tablet this time. I'm also going to do a yeast starter...so far I've just bought the cheapest dry yeast option they had. I'm also doing a full boil, adding 3/4 of the LME towards the end, chilling the wort more quickly, and I will aerate better than I have been before pitching the yeast. Sanitation is not an issue and I'm really thorough with that. The only other thing I've read about is buying a temperature controlled fermentor, but I've already spent quite a bit of money on this new hobby and I'd like to try these things first.


1. Is doing a 1500 ml starter enough or should I do a larger one?

2. "Building up the yeast" just means adding more cooled wort to your flask after a day or so correct? I don't need to add another yeast packet also do I?

3. When adding the first 1/4 jug of LME I plan on killing the heat before adding it like I've been doing. Doing a partial boil with my first 3 batches I always added the entire thing and then brought it back to a boil. Doing a full boil outside with a propane burner and adding 3/4 of the LME with 15 minutes to go, should I kill the heat or just add it slowly stirring constantly? I definitely don't want to scorch it and ruin the whole batch. And I've never brewed beer with a propane burner before, but I would think killing the heat would mess up the timing of the hop additions. What are your thoughts on this?

4. Is there anything else I should know right now?

Clearly experience is a huge part of this and there is no replacement for that. But I still want to start producing killer beer as soon as possible!

Thanks in advance for any help you can give me! I will definitely return the favor in the future if anyone ever reaches out to me for advice!'


revco 11-30-2012 05:56 PM

I think your path is fairly spot on. What I used to do, because I don't entirely trust my well-water, was do my extract boil with tap water and then top off with RO water. This got me most of the mineral content I needed and avoided potential issues with my water. I then switched to a full boil with all tap water and this worked out even a bit better.

There's a lot of discussion whether a starter really helps dry yeast. I'm of the opinion that, since it's cheap enough, it's better to just pitch multiple packets rather than go through the starter process. There's a definite advantage, both count and cost wise, to doing starters with liquid yeast.

To answer your questions:

1. 1500ml is fine, I usually do 1L starters. I aim for around 1600ml, use 100G of DME and let boil off take me to around 1L, give or take. A final volume of 1500ml should require 150g of DME.

2. Generally, if you want to build up your yeast, it's better to do a starter as above, let it go for 12-24 hours, decant and then make up another starter mix (as above) to add to the flask and existing yeast. The yeast will consume this new sugar, replicate and you'll build your yeast count. You could do this with more yeast, but unless there's food to consume, more yeast doesn't necessarily equal a larger starter.

3. Keep to your process of killing the heat when adding extract. Propane burners are even more powerful than stoves, increasing the risk of scorching. For the relatively small time you're adding extract, it shouldn't affect your overall boil time. If you've got a decent burner, it won't take long to get those extra few degrees and reach a boil again.

4. Try as I might, it was very difficult for me to get the "extract taste" out of extract beers. I found my darker beers were typically quite normal, but almost all of my pale/amber color beers had an "I don't know" quality that I attributed to the extract, no matter what I did. I noticed it more with liquid extract, but still could taste "something off" when using dry. Moving to all grain has permanently fixed that for me and I'd imagine similar results could be achieved with BIAB and PM methods. Also, I'd add that you can do an on-the-cheap temperature control, which will help your beers more than *anything* else you do, by building a swamp cooler. It's super easy to run, cheap and probably can be built with stuff you have now. It's not the most accurate and does require attention, but it helps you tremendously from getting off-flavors due to higher temperature yeast fermentation. Lastly, if you're not using steeped grains in your recipes, definitely get into that. You'll get a lot more variety, flavor and color variations doing this.

Hope that helps!

jsherlock22 11-30-2012 06:19 PM

Good water (camper filter will take chlorine out), good yeast ( just rehydrate the dry stuff), good temp control (this is huge) and u will be on your way.

stewart194 11-30-2012 06:39 PM

THANKS!! I will stick to the 1500ml starter and kill the heat while adding the late addition of LME. I'm really glad you said that, because I was going to just add the LME slowly while it was boiling rapidly.

As far as the "extract taste" that's what I have noticed also. It was much more noticeable in my Irish Red and Pale Ale. I still tasted it in the Porter I brewed, but it wasn't as bad. I definitely plan to go All Grain someday, but I had hoped to perfect some recipes and dial in my brewing process for at least a year first. That's too bad that you weren't able to get rid of it in your extract kits. I might have to make the move to AG sooner than later.

When you mention "steeped grains", are you talking about the "specialty grains" that NB puts in their kits? If so, every kit I've purchased from them has included this so far.

I will definitely look into the temp regulated swamp cooler!

Thanks again!

stewart194 11-30-2012 06:46 PM

jsherlock22 -

Is camper filter a brand or are you talking about a water filter used in RV's??

Also, what do you mean by "rehydrate the dry stuff"?? I plan on making a starter this time with a liquid Wyeast smack pack.


Jayhem 11-30-2012 06:46 PM

"Spring water" from the grocery store is around $1.25/gallon and will be better than tap water from a municipal water source. Spring water usually has some minerals present which benefit the yeast and is also neutral in pH.

Yooper 11-30-2012 06:57 PM

RO water is perfect! Wherever you heard that it's not, disregard. I even bought an RO system for my home, because I got tired of buying it!

1. Consult mrmalty.com for exact starter size- it's great!
2. As above- mrmalty.com can help you step it up.
3. Add the bulk of the extract (most of it) at or near flame out and that will result in far less darkening and caramelizing type of flavors as well.
4. I'd go with RO water for brewing, if you can. You can add a teaspoon of calcium chloride to the brewing kettle if you want to, but it's not necessary. Extract has already been processed (mashed) so you don't need to add anything to it. That way, you don't have high magnesium, bicarbonate or sodium levels that can have a flavor impact (as well as get rid of the chlorine). If you know your actual water make up and that it has nothing in it to cause off-flavors, then of course you can use your tap water.

stewart194 11-30-2012 07:12 PM

Haha. Now I'm confused! I used RO water from my kitchen filter because I didn't want Chlorine, Fluoride, and all of that other stuff in my beer. Then a friend told me that the Chlorine boils out during the boil and that tap water was fine to use. But then I read somewhere that boiling does get rid of Chlorine, but it still does not get rid of "Chloramines" which can cause off flavors. I had not even considered using spring water from the store.

Someone from NB actually told me not to use RO water...he said that the yeast needs minerals in order to ferment properly. I even read a post somewhere agreeing with this and stating that RO water creates "lifeless beer". The 3 extract kits I've done so far with RO water seem a little thin and "lifeless" to me...aside from the twang taste that I can't quite place. But nobody mentioned using RO water and adding calcium chloride.

Thanks again to all of you for the advice! I really appreciate it!

jsherlock22 11-30-2012 07:17 PM

Correct. Rv filter is the better term. Dry yeast just needs rehydrating (search on this forum on how to best do this but essentially u are adding water to the yeast prior to your pitch to optimize its performance) whereas a liquid yeast would benefit from a starter ( which is quite different from just rehydrating).

ajlee 11-30-2012 07:36 PM

I've heard not to use RO water either unless you are adding some minerals back in first. I have used spring water from the store for all of my batches except the most recent one. On that one I used a brita filter on the water I was boiling and spring water for the top off. We'll see how it turns out. Hoping to be all grain in the next month or so, then I can hopefully use brita water for all of it.

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