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Jonobie 10-15-2012 08:28 PM

Best change early on?
 
My brewing partner & I just finished our first two homebrews (an Amber & a Stout) and are starting to brew up our next batch of two.

I'm wondering: What is the first change you made early in your brewing that had the biggest impact?

Examples (non-exclusive): Changing from plastic buckets to glass carboys, using aeration stones, going to partial- or full-grain brewing, controlling the fermentation temperature more closely, crash cooling (not that I even really know what that is), doing (or stopping doing) secondary fermentation etc., making yeast starters, etc.

Our setup is Plastic buckets (with spigots on the bottom) for fermentation & then into a keg for force carb'ing and serving. Our sum total of "special equipment" is a wort chiller (love it!) and an autosiphon (which I'm looking forward to using next time).

J187 10-15-2012 08:29 PM

There's no question to me, it's ferm control. Best thing to spend money on early on, and best thing to master first. I'd take plastic buckets right off your list entirely - that's a question of preference and has nothing to do with advancement - some of the best brewers in the world still swear by plastic buckets.

I'd say master your fermentation control, then go to yeast starters, then add some partial mashing.

tre9er 10-15-2012 08:30 PM

wort chiller, then going electric (manual) so I could brew indoors, then getting a ferm-chamber setup, then getting a larger BK (e-keggle), then getting a larger fermenter (14g HDPE drum).

tre9er 10-15-2012 08:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by J187 (Post 4501528)
There's no question to me, it's ferm control.

Yep, this is the best for quality improvements. The others were for "ease" of brewing.

BamaRooster 10-15-2012 08:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by tre9er (Post 4501541)
Yep, this is the best for quality improvements. The others were for "ease" of brewing.

Yes no question temperature control and sanitation have the biggest bang!

J187 10-15-2012 08:36 PM

Since there is two of you, why don't you split up the research and bring two new elements at once! You take ferm control and he/she takes yeast starters or vice versa and you guys implement two really nice upgrades at once!

blacksquid 10-15-2012 08:36 PM

Quality-wise, I'd say going All-grain for sure - control over the whole process will give you the results YOU want and is quite a bit cheaper once you amortized the cost of the gear.

Also, I'd say, getting a much larger boil kettle (Sanke), and adding a ball valve to it! No more lifting up heavy (and boiling) stuff!

Then, a ferm chamber with a controller. (I use a converted cooler I wanted to use as a Keezer...)



After that, it's just a matter of saving time - I migrated over from an IC to a plate chiller and pump and the pump does open up a lot of doors.

(The plate chiller was more of an investment in 'environmentally-friendly' devices - the IC wasted way too much water for my tastes. But damn, those fittings are expensive!)

billl 10-15-2012 08:40 PM

+1 temp control for fermentation. It doesn't have to be fancy - search "swamp cooler" for a cheap method.

A yeast starter will make a big difference if you start trying to brew higher alcohol beers. It helps with consistency for most batches, but is really important for Big Beers.

FYI - crash cooling is just cooling the beer down to just above freezing and leaving it there for a couple days. You would need a fridge or similar to do that. It causes yeast and sediment to drop out of the beer so you have a clear finished product. That is going to happen eventually just with gravity, but it happens much faster in cold temps.

J187 10-15-2012 08:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by blacksquid (Post 4501564)
Going All-grain for sure - control over the whole process will give you the results YOU want.

Then, I'd say, getting a much larger boil kettle (Sanke), then adding a ball valve to it! No more lifting up heavy (and boiling) stuff!

After that, it's just a matter of time - I migrated over from an IC to a plate chiller and pump and the pump does open up a lot of doors.

(The plate chiller was more of an investment in 'environmentally-friendly' devices - the IC wasted way too much water for my tastes. But damn, those fittings are expensive!)

I disagree with this. Maybe if we were back in time several years ago, but today's extracts are fabulous and you can make nearly as good of beer as all grain - and someone still new to the craft will likely make much better extract than all grain. All grain is a much larger investment and although it's a logical step if one decides to progress, to say you'll get better improvement from moving from extract to all grain before you get ferm control under control, and learn about the process overall is crazy to me.

zml 10-15-2012 08:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by J187
Since there is two of you, why don't you split up the research and bring two new elements at once! You take ferm control and he/she takes yeast starters or vice versa and you guys implement two really nice upgrades at once!

Partner here, finally registered. One step ahead of you - have a yeast starter going for our next batch (which we're doing on Saturday). Fun process, making mini-beer. Haven't gone for a stir plate yet, just using a growler and shaking it, but seems to still be quite effective at breeding yeast.


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