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Old 04-10-2012, 03:53 PM   #21
dbhokie
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I have enjoyed every brew I have made so far, and so has most everyone else (at least those that prefer the parallel styles). I also brew with 1-2 other people each time, since I am the anally retentive one, it works rather well, we use timers for everything and are meticulous about temperature notations.

What has helped me improve my beers is to take exceptionally good notes during brewing. Yes a lot of un-needed information, but more is better.

I write down start time, grain temps, mash tun temps, mash temps at intervals, sparge water temps, gravity of beginning, end, and mixed preboil runnings, boil temps, boil times, time to get to boil, wort chiller times, sanitization steps..I try to write down everything and continually know what is going on. Then when I taste the beer later, I can look at my steps and say, you know, maybe it would have been more the body I wanted if I had mashed 1-2 degrees lower, etc, etc.

In my experience with most everything from hot sauce, engineering, programming, to beer making, being able to accurately reflect upon process steps, is the best way to improve process. (I also check ferm temps, at least twice a day), I have found this type of laborious note taking, though it may be un-needed, aids me in diagnosing issues and repeating brews in a consistent fashion. Perhaps after I get a lot more under my belt, such things will be less extensive, but for the time it takes to jot a couple things down, and my meticulous nature, I doubt it.

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Old 04-10-2012, 03:54 PM   #22
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I live in AZ and my house is very rarely colder than 75F. I fermented my first batch at ambient temps before finding this awesome sight and it was about 2 months after bottling before the off flavors faded to a point of semi-drinkability but I had punished myself by drinking it all by then. Since then, I have controlled my temps and the beer turns out great. I keep my fermenter in a rubbermaid bucket half full of water and change out a frozen 2 liter bottle twice daily and am able to keep my fermenter temps in the low 60s, even when my house is closer to 80. It's worth it!

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Old 04-10-2012, 04:01 PM   #23
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My first brew was last August, "West Coast Blonde Ale" from Home Brew Heaven, turned out great, and I was hooked!
2nd was another wheat beer kit, and I added what I thought was sterile brackberry juice, the result was undrinkable, terrible aftertaste, had to throw it away
The 3rd was a brown Porter kit that was on sale at the LHBS, with 4 specialty grains, and 3 different hops, I was a bit nervous about that kit, but followed directions, and it turned out great!
Tried a Hefeweizen, had a off aftertaste, might have been because I started the secondary siphon by mouth (I don't do that anymore).
Tried another Pale Ale kit with so so, but drinkable results.
So, so far I'm at about 50% happy results, when I attain 90% I'll give All Grain a try
Just started another Porter yesterday, and I'm going to order another primary fermenter, aeration pump, and more bottle caps!

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Old 04-10-2012, 04:18 PM   #24
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I think my 8th batch was my first 'home run' if you want to call it that -- basically a beer that could compete vs the very good craft brews out there and will stay in my rotation until I brew something better. It was a partial mash IPA kit that I did a little tweaking on. SWMBO hates IPA's but I'd come home and she'd be pouring her own pints of it and she even got a little pissy when we kicked the keg. "Well why don't you have another ready to go?" LOL! Those 8% beers can get her all riled up

Start with sanitation -- if you are getting some similar off flavors, there is a possibility you have some bugs somewhere. My first three batches had the same off flavor flaw but it hasn't come back since I did a bleach cleaning. I have no way to prove it but I believe a Star San resistant bug was somewhere in my setup.

Then to water -- figure out if you have chlorine or chloramine. If you have chloramine you need to use something to get rid of it since it won't boil off like chlorine will. If your pH is on the high side, look into gypsum additions. I condition my water the day before and let it sit for 24 hours just so it can rest and the chloramines evaporate.

Then to temps -- my first few batches were all fermented on the hot side (75°+) since it was summer and the home A/C sucks. My winter batches were clearly better since they were fermenting 68°-72°. Their yeast profiles were just cleaner all round. I bought a cheap 4.2 cu. ft. mini-fridge off of Craigslist for $80 -- it can fit a 6 gallon fermenter currently but I'm expanding it to hold 4+ for the upcoming summer. If you only brew 1 beer every week or so, it'll be the best sub-$100 piece of equipment you own without modification and you won't have to deal with ice.

Like dbhokie said -- record keeping is incredibly important. If I was lazy with record keeping, I wouldn't know how to recreate my 'home runs' and more importantly, I wouldn't have data to help me find out where my problem areas are. Record everything you can: dates, times, temperatures, process changes, etc.

I'd also stick to kits until you get your process down. I'd even go back to just extract kits until your confidence and beer quality improves. Custom recipe creation is an art which is probably out of the scope of most new homebrewers. You can't pick random malts, hops, & yeasts and expect 'great beers'. Start with the proven recipes, get them tasty, and then move into tweaking and creating your own.

And to the OP -- do you have a hydrometer? It's a must have tool for beginners IMO.

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Old 04-10-2012, 04:24 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by themack22 View Post
As far as cheating on the group and doing one solo, I've been thinking about it a lot and I have no qualms with doing that. I have all the equipment, sans carboys. Might need to grab another one.
Or grab a fermenting bucket if you don't want another carboy. THey are usually cheaper.

Quote:
Originally Posted by themack22 View Post
The hot temps thing is bothering me. Do I really want to spend a week keeping it in an ice bath? I guess if I want good beer I need to.
Trust me, once you brew a delicious batch of beer and really catch the bug, you'll be excited to get home each afternoon and go make sure the beer is still at the right temp. You can smell the airlock while you're at it. Yummmmmmmm
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Old 04-10-2012, 04:36 PM   #26
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My first brew was awesome, I set a carboard box over the carboy and had a floor ac vent in with it too. It was fine in January, but I froze. Since then I've used the rubbermaid swap cooler.

Proper yeast pitching, ferment temps and good sanitation while produce good beer

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Old 04-10-2012, 04:41 PM   #27
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I have brewed 8 or nine batches and weirdly enough, the first batch I brewed was a Mr Beer West Coast Ale and it has been the best thus far. The second best was also a Mr Beer brew called American Devil (I think) IPA. I found it to be excellent and exciting. The third best was also a Mr Beer kit stout which reminded me of the dark porter we get down in Fredricksburg at their brewery. I had a 5 gal batch of Coopers real Ale that got really good once it had some age on it and the most recent 5gal batch is the Coopers IPA and it is tasty but a little sweet for me. I don't think I got to the full five gal volume though. It would appear that these things need to sit for a good three weeks or so at room temp after bottling and then in the frig for a week or two before they start getting to where they need to be.

The only off flavors I have encountered was a banana odor in the Coopers Real Ale which disappeared after an extra week of aging. It got really good and is gone now.

I have started doing more of a boil and am looking forward to seeing if this improves the flavors. I will also make very sure I am up to the full volume recommended in all subsequent brews as well.

I'd say give it some time and keep experimenting.

Also Mead is fun and I'm looking forward to trying some of the ones I've done. The commercial ones are very tasty. Much more enjoyable than wine. Sorry wine snobs.

I also did a cider which is getting more like the ones I have had in the pubs too.

I think more than anything, the road to improvement is patience and letting them get enough aging. Difficult at best. If anxious, go by something you like and brew another batch. Build up your inventory!

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Old 04-10-2012, 05:09 PM   #28
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The only beer I've brewed that I didn't like was the first one, which was the result of following Mr. Beer instructions. Since then, it's been all good stuff, and other than the beer I currently have fermenting, I've only brewed with Mr. Beer to this point.

My favorite was probably a blackberry ale, Very subtle blackberry flavor, but it was dark and still refreshing. Also enjoyed a beer I made with bakers chocolate, which was really good after aging a few months.

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Old 04-10-2012, 05:14 PM   #29
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I have not seen a single post on the value of using campden in your wort. I am a
total noob with like half a dozen batches under my belt, all have been drinkable if
not good, and I know my not so good brews have been due to unwise ingredient
choices, and not sanitation processes. If you use campden, you do at least two
things: first you treat your water for any chlorine, chloramine or bacteria. Also
you protect your wort from invasive infections that may result during fermentation.
I also go farther by using it as a samitizer for buckets, bottles, utensils, etc.
Two tablets in a 5 gallon batch is all you need to protect your wort, and one tab
per gallon in a sanitizing solution.

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Old 04-10-2012, 06:13 PM   #30
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So far Ive brewed two extracts and 3 all grain batches. The last AG batch is still in the fermenter (I'm kind of scared to bottle it), but the first 4 beers have basically sucked. I too am pretty discouraged about the whole thing. I feel like I am very well read about the processes, and each time I am confident the beer will turn out good but it still sucks. And then I research more and find something that I think may fix the problem. So now I am contemplating another beer (a cheap easy one) to see if I have finally fixed my process.

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