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Old 01-28-2010, 04:26 AM   #1
wulfsburg
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Default Many questions about my brewing!

Hello wise beer gurus of the world. I have browsed through many of the stickys and I have quite a number of questions.

I purchased a brewing kit from my local beer supply store. I told my girlfriend I wanted to get into home brewing and previous to buying my equipment I bought Charlies Guide to Homebrewing book. I read a lot of it and then made my purchase. Naturally, the owner of the store gave me his "New Brewers Speech" he gives out to everyone, and suggested I buy a beer kit that contains all the ingredients and the recipe to make a certain style of beer.
My first attempt is an "Imperial Pale Ale" by Brewers Best.

I do not want to be purchasing beer kits for the rest of my beer brewing career as the cost of them is ranging anywhere from $32 - $55 USD depending on which one you get.

So , first and foremost.... where would I buy different kinds of malts, extracts and hops? I assume that my local store (named What Ale's Ya) carries it, but at a retail level I am again assuming it is more expensive than ordering and shipping it online? (in the United States).
Let me also back up by saying that I would like to spend a little less on a 5 gallon batch. I would like to be spending around $25 - $35 a batch ... and of course it all depends on the flavor and rarity of the beer desired.

Second, about sanitation. I had received packets of sanitation solution (powder you mix with 2.5 gallons of water) that is pretty much bleach (judging by how it smells). It instructs to sanitize and air dry, however I have some residue left over on some of my equipment afterwards that somewhat resembles water spots on a beer / wine glass. Is this going to hurt anything? I tasted my wort before pitching the yeast, and just tasted it now that the fermentation is complete, and it tastes fine... tastes of no infection or problem. Although my floating thermometer broke (the bobbing glass part, not the mercury filled thermometer) and there is some of the weight and glass in the bottom of my fermenter.
As for bottles... I have been rinsing all my bottles immediately after drinking them and was told by my local establishment to wash them in the dishwasher once with soap, and then once with no soap at all with a heated dry cycle, as this will sanitize them. However my book tells me to dunk each bottle in sanitation solution .... any input on this?And if I sanitize my racking bucket and leave it uncovered for a day or two is that going to hurt?

Third , prior to pitching my yeast my gravity reading was 1.075 and the instructions said that it should be around 1.080 or so. Why is my gravity reading lower than what it should be? Did I boil too long? I am ready to bottle and the gravity is stuck at 1.015 for 2 days now. So I have my bottles drying in the dishwasher now and will tackle it tomorrow or the following day. Is it ok to leave your beer in the fermenting bucket for a day or 2 after the yeast is finished fermenting the sugars? I don't know why it would but just figured I would ask.

Of course because I am new to it I have commonly asked questions, but I couldn't easily find the answer to any of them really other than what a secondary fermenter is used for.

I appreciate all your help and input on the matter!!

PS- Has anyone ever used Brewers Best kits on a regular basis? Is there other kits that are less expensive / better bang for the buck?

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Old 01-28-2010, 05:08 AM   #2
amh0001
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Hello Wulfburg and welcome

I am also a newer brewer, but let me see if I can answer some of your questions. Oh, and by the way, most of the information I have learned is from this web site. Be sure to keep up on the forums you will learn tons over time. Also this means that if any of my answers are not 100% correct, I blame all the other members haha!

Pricing:
Google and look up extract kits on Northern Brewer, Austinhomebrew, or brewmasterswearhouse. You can them compair there prices with your LBHS. You are going to want to stick to extract until you master the process. When stepping up to all grain you can do the same and compair online to local prices. As you learn to control the different factors of brewing you will be able to create your own recipes and buy them however you choose. I would highly recommend that you stick with the simpler styles, and to brew frequently. This will allow you to get your process down first. Some examples would be. Pale ales, Hefes, Stouts, Cream ales, Reds. etc. Stay away from fruits and specialty beers in the beginning.

Sanitation:
The stuff you have is probably not bleach, but what is known as One Step. It is like an oxyclean. I'm sure those spots will be ok, but go out and get some starsan asap! you wont regret it. It easy to use, non rinse, and wont hurt your beer if some gets in there. Forget sanitizing with bleach! You want to sanitize anything that will come into contact with your post boiled wort as it will be a haven for bacteria, mold etc. (hopefully only your yeast!). This means you need to sanitize everything right before you use it. I usually do it once my wort gets boiling. There are microscopic bugs floating in the air that would fall into your bottling bucket if you left it for 2 days.

The bottles:
You can do it either way. You don't need to do both. I would recommend doing the soaking in sanitizer just to be sure tho. Also probably the best money you can spend for bottling is a Vinator and a Bottling tree. You can look them up on those sites, also search youtube for the Vinator. I kid you not it cuts my bottling time down immensely, and is simply worth every penny.

Gravity:
First off, dont worry about the 5 points. It will be fine. The reason that your gravity might have been a few points low, is either you add a bit more top off water, or your top off water wasn't mixed well enough. Oh also if you took the gravity reading a higher temp that 60, you might need to adjust for that.

1.75 is a pretty big beer. I like to use Mrmalty.com to see how much yeast I need to pitch. Its crucial that you pitch enough to prevent your ferm from stalling out.
your FG of 1.015 will be fine to bottle, but WAIT! As a new brewer I made the mistake of not conditioning my beer. I read that the secondary was just to clear up my beer. I would wait till I had a steady FG and bottle....big mistake. Even if you dont secondary, you need to leave it for at least 3 weeks to let the yeast clean up after themselves. The taste will be vastly improved. You dont really want to leave beer in your bottling bucket, to prevent possible infection.

Kits:
I dont use brewers best. I like to use the kits from the websites I mentioned above.

Keep doing your research!
Cheers!

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Ingredients: Jamil's Taddy Porter, O'flannagin stout, 15 min extract pale ale.
Primary: BIAB Oatmeal Cookie
Kegged: Strawberry Blonde, Pale ale, Apple Cider, Pumkin ale.

"....yeast have to start growing an army to best eat the sugar, so they have a wild orgy and then make a bunch of yeast babies." - Revvy

Last edited by amh0001; 01-28-2010 at 05:15 AM.
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Old 01-28-2010, 05:53 AM   #3
northernlad
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wulfsburg View Post

So , first and foremost.... where would I buy different kinds of malts, extracts and hops? I assume that my local store (named What Ale's Ya) carries it, but at a retail level I am again assuming it is more expensive than ordering and shipping it online? (in the United States).
Let me also back up by saying that I would like to spend a little less on a 5 gallon batch. I would like to be spending around $25 - $35 a batch ... and of course it all depends on the flavor and rarity of the beer desired.
My LHBS has a "grain card". I pay for 55lbs at a time and that gets me base malts for $1/lb and specialty for $2/lb. Except for hops, my LHBS is cheaper than ordering from any of the online companies. I plan to brew an IPA that will run me about $18 for a two case yield.
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Old 01-28-2010, 03:27 PM   #4
iron_city_ap
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I wouldn't worry about running your bottles through the dishwasher with soap. You aren't really going to get much water inside the bottles, so primarily you are only washing the outside of them. The heat cycle I good. I just run mine through the dishwasher once on 'sanitize' with no soap. After the bottles cool, I rinse them in a one step sanitizer and let them dry.

With your gravity being a little low, there are MANY possibilities. It could be that you didn't get ALL of the extract out of the can, maybe you didn't boil long enough, maybe you added a little more water. The OG number is pretty ballpark, especially at first. The longer you have been brewing, the more exact you can be. You definately got close enough. You wouldn't be able to really tell the difference only being .005 off.

I'm currently buying all my ingredients a-la-carte from the local place and I'm ending up spending a little more than the kits used to run. I'm not sure if their prices are high or what. It seems like I always have to pick something up beyond just the ingredients. I need sanitizer, or yeast nutrient, or caps, or tubing. Plus, the place is a microbrewery, so I normally have a couple while they are milling the grains and putting everything together for me. Anyhow, shop around. From what I've seen, the shipping cost is what can get you. Ingredients might be cheaper, but by the time you have it all shipped you are right back to where you started.

I used to use the Brewer's Best kits. They aren't too bad. I think a place like Austin Homebrew would get you a better quality kit for about the same cost though.

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Old 01-28-2010, 04:47 PM   #5
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From one newbie to another:

Pricing:
I have yet to find a price difference in online ordering that is big enough to overcome shipping costs. Bottom line: my LHBS is cheaper (with the exception of hopsdirect.com, but I'm not in the market for a pound of hops yet). Check you store and compare online before assuming one is cheaper/more expensive than the other.

Sanitation: Covered well by others.

Bottles: Nothing to add here either

OG and Brewer's Best kits: I have found that I hit my target OG at about 4.5-4.75 gallons when using BB kits. That may be what happened with you too. I would also second the opinion to leave it in your primary or secondary for a while. I rushed my first kit into bottles and it was a while before I really liked it, and it still has an off taste to me. This time around I'm coping with my impatience by transferring to secondary and brewing again at two weeks.

I've heard mixed reviews about Brewer's Best kits, but I think a lot of it comes down to freshness. If your LHBS suggests them to everybody like they did to you, then they should move relatively quickly.

Finally, a great way to save money if you're not ready to make the jump to all grain is to do DB's partial mash. Grains are a lot cheaper than malt extract. Once you figure out what hops you use consistently, hopsdirect.com can save you a lot of money too. I spent 35 on a PM IPA, and half of that cost was hops, and hops direct could have cut the hops price more than in half.

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