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Old 07-20-2010, 11:39 PM   #1
adhomebrew10
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Default Ready to Start, a few questions

Hello All,

I am completely new to the hobby. At this point I am just reading books and getting all the info I can before I go out and buy anything to get started. However, there are some questions that I do still have.

1) There are numerous kits out there that contain a 6.5g bucket and a 5g better bottle for secondary, and have all the exras like bottlers, airlocks, thermometers, etc. Is it good to go with these, or is it generally better to buy it 1 piece at a time. I realize you get a better deal with the kit, but I am skeptikal of their quality. After all, if I save 30 bucks but my equipment doesn't last or brews poor beer what have I gained?

2) How do I manage to keep the primary/secondary fermenters cool in the summer. Most ales (and definitely lagers) require a much cooler temperature than I keep my house (about 76).

3) Is it better to start out with partial or full boils? I want to get this right up front because my home range can not handle a full 5 gallon boil, and I want to invest in the proper equipment.

Thanks in advance, and if anyone has any other advice, feel free!



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Old 07-20-2010, 11:49 PM   #2
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If I were you, i'd go to your local HBS and see what they have for a kit. You will eventually need them one way or another so getting to know them and their store will benefit you. Start out simple with a partial boil on your stove to make sure you enjoy the process and to get your process down. You can always upgrade (you will) later. Put your fermenter in a tub of water, changing out frozen water bottles to keep it cool.

Keep reading! There is a ton of info here. I personally trolled this site for about 2 months before I bought anything.

Oh, and read all the sticky threads. This is a must for here.



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Old 07-21-2010, 12:14 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adhomebrew10 View Post
1) After all, if I save 30 bucks but my equipment doesn't last or brews poor beer what have I gained?

2) How do I manage to keep the primary/secondary fermenters cool in the summer...

3) Is it better to start out with partial or full boils?

Thanks in advance, and if anyone has any other advice, feel free!
In order:

1. If you have to buy off the internet, a big part of your initial purchase will go to shipping. You'll want to buy as much as possible at one time to minimize shipping. Buying one piece at a time will be very painful cost wise. There are many reputable internet homebrew supply stores- if you have questions about a particular package, ask on this forum and you'll probably find someone who's bought it recently who can tell you all about it.

2. search for "swamp cooler" with the forum search function.

3. From what I've read, full is better, but no starter kit I know of comes with a brew pot that size. (6 gal. and up). Most kits come with a 5 gallon or smaller. What you could do is buy a kit that comes without a brewpot, and buy the larger pot at the same time as the kit so you save on shipping.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CrAzYmOuSe View Post
If I were you, i'd go to your local HBS and see what they have for a kit...
+1 if you have a local homebrew store. If you don't, then Midwest Supply, Austinhomebrew, and Northern Brewer (and others, there are many more) are good internet homebrew suppliers with solid reputations.
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Old 07-21-2010, 12:20 AM   #4
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1) I wish I would have just bought the kit. I bought a lot of stuff individually because someone gave me some items. I later realized it would have been cheaper to just buy the kit. Also, there are few beers that I actually put in secondary so that is something to consider. Buckets are cool to start with and some people still like them after becoming "veterans". The problem with buckets is that they should be replaced after a couple batches due to small scratches and such. I don't like them because mine never seem to seal up well after 2 or 3 lid "cycles" (on and off).

2) Most ales are fairly simple. Put the fermenter in a bucket of water. If needed, put a shirt over it to wick up the water and use a fan (swamp cooler concept). Or you can add ice/frozen water bottles to the water. My house is kept reasonably cool during the summer and just the water is cool enough. Lagers are another story... short of a ferm chamber or refrigerator, you are kind of out of luck.

3) I like full boils (started with partial), but if your stove can't handle it, then it can't handle it. Best thing that happened to me was the wife kicking me out into the garage (damn boil overs). I stole a two burner propane set up from my parents house and already had the 10 gallon pot doing stove top partial boils. If you ever plan to move into all grain (not necessary, by the way - you can still make awesome beer) you need to have a full size pot anyway.

-The other thing you can do is try and hook up with brewers in your area and join them for a brew day. The books are good, but seeing in action is awesome. I did my first extract batches without ever seeing a brew day before and it was okay. My first batch was a disaster, but second was good. For AG I hooked up with a brewer locally and he let me help him on brew day. I also joined the homebrew club he was in and there are a lot of resources that way.

-My first batch sucked because I let it ferment in the laundry room; right under the fluorescent light. It skunked so bad that the smell alone would gag you.

-Patience is probably the best thing you can have in homebrewing. If using a bucket, don't open it up to "check it" a lot. A guy I got into homebrewing would call me every other day to panic about what he saw. I told him there is nothing he can do now, just wait. Then we bottled it and he cracked one a week later and was convinced he would need to dump the batch. RELAX!

Good luck! I hope you have fun. That is the point, right?

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Old 07-21-2010, 12:33 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adhomebrew10 View Post
Hello All,

I am completely new to the hobby. At this point I am just reading books and getting all the info I can before I go out and buy anything to get started. However, there are some questions that I do still have.

1) There are numerous kits out there that contain a 6.5g bucket and a 5g better bottle for secondary, and have all the exras like bottlers, airlocks, thermometers, etc. Is it good to go with these, or is it generally better to buy it 1 piece at a time. I realize you get a better deal with the kit, but I am skeptikal of their quality. After all, if I save 30 bucks but my equipment doesn't last or brews poor beer what have I gained?

2) How do I manage to keep the primary/secondary fermenters cool in the summer. Most ales (and definitely lagers) require a much cooler temperature than I keep my house (about 76).

3) Is it better to start out with partial or full boils? I want to get this right up front because my home range can not handle a full 5 gallon boil, and I want to invest in the proper equipment.

Thanks in advance, and if anyone has any other advice, feel free!

1. Go with the kits. Save money in the long run and you don't have to piece it together. (imho)

2. Swamp cooler. Search it and you will get plenty of info. Works great for me year round.

3. Full boil, but do whatever the kit/recipe calls for. Check out sporting goods stores like Academy, Dicks...etc for a smoking deal on a turkey fryer setup. I got mine with an 8 gallon pot for $30. Even better, get a good 7-8 gallon stainless steel pot with a Banjo burner (or something similar) and you are good to go for full boils.

Hope this helps.
Welcome and good luck!
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Old 07-21-2010, 12:58 AM   #6
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Quote:
Buckets are cool to start with and some people still like them after becoming "veterans". The problem with buckets is that they should be replaced after a couple batches due to small scratches and such. I don't like them because mine never seem to seal up well after 2 or 3 lid "cycles" (on and off).
I have read this before. I was leaning towards the better bottles, but was curious as to whether they had enough head space for a full 5 gallons? Also, I have read on their site that they are "virtually" impermeable to oxygen... does the group find this to be mostly true?
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Old 07-21-2010, 01:09 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adhomebrew10 View Post
I have read this before. I was leaning towards the better bottles, but was curious as to whether they had enough head space for a full 5 gallons? Also, I have read on their site that they are "virtually" impermeable to oxygen... does the group find this to be mostly true?
The 6.5 gallon are fine for 5 gallon batches (primary). Most use the 5 gallon for secondaries. There are a lot of opinions on the better bottles. I like them and it seems that a lot of folks do. Glass is fine, but you have to be careful with it. Some of the guys in my club swore them off when one of them ended up in the ER after it slipped. As far as actual oxygen permeability, my understanding is that there have been no observable evidence to indicate anything contrary to the manufacturer. I certainly haven't noticed any.

I like the better bottle because I can force transfer beer out of it with CO2 and they are easy to lift and move around.
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Old 07-21-2010, 01:50 AM   #8
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I highly recommend full boils over partial. That has so far the biggest improvement I've made in my brewing(my first batch of AG is still fermenting so I can't comment on that just yet). If you are looking to do that I'd say go buy a cheap turkey frier with a propane burner and brew outside, or ask around, I got my turkey frier burner for free from a friend who no longer wanted it.

As far as keeping it cool, do you have a basement? I just keep mine downstairs on the concrete floor and it keeps them between 60F-70F depending on the time of year which is perfect for most Ale yeasts. For Lagers you will need cooling unless you only brew them during winter or live somewhere really cold, no way around that.

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Old 07-21-2010, 02:29 AM   #9
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I'm new to the hobby too, am drinking my first batch (and making notes about how to avoid mistakes in the future)

I got a "starter kit" from my local HBS. They even had a class that was a whole lot of fun, and made it look so easy I decided to skip the Coopers kit and start off with an extract batch with steeped grains, and a "smack pack" of liquid yeast.

Equipment: Starter kit is an excellent suggestion. Usually they come with "Everything you need" to make a no boil kit. (bucket, spiggot, airlock, sanitizer, hydrometer) It's up to you what you want to make, but I decided to jump in and buy a brew kettle.

You can get a 5 gallon brew kettle for pretty cheap these days online. Go with stainless, not aluminum.

I decided that I would use my starter kit bucket as my "bottling bucket", and then purchased a 6 gallon "better bottle" with the appropriate stopper (works with the airlock that came with the starter kit).

Some other groovy stuff that I found insanely useful to have, but not required was something called a "thief" (or "wine thief") for taking samples for your hydrometer to read, a floating thermeter to test my water and wort temperature, and this no rinse sanitizer called Star San. I filled up a spray bottle with the mixed starsan solution and used it to spray everything as I went along in the process ... counter tops, scissors, yeast pack, hydrometer, anything that would come in contact with my wort.

I'm also very fond of my auto siphon (also an inexpensive item that is very useful on bottling day)

One mistake I made in my first batch was not using a clarifying agent like Irish Moss or gelatin to clarify my wort.

Another was not boiling enough volume (I boiled a fairly small volume and then added water to top it off).

A third was long-term temperature control. When you start reading up on temperature control for fermenting, also consider where your beer is going to live after you bottle it (especially if you live someplace where warm temperatures can drag into September and beyond).

As far as recipe goes, once you figure out what style you would like to brew, there are some excellent extract kits with "specialty grains" available from various vendors. I like Northern Brewer out of St. Paul, MN but there are others who are equally good. I found that the extract kit was simple enough to follow to get my feet wet understanding the whole process, and produced a decent enough beer that knowing "then" what I know now, would have been great (vs. "good")

My next batch I'm going to try a partial mash (that's how easy everyone makes it look here!)

This site is an awesome resource, lots of nice folks here, lots of really helpful info.

Have fun!

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Old 07-21-2010, 03:34 AM   #10
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Not really sure why mermaid says no aluminum. If it's a health issue, it's been beaten to death in an faq on here. You can make up your own mind. You should build up the oxide layer on it though, just search for a how to. If it's a durability thing, I think it doesn't matter for the price. If you can afford SS, do it. Otherwise aluminum is fine.



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