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Old 02-01-2009, 05:57 AM   #1
nolson
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Default Some Basic Questions Answered

So, I'm a long time lurker, first time poster.
I have a friend who's getting into homebrewing and had a lot of questions for me. I still consider myself a newb, but I felt like I had good answers to all these questions. I'm going to post the thread with hopes that I can be corrected where needed and that others can add basic questions and answers when/where necessary.

So, here we go

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Old 02-01-2009, 05:59 AM   #2
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>I haven't started a brew with the new equipment yet, but I've been absolutely consumed by the book and I can't stop thinking about brewing. As soon as I have a few free hours (tentatively Tuesday afternoon and evening), I'm going to get it started. I absolutely cannot wait to see it ferment.

I still feel the same way. Once I get a brew in my head I can't get rid of it until after brew day.

> Let me make sure I have this right: primary fermentation in the carboy, secondary fermentation in the bucket, and then the concoction goes into the bottling bucket (then, of course, bottles). Right? I ask because I had it in my head that the bucket was used first. I'm not sure why I thought that. In any case, I'm pretty sure I've got the procedure down in my head, and I'll be reviewing the process as the book has it, so it's just a matter of getting started. My plan is to just sanitize everything I need to get the the soup made and into the carboy. I can get the details on the next steps once that's done.

NONONONONO. Here's the progressing (at least in my opinion). You go through brew day (boiling, adding hops, cooling), then you pour into the plastic bucket (with the lid, no spigot). Aerate well using your drill and that white drill stir thingy you bought, basically just stirring like crazy, but getting air into the wort (usually go between 5-10 minutes just mixing). Attach the lid (you should have to push it on, a little like a paint lid. You want this to be tight with the only release going through the airlock you put into the little hole in the lid). This is what you let sit in your basement (cool, ~66F) with no light (blanket) for 7-14 days. When it's fermenting, the airlock will bubble, like it's boiling, and this should last for a week or so. You'll know when it's done when the bubbles pass through 1-2 per minute. When it hit's this stage, let it sit for another day or so (and remember, patience is a virtue) . Then you'll use the auto siphon to transfer (in brewing terms it's 'rack') to the glass carboy. Top off with water (I like to use filtered water from the Brita and have had no infection problems using water straight from the Brita), put the cap on, and let it sit for 2-4-6-8 weeks (however long you want to wait). You then use the auto-siphon to rack into the bottling bucket, add a sugar solution (~.75 cup/pint water) and then bottle, all right away. There's debate about secondary, about equipment, etc, but with what you bought, do it this way and modify if you want (and we can discuss specifics later)

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Old 02-01-2009, 06:00 AM   #3
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>Do you do anything special with the water? I was planning on using either filtered water from my fridge (but it would take forever to get the amount of water from there that I need), buying filtered water, or just using tap water. Our tap water isn't that bad, so that's probably what I'll do unless you have any other suggestions.

One thing to remember is that any water you boil is going to be sanitary, so tap water into the brew kettle is fine. Past that, you have great tap water (think of Pittsburg), so there's really nothing else you can do to make the water taste better. Another thing to think about is that yeast is a living organism and it needs minerals that are naturally in water. Brewing with distilled water is actually a bad thing because the yeast doesn't get the minerals it needs to propagate. So, all that being said, be sanitary but use your tap water because there are very few places that have tap water as good as yours (yours being Colorado in general ).

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Old 02-01-2009, 06:01 AM   #4
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> I'm not sure if I had started the cheapo beer kit when I talked to you last. I did get that started last weekend. It's been in the barrel for eight days now. I tried it this morning. It was rather bland, but I was just happy that it didn't have any off flavors because I forgot to sanitize one of the things I was using to pour water. I'm going to leave it for another six days to see if I can get any more flavor out of it, then I'll bottle it. That should happen next Saturday. It was fun watching it bubble the first couple of days and then gradually clear.

Let it finish bubbling, but your really not going to get more 'flavor' out of it. The flavors may change, mainly from sweet to mellow or from bitter to mellow, but never from little flavor to more flavor. Definitely keep going with Mr. Brew, and learn to use Mr. Brew, but also take the apportunity to learn what you did with Mr. Brew and what you like/dislike and convert that into you brewing practices.

> I love this little beer kit, and I absolutely cannot wait to get started on the new brew with the new equipment. Dorrie would tell you, I'm in the basement daily just looking at it. And, all the recipes and creative things you can do with beer... holy cow... I have so many ideas I want to try. After I make a couple of batches and get comfortable with the entire process, I want to make a root beer.

I know exactly where you're coming from and I'm so excited for you, as well as me that I now have a brewing buddy. I really want to do a root beer too and I think we should talk about this next time we get together (Casey has been trying for a good root beer as well, but he doesn't have the equipment and that's what I want to talk about).

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Old 02-01-2009, 06:02 AM   #5
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> Another question: The biggest pot I have is Dorrie's nice, 2-gallon stock pot. Is it large enough, and am I going to ruin it if I use it as a brewpot? Should I just go buy a 5-gallon pot and use it instead?

So, to give you the convoluted answer, brew pot size is a matter of style, ie how do want your color to turn out/ how do you want you mouth feel, etc.

To be realistic, 2 gallons is fine and you won't ruin it And, it was going to be a surprise, but when you drop Cash off, I'm going to give you a 3.5 gal aluminum brew pot that works great (I just got a bigger one when I upgraded to all grain brewing, which I will show you one day soon)

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Old 02-01-2009, 06:03 AM   #6
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> Is the point of using a three-container system to minimize the amount of junk in the final beer and to reduce the chance of getting off flavors from leaving the beer and the spent yeast together for an extended period of time?

The more times you rack, the less 'junk' you get in the final product, just because you'll leave the junk behind when you rack. When beer sits on the yeast for extended periods of time (think months rather than days), it can get off flavors from the dead yeast, but as you've read, those flavors may be desirable or not
And, the point of using the bottling bucket is just to remove the beer from the secondary fermenting bucket, thus leaving behind unwanted precipitate, combining with sugar, and then immediately bottling. Is that correct?
The purpose of the bottling bucket is just to bottle and really nothing else.

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Old 02-01-2009, 06:06 AM   #7
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> 1) The orange cap to the carboy does not fit as tightly and snugly as I expected it would. It doesn't feel loose, necessarily, just not as airtight as I was expecting. Is this okay, It's plenty tight the way it fits (and it doesn't feel all that tight)
>
> 2) There are two holes on the orange cap. Only one fits the hose that I bought, so I assume I'll use it and leave the other one capped. Correct? What's the other one for, or am I getting this wrong? The other one is fatter and at a slight angle. The one that fits my tube is straight up and skinnier.

Since you're only using the glass carboy for the secondary, you'll only need the one hole that the carboy fits in (the shorter one). The longer one, that your tubing fits over, is for when you use the carboy for the primary. The tubing would run into a bucket filled with water as a basic blow off mechanism, but allowing the fermentation to go crazy. In my opinion, this is why I do the primary in the plastic bucket (to give it more room for blow off and to allow breathing room for the wort)

> 3) Is the container that my malt extract in big enough to use to catch the runoff from the primary fermentation?

I think you're asking about running your tubing from the primary into a water bucket, and I would suggest just using the ferm bucket for the primary, in which case you don't have to worry about this. If not, call me and we can talk about this (and BTW, you can always call me to talk about brewing)

> 4) Should the lid on the secondary bucket snap on, or does it just sit on top? It doesn't seem very airtight just sitting there. Do I need to really bang it on there like I would a paint can or something?

It should snap on, but you shouldn't have to bang it on. It should go on fairly easy, and be tight, and should come off with a bit of effort, but nothing too straining

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Old 02-01-2009, 06:07 AM   #8
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> 1) When do I add the hops to the soup?
This is all dependent on the recipe. You're Black Ale recipe said to add it at 60 mins (so with 60 minutes left to boil), but remember that the longer the hops boil, the more the just bitter the beer and the less the hops flavor the beer (ie, hops added with 60 mins left to boil will bitter the beer whereas hops added with 1 min left to boil will add to the taste/smell of the beer, but not will only minimally add to the bitterness)

> 2) Is that mesh bag that we got what I use to steep the grains?
Yes, exactly.

> 3) When the soup is ready to be moved the fermentor, do I just a strainer to filter out the large stuff?
You can, but you don't need to. To big thing to remember at this step is to make sure the wort (soup) is cool enough to pitch your yeast (around 70-80F, and no more than 100F), you can strain but it's not necessary (and not wanted in some styles).

<SoapBox>
<Rant>
Brewing is really about what you want. Read recipes and find out what flavors come from what grains. Find out what hops are used for bittering and what hops are used for flavoring and why. Find out what you like and what you don't like and experiment using this knowledge.
First and foremost, brew beers that you want to drink, and in doing so, you will brew great beers.
</Rant>
</SoapBox>

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Old 02-01-2009, 06:09 AM   #9
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So, those are my thoughts about brewing to a friend who I want to love homebrewing as much as I do.

Please comment on where I'm wrong, but please emphasize where I'm right (just for an ego stroke, thanks)

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Old 02-01-2009, 07:10 AM   #10
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Welcome to HBT, and good for you for helping out a new brewer.

Looks pretty sound overall, but in post #2 you recommend after racking to secondary to top off again with water - I've never heard of that, why dilute the beer after it's been fermented? If I want to be sure my carboy is full I start with 5.5 gallons in the primary but regardless I wouldn't add water at that point.

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