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Old 03-08-2012, 04:29 PM   #1
dbhokie
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Default Some questions

I have some questions I would like some feedback on if it is convenient.

I am a new brewer, I started around Christmas. Started with two PM's, one Extract, and now have done 2 AGs, and will be doing my 3rd AG this weekend.

A Synopsis

  • 73-76% efficiency on my AG Brews
  • 5 Gal (will hold 6) Home Depot Round Water Cooler Mash/Lauter Tun
  • Mash Tun has copper manifold I built in order to drain sweet wort
  • I lose about 2 degrees on a 90 minute steep
  • 1 degree on a 60 minute steep
  • 10 gallon boil kettle
  • I have been fly sparging
  • When I sparge, I run off about 2 - 3 qts per 5 minutes
  • I prep my water with a PH 5.2 stabilizer and Calcium Chloride
  • I have been targeting 6.5-7 gall for a full boil, and 5 gall post boil batches
  • I have temperature controlled area for 65-75 degrees, along with a lagering fridge that can easily go down to 35

This is what I have been experiencing so far, With higher gravity beers, the cooler isn't quite enough (Though I have managed a 7.2 and 9.6 AG so far), so it is barely enough for such higher gravity beers. Should I try to mill a bit finer in an attempt to increase efficiency and lower amount of grain bill?

(Obviously I know I could get a bigger MT, just conserving money and fabricating things from what I have right now)

When it comes to sparging, I have been fly sparging with water 168-170. A lot of people here reccomend using higher temperature water in order to get the entire grain bed up to 167 and halt enzymatic activity, thus giving more stability to the mash. So far my beers have turned out nice and tannin free (well at least in discernable taste), I am afraid if I were to increase the temperature that it would be too hot for any of the grains the water comes in direct contact with while sparging. Is this something I should just let be, and be happy with instead of over-analyzing. (The web is the best place to ask a bunch of over-analyzing people if you are over-analyzing).

I use a turkey fryer burner for my heat source during the boil (my electric range was incredibly inefficient for 7 gallons of wort). Is it better to use incredibly high heat to try to bring to a boil as fast as possible, or a more dispersed less concentrated flame? Of course I will be stirring lightly in order to prevent the wort scorching, or attempt to.

What is the easiest way you guys have found to label your bottles? Just printout labels?

When Dry hopping what do you find easiest to sink the whole hops with and be able to get out of a glass carboy?

Even when in controlled temperature yeast activity is raising the temperature of my fermenters past what I generally want it to be, what is the easiest way to cool it down (when it is hotter than air around it and gaining heat during fermentation)?

I have considered building a RIMS system, because I am quite handy with fabrication, pipes, and electronics, as well as I have some heating elements. I know a lot of you do this, but doesn't it just introduce more aeration possibilities?

In such a system, do you use a manifold or screen for it as well, so just the wort is recycling?

With the added back-pressure of a pump pulling through, isn't that more likely to stick your mash?

Do most of you strain the wort coming from the kettle (with a manifold, SS braid false bottom or the like), in order to keep the hops and other particulate matter from going into the fermenter? Is this preference?

I have noticed the ability to reuse yeast cakes, and looked at many of the posts on it. After rinsing the yeast, will this make significant difference rather than using lab cultures? For the purpose of monetary conservation is it something worth doing?
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Old 03-08-2012, 04:56 PM   #2
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Okay, I'll bite. This is much more fun than paying attention at my day job.

Quote:
This is what I have been experiencing so far, With higher gravity beers, the cooler isn't quite enough (Though I have managed a 7.2 and 9.6 AG so far), so it is barely enough for such higher gravity beers. Should I try to mill a bit finer in an attempt to increase efficiency and lower amount of grain bill?
As you already know, the best answer is to increase the size of your mash tun. If you can't do that, you can try milling finer, but milling too fine will risk a stuck sparge, especially with fly sparging. Have you tried sparging more and just collecting more wort, then boiling longer to condense it to your target OG? It will add some time to your brew day, but should get you the results you want.

Quote:
When it comes to sparging, I have been fly sparging with water 168-170. A lot of people here reccomend using higher temperature water in order to get the entire grain bed up to 167 and halt enzymatic activity, thus giving more stability to the mash. So far my beers have turned out nice and tannin free (well at least in discernable taste), I am afraid if I were to increase the temperature that it would be too hot for any of the grains the water comes in direct contact with while sparging. Is this something I should just let be, and be happy with instead of over-analyzing. (The web is the best place to ask a bunch of over-analyzing people if you are over-analyzing).
I batch sparge in 2 steps, so take this answer with a grain of salt. But I have started doing my first batch sparge with hotter water to get the grain bed up to 167-170, just as you describe. My efficiency has been great and the beers taste fantastic - no tannins I can detect, so I plan to keep doing it. YMMV

Quote:
I use a turkey fryer burner for my heat source during the boil (my electric range was incredibly inefficient for 7 gallons of wort). Is it better to use incredibly high heat to try to bring to a boil as fast as possible, or a more dispersed less concentrated flame? Of course I will be stirring lightly in order to prevent the wort scorching, or attempt to.
If you stir and are careful, I see no reason not to put the burner on as high as is reasonable to bring to a boil faster. But make sure you stir to prevent scorching, as you said. And for the love of all you hold sacred and believe in, watch for boilovers - they happen very quickly and are very hard to bring under control when your heat is very high.

Quote:
What is the easiest way you guys have found to label your bottles? Just printout labels?
I use those little round colored dot labels you can find at any office supply store. I write on it a 1-2 letter code and the date of bottling. I put them on the cap, so I don't have to take labels off the bottle later on.

Quote:
When Dry hopping what do you find easiest to sink the whole hops with and be able to get out of a glass carboy?
I use pellets with sanitized marbles in a muslin sack. However, I have also had good results just putting loose hops in my primary fermenter.

Quote:
Even when in controlled temperature yeast activity is raising the temperature of my fermenters past what I generally want it to be, what is the easiest way to cool it down (when it is hotter than air around it and gaining heat during fermentation)?
Make the ambient air colder. If you're shooting for a fermentation temp of 68°F, try to make the ambient air no more than 65°F. A swamp cooler is a cheap and easy way to do this if you can monitor the temperature: it cools the outside of the fermenter and also the air around it if you ferment in a small, closed space like a closet.

Sorry, can't help you on your RIMS questions or yeast washing.
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Old 03-08-2012, 05:46 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by dbhokie View Post
I use a turkey fryer burner for my heat source during the boil (my electric range was incredibly inefficient for 7 gallons of wort). Is it better to use incredibly high heat to try to bring to a boil as fast as possible, or a more dispersed less concentrated flame? Of course I will be stirring lightly in order to prevent the wort scorching, or attempt to.

I have never had an issue with scorched wort, especially with the relatively low BTU's put out with a turkey fryer. As a matter of fact I generally don't stir all that much cause the boil moves the wort around quite a bit as it is.

What is the easiest way you guys have found to label your bottles? Just printout labels?

I use a silver sharpie marker on my bottles. Wipes off with an alcohol pad

When Dry hopping what do you find easiest to sink the whole hops with and be able to get out of a glass carboy?

I have a little stainless steel bar about a half inch in diameter and 3 inches long I put in my bag. I don't just toss it around in there but more slowly lower it in via the strings on my hop bag

Even when in controlled temperature yeast activity is raising the temperature of my fermenters past what I generally want it to be, what is the easiest way to cool it down (when it is hotter than air around it and gaining heat during fermentation)?

try putting it in the tub, or in a larger vessel with water in it.then drape a towel over it so just the ends wick the water. It will help drop it a few degrees

I have considered building a RIMS system, because I am quite handy with fabrication, pipes, and electronics, as well as I have some heating elements. I know a lot of you do this, but doesn't it just introduce more aeration possibilities?

Not sure I follow, unless you are talking about hot side aeration... I recirculate my mash with a pump and have never had an issue with aeration. To add, if you are looking to do a RIMS... I'd increase your mash tun before going RIMS.

In such a system, do you use a manifold or screen for it as well, so just the wort is recycling?

Yes, you are just pulling off the bottom of your MLT and pumping it through a chamber with a heating element and putting it back on top of the Mash. So the same manifold you use in the MLT will do just fine. No need for a 2nd

With the added back-pressure of a pump pulling through, isn't that more likely to stick your mash?

You need a valve on the outbound side of your pump. You restrict flow so you are not sucking too fast

Do most of you strain the wort coming from the kettle (with a manifold, SS braid false bottom or the like), in order to keep the hops and other particulate matter from going into the fermenter? Is this preference?

I don't strain persay... I have a false bottom so my plate chiller doesn't get clogged. some people whirlpool to try to avoid as much cold break as possible from entering the fermentin bucket

I have noticed the ability to reuse yeast cakes, and looked at many of the posts on it. After rinsing the yeast, will this make significant difference rather than using lab cultures? For the purpose of monetary conservation is it something worth doing?
Yes, reusing yeast if done with sanitation in mind will save you a fair amount of money and works well

whew... lots of questions in that post!
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