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Old 12-24-2009, 02:01 AM   #1
Hep
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5 or 6 batches in and I realize I am hooked and willing to spend a few bucks on improving things. All extract w/ steeping grains to this point using a partial boil. I got a big pot/turkey fryer coming for christmas so that is going to be an immediate improvement going full boil w/ extract or even going partial mash. I got proper yeast pitching down with making starters with stir plate and everything so no real room for improvement there. Fermentation temperature control I understand but I got no real way of controlling it other than 'this one goes upstairs' vs. 'this one goes in the basement'

So given all that, which of the following gives me the biggest bang for the buck. Bear in mind that I already got alot of the little things down like an IC, primitive aeration (I siphon through a strainer after whirlpooling then shake the fermentor), leave the lid off during boil, etc. The no brainers, now that I got a bigger pot, are going full boil for extract or going partial mash....so there is a default impovement already. But the remaining improvement(s) that I can spend $ on:

1) MLT so I can go all grain, relatively cheap but I am not sure I am ready for many things that can go wrong during brewing
2) a real fermentation chamber w/ temp controls (I do ales and I understand the high end for more esters/low end for cleaner but my only control is basically upstaris vs downstairs at this point. and I got bottles downstaris conditioning at about 55 degrees which makes me sad)
3) a kegging system. Keezer plus kegs and tank and all appurtneances. Eliminates the chore of bottling and gives me some reprieve from the low basement conditioning temps that I have bottles sitting at now
4) other
EDIT to add 5) more carboys and primary buckets to accelerate pipeline so I am not sucking down too young beer

I guess my question is this: I got a big pot coming so I go full boil, may need to make sure my stove can handle it (or just go outside with the turkey fryer burner) and may need to rework my IC (hose not long enough to reach the sink and faucet adaptor is wrong so I need to fix that)....so I am going full boil w/ extract ot partial mash....that is already a given. However, I got ferm temp control problems, pipeline problems, a desire to keg, and a not doing all grain problem. If you had $500-$600 to throw at it, what would you do

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Old 12-24-2009, 02:24 AM   #2
Gremlyn
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Steps for improvement:
#1 increase pipeline capacity
#2/3 Go AG and build temp controlled chamber (the order of these two is up to you)
#4 Kegging - not really an improvement, as bottled beer is tasty too, just makes life easier without having to bottle

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Old 12-24-2009, 02:25 AM   #3
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i little while ago i was just like you debating on this problem. i did #1 to save some money. now iam working on #2, my work is done i got a old freezer installed temp control board and fan, now iam waiting on my brother to refill lanes with a freon gas and iam good to go! i have to get on his @$$ so he gona hurry up, its been 2 month and he still didint do it.

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Old 12-24-2009, 02:48 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Gremlyn1 View Post
Steps for improvement:
#1 increase pipeline capacity
#2/3 Go AG and build temp controlled chamber (the order of these two is up to you)
#4 Kegging - not really an improvement, as bottled beer is tasty too, just makes life easier without having to bottle
I agree with the pipeline capicity thing. Probably my biggest problem insofar as quality goes (as I tend to suck them all down once they hit the 3 week in bottle mark, though I realize they will be much better after that). Relatively cheap for an extra bucket and an extra carboy or two. Really leaning toward kegging though, granted it is a luxury vs. an improvement, but that, just as a proper ferm temp control system, is mutual to both extract/AG so it could/should happen anyway sooner or later, at least seeing as I have a decent grasp of ferm temps and have measures to control it somewhat

Just refinanced so I have the month of January off insofar as mortage payments. Also have a $20k savings bond being transferred to me. Wife just got laid off but with unemployment we should do better than her working and paying daycare. Got a small window to spend $500-$600 is what I am saying
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Old 12-24-2009, 03:15 AM   #5
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temp control. Kegs are nice also if you have the room. I only have space for one myself. So when it gets low I might bottle the last of it and put next batch in the keg. Increasing your pipeline is nice if you have the room. I'm pretty much stuck with having 3-4 in my pipeline. I think kegs improved my beer (at least my personal enjoyment of it), but I think thats really a preference thing for beer on tap as opposed to bottles.

I wouldn't change too many things at once. I'd get temp control down. Then move to all grain. You could really go to kegs at any point along there I think.

I was bad about changing too many things at once in my process. This led to problems creating more problems. I wasn't sure what it was that improved or degraded the quality.

I like to get one thing down really well then move to the next. I know my process and have certain expectations about it when I brew. Its predictable even when I try an experimental beer.

My equipment is a part of this process and I know it just as well. You mentioend a new kettle which may not seem like a big deal, but I've brewed about 5 batches on a new keggle system and I'm just now comfortable with it. I know how long it takes to get water to mash temp, how long from mashout to boil, etc...

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Old 12-24-2009, 03:35 AM   #6
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The number one thing that will improve your quality is temp control. You can make amazing beer via extract, partial mash, or all grain, but without proper temp control you'll just make average beer with each method.

So in my opinion, if you can't find a space in your house that will give you ideal fermentation temps, the single best use of a little money and time would be to create an environment that does. You can set yourself up with the best all grain equipment in the world, but if you aren't able to dial in the fermentation conditions it's money wasted.

Once you can churn out consistently good beer thanks to good fermentation temps I'd say you're ready to go all out and do whatever your budget allows. If you want to move into kegging, that's fine to do at any point since it is a time saver whether you're brewing the perfect beer or not, but just be ready to spend more than you initially think. It adds up fast

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Old 12-24-2009, 04:05 AM   #7
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1) My cooler MLT paid for itself within 3 batches. AG is almost the same as PM.
2) Keg. Figure out how much it costs to get 3-4 batches worth of bottles and you've got a couple kegs with CO2 tank. Refer to kegconnection.com for details.
3) A bucket of H2O with a $5 aquarium heater or ice is your ferment control.

This is the path my brewing hobby has taken me. Much of this has happened without any influence of anyone else. Figure out what's best for you.

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Old 12-24-2009, 04:11 AM   #8
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I can tell you from personal experience after doing a few batches of bottles the Kegging system will get moved up the list

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Old 12-24-2009, 04:26 AM   #9
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A few folks around here do temp control with a tub of water and a block of ice. This is when the temps are warm, of course. This time of year I have a basement that hovers around 60* which works well for fermenting ales. Now, lagers are a different story.

Just pointing out that temp control doesn't necessarily mean buying freezers and temp controllers. About $10 is all it takes.

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Old 12-24-2009, 04:29 AM   #10
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Temp control. #1 priority. That will help with flavors and consistency.

Full boils with extract to me is not necessary, and actually kind of pointless. The effect your going for with the boil is already achieved with the extract. Once you go AG the Full Boil will be nec.

Focus on the temperatures, and once your ready to go AG the boil will help.

Kegging is a matter of convenience, so IMHO it does nothing to contribute to the quality.

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