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Old 09-13-2010, 06:51 PM   #1
jfr1111
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Default What to brew for first beer ?

After finally moving into a place where I can easily and safely brew, I cannot put off my project anymore. No more ifs and buts. No more daydreaming. Let's do this.

Now, I have some experience. I've read Palmer's book on the subject multiple times and acted as a "helper" for a bucnh of my friends. I have maybe 10-12 batches under my belt, so I have a rudimentary knowledge of "how it's done" especially on the sanitation and bottling front (ie. most of my friends would only call/let me touch anything during those parts, lol). I have most of the stuff I need ready from handouts and scrounging around.

But what to brew is the question. I'm an avid stout/belgian fan myself, but I'm the only one I know in my immediate family and circle of friends who will drink the stuff (friends who homebrew lives 100 miles away...). So, I have a few questions:

1. Would I be better off brewing small batches (like 3.0-3.5 gallons) instead of full 5.0 gallons batches ? I have an electric stove and my stockpot ain't that big, plus I'll be pretty much the sole consummer of most of the fine brews I'll be crafting. Smaller numbers also seem less intimidating/daunting.

2. Since I don't have the quipment (yet) for all grain and no experience with speciality grains, would I be better off just sticking to a LME or DME only recipe for the first few times, just to get the hang of it ? Seems like it would be pretty hard to nail a good Dry Stout, for example, without adding some specaility grains and going for only extract.

Thanks in advance !

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Old 09-13-2010, 07:06 PM   #2
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Default Specialty Grains

I am new again, having returned after a 10 year hiatus, so take my advice with a grain of salt, or better yet.. a beer!

Don't be afraid of the specialty grains. Up until now I put them in a muslin bag and steeped them like a tea bag. Very easy. Adds to the fun.

Brewing darker beers has a benefit when you start out.. the strong flavor and dark color hides mistakes. Who worries about chill haze in a stout?

I plan to make small batches after I put back some 5 gallon ones. I will be interested to hear what some of the experienced folks have to say on that.

Regards,

Chris

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Old 09-13-2010, 07:07 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jfr1111 View Post
After finally moving into a place where I can easily and safely brew, I cannot put off my project anymore. No more ifs and buts. No more daydreaming. Let's do this.

Now, I have some experience. I've read Palmer's book on the subject multiple times and acted as a "helper" for a bucnh of my friends. I have maybe 10-12 batches under my belt, so I have a rudimentary knowledge of "how it's done" especially on the sanitation and bottling front (ie. most of my friends would only call/let me touch anything during those parts, lol). I have most of the stuff I need ready from handouts and scrounging around.

But what to brew is the question. I'm an avid stout/belgian fan myself, but I'm the only one I know in my immediate family and circle of friends who will drink the stuff (friends who homebrew lives 100 miles away...). So, I have a few questions:

1. Would I be better off brewing small batches (like 3.0-3.5 gallons) instead of full 5.0 gallons batches ? I have an electric stove and my stockpot ain't that big, plus I'll be pretty much the sole consummer of most of the fine brews I'll be crafting. Smaller numbers also seem less intimidating/daunting.

2. Since I don't have the quipment (yet) for all grain and no experience with speciality grains, would I be better off just sticking to a LME or DME only recipe for the first few times, just to get the hang of it ? Seems like it would be pretty hard to nail a good Dry Stout, for example, without adding some specaility grains and going for only extract.

Thanks in advance !
I think you'll be able to smack stouts with an extract recipe. My 2 c's worth is try for smaller batches since you said you don't have the proper equipment for big batches. I went out and got a 5gal stainless steel pot for starters. After a while of brewing I soon realized it would have been better in the long run to buy Bigger sooner.

Unless you want a bunch of pots on your stove top splitting up your batch (which is tricky) try to aim for 2-3 gal batches.

Remember after you add your extract, all you need to do is steep the specialty grains at 153 for an hour or so. No biggy.

Here's a tip for you. Buy charlie Papazians book Joy of Homebrewing. My girlfriend got it for me for my birthday and it opened my eyes to All Grain.

If you want to go all grain cheaply I posted a video post last night for 5 gallon mash tun using brass and CPVC. I have one video posted on my profile, but fell asleep before adding the second to my profile.

You can simply make a 2-3 gallon batch with a 5 gallon cooler.

Don't stray away from Stouts. However, I'd start easy. Make a simple wheat beer or Pale Ale. Once you grasp the reins of how base malts work and what specialty grains can do to your beer, you'll have the ball rolling!
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Old 09-13-2010, 07:12 PM   #4
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I forgot to mention something you might want to look into later. If you start wanting to get complex or just simply want to remember your recipes without writing them down in a notebook, buy some brewing software. I use Pro Mash (which is ok....I'm thinking I might try something else). Beer Smith is another program.

These programs let you choose from available grains on the market, hops, and other ingredients for beer. It will also give you the estimated Starting Gravity and Finishing Gravity. Any possible calculation you can think of for brewing is included, including boil times, HBU's, IBU's, and how each grain affects the color of the beer.

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Old 09-13-2010, 07:13 PM   #5
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I also recommend a Hef, or a session brew (low alc%) so it will ferment out pretty quickly and you can get to enjoying it. You will be more anxious than an expecting father waiting for that brew to be drinkable so pick something that will be ready as soon as possible.

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Old 09-13-2010, 07:22 PM   #6
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5 gallon batches are not difficult with at least a 4 gallon stock pot. Most extract kits have you using 2.5 gallons or less in your boil then topping off with water after the boil to get to 5 gallons.(not sure if you have to but I have boiled all my top off water) No need to split up your ingredients. I might avoid the Belgian beers to start since I believe most are longer term beers. We went with a simple amber ale to start because it was a "quicker" beer. I knew I wouldn't have the patience for a more complicated beer at the start.

Like the other guys have noted, specialty grains are no more difficult or much different than steeping tea. Stick them in hot water. Wait. Remove. Obviously the better job you do the better beer you will get but we did a really poor job on the temp for our steeping grains and things still turned out tasty.

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Old 09-13-2010, 07:26 PM   #7
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BREW WHAT YOU LIKE!!!!!!! As long as your sanitation is good and you follow a decent recipe (so your hop and grain balances are appropriate), the worst thing that can happen is you get beer.

I wouldn't shy away from 5 gallon batches if you have a pot big enough for a partial wort boil. I made perfectly decent (not refined, but pretty good) beer my very first time, with no prior experience, and you already have some practice with sanitization! I brewed from a kit the first couple times, but very quickly went to recipes. Extract with adjunct grain is a great place to start to get confidence in the process.

And read all you can! I found I melded several techniques from several different books into my brewing style. One of my favorite books was Dave Miller's "Brewing the Great Beers of the World", which has been slagged by many, I know, but I liked the way he laid everything out, simple instructions, and chapters that progressed in difficulty (the only thing that really made me raise my eyebrows was his suggestion that you rack the beer over 12 hours after pitching it so get it off the crud and sediment... i quickly dismissed that as highly unnecessary)

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Old 09-13-2010, 07:33 PM   #8
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LOL all grain is not in the plans for now. When I say I have the space for homebrewing, I mean that the primary will happen in a closet in a spare bedroom wich stays relatively cool all year long (55-70F): I gotta take baby steps with this or my girlfriend will probably bitch. Scrap that, she will bitch. Yes, I'm whipped, but I've learned to pick my spots over the years

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Old 09-13-2010, 07:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
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I also recommend a Hef, or a session brew (low alc%) so it will ferment out pretty quickly and you can get to enjoying it. You will be more anxious than an expecting father waiting for that brew to be drinkable so pick something that will be ready as soon as possible.
This is something I had not considered. I have one of my friends recipe somewhere (he photocopied his notebook for me) of a pretty basic but bitching dry stout he made a few times. ABV was barely 4% if I remember right so this might be a good option since I won't have to wait as long as for big beers.

On the other hand, I know that patience is a virtue in this game.
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Old 09-13-2010, 07:42 PM   #10
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Sounds like a setup similar to what my neighbor and I are using. Closet in a spare bedroom. We bought a cheap plastic container to put the fermenters in and us a blow off tube for the first week on the offhand chance one might blow.

We also bought a 3 ring binder and wrote out a step by step basic procedure so we can both be working on something. We keep the instructions from the kits along with a couple sheets to fill out and take notes on the off hand chance we actually make something really good we can do it again.

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