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Old 05-12-2011, 11:48 AM   #1
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Default When to stop decanting?

Short version: When pouring the wort into the fermenter without a strainer, and simply decanting it to keep out the majority of the hops and break material, how do you tell when to stop and just discard whatever is left in the brewpot?

Long version: Brewed my 5th batch last night (which is perhaps a bit foolhardy since I have only taste one fully complete batch, but hey, this hobby is exciting) and for the first time, nothing really went wrong. Well, with the beer at least; I did manage to spill StarSan on my laptop keyboard, but quick action seems to have saved it, since that is the same laptop I am using to type this note. It was also a couple of other firsts: My first time using StarSan (I had used C-Brite before) and my first time using my brand new immersion chiller.

It was also the second time I have simply decanted the wort into the fermenter without using a strainer, and that's where my question lies. I am pretty sure I like this method better, but I am still getting the hang of it. The first time, quite a few hops and a fair bit of break material made it into the fermenter, which was no big deal for that beer because I expect to leave it in the primary for a little over 2 weeks, then rack to a secondary to add some flavorings and leave it there for another 2 weeks or so, i.e. it will have plenty of time for the break material to clear.

This time, I was pretty serious about getting as little break material into the fermenter as possible, because... well... I'm going to try and rush this batch a bit. It's a summer wheat beer and I'd like to be drinking it by mid- to late-June. I am hoping to get it into bottles after 2 weeks (if the yeasties will consent, of course), so making sure there is as little gunk to clear out of it is important to me.

I had a near perfect decant, only one or two hops got past me. I was pretty close to the end when I noticed the appearance of the pouring wort had changed ever so slightly: it had taken on a very subtle milky tinge. "Uh oh," I though, "break material!" So I backed off the pour, and at that point all the wort that was left sloshed back in and mixed with the hops and crud and yuck, and was basically unpourable. It's hard to guess how much was left, but it was probably wasn't much more than a quart of concentrated wort I would say... but I am not 100% certain. (This was with a 3-gal batch, where I had tried to do a full boil, but it cooked down more than I was expecting and I did have to top off a bit)

So... did I do that right? For people who use this method, what usually tells you to stop decanting and just leave the rest as a sacrifice to the beer gods? Or do you just pour all the liquid you can without getting any obvious solids in there?

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Old 05-12-2011, 11:52 AM   #2
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It's one of those things that can't really be answered because there's no right or wrong answer.

It's one of those things that is a matter of personal preference and nothing else. Some dump everything in, without straining, just pour it in the bucket or in the funnel....Some use a big strainer that fit in the funnel for a carboy, or a sanitized 5 gallon nylon paint strainer bag in the bucket...

I have done it all ways. It really doesn't matter...anything will settle.

In other words, there is no wrong way to do it, or better way, or way that will make the best beer...they all work...the choice is what will work the best for you. That's how you develop you own unique brewing process. By trying all ways and deciding what works best for you.

You can decant off as much as you think, or not, and it really won't affect your beer either way.

What I do with my IC, is chill the wort, then I lean the bottom of my autosiphon about two coils up from the bottom on the metal of the siphon. That rests it above most of the break material and trub, then I rack it to the fermenter until I'm down to that and carefully lower the siphon down into the gunk, just trying to get as much of the wort as possible without letting in the hops and break matter.

But pretty much up until I got my immersion chiller I just dumped for the majority of my batches. And I still managed to do well in contests...

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Old 05-12-2011, 12:11 PM   #3
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Hmmm, yeah, I knew that the overall method was a matter of personal preference -- that's why I switched from straining, which is what I was taught, to decanting -- but I guess I didn't think about the fact that even within each general method, how exactly to go about it is a matter of personal preference. I wasn't real happy about the amount of perfectly good wort I dumped down the drain with all the hops and gunk last night, so I guess that answers my question, eh?

I have yet to try siphoning from the brewpot to the fermenter, so I guess that will be an experiment for next batch -- especially since my auto-siphon arrived yesterday in the same shipment as my chiller

Thanks!

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Old 05-12-2011, 01:01 PM   #4
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+ 1 to Revvy's post...

I have a valve on the side of my keggle now but I started with an autosiphon (before I had the bulkhead fitting welded in). The bottom of my keggle is domed (since it's a retired keg), so I was able to lean my autosiphon such that the tip was sitting on the uppermost portion of the bottom (make sense?). Basically, right against the wall of the kettle. I'd whirlpool the best I could with my spoon and then let it settle for the last 15 minutes (or so). Most of the sediment would settle on the bottom in a pool that was [mostly] below my pick-up for the siphon. I just accept the fact that I'm gonna lose a bit to the trub/break in the bottom. If you want a 'true' 5 gallon batch at the end, consider boiling to a 5.5 gallon batch. You'll lose some to the kettle and some to racking but still end with 5 gallons.

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Old 05-12-2011, 01:16 PM   #5
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Any time I move the wort/beer, I use a a large fine mesh bag to filter hop bits or fruit or whatever. It's worked well and is dead simple.

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Old 05-12-2011, 02:03 PM   #6
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I come out of the keggle into a funnel with a paint strainer bag. This goes into my carboy or keg to ferment. I get a lot out, but not everything. It works just fine.

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Old 05-12-2011, 02:21 PM   #7
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Yeah, I was previously doing a funnel + strainer, but I was finding I didn't like that. So far I am already happier with decanting into the funnel with no strainer. I was mostly just looking for tips on decanting, not on other methods (of which I know there are many, all of them valid )

I remember now reading in the Palmer book that you do want some cold break material to help with head retention -- or was I imagining that? If I had remembered that last night, I probably would have kept pouring the wort for about 3 seconds longer than I did, and wouldn't be asking this question right now. I guess it was worth it anyway, though, because I'm intrigued by Revvy's old technique of resting the auto-siphon on the 2nd-to-last rung of the chiller...

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Old 05-12-2011, 02:22 PM   #8
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I say dump it all in. It's not going to make much of difference unless the wort will be sitting on the trub for extended periods of time ie. 4 weeks or longer... I've tried both methods (removal and not) and, personally, I haven't noticed a difference.

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Old 05-13-2011, 11:56 AM   #9
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I don't think I'll ever go with the dump-it-all-in approach. My 2nd-to-last batch -- the first time I tried decanting without a filter -- I did pretty close to that, as I probably got half the spent hops into the fermenter anyway. I'm not worried about the beer, but every time I look at it, I'm like "Holy crap! What's that nasty stuff growing in my krauesen?! Oh wait, that's just a hop floaty. Nevermind..."

I know, I know, I should just leave it and forget about it. Bah... Half the charm of this hobby is watching how wacky every fermentation is. Seems like every one is different!

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