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Old 12-01-2009, 03:49 PM   #11
WillPall
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As far as kits go, it really depends on how much you want to spend and how confident you are that you are going to like brewing. Although, most here would say that once you brew you never go back.

The Coopers kits are nice, but for slightly more you can get a much better kit at austinhomebrew.com or midwestsupplies.com .

I would definitely stay away from pre-hopped/canned extract kits, but if money is really tight, it would at least give you an idea of the hobby.

As mentioned in another thread, if you want a really good kit that comes with a recipe kit and most everything you need to brew extracts you could get something like this: http://www.midwestsupplies.com/produ...px?ProdID=7585 .

At any rate, welcome to brewing.


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Old 12-01-2009, 04:30 PM   #12
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Something usually missing from any equipment kit you buy is all of the little consumables you end up needing with every batch. Cleaners, sanitizers, additives...

I use OxyClean Free (no dyes, no perfumes) to do almost all of my cleaning, and Ivory dish soap to clean my aluminum kettle. Suppliers will usually try to sell you on "brewing-specific" cleaners such as PBW or OneStep, but they're all very similar to OxyClean, so use your discretion.

As for sanitizing, I alternate between Iodophor and Star-San. One's iodine-based, the other is acidic. I usually end up using Star-San, as it stays useable for far longer in a container.

Yeast nutrient is good to have but not necessary. I like to use it, as you can't give yeast enough help, right?

Bottles are cheap. In Michigan we have a $0.10/per bottle refund, so a case of good bottles costs me $2.40... just don't try to use bottles with screw tops. Samuel Adams bottles rock, as do Sierra Nevada bottles. As you get into import beer bottles, you'll want to watch for the length of the lip near the neck. Shorter ones may not work in the capper which comes with your kit, and they won't crimp down the cap enough to keep pressure. Also, look for nice flip-top bottles and 22oz "bombers". Green or clear glass is OK to use but should be covered and kept away from sunlight and fluorescent tubes. Brown is best.

Oh, and one important point: brew what you like to drink! I made the mistake of brewing things I thought would be cool to drink, but having two cases of that beer hanging around isn't so cool, at least not until you've got a few different brews ready to drink. Now I only do what I love, mainly IPAs, English ales, and browns.


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Old 12-01-2009, 05:10 PM   #13
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I bought the deluxe kit from www.northernbrewer.com with glass carboys for $175 or close to that amount. Came with some Onestep sanitizer, which isn't the easiest, but it works. I would start with extract kits if I were you. They are more forgiving with less steps. I am sure someone will come along and say they started all grain no problem, but then you need a chiller, cooler (MLT) and bigger pot.

Also, the best thing you can do is ask questions. Don't start your first brew unless you know exactly what you are doing, or close to it. I didn't ask questions the first time and did something stupid that could have easily been avoided had I asked a question. Definitely use this site as a resource....best site ever.
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Old 12-01-2009, 06:36 PM   #14
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Greetings and good luck with the brewing! I started about 20 years ago now. Brewed a few batches in the first 18 years, and then suddenly got the itch again and this site has been an enormous help in my learning. Here are a few tips that I've learned, specific to extract:

1. Sanitation - Most important consideration. I highly recommend StarSan for it's ease of use and many other aspects. But sanitation is not effective unless you've cleaned first. You have to get the crud out before sanitizing. Oxyclean is great. PBW is better, but you'll have to ask yourself if it's worth the price difference better. I generally just use Oxy. I think PBW has a surfactant the helps. Oxy is loads less money.

2. Do full boils if possible. As a beginner, you may not have a large kettle. I dont' think they usually come in the basic kits. Generally people start with what they have in the kitchen or use something cheap. If you have a kettle that is capable, boil the full 5 gallons, or as much as you can. If you can't boil the full wort volume, then consider Late Extract Additions

3. Late Extract Additions - is boiling 1/3 of your extract with as much water as you can boil, then adding the rest with 15 minutes or so remaining. This will help prevent the carmalization of the extract. It will make any hops additions prior to the extract addition more potent because the wort is going to be thinner. Probably nothing to worry about.

4. Use Distilled Water - this is my opinion, based on what I've read around here and elsewhere. The reasoning is that water can affect the flavor of your beer due to the minerals and salts that it contains (for some confusing reading check out the "Water reports" threads..) Consider that when extract is made, the water is removed, but the minerals and salts are left in the extract. When you add tap water, or spring water, you are adding even more minerals to your beer, and you don't know how much of what stuf is in the extract. It's generally considered better to remove all doubt and just brew with distilled.

5. Use fresh ingredients - this is obvious. I recommend any LHBS (Local Home Brew Supply) that you know has a fast turnover of product. Or, many of the reputable online suppliers are a great alternative (sometimes a better alternative). Austin Homebrew, Midwest, Northern Brewer, etc. Their recipes and kits are generally the best to be had, and you won't get crappy instructions that tell you you can drink your beer in 1.5 weeks.

6. Yeast Pitching Rate - use the proper amount of yeast. Generally a single packet of dry yeast is sufficient, but I often pitch two. When using liquid yeast it's best to create a starter, to build up the yeast count. Look up how to make a yeast starter. Not necessary for dry yeast. Also, either dry or liquid is fine. Basic recipes will often be done with dry yeast, while there are lots of styles that might require a liquid yeast.

7. Fermentation temps - one of the most critical considerations is the temperature at which the yeast will ferment the sugars into alcohol. Too low and the yeast will not ferment very fast, or perhaps not at all. Too high and the yeast will produce flavors and aromas that are usually considered flaws. Ales ferment a bit warmer, usually in the 62-70 range I think, while lagers will ferment much lower, at around just above freezing to high 50s. Check the yeast instructions, or look it up online to be sure. There are ways to maintain the temps when you don't have a fridge and temp controller. It's well worth paying attention to this when brewing. It's probably one of the best ways to help brew good tasting beer.

8. Chill your wort - After boiling, it's best to cool the wort as quickly as possible. Many people starting out will chill their wort in the boil kettle, but sticking it in the sink filled with icewater. This is certainly better than not doing it, but most people also soon purchase or buils an Immersion Chiller (IC), or Counterflow Chiller (CFC) to chill their wort even faster. You might also consider doing a "No-Chill" brew, which is essentially sealing you boiled wort in a plastic container that is air tight and letting it cool on it's own. Do a search is interested. There is some debate about it's merits, but IMO it seems to have proven itself as a completely acceptable alternative. Some actually prefer it.

9. Brew what you like. - When choosing a recipe to brew, make sure you are brewing a style that you will want to drink. Whether it's a Pale Ale, or Stout, there is no great joy in making a delicious beer that you will not even drink. If you are unsure of what each style tastes like, pick up a couple of them from the store and see what they are like. I think Ratebeer and Beer Advocate are a couple of sites that people post their opinions of different beers. You can look up a style and try to find it at the store.

10. Relax, Don't Worry, Have A Homebrew! - Charlie said it best, and it's still the most profound advice in all of homebrewing. Don't get too worked up over any one thing (except sanitation). Most of the things that can go wrong while brewing will not make your beer undrinkable (except infections). So if you ferment a bit high, no worries. Pitch too little yeast? Pour a glass of homebrew and think about that beer you are making, as it will probably be just fine.

At some point you will start trying to do every little thing the best you can. That is great, but at the same time, many of the things that affect your beer you will be good at and not even have to think about. You will probably want to purchase more equipment to help make you brewing faster and easier. But never worry. It's just beer, and it's probably going to be just fine.
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