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Old 12-01-2012, 02:58 PM   #21
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Fermentation control not only makes for a superior finished product, it also allows for various aspects of the yeast to shine utilizing different temperature parameters.for this, the STC controller has been a godsend. FWIW, I'm not in the extended primary camp. My reasoning is that when the yeast is done, it's done.


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Old 12-01-2012, 03:00 PM   #22
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1. Understanding yeast better. For me, this ranged from understanding the subtleties that are imparted by particular yeast strains to "temperature control". I say "temperature control", b/c I still only have active temperature control on my lagering fridge. For all of my ales, I use other means if I need to lower the temperature a bit, such as a jerry-rigged swamp cooler (wet towel with carboy immersed in a bit of water, fan nearby if needed). This is all mainly to say that temperature control doesn't necessarily have to be automated if you're on a budget and/or have limited space for additional fridges, etc.

2. Creating my own recipes. Exploring recipes on your own - using input from various other sources, but trying different grains, hops, yeast, etc. to get a feel for the subtle changes imparted by each ingredient is a great way to improving your brewing. It takes some time, so you have to have patience and be ready for some beers that don't taste quite how you wanted them to, but you will improve.

3. Making simple beers. Even when creating your own recipes, there can be an impulse to make BIG BOLD beers, and often this is great, but this can also lead to some BIG MUDDLED flavors and hitting a rut in terms of your understanding of how small changes can impart relatively significant differences in flavor, etc. If you make a 10% imperial stout with vanilla and bourbon soaked oak chips, follow it up with a pilsner, an alt, or a simple pale ale to get back to basics and make sure you can still nail some simple (but difficult to perfect) recipes.


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Old 12-01-2012, 03:39 PM   #23
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I also forgot two other important things for me:

4. 10 gallon batches. These allow you to split up a big batch into 2 or 3 different fermenters (or more if you want) and change a variable between each batch. Its been the best way for me to do side by side comparisons. Want to see the influence of - starter vs. no starter? two different yeast strains? primary only vs. secondary? 10 gallon batches makes these comparisons easy

5. Entering competitions. Even if you don't care about winning medals, etc. its a great way to get feedback and improve quickly. Plus you get to go the awards ceremonies and meet other homebrewers and professional brewers and have informative conversations.
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Old 12-01-2012, 03:45 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
1. Fermentation temperature control
2. Pitching the proper amount of yeast
3. Water chemistry
These are the big three. In that order. Focus on these, and you'll always make good beer.
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Old 12-01-2012, 03:50 PM   #25
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For me in this order:
1. Fermentation Control - Without a doubt, the single most important thing you can do to improve your beer.
2. Full Boil
3. Yeast Starters

Next on my list is Water. I'm currently studying up on how to manipulate and improve water based on the style I'm brewing.

I also agree with competitions. I entered my first one and the feedback was well worth it.

Finally, reading posts and taking the advice from the experts here on this forum such as Revvy, yooper, Golddiggie, Biermuncher, Ed Wort and others. They have done it, tried it and brewed it. When they post, I pay attention.
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Old 10-05-2014, 03:15 PM   #26
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Doing half barrel batches allows me to compare processes between three carboys. I've been saying for years, and no proven, transferring hot brake into the fermenter makes clearer beer and transferring to secondary is unnecessary for up to three week fermentation.


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Old 10-06-2014, 01:50 PM   #27
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Something new to me that I've been doing for a few months on my lagers is a Schmitz decoction. This method has helped bring about a more smooth sweet malty flavor than my previous step or single infusion mashes haven't given me.
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Old 10-06-2014, 05:56 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
1. Fermentation temperature control
2. Pitching the proper amount of yeast
3. Water chemistry

That's about it, in the right order, for me.

I have other things that have made my brewing easier- electric indoor brewery, pumps, sight glass, etc- but those make it easier, not better. Yeast health (#1 and #2 on my list) makes the biggest improvement, probably for everyone.

In my area, we have strongly alkaline water with lots of bicarb. Learning to deal with it took my beers to the next level.
Agree 100%. The funny thing is that I've *just* gotten around to the water chemistry portion of this (3 batches in, one still in the fermenter), after nearly 8 years of brewing, and my Oktoberfestbier with RO water is damn near perfect. Definitely better than the O'fests I've done in past years. So smooth and malty.

I think I was making very good beer before. I've consistently placed in category in competition. And yet I think water chemistry is going to be the "next level" change, from "very good" to "great".
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Old 10-06-2014, 08:53 PM   #29
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I came back to homebrewing after about an 8 year hiatus. I've started temperature controlling all my beers. Before it was pretty much just lagers. I bought a stir plate and use that for every batch except dry yeasts. Actually, dry yeasts are a change, they used to suck. Much better now. I pay attention to mash pH. I've started playing with water chemistry, but I'm still working on that.

I also got my process down so brew days go pretty smooth. One thing that improved my brew day was using Fermcap in the boil. It allows me to walk away from the kettle so I can clean and prep things. It used to be that I had to be there the entire time for boilovers. It used to be that I'd spend 90 minutes cleaning after brewing. Now all I have to do is clean the kettle, immersion chiller and hop spider.
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Old 10-06-2014, 09:10 PM   #30
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everything's already been said here - temp, amount of yeast and water

I will say on temp control - there's a lot of different methods out there, and I have tried a BUNCH of them. But my water bath temp controlled beers have always come out better than any other method of temp control. It's a lot more work than just putting a heat sleeve around a carboy, but my water baths have always been right on point and better beer.


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