Sixteen months ago I started brewing from a 1 gal AG kit sold Brooklyn Brew Shop in my Memphis, TN kitchen. After a few SMASH batches, I fell in love with brewing and the creativity it inspires, and upgraded my system when I moved to Washington, DC. Because of space limitations, I make 3 gal batches here. My wife and just bought our first place that will, among other things, allow for bigger batches (5 gal), a keezer (4-5 taps, hopefully), and better storage. (Also, in case you didn't notice, my wife is wonderful. She's my biggest brewing supporter
I feel that I've come a long way in the past 16 months; I've improved my process some, come up with original recipes, and have even entered (and won!) some competitions. I know, however, that I've got a lot of room for improvement. This is where the kind folks on HBT come in. I'd like to take full advantage of the opportunity for improvement the bigger space will allow me and I'd love your thoughts and opinions on how I could do that. Please let me know how I can improve my process to become an even better brewer! I apologize in advance for the length...
5 gal aluminum brew pot
10 gal Gatorade cooler with ball valve and steel rope
2 better bottle carboys (1 5 gal and 1 6 gal) and 1 glass 3 gal carboy
standard floating thermometer
standard air locks
I usually pick the style I'd like to brew, and get ideas through drinking that style and reading "Designing Great Beers" by Ray Daniels. After tinkering in BeerSmith, I post my recipe here on HBT. I am forever grateful for kindness, insight, and help I receive on this forum.
I either make the trip or order from my LHBS. I usually get enough supplies for two batches to make the trip or the mail order worth it.
36-48 hours prior to brew day, I always make an appropriate sized starter using Mr. Malty's calculations. I use the 1 gal carboys I used when I first started brewing. I keep it on my mantle to reach the appropriate temperature. I do not use a stir plate.
I use idophor and soak all of my tools, etc, in a large bowl and let dry on a clean towel. I re-soak and dry as necessary during brew day.
I use beersmith's water and temperature calculations. Lately, I've been a bit below the target temperature and needed to add boiling water to bring it up. I usually stir at a half hour and take a temperature reading at that point. First runnings are usually pretty close to the beersmith target, as is the pre-boil OG.
Batch sparge twice per beersmith. I fill the kettle to 4.5 gallons if doing a standard 60 min boil and fill to the brim for a 90 min boil. I never use the full amount of the second volume addition. I do not take a PH reading of the pre-boil wort.
During the mash, I weigh and measure the hops and other additions and put them in stainless steel cups. I put them on a piece of paper and label what they are and when they are to be added. I occasionally have a small boil over, but otherwise have a nice rolling boil on my electric stove.
Ice bath in my kitchen. It takes about 45 mins to cool a 3 gal batch. I built a 50 foot copper cooling coil, but since I don't have a spigot or a faucet with a hookup, I still use the ice bath. The wort above the water line is always significantly warmer than the wort below. I remove when the weighted average temperature is at the pitching temp.
I use a funnel to help pour (read: oxygenate) the wort from the brewpot and shake. I do not have a way to regulate fermentation temperature. Other than wrapping a towel around the carboy to warm it up, or turning up the A/C to cool it down, I can't regulate. I hope for the best. The competition results I received yesterday made mention of this. Comments on two of the five beers I entered mentioned that I should either ferment cooler or warmer. I plan to build a fermentation chamber with temperature regulator in the new place.
I usually take a weekly gravity reading until activity stops. My FGs have been consistently .06-.08 below Beersmith's target. Not optimal.
I use an auto siphon and split the bottling between approx 3-4 22 oz bombers and 26-28 12 oz bottles.
Please let me know where I can improve. Brewing has become my passion and I want to be the best possible brewer I can be. Thanks!!