Hi all, I'm a relative n00b with my 3rd batch dry-hopping in the 2ndary and many more ingredients somewhere in a UPS truck. In my first 3 batches (so far so good), I've learned an amazing amount with no shortage of great advice from this site. So thanks!
In my short time as a brewer, there's a few things that I've learned from this forum, purchased from a HBS, or figured out on my own that have made my process go much better. I figured I'd list them here while they're still fresh "innovations" for me because they might help someone else. Some are obvious to experienced brewers, but they helped me so they'll likely help someone else just starting out.
Here's my "beerovations"...
- Short garden hose & faucet adapter:
I brew in a small Manhattan apartment kitchen, so a short garden hose with a faucet adapter has been an key purchase. Try washing a 6.5 gallon bucket in a regular sink!
- More vinyl tubing:
I bought more tubing at Home Depot and it has turned out to be huge. I had to make an emergency blow-off tube, so having extra for siphoning was important. I also broke the racking cane in my autosiphon trying to take off the hose...fortunately I had a spare regular cane that I attached to the plunger of the autosiphon (I broke it off closer) with a bit of extra tubing.
- Plumbers tape:
there's the white kind you put in the threads of fittings, and the black kind you wrap around pipe joints. It's available at hardware stores and it helps. My faucet connection leaks, but the tape helps. My IC also leaked where the hose attached to the metal of the IC. The black tape cured that problem so I don't have to worry about water dripping into my cooling wort.
Just buy-it, don't fear the foam, end of story. A spray bottle and a used poland spring bottle full of it is very handy.
- A large kitchen strainer:
I went to a restaurant supply store (must cheaper) and bought a big wood-handled strainer. It sits on top of the ale pale perfectly, don't even need to hold it, and does two things fantastically...first, it strains out grains, proteins, and hops from the wort...second, it aerates the heck out of the wort. But the time I'm done pouring it it's all foamy like crazy. Something like this
- 2nd thermometer:
having a second thermometer on brew day is super handy.
- Wine thief:
infinitely better than a leaky turkey baster
- Bottle out of the cases:
When bottling I found it's much better to take the bottles out of the cases to fill them because I spill a little and that ruins the cardboard cases. I live in nyc and beer soaked cardboard is not good for keeping the local "ecology" away. Revvy has a great write-up on a nice system I plan to try next time that appears much better.
- Google site:homebrewtalk.com
As a n00b I learned that this site is an amazing resource and almost every problem a n00b could have has been dealt with here by someone with a ton of experience. I find the Google Search is much better than the integrated search in the upper right. You can add "site:homebrewtalk.com" to the search box in Google, or use the google box in the search dropdown.
- A remote temp sensor:
I have an oregon scientific wireless weather station. I used to have one in the BR and one outside, but the outside one moved to right next to the fermenter. This way I can check the temp from bed!
- Blow off tube:
I'll be doing these from now on as I experienced a nice exploding airlock. Check it out.
If I think of more, which I'm sure there's some I'm overlooking, I'll add them to the end. I hope this is helpful to someone!
More importantly, I'd be really curious to hear what other "hacks" people have made that have significantly improved their lives as a new brewer so that they could take the RDWHAHB advice more seriously.