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Brewing beer (is it easier than I think)?

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Pyg

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I have been making wine for the last 10 years.
I make about 30 gallons a year of "grape" wine
I make another 12 to 20 or Skeeter Pee, mixed Berry, Cider etc.....

The problem is I am mainly a beer/whiskey drinker, more so than wine. Wine is good in the cold of winter, but sometimes you just have to have an IPA or 2.

So I have started to consider brewing beer. However I have 2 issues,
1- I am absolutely ignorant of the process
2- I really can not afford any new equipment.

As to the 1st point, I am sure if I were to buy a kit, the instructions would walk me through it.

as to the second, I have 6 gallon carboys, 5g carboys, 3 gallons and 1gallons, a 6.5 gallon brew bucket and vacuum pump, oak barrel, etc...etc...

However I am not sure if I have a pot that would hold 5 gallons, but I imagine I could get my hands on one.

But it is my simple understanding that you boil all the ingredients from a kit or otherwise, cool it down in an ice bath, fill the carboy and ferment to dry.
You then let it clear and carbonate and bottle. (dont get me started on my fear of trying to carbonate. coming from a wine background I try to avoid re-fermentation).

Is there any equipment that I would need to purchase that I might not already have? (capper and bottle tops are on my list, as I am going to use them to bottle my Cider).

Any words of encouragement?
Are kits a good way to start?
Or just follow a recipe?

Is it as difficult as wine brewing and aging?
:tank:
 
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kombat

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Beer brewing is a lot more work than wine making. A typical brew day for me takes between 4.5 - 6 hours, from start to finish. And that's just to get it into the fermenter, with the yeast pitched. After that, there's still racking to secondary (if dry hopping), cold-crashing, adding gelatin, racking to a keg, force carbonating, etc. And the cleaning - so much cleaning.

2 nights ago, my wife wanted to start a juice-concentrate wine kit she'd bought. We did it during the commercial break of the TV show we were watching. (Dump juice in bucket. Add water. Add yeast. Go back to watching TV.)

That said, it's worth it, in my opinion. It can be a relaxing process, and it's very rewarding.
 
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Peyope

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Your understanding is inaccurate.

If you get a 5 gallon extract kit it'll basically tell you the following:

Boil water ~3 gal to sanitize. Let cool to ~150. Seep grains for an hour at 150. Remove grans. Stir in extract. Bring to boil (watch for boil overs). Add hop additions (typically at 60,40,15, 0...etc minutes). Cool quickly. Add water to hit your target volume (make sure you boiled and chilled it ahead of time or buy water from the grocery store). When you get close to 70 degrees F check gravity, rack to carboy. Shake carboy to add O2. Pitch yeast. Air lock. Wait. Then read up on dry hopping.

I'll let an extract brewer chime in on the ideal boil kettle size.

Probably start with a kit. It'll have instructions. If you'd like something a bit more adventurous, look up an awesome recipe on this site. I'm sure you'll do fine with it!

If you're already aware of sanitization, know how to rack, and can boil water I think you'll be just fine!
 
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MaddBaggins

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If you choose to brew extract w/specialty grains you can brew a lot of really good beer, you probably already have the equipment you need and it takes about 3 hours on brew day.
You don't need a pot that holds 5gal. A large stock pot is good enough. You brew a concentrated wort then add water to 5gal.
Buy a kit from the local homebrew shop and ask them some questions. My local store makes a lot of their own kits and they always take the time to explain things to new brewers.

I felt the same as you about jumping to all grain until I took a saturday morning class at the local store for $5. Then I realized it was pretty simple.
 

djfriesen

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I would find a local group brew day and just show up. People will be able to answer all your questions, and I've found most people are more than happy to explain what they are doing to a brewing newcomer. Since you know something about fermentation management and sanitation, at least half the battle towards making great beer is already won.
 

jbob7171

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If you wanted to brew extract batches from a kit, you really don't need that much more stuff. Just a stock pot for the boil (3 - 5 gallon or so). Sounds like you already have everything for fermentation, so that just leaves bottling. As you mentioned, bottles capper, caps, and bottles are a must. Also, you will need a bottling bucket with a spigot on the bottom. A bottle wand (or bottle filler) is not completely necessary, but will make bottling 1000 times easier. They're only a few bucks too, so it's worth it.

And as far as following the kit instructions, don't take them for scripture. Depending on the kit you get, they could come with good instructions or terrible. There's lots of threads on this site that can walk you through a typically extract brew.

All in all, it'll probably be easier to brew than you might make it out in your mind. At least that was the case for me, especially for an extract only batch. And don't fear carbonation / bottling, it's as simple as adding a bit of sugar water to your beer and bottling it. The carbonation takes place in the bottle, not before.

Good Luck!! :mug:
 

rodwha

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It's certainly worth it to me. I greatly enjoy it. Doing partial mashes it takes me 5+ hrs plus cleaning up the kitchen.

I moved from a 5 gal pot to an 8 gal pot to get closer to a full boil. It's preferable, especially if you want hoppy beers as top off water reduces your IBU's. If I create a 100 IBU beer but use 2 gals of top off water for a 6 gal batch I've effectually reduced my IBU's by 1/3 giving me ~67 IBU's.

I do like needing a small amount of top off to ensure my volume is always correct, plus it also helps cool down the beer (I use an ice bath in a sink). I don't need to be spot on with all of my volumes and grain absorption along with boil off rates. I just need to be close enough.
 

solbes

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Unlike wine kits, beer kit instructions for the most part are terrible. If possible, see if you can get Palmer's "How to Brew Book". He has a free version online that is also good, though some of the info is outdated.

http://www.howtobrew.com/intro.html

Then you need a pot. Bigger is better if you are actually going to buy one. To do full volume boils, a 7 - 8 gallon pot is best. A lot of people start with a turkey frier kit which includes a propane burner (hops can smell a little funny in your house, so many boil in the garage) and an aluminum pot that is usually 7+ gallons. Stainless pots with thicker bottoms are even better, but cost more $$. If you can borrow one for a few brews even better so you can see if you like it or not.

Extract kits are fairly easy and can make really good beer. If you have liquid malt extract (the concentrated sugars from barley), add half of it within the last 5-10 minutes of the boil (so it darkens less). Full volume boils where you start out with all of the water needed taste better IMO, but requires that 7-8 G pot.

The two things that differ from wine making but absolutely will make better beer are: 1) pitch plenty of yeast. 2 packs of dry yeast for beers bigger than 1.060 OG, or a yeast starter with liquid yeast when OG is bigger than 1.045. 2) Control fermentation temps carefully. Cool your wort into the low 60's F BEFORE you pitch the yeast. Hold it in the low/mid 60's for the first 2 days. Then you can let it rise a little to finish. 2.5-4 weeks in primary is all you really need. Some people cold crash prior to bottling to drop the yeast, others rack to secondary, and still others wait 3-4 weeks until its pretty clear. Cheers!
 

Newsman

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A wort chiller, if you decide you enjoy brewing beer, would be a good investment. Either a plate chiller or an immersion chiller. Some people really go all out and build elaborate systems to recirculate their mash/sparge water and wort, etc, but that's not mandatory. If you get into all-grain, you can make good beer with just a big orange cooler as a mash tun.
An immersion chiller is just a coil of copper water tubing that you run cold water through to cool your wort down to near pitching temps.
 

LandoLincoln

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Brewing beer is more involved than wine making, but it's not rocket science, and it's not overly laborious. I would recommend going with at least an 8 gallon pot to start out with, though. I bought a six gallon pot to start out with and that was woefully inadequate.
 

wrm

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I'd like to know how that wine-from-a-kit will taste.

Yes, I know kits have improved a lot, but I would avoid them. Go speciality grain with extract, it's not difficult and you get some damn tasty beer.

You need a large pot (3 or 4 gallons will do in a pinch but bigger is better), a grain bag, a hydrometer (unless your wine one is wide-range enough) and yes, the capper and caps. That's it really. Steep your grain, boil, add hops, add extract, cool in water bath with or without ice, transfer to fermenter, add yeast, wait, add sugar and bottle, wait, drink.

You don't need to boil the whole five gallons, you can add water to the fermenter. Yea it messes up your balance a bit but not enough to make a difference. Your beer will be good.
 

whiskeyjack

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There is some great advice here on this thread, alot of which I was going to say haha. I would bet in your situation you dont need much equipment, maybe a bigger pot. And like mentioned here it doesn't have to be a full boil. 4-5 gallon would be fine for partial mashes. I will say that every one says to start small when they jump into it, but I wish I had just bought all the stuff for all grain at the beginning instead of constantly upgrading. Even an 8 gallon pot you can do full partial mashes or decent size all grain or mini mash with just a few pounds of DME and the rest grains.

You can even bottle in wine bottles if you have enough to spare. Oh and one other thing is you can watch some decent videos on youtube. Prior to my 1st batch of beer I had prolly watched 40+ hours of youtube vids on brewing. Between the extract, all grain, bottling, kegging, brew in a bag, batch sparging, fly sparging etc etc. After the brew it seems pretty similar to wine as far as I've seen, never done a wine before, just watched videos haha :)
 
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botigol

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I also started out making wine. You should have everything that you need apart from the capper, caps and possibly the boil kettle/pot. After two years, I still use my old water canning pot for my boil kettle. There's no reason to go 'all-in' on your first batch. Use what you have around.

There are two kinds of kits: those that are mass-distributed (Brewer's Best, Cooper's) and those that a brew shop puts together. The kits from a brew shop are just recipes for which they have put everything together in a box for you.
 

botigol

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One argument against a mass-produced kit is that you never know how long it has been sitting on the shelf. A locally produced kit by your LHBS will likely have fresher ingredients.
Exactly, you want to buy from a place with high turnover of their product: lhbs, Northern brewer, Midwest Supplies, Austin Homebrew Supply, any one of several others that I cannot think of at the moment.
 

botigol

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Flag on the play! Wine bottles are not designed to withstand the pressures of carbonation. That's why champagne bottles have so much more "heft" to them than regular wine bottles.
There is a population of brewers that haven't had an issue with using wine bottles for beer, but it doesn't seem like a good idea to me either.
 

solbes

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There is a population of brewers that haven't had an issue with using wine bottles for beer, but it doesn't seem like a good idea to me either.
+2, 2 minutes for Goalie Interference. Oh wait, wrong sport.

The only saving grace of bottling in wine bottles is the cork will generally blow before the glass explodes. Carbonate only in glassware that was designed for pressure, which wine bottles are not.
 

whiskeyjack

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Flag on the play! Wine bottles are not designed to withstand the pressures of carbonation. That's why champagne bottles have so much more "heft" to them than regular wine bottles.

Woops Kombat is right, I meant champagne, sorry :(
 

catdaddy66

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Try it, you'll like it! Lol

It will blossom into a great passion. I know this first hand!


Sent from my iPhone using Home Brew
 
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Pyg

Pyg

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I'd like to know how that wine-from-a-kit will taste.
My wine from a kit tastes very good. However I make a few of these a year and have done so for years. I also oak the heck out of them and then age in an oak barrel. The micro-oxidation of an oak barrel usually does away with the " kit taste".
The biggest benefit of doing a wine kit is you are buying 5 gallons of wine concentrate and grape skins and the must is prebalanced. I have found that higher end kits, especially those with Grape skin packs don't taste like a "KIT"
.

2 nights ago, my wife wanted to start a juice-concentrate wine kit she'd bought. We did it during the commercial break of the TV show we were watching. (Dump juice in bucket. Add water. Add yeast. Go back to watching TV.)
While I agree that wine making can be as simple as that, I do measurements, note taking, fruit crushing, testing, oaking. steralizing, cleaning etc...etc...I have never just dumped juice and tossed yeast in, but I certainly never had a 5 hour boil!
The longest it has ever taken me was probably 2 hours, from prep time to stirring in the yeast.




Also, you will need a bottling bucket with a spigot on the bottom. A bottle wand (or bottle filler) is not completely necessary, but will make bottling 1000 times easier. They're only a few bucks too, so it's worth it.
Good Luck!! :mug:

I used to have a bottling wand, however I know have a bottling attachment on my vacuum pump. it fits perfectly over a wine bottle or beer bottle opening and I can stop the flow when the liquid reaches the top.
Any reason why I would not be able to use this with beer?



But thank you for all the insight and info!
 

jbob7171

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I used to have a bottling wand, however I know have a bottling attachment on my vacuum pump. it fits perfectly over a wine bottle or beer bottle opening and I can stop the flow when the liquid reaches the top.
Any reason why I would not be able to use this with beer?
I don't know what that would look like, but if it gets the beer into the bottle with relative ease, it should work. The only thing I would be concerned about is the splashing of the beer... does it just pour in from the top of the bottle, or is there an extension that reaches to the bottom of the bottle?
 
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Pyg

Pyg

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I don't know what that would look like, but if it gets the beer into the bottle with relative ease, it should work. The only thing I would be concerned about is the splashing of the beer... does it just pour in from the top of the bottle, or is there an extension that reaches to the bottom of the bottle?
It is essentially a curved tube that sticks out of a stopper that is used to splash rack or fill bottles.

Splash racking in Wine making is beneficial to removing gas
 

jbob7171

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It is essentially a curved tube that sticks out of a stopper that is used to splash rack or fill bottles.

Splash racking in Wine making is beneficial to removing gas
In my opinion then, I would stick with the bottle wand, as you want to minimize the amount of oxygen exposed to the beer.
 

bernardsmith

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Hi Pyg, IMO, if you have been making drinkable wine for the past 10 years then you already have a good handle on brewing. I agree with what others have said: brewing is far more time consuming than wine making and by all accounts brewing is is far less forgiving than wine making. The lower levels of alcohol and the higher levels of pH make the brew more susceptible to contaminants and spoilage. But you understand sanitation (although we tend to use SO2 rather than the sanitizers preferred by brewers).
I make small batches (single gallons) of all grain rather than kits (and the brewers here would argue that making one gallon takes the same time and effort as making five gallons) but single gallons mean that you can experiment without any anguish and it means that you probably have all the mashing and boiling kettles and pots you need...It also means that it is fairly easy to rapidly boil a gallon and a half of wort in your kitchen and cool it just as quickly in an ice bath without wasting gallons of water running through a copper cooling coil and then down the drain. It also means that you can brew no matter the weather. By that I man that many folk on this forum heat their wort with propane and so they brew outdoors. Halfmoon today is likely to be under what? six inches , a foot or more of snow?

My one suggestion is - if you have not done so already - is get yourself a good book or two on brewing. There are a couple of good books on brewing small batches and the classics on brewing are all written so that the novice brwer can start with malt extract and move on to partial grains and then on to all grain. But IMO, all grain is no more difficult than making wine from fruit or pressed grapes rather than from kits.
 
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Pyg

Pyg

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In my opinion then, I would stick with the bottle wand, as you want to minimize the amount of oxygen exposed to the beer.

The idea behind the vacuum pump is that it pulls the air out of the bottle and then splashs the liquid back in. So there is almost no air that would come in contact when filling a bottle.
I would be worried about wearing down the carbonation.

Filler .jpg
 
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Pyg

Pyg

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Ok, I have been thoroughly convinced to brew some beer. I think the women at my LHBS in Rentler talked me into it. She told me I was completely over thinking it, and I will brew better beer than I drink (even after running off the list of beer I drink).

now I just have to decide on brewing and IPA or a Cream Ale!
 

solbes

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I would start with hoppy beers or darker beers. Both are more forgiving than lighter beers, where off flavors come front and center.

Agree, don't over think beer making. Its a lot of fun and not that difficult to make good beer.
 
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cjgenever

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Careful...pale beer are more sensitive to mistakes. Ipa's are especially sensitive to oxidation. Careful racking and a thorough understanding of the process is a must.
 
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Pyg

Pyg

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I would start with hoppy beers or darker beers. Both are more forgiving than lighter beers, where off flavors come front and center.

Agree, don't over think beer making. Its a lot of fun and not that difficult to make good beer.

Going with the above advice what would be a good starting beer?

My 3 favorite beers are:
Cream ale
Stout
IPA

Would one of those varieties been good to start with?
 

solbes

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All 3 should be fairly forgiving. I'd go with the IPA first. Look for a recipe that has late boil additions of hops (where most hops are added with less than 20 minutes, even after flameout is okay).

Stouts are not too difficult either. Look for a recipe that uses roasted barley as a steeping grain (Northern Brewer's Irish Dry Stout for example). The onlything more difficult for this than the IPA is that you first hold water at 150F for a period of time with the steeping grain to extract color/flavor).
 

Gavin C

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Going with the above advice what would be a good starting beer?

My 3 favorite beers are:
Cream ale
Stout
IPA

Would one of those varieties been good to start with?
I would start with a darker beer. A brown a porter or a stout would be good and can be forgiving of errors. I found the kits from Northern Brewer to be excellent. You can look at some of the threads on how people brew and these may highlight equipment you are lacking.

I started with partial mashes; ( a mix of grains and extract) as many before have and now utilize BIAB. ( a simple all grain methodology). This is outlined in my thread below which might give you a feel for the methods. There are lots of ways to skin the brewing cat however and this forum is the place to learn.

Best of luck and I wish you every success
 

fosaisu

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I agree that starting with the IPA or stout makes sense, lots of strong flavors there to cover up mistakes your first time out.

Only other thing -- as others have noted you can make beer with the largest pot you currently own and dilute with water at the end to hit your target volume. But if you're going to buy a new pot just for brewing, I'd recommend going with a 10 gallon. Sounds huge I know but once you add 6.5 gallons of water (you start with more to account for boil off), malt extract, and then start tossing in hops or other additions that can lead to significant foam-up, it's very nice to have some extra room in the pot to work with.
 

fuelish

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Yeah, brewing beer (the initial brewing preocess) is more involved time-wise than wine making (ingredients, more equipment to clean at the end of brewday/night, etc), but the positive trade-off is you end up with a fresh drinkable product after a few to several weeks, as opposed to "the wait" for wine to fully age....in all fairness, not a winemaker here, but I spend my time doing meads these days (wine, mead, close enough for the comparison to beer brewing)....you've already developed the patience/skills/knowledge of a winemaker, I'd presume, so going over to beer should really be no big deal other than perhaps needing some additional equipment....neither is rocket science, really, and most beers have a relatively quick turnaround to ready-to-drink, compared to wine/mead. Enjoy your new hoppy pursuit :cool:
 

bragona71

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SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?????? GO BREW SOME DAM BEER ALREADY!!!!!
have fun and read read read.. everthing you need to know is right here on HBT
 
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Gavin C

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I have been making wine for the last 10 years.
I make about 30 gallons a year of "grape" wine
I make another 12 to 20 or Skeeter Pee, mixed Berry, Cider etc.....

The problem is I am mainly a beer/whiskey drinker, more so than wine. Wine is good in the cold of winter, but sometimes you just have to have an IPA or 2.

So I have started to consider brewing beer. However I have 2 issues,
1- I am absolutely ignorant of the process
2- I really can not afford any new equipment.

As to the 1st point, I am sure if I were to buy a kit, the instructions would walk me through it.

as to the second, I have 6 gallon carboys, 5g carboys, 3 gallons and 1gallons, a 6.5 gallon brew bucket and vacuum pump, oak barrel, etc...etc...

However I am not sure if I have a pot that would hold 5 gallons, but I imagine I could get my hands on one.

But it is my simple understanding that you boil all the ingredients from a kit or otherwise, cool it down in an ice bath, fill the carboy and ferment to dry.
You then let it clear and carbonate and bottle. (dont get me started on my fear of trying to carbonate. coming from a wine background I try to avoid re-fermentation).

Is there any equipment that I would need to purchase that I might not already have? (capper and bottle tops are on my list, as I am going to use them to bottle my Cider).

Any words of encouragement?
Are kits a good way to start?
Or just follow a recipe?

Is it as difficult as wine brewing and aging?
:tank:
Thanks for all the likes Pyg. Hope you found my thread of some use. Thanks for reading.
 
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