Brewing Method Improvements Priority

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mtom1991

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I have been looking at improvements i can make to my brewing method/setup to improve beer quality and I have been aiming to make incremental improvements each brew.

I currently partial mash on a gas hob so the obvious area of improvement is to go Electric (so i have stricter Mash temperature control) and All Grain.

However that is also a big investment so while this is a longer term goal, i am looking at other areas of improvement i can make in the mean time.

My improvements so far have centered around Yeast viability/health, so i focused on:

Fermentation Temp Control (invested in DIY Temp Controlled Fridge)
Yeast Re-hydration (if using dry)
Yeast Storage (if using liquid)
Yeast Nutrient (end of boil)
Yeast Starter (invested in Erlenmeyer Flask + Magnetic Stir Plate)

Areas i have identified as improvements are:

Better SG Data Collection

- Looking to invest in a refractometer and an iSpindel (currently only have a hydrometer)

pH Measurements (currently i dont measure pH during brewing)
Short Term - Test Strips (Harris or ColorpHast)
Medium Term - pH Instrument (Chinese)
Long Term - pH Instrument (Hanna Ins)

Mash pH correction (Lactic Acid / Calcium Carbonate)

Wort Dissolved O2 Forced Addition (Wort Aeration Pump + Airstone etc)

Brewing Water (currently treat with Campden tablet to remove chlorine)
Medium Term - Carbon Filter
Long Term - RODI + Brew Salts

What should be my priority in the above ?
 

Golddiggie

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Ditch the pump idea for oxygenating your wort. Go direct to using pure O2 via bottle (get a CGA 540 to L/min regulator and you can use the O2 bottles sold at welding gas suppliers). With the pump, you still max out at 8ppm of dissolved O2 in the wort. It's a limitation due to using the atmosphere we breathe. Using pure O2 means you no longer have that limitation. It also means your time to oxygenate your wort is greatly reduced.

For the water you brew with, that depends on the water in your home. Where I am now I'm on a well. The water is actually really good for brewing. I simply use a sediment filter to keep micro granite particles out (NH is the granite state after all). If you're treating the water you're brewing with to remove chlorine, invest in a quality filter system to go under your kitchen sink. I've done that in the past when on town/city water that was treated and it removed all traces of chlorine. I used that water for drinking and cooking as well. Hell, even for brushing my teeth. I'm very sensitive to the smell of chlorine, so even a tiny amount screams at me at 10000db. Most of the solid filter systems out there use three filters/cartridges. Or two filters and a membrane. These are just shy of RO systems in that they don't strip 100% of everything else from the water. They will remove chlorine and other things you don't want for brewing.

Something else to look into... Fermentation under pressure. You don't need to set the pressure very high (depends on the recipe and other factors). It would mean your fermenter is 100% sealed off. Add pressure transfers to kegs (kegging is another improvement) and you've just greatly reduced your chances of oxidizing your beer. You can still bottle from keg, once it's fully carbonated. This also means no bottle bomb risks. More reliable carbonation levels is another good improvement. Yes, it will cost you some more money, but it's worth it.
 
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mtom1991

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Ditch the pump idea for oxygenating your wort. Go direct to using pure O2 via bottle (get a CGA 540 to L/min regulator and you can use the O2 bottles sold at welding gas suppliers). With the pump, you still max out at 8ppm of dissolved O2 in the wort. It's a limitation due to using the atmosphere we breathe. Using pure O2 means you no longer have that limitation. It also means your time to oxygenate your wort is greatly reduced.

For the water you brew with, that depends on the water in your home. Where I am now I'm on a well. The water is actually really good for brewing. I simply use a sediment filter to keep micro granite particles out (NH is the granite state after all). If you're treating the water you're brewing with to remove chlorine, invest in a quality filter system to go under your kitchen sink. I've done that in the past when on town/city water that was treated and it removed all traces of chlorine. I used that water for drinking and cooking as well. Hell, even for brushing my teeth. I'm very sensitive to the smell of chlorine, so even a tiny amount screams at me at 10000db. Most of the solid filter systems out there use three filters/cartridges. Or two filters and a membrane. These are just shy of RO systems in that they don't strip 100% of everything else from the water. They will remove chlorine and other things you don't want for brewing.

Something else to look into... Fermentation under pressure. You don't need to set the pressure very high (depends on the recipe and other factors). It would mean your fermenter is 100% sealed off. Add pressure transfers to kegs (kegging is another improvement) and you've just greatly reduced your chances of oxidizing your beer. You can still bottle from keg, once it's fully carbonated. This also means no bottle bomb risks. More reliable carbonation levels is another good improvement. Yes, it will cost you some more money, but it's worth it.
My water source is mains water (Yorkshire/UK) it’s perfectly fine and usable drinking water but it’s quite Hard.

I havnt done a whole lot of research/reading on water. My approach up until now as a starting point has been ‘if it’s good enough to drink it’s good enough to brew’.

I will have a look at an inline water filter and pressurised fermentation vessels and see what options there are.

kegging was on my list I forgot to add that on the post, currently using carbonation drops and they seem to be abit hit and miss.

I had considered the aeration pump as a cheap’ish mid term thinking it would at least be better than my current method of sloshing it into the Carboy.
 
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mtom1991

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Just checked my local water report and it is as follows (dosnt mean much to me i definitely need to do some reading on the water side)

1620111425945.png

1620111453643.png
 

madscientist451

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Don't over-think it.
Get a BIAB bag and use that for all grain, you don't need to invest in an electric "system" to make wort.
Get kegs and a freezer w/temperature control to keep them in.
Ferment in kegs and do closed transfers.
 

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I think everything on your list is worth doing at some point. But if you're going to move to all grain, getting a refractometer and learning more about water will be huge. Water chemistry matters a lot to your mash, and you don't need fancy or expensive equipment to do it. Just buy some gypsum and some calcium chloride, and then pay for the advanced version of Bru'n water. It's a spreadsheet from Martin Brungard that helps you figure out how to adjust your water for various beer styles. There's a slight learning curve, but once you get your water info in there and then play around with it, it's actually pretty simple. There are tons of threads that will teach you to use it. It's so accurate at predicting mash ph, you can forego a ph meter for now if you want.

On the refractometer, I got one for Christmas and love it. You can quickly check the gravity of your mash to see if there's a problem and to check your efficiency. This will help you really dial in your mash process. Taking hydrometer readings of a mash sucks so much that you probably won't do it. You can also use them to check gravity after fermentation, but you have to do some calculations to figure out the real FG because the alcohol skews the results. Brewers friend has a good calculator.

Moving to kegging is great, also. I never minded bottling, the ability totally keep out oxygen with kegs has been a huge improvement. And if you're looking at closed transfers, check out the threads on here about closed transfers with a Fermonster. For about $70, you can get the fermenter and modify the lid with keg posts and a floating dip tube, letting you transfer directly to the keg using Co2.

The ispindle is another great investment, particularly because you bottle. You can easily tell when fermentation is done without opening things up and exposing the beer to oxygen. I love my tilt.

Lastly, I would add a ThermaPen. You need accurate temperatures when you're mashing, and this is a very accurate thermometer that gives super quick readings. I would get this and a biab bag and try all grain in your current pot before moving to all-in-one, if the money is of any concern to you. It's a very cheap way to transition to all grain and learn the process. You'll either like that system enough that you stick with it, or you'll learn more about what you would want in an all-in-one before you spend the money.
 

eyedrink

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You need to find out what form of Cl is used by your city for water treatment, certain types can not be stripped with a basic filter.
 

CascadesBrewer

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My water source is mains water (Yorkshire/UK) it’s perfectly fine and usable drinking water but it’s quite Hard.
As I got into learning about water chemistry, I figured out there are really two types of source water. 1) Water that is not suitable for brewing and 2) Water that is suitable for brewing a narrow range of beers. Nobody has water out of their tap that is great for making Pilsners, Stouts, and IPAs. My tap water is "good for brewing" but better suited for maybe an Amber, Brown or Porter. Water chemistry (both adjusting mineral levels and pH) has improved the quality of my beers.

Gas Hob = stove? Electric can be convenient and the electric all-in-one systems look great. Precise mash temps are not important in my book. Another option might be to brew smaller all-grain batches. While I do 5-gallon batches on a propane burner outdoors, I also do a number of 2.5-gallon batches on my stovetop.
 

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You mention getting a cheap pH meter first." DON'T" When it's time to add to the hobby( ya know hobby's cost money) add quality equipment that you only have to buy once.
 

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If you do the O2 "mid step" you'll just have hardware you'll be either trying to sell, having to store, or throw out later. I'd just get the O2 setup at the start. It's not all that much. More affordable, per batch, if you get the proper O2 bottle at the beginning. You'll get at least hundreds of batches even from a 20 cubic foot O2 tank.

I'm currently using manual refractometer(s) for getting the OG and FG of batches. I plan to get the digital version (from MoreBeer) soon. Easier and more reliable since it's not depending on me seeing something correctly. I did look at the 'cheaper' versions from Amazon. Not worth it even at half the cost IMO. Buy once, cry once.
 
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mtom1991

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Don't over-think it.
Get a BIAB bag and use that for all grain, you don't need to invest in an electric "system" to make wort.
Get kegs and a freezer w/temperature control to keep them in.
Ferment in kegs and do closed transfers.
i think i already do BIAB for my partial mash's, i use a large nylon mesh bag over my 10 Gal brew pot if thats the full extent of BIAB ?
 
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mtom1991

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are you r
You need to find out what form of Cl is used by your city for water treatment, certain types can not be stripped with a basic filter.
are you referring to if it is chlorine or chloramine they are using ?
 

CascadesBrewer

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i think i already do BIAB for my partial mash's, i use a large nylon mesh bag over my 10 Gal brew pot if thats the full extent of BIAB ?
I am curious why you don't already do all-grain brewing. I have a 10 gallon kettle that I use for BIAB targeting 5.5 gallons into my fermenter. While I could use a little more room to handle beers 1.070 and above, anything less than that size works fine. If mash temp control is a concern, I just wrap my kettle in a sleeping bag and only loose 1-2F over a 1 hour mash.
 
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mtom1991

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As I got into learning about water chemistry, I figured out there are really two types of source water. 1) Water that is not suitable for brewing and 2) Water that is suitable for brewing a narrow range of beers. Nobody has water out of their tap that is great for making Pilsners, Stouts, and IPAs. My tap water is "good for brewing" but better suited for maybe an Amber, Brown or Porter. Water chemistry (both adjusting mineral levels and pH) has improved the quality of my beers.

Gas Hob = stove? Electric can be convenient and the electric all-in-one systems look great. Precise mash temps are not important in my book. Another option might be to brew smaller all-grain batches. While I do 5-gallon batches on a propane burner outdoors, I also do a number of 2.5-gallon batches on my stovetop.
Water is 100% something i need to read up on. I have just finished the Elements of Brewing Yeast book which was very good so may invest in the Water edition.

Yes Gas Stove (Natural Gas) in my kitchen the central burner is 3kw. I find it very hard to maintain a mash temp, I usually end up with a mash range of around 2-3 deg which i fluctuate between and spend the full mash time with the burner on and off to maintain it. My 10gal pot is made of very thin steel though no doubt a better pot with a thicker wall would retain heat better.
 
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mtom1991

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You mention getting a cheap pH meter first." DON'T" When it's time to add to the hobby( ya know hobby's cost money) add quality equipment that you only have to buy once.
Yes i do see you point of buy cheap buy twice however i do have a cheap pH meter for my Aquarium and it is reasonably close (with regular re calibration).

But yeh i agree pretty pointless wasting money when i will be looking to get a Hanna Inst in the long run they arnt majorly expensive
 
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mtom1991

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I am curious why you don't already do all-grain brewing. I have a 10 gallon kettle that I use for BIAB targeting 5.5 gallons into my fermenter. While I could use a little more room to handle beers 1.070 and above, anything less than that size works fine. If mash temp control is a concern, I just wrap my kettle in a sleeping bag and only loose 1-2F over a 1 hour mash.
Completely honest answer i didn't realise i could do all grain BIAB, didn't consider it at all tbf but logically it makes sense.

I started off doing extract kits with steeped grains and then moved onto partial mash's which iv done a good few of and thought all grain needed the full setup so it didnt even occur to me it was achievable with my limited setup.
 

palmtrees

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Completely honest answer i didn't realise i could do all grain BIAB, didn't consider it at all tbf but logically it makes sense.

I started off doing extract kits with steeped grains and then moved onto partial mash's which iv done a good few of and thought all grain needed the full setup so it didnt even occur to me it was achievable with my limited setup.
It definitely is! I will second the recommendation a few people have made to try smaller BIAB batches. If you're making 2.5 to 3 gallon batches, that's typically very easy to do on a stove at home. You get a little bit less beer, but it's much less of a headache than trying to babysit a mash for an hour or more. I also enjoy being able to brew more often and have more variety, though it really depends on your consumption rate and how many days a month you can brew.

Regarding your mash, a few degrees of temp fluctuation over an hour isn't that big of a deal. Do you insulate your pot at all during the mash? That could really help keep you in range.
 

madscientist451

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Water is 100% something i need to read up on. I have just finished the Elements of Brewing Yeast book which was very good so may invest in the Water edition.

I find it very hard to maintain a mash temp, I usually end up with a mash range of around 2-3 deg which i fluctuate between and spend the full mash time with the burner on and off to maintain it. My 10gal pot is made of very thin steel though no doubt a better pot with a thicker wall would retain heat better.
If you mash 5 gallons of water with your grains and wrap the pot up in an old coat or sleeping bag, it will hold your temperature just fine.
A cheap 4 gallon pot comes in handy to use for a dunk sparge after the main mash.
 
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mtom1991

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It definitely is! I will second the recommendation a few people have made to try smaller BIAB batches. If you're making 2.5 to 3 gallon batches, that's typically very easy to do on a stove at home. You get a little bit less beer, but it's much less of a headache than trying to babysit a mash for an hour or more. I also enjoy being able to brew more often and have more variety, though it really depends on your consumption rate and how many days a month you can brew.

Regarding your mash, a few degrees of temp fluctuation over an hour isn't that big of a deal. Do you insulate your pot at all during the mash? That could really help keep you in range.
Currently do just over 5 gal brews (20L) have been brewing around once every 1-1.5 months and getting around 40ish 500ml bottles and my consumption far out strips my production. Will look into insulating the pot i have some 10mm carpet underlay off cuts which should do the job.
 
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mtom1991

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If you mash 5 gallons of water with your grains and wrap the pot up in an old coat or sleeping bag, it will hold your temperature just fine.
A cheap 4 gallon pot comes in handy to use for a dunk sparge after the main mash.
What i have been doing so far is mashing in around 11L of water (depending on amount of grains in recipe) and then i do a mini sparge with 5L and top up the rest post boil upto full 20L batch size.

I have a 5L pan i stick in the oven for the mini sparge while im mashing. I then try and achieve some form of flow rate by pouring a measured amount over the grain in a certain time, so i use a 0.5L jug and pour it over the grains across 30 seconds and repeat for the full 5L of sparge water.

I think if i do attempt an All Grain BIAB with there will be far more grains then im currently mashing i will go with the suggestion futher up and do smaller batches 10L.
 

eyedrink

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are you r

are you referring to if it is chlorine or chloramine they are using ?
Yes, Chloramine chemically binds and does not strip out short of using RO. I use RO then build the profile I desire. Water is the single most important factor since it affects everything from hop utilization to yeast health. I am a bit of a water geek since it was my degree path. MS Aquatic BIology / Chemistry. I was a water / wastewater operator for the city while working on my MS.
 

eyedrink

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Water is 100% something i need to read up on. I have just finished the Elements of Brewing Yeast book which was very good so may invest in the Water edition.

Yes Gas Stove (Natural Gas) in my kitchen the central burner is 3kw. I find it very hard to maintain a mash temp, I usually end up with a mash range of around 2-3 deg which i fluctuate between and spend the full mash time with the burner on and off to maintain it. My 10gal pot is made of very thin steel though no doubt a better pot with a thicker wall would retain heat better.
The water book is great. Get a highlighter and some sticky tabs to mark the tables for your reference. I also know several
professional brewers that have it as a reference on their shelf./
 

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I'm happy to see that you're thinking! . . . and thinking ahead. You've already been given some good advice here but I'll add my 2 cents worth.

I've been brewing for over 30 years. I have a refractometer which I almost never use. Buy another hydrometer as a spare. Get a spare thermometer too; they're both cheap. I also would purchase a narrow scale hydrometer to check the terminal gravity. I also have a kitchen thermometer with a probe and count-down timer. It's excellent for timing mash steps and total boil time.

Get a GOOD pH meter. I have a Milwaukee pH 55 and it serves me well. Don't go for a cheap one now as you're wasting your money. It'll give false readings and will soon break.

Check around at yard sales (or whatever they're called where you live) for an oxygen cylinder and regulator. Grandma or Grandpa may have passed recently and such equipment is often available for nearly nothing. All you need then is a piece of tubing and a sintered stone on a wand.

Don't knock Campden for chlorine/chloramine abatement. One tablet (0.44 gm) treats 20 gallons. I bought the powdered stuff. There are more than a few water chemistry calculators on the web if you already know what's in your water now. Check with your city water provider for a print-out. I recommend Palmers RA worksheet which can be found as a download on his HOW TO BREW website. It will also give you acid additions to get your pH right.

Have you considered using an outdoor propane burner? I started out with the stove top, moved up to a Bruheat electric boiler, and then to a propane burner which I still use.

If you're going all-grain, you really don't need to add nutrient to the kettle. The grain provides just about everything the yeast needs. When making a starter on a stir plate, I add some nutrient to the starter.

Hope this helps.
 
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