Help Refining an Apartment Setup

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I've been brewing for just a couple months. I just finished my second beer and I have two more extract kits in the wings and then I think I am going to start cobbling together my own recipes. First two beers were fairly successful, but I am starting to try to plan ways to upgrade my "operations" to improve efficiency and quality. This is what I have currently:

60qt brew pot (just a regular stainless pot I got off of Amazon)
5G Bucket (Primary)
5G Better Bottle (Secondary)
Bottling bucket

Immersion wort chiller

I currently do about a 4G boil, which takes several hours because my gas stove struggles to get that much water up to boiling. Then I chill in an ice bath with the wort chiller, takes about 15-20 minutes. To transfer the wort I am just doing the "vigorous dump" Palmer describes. I pitch the yeast, have vigorous fermentation within about 12 hours. I leave it in the primary for about 1-2 weeks (closer to 2 usually) and then transfer to the secondary for another few weeks. Then add priming sugar through bottling and bottle condition for another week or two.

My questions:

- I am interested in keeping a fairly compact setup because I live in a loft in the city and space is at a premium. Keeping that in mind, where do you think my best upgrades are at? i.e. where could I get the biggest return for my investment, either in efficiency or quality? I was thinking about getting one of those banjo propane stoves and doing the boil on the balcony. Also, what about some version of an inline chiller? If I did that, would I need to add more equipment to oxygenate the wort before pitching?

- I know I am exposing the beer to potential contamination and oxygenation when I move from primary to secondary fermenter (I just pop the lid and syphon into the better bottle), is there a better way to go about this that keeps the system closed (or more closed)?

- Is there a better way to get the wort from the kettle to the primary other than just dumping that might help with clarity (or other attributes)? Should I think about installing a valve in the kettle?

- Is there a reason to get the bottles into the fridge immediately when I think they're ready? Will this help the yeast go dormant and hold the flavor profile or do I not need to worry too much about getting them in the fridge immediately?

Thanks in advance for your help. I'm loving this so far and I can't wait to refine this process and start cranking out even better quality beers more efficiently and consistently.
 

SD-SLIM

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I've been brewing for just a couple months. I just finished my second beer and I have two more extract kits in the wings and then I think I am going to start cobbling together my own recipes. First two beers were fairly successful, but I am starting to try to plan ways to upgrade my "operations" to improve efficiency and quality. This is what I have currently:

60qt brew pot (just a regular stainless pot I got off of Amazon)
5G Bucket (Primary)
5G Better Bottle (Secondary)
Bottling bucket

Immersion wort chiller

I currently do about a 4G boil, which takes several hours because my gas stove struggles to get that much water up to boiling. Then I chill in an ice bath with the wort chiller, takes about 15-20 minutes. To transfer the wort I am just doing the "vigorous dump" Palmer describes. I pitch the yeast, have vigorous fermentation within about 12 hours. I leave it in the primary for about 1-2 weeks (closer to 2 usually) and then transfer to the secondary for another few weeks. Then add priming sugar through bottling and bottle condition for another week or two.

My questions:

- I am interested in keeping a fairly compact setup because I live in a loft in the city and space is at a premium. Keeping that in mind, where do you think my best upgrades are at? i.e. where could I get the biggest return for my investment, either in efficiency or quality? I was thinking about getting one of those banjo propane stoves and doing the boil on the balcony. Also, what about some version of an inline chiller? If I did that, would I need to add more equipment to oxygenate the wort before pitching?

- I know I am exposing the beer to potential contamination and oxygenation when I move from primary to secondary fermenter (I just pop the lid and syphon into the better bottle), is there a better way to go about this that keeps the system closed (or more closed)?

- Is there a better way to get the wort from the kettle to the primary other than just dumping that might help with clarity (or other attributes)? Should I think about installing a valve in the kettle?

- Is there a reason to get the bottles into the fridge immediately when I think they're ready? Will this help the yeast go dormant and hold the flavor profile or do I not need to worry too much about getting them in the fridge immediately?

Thanks in advance for your help. I'm loving this so far and I can't wait to refine this process and start cranking out even better quality beers more efficiently and consistently.
I hope you are using a primary with head space and a secondary with no head space, you mentioned both are 5 gallons and in general when brewing 5 gallons of beer you ferment in a 6.5 fermenter.
I personally never use a secondary unless I am aging a beer for an extended period or unless I am brewing a fruit beer, 3 weeks in the primary and keg or bottle...the reason being that 2 weeks completes (in general) the primary fermentation and then 1 week to condition...during the conditioning stage yeast continue to work slowly eating heavier sugars and byproducts, if you remove the beer and rack to the secondary there is less yeast to complete this job.
I would recommend placing a valve in your stock pot, you can get them pretty cheap from www.bargainfittings.com and here is a great instructional on how to motify your pot http://www.brewmorebeer.com/drilling-hole-in-brew-pot/
In regards to the best bang for your buck...I wont go with a propane burner on your balcony, you will find that most fire codes prevent stuff like this...I would say the best money you could spend would be: valve on your brew pot, building a 5 gallon mash tun and building a stir plate for yeast.

Happy Brewing!
 
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I hope you are using a primary with head space and a secondary with no head space, you mentioned both are 5 gallons and in general when brewing 5 gallons of beer you ferment in a 6.5 fermenter.
I personally never use a secondary unless I am aging a beer for an extended period or unless I am brewing a fruit beer, 3 weeks in the primary and keg or bottle...the reason being that 2 weeks completes (in general) the primary fermentation and then 1 week to condition...during the conditioning stage yeast continue to work slowly eating heavier sugars and byproducts, if you remove the beer and rack to the secondary there is less yeast to complete this job.
Yeah, the bucket I use as a primary came as part of a 5G brew kit, so there is a lot of room at the top and I believe the better bottle is smaller because when transferring as a secondary the brew takes up most of the bottle. I guess I was going off of Palmer's advice that secondary fermentation can help all styles of beer. Are there any benefits that you lose out on if you do not use a secondary? If I do use a secondary, for one of the reasons above or just generally, is there a better/safer way to rack than just popping the lid of the primary? A valve in the bucket perhaps?

I would recommend placing a valve in your stock pot, you can get them pretty cheap from www.bargainfittings.com and here is a great instructional on how to motify your pot http://www.brewmorebeer.com/drilling-hole-in-brew-pot/
If I add a valve to the stock pot, the goal there would be to try to leave the trub (not sure if that's the proper term here) in the pot rather than transfer it with the wort to the primary? Also, I would probably need an inline wort chiller if I went this route, correct? Also, would I need to do anything additional after transferring the wort to the primary to oxygenate it before pitching?

In regards to the best bang for your buck...I wont go with a propane burner on your balcony, you will find that most fire codes prevent stuff like this...I would say the best money you could spend would be: valve on your brew pot, building a 5 gallon mash tun and building a stir plate for yeast.
We are in a concrete building and I already have a grill on the balcony (as do most of my neighbors), so I'm fine with the propane burner (I think :p). Also, I'm not sure I have the room to also accommodate a full grain and/or yeast growing operations, though I would love to tinker with these areas as well.

Thanks!
 

Wakadaka

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I have tossed around the idea of brewing on my patio as well, but i would be shocked if its legal. I am 5 floors up on one of the busiest streets so not much room for negotiation.

Have you tried spreading your pot over two burners on your stove? even just a big one and a little one will help you boil a lot more volume.

I don't have a valve in my brew pot, and I think they are more for convenience than for filtering. Pouring a full 5 gallons from a pot into a bucket is pretty risky. What I do is just siphon off the bottom, and then shake my bucket to aerate. If I were you I would line your bucket with a grain bag, and then pour through it straight from the brew pot. It will help reduce a lot of sediment into the bucket.

You really don't even have to worry about getting that stuff into your bucket anyways. Everything will settle out in the primary, and if you are using good racking technique and keeping the cane off the bottom, you will avoid transferring any of it from the primary to secondary or into bottles. Small proteins that are going to cause a lot of haze will make it through a bag, but they would also make it through a valve on your pot. Use Irish Moss in the boil and gelatin in the secondary if you really want clear beer. I just use Irish Moss and then leave it in primary for about 4 weeks, and I can usually read the lettering on the other side of my better bottle when I am siphoning into the bottling bucket.

And here lies the danger with all hobbies. You don't have any need, but your just curious what else you can spend money on hahah. If I were you I would start looking at a fermentation fridge next.
 

Shaneoco1981

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If you are going to build a Mash Tun, go with a 10 gallon. I definitely recommend getting a valve in your pot, and then building/buying a counter flow chiller. That setup really works well for me. The problem a might see with you being in a loft, if your cold water is not very cold, you might want to consider sending the water that is on it's way to counter flow to go through an ice bath with your immersion chiller. Just my $0.02
 

Luckey37

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If you want to experiment with AG in a small space go with brew in a bag. It's cheap with no expensive equipment.
 

Jawbox0

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You could go with an Electric Kettle, efficient clean boil, lets you setup almost anywhere and boil full volume. You don't even have to go 220V, two 110V elements will do the job.

Besides that, some sort of fermentation temp control would be my next suggestion.

Also, don't worry about getting those bottles in the fridge. If you're bottle conditioning you want to give those yeast plenty of time to eat the priming sugar. Just don't expose them to light or lots of wild temperature swings. (especially high heat)
 

SD-SLIM

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In regards to Palmers book, he discourages new brewers from using a secondary....the risk out way the benefit....additionally I would say that a lot has changed since Palmer wrote his book in 1999, especially yeast. As for the loss of benefits...I would say not having yeast clean up after themselves is the biggest one for me...but like with anything, I hope you would experiment with a secondary and without and see which beer taste better, I did and since then rarely use a secondary.


The idea on adding a valve to your stock pot would be to simplify the brewing process...it wouldnt screen your wort, it just would make it easier for a person to brew by themselves and you wouldnt have to worry about lifting heavy liquids...as for screening of the hops before they go in your primary, you could use a funnel with a screen built in to do this....if you went this route, versus having your racking tube in your primary is that all the splashing would oxygenate you wort, I would still shake it but it would oxygenate it somewhat.

We are in a concrete building and I already have a grill on the balcony (as do most of my neighbors), so I'm fine with the propane burner (I think :p). Also, I'm not sure I have the room to also accommodate a full grain and/or yeast growing operations, though I would love to tinker with these areas as well.

As for fire codes you may be right, but with the great fire of 1871...I thought Chicago would be a little strict on that stuff!!!
As for all grain...a simple 5 or 10 gallon cooler with bazooka screen or copper manifold wouldnt take up that much room and would pay for itself in cost's when you see the difference between grain and extracts...for example it usually cost me around $20 to brew a high end beer, versus a kit around $30-40 dollars...but a little money can make almost anything better!
 
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In regards to Palmers book, he discourages new brewers from using a secondary....the risk out way the benefit....additionally I would say that a lot has changed since Palmer wrote his book in 1999, especially yeast. As for the loss of benefits...I would say not having yeast clean up after themselves is the biggest one for me...but like with anything, I hope you would experiment with a secondary and without and see which beer taste better, I did and since then rarely use a secondary.
Yeah, this is a good idea. Thanks for the explanation. I'll definitely run some experiments and see how it goes. Taking out that extra step would certainly be nice.

As for all grain...a simple 5 or 10 gallon cooler with bazooka screen or copper manifold wouldnt take up that much room and would pay for itself in cost's when you see the difference between grain and extracts...for example it usually cost me around $20 to brew a high end beer, versus a kit around $30-40 dollars...but a little money can make almost anything better!
I'll have to look into this a little bit more then. I thought control and flexibility were really the only benefits of AG, but if cost is yet another, maybe I can scrounge up the space somewhere :D
 
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If you want to experiment with AG in a small space go with brew in a bag. It's cheap with no expensive equipment.
In my trolling of beer-related posts, I do remember seeing some pictures of this method. Once I feel I've "overgrown" extracts, I'll have to give this a shot.
 
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And here lies the danger with all hobbies. You don't have any need, but your just curious what else you can spend money on hahah. If I were you I would start looking at a fermentation fridge next.
Well of course I don't need any of this stuff, but what else would I do with my money, save it? ;)

As for the fermentation fridge, our place stays a pretty consistent 70 (+/- 2) degrees. Would the fridge just add the ability to do lagers?
 

Qhrumphf

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As for the fermentation fridge, our place stays a pretty consistent 70 (+/- 2) degrees. Would the fridge just add the ability to do lagers?
I generally try to keep everything but Belgians fermenting cooler than that, generally in the 60-65 range. A fermentation fridge is out of the question for me right now, but the swamp cooler method does the job with a bit more effort but a lot less cost. Some folks wrap their fermenters in a damp towel and set a fan on them. I put my carboys in a large plastic bin, surround them with water, and add bottles of ice periodically to keep it cool. Can keep steady temps down to 60 very easily, and can keep a few degree variation into the 50s with a bit more maintenance (was able to hold 50-52 degrees with two gallon jugs filled with ice every 8 hours). Works great in an apartment.
 

Qhrumphf

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beaksnbeer

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Where space is at a premium you may want to really check out the BIAB still go this route when time is short better then not brewing at all. Spend your money on better ingredients my .02
 

Wakadaka

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Well of course I don't need any of this stuff, but what else would I do with my money, save it? ;)

As for the fermentation fridge, our place stays a pretty consistent 70 (+/- 2) degrees. Would the fridge just add the ability to do lagers?
It would let you do lagers, but also it would refine your beer a lot. A consistent 70 ambient means that your beer goes from 70-75+. Fermentation gives off a lot of heat. With a fridge you could keep it right where you want it and have peace of mind that it is exactly that.

And while 70 degrees is within an acceptable range for most ale yeasts, I know that I would at least rather be able to have them closer to 60.

And some styles that like higher fermentation temperatures still need pretty exact temperature. For instance to make a good saison you would need to be able to have your temperature raising over the course of fermentation, and you would have to know what temperature you are going to have it at.
 
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