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Hoping for some help to perfect our brewing..

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99alex

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Hello!

We have brewed about 4 batches last year and over the holidays here we've brewed 4 MORE!! A hand full of questions have been coming up while we've been brewing and we're hoping for some help... If you've got some time, we'd really appreciate the advice.

Also, I've done my best to take some photos of our brewing, so feel free to review and comment! In the photos we are brewing kits from Mid-West Brewing. We are working on: Oatmeal Stout(done and on tap), Holiday Ale, Maibock Lager, and brewing the Old Bourbon Ale (in primary).

Click here to review photos

Questions:
1. Aging: Do you age in the bottle/keg(room-temp) or bottle/keg(cold), secondary(room-temp)?!? Our Old Bourbon Ale recommends aging for 8-12months. Does that mean we store in secondary for that time 8-12months?! or sit them in the bottle for that long(bottle at month 2, and let sit for 10months), and if in the bottle, do we age at room temp? or Cold?!

2. Straining hops from wort into Primary: We have tried the funnel with strainer, and it always overflows.. We have tried pouring into a course grain-bag. This works pretty well, but wondering if there is a better way..?!

3. When can we bottle?: We have read that "when the bubble stops" and also "when the specific gravity has reached its finishing gravity"... And/or both! Our Holiday Ale is still bubbling (once every 30seconds) and its in a THIRD fermenter. And its at its Finishing Gravity....... Should we bottle/keg!? Is it safe?!

4. Sanitize the carboy bung: We use Star-San to sanitize the bung.. It get VERY slippery and it almost slips through every time! We have been using a paper-towel to dry off the bung, then place in..... Is this still sanitary!? We have thought to boil the bung but we think its bad for it.. Any thoughts or recommendations!?

Thanks for all the help, I hope to post more about the Old Bourbon Ale and how we slow-boiled and reduced the bourbon-mixture with the oak chips.

thanks for the help!!
alex
doghair brewery
 

Poindexter

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1. Age at cellar temp if you can (~55°F), or room temp (~70°F) if you can't.

2. I use whole/ leaf hops because they are easier to strain. Anything will work, but you may have to stop, clean the strainer and then restart. You aren't going to wreck anything with this step though.

3. Using a hydrometer is a great thing. Being at finish gravity is a good thing. When in doubt wait another week. If you have been at finish gravity for two weeks you are ready tobottle.

4. Don't boil the bung. If you washed your hands and the paper towels haven't fallen on the floor lately you are good to go. Alternatively you might wash it sooner and let it air dry.
 

Chriso

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99alex said:
1. Aging: Do you age in the bottle/keg(room-temp) or bottle/keg(cold), secondary(room-temp)?!? Our Old Bourbon Ale recommends aging for 8-12months. Does that mean we store in secondary for that time 8-12months?! or sit them in the bottle for that long(bottle at month 2, and let sit for 10months), and if in the bottle, do we age at room temp? or Cold?!
It usually is most convenient to bottle, then condition for the 8-12months - the reasoning behind this is that the yeast is still somewhat in suspension, and can carbonate the bottle easily, whereas if you age for 8 months in secondary the yeast go dormant, and carbonation is difficult without repitching yeast. It can be accomplished either way, though. The first 3 weeks of aging in bottles or kegs should always be at 70F so that it can carbonate, unless your specific style says otherwise. Then, it's up to you, some of mine I age cold, some warm, no real method to mine. I'll let others address Temps.

99alex said:
2. Straining hops from wort into Primary: We have tried the funnel with strainer, and it always overflows.. We have tried pouring into a course grain-bag. This works pretty well, but wondering if there is a better way..?!
Since you are pouring from your canning kettle, I think your grain bag idea is probably the best for your current setup. If you decide to upgrade your kettle by mounting a ball valve on it, you can get a metal screen (Hopstopper(tm), or Bazooka Screen(tm) are the two most common name brands, or DIY one) to stop some of the "crap". Otherwise, I went to a restaurant supply store and bought an 8" diameter strainer that works pretty well until the last 1/6th of the kettle, then it gets pretty full and pretty slow to drain.

99alex said:
3. When can we bottle?: We have read that "when the bubble stops" and also "when the specific gravity has reached its finishing gravity"... And/or both! Our Holiday Ale is still bubbling (once every 30seconds) and its in a THIRD fermenter. And its at its Finishing Gravity....... Should we bottle/keg!? Is it safe?!
Ignore bubbles. They're fun to count and stare at but they are not a true indicator. Go with your hydrometer every time. You're still getting bubbles in your tertiary fermenter because of a combination of atmospheric pressure, temp changes, and slow, constant accumulation (pretend that it's very slowly "leaking" out of the beer) of CO2.

99alex said:
4. Sanitize the carboy bung: We use Star-San to sanitize the bung.. It get VERY slippery and it almost slips through every time! We have been using a paper-towel to dry off the bung, then place in..... Is this still sanitary!? We have thought to boil the bung but we think its bad for it.. Any thoughts or recommendations!?
Use a clean plastic bowl (e.g. cream cheese container or butter bowl, gladware, etc) and set your bung in it. Get a $1 spray bottle from drug store or Wal-Mart, and fill with StarSan to the correct dilution (1oz to 5 gal water, scaled down for however much you're filling). Spray both sides of the bung about 5 minutes before you are ready to use it. Let it slowly air-dry so that when it's time to insert it, it might still be damp in a couple of spots, but other spots are dry enough to contact and not slip through. Otherwise, just initially insert it very lightly, and check it for proper fit in a couple hours once it's dried off a little.

When mixed to the proper concentration, StarSan shouldn't be TOO "slippery", that usually indicates using a little too much concentrate, or soaking way too long (plastics and rubbers feel "slippery" in SS after as little as an hour, or as much as a day).
 
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