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I have the bare basics down... next step?

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I am brand new to the hobby. I have read a couple of books (not all the way through since they got pretty heavy into it). I have my first batch in secondary fermentation. I am ready to start another batch next weekend and would like to know what the next step is in perfecting this art.

My first batch was kept simple so I could learn a bit. I got a True Brew kit of 'amber' beer with all ingreedients included and a True Brew 'gold' equipment kit which seems to have very nice, all needed equipment...

-I boiled 1.5 gal of water
-added ingredients per instructions
-boiled for 30 mins-
transfered this wort to a plastic pail with another 3.5 gallons of ambient temp water (all equipment was from a kit and made for the purpose of brewing) (I used a s.s. kitchen strainer since the wort consisted of hop pellets from the kit)
-got my five gallons by adding a slight bit more water
-cooled the wort to 77f by putting the bucket over the sink and spraying the outside of the bucket with the sink sprayer
-took a beginning s.g.
-sprinkled the kits dry yeast pack on top of the wort
-waited 10 mins then gently stirred in the yeast (gently stirred per the kit instructions)
-placed ferment lock on and let it ride for 3 days
-moved batch to a secondary fermenter and now I'm waiting.

Everything has been easy and seems to be going great so far. After this batch brewed I have decided to aerate the wort just prior to yeast addition and I intend on bottling this batch two weeks after the brew date. One question about this batch was the fact that the boiling wort did not foam much at all... just enough to cover the surface. I did not consider this a problem since I brought the wort back to a boil slowly and stirred constantly (this o.k.?)

I would like to take one additional step to improve beer quality (taste and clearness in particular) each batch until I have a firm grasp on this hobby. After reading many posts, I am giving consideration to tackling the 'yeast' issues. I believe I will go with a liquid yeast, make a starter pack and POSSIBLY cultivate the yeast after the batch goes to secondary (maybe I will cultivate at a later batch and just concentrate on using liquid this time).

Is this a good 'next step' in the hobby or should I go with other ingredients / techniques? As I mentioned, I would like to change just one thing at this time in my effort to slowly master this hobby. Also, I am thinking of a cream ale or such, any suggestions on an easy beginners beer in this category?

Thanks for reading and replying to a lenghty post :)
 

NUCC98

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DyerNeedOfBeer said:
One question about this batch was the fact that the boiling wort did not foam much at all... just enough to cover the surface. I did not consider this a problem since I brought the wort back to a boil slowly and stirred constantly (this o.k.?)
No worries about the wort not foaming up that much. Mine hardly does, if I'm doing a kit recipe. The one time it really foamed up was when I made my Imperial Stout, but then again, that was like 10 lbs. of malt. I mean, if you really wanna see it foam, cover your brewpot. Heheheh....just kidding...DON'T cover your brewpot...trust me.

I would like to take one additional step to improve beer quality (taste and clearness in particular) each batch until I have a firm grasp on this hobby. After reading many posts, I am giving consideration to tackling the 'yeast' issues. I believe I will go with a liquid yeast, make a starter pack and POSSIBLY cultivate the yeast after the batch goes to secondary (maybe I will cultivate at a later batch and just concentrate on using liquid this time).
Clearness will be improved by racking to the secondary. Depending on where you ae, or if you have access to a refrigerator, cold filtering will add to the clarity.

Also, I am thinking of a cream ale or such, any suggestions on an easy beginners beer in this category?
head out to http://hbd.org/recipator/ ....there are a lot of great recipes out there....but for a cream ale, I'm guessing lactose is on the ingredient list....
 

Janx

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Next steps:

liquid yeast - huge improvement to your beer quality

whole hops - IMO, huge improvement to beer quality and keeps hops out of your fermenter

steep some grain - any beer with some grain in it, if only steeped for flavor, will definitely taste better than all extract. You just grind it and steep it like tea in your water as it gets hot for the boiul. Pull it out at 170 degrees or so.

dry malt extract - not liquid...dunno what you use now.

stay focused on sanitation - to me this would include not stirring in the yeast. I never touch my wort after it's chilled, but that's just me.

For a Cream Ale, get some White Labs British Ale yeast. It's a great yeast with some real British character. Get some light Crystal malt (10 or 20 L) and some flaked barley and steep that in your water. Whole Fuggles or East Kent Goldings hops. You'll love the difference. Cheers! :D
 

Majikcook

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I have to agree with Janx. Liquid yeast has made a huge difference in the quality of the taste I think. Could be just me... I've used the smack packs and the tubes. I get a quicker, harder ferment out of the smack pack, and a slower, longer ferment from the tube. Not sure which has an advantage. For now I buy the kits with the liquid yeast and so far have been happy, albiet it's only been a few batches.
For a next step, you may try to talk to a HBS nearby, pickup a good recipe book or find them online at a million places, and have your HBS put together a custom kit of your liking using whole hops and not the pellets. Again, I have to agree with Janx that they are much easier to use and do not transfer to the secondary as much as the "dust" in the water that flows through the siphon hose... I've only got 3 batches down, and that's my next step. Janx, Why don't you just write a book that easily answers all our newbs questions?
 

Janx

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Honestly, I was kinda thinking of a DVD aimed at first-time all-grain folks. It seems like seeing it would be easier even than reading it. But I don't know if anyone would really be interested in such a thing.

A book of new brewer tips might be a handy thing.
 

SwAMi75

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I agree with Janx....the only other thing I might add is to up your boil volume as high as you're comfortable with. 1.5 gal is pretty low. I was able to do a 3 gal in my 5.5 gal pot with no problem. I could probably push it to 4 unless I'm doing something using more than 6lbs of malt.

You'll get greater hop utilization with a bigger boil, and stand less of a chance of contamination when adding water after the boil. Only downsides are cooling your wort and a greater chance of a boilover.

Welcome to the forum!
 

Rhoobarb

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All of these are very good suggestions. I really love the White Labs yeasts, FWIW. I just dump it in the fermenter, cover it and shake that bad boy up by rocking it to and fro to introduce some oxygen. And that's the only time you want to introduce oxygen to your wort!

Also, you said you were putting the bucket over the sink and spraying the outside with the sink sprayer. I find it easiest to get a bag or two of ice on brewing day and make an ice water bath in the sink. Just cover your boil pot and place it in the ice water bath! :)
 
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