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If Only I Knew Then What I Know Now

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Nick&Worty

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“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” Otto von Bismarck

Okay veteran brewers, time to give up the goods! What are some things you've learned the hard way that you wish you would have known when you were just starting?

For example, I wish I would have understood just how important stirring is to holding a mash temperature. For my first few brews, I'd watch my temp start dropping, fire up the heat, and suddenly have it run away on me, frantically doing anything I could to bring it back down in range. What I didn't realize is that my thermometer wasn't getting an accurate reading on the whole volume of water. When I stir right before reading temp it changes by several degrees. Regular stirring as I watch and adjust mash temperatures has really helped keep things consistent and avoid runaway heat

or

Make sure you think fully about what you're about to do and know where you're going to put what you're handling. For example, I've filled my hydrometer test tube, had my thumb on the hose to hold the syphon, and realized my hydrometer was across the room. Basic stuff but thoroughly plan your next step. Also if you're going to use a transfer hose that may leak at all when you're done, have a bucket or pitcher handy to put it in!

or

Fermentation is super funky business, like P-Funk level. It might smell like armpit when it bubbles. It's okay, calm down.

or

Put some sanitizer in a spray bottle. It's super-handy.

I'm sure you get it! Just drop any lessons learned in here and us newbies can read through it and learn from others' experience!
 
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camonick

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StarSan sanitizer wants a certain PH. If you're off it will go cloudy and not work as well. If that happens,
Starsan doesn’t seek out a certain pH. If it’s mixed at the correct concentration, the correct pH will be obtained. It becomes cloudy when it reacts with hard and/or tap water and is still ok to use as long as the pH level is still in the acceptable range. RO or distilled water can be used if one wants it to be crystal clear.
 

IronMan Brew

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Blow out tube in lieu of Air Lock - had a major clean up with a Stout beer - use the blow out tube into distilled water on every brew now - much easier
 

shoreman

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1. Don't overcomplicate recipes.
2. Figure out your local water and just do a simple adjustment
3. Buy yeast that works in your environment temperature-wise.
4. Brewing has gotten so much easier over the years with BIAB, Kveik + modified malts. Stovetop 1-3 gallons and its easy to produce a great beer.
5. Buy a decent stainless fermentor, it saves alot of time
6. Get a small keg setup, bottling killed my time enjoying brewing (unless you like bottling)
 
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Nick&Worty

Nick&Worty

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Blow out tube in lieu of Air Lock - had a major clean up with a Stout beer - use the blow out tube into distilled water on every brew now - much easier
Oh yeah for sure! On my first 5 gallon brew I used a 5 gallon jug for primary with a standard air lock. Boom! Crap everywhere! Now I use 6.5 gallons and blow off tubes. I just recently started routing mine down the handle of a gallon jug to keep everything firmly in place.

302ABD73-5A40-4658-AF9F-3566C4E9BC26.jpeg
 
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IronMan Brew

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Oh yeah for sure! On my first 5 gallon brew I used a 5 gallon jug for primary with a standard air lock. Boom! Crap everywhere! Now I use 6.5 gallons and blow off tubes. I just recently started routing mine down the handle of a gallon jug to keep everything firmly in place.
View attachment 700643
View attachment 700644
Never thought of that - using a container with distilled water, much easier just using a gallon distilled water jug -
 
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Nick&Worty

Nick&Worty

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I swear I searched for similar threads before starting this one, and now at the bottom of the page I see the same thread! 😬
 
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pvpeacock

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1. Buy lots of 5 gallon buckets and lids. You can never have too many buckets for starsan, PBW, transferring wort, holding hot water, soaking stuff in, holding milled grain, storing stuff in.

2. buy a stainless steel paint stirrer for a cordless drill. It makes doughing in, stirring the mash, stirring while chilling wort after the boil so much easier.

3. Keep a gallon of cool water handy when you dough in so you can add it as needed to reduce the mash temperature. It is easier to reduce the mash temp than increase it once you dough in.

4. RELAX, RELAX, RELAX. It is too easy to get fixated on little things that don't matter at the end of the day.
 
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Nick&Worty

Nick&Worty

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Had to modify those gallon jugs and chop the tops off. Not enough gas was escaping fast enough and they started smelling fierce!
BF7A2DA2-7077-43CE-B1EE-44985089342A.jpeg
 
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brewdude88

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Take thorough notes for every batch... I cannot quite re-create the best porter I ever made because I tasted it before bottling, jumped to conclusions, and made changes to the recipe in Beersmith to re-brew it... Oops... Original grain bill, hop bill and water additions gone forever:( my family is still mad to this day that I can't re-create "that one porter", and that was 5 years ago.
 
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Nick&Worty

Nick&Worty

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Take thorough notes for every batch... I cannot quite re-create the best porter I ever made because I tasted it before bottling, jumped to conclusions, and made changes to the recipe in Beersmith to re-brew it... Oops... Original grain bill, hop bill and water additions gone forever:( my family is still mad to this day that I can't re-create "that one porter", and that was 5 years ago.
If you ever do nail it again you should name it “Reporter”
 

madscientist451

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I wish I had switched to kegs sooner.
BIAB on the stovetop is a super easy way to brew great beer. I went from BIAB to BIAB in a cooler to carefully fly sparging to batch sparging, now I'm back with BIAB on a stovetop. I've downsized to mostly 3 gallon brews.
 

jddevinn

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Starsan doesn’t seek out a certain pH. If it’s mixed at the correct concentration, the correct pH will be obtained. It becomes cloudy when it reacts with hard and/or tap water and is still ok to use as long as the pH level is still in the acceptable range. RO or distilled water can be used if one wants it to be crystal clear.
Star San has two active ingredients, Dodecylbenzenesulfonic Acid (DBSA) and phosphoric acid. The DBSA is a surfactant and breaks down cell walls to kill bacteria and yeast. The phosphoric acid keeps the Star San at a pH low enough for the DBSA to work. The cloudiness is the DBSA binding with iron and other metals in the water and coming out of solution.

Low pH alone will not kill bacteria and yeast. If it did, for example, you would never be able to ferment a kettle sour.

That said it will still sanitize when cloudy (as long as pH is below 3) , however, it will leave a detergent film on the surfaces.

Source: http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/post1827/ interview with Charlie Talley, one of the founders of Five Star.
 

jddevinn

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keeping on topic

  1. Positive CO2 pressure is needed to prevent oxidation during cold crashing. Closed transferring is needed to prevent oxidation during kegging.
  2. Preventing cold side oxidation greatly improves beer.
  3. The worm clamps on the quick disconnects (QD) at the end of hoses will cut your hand/arm. Replacing with crimp clamps is much better.
  4. Local water chemistry changes all the time. For the cost of a couple lab tests you can buy a RO system and forget about testing and then updating recipies forever.
  5. For established recipes I use a digital refractometer to determine when fermentation is done. Pouring the test sample through a coffee filter removes hop partials and carbonation for a better reading.
  6. Ball valves will collect material in the housing. Boil Kettle, pump and any other valve that sees cooled wort should be disassembled and cleaned..... more than you would initially think. Circulating PBW does not clean.
  7. Before I rough filtered out of the fermenter I would occasionally get stuck dip tubes due to hop debris in kegs, especially if I moved a keg to another location for an event. If I removed the poppet in the post and QD....... I'm going to remove with pressure in the keg and spray myself in the face when it comes time to disconnect.
  8. Freezer conversions need decedent systems to pull moister out of the air or they will constantly need cleaning.
  9. 20# of CO2 costs about the same to swap as 5#
  10. When I get something operating perfectly sometimes I will put off 'beutification' for years. (took me nearly 7 to start building a bar after getting the keezer functional)
 
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Nick&Worty

Nick&Worty

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If you want to choose one thing to obsess over process-wise it should be cold side oxidation. It's evil.
I have a beer gun, and I’ve been purging keg headspace several times and then cold crashing and force carbing in kegs. I have read about filling kegs with sanitizer, purging the headspace, and then transferring the sanitizer through the liquid port into another keg prior to kegging. Theoretically this would purge oxygen from the keg and reduce cold side oxidation above and beyond merely purging headspace. May try that next time.
 

bracconiere

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well, i wish i knew to sparge slowly, balance my keg lines, something i learned about a long time ago, and am starting to wonder if i even have right now?...not to use boiling hot water for the sparge....that i can reuse yeast...

wish i didn't have to suffer through a year of drinking hard alcohol, because i didn't know how to malt right.....

another one, i wish i never had that stupid false bottom for my mash tun that i always had to stick a scruchy under the line to get to drain, and went straight for a stainless braid, then a bazooka tube.....

16 years, and this is all i have to show for it...lol, i've only had "other" people to talk to about it for the last two....

oh and damn, co2 leaks, for a while i thought a 20lb tank only lasted a couple months! when i fixed my leaks, a tank went over a year for me!!
 

davidabcd

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Don't put in the airlock for a plastic fermenter until it's in place. Crack the lid when you're about to move one. Both of those actions avoid getting Starsan sucked into the fermenter.
Don't open the fermenter unless absolutely necessary.
Skip the secondary in most cases.

That's it for now.
 

jerrylotto

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It may be basic but I think that the three most important things I've learned are:

Samitize, sanitize, sanitize. Cleanliness is next to yumminess.

Fermentation temperature control - manage the WORT temperature - not the "room" temperature.

Exclude oxygen / air after fermentation starts at every stage until you drink the result.
 

Brooothru

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I have a beer gun, and I’ve been purging keg headspace several times and then cold crashing and force carbing in kegs. I have read about filling kegs with sanitizer, purging the headspace, and then transferring the sanitizer through the liquid port into another keg prior to kegging. Theoretically this would purge oxygen from the keg and reduce cold side oxidation above and beyond merely purging headspace. May try that next time.
Instead of sanitizer, fill the keg all the way up to overflowing with water and 10 grams of NaMeta and then purge with CO2 exhausted from the air lock/blow-off tube port of a fermenting batch. The metabisulfite scrubs out all the oxygen, the CO2 from fermenting beer displaces the liquid with pure CO2 (no oxygen, unlike bottled gas from the welding shop), plus it's FREE.
 
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Nick&Worty

Nick&Worty

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Instead of sanitizer, fill the keg all the way up to overflowing with water and 10 grams of NaMeta and then purge with CO2 exhausted from the air lock/blow-off tube port of a fermenting batch. The metabisulfite scrubs out all the oxygen, the CO2 from fermenting beer displaces the liquid with pure CO2 (no oxygen, unlike bottled gas from the welding shop), plus it's FREE.
Sorry, I'm new, and I want to understand this. I'd probably prefer sanitizer over water, but you're filling up a keg all the way above the input dip tube, connecting a ball lock to the gas input, and the other end of that is connected to a fermenter's blow off tube? I guess then the output connection on the keg would go to another keg or a bucket to drain, and the fermentation pressure is enough to push it all? I assume it would be ideal to do this with the fermenting beer that is destined for that keg? What if the fermenter throws crud through the tube?
 

Brooothru

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Actually, 10 grams of NaMeta dissolved in water IS a santizer and disinfectant. The added benefit here is that it also sequesters O2. I'll leave it to the chemists here to explain the process, but it's fairly straightforward.

As to debris in the blow-off gasses (CO2) from the fermenter getting into the keg being purged, I suppose it's possible if you have an extremely active fermentation and very little headspace in the fermenter. If so, just wait till high krausen has diminished by Day 2 or 3. I've never had a problem with it though.

The connection setup you described is exactly correct. The time to purge the water may take a while ( :45 mins to an hour, or more) depending on how active the fermentation is. The process can be made more efficient by elevating the keg higher than the discharge bucket to set up a siphon if you like, but it's not necessary. I usually daisy-chain 2 or 3 'already cleaned & sanitized' kegs and purge multiple kegs with one batch of NaMeta treated water at the same time. That way they are cleaned, sanitized, purged of oxygen, filled with pure CO2, and sealed until I'm ready to fill them with finished beer under a closed transfer from the fermenter.

Brooo Brother
 
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