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Three Areas of Consideration When Expanding Your Home Brewery.

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Are you totally obsessed with brewing? Are you ready to expand your homebrew operation past the beginner stages? In that case, you’ll want to seriously consider three areas of your procedure: milling, fermenting and bottling.

Expanding Your Home Brewery: Milling



A grain mill is one piece of equipment that could last us the rest of our brewing careers, so it’s useful to purchase the best possible product to suit our needs. Let’s start by discussing the fact that we cannot mill grain perfectly without the proper piece of machinery. We can attempt to crush the kernels by blending, smacking them with a wine bottle, crushing with a rolling pin or pounding them in a mortar and pestle, but the result will be disappointing. If the kernels are too thoroughly smashed, there could be a large amount of powder in our grain bed, which can lead to a stuck sparge. If the kernels aren’t crushed enough, our efficiency will fall dramatically.
There are two main decisions when selecting a grain mill. You can purchase a mill that crushes the grain with rollers, or a mill that crushes the grain with grinding pads. The roller method is the most precise method for milling barley as it squeezes the kernel in between two rods before dropping the kernel into a container below. One important thing to look for in a grain mill with rollers is the adjustability of the crushing gap. The more adjustable the rollers, the more useful the grain mill will be in the long run. Remember that you’re buying a product to last you as many years as possible, so consider the fact that you might want to brew with specialty grains in the future that require a different grind to barley so that the adjustability will come in handy.
Roller grain mills will come with two or three rollers. The two roller models are perfectly fine, but the third roller ensures you get a more thorough crush the first time through. Most three-roller models will press the grain initially and then push the kernel to a second station for a more comprehensive crush. This means that you could achieve a similar outcome by crushing grain twice in a two-roller model, but it takes twice as long. The decision is yours.
Grain mills that grind grains between two pads are less reliable and not necessarily as precise, but they have one huge benefit; they’re cheap. The motion of moving the grains between two rough pads is naturally more haphazard than pressing the kernels between rollers, but both methods work. Do yourself a favour and read through some online discussions on grain mills. You’ll find that most people are very happy with the model they have, simply because it is particularly effective or because it gets a rough job done for a low cost.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure you read a thousand reviews of the specific model you’re planning on purchasing to make sure that the product is reliable. Also, consider speaking to the people at your local homebrew store to get some trustworthy advice.

Fermentation



When considering fermenting vessels you have three main options: A plastic bucket with an airlock, a plastic fermenter or a glass carboy. A plastic bucket with an airlock is basically a less expensive plastic fermenter. Both of these fermenters are almost always opaque, so you can’t see the progress of your brew, and both are easy to clean since the lid is very wide. Make sure any plastic you buy is food grade and remember that the surface may be easily scratched. Scratches will allow microorganisms to hide in the vessel after an improper clean, so be gentle. Since the plastic buckets require you to be particularly vigilant with sanitation, it’s probably a bad idea to put beer into a used container. The tub in which you mix your pool chlorine or take fishing is probably unsuitable for brewing, even if you’ve never caught a bream.
The plastic fermenter can be more useful if it has a spigot on the bottom, which can be fitted with a bottle filler (bottling rod) to make the final stages of fermentation easier. The purpose built plastic fermenter will also be easier to transport if it has handles since the people who designed it are expecting the vessel to carry over 5 gallons.
Finally, the glass carboy is the best for storing beer long term. If you’re lagering or souring a brew, or trying to infuse some additional flavor with a secondary fermentation stage, then the glass carboy is the most appropriate piece of equipment.
Be aware though, the top of a glass carboy will be very narrow, so sanitation will only be possible by flushing the vessel out and soaking or rinsing with sanitize. Glass is also less malleable, so you won’t be able to install a tap at the bottom; you’ll need a siphon to transfer the liquid properly. Oh, and DON’T DROP IT!
With all of these benefits and complications to individual products, the answer is simple; get them all. Purchase one of each of these fermenters and you’ll be able to keep multiple beers in separate stages of the brewing process. As you’re expanding your home brewing operation, an opportunity to triple the amount of beer you can brew is a prospect that shouldn’t be ignored.
Another factor of improvement in fermentation is to make sure you have some form of temperature control. This can be a converted fridge, or something like the BrewJacket Immersion. Controlling your fermentation temperature is huge as many yeast strains don't really like being at 68F and prefer the lower to mid 60s. Temp control also opens up the ability to brew lagers, which allows you to brew dozens of new styles.

Bottling



Now we’re on to bottling. Guess what: just like milling and fermenting equipment, you’ll get what you pay for with bottling gear. You could buy a hand capper for a few bucks and expect to simply refill the empty bottles your mates left at your house last weekend, but when those three fermenters we just spoke about are ready for bottling and you need to get 15 gallons into two hundred little glass vessels, you’ll wish you were more prepared.
We won’t discus kegging in this article because it’s probably a little too much for us at this stage. If we’re considering milling gear and fermenters, lets focus on that for now and deal with ball lock systems and aluminium cylinders and in a few months.
We can select glass bottles or plastic bottles. Glass bottles need to be capped, plastic bottles use screw on lids. Glass is better for aging beer, plastic is better if you plan on drinking as much of this brew as you can fit in your belly as soon as possible and there’s a moderate chance that you could drop a beer at some point in the evening. Of course, glass can be salvaged for free from your recycling bin.
Again we’re at a stage where each option comes with its benefits. Can you guess where we’re headed now? That’s right, lets plan to use glass and plastic. Since you need to purchase plastic PET bottles (if you don’t already have some), but they’re simple and practical to clean, prepare and re-use, consider keeping thirty or forty on hand. This way, you can quickly transfer a standard beer into bottles to be drunk soon, then cleaned and re-filled for the next time you want a quick brew. But, glass is much better for aging beers, so store your big beers and the darker stuff you’d like to leave in the bottle for a couple of months in glass.
Another consideration for the social home brewer is that glass makes for a better gift. If you bottle a six pack for a friend, you can give them glass without having to mention, “Can I please get those bottles back when you’re done, mate?” Now you’ll need a capper and, just like the grain mill, you get what you pay for. Luckily, even the best cappers aren’t particularly expensive, so you can purchase something that will attach to a workbench and last you for a long, long time for a very reasonable price.
Having enough bottles handy when you need them might also require a little planning, so consider hoarding all the bottles from a celebration. Maybe Christmas is just around the corner, or there’s a particularly rowdy barbeque coming up soon; either way, put a bin or a plastic bucket off to the side and tell everyone to throw the empties into it. You can soak the whole haul in sanitiser and figure out which bottles have the most forgiving packaging. You’ll find that some labels simply fall off and some need to be scraped away. With this in mind, avoid bottles with foil stickers. These things flake off and the metal shavings can get inside your other bottles.
So now you have a mill, three fermenters and a couple of bottling options for your separate needs, what’s next? What a stupid question, we all know what’s next; it’s time to make some beer.


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Up until now you’ve been fermenting your beer in the basement, or in that hall closet that stays nice and cool. What if you want to brew a saison that calls for higher fermentation temperature, want to try your hand at lagering, or even dial in your standard ale fermentations more precisely? You need a way to control the fermentation temperature. Temperature control isn’t just for beers that ferment higher or lower than average. All of your batches can benefit from being at the right temperature at the right time...
 
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thought kegging would be important,when expanding a brewery..that's including growlers and mini kegs......
 
Not everyone gets into kegging, or if they do they may not for a good while due to costs/space. Probably better to have an improved production then if you want to get into kegging do it down the road.
 
I would have thought kegging gets a mention and stainless steel fermenters vs another glass carboy. The grain mill is a good call. Out of the three I mentioned. I got kegs first, then the grain mill (Barley Crusher) and now have two Anvil Stainless Steel Fermenters. $129 each. SS Fermenters have gotten cheaper over the years.
 
I actually started right off the bat with kegging. My first couple of batches I kegged and then I used the keg to make it easier to bottle my first batch; it was uncarbonated but I pushed it with c02 so I didn't need a bottleing bucket. I feel the versatility of even just one keg (like I did for a while) warrants a mention.
I used a corona mill while I did 5gal BIAB and only upgraded that to a 3-roller mill since I went a 15gal 2-vessel RIMS but by that time I was already up to 6 kegs.
Something else to add to the list that I feel can make a huge difference in your beer is the quality of your testing equipment. A really good thermometer is around 60$ and is super useful outside of the brewery. My latest brewery purchase was a digital refractometer but that's because I'm sick of doing temp conversions and breaking hydrometers.
Brewing for some(me included) can be a vicious cycle of upgrades to try and refine and improve ones beer; so there is always something around the corner.
 
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