Tips you would like to have known when you first started brewing?

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cactusgarrett

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  1. Be OCD about your sanitation (Star San is a game changer)
  2. A secondary "fermenter" is unnecessary in 99% of brewing instances.
  3. Airlock activity isn't indicative of fermentation. Get two consistent FG readings 2-3 days apart before bottling.
  4. Know your starting water profile - specifically enough to know:
    1. if you need to mitigate chlorine/chloramines
    2. what your permanent hardness/alkalinity is
    3. how to achieve a desired Cl:SO4 ratio
 

Erik the Anglophile

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Ís ok snœrs ok miðnótts boði landi frá komum
Don't give beers to people who won't return bottles, one chance is all thet get, F it up means no more beer for him/her unless consumed at my house. Yes I am hard when it comes to not returning bottles despite promising to do so, but more on principle, I regard a broken word as a personal insult.
Just forget about "all the money you will save by not buying fancy craft beer" when you have earned in your starting equipment, you realise you need a better FC fridge, and a beer fridge, and better fermentors, and, and etc....See it as a hobby you invest time and money in to perfect the outcome of instead.
Have fun and don't be afraid to experiment a little within reasonable frames once you feel you start get a hang of the basics, and don't be afraid to fail a few times while doing so.
 

Snuffy

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A good amount of people go through the stages of brewing: 1) Mr Beer or similar, 2) Extract Brewing, 3) Partial Mash, 4) Turkey fryer, 5) Grainfather or other coffee urn style All-in-one units and finally 6) a top-notch, top quality Brewing system (I wont mention names in order to eliminate arguments). What I would like to have known when I first started brewing? After I for sure I liked this hobby..... I wish I would have bought the top system and forgone the fermenting buckets, carboys and cheap fermenters. While a top of the line equipment does not make the brewer, it may help and certainly not hurt...
Here’s a thread from someone with a similar brew ethic...;)North Carolina - Unibrau Pro All in One 100L 240V System
 

GBRbrew

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I wish I had known how much I was going to hate bottling so I could have gone straight to kegging my beer. 6 +hrs to bottle, god I dont miss that.
 

hamachi

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If you tell your friends and relatives you brew, then you will not have any or you will have very little for yourself. Best advice, when asked "How did your homebrewing turn out?". Reply, "It was awful. I had to dump it!" (laughing to oneself).

Recently I visit relatives and relative says to me "I thought maybe you'd bring some of your beer.". I replied, "This is your house. It's up to you to supply the beer. Visit me and I have my beer." Nothing like being taken for granted...
Partly due to the lockdown and not having an office of coworkers to give my product to, I have the opposite problem. My friends, neighbors, wife, and I can't drink my beer fast enough to keep up with my production, so my house is filling with beer. I only started brewing in August 2020, but since then have become completely obsessed with it, to the point that I'm cooking up a new batch almost every weekend and running out of places to put all the bottles.
 

hamachi

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@hamachi, I've had my shots and am open to reasonable travel distances. Where do you live? I can bring a lawn chair and my own pint glass. If you can't handle visitors, my car has a good sized truck. Always glad to help out a fellow home brewer. :p
Excellent! I live in SoCal, and we have a neighborhood happy hour every Tuesday at which I supply the refreshments. Are you close? :)
 

Teufelhunde

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1) Using simple sanitizers like Starsan and Iodophor. Didn’t know anything about those at first, so I used bleach to sanitize. On a related note, I also didn’t realize that anything that would be used before flameout didn’t need to be sanitized, so I was spending unnecessary time and energy sanitizing everything.

2) Using a wort chiller. Didn’t know anything about those, so I was relying on an ice bath to chill my wort post-boil. I was really worried my first batch was going to be ruined because it took so long to cool it. I ran out of ice in the freezer and had to leave the house to go buy more while the wort sat there exposed to the elements. Turned out ok, though.

My freezer has an icemaker, so I empty the bin in a plastic bag two times, storing that in my deep freeze. I wait until the bin in the main freezer fills again, then it's time to brew. Takes me 20 minutes in the sink to cool down what's left of a 3 gallon boil.....once I have added water to bring it up to 5 gallons, 9 times out of ten, it is at pitching temperature.....
 

Teufelhunde

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#1 Bag all hops......I hate dealing with the sludge.....

#2 My beer is soooooo much better than anything that can be bought in a store/bar......

#3 Night before bottle day, load the dishwasher with 48 bottles (nothing else) and run the sanitize cycle. Next day, just take them out and give them a squirt of sanitizer (likely overkill) and they are good to go. Put the bottling bucket (once filled) on the counter above the dishwasher and put the bottles on the open dishwasher lid to fill. Any spillage simply drains into the dishwasher when you close the door).....
 

hamachi

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Putting aside my "problem" of too much beer and getting back to the OP's question:

I think half the fun of homebrewing is discovering the specific setup that you like best and your own tips and tricks that work for that setup. So I would not wish to have spoiled that process by telling myself, "Do all-grain mash-in-a-bag in a 10 gallon cooler followed by a 3 pot boil on your kitchen stove. Use an immersion chiller followed by an ice bath to bring T down to 60 degrees. Pour the chilled wort into a bottling bucket lined by a brew bag to filter out the kettle trub, then transfer into the fermenter from high up to aerate." All of these are part of my current process, and they work well for me. But I would not have wanted to skip the process of evolving from extract kits to a single BIAB attempt to my current scheme, learning from experience all along the way.

One specific tip I do wish I knew from the beginning came from the "CS Mead and More" couple on YouTube, and that is to always have The Red Bucket of Sanitization (TRBOS) at hand. I.e., if you brew and bottle frequently, as I do, it's very convenient to always have a 5 gallon bucket of Star San at the ready.

The other tip I can think of is: use silicone rather than vinyl tubing on both the hot side and cold side. It's essential on the hot side because of its heat tolerance. But even for siphoning from fermenters, I prefer it because it's more flexible, and it's easier to attach to the auto-siphon.
 

3dB Brewing

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I brewed beer for a year with the lid on the boil kettle-- simply because nobody ever told me not to. My recipe book didn't mention it; none of the how-to's on the internet mentioned it. I figured it's like stew -- lower the heat and keep a lid on. So I'm reading some thread on HBT and learn about Dimethyl sulfide (DMS), which will boil off if you DON'T use a lid, but can skunk your wort if you do. Also, boilovers...
 

hotbeer

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I brewed beer for a year with the lid on the boil kettle-- simply because nobody ever told me not to. My recipe book didn't mention it; none of the how-to's on the internet mentioned it. I figured it's like stew -- lower the heat and keep a lid on. So I'm reading some thread on HBT and learn about Dimethyl sulfide (DMS), which will boil off if you DON'T use a lid, but can skunk your wort if you do. Also, boilovers...
So while brewing that year with a lid on, where you happy with the taste of your beers? Can you taste the difference without the lid?
 

3dB Brewing

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Nope, the beers were great; I never detected what is described as DMS off flavor (creamed corn). Like diacetyl, I think DMS is one of those things that "can" happen; and there are known ways to avoid it. That doesn't mean it will (or even that it's likely), but it's simple to minimize the probability (e.g., by boiling uncovered, and giving the yeast a diacetyl rest).
 

Toxxyc

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If I had to give someone advice as a starter, it would be:

1. Don't buy fancy shiny equipment. For the most part, it's not needed. You need a grain bag, a big urn, a fermenter, bottling want and a capper. That's about it. If you can get swingtop bottles, you save even more.
2. Fermentation temperature control is of utmost importance. UTMOST importance. It's probably the biggest thing that improved my beers, and it doesn't have to be expensive. An STC-1000 temperature controller, an old electric blanket and an upright fridge I got for a steal is what made my chamber for a long time before upgrading to a chest freezer as the ferm chamber. However, I can honestly say that all my beers seem to have lost their "homebrew" taste when I started controlling my fermentation temperature. Forget a kegging setup, forget a bench capper, forget a fancy brewfather or grand kettles or water measurement instruments or all that - get a fermentation chamber.
3. Have fun. It sounds like a chore in the beginning, and it really is, but it's worth it.
4. Don't always play by the book. Some of my coolest discoveries were because I simply didn't listen to the rules. I made my own recipes and brewed what I thought I would like. Some I did, some I loved, and some were disgusting (like my 0.8% ABV black liqorice flavoured ghastly concoction). Experiment - that's what makes this fun for me.
5. Go BIAB, at least in the beginning. Forget about a 3-tier system if you're starting. BIAB is easy, forgiving and produces in no means less impressive beers. It also saves you a ton of money upfront.
6. Develop a brewing system and stick to it. Don't change everything every brew. If you do, you won't hit your numbers each time and your beers will suffer for it. Rather add 500g of pale malt to your mash each time and make sure you get the job done.
7. Don't chase ABV or IBU in the start. We all want to, and you are going to at some point (I think we all did it), but I would rather recommend making a good blonde or pale ale, or even a simple beer like a Helles. That'll immediately show you where you're going wrong and what you should change.
8. BU:GU. Read up on it, learn it, understand it and why it makes a beer work or fail. It's not a Helles if you make it at 5% ABV but it packs 35 IBUs. It won't taste like a Helles and it won't be one either.
9. No-chill brewing in cubes is a thing. A very helpful thing.
10. Don't trust family and friends to tell you if something is good. They have to say yes. They have no choice. If you really want to know, bottle a few brews and send it for judges. Don't expect a beer over 35/50 if you star, but pay heed to what they have to say. I'm entering my first ever competition in June and I hope to get just 30/50 for my Helles. Anything more will be a bonus.
 

JesterMage

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Look into SMaSH or brewing on the ones.
Patience.

In all things.

This has really helped me to learn patience and brewing. I want to try everything and try it right now! This lead to more research and reading than brewing. Once I started doing simple brews the more I learned from doing. I could pick a simple style beer, pick a malt, a grain (for steeping in my case), a hop and a yeast. I learned much more this way than hours, days and weeks thinking and planning a brew. Once I had a good SMaSH I could add to it or make a single change (I had no idea yeast could make such a big change to the flavor of a beer) to try and fine-tune it or enhance it. Record all your changes. Record how it felt and tasted when you tried it.

I was still brewing. I was still making good beers and I was still drinking what I made. I gained confidence and knowledge with a great reward at the end...BEER I MADE.

People on this forum have always been very nice and helpful. I come here often. Hope to see you here more.
 

Pkrd

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When you’re brewing all-grain, taste each malt. Malts are surprisingly snackable, and it’s a great way to figure out what each one may be bringing to your beer. (This goes for black malts, too, but try those in small quantities.)
And sour in even smaller quantities.
 

seatazzz

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I will borrow from a humor writer here, and caution against skipping ahead in ANY brewing book you might be reading; i.e., Step One: Remove product from box. Skip to: Step 136: Ignite Gas. I ignored a lot of common sense in the beginning and thus created a LOT of band-aid beers. Number one: Do NOT pitch yeast into hot wort. It will end badly every time unless you are using Kveik. Number two: CHILL. Yourself and your wort. If you start overthinking your process, you might lose sight of the big picture. Follow the recipe you have built/chosen, and brew it many times to dial it in. Also, if your wort doesn't chill down to pitching temperature, either by using one of the many processes available or by what we call no-chill, it will KILL your yeast and produce something very nasty. Number three: anything preboil does NOT need to be "sanitized". Clean, yes; laboratory sterile, oh hell no. I've been known to leave a bit of water in the HLT from the previous brewday, and instead of dumping it out (very large PITA for a small woman) just boiled it and added more water, and made great beer from it. Post-boil? Oh yes, sanitize sanitize sanitize! BUT NO BLEACH. Yuck. Another bandaid starter. Number four: Keep notes! I have an old laptop in my brewery (that I am typing on right now) whose sole purpose in life is to keep notes for my brewdays. Some people prefer a journal that is handwritten, which is also great, I just like to type. Number five, and possibly the most important, as noted above: FERMENTATION TEMPERATURE CONTROL. Whether it be by keeping your fermentation vessel in a ferment fridge with a temperature controller, or in a tub of ice water, keep that wort at a stable temperature (62-66F for ales) for at least 5 days so those yeast can work in their optimum environment. Finally; brewers do not make beer, they make wort; YEAST makes beer what it is. No yeast, no beer; KNOW yeast, KNOW beer!
 

PberBob

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#3 Night before bottle day, load the dishwasher with 48 bottles (nothing else) and run the sanitize cycle. Next day, just take them out and give them a squirt of sanitizer (likely overkill) and they are good to go. Put the bottling bucket (once filled) on the counter above the dishwasher and put the bottles on the open dishwasher lid to fill. Any spillage simply drains into the dishwasher when you close the door).....
My variant on this trick is to empty the clean dishes out of the dishwasher and pour in about 2-1/2 gal of iodophor solution and start the quick rinse cycle. Cancel the cycle after about 5 min, which will drain it. Then load in your sanitized bottles and left them drain on the racks. Then as T does, fill bottles on the door. The clean up is trivial.
 

Drewch

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Things I wish I'd known at the beginning.
  1. You don't have to brew five gallons. Brew small batches while you dial in your recipe(s). It's much cheaper, and you can iterate faster. This is, by far, the single biggest change I've made from what I was told when I started -- the accepted wisdom was buy big so you can brew big. But my default batch size now is 4 L unless I know I need more for some reason.
  2. BIAB No Chill. Literally, the only things you have to have are a kettle, a grain bag, and a fermenter. (Other equipment will certainly help tho -- like a way to measure temperature and gravity and such.)
  3. Start your ferment cool and let it warm up after the growth phase.
  4. Relax, don't worry, and have fun . . . . Except about sanitation. Worry about sanitation.
 

Kharnynb

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beside all the things mentioned, things I wished I had done immediately.

Buy a decen "coffeeurn" style ebiab instead of messing with stovetop multikettle setups.
Get basic steel fermenters like the chapman ones in US or brewland ones in europe...so much nicer to use than plastic and safer than glass, also just dumping the wort hot in the fermenter and closing it, then cooling in a icebath is so much easier.
 

GoodTruble

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beside all the things mentioned, things I wished I had done immediately.

Buy a decen "coffeeurn" style ebiab instead of messing with stovetop multikettle setups.
Get basic steel fermenters like the chapman ones in US or brewland ones in europe...so much nicer to use than plastic and safer than glass, also just dumping the wort hot in the fermenter and closing it, then cooling in a icebath is so much easier.
What electric kettle do you recommend? Seems appealing, but e every time I start researching, it starts to sound like I would just be trading in one set of problems for another set. (-I'm stove-top, but always looking for ways to simplify/make it easier/quicker).
 

Kharnynb

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I've got the bulldog brewer(uk company), but I'm in europe, so different power and suppliers :D
some of the 200-300 euro/dollar ones are pretty decent and while they won't do to much special stuff, they are great for just doing what needs to be done.
the anvil 6.5 gallon looks the same than what I've got.
 

Dan Risher

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Hi,
Thanks for the reply!
Bottles. Cleaning them is getting a little annoying but I don’t think I’m ready for kegs just jet, I feel the bottles are simple enough.

I don’t mind additional fermentation time for the fruit.

also I didn’t know that that’s a good sign of healthy yeast, thanks!
I, too, think cleaning bottles is a pain. I rinse them well are emptying them, let them dry, then seal with a 2x2 inch square piece of aluminum foil and put them in cardboard 6 pack holders. When I have enough, I load a cool oven with the 6 packs, bring the temp up to 180° F, hold for 15 minutes, turn off and let cool down with the door closed. They will stay sanitized as long as the foil is in place.
I recommend a bench capper. Much easier than the wing type and the neck type of the bottle doesn't matter.
Cheers!
 

DarrellQ

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I wish I had known how much I was going to hate bottling so I could have gone straight to kegging my beer. 6 +hrs to bottle, god I dont miss that.
6+ hours to bottle!? What, are you bottling 20 gallons? I keg everything but my stouts, but when I bottle 5 gallons into 22 once bottles, it only takes around 1 hour.
 

GBRbrew

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6+ hours to bottle!? What, are you bottling 20 gallons? I keg everything but my stouts, but when I bottle 5 gallons into 22 once bottles, it only takes around 1 hour.
I'm pretty OCD about my sanitation, pbw soak the bottles (sink will only hold about 8 at a time) then I hit them with a bottle brush then rinse 3 times then sanitize and rack on the dishwasher, repeat till I get 50 + bottles plus the hr or so to clean the kitchen before I start, bottling then takes 60 to 90 min ( transfer to bottling bucket, bottle, cap and store) then clean everything up
 

hotbeer

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Sink only holds eight bottles? Wow. How big are your bottles or how small is your sink?

I tend to use a five gallon bucket to soak them which holds a lot of bottles standing up. Standing them allows all the air bubbles to escape. And I have used a bigger canning pot to soak them in.

5 gallon buckets come in handy for sanitizing and cleaning. And they are useful for many other things besides fermenting vessels.
 

GBRbrew

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It's a small sink, 8 12oz bottles laying down is all that would fit at one time.
 

Drewch

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I'm pretty OCD about my sanitation, pbw soak the bottles (sink will only hold about 8 at a time) then I hit them with a bottle brush then rinse 3 times then sanitize and rack on the dishwasher, repeat till I get 50 + bottles plus the hr or so to clean the kitchen before I start, bottling then takes 60 to 90 min ( transfer to bottling bucket, bottle, cap and store) then clean everything up
Rinsing them immediately after use eliminates 90% of the pain of bottle cleaning. Once in while, I get a particularly clingy yeast film, and I was killing myself scrubbing for a while, but I've found an overnight soak in PBW will clear out pretty much any yeast film. Then just hit them with some no-rinse sanitizer before use. I haven't had any issues traceable to contaminated bottles.
 

ncbrewer

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I keg everything but my stouts, but when I bottle 5 gallons into 22 once bottles, it only takes around 1 hour.
I would love that, but my bottling day is 5 hours for a 5 gallon batch. It's 1.5 hours before beer goes into a bottle (set-up, gathering materials, priming sugar prep, racking to bottling bucket), and clean-up is 1.5 hours. So bottling takes 2 hours.
 

hamachi

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I would love that, but my bottling day is 5 hours for a 5 gallon batch. It's 1.5 hours before beer goes into a bottle (set-up, gathering materials, priming sugar prep, racking to bottling bucket), and clean-up is 1.5 hours. So bottling takes 2 hours.
You seem to be spending more time than needed on all of those stages. But specifically, why does the bottling itself take 2 full hours? A 5 gallon batch gives you roughly 50 12 ounce bottles, so two hours means 2.4 minutes for each bottle. This seems extraordinarily slow.
 

amber-ale

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Partly due to the lockdown and not having an office of coworkers to give my product to, I have the opposite problem. My friends, neighbors, wife, and I can't drink my beer fast enough to keep up with my production, so my house is filling with beer. I only started brewing in August 2020, but since then have become completely obsessed with it, to the point that I'm cooking up a new batch almost every weekend and running out of places to put all the bottles.
Do smaller batches....more flavours, less work, less to store
 

amber-ale

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I wish I had known how much I was going to hate bottling so I could have gone straight to kegging my beer. 6 +hrs to bottle, god I dont miss that.
6 hours seem really long. Yo brew day is 4 hours from initial set up to pots clean/ beer in ferment or.
KISS principle......keep it simple....
 
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