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Top 5 ways to improve your beer

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Janx

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This topic sprang from another thread, but most of my top 5 are things I have mentioned here again and again. Here's what I posted off the top of my head and in no particular order (except sanitation really is number one):

1) Effective sanitizing procedures
2) A large, clean, healthy yeast starter made from quality liquid yeast
3) Racking to a secondary within a week
4) Fresh quality ingredients and use of whole hops
5) All-grain brewing

Post your top 5! :)
 

BitterRat

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1.) Sanitize
2.) Fresh ingredients
3.) Large healthy starter
4.) Know your equipment and have a consistent routine
5.) pay attention to details
I do not believe you need to all grain brew to make quality beer! To many brewers have won competitions using extract to say that. And whole hops are not the end all either, I do favor them myself, but the fact is that pellets keep longer, take less space to store, and give higher utilization than whole hops!
Now, after reading another thread, I have to say 2 other things are extremely important, those being a full boil and fermenting at the proper temperature, which another person stated, these certainly could/should replace my original #4&5!!
 

Rhoobarb

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1. Sanitation.

2. A healthy starter (I just began using them about four batches ago - if I only knew what I was missing!).

3. Practice - like anything else in life. The more I brew, the better I get at it.

4. Patience - relax and have fun. Otherwise, what's the point?

5. Oh, yeah - did I mention sanitation? ;)
 

tnlandsailor

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Here was my original list from the previous thread:

1) Effective sanitizing procedures
2) A large, clean, healthy yeast starter
3) Fermenting at the proper temperature
4) Fresh quality ingredients
5) Utilizing a full wort boil

I actually did put my list in order of importance, but 3, 4 and 5 are pretty equal and this is the order I ended up with.

I like Roobarbs inclusion of "Practice".
 

Ken Doggett

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I would have to ditto all the above. Here's how I list the top five ways to improve your brew:

1. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. I sanitize after brewing and before the next brew. Everything that touches the wort gets sanitized twice.
2. All Grain - I am a believer in all grain. You can control the efficiency. You cannot control the efficiency of extracts. Use fresh ingredients.
3. Liquid yeast - made into starter. Again, sanitize to keep out infections.
4. Glass carboys for fermentation - get rid of plastic. Transfer from primary to secondary in about a week. Keep at proper fermentation temps.
5. Full wort boil - very important.
 

rixport

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Hello, I'm new to this forum. So, why not start in by adding something that's sure to render many opinions. I rarely do any 2ndary fermentation. I do a complete and temperature controled fermentation and imediately transfer into corny kegs for carbonation, aging and dispensing (ah). Personally, I feel that the more you mess with your beer while fermenting, the more risk you take of contamination. There are cases where I think it's a good thing, as in brewing a lager style that requires a long aging period. If I need to do this, as soon as the primary frementation is done, I transfer to a corney keg and put it under enough pressure to maintain the seal and let it age in there. This is a form of 2ndary fermentation I would imagine, but I carbonate that beer without transfering to another vesel for dispensing after a proper ageing period. I rarely brew these styles, so it does not come into play that often. The other styles are mostly best when drank fresh, so why put your beer thru one more handling stage that's not needed. My beer gets many comments on clarity and I rarely have a person spit my beer out with a sour look on their face.. if they do, chances are mega-lite is their favorite brand. The rest of the top 5 reasons, I agree with at one level or another.

Ken Smith
 

DeRoux's Broux

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1. mad sanitation
2. yeast starter - utilizing quality liquide yeast
3. quality, freshest possible ingredients
4. proper fermentation techniques (includes all-glass fermentation vessels, racking after primary fermentation, and proper temperature)
5. patience, patience, patience

i second the full, vigorous wort boil, and the practice. the more we brew, the better the brew!!!!
DeRoux's Broux
 

andre the giant

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1) Sanitation
2) All-grain
3) Proper techniques, (All glass, transfer to secondary, proper fermentation temp)
4) Practice and being "worry-free"
5) Full Wort boil

Honorable mention: Liquid yeast with starter. I've made good beer without the starter, but having a good slurry of yeast to pitch sure does help make the process "worry free."

As far as racking to a secondary goes, I still bottle my beer and by racking to the secondary fermenter, I can separate the beer from the sediment, allow it to clear, and make sure it is completely done fermenting before bottling. I allow 10-14 days in the primary, which some people disagree with, but it really depends on my schedule and when I can fit the racking process in. If properly sanitized, I think the Secondary fermentation is a big plus to my brewing.
 
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This seems to be a good place to drop in some information I read on White Labs web site (FAQ) regarding "Healthy Yeast Pitch". Sorry it's a bit long but I was intrigued with their "too much yeast" can have negative affects. From this I thought about tossing batches on a prior slurry...
-------------------------------------

How can I pitch 1 million cells per ml per degree Plato?

Some homebrewers now want to pitch more yeast in 5 gallons then a pint starter. An often quoted number is to pitch 1 million cells/ml/degree Plato of beer, which equals about 250 billion cells for 5 gallons. That is okay, more cells are not detrimental until about 400 billion cells. For those that enjoy yeast culturing and want 250 billion cells, one vial can be added directly to 2 liters of wort starter, and after two days of incubation, will be equal to roughly 250 billion cells. Is this necessary? Every brewer will have a different opinion, but here is some information:

a. The source of the 1 million cells/ml/degree Plato figure: Professional brewery literature.
Most professional breweries re-pitch their yeast because they have the fermentor design and facilities to reuse yeast. So most brewery pitches are actually re-pitches, and only 2-10% of brewery pitchings are using freshly propagated yeast. One of the main sources of contamination in a brewery is the pitching yeast. So in order to out-compete other organisms, large quantities of yeast must be pitched. When propagated by a professional yeast laboratory, the yeast is grown under sterile conditions, sterileoxygen and special nutrients are used to improve cell construction and performance. This does not occur in a brewery, so numbers they use to "pitch" take into account the inadequacy of their brewers yeast. The yeast is also unhealthy due to prolonged growth without oxygen and nutrients. In addition, brewers yeast will always contain some contaminants that need to be out-grown, and 1 million cells per ml per degree Plato has been found to be the best marriage of high pitching rates and no negative flavor effects (Higher pitching rates can lead to unhealthy yeast and a "yeasty" off bite). Liquid yeast grown by a professional laboratory should have no contaminants, so out competing contaminants found in the pitching yeast is not a concern.

One thing that contributes to flavor contribution in beer is yeast growth. If less yeast is pitched into beer, more yeast growth takes place, so more flavor compounds such as esters are produced. Depending on the amount produced, this is how pitching rates can have a direct effect on flavor profile. If 5 to 10 billion cells are pitched into wort, this definitely has a negative flavor impact in terms of higher ester levels and potential for bacterial contamination. But does a pint starter worth of yeast (30-50 billion cells) pitched into beer tasted different then 2 liters worth of yeast (250 billion cells)? Sounds like more homebrew has to be made to get to the bottom of this! Your feedback is appreciated.
 

bunz

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tnlandsailor said:
Here was my original list from the previous thread:

1) Effective sanitizing procedures
2) A large, clean, healthy yeast starter
3) Fermenting at the proper temperature
4) Fresh quality ingredients
5) Utilizing a full wort boil

I actually did put my list in order of importance, but 3, 4 and 5 are pretty equal and this is the order I ended up with.

I like Roobarbs inclusion of "Practice".
I'll ditto this list here. Liquid yeast is nice, but so is culturing your own. There are some yeast out there you can't get in liquid form any more.

Bunz
 

brewhead

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heres the irony - everyone lists sanitizing as the #1 thing - yet this board and other forums are filled with new brewers with lids popping off et al - and the general response is - it'll be fine.

i understand the necessity of sanitizing - but it seems less of a risk of generating a hospital visit and more to do with an off flavoring due to some unknown contaminate.
 

AlaskaAl(e)

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Quite true. I've restrained myself from posting on this particular thread thus far, but then again I've never had much self-restraint. Anyway, in most cases the responses of "relax" are generally accurate. I could quote a hundred threads that reference "ye olde days of brueing" and how killing yourself with a batch of beer is quite unlikely (unless a full carboy strikes you on the head from the top shelf). Sanitizing is important and perhaps it's stressed so dutifully by so many of the homebrewing community to protect us from complacency so we don't ruin a batch with off flavors and moldy beer in the extreme cases.

All that being said I feel the number one most important thing to improving your beer is starting with a good recipe and changing it. I know it sounds a bit odd but I'm shocked at times to see people in my HB community try to make some extraordinary beer with an ordinary recipe. A couple pounds of malt, a few ounces of hops, a few gallons of water, and some yeast will yield beer. That's the simple fact of it. If you want to make good beer you'll grab a recipe off the HBS wall, or off the web, or out of a clone book and follow it precisely. If you want to make great beer you'll take a good beer and make it better. Don't misunderstand me, this isn't a dig on those who see a recipe they like and brew it, that's exactly what I do much of the time. But with the subject being how to improve, I would say experimentation is the single best thing you can do to improve your beer. Ever brew a beer you thought you would like but it didn't turn out as good as expected? Improve the recipe. Wow, this got long.
 

uglygoat

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i ditto all the above on sanitation, ingredients, secondary fermentors, liquid yeast with little lag time...

most important imho however, is...

have a beer or two whilst you are brewing. karma is important ;)

.
 

BitterRat

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brewhead said:
heres the irony - everyone lists sanitizing as the #1 thing - yet this board and other forums are filled with new brewers with lids popping off et al - and the general response is - it'll be fine.

i understand the necessity of sanitizing - but it seems less of a risk of generating a hospital visit and more to do with an off flavoring due to some unknown contaminate.
Well, I can certainly see where you're coming from! But , try making a beer without paying attention to sanitation! I doubt, unless you're very fortunate/lucky, that it will be drinkable. The times you mention all really depend on timing. I have done open fermentation and have not suffered from any contaminates in my beer. However, I let the fermentation get going before peeling the lid off the pale. So this is why everyone mentions sanitiation first, because it is essential, at certain times, to the process, and you cannot skimp or take short cuts at those times.
As for recipes , whether it's making your own or tweaking an existing one, without the things mentioned, a recipe is a recipe. You still need all of the other things mentioned ,no matter how good the recipe. Of course, this is all my opinion and someone else may view things completely different!!
 

DeRoux's Broux

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Janx said:
This topic sprang from another thread, but most of my top 5 are things I have mentioned here again and again. Here's what I posted off the top of my head and in no particular order (except sanitation really is number one):

1) Effective sanitizing procedures
2) A large, clean, healthy yeast starter made from quality liquid yeast
3) Racking to a secondary within a week
4) Fresh quality ingredients and use of whole hops
5) All-grain brewing

Post your top 5! :)
Just a follow up for the post. I stumbled across an article that had a quote from Chris White of White Lab's. Here are his 4 thing's that he said homebrewer's need to be concerned with (to make good/better beer), in no particular order:
1. Proper aeration
2. Yeast Strain differences
3. Yeast flocculation
4. Control of fermentation temperatures

Of course, he is a yeast guy, so he seems a little one-sided! :D

Cheers!
DeRoux's Broux
 
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As I mentioned in another thread I went to an all grain class and there was a head brewmaster from a regional brewery (Nimbus) who happened to be sitting in on the class. The teacher announced who he was after his session. Anyhow, got to talking and I ended up asking him this question (top 5). He came back with (not in a priority order/all important):

Proper PH - Only applies for all grain. He was very hung up on a proper PH 5-6 range 5.5 optimal for your mash. Related to enzymes etc. and if too low/high this & that happens. Mines at 8+ in Tucson; it made sense, can't repeat his reasoning so will follow his recommendations.
Hard, full batch boil - He attributed why extracts taste like extracts is they don't boil the crap out of them. He also said to boil for 15m prior before adding your bittering hops. You want to achieve your hot break before adding any hops otherwise chemistry yada yada talk...
Healthy pitch - Yeast Starter
Temperature Control - Stable and accurate fermenting temperatures towards yeast strain. Stay towards the lower scale on the yeast.
Fresh/Quality Ingredients
Sanitation - (Can't we assume this?)
 

Dude

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desertBrew said:
As I mentioned in another thread I went to an all grain class and there was a head brewmaster from a regional brewery (Nimbus) who happened to be sitting in on the class. The teacher announced who he was after his session. Anyhow, got to talking and I ended up asking him this question (top 5). He came back with (not in a priority order/all important):

Proper PH - Only applies for all grain. He was very hung up on a proper PH 5-6 range 5.5 optimal for your mash. Related to enzymes etc. and if too low/high this & that happens. Mines at 8+ in Tucson; it made sense, can't repeat his reasoning so will follow his recommendations.
Hard, full batch boil - He attributed why extracts taste like extracts is they don't boil the crap out of them. He also said to boil for 15m prior before adding your bittering hops. You want to achieve your hot break before adding any hops otherwise chemistry yada yada talk...
Healthy pitch - Yeast Starter
Temperature Control - Stable and accurate fermenting temperatures towards yeast strain. Stay towards the lower scale on the yeast.
Fresh/Quality Ingredients
Sanitation - (Can't we assume this?)
More good stuff here!
I learned on about my third or fourth batch about a fast, full boil. The quality of my beer went way up.

Thanks for posting those!
 

DeRoux's Broux

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desertBrew said:
Proper PH - Only applies for all grain. He was very hung up on a proper PH 5-6 range 5.5 optimal for your mash. Related to enzymes etc. and if too low/high this & that happens. Mines at 8+ in Tucson; it made sense, can't repeat his reasoning so will follow his recommendations.
Hard, full batch boil - He attributed why extracts taste like extracts is they don't boil the crap out of them. He also said to boil for 15m prior before adding your bittering hops. You want to achieve your hot break before adding any hops otherwise chemistry yada yada talk...
Healthy pitch - Yeast Starter
Temperature Control - Stable and accurate fermenting temperatures towards yeast strain. Stay towards the lower scale on the yeast.
Fresh/Quality Ingredients
Sanitation - (Can't we assume this?)
all good stuff. if one gets so focused and trying to remember all these tips, they can get easily overwhelmed! :p never heard the one about boiling for 15 min before adding bittering hops. have to add that to my agenda......need to check the pH of the bottled water i'm using too.

the pH is my next task to tackle. what type info on that can you divulge to us ? :D
 
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DeRoux's Broux said:
the pH is my next task to tackle. what type info on that can you divulge to us ? :D
If I wasn't a wee bit hung over that Sat morning I may have retained the details but twas not the case :eek: I think with his handout they show a graph on what happens when too high/low. Will look at that when I get home to see but was primarily tannins related.

He was really passionate on this and stated your PH is almost as important as your mash temp and didn't understand why homebrewers ignore it yet will stare at their thermometer continually.

His statement was quite clear though that it isn't difficult. You PH is relatively consistent from your tap so you typically know what you need to do. If your not testing each time then at least test your water once (or every 6 mo or so) and determine what you need to do to adjust your strike water to 5.5 ph. Most places are high so you take 1g and and add gypsum until you reach 5.5. So now you have the basic math to adjust your total water for brew day.

Did a quick side search and "Mr Wizard" has a quick laymen's writeup on PH at: http://byo.com/mrwizard/760.html
 

DeRoux's Broux

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cool! something else to tinker with!!!

i was gonna check my "library" of BYO's and books tonight. as you said, just something i never concerned my self with too much.......time for a test batch!

thanks.
DeRoux's Broux
 
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