What are your unique brewing processes that make a difference?

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bobbrews

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*Do you brew uniquely?
*Has experience led you to a particular conclusion that is not usually discussed?
*Do you have uncommon techniques that you feel are worth the extra step?

Please explain your atypical individual processes and how you feel they make a difference. I think this will be a good discussion since most of us learned how to brew from the same half dozen old school literature sources.
 

Double_D

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I only mash for 15-20 minutes. The modern malt is much more consistently produced. I learned it from a local brewmaster. The sugars are produced in that time period. And your strike water temp is much more important than I realized because if you overshoot your mash in and try to stir for ten minutes or so to get the temp right it's too late. By the way I use breiss and north western 2 row. Can't vouch for the non domestic stuff.
 

pericles

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When I add sugar, I do it after active fermentation has finished. The reason is that yeast lose the ability to consume maltose after just a few generations in a dextrose-rich environment; adding simple sugars to the boil means that many of the yeast you pitch quickly stop breaking down the complex sugars, leaving an under attenuated beer; by adding simple syrup after active fermentation has died down, I make sure I get all the attenuation I need, then wake the yeast back up to chew through the new simple sugar solution.

The additional benefit of waiting to add simple sugars is that you can top-crop healthy yeast in a lower-alcohol environment. In other words, when I top-crop the yeast from my 7% Double IPA, the actual wort they're coming out of is closer to 4% ABV, and they're in much better shape (in my experience.)
 

Double_D

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That's cool. I've never harvested off the top before. How do you store it? Or do you pitch directly into your next batch?
 

daksin

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At home, I do a hybrid-BIAB system with a single batch sparge. Nothing revolutionary, but it's not the way most BIABers do it, and it's definitely not a 3-vessel system.

Also, I've always said that when we finally open the brewery, the beers won't taste the same because they won't have all the cat hair in the boil we get at home. We may have to import it from the couch.
 

duckredbeard

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I only mash for 15-20 minutes. The modern malt is much more consistently produced. I learned it from a local brewmaster. The sugars are produced in that time period. And your strike water temp is much more important than I realized because if you overshoot your mash in and try to stir for ten minutes or so to get the temp right it's too late. By the way I use breiss and north western 2 row. Can't vouch for the non domestic stuff.
Do you do a starch conversion test (dot plate and tincture of idoine)?
 

BBL_Brewer

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I never do a single infusion mash. I always dough in and then infuse up to sach temp. I feel that it is gentler on the enzymes this way because there is already a good deal of water in the mash and water has a higher affinity for heat than does grain.
 

BrewThruYou

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Acidify the sparge water...my dark beers used to be harsh/astringent from tannin extraction.
 

JLem

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Small batch (3.5-4 gallons), split boil, stove-top brewing. Makes the brew day a litle more complicated, but it let me upgrade to all-grain without much added equipment (just a converted cooler for a mash tun)
 

Douglefish

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Double-D, what kind of efficiency are you getting from a 15-20 min mash? The way I understand it is that you can in fact get full conversion of the dissolved starches, but not everything is gelatinized by that point? I've often thought about this, as a 15 min mash would be AWESOME for the brew day.
 
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bobbrews

bobbrews

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Small batch (3.5-4 gallons), split boil, stove-top brewing. Makes the brew day a litle more complicated, but it let me upgrade to all-grain without much added equipment (just a converted cooler for a mash tun)
I do the same via BIAB partial mash. I mash in one kettle and heat up the rest of the water in the second. I end up splitting the mashed wort, adding DME to both kettles, and boiling the final wort in two kettles at 3.5-4 full volume boils each. Afterward, I'll chill one in the sink with an ice-bath, and the other with a wort chiller. Lastly, I combine them into one 6.5 gallon carboy... or change-up the recipes a bit and ferment them seperately in two, 5 gallon carboys.

The whole process gives me versatility and a greater capacity to do smaller full volume boils indoors since I can straddle two gas burners per kettle. I'm a chef so I already had the kettles on hand. Worked out for me!
 

wailingguitar

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When "fly sparging" (a term which I HATE, for a very long time it was the conventional sparge method and still is commercially... If I say "sparging" that is what I mean, if I have to be more specific I will refer to it as continuous sparge... I digress!)... When sparging :D conventional wisdom says that you maintain sparge flow throughout the runoff, maintaining a small amount of water above the grain bed. Speed of sparge in should match speed of runoff. This really isn't necessary....

After my mash rest, I will vorlauf briefly to clear wort, then begin runoff. As soon as runoff starts I will begin adding sparge water over the top of the grain bed. I get it in as quickly as possible without disturbing the bed (5-10 minutes pouring over a wooden spoon) then close up the MLT and let gravity do it's thing over the next 50 minutes or so. In an insulated MLT you aren't going to loose heat, since the water is floating above the mash you don't have to worry about pH issues from dilution, etc. Works like a charm then you don't have to babysit it trying to be certain that flow rates are consistent... set and forget!

I learned this method on my first brewing job and have used it in at least three (i'm thinking maybe five) other breweries... obviously the method varies with equipment, but the effect is the same.
 

pjj2ba

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When "fly sparging" (a term which I HATE, for a very long time it was the conventional sparge method and still is commercially... If I say "sparging" that is what I mean, if I have to be more specific I will refer to it as continuous sparge... I digress!)... When sparging :D conventional wisdom says that you maintain sparge flow throughout the runoff, maintaining a small amount of water above the grain bed. Speed of sparge in should match speed of runoff. This really isn't necessary....

After my mash rest, I will vorlauf briefly to clear wort, then begin runoff. As soon as runoff starts I will begin adding sparge water over the top of the grain bed. I get it in as quickly as possible without disturbing the bed (5-10 minutes pouring over a wooden spoon) then close up the MLT and let gravity do it's thing over the next 50 minutes or so. In an insulated MLT you aren't going to loose heat, since the water is floating above the mash you don't have to worry about pH issues from dilution, etc. Works like a charm then you don't have to babysit it trying to be certain that flow rates are consistent... set and forget!

I learned this method on my first brewing job and have used it in at least three (i'm thinking maybe five) other breweries... obviously the method varies with equipment, but the effect is the same.
I see no problem with this. If you can carefully lay the sparge water on top with minimal mixing there really is no drawback to doing it this way.

I used to do a LOT of chromatography using columns and this is basically what a sparge is. In the lab, we even do batch processesing versus continuous flow, both valid methods, each with their pluses and minuses.

In fact, I see no problem with doing a vorlauf, then DRAINING, and then adding all of the sparge water. This is becoming more common in labs when using smaller columns. We load a sample (your conversion is complete, the husk, etc. are the column) then the column is spun (runoff) then the new buffer (all of it) is added (sparge water) and the column is spun again to elute your sample (wash out the sugars). It used to be conventional wisdom that you didn't want you column to go dry, but that has changed - for some types of columns it is OK to let them go dry. The big danger there is channeling. If you can avoid channeling, I see no problems with this.
 

wailingguitar

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I see no problem with this. If you can carefully lay the sparge water on top with minimal mixing there really is no drawback to doing it this way.

I used to do a LOT of chromatography using columns and this is basically what a sparge is. In the lab, we even do batch processesing versus continuous flow, both valid methods, each with their pluses and minuses.

In fact, I see no problem with doing a vorlauf, then DRAINING, and then adding all of the sparge water. This is becoming more common in labs when using smaller columns. We load a sample (your conversion is complete, the husk, etc. are the column) then the column is spun (runoff) then the new buffer (all of it) is added (sparge water) and the column is spun again to elute your sample (wash out the sugars). It used to be conventional wisdom that you didn't want you column to go dry, but that has changed - for some types of columns it is OK to let them go dry. The big danger there is channeling. If you can avoid channeling, I see no problems with this.

Right, the key is not to disturb the top of the grain bed... if you hit it hard in one place it's going to dig in then channel, mix or both... I diffuse over a wooden spoon currently... have used spray balls and rotating arms on commercial systems (it's funny as hell to see a 6 foot rotating arm going full tilt :ban: Just keep your hands out of the way!)... even a simple food-grade garden hose with the end cut off did the trick on the 1bbl system I learned on LOL

The only problem I could see with a 'full drain first' is the possibility of causing a stuck runoff. In a perfect world it shouldn't happen but there are a lot of factors at work. Still the theory is sound and providing a system which would minimize the risk of stuck runoff, should work just fine. Since the purpose of the method I use is to simplify matters, adding the additional steps (minor though they be) required in the full-drain then sparge method make it counter-productive for me.

Apples-Oranges-Bananas... in the end all that matters is what hits the glass! :ban: :mug:
 

Double_D

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duckredbeard said:
Do you do a starch conversion test (dot plate and tincture of idoine)?
I had stopped a couple years ago. When we asked the brewmaster that day he looked at us quizzically. Then said no. his reason I adopted for my own, I just never have a problem. But he tried to show every one what a positive vs a negative test looks like.
 

tre9er

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Double_D, do you stir at all during the mash? I'd be very interested in shortening my brew day so long as I'm not losing efficiency (or by much)
 

Double_D

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Double-D, what kind of efficiency are you getting from a 15-20 min mash? The way I understand it is that you can in fact get full conversion of the dissolved starches, but not everything is gelatinized by that point? I've often thought about this, as a 15 min mash would be AWESOME for the brew day.
It would be different if I were doing mashes with adjuncts or wheat and I'll admit I was really generalizing but for the most part, with respect to the majority of my brewing, all of my efficiency falls about the 60-65% range. And I've tried everything from single batch, double batch, triple batch, and fly sparging. I've also used a bazooka screen and copper manifold (which is why my efficiency is where it is) as well as a few different grinds on my mm3 and 5.2 mash stabilizer with spring water, RO, and that water from the mill, and settled on the hard water from the hose. I stir when I dough in and my mash isn't long enough to need it now. I stir between batches of sparging but that's it.

Even through all this I never had one mash that wasn't converted fully regardless of a 15 minute mash, a 60 or a 90.

Oh, and my efficiency is poor because I'm doing 10 gallon batches is a 62 quart pot and don't have enough room for all the water unless I'm doing a session. I also have a 30 gal mash tun on the way from Stout Tanks so that problem is out of the way.
 

devilbrewer75

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I mill a lot finer than most people and use rice hulls. I don't vorlauf and I only fly sparge for 20 minutes or so.
 

philrose

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The electric tea kettle is my best friend on brew day. I use it to pre heat my MLT, speed up heating strike water and correct my mash temp. I love that thing.
 

pericles

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That's cool. I've never harvested off the top before. How do you store it? Or do you pitch directly into your next batch?
I clean a mason jar with PPW, then sanitize it in the microwave, and finally cool it in a bath of room temperature iodophor. Once it's completely clean, I skim it across the top of the kreusen to collect as much yeast as I can get—it's usually about a teaspoon.

Once I've got a full jar, I usually refrigerate it for a day or so to let the yeast floc, and then decant the wort/beer off the top of the yeast. After that, I make a starter to grow up a pitchable number of cells. By then it's usually just about brew day, and that's my next batch of beer.
 

Calichusetts

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Ditching "sugar" to prime with honey and other flavorful products. I love the subtle effect it has on the taste and smell.
 

philrose

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Are you doing small batches or do you have a huge tea kettle? By the way, is the temp variable on it?
Its a 1.7 L Melita kettle, a cheapie from fred meyer or target or something. There's no variable control, just on and off. You'd be surprised at the difference it makes, even for the ten gallon batch I did yesterday.
 

cyclogenesis

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Not really unique but I do long, 90 minute boils for extra caramelization... I also mash a bit warmer for fuller bodied beers..

And this year I will be using home grown wet hops... cant wait to see how this turns out!
 

grndslm

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Let's see......

In terms of BOTTLING --
(1) I rack 1/3 to 1/4 the beer into the bottling bucket, then I add priming sugar solution, finish topping off with beer... and then I use the siphon to stir the beer w/ priming solution. Not enough to cause splashing, but enough to evenly disperse priming solution.
(2) I only use brown, 22 oz bottles. I've tried the rest, but I think the 22 oz bottles are optimum for bottle conditioning due to their volume, and especially that they're not the color of a Corona or Heineken bottle!!! (I am in the process of trying 24oz & 32oz Powerade bottles. Don't know if they'll seal like the Oceanspray bottles did, but if they do... it will be nice to bring to pools or beaches. :)

In terms of BREWING --
(1) I just picked this up from somebody here, but I boil for 60 minutes... but the first 20 minutes is just boiling to remove oxygen?? (sounded good to me, plus I prefer to hop burst). Then I do hop additions at 40, 30, 20, 10, and 1 minute.
(2) Since I'm only extract brewing, I have now decided to add the extract IMMEDIATELY after removing the hop brew from the burner. Mix in well, and it will be as light of a color as possible... but after fermentation, it will get a bit more brown, compared to its original yellowish color. (can't wait to try that one!! will be bottling it next week!)
 

grndslm

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I also might start swirling the carboy around for a minute or so after racking from primary to secondary.

I have tested turning 3 or 4 bottles upside down from one of my batches, so we'll see how that turns out next month. :)
 
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