What changes made your beer better?

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

Willy

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2024
Messages
129
Reaction score
218
Location
Charlotte NC
I have personally been brewing a mong time (20+ years) and wow!!! Things really changed in the last 5 years - there are many new tools that help us amateurs make better beer. Below are some changes to my brewing process that really improved my final product. Just a few.

1) whirlfloc tablets
2) adding minerals to the mash water
3) going all grain (or at least partial mash)
4) yeast starters, and yeast care (nutrients)
5) making the plunge into a draft beer product
6) optimizing and understanding grain crush
7) having the patience to let yeast do its thing, including a secondary fermentation as needed
8) learning how to make great lagers.

What changes did you make to improve your beer journey into the land of sudsational???
 
Temperature control and kegging upped my game dramatically. I can make great beer from canned kits. Switching to all grain didn’t drastically change my beer as much as temp and kegging .


Btw secondary almost never needed. Get rid of it. Your beer will benefit from it by reduced oxygen exposure. Unless you are secondarying in a closed purged keg. In which case what’s the point just let time do it’s thing.
 
A few things I've done over the years:
LODO techniques. Even some "minor" adaptations help, like adding the trifecta (ascorbic, metabisulfite, Brewtan B), capping bottles on foam, milling just before mash in, etc.
Getting an RO system and building my water.
Temp control, using a chest freezer ferm chamber.
Better attention to crush.
Replacing plastic items from time to time. Tubing is cheap.

Those little things can be like death by 1000 cuts. The more you can address, the better.
 
@Willy : Your post hints at the "secret" to making better beer...you have to actually try to make better beer. Try out new things and evaluate how they impact your beer. There are a few major steps that will have a noticeable impact, but I tend to think it is mostly a bunch of small factors.

BTW, the most common flaw I still encounter in homebrews are plastic/medicinal notes. I am not sure if these are brewers not treating their tap water for chlorine/chloramine or possibly a lingering infection or maybe warm fermentation temperatures.

The improvements I made over the past 4-5 years that I feel had the biggest impact on my beers were
  • Paying more attention to yeast health and yeast pitching rates
  • Fermentation temperature control
  • Adjusting water minerals and pH
  • Avoiding cold side oxidation (critical for hoppy beers)
Working on developing a set of "house" recipes has also helped. I used to just jump from one recipe to the next, and would blame the recipe if the beer was not that great. I now have a better understanding of ingredients. I also gives me a basis for trying out new ingredients. Brewing a known recipe and fermenting half with a different yeast has been very educational.

On the "learning how to make great lagers" comment...for me learning how to make a decent NEIPA forced me to adapt processes that improved all of my beer.
 
Having started on the stovetop with a couple of Cooper's kits and glass carboys, my three Big Ones were;
- Moving to all grain
- Building an electric rig with all the fittings and pump and CFC
- Closed fermenters and transfers
..and like @CascadesBrewer said; "a bunch of small factors" which for me came from this reading this site regularly, especially reading the minority of new members questions in which they actually take the time to describe in detail the equipment, ingredients and process they used and ask a detailed question. Those are the posts that get detailed respones from the more experienced members and serve as my own 'mentors by proxy'. Since I began brewing, every improvement I've made as well as the ones I'm planning for, I garnered from the HBT crowd....You lot. There are many details I haven't yet addressed in my own brewing, but thanks to familiarity with the regular posters and thier detailed descriptions, I can taste what I'm so far able to improve on and I know what to expect from and adjustments I intend to make be it water chemistry or ferm temps. For me, brewing is the journey from theoretical knowledge to empirical reward.
:mug:
 
Temperature control and kegging upped my game dramatically. I can make great beer from canned kits. Switching to all grain didn’t drastically change my beer as much as temp and kegging .


Btw secondary almost never needed. Get rid of it. Your beer will benefit from it by reduced oxygen exposure. Unless you are secondarying in a closed purged keg. In which case what’s the point just let time do it’s thing.
I still ferment in buckets and hope to upgrade soon. Corny keg seems like a good option. I sometimes need to go to secondary due to trub build up getting so thick it can block the little tap near the bottom of the bucket. Yeah, I could use an upgrade.
 
I’ll echo a lot of the above, about temp control and grain crush, but the single biggest change they helped me improve my brewing came when I learned to Slow Down and stop rushing through a brew day trying to beat the clock and take the time to really think about each step and what it’s impact was going to be on the finished beer. I feel like that helped me develop a deeper understanding of the processes and what they contribute, instead of just trying to hit arbitrary targets that I read somewhere without understanding the why behind them.
 
I started with can and kilo kits in '94. Anything is an improvement over those. I read The Complete Joy of Home Brewing. That helped a lot. I even got an understanding of the mash. But I could not source ingredients very well back then. I think I did a half dozen or so can+kilos. The internet helped my brewing more than anything else.
 
I'm trying out some new malts. I hope it's good--I'm going to have three kegs of it.

HOME BREW RECIPE:
Title: Nut Brown

Brew Method: All Grain
Style Name: British Brown Ale
Boil Time: 60 min
Batch Size: 16 gallons (fermentor volume)
Boil Size: 18 gallons
Boil Gravity: 1.042
Efficiency: 85% (brew house)

Hop Utilization Multiplier: 0.91

STATS:
Original Gravity: 1.047
Final Gravity: 1.012
ABV (standard): 4.55%
IBU (tinseth): 25.57
SRM (morey): 18.57
Mash pH: 5.39

FERMENTABLES:
17 lb - Northwest Pale Ale Malt (69.4%)
2 lb - Blonde RoastOat Malt (8.2%)
2 lb - Viking Cookie Malt (8.2%)
1 lb - Viking Caramel 100 (4.1%)
1 lb - Golden Naked Oats (4.1%)
1 lb - Pale Chocolate (4.1%)
0.5 lb - Blackprinz Malt (2%)

HOPS:
70 g - Magnum, Type: Pellet, AA: 8.9, Use: Boil for 60 min, IBU: 25.57

OTHER INGREDIENTS:
1 tbs - Calcium Chloride (anhydrous), Type: Water Agt, Use: Mash

MASH GUIDELINES:
1) Strike, Start Temp: 163 F, Target Temp: 155 F, Time: 60 min, Amount: 11 gal
2) Batch Sparge, Start Temp: 185 F, Target Temp: 170 F, Amount: 10 gal
Starting Mash Thickness: 1.74 qt/lb
Starting Grain Temp: 65 °F

I'm going to use three different dry yeasts; Apex London, AEB AY3 and Apex San Diego. I think AY3 and London might be the same.

Temp control and using RO water/water salts were the two biggest for me.
Same here , but curious as to what salts and quantities , you are using ? I have been just using 10 grams calcium chloride, 10 grams gypsum 5 grams kosher salt , using 8 gallons of the treated water in the mash . I don’t monitor ph but my brews have been extraordinary .
 
Same here , but curious as to what salts and quantities , you are using ? I have been just using 10 grams calcium chloride, 10 grams gypsum 5 grams kosher salt , using 8 gallons of the treated water in the mash . I don’t monitor ph but my brews have been extraordinary .
Maybe not the best thread to dig deep on water chemistry, but that seems a bit excessive to me.

Plugging that into BeerSmith using 8 gallons of Distilled as the base water, I get:
Ca: 165.8 ppm
Mg: 0.0 ppm
Na: 64.5 ppm
SO4: 183.1 ppm
Cl: 260.7 ppm

I would say a better generic "balanced" water salt addition would be 4g Gypsum, 2g Calcium Chloride, 2g Table Salt...or 4g Gypsum, 4g Calcium Chloride and ignore adding the Table Salt. Ideally you would tweak the additions a little based on the style (a Pale Lager vs IPA vs Oatmeal Stout).
 
Same here , but curious as to what salts and quantities , you are using ? I have been just using 10 grams calcium chloride, 10 grams gypsum 5 grams kosher salt , using 8 gallons of the treated water in the mash . I don’t monitor ph but my brews have been extraordinary .

It depends on the style of beer really. Calcium Chloride, Gypsum, Epsom Salt and salt are the 4 I use the most and a little baking soda if it's a dark beer as roast malts will drop pH, so banking soda will bring it back up some. I just brewed a Czech Pilsner this weekend, which should be made with soft water, so for 4.4 gallon mash (I brew 2.75 gallon batches now), I used 0.9 grams each of Calcium Chloride and Gypsum. That gives me 31 ppm Calcium, 29 ppm Sulfate, and 34 ppm Chloride for the beer. Little high for the style, but I use BrewTan B in mash and boil too, which besides being a shelf extender, also helps with clarity and it will neutralize some on the Calcium, so raised it up a little.

If I can give you a friendly critique, I would cut back on your additions...I entered those numbers into Bru'n Water, 10/10/5 gives you Calcium of 196, Sodium 65, Sulfate 184 and Chloride of 311, assuming you are starting with RO or distilled water. If using tap then those numbers would be higher based on the local water mineral content. Sulfate should not really exceed 150 at max unless you are making a bitter beer and Chloride not be above 150 for most beers, and should be below 100 if Sulfate is above 100. I would suggest for malty beers cutting that to 5 grams Calcium Chloride, 2-3 grams salt, no gypsum. For hop forward beers, 5 grams Gypsum, 2-3 grams salt and no Calcium Chloride...for balanced beers maybe 3/3/2. For reference, I pulled up a Schwarzbier I made when I was doing 5 gallon batches, 8.17 gallon mash, I used 2.1 grams gypsum, 3.9 CaCl2, 3.1 Epsom Salt for a profile of 50 calcium, 10 magnesium, 0 salt, 77 sulfate and 61 chloride. That gave me a balanced water profile and the beer went on to win multiple gold medals in comps.

The Water primary in this forums is a good place to get a feel for adjusting water based on what you are brewing...Water Primer
 
Biggest ones for me so far have been zero oxygen dry hopping and zero oxygen transfers.
Kegging made a huge difference to my beer.
Making proper efforts to sort water chemistry.
Soft crashing and trub dumping before post fermentation dry hops.

Soon I'll be switching to RO water for consistency, and glycol for temp control. Expect those should also help!
 
Maybe not the best thread to dig deep on water chemistry, but that seems a bit excessive to me.

Plugging that into BeerSmith using 8 gallons of Distilled as the base water, I get:
Ca: 165.8 ppm
Mg: 0.0 ppm
Na: 64.5 ppm
SO4: 183.1 ppm
Cl: 260.7 ppm

I would say a better generic "balanced" water salt addition would be 4g Gypsum, 2g Calcium Chloride, 2g Table Salt...or 4g Gypsum, 4g Calcium Chloride and ignore adding the Table Salt. Ideally you would tweak the additions a little based on the style (a Pale Lager vs IPA vs Oatmeal Stout).
I use brewfather and it calculates suggested additions based on your recipe. Most times it suggests about 3.3 g of calcium chloride, about 2.8 g gypsum and 3 g of magnesium sulphate (Epson salts). I suspect other recipes software offers this as well.
 
I’ll echo a lot of the above, about temp control and grain crush, but the single biggest change they helped me improve my brewing came when I learned to Slow Down and stop rushing through a brew day trying to beat the clock and take the time to really think about each step and what it’s impact was going to be on the finished beer. I feel like that helped me develop a deeper understanding of the processes and what they contribute, instead of just trying to hit arbitrary targets that I read somewhere without understanding the why behind them.
Patience and sanitation are required for success and repeatability.
 
Adding to my post above but on a different slant...
When I stopped trying to brew for competition ribbons (brewing for the judges approval) and started brewing for myself, my beers improved quite a bit. Changing my brewing goals lead me to envision the flavor impact of the hops, malts and adjuncts to create what I wanted in a beer, as opposed to following the style guide because that's how it's supposed to be brewed. And, since I'm the brewer, I get to call it whatever style I want, assuming it could even fit a style. That change of approach made my beers better.
 
I still ferment in buckets and hope to upgrade soon. Corny keg seems like a good option. I sometimes need to go to secondary due to trub build up getting so thick it can block the little tap near the bottom of the bucket. Yeah, I could use an upgrade.
On the back side of your spigot, stick a stopper with a piece of bent tube. Like the curved top of an auto siphon. You turn it to escape the trub. Also use a pickup tube in your boil kettle that meets the “corner” of your kettle. Should help some of you trub issues. I still win comps using plastic fermenters. It doesn’t take bling to make quality brew. ✌️
 
1 joining this forum (picked up so many useful tips)
2 RO water and salt additions
3 vorlauf, this addition to my lautering process improved my extract efficiency by 10 percent
4 whirlpooling helped improve my pour of the trub for clearer wort
5 pressure fermentation, no need to worry about high ambient temperatures or oxygen exposure.
 
Adding to my post above but on a different slant...
When I stopped trying to brew for competition ribbons (brewing for the judges approval) and started brewing for myself, my beers improved quite a bit. Changing my brewing goals lead me to envision the flavor impact of the hops, malts and adjuncts to create what I wanted in a beer, as opposed to following the style guide because that's how it's supposed to be brewed. And, since I'm the brewer, I get to call it whatever style I want, assuming it could even fit a style. That change of approach made my beers better.
Same for me - I always try and make beer to suit my palette. As part of that process, I made a bunch of batches with a single malt, single hop - so I could better understand how each item contributes to the flavor profile.

You quickly learn the base malts - pilsner, Munich, vienna, pale ale, and Marris Otter etc are all very different and getting the perfect blend of the base malts is key to finding the perfect batch for your tastes. Hops also offer a huge range of flavors... And how to bitter it up. Personally I grew out of the "way too hoppy" phase long ago - and now prefer a smooth use of hops as opposed to the "overdose" method. Haha.
 
On the back side of your spigot, stick a stopper with a piece of bent tube. Like the curved top of an auto siphon. You turn it to escape the trub. Also use a pickup tube in your boil kettle that meets the “corner” of your kettle. Should help some of you trub issues. I still win comps using plastic fermenters. It doesn’t take bling to make quality brew. ✌️
Thanks for the suggestion.
 
I was already doing the following:
  • Temp control
  • Yeast starters / nutrients
  • Controlling for water additions
  • Loosely monitoring mash ph
  • Closed transfers

But I started making my best NEIPA’s when I changed all of the following. Unfortunately made all of these changes at once, so I’m not sure which makes the biggest impact.

  • 3g ascorbic acid in the mash, .5g with the dry hop for packaging
  • Purging sanitizer filled kegs, not just pressurizing with co2 and pulling the prv a few times
  • Oxygenating wort with pure o2
  • Controlling ph at all steps based on what Steve from fidens said in the CB&B podcast
  • Using a conical fermenter
 
Going all grain was a light year ahead in terms of quality in my brews! I remember reading a quote on this site that said "You can brew good beer with extract. You can craft excellent beer with all grain."

Also temp control for better fermentation... I only use a swamp cooler but it's a vast improvement IMO 😀
 
I would also suggest for extract Brewers to try a partial mash... Some grain, some extract ... It makes a nice difference to the final product. Tastier!!! (Like fresh grown tomatoes vs store bought) And also a wonderful "mouth feel" or body to the beer.
 
Agreed. I have made some killer tasty all extract batches. That said, mashing freshly milled grains makes the process of making beer more customizable ... A little more brown malt (L° 55) or should I go for some caro 40 and a little chocolate and coffee malt? Grains offer the Brewer more options for recipe tweaking and experimenting with many permutations.
 
Back
Top