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.
I started All-Grain. Now, I actually have beer I enjoy brewing, drinking and even looking at. Taking time to keep good notes and tweak everything to make for a more consistent batch of beer every time.
Notes are very important. Being a quasi mad scientist Brewer - notes did not come naturally. Adding a solid app to the mix took my note taking to a new level. Personally I use Brewfather (Brewers friend and grainfather are other excellent options).

The software apps made a massive upgrade in my recipe creation, mash profiles, hop additions, etc etc. The old method of a physical notebook is now used for ordering new ingredients and misc. The notes are all on the app and I have downloaded all of it on a backup drive just in case.
 
Not saying one way or another is better I never did extract. I did BIAB then to all grain. Culinary school taught me to enjoy the entire process. I have heard good things about extract. Currently I use extracts to propagate yeast.
 
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."
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/threads/aha-homebrewer-of-the-year.695096/
  • NHC homebrewer of the year (2021) won with an extract based American Lager.
  • There are replies in that topic that list additional gold medal recipes
Also, if you follow some of the currently active NEIPA / IPA topics at this site, you'll find people talking about winning regional competitions with extract (including extract 'no boil' recipes).

"You can brew good beer with extract. You can craft excellent beer with all grain."
And, if one can't figure it out when brewing 'all grain', one generally moves on to a different hobby. ;)

There are a number of brewers, in various forums, who report that they switched back to extract (for 'reasons') and get results as good as their 'all-grain' batches.
 
Notes are very important. Being a quasi mad scientist Brewer - notes did not come naturally. Adding a solid app to the mix took my note taking to a new level. Personally I use Brewfather (Brewers friend and grainfather are other excellent options).

The software apps made a massive upgrade in my recipe creation, mash profiles, hop additions, etc etc. The old method of a physical notebook is now used for ordering new ingredients and misc. The notes are all on the app and I have downloaded all of it on a backup drive just in case.
I use Brewer's Friend and Brewfather. I also am still old school and love a brew journal and a binder with the Brewer's Friend templates in them
 
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/threads/aha-homebrewer-of-the-year.695096/
  • NHC homebrewer of the year (2021) won with an extract based American Lager.
  • There are replies in that topic that list additional gold medal recipes
Also, if you follow some of the currently active NEIPA / IPA topics at this site, you'll find people talking about winning regional competitions with extract (including extract 'no boil' recipes).


And, if one can't figure it out when brewing 'all grain', one generally moves on to a different hobby. ;)

There are a number of brewers, in various forums, who report that they switched back to extract (for 'reasons') and get results as good as their 'all-grain' batches.
But then the question is wether they do extract + steeped flavour malts or strictly extract.
I have an accuintance who brews extract + grain beer and produce tasty beer, but both him and I agree strictly extract produce a "bland" and one dimensional beer, there's just something missing in it.
I guess Neipa is excluded since malt is virtually irrelevant to the flavour experience for those...
 
All-grain, trying to minimize oxidization, yeast oxygen scavenging (YOS) with brewing water, malt / hop balancing, mash temp control (BIAB), fermentation temperature control and stability, and using yeast starters every time. Another big one was raising the end of the fermentation temperature by about 5 degrees F (depending). This helps finish and clean up the beer in my case, and makes for more complete FGs. Also, getting to know the contributions that your grains, hops, and yeast make. This took me a while because I had lots of sampling to do. :mug: Same thing for knowing your equipment.

Honestly, another one is using vitamin C and brew-tan B. It's a part of my regimen now, but I'm still trialing this.
One tough one is letting the bottle condition finish! It really take a good 2 weeks, not just 1.
I haven't done much with water chemistry because my tap is pretty good for beer, but that could be a big one.
 
But then the question is whether they do extract + steeped flavour malts or strictly extract.
The beers I mentioned include recipes and process descriptions.

I have an accuintance who brews extract + grain beer and produce tasty beer, but both him and I agree strictly extract produce a "bland" and one dimensional beer, there's just something missing in it.
The same could be said of many/most all-grain SMaSH beers.

An unintentionally brand beer brewed using "strictly extract" (or just an "all-grain" base malt) is a recipe design fault.

I guess Neipa is excluded since malt is virtually irrelevant to the flavour experience for those...
Yeast driven styles is a another place where using less flavorful malts is appropriate for recipe design.



But there's still that NHC gold medal 'extract'-based American Lager from 2021 that challenges (out-dated?) forum wisdom on brewing with extract. Maybe the techniques in #3 + #51, appropriately applied to 'extract' recipes, is the way forward?
 
Last edited:
Yes although I quickly discovered my efficiency went through the roof. Not going to say any one technique is better than another. Just brew and have fun while drinking a beer.

I'm not making a qualitatively comparitive statement either, but apples-to-apples BIAB can be every bit as efficient as a traditional lauter. With a single batch sparge, my typical mash efficiency with a bag in a kettle is 90% or better.
 
I've been brewing for 17 years, here are three things that have greatly improved the quality of my beer:
1. 90 minutes boils for my lighter beers
2. Temperature control for fermentation
3. Time fermenting and conditioning the finished beer.

If I don't have any available homebrew I'm happy to support the local craft breweries.
 
I've been brewing for 17 years, here are three things that have greatly improved the quality of my beer:
1. 90 minutes boils for my lighter beers
2. Temperature control for fermentation
3. Time fermenting and conditioning the finished beer.

If I don't have any available homebrew I'm happy to support the local craft breweries.
Lighter beers? Do you mean lighter color (SRM) or lighter ABV ? Guessing SRM but wanted to make sure.
 
Planning on a new way to be more efficient and using a larger sized keg (7.5-10 g) to ferment. I can brew a 5+ gal batch size then go to the fermenter keg, to ferment under pressure and do a closed transfer.

I would be very interested to hear what others have learned about fermenting in corny kegs. What are the unforeseen problems, what did you learn that can save me the trouble, etc etc. Thanks.
 
Planning on a new way to be more efficient and using a larger sized keg (7.5-10 g) to ferment. I can brew a 5+ gal batch size then go to the fermenter keg, to ferment under pressure and do a closed transfer.

I would be very interested to hear what others have learned about fermenting in corny kegs. What are the unforeseen problems, what did you learn that can save me the trouble, etc etc. Thanks.
I have fermented in 5 gallon corny kegs for 5 years and I really like it. I moved down to doing 2.5 to 3 gallon batches instead of 5 gallons. I have found that smaller batches are easier to move around and make for faster brewdays. Pressurized fermentations a closed transfers work great. Only drawback is if I make a great batch of beer, it's a small batch and I run out of it quicker than say a 5 gallon batch.
 
We all know that a brewer is first-and-foremost a cleaner. Occasionally, I get lazy and skip a few steps on the 'cleaning' side of things. I've had to dump a couple of batches over the years, mainly because my fermenter wasn't deep cleaned after every use. I mean, I'd wash it out, but leave all the valves on and ports occupied. I've now committed to breaking down the fermenter after every brew, using PBW, rinsing, and using sanitizer.

My list, in order of contributing to a better beer, besides cleaning...

1) RO water and chemistry additions
2) Developing a recipe to my liking (lots of small tweaks batch over batch ... and lots of sampling)
3) Allowing the beer to condition the proper amount of time (so hard to do)
4) Proper sized yeast starters (decant to keep larger starters from imparting flavor)
5) Fermentation temperature control, and having resting stages when cold-crashing (3 deg. drops, then rest)
6) Whirlpool additions for WC and Hazy IPAs (adds an extra level of flavor complexity)

Some things I haven't found to be impactful...

1) Hot side oxidation (controversial, I know, but can't say as though I've noticed a difference)
2) Using an oxygen tank to oxygenate for fermentation vs simply sloshing the fermenter really well

Cheers to continued success brewing!
 
The first thing I did to improve my beer was to quit drinking while I brew. Brewing is a fairly dangerous process nd to be stumbling drunk is very stupid(Iwas in charge of safety at our oilfield service company). And too often I'd find that I'd left out something, or added the 30 minute hops for the entire 60 minutes. I can wait until I start the cleanup to have a beer.
Second, and this speaks more to the quality of the beer, fermentation temperature control change the results from nice "getting drunk" beer to "wow, did you really make this?" beer.
 
I've got the same experience with temp control during fermentation as cork and many others, but I've discovered a small quirk with that.
I mostly brew English/Brittish ales and use yeast of English origin, dry yeast, mix of 2 strains and always make "wake up" starter.
Those yeasts seem to really prefer prior activation and fairly large pitches, 1.5-2 billion/ml/p.
I also start fermentation fairly cool and let the temp freerise to where I want it, as English yeast seem to perform at it's best with minimal micro-managing.
And a bit of patience, I keg and most my lighter beers get 2weeks secondary fermentation/carbonation with priming sugar and then 2weeks "cellaring" in my 10-12c kegerator before tapping.
 
Details, details, details

Take my time
Research solid recipe
* Yeast health and pitch rate *
Using RO and adding minerals
Treating strike liquor for O2
Control mash pH
Withhold anything from mash that screws with pH until conversion is complete
Underletting grain
PID controlled RIMS
No sparge
30 min boil
Cool quickly
Ferment at X° +/- 2°
Purge sanitizer filled keg with fermentation CO2
Dry hop during active fermentation
D rest at increased temp during last few points of attenuation
Close transfer
Don’t rush to serve. Let all beers condition
Lager 6 weeks +
Brewing smaller batches 3.5 & 1.5 gal to brew more often
Counter pressure fill bottles for competition or sharing
Enter the same beer In multiple competitions for anonymous feedback
Only react to multiple competent judges’ common comments
Brew the same recipe incorporating comments
Joined a HomeBrew club to share ideas
Exchange ideas with better brewers than me
Joined Master HomeBrew Program to guide what and when to brew, and track progress
Establish a competition brewing budget and stick to it. Quality ingredients and process in select events vs quantity.
 
Last edited:
Maybe. It's a weird hill to die on though. The question posed was "what made YOUR beers better?" so anyone that posts in the thread is sharing their anecdotes as requested.

Besides, the mere fact that extract-brewed beers have, and will continue to win competitions doesn't mean much. All it means is that ONE extract brewed beer was the best out of some number of total beers (of otherwise unknown brewing processes) within a BJCP category for that competition. We know for certain that extract brewed beers are not OBJECTIVELY inferior across the board.
 
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???


What improved my beers the most is being willing to accept that I don't really know anything. Experiment, evaluate, form temporary conclusions, experiment again. The reason it's really hard to know anything is that we collectively don't brew often enough to attribute improvements to single variables. We're USUALLY not disciplined enough to control to single variables either.

I THINK these mattered most in my brewing improvements and likely would for others as well, in no particular order:

Mash pH.
Yeast health/pitch size.
Temp Control
Low oxygen handling on the cold side.

I don't think any brewer can ignore those four things consistently and still make GREAT beer consistently. I say "consistently" because there are plenty of times where you can ignore something and occasionally get lucky. For example, one might argue that they have no temp control and the beer was great. Cool, ambient temps were agreeable this time. Or... "I don't know my mash pH and my beer was amazing". Sure, your tap water combined with this particular grain bill was agreeable this time.
 
The question posed was "what made YOUR beers better?" so anyone that posts in the thread is sharing their anecdotes as requested.
Well OK, but I was not responding to an anecdote that he shared; I was responding to a quote that he shared, the gist of which was that extract beers will never be better than merely good.
 
What improved my beers the most is being willing to accept that I don't really know anything. Experiment, evaluate, form temporary conclusions, experiment again. The reason it's really hard to know anything is that we collectively don't brew often enough to attribute improvements to single variables. We're USUALLY not disciplined enough to control to single variables either.

I THINK these mattered most in my brewing improvements and likely would for others as well, in no particular order:

Mash pH.
Yeast health/pitch size.
Temp Control
Low oxygen handling on the cold side.

I don't think any brewer can ignore those four things consistently and still make GREAT beer consistently. I say "consistently" because there are plenty of times where you can ignore something and occasionally get lucky. For example, one might argue that they have no temp control and the beer was great. Cool, ambient temps were agreeable this time. Or... "I don't know my mash pH and my beer was amazing". Sure, your tap water combined with this particular grain bill was agreeable this time.
Knowing you don't know ... Is the beginning of wisdom.

My message to the kids ... Never forget this children.
Never be too wise in your own opinion.
 
What improved my beers the most is being willing to accept that I don't really know anything. Experiment, evaluate, form temporary conclusions, experiment again. The reason it's really hard to know anything is that we collectively don't brew often enough to attribute improvements to single variables. We're USUALLY not disciplined enough to control to single variables either.

I THINK these mattered most in my brewing improvements and likely would for others as well, in no particular order:

Mash pH.
Yeast health/pitch size.
Temp Control
Low oxygen handling on the cold side.

I don't think any brewer can ignore those four things consistently and still make GREAT beer consistently. I say "consistently" because there are plenty of times where you can ignore something and occasionally get lucky. For example, one might argue that they have no temp control and the beer was great. Cool, ambient temps were agreeable this time. Or... "I don't know my mash pH and my beer was amazing". Sure, your tap water combined with this particular grain bill was agreeable this time.
In my 30+ years of all grain brewing I have never once checked my mash pH. I bought the kit, but it's gathering dust somewhere in my garage, assuming it made the move 6 years ago. The extent to which worry about low oxygen ends after I flood the kegs with CO2 while empty and I burp them a few times once they are full.
And I do make consistently excellent beer. I rarely enter competitions because of the style limitations and logistics of getting my beer there in decent shape. But of the 8 beers I have entered I've won 3 medals, and 2 others made to the final round.
 
In my 30+ years of all grain brewing I have never once checked my mash pH. I bought the kit, but it's gathering dust somewhere in my garage, assuming it made the move 6 years ago. The extent to which worry about low oxygen ends after I flood the kegs with CO2 while empty and I burp them a few times once they are full.
And I do make consistently excellent beer. I rarely enter competitions because of the style limitations and logistics of getting my beer there in decent shape. But of the 8 beers I have entered I've won 3 medals, and 2 others made to the final round.

This is the one that I thought would be the least controversial.

If the beer is always excellent then your water happens to land in an acceptable pH range for the beer styles you happen to brew. If you see a trend where the lighter beers tend to be better than the darker ones, or vice versa, it can explained by the fact that your water is better suited to one or the other (high or low alkalinity). If the full range of colors are equally good, your water is probably best suited for amber beers. If that's the case, your lighter beers would be better with some small acid addition. I'm not saying they are bad now, they will just be better.

I suspect your water is probably pretty soft/low alkalinity because:

1. If your water is high alkalinity, your dark beers would be good and the light ones would be noticeably astringent to almost everyone.
2. If your water is medium alkalinity your dark beers would be good and light ones would be moderately astringent, perhaps unnoticeably so to some people.
3. If your water is low alkalinity, dark beers would be slightly acidic and light beers would be slightly astringent. Maybe not quite noticeable to most but adding acid to the palest beers would still improve overall impression.

Circling back to what I originally said, you don't KNOW if your beer would be better if you tracked/corrected your mash pH because you've never done it. Perhaps you suspect it won't make it better because you already think the beer is as good as it gets or as good as you need it to be. Maybe mash pH doesn't matter at all and it's a conspiracy perpetuated by the pH meter and acid producers of the world ;-)
 
This is the one that I thought would be the least controversial.

If the beer is always excellent then your water happens to land in an acceptable pH range for the beer styles you happen to brew. If you see a trend where the lighter beers tend to be better than the darker ones, or vice versa, it can explained by the fact that your water is better suited to one or the other (high or low alkalinity). If the full range of colors are equally good, your water is probably best suited for amber beers. If that's the case, your lighter beers would be better with some small acid addition. I'm not saying they are bad now, they will just be better.

I suspect your water is probably pretty soft/low alkalinity because:

1. If your water is high alkalinity, your dark beers would be good and the light ones would be noticeably astringent to almost everyone.
2. If your water is medium alkalinity your dark beers would be good and light ones would be moderately astringent, perhaps unnoticeably so to some people.
3. If your water is low alkalinity, dark beers would be slightly acidic and light beers would be slightly astringent. Maybe not quite noticeable to most but adding acid to the palest beers would still improve overall impression.

Circling back to what I originally said, you don't KNOW if your beer would be better if you tracked/corrected your mash pH because you've never done it. Perhaps you suspect it won't make it better because you already think the beer is as good as it gets or as good as you need it to be. Maybe mash pH doesn't matter at all and it's a conspiracy perpetuated by the pH meter and acid producers of the world ;-)
Our water was extremely hard so I'd usually go 50/50 well water and RO from town. My wife's favorite, and an overall favorite of our friends, was a Kölsch style ale. My favorites were always my stouts and porters, and Belgian quads. But I started brewing before there were easily available homebrewing forums like this, and I didn't know any other homebrewers so I winged it with the help of Charlie Papazian. I never knew about the stuff everyone today gets excited about, I just brewed every week and kept track of what worked and what didn't.
 
Our water was extremely hard so I'd usually go 50/50 well water and RO from town. My wife's favorite, and an overall favorite of our friends, was a Kölsch style ale. My favorites were always my stouts and porters, and Belgian quads. But I started brewing before there were easily available homebrewing forums like this, and I didn't know any other homebrewers so I winged it with the help of Charlie Papazian. I never knew about the stuff everyone today gets excited about, I just brewed every week and kept track of what worked and what didn't.
The thing about really pale beers is that even 100% pure RO/distilled is going to generate a higher than ideal mash pH without acid. It's certainly easy enough to drop 2 mL of lactic acid in your strike water to try it for yourself.
 
#1) Consistency. In process and data acquisition, compilation, analysis, and review
The subparts to this include times, temps, my own mill, ingredients
#2) Fermentation temp control
#3) As @corkybstewart wisely said, no drinking whilst brewing
 
I too have been homebrewing 30+ years. Took the leap to all grain in 1994. By 1996 I was doing closed system fermentations and transfers. And kegging all my beers. I gave up on bottles then also except the occasional competition offerings. These things significantly improved my beers. But next I began oxygenating my wort with industrial grade oxygen, now I use medical oxygen. Big noticable improvement. For the next 20+ yrs I made some very good beers, even took home a few ribbons. But with all those years of brewing the single biggest improvement has been gaining control of temperatures. Better mash temp control, better fermentation temp control and better temperature control for aging/lagering. Hands down the biggest improvement that I made.
 
I started out as a lot did I suspect. 5 gallon kits fermented in a plastic bucket without temp control. I don’t have a fridge large enough for a bucket that big. I’m getting older and the 5 gallons was a lot to carry down the stairs so I started doing 2.5 gallon batches. I have a mini fridge for summer beers and started using that fridge for temp control. The Fermonster fits in it perfectly after I made a shelf in the bottom. The finished beer improved so much that I started looking at other things that I could improve upon. I installed an RO water system (wanted it for the ice maker anyway) because we have terrible city well water over 600 tds and added salts back in.
The controlled temp and water improvement were the two top improvements.
 
Back
Top