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What's been your single most beneficial homebrewing upgrade?

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Schoepp24

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From a complete beginner brewing on an apartment induction stove-top and fermenting in cheap plastic buckets with no temp control --> All the way to a complete stainless AG setup with all the nifty gadgets you could ever dream of, what has been the ONE upgrade you noticed most drastically changed the overall quality and/or taste of your beers?
If you had to do it all over again this would likely be the thing you gravitate towards purchasing first. That special thing..

Cheers!
 

Twinkeelfool

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Temperature controlled fermenting fridge. I love my robo brew with recirc pump etc but my last setup was gas fired Biab. No pump and temp control was checking the mash temp with a cheap kitchen digital thermometer. Made beers just as good as now, though my consistency is better now.
 

McKnuckle

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Speidels Braumeister, 10L size. Small and expensive, but a perfectly engineered hot side brewing solution for my needs, which are 2.5 gallon kegged batches (this also evolved from the typical 5 gallons).

The Brau replaced several iterations of DIY brewing systems, producing results from 1 to 5 gallons. Three vessel, two vessel, one vessel; numerous takes on BIAB with all manner of recirc and temp control solutions, etc. All of those were fun to cobble together, and a learning experience for sure.

I don't know if I should have gone straight to the Brau because I would have foregone all of that. There's a good argument for not trying to do "one and done" until you can confidently know what "one" is.

Oh wait... quality and taste? That would be either learning to brew with built-up distilled water OR temperature controlled fermentation.
 
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Schoepp24

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Speidels Braumeister, 10L size. Small and expensive, but a perfectly engineered hot side brewing solution for my needs, which are 2.5 gallon kegged batches (this also evolved from the typical 5 gallons).

The Brau replaced several iterations of DIY brewing systems, producing results from 1 to 5 gallons. Three vessel, two vessel, one vessel; numerous takes on BIAB with all manner of recirc and temp control solutions, etc. All of those were fun to cobble together, and a learning experience for sure.

I don't know if I should have gone straight to the Brau because I would have foregone all of that. There's a good argument for not trying to do "one and done" until you can confidently know what "one" is.

Oh wait... quality and taste? That would be either learning to brew with built-up distilled water OR temperature controlled fermentation.
Great point. I feel like the all-in-one systems available today are mind blowing compared to what was typically available 10 years ago though. I don’t even feel like I had 1 vessel options like that back then if I were to have chosen to move to AG. But then again maybe they were far less affordable.
 

McKnuckle

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Yup. None of the classic books have any reference to single vessel brewing, not to mention the purpose-built electric systems. Those are all quite new innovations on the scene. Charlie P.'s and John P.'s books didn't mention any of that stuff - at least not 7 years ago when I started.
 

tracer bullet

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Generically it was the move to all-grain after literally decades of extracts & a pound or two of specialty grain. Extract's fine, but it's a beginner step to reduce the work or for someone that really has no time or space. This would be my one thing if I had to choose 1 thing.

Other big ones though: Yeast starters, allowed me to get flavors from yeast that were expected and made fermenting that much faster. And temp control is a thing for fermenting of course, but until I controlled that, I kinda chose yeast for my temps and beer styles accordingly so I was OK without it.
 

jschein

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I am pretty as you say blinged out, multiple glycol/heat controlled conicals. 2 Grainfathers.
I did start out in 1984 with the minimum requirements to do extract. Drilled buckets for mash tuns yada,yada.
But my brews always had something that always seemed weird taste wise, the 80 year old guy in the foothills who sold ingredients tasted it and said “son, you live in the big city. Your water is good but has chlorine and chloride. You need some sodium metabisulfite. Put some in your water and bring me back a sample of your beer.” That guy taught me everything I know, miss you Gus.
 

Spartan1979

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I'd say water treatment. My beers improved when I started adding some calcium chloride to my tap water and even more when I bought an RO system.

Although, while it didn't improve my beers, moving inside with an electric system has been a big improvement to the quality of my brewing day.
 

AzOr

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A while back I woulda said temp control keezer. But now with all the different yeast strains, including Kveik, it’s easy to match yeast with your situation.
Recently I started playing w Kveiks because my keezer has been commissioned to return to a freezer to store food stuff.
This time of year I make a lot of ciders. So early in fall when temps are still a bit high, I use a saison strand, then as the temp drops I go to a more traditional wine type of yeast.

So, to answer the question- I would have to say a quality instant read thermometer. I love my thermapen. Or my stainless fermenter, the Anvil bucket.
 

_BullDog_

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Agree with all of the above as well.

look at your set-up and where you want to go and then decide which steps to take.

I went temp control then all grain then electric Within a year and each one helped improve my beers. After that came the kegerator which made Packaging so much easier.
 

hopjuice_71

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I am pretty as you say blinged out, multiple glycol/heat controlled conicals. 2 Grainfathers.
I did start out in 1984 with the minimum requirements to do extract. Drilled buckets for mash tuns yada,yada.
But my brews always had something that always seemed weird taste wise, the 80 year old guy in the foothills who sold ingredients tasted it and said “son, you live in the big city. Your water is good but has chlorine and chloride. You need some sodium metabisulfite. Put some in your water and bring me back a sample of your beer.” That guy taught me everything I know, miss you Gus.
Well, this deserves a lot more likes. I started brewing in a big city in the late 80s and brewed some crap beers. Gave up brewing for a long time until I moved to a city with good water....but I didn't have a Gus. In hindsight, it was the effects of chlorinated water. Long live the the Gus's of the world!
 
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Kegging. I wouldn't do this anymore if I had to screw around with bottles. Plus, tap beer at home is just cool.
I agree, kegging made the biggest improvement to my day. Maybe not the best improvement ever to my overall beer (although it did reduce a lot of extra racking), but certainly improved my sanity.
 
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Schoepp24

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There’s
Kegging. I wouldn't do this anymore if I had to screw around with bottles. Plus, tap beer at home is just cool.
There’s just something about kegging that makes even the most plain of homebrews seem more “professional”. To this day I feel like anyone who comes to the house for a beer is a lot more receptive to a home brew on tap than one in a bottle. I can’t say I disagree with them.
 

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Without a doubt going low oxygen made the most drastic difference in my beer. Also it really propelled me forward in my understanding of the brewing process.
 

Brewer_Dad

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Temperature regulated refrigerator.
Counterflow chiller.

I just bought an Anvil Foundry 10.5, but I haven't received it yet.
 

jdonovan

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kegging - greatest reduction in PITA
temp contol of fermentation - better more consistent beer
BIAB - faster, more convenient and more consistent recipe execution
 

AR-Josh

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It seems like figuring out what is causing your particular off flavors is the best first step. For me it was temperature co trolled fermentation.

I made my first batch in July and it was terrible. I made an immediate second batch in August or September. Terrible. The third batch was my last attempt before I was going to give it up cause I couldn’t make anything taste good. Well that third batch was the end of October and fermented in the same area of my house as the first two, my basement. It came out great. Then I did a batch in January and it was great. Then a batch in March and it was also great. I tried again in May and the terrible taste came back. That is when it hit me...I was fermenting too warm. I built a cheap fermentation chamber and my beers started coming out without the nasty warm ferment flavors.
 

Brian66

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Kegging. I was consistently getting oxidation when bottling and I tried changing so many things in my bottling process. I started kegging and my beers were finally turning out the way they should.
 

catalanotte

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I'm 50/50 here. Yeast management (pitch rate, starters, wort chilling, and fermentation temp control) is a big one but I think I got more improvements with attention to water details (mineral content, alkalinity, and mash pH). If you don't do all-grain the water probably isn't as significant as the yeast management.
 
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Schoepp24

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I'm 50/50 here. Yeast management (pitch rate, starters, wort chilling, and fermentation temp control) is a big one but I think I got more improvements with attention to water details (mineral content, alkalinity, and mash pH). If you don't do all-grain the water probably isn't as significant as the yeast management.
Did you start by modifying your current water profile or buy distilled and fabricate a custom profile? I (weirdly) had the hardest time finding my town's water profile when I first started improving water that I ended up using distilled for quite a while.
 

catalanotte

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I obtained a detailed water report from the engineering department at the water utility and modified based on the Brewers Friend calculator. Many people go through Ward Labs, and pay for a report (about $40) which is another option. I have resisted buying water and have been able to manage the tap water to a good result.

Getting the alkalinity down to manage mash pH (without duping lots of acid in mash) was the biggest improvement in beer quality. Managing Calcium, Chloride and Sulfate levels was the other noticeable impact.
 

Knightshade

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I fell into the rabbit hole of buying alot of stuff upon entrance into the hobby, so my answer is reflective of that. Foundry has contributed to ALOT less lifting of various cooler mashtuns, kettle, blah, blah...and allowed me brew in the garage vs. kitchen. Which everybody else in the family is REALLY happy about as well.
 

Granite03

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I started brewing in 1992 with extracts on the stove top and glass carboys in the coolest part of the house before bottling. Now I’m brewing in Grainfathers that pump into glycol cooled SS conicals monitored with Tilts on Pi’s going into kegs. To answer the question: Starting over I would first jump straight to the Grainfathers (or nice equivalents these days). Second would be the kegs and third conicals.
 

GPDitches

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From a complete beginner brewing on an apartment induction stove-top and fermenting in cheap plastic buckets with no temp control --> All the way to a complete stainless AG setup with all the nifty gadgets you could ever dream of, what has been the ONE upgrade you noticed most drastically changed the overall quality and/or taste of your beers?
If you had to do it all over again this would likely be the thing you gravitate towards purchasing first. That special thing..

Cheers!
Anvil Foundry. Not necessarily better beer, just easier than propane burners, multiple pots, mash tun, and all the set up and clean up.
 

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seatazzz

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+Infinity temperature controlled fermentation; tried a swamp cooler for a while but was too much hassle. Being able to set the fermenter in the ferment fridge, dial in the temperature I want, and walk away....now THAT'S what I call an improvement. Also being able to cold crash in the same chamber; once again, just set the temperature to where I need it, and walk briskly away.
 

WESBREW

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Glycol chiller; precision fermentation control, no wondering what inside temp is, easy temp changes and cold crash. Also can get wort chilled to pitching temp when tap water can’t quite get it there . Pretty hands off once it going.
 
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