Home brewing advice thread.

Discussion in 'Gearhead Garage' started by MSP, Sep 9, 2011.

  1. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    So I've ran a few kegs of beer through my kegerator, and I've educated myself a bit about the homebrew process. I like to cook and love beer, so for me brewing is the next logical step.

    Is it really economical? Initially I was looking at this as a potential cost savings but so far I'm not seeing it.

    Anyway, here's the list that I've come up with so far. I'm not going to fool with bottling obviously...

    Stainless steel boiling pot
    Glass carboy
    Carboy airlock
    Carboy cleaner
    Wort chiller (probably just a ice bath for starters)
    Thermometer
    Hydrometer
    Stirring paddle
    Corny kegs
    Ingredients

    What am I missing? I'm not afraid of some startup costs, I plan on doing things right. And economically. If I can save money brewing in bigger batches then by all means that's what I'll do.
  2. -=Lurker=-

    -=Lurker=- **BANNED**

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    Whi was it that home brewed here? DJSR?
  3. Commissar Smersh

    Commissar Smersh Giant Meteor 2016 #MakeAmericanBrannigan Staff Member

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    DJSR and Mattdev both do. I got a setup for Christmas less the pot but haven't had time or inclination to dive into it yet, maybe I should get on that. As far as what I've seen cost wise, it's minimally cheaper if at all (here in Denver at least), but it's something you did yourself and made to your taste.
  4. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    So I'm going to ask a possibly heretical question, as it seems to be a significant cost and time saver: what about malt extract? Using that I could crank out a 1/6 barrel for around 20 bucks.

    Also, what are the advantages of a carboy over just a fermentation bucket? The bucket is cheaper, and seems like it would be a lot easier to clean.
  5. mistawiskas

    mistawiskas kik n a and takin names

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    You guys almost make me wish i still drank beer. I'd be brewing up a shit ton of kegs.
  6. mattdev

    mattdev liberal crybaby

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    I think everybody should start out by brewing extract, but you'll save a lot more money, have more control, and make much better beer by brewing all grain. Sometimes malt extract (specifically liquid) will sit on the shelves for too long and start tasting like a ballpoint pen. You're pretty limited in terms of style on what you can make with it.

    With that said, how comfortable are you with cutting metal? I build my entire setup (completely weldless) for under $500 and I have the ability to brew 10 gallons at a time of all grain beer. It rules.
  7. mattdev

    mattdev liberal crybaby

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    Also, I would recommend at least a 7.5 gallon pot for 5 gallon batches. You can't boil this on your home stove, so you'll probably need an outdoor propane burner as well. Any turkey fryer should do.
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  8. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    Good stuff! So you gotta post pics of your setup.

    In the short term though, carboy or fermentation bucket? I've seem some converted Igloo cooler systems too.
  9. mistawiskas

    mistawiskas kik n a and takin names

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    I've got carboys (4), wine making gear, a shitload of grapes.......but I don't drink alcohol :eek:.
  10. djsoulriot

    djsoulriot Junior Member

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    Starting with Extract recipes is the way to go, and like Matt said, always check the freshness of your extract. You can make marvelous beers with extract kits once you know what you're doing. The major drawback is the limited amount of styles that can be brewed with extract recipes though, and knowing you, you'll soon want to grow into All Grain brewing for that sense of total control over your recipes/brewing experience. But it's important to master all the small parts of brewing such as cleaning and sanitizing at the extract level before you can comfortably move to the all grain level.

    Something not on your list is Sanitizer. I've been using 5 Star's Saniclean which is a no-rinse acid sanitizer, and it works marvelously. A lot of home brewing literature is going to suggest using a diluted mixture of bleach and water, but I personally wouldn't mess around and would stick with the Saniclean (Besides, the acidity of the residual sanitizer helps stabilize your beer's pH).

    Another major consideration is temperature control. Ale yeast likes to ferment in the high 60's F (Some styles as high as 80F, some styles as low as 50F). Make sure you have a place in your house that will stay consistently in the high 60's. If its a bit warmer or cooler that's fine, just so long as the temperature doesn't drastically fluctuate. Fluctuating fermentation temps will lead to off-flavors in your beer, poor attenuation, creation of hangover inducing fusel alcohols, etc. Since I live in the desert with outside temps as high as 115F and as low 10F, I have to take major considerations with my temperature control, especially since I don't have a basement. Since we're approaching winter, there's some relatively simple and inexpensive ways to keep your fermenting beer warm such as heat wraps.

    The next thing that comes to mind is "Cold Crashing". Once your beer has completed fermentation you need to rapidly drop the temperature to refrigeration temperature (low 30'sF) for at least a day, ideally 2-3. This will cause any yeast still in solution as well as proteins and other haze causing particles to drop out. If you're brewing one beer at a time, the kegerator will do the trick since you can just stick your carboy/bucket in there, but if you plan on overlapping beers, then you're going to have to find a way of dropping the fermented beer down in temperature. My parents didn't like me taking over the kitchen fridge for 2 days so I ended up getting a large chest freezer rigged with a temperature controller for this reason. This was a great investment, especially since I'm brewing 20 gallon batches now.

    Bucket vs Carboy.

    Food grade bucket's work pretty damn well, there are however two drawbacks worth noting. The first is that they will get scratched. When you start getting scratches on the inside of your bucket, its time to replace it with a new one. Scratches (no matter how minor) will harbor bacteria, and no matter how well you clean your bucket, it will be just about impossible to completely sanitize it. If you go the bucket route, just plan on replacing them every few batches. The bacteria that starts living in the scratches can do all sorts of nasty things to the flavor, aroma, and quality of fermentation in your beer. The second drawback is oxygen permeability. Oxygen is one of beer's worst enemies, and depending on exposure, can make your beer taste like soggy cardboard. If you're going to be fermenting beers with short fermentation times (less than a month), you'll be in the clear, but if you want to try making high gravity beers, or beers that need to condition in a secondary fermenter, buckets are not the way to go. Keep in mind the majority of beers you'll most likely be brewing will have short fermentation times, meaning the bucket will definitely be a viable way to go.

    Glass carboys are what I use these days. They're much more expensive than buckets, but the way I see it, they're an investment. So long as I don't drop or crack my carboy, it'll last me a lifetime. They have Zero oxygen permeability and are clear so you can have a clear view into your beer's fermentation. They do have their drawbacks though. If you're going to add anything to your fermenting beer such as oak, fruit, dry hops, etc, the bucket is your friend since the entire top can be removed. With carboys, you're stuck with the tiny mouth which makes putting things in and taking things out a bit tougher. The second major drawback is that carboys can be extremely dangerous. I've seen several scars and missing fingers from people that dropped their carboy and were struck by glass shrapnel as it shattered. So keep these pros and cons in mind, and decide which fermenting vessel will be best suited for you.

    Home brewing is an amazing hobby, and there's so much great literature out there. http://www.howtobrew.com/ is a great website, I personally bought the book, but all the information is there on the website. If you leave near a home brew shop go stop by and see if they do any brewing demonstrations. Home brewers are typically very friendly and love sharing the craft with newcomers. Goodluck, and cheers!
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  11. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    Thanks so much! Tons of great info. I had thought of sanitizers, but was just going to use diluted bleach. With small batches and doing all of this in my kitchen I'll at least start out that way and see how it goes. I have a medical lab background and rock at sterilization. You should see me making a Thanksgiving turkey, you'd think I was handling anthrax or something.

    Anyway, you and Matt have talked me into several changes to my list. Definitely going to go with the carboy (and a handle!), and a turkey fryer. And a carboy heat strap too. I'll be fermenting in my basement furnace room, but in the winter it can get rather chilly in there.

    One last question, when I finish the cold shock and am ready to transfer into the corny keg, how much (if any) dextrose would I add? I know with bottling this is done, but given it's going into a carbonated system is it needed?
  12. JZL

    JZL Ministry of Whack

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    I actually brewed beer with my mommy. We had a blast. It's been a while. My recollection was by the time you started buying really good quality ingredients, the cost saving was pretty much toast. Recently a guy who was in my Unreal Tournament clan really got into the technicalities of it. He has vids up on Youtube about it, but so do a thousand other people, so there's a good place to look for help.
  13. djsoulriot

    djsoulriot Junior Member

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    After the cold crash you don't add any dextrose (Priming Sugar) to the beer since you'll be force carbonating the keg with a CO2 tank.

    Priming sugar is for bottle conditioning (naturally carbonating) the beer.

    JZL - I recently made a 15 gallon batch of a Pliny the Elder Clone. When everything was all said and done I spent about $75. For those unfamiliar with this beer, it's a very special/unique beer and can be quite costly at the liquor store.

    When you do the math it costs me about $.65 a pint for an 8% ABV Double IPA that would typically cost $6-8 a pint in the bar (If a bar could get their hands on a keg of this stuff).
  14. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    Makes sense, thanks.

    So how long can I safely leave the beer in the fermenter once the bubbles stop? I can easily fit 2-3 corny's in my kegerator, but if I've got a 1/2 barrel of something already tapped... Something tells me I'll be buying another fridge before it's over.
  15. djsoulriot

    djsoulriot Junior Member

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    Out of laziness I've left a beer in the fermenter for about 5 weeks. I personally didn't notice any major flaws/defects but the beer was a robust porter which would disguise most minor flaws to begin with.

    You could probably leave the beer in a fermenter for a much longer period of time. A few things that might end up happening though is whatever trub (hop particles/ hot break/ proteins) that have settled to the bottom of the fermenter might start affecting the flavor of the beer. And in extreme cases, autolysis can occur where the yeast cells that has settled to the bottom die and rupture, releasing rather offensive chemicals. Again, these are extreme, worse case scenarios and would only occur after prolonged times in the fermenter without transferring the beer to a secondary fermenter to get it off of the yeast and trub.
  16. djsoulriot

    djsoulriot Junior Member

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    Going on a tangent, here's some of my equipment/ Beer paraphernalia:

    This is what I started with when I made the move to All Grain brewing. 7 gallon stainless steel brewing kettle with ball valve. 2 5 gallon coolers, one fitted with a stainless steel false bottom to act as my mash tun. I really regretted not getting larger coolers, it definitely limited the strength of beers I could brew:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    These are the kettles I upgraded to earlier this year. 27 gallon stainless steel:
    [​IMG]

    And here they are in action:
    [​IMG]

    Speaking of temperature control for fermentations, about a year ago I bought a 7 gallon temperature controlled conical fermenter:
    [​IMG]

    Beers that are less finicky get fermented behind the wet bar:
    [​IMG]

    Close up of a sour beer I'm trying out:
    [​IMG]

    Soaking some cherries and toasted oak cubes in bourbon as well. Still have to brew the beer that this will go into:
    [​IMG]

    Chest freezer with temperature controller for keg storage, cold-crashing, etc:
    [​IMG]

    Here's my kegerator, recently upgraded to a 2 tap tower:
    [​IMG]

    Currently pouring my Blackberry DIPA and my Pineapple Wheat Ale:
    [​IMG]

    Peak inside the kegerator, recently disconnected the CO2 tank to refill it, need to pop that back in there:
    [​IMG]

    Edit: WARNING - This is really addicting hobby, it's very easy to go off the deep-end.
  17. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    That's awesome. So I've just about got my initial order ready. I'm an Amazon prime member and making good use of the free shipping, so I'm getting all of this shipped to my door for $306.

    Glass carboy
    Carboy airlock (3)
    Carboy handle
    Carboy cleaner (the cool one from Strange Brew)
    Auto siphon
    Rubber stoppers
    Refurbished corny kegs (2)
    4 malt extract kits
    3 pounds of DME
    4 pounds of dextrose


    Basically enough supplies to make the first four batches. 20 gallons of beer and all the associated gear for 300 bucks is pretty amazing. I'll likely add a second carboy, a carboy warmer, and some other miscellaneous items but otherwise a turn key setup.
  18. JZL

    JZL Ministry of Whack

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    Wow! Thx for the pix! That's a zillion times beyond our op. Bourbon-soaking--what a tremendous idea.
  19. djsoulriot

    djsoulriot Junior Member

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    MSP - Do you know what kind, if any, yeast is coming with the malt extract kits? If it's liquid, make sure that the kits are being shipped with some kind of ice pack to keep the yeast cool. Also, what kind of corny kegs are you getting? Have all the rubber gaskets been replaced? If the last thing in the keg was soda, the gaskets need to be changed since soda will permanently stain the rubber with a soda flavor. Last thing to note about the corny's, are they ball or pin lock? You'll have to get the appropriate equipment based on the type of keg.

    JZL - I LOOOVE Bourbon aged beer. Barley wines, Imperial Stouts, IPA's, Old Ales, Belgian Golden Ales, etc all age gracefully with some bourbon soaked oak. I highly recommend getting your hands on some oak cubes/chips, and experimenting.
  20. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    Ball lock, all new rubber. Now I gotta track down the hoses/adapters for my kegerator.

    And the yeast is dried.
  21. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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  22. djsoulriot

    djsoulriot Junior Member

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    That's pretty much the most straightforward way to go. Will you have enough height though in your kegerator once you add the additional converter to the top of your coupler?
  23. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    Doh! Hadn't thought of that. Good catch. Time for a low profile sanke...

    EDIT: Hell, cheaper just to put a quick release in for the beer air line, and have a totally separate air beer line for the corny.

    EDIT2: Got that backward. Anyway, I found a company that sells a conversion kit: http://www.williamsbrewing.com/BALL-LOCK-KEGERATOR-HOMEBREW-CONVERSION-KIT-P1701C118.aspx

    I think I'm just going to go to my local brew supply store and have them help me to design something. Beer line disconnect in conjunction with the above, or something along those lines.
  24. djsoulriot

    djsoulriot Junior Member

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    Tomorrow I'm rigging a friend's kegerator with disconnects so he can switch between corny's and sanke's. I'll take pics of it when I'm done.
  25. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    You rock! Thanks dude.