Home Brewing - GORDON's first brew

Beer brewing, wine aging, whiskey fermenting, soda pop carbonating.  Talk about it here.
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Postby GORDON » Fri Jan 28, 2011 11:37 pm

This has been discussed in the past, but a search tells me there was never a dedicated thread.

1. Who has made their own beer?

2. How did it work out?

3. How cost effective is it?

4. How hard is it to get the same result over and over once you figure out a good recipe?

5. How hard is it to store?

I've always been curious about it, and cost isn't the only factor, but I'm not going to be spending $20 every time I have a 12 ounce beer I made myself.

Plus it would be awesome to grow my own hops and make beer out of them.




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Postby Malcolm » Sat Jan 29, 2011 2:57 pm

Sounds like a Paul thread that was killed during a forum crash.

1. Me, at least. I'm 99.99999999% sure Paul's in that boat, too.
2. Quite well.
3. Very. Ratio was about one 25 oz. bottle of quality lager, ale, or cider brewed yourself for about $1 per bottle versus 12 oz. bottles of average domestic swill bought at your local liquor store. It's the initial investment into all the equipment that makes it seem costly. After a few batches, it'll seem worth it.
4. Not that hard, depending upon the rigours of your definition of "consistent."
5. Storage pain depends mainly on keeping the temperature, humidity, and light at appropriate levels during fermentation. Warmer temps are for ales, cooler ones for lager. Same warnings go for storing the beer after the bottling (which you'll also need clean bottles, caps, and a capping machine to do).

The worst part is sanitizing and cleaning all the equipment every time. Doing that improperly will negatively affect your taste.
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Postby GORDON » Sat Jan 29, 2011 4:01 pm

I'm really leaning toward doing some brewing. I can even give all my excess to Unk. Need to build a brewing corner into my new basement... already thinking about where.

I'd love to make some Scottish ale.

So do you have a kit, Malcolm?




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Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:11 pm

Haven't done the home brew in the current house because some nameless punk keeps forgetting to reclaim his half of the equipment from his previous residence of ... three years ago, I think.

However, back in the day, yeah, there was a kit. Mainly (and I'm glossing over a few details), you'll need ...

- ingredients purchased on a per batch basis ... crunching numbers here ... I just found a few that are $50 worth of ingredients for up to 5 gallons of beer (that's not counting initial equipment)
- a bottling machine & bottles
- a big-ass pot/kettle to mix in all the ingredients and cook them
- another big-ass container/tank for fermentation
- supplies to clean everything I just mentioned

When I say "big-ass" I mean bigger than you're probably used to seeing in your kitchen. Nothing industrial sized or anything. I remember some coffee stout, raspberry ale or something, and a few others. I can't remember ever making anything worse than than good quality brew (unless we really, really fucked up). Don't remember where we got ours from (it's been a bit), but some quick googling will give you a decent price comparison. Home brewing is huge. Supplies should be cheap, plentiful, and easy to locate. Probably a joint within driving distance of your house if you want to inspect things first-hand.

First time you do it, you'll want to slot out a day for it. Start in the early afternoon. Fermentation could be from two weeks (for certain ales/lager) or a couple months, maybe. Most ingredient kits I just glanced at try to give you 2-3 week turnaround times.

Bottling isn't that bad, just tedious. A well-trained chimp could probably do it. You can reuse bottles damn near forever if you rinse them out relatively well after they're emptied and run them through the dishwasher.

Make sure your equipment is sanitized before brewing and bottling. Good ingredients plus properly cleaned equipment is your only hope of producing consistent, quality product. Just gets harder to clean the more you put it off.
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Arnold Judas Rimmer, BSC, SSC: "Better dead than smeg."

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Postby Paul » Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:59 pm

I haven't brewed anything since last Monday. And before that, it was Saturday, :)
I was going to brew today but I got distracted.

I get my stuff from Midwest Supplies' online store.

This has been discussed in the past, but a search tells me there was never a dedicated thread.

1. Who has made their own beer?

Me!

2. How did it work out?

I have never had a bad batch.

3. How cost effective is it?

It's technically cheaper than buying good beer, but you spend hours doing it, so if your time has any value you shouldn't be doing it to save money.

4. How hard is it to get the same result over and over once you figure out a good recipe?

I've only done my own recipe a few times. The biggest issue with consistence is yeast. Powdered yeast is cheapest, but varies. If you pay more for a smack pack of white labs yeast it will be about the same every time (unless you have contamination).

5. How hard is it to store?

It depends if you use bottles or kegs.

-----------------

Last Saturday I brewed at a friend's house, but Monday I brewed by myself in the kitchen. I'll walk you through my process:

I bought Octane IPA from Midwest Supplies. IPA's have more hops and sugars, so they are more expensive.

I heated about 1.5 gallons to 2 gallons of water to 155 degrees in a 5 gallon stainless steel pot I have. Then I added the specialty grains in a mesh sock that they provide. (I have my grains crushed when they are shipped, but if I'm going to store the ingredients awhile I crush them myself). I let the grains sit in the 155 degree water for 30 minutes.
I used a digital thermometer with a probe to keep an eye on the temperature. Those things rock. Great for cooking meet too, as you can cook to doneness, not time.

While the grains simmered I took my smack pack (British Ale Wyeast Activator) from the refrigerator and popped the bubble inside so the yeast could warm up and eat the food inside. During the next couple hours the pack (looks like a big Capris Sun pouch) inflated like a balloon.

I also took a 5 gallon pvc bucket and sanitized it with some one-step cleaner.

When the 30 minutes were up I removed the pot from the stove, removed the grains, and added the 9.3 pounds of malt extract. (Normal recipe kits have 6 pounds). You add the malt when it is off the burner so it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pot before the sugars dissolve.

I put it back on the stove and when it started boiling at 212 I added the hops and set the timer for an hour. These are bittering hops.
With 20 minutes left I think I added the second batch of hops, again for bittering.
With two minutes left I added aroma hops.

I use a hop bag, so I just add the hops to the bag and remove them after the cooking process, but most people leave them in.
Those round hop cages suck ass. Don't bother with them.

You have to watch out during this process because it can foam up and volcano the syrupy concoction over the sides of the brew pot.
I had to lift it off the burner several times.

I added ice to the sanitized 5 gallon PVC bucket and poured the hot wort into it. Then I added cold water (using the sprayer in the sink, to add a ton of air to it) until it reached the 5 gallon mark.

I put the lid on and the air valve thingy that lets C02 escape.

I didn't have a lot of ice so the beer was still too warm to add the yeast, so I left it outside in the snow for a few hours. Ideally it will cool to 80 degrees or lower right away, so you can add the yeast to it.

Dry yeast will usually get active quickly, and will start bubbling within hours. It can be done in two days.
The liquid yeast I use can take a few days to start, and bubbles longer. Mind stopped bubbling yesterday.

With a normal beer, at the one week mark I would move the beer from this primary fermentor (pvc bucket) to the secondary fermentor (big glass water bottle). You move it because the yeast dies and turn into sludge on the bottom, and this sludge will taint the flavor of the beer.

To move the beer I use a clean plastic hose and siphon it off, so as not to disturb the sludge.

The cloudy beer stays in the secondary fermentor for another week, and clarifies a bunch.

After that you can either bottle it or keg it.

I can discuss that process more later if you want, but now I need to go fix a cop's computer in town.

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Postby Paul » Mon Jan 31, 2011 5:01 pm

Once the wort has cooked, everything that touches is has to be sanitized. There is a *lot* of cleaning and sensitization. Cleaning is the worst part.

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Postby GORDON » Mon Jan 31, 2011 5:07 pm

Link me a good starter kit. How does this one look?

http://www.amazon.com/Complet....A1VIJSM
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Postby GORDON » Mon Jan 31, 2011 5:25 pm

Also, is there any reason I can't bottle my beer in 1 quart mason jars? I have lots of those as I eat my canned garden vegetables all winter long.
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Postby GORDON » Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:41 pm

GORDON wrote:Also, is there any reason I can't bottle my beer in 1 quart mason jars? I have lots of those as I eat my canned garden vegetables all winter long.

A little googling has taught me that there are longneck beer bottles for a purpose... minimum O2 at the top to reduce oxidation. Mason jars would have a lot of O2, relatively.

edit - Plus, mason jars are designed to seal a vacuum, not hold up under pressure that fermenting beer creates. Interesting.




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Postby Paul » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:14 pm

I have had beet bottles explode when I didn't let the beer ferment all the way before bottling, and beet bottles are a bit stronger than mason jars.

If there's too much sugar the yeast make too much CO2, which builds up and the bottle explodes.

I lost a couple Corona bottles that way.

When you fill beer bottles with the spout thing that cam with my kit it leaves the optimal amount of head room. I guess it would be possible to do with other jars.

I do know that plastic soda bottles work fine. :) In fact, I have a cap for soda bottles that lets me hook them to my C02 tank and carbonate it.

----------

To bottle beer, you clean the bottles. Scrub them out with one-step cleaner (uses oxygen), and ideally run them through the dry cycle of a dish washer to sanitize them.

Then you add corn sugar to your beer. You have to boil water, dissolve the corn sugar into it, then mix that into your 5 gallons. This gives the yeast a little more food so they can carbonate the bottles from the inside. (Too much sugar and BOOM!)

I have a tube that goes to a stick with a nub on the end. When the nub hits the bottom of the beer bottle it allows the beer to flow into the bottle. When I lift up the beer stops flowing.

Once the bottle is full you take a sterilized cap (soaked in one-step cleaner), set it on the bottle (with clean hands) and clamp it down with the bottle capper.
In a week or two it will be carbonated.

For kegging, you do not add any more sugar. You pour all five gallons into a sterile/clean Kornnealus keg. Then hook the CO2 line to it and let it carbonate for about 5 days.
Or you can crank the pressure up, and come back and shake it every 30 minutes, and have it carbonated by the next day. (Very easy to over carbonate this way! Not recommended.)

I have a kegerator in my kitchen, so I can pour myself a cold one at any time.

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Postby GORDON » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:17 pm

GORDON wrote:Link me a good starter kit. How does this one look?

http://www.amazon.com/Complet....A1VIJSM

Bump.
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Postby GORDON » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:19 pm

For the stage 2 fermentation... if I understand correctly, that's the one that takes 1-2 weeks, how cool does the storage location need to be? My basement is about 62F in winter, and a little higher in summer, maybe 74F. Do I need something special to keep it a constant temp?
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Postby Malcolm » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:26 pm

Storage depends on what you're making. In general, lagers need cooler temperatures (they used to pack caves with ice to get the appropriate conditions during Prohibition), ales need warmer temperatures. Any ingredient kit should have some decent directions about storage conditions.
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Postby Paul » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:38 pm

GORDON wrote:Link me a good starter kit. How does this one look?

http://www.amazon.com/Complet....A1VIJSM

Better value on Midwest Supplies:
http://www.midwestsupplies.com/homebre....ts.html

I like the $89 one here.

The bottle filler is a necessity if you're bottling. (It is soooo much harder without one. I know, I used to be without.) The bottle filler is that stick with a nub I talked about earlier, that will pour beer through it when it touches the bottom, but the second you lift it it cuts off the flow. It also displaces enough beer to allow the perfect amount of air left in the bottle.

Ideally you want a primary fermentor (PVC), then move it to the secondary (glass carboy... glass doesn't scratch easily, and scratches harbor microbes). The you have a bottling bucket that has a spigot on it.

The liquid crystal thermometer is kinda handy... I don't trust it though.

I never use the hydrometer anymore. I used it at first, but eventually I decided it was too much hassle.

How the hydrometer works is that you take cold wort (unfermented beer) and put it in a long tube. Then you float the hydrometer in it. You write down how deep it floats (where the waterline is).
When the beer is done fermenting, you take more out and float it again (making sure that the beer is at the same temperature as the previous measurement). With all the sugar being eaten and replace with alcohol it will float lower. You write down that setting too.
Then you can look at the chart and it will tell you your alcohol content based on the difference.

If you want a consistent product, then the hydrometer is a necessity because you can tell right away (before fermentation) if it's the beer has the same readings as a previous batch.

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Postby Paul » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:50 pm

GORDON wrote:For the stage 2 fermentation... if I understand correctly, that's the one that takes 1-2 weeks, how cool does the storage location need to be? My basement is about 62F in winter, and a little higher in summer, maybe 74F. Do I need something special to keep it a constant temp?

Depends on the yeast.

Lagers ferment on the bottom, at cool temperatures. I have a thermostat that sites in a mini-fridge and hooks to the power plug that the refrigerator plugs into. It allows the fridge to have electricity when it's needs to be colder and cuts the electricity off when the beer needs to be warmer.
Houses are too warm for lager, and refrigerator thermostats run too cold for lager.
Lager also takes a lot longer to ferment. Last time I lagered it took 6 weeks.

Ale is pretty hearty and should do well in a house. They like warmer temperatures and ferment at the top of the bucket.

Yeast hates big temperature shifts. If it changes 10 degrees in a day (I think) it can shock the yeast... so it basically quits working.
I keep a towel wrapped around mine. Alton Brown sticks his in the bath tub in the guest room. Some people stick it in the basement, or a closet.
You want it out of the sunlight (when in glass) and someplace fairly constant.

Ales tend to have stronger flavors than lagers, which mask a lot of mistakes. So I recommend sticking with ales. Also, the darker the better. Maybe next winter you can move to lager if you want, but I recommend sticking to the more forgiving beers first.

You will never be able to make something like Bud Light. The guy who runs Sam Adams says he can't even do that, as it's way way too tricky to make a beer that light because the slightest flaw will give it a bad taste.




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Postby Paul » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:46 pm

Other stuff you'll need:

5 gallon brew kettle (Stainless steel, with a lid. The lid helps it heat sooo much faster. I got mine at Walmart.)
1 package of dry brewer's yeast (Keep as a backup).
40 or so beer bottles (actually use about 45 because not all the beer makes it to the bottles). Sam Adams are my favorites as they are easy to cap. Corona lets light in (which is bad) but I always made a couple so I could see the color. There was one company that didn't cap correctly but I don't remember which it was.
I like the EZ cap bottles available on Midwest Supplies. They are so much easier to deal with.
Plastic siring paddle - I have the 28" plastic spoon but my buddy has the paddle and I like it better. I feel like it churns the wort better. The long handle is good because your hand doesn't have to be over the steamy kettle. Small spoons lead to sweaty hands (I know from experience).
Digital thermometer with probe - Instantly tells you the temperature of stuff. Water entering the probe is bad, so get one with a coated cord, and that has replacement probes so you can replace it instead of buying a whole new unit.
Bottle drying tree. This makes cleaning bottles soooo much easier. It's *not* a necessity, but a nice luxury. It's also great to sanitize, then use to store bottles before bottling, so there' right there in front of you.




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Postby Paul » Tue Feb 01, 2011 10:43 pm

Wow, my grammar sucks.

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Postby GORDON » Tue Feb 01, 2011 10:45 pm

Paul wrote:5 gallon brew kettle (Stainless steel, with a lid. The lid helps it heat sooo much faster. I got mine at Walmart.)

How about aluminum? Already have a canning pot.
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Postby Paul » Tue Feb 01, 2011 11:05 pm

I worry about chemical reactions with aluminum.
Is it treated? It's fine if it's treated.

Edit: I Googled it. Aluminum is fine.




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Postby GORDON » Wed Feb 02, 2011 10:36 am

At this point I am thinking about how I can maintain a consistent temp during fermentation. May have to save up for an appliance or something.
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