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  1. #1
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    Joining the ranks of the home brewer(NOOB ALERT!), must haves and tips?

    Hello fellow bikers AND beer lovers!
    The hubs and I have been mulling over the idea of getting into brewing for a while and I sent him to a brew party a few weeks ago to get a better idea if he was serious or just going along with me in a convo since he tends to do that.
    He came back with NOTES!!! Trust me, that was huge! So I gauged that he was seriously into the idea and I have a Northern Brewer starter beer kit coming(the deluxe model with glass car boys and accessories) plus an outdoor gas burner and a 5 gallon stainless steel boil pot. This will be for Fathers Day
    We already have saved 24 glass pop top bottles and are working on saving another 24 right now(bummer, gotta drink good beer to do it). Lol!

    Yay! So I am hoping that we can brew at some point in June. Is there anything that are must haves that makes life easier or have the brews be more successful?

    Our first brew will either be the Caribou Slobber or the Honey Nut Brown as I got both coming with the kit stuff.

    Tips, tricks, favorite sources for kits or supplies? Things you wish you knew now that you didn't before?
    Here is a kit pic and description:
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    6 Gallon Primary Fermentor, Fermometer, Bung, Airlock, Blowoff Assembly
    5 Gallon Secondary Fermentor, Fermometer, Bung, Airlock
    6.5 Gallon Bottling Bucket, Bottling Spigot, Bottle Filler, Bottling Tubing
    Auto-Siphon, Siphon Tubing
    Beer Bottle Brush, Bottle Capper, 60 Caps
    Instructional DVD, PBW Cleaner, Star-San Sanitizer, Carboy Brush (Glass Only)

  2. #2
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    A wort chiller is nice to have if you stick with it. I bottled my first homebrew and then started kegging after that. It is a lot easier to fill one keg than 50+ bottles.

    Those glass carboys are heavy when filled and can be extremely dangerous if dropped so be careful. I use buckets exclusively with no problems.

    I presume your first batch will be extract? If so that 5 gallon pot is just fine. If you end up wanting to do full boils in the future you will need a larger brew pot.

    Remember to clean and sanitize everything that comes in contact with the wort/beer (except the boil kettle). I'd say 80% of brewing is cleaning and sanitizing.

    Enjoy it! It's fun knowing you can make quality beer for a fraction of the cost.

  3. #3
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    My advice is to talk with the small local brewers in your area. I have learned a ton from them. Where to get the best ingredients in your area, best prices, cool tricks they have learned. They are usually stoked to help out a new home brewer. I have 3 breweries right by my work and have become pretty good friends with the brewers at them.

    They have already made tons of mistakes and are finding ways to improve their processes.

    Be willing to try new things and make mistakes. Recently I "dry hopped" some espresso beans into my stout to give it just a hit of coffee aroma. I was afraid it would have been too strong and ruined the whole batch. It turned out great.

    My biggest piece of advice is to drink beer while brewing. This is a must and if you dont, your beer will be terrible.

  4. #4
    Hillbilly
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    The most important part of brewing is sanitation, there is no arguing against that. Nothing worse than waiting 2-3 weeks for something to ferment only to notice that it's infected a few days before bottling. Pay meticulous attention to your temps as well. Have every clean and ready to go. Write a check list.

  5. #5
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    I agree that 80% of brewing is cleaning and sanitizing, the other 20% is patience. If you make good use of your time, the cleaning and sanitizing won't be too overwhelming. In addition to the wortchiller, I think a refractometer is useful for gravity readings. It only takes a drop or so and much less time than sanitizing a graduated cylinder, hydrometer, and thief. I also don't like to add anything back to the fermentor once removed. Kegs are always easier than bottles, but require CO2, a regulator and tubing. That said I do prefer soda kegs. If you go to kegs, the Blickman beer gun is very nice to have and easy to use to bring your beer to parties or brewers meetings. Don't let a fermentor sit after racking, it will come clean easier if you do it right after racking, then sanitize and cover it with tinfoil so it's ready when you are for the next batch. Also, the yeast mass on the bottom of the 2ndary can be saved for further batches so you don't have to buy yeast packets or smack packets with every brew. Final words of advice, join a club, you will learn a lot, meet people and best of all try their beer. Have fun!
    No fuss with the MUSS

  6. #6
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    Keep a spray bottle of Star-San handy and don't be afraid to use it.

    Ferment your ales in the low-60's. Too warm fermentation temps make beer undrinkable.

    If you aren't going to make a starter with your liquid yeast for beers over 1.040 OG, use dry yeast instead.

    Resist the urge to make a wasabi red currant dill pickle imperial black saison or anything of that ilk. Perfect simple, good recipes before you get all crazy with ingredients unless you like dumping beer. Brewing Classic Styles is a very good recipe book.

    If you're first batch isn't that good, don't quit!! Brewing takes some practice but you can fairly easily brew better beer than you can buy, at the store or local brewery.

    Start kegging when you confirm you can make pretty good beer. So much nicer than cleaning bottles.

    Find a good homebrew forum and ask lot's of questions. You'll find homebrewers are eager to help beginners, share recipes, tips, advice. I've been brewing for going on 7 years and really like to see people enter the hobby. I frequent my local club forum and the Northern Brewer forum (same screen name).

    Don't bother with secondary fermentation unless you are doing extended aging or adding fruit, oak, etc to the beer. My ROT is 2-3 weeks in primary and then to keg or bottle.

    Have fun and good luck!!

  7. #7
    Hi.
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    Quote Originally Posted by airlocksniffer View Post
    Ferment your ales in the low-60's. Too warm fermentation temps make beer undrinkable.
    While I agree with everything else you said, I think the point above should be clarified.

    Ales should be fermented at the temperature specific to the yeast used. That could vary from 65F to 75F. Fermenting in the low 60s could stress the yeast or cause attenuation problems. Stick to what the instructions say, or look it up online.

    You made a good point about secondaries - I used to think a secondary was necessary, but then I started doing some research. The second post on this page shows a quote from Jon Palmer about why secondaries are unnecessary:

    Question about primary and secondary fermentation - Home Brew Forums

    OP, my tips:

    - Make your own wort chiller. Plenty of tutorials online, and it's a lot cheaper than buying one pre-made.
    - After cleaning your bottles, baking them at 180F for a couple of hours is a good way to sanitize without having to spray everything down with Star San, although Star San won't hurt anything.
    - Learn how to make yeast starters. Until then, use dry yeast. The same methods to grow starters can also be used to harvest yeast from bottles purchased at the store, so you can experiment with yeast from a professional brewery.
    - The three most important things in homebrewing are:
    1. Sanitation
    2. Temperature Control
    3. Avoiding oxygen after getting the beer into the fermenter

    Good luck!

  8. #8
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    Thanks everybody!
    It all came yesterday and today I spent clearing out a fermentation/storage area in the rear of our garage under some shelves we are going to enclose with flat foil insulation panels to keep things cool via the 2 concrete walls that make that corner. These walls sit a full level under the ground surface, so I think it is our best bet for "quiet, cool, and dry". We live in a split level home and only have half has an actual basement, in which I do my homechildcare. Not cool, not quiet. Need all that space for kiddos. Our garage is 2 stall and we have some room in that rear corner, if we enclose that shelving area, it should keep a steady temp year round. We honestly have no where else to store it.

    Anyways, the goods:
    Joining the ranks of the home brewer(NOOB ALERT!), must haves and tips?-image.jpg

    The area:
    Joining the ranks of the home brewer(NOOB ALERT!), must haves and tips?-image.jpg

  9. #9
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    I think everyone has said pretty much the same thing. Sanitation is your friend. Bacteria can make a good beer bad very quickly and waste a lot of time. Learn how to spot a bad batch, what signs to look for.
    Don't be afraid to taste the wort at various stages to see how it comes along. I found it interesting when making wine, to see the change from juice into wine along the way.

  10. #10
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    My advice would be work slowly and methodically. And don't rush anything. Every beer fault I have ever identified (except for a bad recipe) could have been avoided by slowing down and not cutting corners.

    And, get a notebook or beer software depending on your inclination. Keep good records. I was trained in a lab. My beer notebooks look like my lab notebooks. Except my beer books have beer stains. But, a lot of people like using software for brewing too...
    I was gonna stop by and see you, but the Jehovas witnesses came by. When they left I started drinking. Voicemail from Paul

  11. #11
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    Other than what has already been stated...PATIENCE! New home-brewers have a tendency to rush the fermentation process. Just because the brewing instruction say "14 days" for primary, the only have to truly know if it's ready, is with gravity readings.
    A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. - Winston Churchill

  12. #12
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    ^It's been said, but not with so much such gusto!
    No fuss with the MUSS

  13. #13
    whatever she says gueuze.
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    I prefer Starsan over Iodophor (especially in a spray bottle). If you're doing extract, then the cheapest way is to freeze a sterile jug of drinking water and adding it to the boiled wort (before addition of yeast, of course). Otherwise, you should look into a wort chiller. Cooling your pot by ice in a sink will take you all night and it's not fun. I started with the exact same kit but with plastic better bottles and it worked nicely. I also went staight to kegging because bottling is a pain in the ..... Ultimately, drinking your own homebrew will give you a great sense of personal satistfaction.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ndinh View Post
    Ultimately, drinking your own homebrew will give you a great sense of personal satistfaction.
    This cannot be overstated!
    A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. - Winston Churchill

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by jtmartino View Post
    While I agree with everything else you said, I think the point above should be clarified.

    Ales should be fermented at the temperature specific to the yeast used. That could vary from 65F to 75F. Fermenting in the low 60s could stress the yeast or cause attenuation problems. Stick to what the instructions say, or look it up online.
    To further clarify, if you don't have precise temp control (fridge/heater with temperature controller), starting fermentation in the low 60's will help to keep your ales below 70F as the temp can rise considerably during fermentation. IME, yeast do better with more predictable fermentation temps rather than rapid swings up and down. My go-to ale strains are Wyeast 1968, US-05/1056 and Nottingham. I personally like a cleaner yeast profile so 63F is what I set my controller to for most of these beers. If using 1968 in a english ale that benefits from ester formation, I'll set it to 67-68F, although the same strain works really good in the low 60's. The vast majority of my brews are clean american styles so the low temp works for me. US-05 can be fermented all the way down to 53F for psudo-lagers while my first saison a few months ago started and 68F and finished at 75F.

  16. #16
    fresh fish in stock...... SuperModerator
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    watch for boil over when adding DME. Turn off heat when adding your extract.

    Keep a spray bottle of water to knock the foam down during the 'break'...and don't be afraid to adjust the temp down for a smooth rolling boil.

    Also, no matter how many mistakes you make DO NOT DUMP IT!!!

    A consistent FG on at least 2 readings a few days apart will put your 'bottle-bomb' paranoia at ease.

    I made 13 of the 11 mistakes possible for my first brew (which was recently)...damn concoction still tastes very good!

    I have 2 finished batches - a error-infused over hopped session IPA and a very good Belgian Wit...and 2 in primary/secondary - an 8% 'Wit-Graff malt cider bomb' and a CHUM enhanced Sculpin sorta-clone

    Got some Oak cubes soaking in port for the next 100 days in expectation of brewing a gnarly rad RIS and currently Growing 4 varieties of my own hops....

    Also am going to start washing my yeast and storing for future batches (to save $$)

    i am hopelessly hooked...you will be soon...
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  17. #17
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    Chum, look into building your own stir plate. It makes yeast growing a lot easier so you don't have to shake the incubation vessel (flask) all the time. Homebrew sites carry them too, but more expensive at $50ish.

  18. #18
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    Re: Joining the ranks of the home brewer(NOOB ALERT!), must haves and tips?

    Keep a log of your brews. You'll figure out what you like, what works or doesn't and it'll be easy to change on future batches. Also, smell everything you add! I found it helps me enjoy craft brews more.

  19. #19
    fresh fish in stock...... SuperModerator
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    Quote Originally Posted by jtmartino View Post
    Chum, look into building your own stir plate. It makes yeast growing a lot easier so you don't have to shake the incubation vessel (flask) all the time. Homebrew sites carry them too, but more expensive at $50ish.
    absloutely! I currently am using a 1 gallon carboy for my yeast starters...remembering to swirl it around is a pain.
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