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jwb96
12-26-2007, 09:53 PM
Got a TrueBrew kit for Xmas and am planning to have some fun. As soon as I figure out what I'm doing. Any tips for beginners? Trying to figure out what my first batch should be. Would love to do a Belgian dubble or a wheat beer, not sure if that's a good place to start. Will be hitting the local homebrew shop for suggestions, but am pretty sure I've seen people here mention homebrewing. And since good taste is often common between both bikes and beers, figured it was worth a try asking here.

Thanks,
Jim

PS: favorites I'd like to aspire to include anything Ommegang, anything Trappist, Paulaner or Franziskaner H-W, Bel Haven, Black Fly & Mt Cadillac Stouts, and too many more to mention.

DarrenCT
12-26-2007, 09:55 PM
cool xmas gift for sure

no clue about homebrewing but im sure it would be lotsa fun

good luck and send me a sample

d

quaintjh
12-26-2007, 10:16 PM
is the place to start. Its not too temp dependent and will yield very good results. For a starter kit type (extract rather than mashing) try

williamsbrewing.com

they will have what ales you!

Jay

Dekonick
12-26-2007, 10:57 PM
best tips -
Clean - clean - clean.

use liquid yeast if possible - it makes the biggest improvement relative to effort and cost.

Leaf hop plugs are better than pellets.

Top fermenting beers are easier for new brewers.

Get the book - The Joy of Homebrewing

Relax! and drink a beer while you brew.

Tom
12-27-2007, 06:53 AM
Start with something simple like a brown ale. Too subtle or too big should wait for a brew or two until you get your feet underneath you.

If you find a source of the 16-oz swingtop bottles, grab them and run, don't look back.

No need to sterilize, but you better sanitize or it'll taste like rancid snot. Spend the bucks on iodophor, bleach works great but you have to rinse and rinse unless you really like the taste of bleach.

Use extracts and make grain tea if you want to work the flavors. It'll save a lot of time, come out nearly as good as all grain mashing but doesn't require the combo chemical engineering/microbiology degree.

Use as big a boil pot as you can get. If you stick with it, get yourself a grill ring like the ones they sell with the turkey frying kit, about an eight gallon pot for a five gallon batch and do it in the driveway.

Boilovers are good in the driveway, but they really suck in the kitchen. "But honey, I'm krausening!" just doesn't fly indoors. And it will boil over unless you watch it constantly until the hot break. Turn your back for five seconds and it's three hours of cleanup.

Dekonick
12-27-2007, 07:52 AM
If you have to boil indoors, keep a spray bottle of COLD water to spritz on your wert to prevent boilover. It WILL boil over if you don't keep a close watch.

Enjoy!

DarrenCT
12-27-2007, 07:53 AM
can you brew really really strong beers with these homebrew kits!??

AgilisMerlin
12-27-2007, 08:19 AM
yes, you can have pretty heady,high alc. content, brewing your own beer....

only recommendation i have for someone starting out....


clean clean clean, as mentioned above.

and when you pitch the yeast.............make damn sure the wort is not too hot.......

that is about it..

pretty simple procedure

Tom
12-27-2007, 08:41 AM
can you brew really really strong beers with these homebrew kits!??

Absolutely, assuming that by 'strong' you mean a relatively high alcohol content. I brew an Imperial Stout that, in a five gallon batch, has 12 pounds of malt extract, a jar of molasses and about seven pounds of steeped grain. Even though I'm just steeping the grain, you can't help but extract some sugars. The yield is low but it is there. You can use either a stout yeast, a scottish ale yeast or champagne yeast in a high gravity beer.

I don't have the numbers in front of me but the alcohol content is somewhere above 11%, but that's like talking about one bike measure in isolation. This particular ale has an incredibly large amount of hops to go along with the large amount of dark grains so even though one glass knocks you on your rear, it has a balanced and complex flavor. It's best if you bottle it in at least a 16oz bottle and leave it for a year before opening.

gt6267a
12-27-2007, 09:07 AM
practice your procedures before you actually do anything. i.e. fill things up with water and move the water through whatever containers you plan to use from wort to bottle. sans beer it only take 10-20 mins but you'll see the path and learn the little tricks with water not the good stuff.

for example, a lesson you'll learn by doing ... how do you transfer fermented beer from one container to another for bottling or removing from sediment without touching anything and potentially contaminating the batch? probably a siphon ... how do you prime the siphon? probably with your mouth ... now you have to sanitize the end of the siphon before transfering the beer. how do you do that? probably by sticking both ends of the primed siphon in idophur ... how do you take the siphon out of the idophur without the priming liquid running out? probably by pinching the siphon. how do you pinch the siphon reasonably? probably by putting a little clip on it ...

nothing is complicated, but i recommend 'screwing up' with water instead of beer...

as said above ... be sanitary ... that will be your biggest battle in the first few batches

and of course, relax and have a homebrew!

Tom
12-27-2007, 09:16 AM
... how do you prime the siphon? probably with your mouth ... !

No. Never. Before you put the siphon hose on the racking cane, simply fill the hose with water at the tap, just don't touch the faucet with the hose. City water's sanitary enough. Actually, some would argue that you let your city brew water sit overnight to let the chlorine evaporate if you're using it to mash or top up your fermenter. I don't bother, but then I'm not entering it into contests.

J.Greene
12-27-2007, 09:25 AM
A buddy and i brewed quite a bit 12-13 years ago. Start small and add more features with every batch. The brew store will be overwelming and you'll be tempted to go crazy quick. One tip that was given to us was to use 2 litre soda bottles rather than all glass bottles. They worked great and when we drank a few it was easier than having a bunch of bottles to reclean and cap again.

and of course be very clean.

JG

gt6267a
12-27-2007, 09:53 AM
No. Never. Before you put the siphon hose on the racking cane, simply fill the hose with water at the tap, just don't touch the faucet with the hose. City water's sanitary enough. Actually, some would argue that you let your city brew water sit overnight to let the chlorine evaporate if you're using it to mash or top up your fermenter. I don't bother, but then I'm not entering it into contests.

i think our procedures were different ... we left the siphon hose / racking cane setup alone and never took it apart. we always made sure to prime the siphon / racking cane with idophured or chlorinated water and then leave both ends of the racking cane / siphon setup in the sanitizing water for at least 15mins. that way we sanitized the siphon inside and out. even if you consider the tap water clean, there is not enough chlorine in it to sanitize anything.

we were probably a little over-zealous with the cleaning, but we were very careful with our beer-side surfaces ... anything touching beer was sanitized, and that includes boiling rinse water for carboys, kegs, and bottles.

we were all-grain brewers and spent a LOT of time tasting grains and pondering their impact on our beers. even a small infection will seriously impact the flavor of beer. i think this is massively undervalued by most home brewers.

from time to time, a friend hands me a home brew and i try it. it is pretty rare that i don't taste an infection. i mention this and am told that is the flavor of home brew since they have it in every batch. argh ...

cak
12-27-2007, 10:15 AM
About cleanliness. Clean and rinse. Everything. Get a turkey fryer and do it outside. You can usually find them on sale this time of year. Use buckets for fermenting. Much safer than glass.
Get Jon Palmer's How to Brew
And let me encourage you to try all grain brewing pretty soon after you start. That is if you decide you like homebrewing. It is REALLY easy, not expensive and makes a HUGE differance in the quality, clarity and taste of the beer. It only adds about 1.5 hours to the brewday once you have your procedures down and cuts costs down a bit as well.
Some good resources
www.hbd.org
www.brewboard.com
www.howtobrew.com

And most of all, HAVE FUN!!

Andrew

Ozz
12-27-2007, 10:59 AM
best tips -
Clean - clean - clean.....
+1000

It's fun.....it does make the whole house smell like beer when you boil the wort though. I hope you have an understanding wife.

When you get into it, here is a good book: "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing" (http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Homebrewing-Third-Harperresource-Book/dp/0060531053) :beer: :beer:

WadePatton
12-27-2007, 11:19 AM
A buddy and i brewed quite a bit 12-13 years ago. Start small and add more features with every batch. The brew store will be overwelming and you'll be tempted to go crazy quick. One tip that was given to us was to use 2 litre soda bottles rather than all glass bottles...JG

Yeah, a buddy and I brewed a bit some years ago. Everything from syrup kits to full mash. Now he's back into it and I have another bud doing it--so why me bother?

Back then you could still buy bigname beer in returnable bottles. So I did, and refilled those bottles with brew. Great boxes they came in. Later we started using 5-gal "Cornelius" kegs. No priming or bottle washing with that set up.

And then I made some wine. Simpler, but easier to eff up. Now I have a buddy with a winery. Helped him with a 2000-gallon batch the other night.

Enjoy, it's a labor of love! :beer:

Tom
12-27-2007, 11:41 AM
i think our procedures were different ... we left the siphon hose / racking cane setup alone and never took it apart. ...

The only problem with that is that bugs and spores will get into places where sanitizer can't reach. I always take apart the hose junctions, valves, anything where anything with flagellum can flagellisize their little selves and hide, waiting to jump out into that nice sweet drink.

I've read that if you scratch the inside of your bucket, if you're brewing in plastic, you might as well get rid of it.

I'd be surprised if you're tasting infections, because in general they're not subtle. If the people giving you the beer think it should taste like dirty socks then I'm not sure there's much you're going to be able to do for them!

Usually people use the cleaners in too high a concentration or if they use bleach they don't rinse it thoroughly and then rinse it some more.

Stupid little stuff like splashing the beer is way more likely to give you the subtle problems. It's a good thing I like big beers because it's easy to hide those kinds of mistakes in them unless one really screws it up. I think in more than five years of brewing, I've made one pale batch that went beyond simple tastiness to a subtle progression of deliciousness. Most of my bigger beers are not bad, the only ones I can't drink are the kolsch types. I've tried three times and I think that recipe I'm going to forget. I just don't like how it tastes.

I forgot - the other thing people do is leave it too long on the dead yeasts before bottling. I did that once. That's not terribly subtle, either.

Seramount
12-27-2007, 12:55 PM
I'm a binge brewer...I'll make several batches in a row and then not brew for a couple of years. In TX, I only brew in the winter...not much fun to boil water for hours when it's 104F outside. High air temps during fermentation give some off tastes to the beer too...diacetyls produce a butterscotchy flavor that I'm not keen on.

Cleanliness is good, but I've seen some friends take it ridiculous extremes. You're not doing open heart surgery, you're brewing beer. Idophor is good stuff. Use only amber glass bottles (don't use clear or green, they allow photooxidation to occur and it gives the beer a skunky taste...see Heineken for an example). I don't drink from the bottles either, always decant to a glass. Lets you see the beer and check for clarity.

Ditto on not leaving the beer in the primary for too long, get it off the dead yeast asap to improve flavor. When you rack from the first stage fermenter to the second stage clarifier, don't be greedy...leave a quart of beer in the bucket...you won't miss it and will suck up much less debris in the racking process.

For those that must mouth siphon...gargle with some 100-proof vodka first. I fill the fermentation lock with vodka too.

Don't be a huge rush to drink the results...taste a bottle every now and then, if you want...but, several weeks of aging usually pays off.

I'd brew a stout or porter first...if you screw up a little, it'll be hard to notice.

Like the guy in the Red Stripe ad sez, "Hooray, beer!"

Viper
12-27-2007, 01:06 PM
Much like Kramer who cooked/prepared food in his shower, Darren is converting his bathroom into a Belgian beer factory. Trust your feelings, you know this to be true.

gt6267a
12-27-2007, 01:37 PM
The only problem with that is that bugs and spores will get into places where sanitizer can't reach. I always take apart the hose junctions, valves, anything where anything with flagellum can flagellisize their little selves and hide, waiting to jump out into that nice sweet drink.

I've read that if you scratch the inside of your bucket, if you're brewing in plastic, you might as well get rid of it.

I'd be surprised if you're tasting infections, because in general they're not subtle. If the people giving you the beer think it should taste like dirty socks then I'm not sure there's much you're going to be able to do for them!

Usually people use the cleaners in too high a concentration or if they use bleach they don't rinse it thoroughly and then rinse it some more.

Stupid little stuff like splashing the beer is way more likely to give you the subtle problems. It's a good thing I like big beers because it's easy to hide those kinds of mistakes in them unless one really screws it up. I think in more than five years of brewing, I've made one pale batch that went beyond simple tastiness to a subtle progression of deliciousness. Most of my bigger beers are not bad, the only ones I can't drink are the kolsch types. I've tried three times and I think that recipe I'm going to forget. I just don't like how it tastes.

I forgot - the other thing people do is leave it too long on the dead yeasts before bottling. I did that once. That's not terribly subtle, either.

Hmmm … I don’t believe we had any problems with the bugs and spores getting in places we couldn’t reach due to our siphon priming … it was just smooth plastic tubing, nothing that won’t easily wash off in some bleach or idophur water… oh and its been a few years and thank you to seramount for reminding me about the alcohol mouth wash … though it was more of a drinking situation than gargling (what do you want from college kids?).

Per it not being open heart surgery, yes yes you are right, we probably did take it to far, but, um, we were engineers and physicists, so its par for the course? Further, we brewed a lot of pilsner style beers, German friend was obsessed with getting as much grain flavor as possible in every sip, so any hint of infection would have been very noticeable.

Per the subtle infection taste, I don’t think its an all or nothing type deal with a batch of beer. I will agree there are lots of ways for flavor impurities to welcome themselves to a beer and debating them on the internet is a rather inexact science. The only way to settle the score is to split a six pack or two and debate that kind of thing with a known sample.

Tom
12-27-2007, 01:50 PM
You guys were doing the difficult types. There's fine woodworking and then there's me with a framing hammer and a bunch of curly two by fours.

gt6267a
12-27-2007, 02:09 PM
Did I mention the dedicated full sized beer fridge in the dorm? The co2 tank, corny kegs, and probably about 10 glass carboys? The first few batches we couldn’t give away the swill to a drunk frat boy but after about six months and switching over to all grain, we had to put a lock on the fridge … one of my room mates was not just going to drink it but had plans on selling the stuff. As you know, a serious no no in the home brewing game.

And don’t think we stayed in the ivory tower all the time, we ran the gamut. Every March we made a beer called, “spring thing” where we both picked our favorite ingredients and made the shimpagnolo of beers. My friend going down the pilsner road while I junked it up with my dream of a porter IPA. If I remember, it usually went something like this … we would agree to a base of 8lbs of Belgian two row and then he would pick 2 lbs of light munich and I would pick 1lb of flaked barley and 1lb of oats. He would counter that with some carapils or dark crystal and I would counter with a few ounces of chocolate … he would pick some awful german hop for bittering and I would counter with dry hopping cascades. Needless to say, we only made that kind of mess once a year. The irony of that craziness is that since our brewing technique was decent it always turned out ok, usually a middle of the road amber like Killians but with more body and hops.

Hardlyrob
12-28-2007, 10:30 AM
As others have said - clean clean clean!

I use the dishwasher to wash and sanitize bottles - one full wash with detergent, and an additional wash cycle without - they're really clean, probably just about sterile and dry when you're done.

The other key for me is to keep a notebook with exactly what each recipe and process was - even when you screw up, along with tasting comments. This way you can go back to what worked, and understand what impact any mistakes in the process had.

I also grow the yeast out a day before brewing. Get a 1/2 gallon growler from a happy local brewery, make about a quart of basic wort from dry extract, boil and cool, then pitch the liquid yeast into the growler, and stuff the top with cheesecloth. This gives the yeast a head start, and lets you increase the volume of yeast you are pitching to get the fermentation going faster. This way if there are any wild yeast on anything, they will be overgrown by thew yeast you want involved.

A book that works for me: clonebrews. on the web: brewery.org - particularly the gambrinus mug recipe exchange.

Cheers! :beer:

Rob

cak
12-28-2007, 10:40 AM
Instead of making some wort to propagate yeast, I use Malta Goya. You can pick up bottles at grocery stores that have a decent "ethnic" food section. It is basically sterile wort and comes in great little bottles. Pitch yeast and Matla Goya into a quart bottle and add a bottle each day for 3 days. You will have a GREAT starter for your wort.
Andrew