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Q&A: Homebrewing


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Is that 1 or 2 batches?

At the store I work at, the average for 5 gallons of extract/specialty grains/yeast/hops is about $30 US.  Generally goes up for higher gravity beers, not as much with hoppier type beers.

I payed about $50 for a 6 gallon batch, so it seems I'm paying significantly more. Here was the breakdown:

$2.70/lb crystal and chocolate malt

$5.90/lb dry malt extract

$2.22/lb liquid malt extract

$3.00/oz hops

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Really?  Website says you're out.  Just like every other homebrew shop on the web...

Just checked hopsdirect.com, and they at least had US Goldings  for $2/oz shipped... which I just decided to order, as some Goldings are better than no goldings.

These guys appear to have Kent Goldings (organic, no less :biggrin: ) available.

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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I just checked out their organic hops...the harvest years are posted on their site, which I like, but everything on there was from the 2006 season, which I'm okay with, the 2005 season (I'm not sure if they would have lost much...) or the 2004 season (egads, that's kinda old for me!)

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I just checked out their organic hops...the harvest years are posted on their site, which I like, but everything on there was from the 2006 season, which I'm okay with, the 2005 season (I'm not sure if they would have lost much...) or the 2004 season (egads, that's kinda old for me!)

Although to be fair the 2004 stuff was labelled 'closeout hops'. I notice that no harvest date is listed for the pellet hops (only whole hops), is this because pellet hops last longer?

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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I've been kinda keeping up with my former LHBS employer via a guy i know that still works there, his hop situation is pretty dire. Has me wishing i pulled in more cascade and sterling off my bines (got basically zilch due to the drought) so i could make a few bucks selling flower hops :D

I have a stock of some cascade and a bunch of target pellets, but that's bout it. Just as well really taht I haven't done any brewing in ages.

Was amazed the other day to have my dad show me a "beer ingredient kit" that one of his buddies (who works for a beer distributor) gave him--about a pound and a half of uncracked malts of various kinds, and a good ounce of some kind of noble hop flowers (I've lost my nose for those, but I'd guess hallertauer) that looked very nice.

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  • 1 month later...

I have a question: I'm doing my first batch with a bucket and a carboy I got on the cheap since my roommates contributed to the costs. I pitched my yeast at around 12:00 noon on Saturday and it's been bubbling away ever since. I want to rack out to a carboy for second fermentation. When should I do this? Should I wait for the bubbling in the airlock to subside or get specific readings before I do so?

"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside" -Mark Twain

"Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock 'n roll." -Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of The Legend of Zelda, circa 1990

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Hi and welcome, MJP!

For most beers, there is no reason whatsoever to do a secondary fermentation. Unless it's destined for dry hopping, infection with bugs, or is barleywine strength, you don't need to worry about it.

Beers should spend at least 10 days in primary, and can spend more than a month there without problems (if you're keeping it around 70F or below). After two weeks in primary, most beers are done, and have dropped clear. Siphon it to your bottling bucket (your kit came with one of them, right?) and bottle. Put the carboy away and forget about it.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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  Put the carboy away and forget about it.

Cdh has everything right... but I'd like to add that you could do the primary fermentation in the carboy next time.

Plastic has the lovely habit of tasting/smelling like your last brew. Not always a bad thing, but generally not a good thing. With certain styles that use wild yeasts or bacteria or whatever, the taste/smell/stuff might never leave the bucket. The other benefit of a glass carboy is that it's near impossible to scratch, where as plastic will scratch quite easily... Scratches can increase the chance that your beer gets infected since hateful stuff likes to hide in there.

As far as taking a gravity... if you're really worried that it hasn't fermented all the way down, you can take one... however, it sounds like you got a pretty good fermentation. To reduce chance of infection, I don't really like to take readings unless I really need to. (Worried about a stalled fermentation). Before I bottle or keg, I'll siphon off pretty much everything, and take my reading with the last little bit, so I have the least chance for infection possible.

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Plastic has the lovely habit of tasting/smelling like your last brew.  Not always a bad thing, but generally not a good thing.  With certain styles that use wild yeasts or bacteria or whatever, the taste/smell/stuff might never leave the bucket.  The other benefit of a glass carboy is that it's near impossible to scratch, where as plastic will scratch quite easily... Scratches can increase the chance that your beer gets infected since hateful stuff likes to hide in there.

Really? I've found that a soak in bleach water really rejuvinates my buckets and removes any odors that were in there. I've still got my original 1992/3 vintage white plastic bucket in circulation, and even as elderly a bucket as that (which has undoubtedly played host to some bug-based Roselare fermetations) produces fine beers without any infections.

My longstanding position against carboys is based in entirely rational comparative fear- I'm much more afraid of shattering glass and bodily injury than I am of potentially miniscule off flavors. Both are long shots, but the downside of glass is much more dire. Apply some Pascal's Wager type logic here, and avoid glass.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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  • 1 month later...

Chris, first of all let me once again to thank you for a very informative course - the knowledge we got was quite helpful in making our first two batches (both are still in the fermentation stage).

I also have a question - are there any general quidelines on how to brew with citrus - oranges or others? I found a nice recipe for Blood Orange Hefeweizen in Extreme Brewing book that calls for whole fruits while Mosher in Radical Brewing briefly mentions he's sometimes brewing with triple sec. I also see different kinds of dried orange peels in our local brewing store... no wonder i'm totally confused :shock:

thank you so much!

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Helena- Glad to have provided you with some useful information to get you started.

As to the orange peel question- it really depends on what you're looking to get out of it, and what variety of orange peel you are planning on using. Homebrew shops tend to sell packets of dried peel (sometimes with a choice of sweet or bitter), which don't really seem to pack as much aroma or flavor as fresh fruit does. They do bring something to a beer, but fresh zest brings more. I've also used a bit of the Boyajian orange oil, maybe a 1/4 teaspoon for a 5 gallon batch. As to zest, I'd not use more than an ounce for 5 gallons. I'd also not use fresh pith (the white bitter stuff between the zest and the fruit), as it can screw up your bittering balance. Recipes calling for whole citrus fruit seem wrong to me, and I'd not brew them...

Different citrus fruits bring different characters. As an example, get a Navel, Temple, and Seville orange. Scratch the zest and compare the character of the citrus oils there. Very very different.

For more citrus flavor, things like citrus leaves work quite well, actually. So does coriander (seeds not leaves), which brings a lemony citrus flavor.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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  • 5 weeks later...

Chris, I found what should be a verbatim recipe- Didn't know the policy on linking it, but the guy who wrote the blog said it was the recipe from that book.

Basically, the oranges are a dry hop for 10 days in primary. Says to zest them, remove pith, and break oranges into sections, heat to 160 in some water, then cool and dump into fermenter. There's 5 oz sweet orange peel as a dry hop as well.

.5 oz hallertau bittering, .5 oz saaz at 20, .5 oz hallertau at 10

Interesting recipe... I'd try it once definitely... doing it again would depend on the results.

Not sure how much orange flavor would be lost while bringing them up to 160 for sanitation... I'd probably use the minimum amount of water possible and just dump all of it in. Not sure of the sugars in oranges, but I'm pretty certain they'd counteract any dilution the water could create.

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Summer is approaching fast here in Houston. I am planning on brewing some refreshing Honey Wit Ale this weekend to start drinking in a few weeks. Here is the recipe I adapted using the fantastic recipator.

Any ideas, improvements or comments are much appreciated.

What about bitterness? Should I add more cascades maybe?

Also, I know Chris mentioned early on that using honey to prime is not advisable since it is a bit unpredictable. Should I give it a try here based on the amount recommended by the tool or just play it safe and use corn sugar?

Beer: Summer Honey Wit Style: Belgian White (Wit)

Type: Extract w/grain Size: 5 gallons

Color:

7 HCU (~5 SRM)

Bitterness: 26 IBU

OG: 1.050 FG: 1.008

Alcohol: 5.4% v/v (4.2% w/w)

Water: Bottled Water

Grain: 3.75 oz. Cara-Pils

3.75 oz. Rolled oats

3.75 oz. Raw Rice

5 oz. Flaked wheat

Steep: Steep grains at 150° for 30 minutes. Remove grains and add extracts. Boil for 60 minutes. Last 15 add honey, Irish Moss, Orange zest, and coriander.

Hop according to schedule.

Boil: 60 minutes SG 1.071 3.5 gallons

4 lb. Wheat extract

1 lb. Light dry malt extract

1 lb. Honey

0.25 oz. coriander

1 oz. orange zest

2 tsp Irish Moss for the last 15 minutes

Hops: 1 oz. Hallertauer (4.25% AA, 60 min.)

1 oz. Cascade (4.5% AA, 30 min.)

1 oz. Cascade (4.5% AA, 15 min.)

Yeast: Pitchable Wit Yeast

Log: Ferment for 14 days. Prime, bottle and condition for 7-14 days more.

Carbonation: 2.6 volumes Corn Sugar: 4.74 oz. for 5 gallons @ 70°F

5 oz corn sugar for bottling

(or Maybe try with Honey - 5.36 oz diluted in 1 cup warm water)

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Any ideas, improvements or comments are much appreciated.

What about bitterness? Should I add more cascades maybe?

Also, I know Chris mentioned early on that using honey to prime is not advisable since it is a bit unpredictable. Should I give it a try here based on the amount recommended by the tool or just play it safe and use corn sugar?

OK... I'll give my thoughts... honey as a method of priming should be OK... you never know exactly how dense the honey is, so you don't know how much sugar is in there... but so long as you're going for a middling level of carbonation, you should be alright.

Grain:  3.75 oz. Cara-Pils

3.75 oz. Rolled oats

3.75 oz. Raw Rice

5 oz. Flaked wheat

Steep:  Steep grains at 150° for 30 minutes. Remove grains and add extracts. Boil for 60 minutes. Last 15 add honey, Irish Moss, Orange zest, and coriander.

Hop according to schedule.

You're going to need a couple of pounds of enzyme bearing grains in that steep too, if you're going to use those non-barley grains. The magic enzymes that turn starch to sugar are pretty much a barley malt only thing, so you need to bring some to the party to get the starch in the oats and rice and wheat converted to sugar. Follow the 4 grain saison technique. And then drop the 1 lb of light dry extract.

Boil:  60 minutes  SG 1.071  3.5 gallons

4 lb. Wheat extract

1 lb. Light dry malt extract

1 lb. Honey

0.25 oz. coriander

1 oz. orange zest

2 tsp Irish Moss for the last 15 minutes

Hops:  1 oz. Hallertauer (4.25% AA, 60 min.)

1 oz. Cascade (4.5% AA, 30 min.)

1 oz. Cascade (4.5% AA, 15 min.)

Yeast:  Pitchable Wit Yeast

I'd think about adding the cascades at about 20, and probably not two ounces... I don't like a bitter wit. When I do wits I generally use 1 oz hallertauer at 60 and an ounce of saaz at about 15.

Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Thanks Chris! Below is the updated recipe. Looks better?

If honey (assuming a light clover honey or alfalfa) is used to prime, does it normally leave a discernible (or obtrusive) sweetness or flavor?

Beer: Summer Honey Wit Style: Belgian White (Wit)

Type: Extract w/grain Size: 5 gallons

Color: 7 HCU (~6 SRM)

Bitterness: 19 IBU

OG: 1.047

FG: 1.008

Alcohol: 5.0% v/v (3.9% w/w)

Water: Bottled Water

Grain:

3.75 oz. Dextrine malt (Cara-Pils)

3.75 oz. Rolled oats

3.75 oz. Rice (raw)

5 oz. Flaked wheat

8 oz. Belgian Munich

1 lb. 8 oz. Belgian pale

Steep: Steep grains at 150° for 30 minutes. Remove grains and add extracts. Boil for 60 minutes. Last 15 add honey, Irish Moss, Orange zest, and coriander.

Hop according to schedule.

Boil: 60 minutes SG 1.067 3.5 gallons

4 lb. Wheat extract

1 lb. Honey

0.25 oz. coriander

1 oz. orange zest

2 tsp Irish Moss for the last 15 minutes

Hops:

1 oz. Hallertauer (4.25% AA, 60 min.)

1 oz. Cascade (4.5% AA, 20 min.)

Yeast: Pitchable Wit Yeast

Log: Ferment for 14 days. Prime, bottle and condition for 7-14 days more.

Carbonation: 2.6 volumes Corn Sugar: 4.74 oz. for 5 gallons @ 70°F

5 oz corn sugar for bottling

(or Maybe try with Honey - 5.36 oz diluted in 1 cup warm water)

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Looking better. Honey is fully fermentable, so it won't leave a sweetness, as such. It will add a little bit of flavor, but it won't be a sweet flavor. If you're looking for a sweet honey-ish flavor, try a few ounces of honey malt in the grain bill. Honey malt has nothing to do with honey other than tasting like it... it is just another type of malt processed in such a way that it leaves a honeyed flavor behind once it's mashed and fermented.

Additionally, you don't need the munich in the steep if you don't want it. It will darken the recipe a bit, and I like my wits to be blindingly bright blond rather than golden.

Also, I'd drop the irish moss... you want the wit to be cloudy...

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Go right ahead and post a hyperlink... I'd love to see what somebody has to say about their experience brewing with whole oranges.

It sounds like they are taking the pith's bitterness into account with the minimal bittering hop addition.

Chris, I found what should be a verbatim recipe- Didn't know the policy on linking it, but the guy who wrote the blog said it was the recipe from that book.

Basically, the oranges are a dry hop for 10 days in primary.  Says to zest them, remove pith, and break oranges into sections, heat to 160 in some water, then cool and dump into fermenter.  There's 5 oz sweet orange peel as a dry hop as well.   

.5 oz hallertau bittering, .5 oz saaz at 20, .5 oz hallertau at 10

Interesting recipe... I'd try it once definitely... doing it again would depend on the results.

Not sure how much orange flavor would be lost while bringing them up to 160 for sanitation... I'd probably use the minimum amount of water possible and just dump all of it in.  Not sure of the sugars in oranges, but I'm pretty certain they'd counteract any dilution the water could create.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Looking better.  Honey is fully fermentable,  so it won't leave a sweetness, as such.  It will add a little bit of flavor, but it won't be a sweet flavor.  If you're looking for a sweet honey-ish flavor, try a few ounces of honey malt in the grain bill.  Honey malt has nothing to do with honey other than tasting like it... it is just another type of malt processed in such a way that it leaves a honeyed flavor behind once it's mashed and fermented.

Additionally, you don't need the munich in the steep if you don't want it.  It will darken the recipe a bit, and I like my wits to be blindingly bright blond rather than golden. 

Also, I'd drop the irish moss... you want the wit to be cloudy...

Ok, thanks again Chris. I drop the 8 oz of Munich and use more Belgian Pale instead with maybe a few ounces of honey malt. Irish moss is gone too. I think I'll also stick with sugar for priming. It does not seem that honey will make much of a difference.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Blood Orange Hef: http://www.beerbrewingblog.com/archives/date/2007/05/

Brewer's tasting notes:

After about a month of conditioning, the Blood Orange Hefeweizen came out really good. The nose has a very noticeable orange aroma made sweeter by the wheat malt extract. It takes a semi heavy pour to pull off a one finger head which disapates quickly. The color is a deep brown-amber. The taste is a nice smooth sweetness you would expect from a hefeweizen with the orange just hinting at the beginning. The low hop level seems just right for this beer; barely noticable but enough bittering to mellow the sweetness of the wheat. Overall a great beer.

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  • 1 month later...

An update on the orange peel topic-

I just brewed a Wit, and in addition to coriander and a kaffir lime leaf, I threw in a dried whole peel of a temple orange, and did not add any late hops. I'm not impressed with the effect achieved. It has the right bitterness, but it tastes pithy, and I miss the late hops effect. I think I'll end up blending it with another batch to dilute the pithiness and add some late Saaz flavor.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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  • 4 weeks later...

After quiet a few batches of homebrew, and only one failed batch, I never stop being a worry 'wort'. I brewed a batch this past weekend, was too impatient to wait till the temperature drop to 70, so I pitched the yeast around 80 F (Cooling the damn wort fast enough has to be the most annoying process, especially for the impatient!!). Anyways, It seemed to me that there was activity for a shorter period of time than there should've been. I brewed on Sunday, the airlock bubbled at about 8 second intervals when I checked on it on Monday, very little on Tuesday morning and completely stopped by that evening. I even opend the top of the airlock and took a whif..smells good, like beer. I'm sure (almost) it is fine, but wanted to post anyways. I'll probably be bottling this weekend after tasting a small sample and making sure it has no odd flavors and hopefully be drinking it in another week or two if all goes well. Does anyone worry as much as I do?

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Well, pitching at 80F is not the most terrible thing you could have done... but it does leave you open to certain possible consequences, depending upon the yeast you're using.

Yeast are little chemical reactors that can make different reaction products depending on how much energy (e.g. heat) they have available to them. Some varieties of yeast will take extra energy and one-up themselves, instead of making simple alcohol, they'll make "higher alcohols" aka fusels which bring solventy or spicy flavors, and potential headaches.

Some yeasts will throw fusels if your temperature gets above 80F, other yeasts love those temperatures and are quite well behaved up to the 90s.

In my own experience, I've had bad fusels thrown by Wyeast 1762 when it got pitched at 80+. I've intentionally pushed Saison yeasts and Witbier yeasts into the 80s, and gotten great results.

Let us know what yeast you used, and how it finally turned out.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Well, pitching at 80F is not the most terrible thing you could have done...  but it does leave you open to certain possible consequences, depending upon the yeast you're using.

Yeast are little chemical reactors that can make different reaction products depending on how much energy (e.g. heat) they have available to them.  Some varieties of yeast will take extra energy and one-up themselves, instead of making simple alcohol, they'll make "higher alcohols" aka fusels which bring solventy or spicy flavors, and potential headaches.

Some yeasts will throw fusels if your temperature gets above 80F, other yeasts love those temperatures and are quite well behaved up to the 90s. 

In my own experience, I've had bad fusels thrown by Wyeast 1762 when it got pitched at 80+.  I've intentionally pushed Saison yeasts and Witbier yeasts into the 80s, and gotten great results.

Let us know what yeast you used, and how it finally turned out.

It's a Wheat beer I am making, I used Belgian Wit II yeast from White Labs. The ones that come in a test tube (I almsot always use those) and you just shake and pitch in.

I'll definitly update after this weekend.

Edit to add:

This is the yeast I used:

* WLP410 Belgian Wit II Ale Yeast

PLATINUM STRAIN – May/June

Less phenolic than WLP400, and more spicy. Will leave a bit more sweetness, and flocculation is higher than WLP400. Use to produce Belgian Wit, spiced Ales, wheat Ales, and specialty Beers.

Attenuation: 70-75%

Flocculation: Low to Medium

Optimum Fermentation Temperature: 67-74°F

Alcohol Tolerance: Medium

Review this strain

Read other reviews for WLP410

Read FAQ for this yeast

Edited by FoodMan (log)

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Quick update:

As usual, a few days into fermentation, I gently swirled/agitated the bucket encourage any lingering yeasties to do their thing. That was last night. This morning the airlock is bubbling again every 20-25 seconds. I'm thinking that will stop by tonight and I am good to go.

Edited by FoodMan (log)

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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