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10 Most Important Things To Make Better Beer!

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kingoftheharpies

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1. Taking Notes
You will be suprised by how many people dont take notes. The best brewers I know do though. They write down absolutley everything they do, addition times, temperatures, volumes etc. This makes sure that if there is something particularly wrong/ right with the beer then can make sure to not repeat/repeat it.

2. Full Boil
A strong full boil ensures sanitization by killing any bacteria present. Compounds in hops responsible for bittering are isomerized and drawn into the final solution. And a full boil is crucial in creating an effective "hot break," in which proteins that might otherwise cloud up or haze the finished beer are coagulated into particles that can easily drop out of suspension. The steam that escapes from a vigorous boil carries with it several volatile aromatic compounds that can create unpleasant sulfury aromas in the finished beer if they are not driven off.

3. Yeast Start
Making a yeast starter is very simple and even though you can directly pitch most liquid yeast cultures is still a VERY good idea to make a starter. A little bit of DME into some water, boil and let cool. Pitch yeast and let grow a day or 2 before your brew. This will make sure that you have a large number of yeast and that are already healthy and doing their job. Remember, it is very difficult to over-pitch yeast.

4. Specialty Grains
If you are not doing all-grain or partial mash at least make sure to use specialty grains. Not one company makes a extract that can match the flavor you get out of roasted or crystal grains. The extract should only be there to provide the fermentables while the specialty grains make the beer whatever style you are aiming for.

5. Constant Fermentation Temperatures
When doing ales, keeping the beer temperature below 22C is key. Above that will produce off flavors. Doing lagers, its important not to drop the temperature of the beer to quickly or the yeast will doink out. A drop of 2C per day until you reach 10C is a must. Even more important is raising the temp up to 18C for a 3 day diacetyl rest before you transfer to secondary and lager

6. Two-stage fermentations
Always, I repeat, ALWAYS have at least a 2 stage fermentation. Look an extra bucket costs about $5 or so and will make you beer SOOO much better. If beer sits on the trub for even a few days to long by-products and off flavors will go into the beer and you cant get them out. In addition to preventing off flavors it is also key to helping clear your beer and getting it crystal clear.

7. Counter-Flow wort chiller
The faster the beer gets cooled the less chance by-products can form or little nasties can get in the wort. A CFWC will also increase your cold break which will reduce chill haze and astringency.

8. Oxygenation
Many brewers dont know that oxygenation is one of the biggest things you can do to make better beer. After wort is cooled make sure and oxygenate the wort by shaking, aquarium pump or the best pure oxygen. Pure oxygen gets the job done much fast but the other to will do.

9. Ingredients
Its SOOO important to use the best ingredients. If you use extracts make sure that they're not out of date. Make sure you crack your grains on the day of the brew and if not make sure they are stored in a fridge. Make sure the hops are stored in a fridge in packaging that doesnt let light. Make sure to have fresh yeast. I wouldnt need to say this if we were talking about cooking right!? You wouldnt use 30 day old milk to cook with or drink!

10. Reading/ Talking
The more you read about beer and the more you talk about it the better you will become at brewing. Join a club, brew at each others houses, make a day of it. Just by watching you can pick up tips or help someone else out.

Any more detail needed or questions dont hesitate to ask!
 

dane

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Damm good post!!

I'll pin this!
 

joecast

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wow!! good post.

some very good points in this one. all pretty basic stuff but each can probably make a big difference. thanks!
 

Hoops

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QUOTE(kingoftheharpies @ Jul 25 2003, 09:18 AM)
10. Reading/ Talking
The more you read about beer and the more you talk about it the better you will become at brewing.
Join a club, brew at each others houses, make a day of it. Just by watching you can pick up tips or help someone else out

My beers improved out of site after I joined a homebrew club. I learnt so many things that I was doing wrong and lots of little things to improve my brews. I was also indroduced to the wonderful world of All Grain brewing.
I believe that HB clubs are a great way of learnng how to improve your brewing and a great resource for obtaining cheap equipment and ingredients all in a casual social atmosphere. If you've never been to a meeting I highly recommend you give it a try.
Hoops
 

troppo

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DAMN what a post cant believe the information some of you guys have floating arount in your heads
now, i`m only a kit brewer but would like to improve my beers.....
which of the ideas you posted would be relevant to me?
the ones i could see would be:
Two-stage fermentations.. is this a great improver for kit beers?
Oxygenation.. i was under the impression that oxygen was a killer if it played with your beer, is this so?
cheers
troppo
 

Dunkel_Boy

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QUOTE(troppo @ Feb 20 2005, 07:57 AM)
Oxygenation.. i was under the impression that oxygen was a killer if it played with your beer, is this so?
[snapback]46106[/snapback]


I was going to say exactly the same thing. Heavy oxygenation before fermentation is vital, so the yeast can properly carry out the reaction and won't stop halfway through. However, oxygen after primary fermentation is a killer, makes the beer mousy/cardboardy and kills its shelf life and texture.
You should probably make this point clearer, other than that, spot on.
 

barls

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hell i didnt even know that lagers should be done at low temps ive been doing them at about 20 degrees and they have been turning out alright might try that with the next one. as for secondary fermentationhavent done that ether
 

Dunkel_Boy

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It's difficult to tell people straight up how to brew lagers well, because you really need completely temp control through a range of about 20 degrees. Plus, it needs to go through about 4 different temperature cycles, at very precise fermentation stages; it's difficult to make it all concise without confusing people.
Maybe with the diacetyl rest, say 'about 2/3 through the fermentation', otherwise people will do it too late I'm sure. I think Chris White (name?) confirmed this a few days ago too.
 

Gulf Brewery

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QUOTE(barls @ Feb 20 2005, 06:42 PM)
hell i didnt even know that lagers should be done at low temps ive been doing them at about 20 degrees
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Hi Barls

If you are doing kit beers and using the yeast provided with them, then 20C is probably correct. Despite calling the kit a lager kit, it requires the right yeast to make a good lager. The true lager yeasts ferment from about 7 to 13C, but these are not provided with kits (normally). There is nothing stopping you making a very good beer from a kit though (using malt instead of sugar) and fermenting at no more than 20C like you are doing.

Cheers
Pedro
 

barls

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thanks mate ive just started to go down that road going from the kit beers to changing them to improve them. got a tbc wet pack american pale ale and a james boags clone in the cupboard ready to be done when i have the bottles. today i made the big step from using the carbonation drops to dextrose. most of it has come from this forum and finding a decent homebrew store near by
 

Gulf Brewery

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QUOTE(barls @ Feb 20 2005, 06:54 PM)
thanks mate ive just started to go down that road going from the kit beers to changing them to improve them. [snapback]46118[/snapback]


Another poor buggers soul is hooked on brewing :party: !

Seriously though, a good homebrew shop is a must for getting the right ingredients and providing info.

Pedro
 

sosman

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QUOTE
6. Two-stage fermentations
Always, I repeat, ALWAYS have at least a 2 stage fermentation. Look an extra bucket costs about $5 or so and will make you beer SOOO much better. If beer sits on the trub for even a few days to long by-products and off flavors will go into the beer and you cant get them out. In addition to preventing off flavors it is also key to helping clear your beer and getting it crystal clear.



Whereas I pretty much agree with the rest of the others I would like to see some genunine evidence on this point.

The downsides, particularly for new brewers include:
- more handling, more risk of infection and aeration.
- getting the timing wrong can result in underattenuated beer.
- more washing up.

Oh yes, no 7 wouldn't be in my top 10. Any form of chiller is better than no chiller. I would be hard pressed to attribute any difference in my beers to switching from an immersion chiller to CFC.
 

pint of lager

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Thanks harpie, a good top ten, but needs some of the points changed a little to reflect the Australian homebrew scene and one extra point.

The most important point is sanitation. Every surface that comes into contact with your beer should be sanitised. It doesn't matter how good the other points are carried through, sanitation is an underlying principle. The tap, airlock, grommet and seal under the screw top lid must be removed, cleaned and sanitised.

What harpie may not be aware of, is the homebrew market is dominated by supermarket brewers buying kits and a kilo of table sugar, or brewing additive if you are lucky. The information on the kits is thin on the ground and misleading, for instance, some tins say brew up to 26 deg C and it is too easy in summertime for brews to get above 30 deg C without some sort of basic temperature control. It is only when brewers manage to surf across to a site like this and get better information to improve their beers. So sanitation would be #1. #2 would be temperature control. These two points will improve even the most basic kit out of sight. Then, reading, better ingredients, joining a club and documenting everything down come equal #3. After that, the next points as equal 7th. I realise you may not have been trying to rank the points, but for newer brewers, it would help them enormously.

I agree with Sosman's points about racking. Get the basics right first before launching into racking, liquid yeasts and specialty malts.

Oxygenation of cooled wort at pitching is very important, but from my reading, it can be easy to overdo when using pure oxygen from a cylinder and be toxic to the yeast. With an aquarium air pump, you can go your hardest for the first 6 hours. Just watch out for the foam. Oxygen is removed from wort during full boils, but is not removed from tap water that is used to top up kit brew fermenters. Oxygenation is very important to full mashers but not so important to kit brewers.

Thanks harpie for putting these points together for everyone to read.
 
J

Jovial_Monk

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Oxygenation is important, not just before adding the yeast but also 14-18 hours later, especially for beers over OG 1050.java script:emoticon(':excl:')

You perform this second oxygenation by simply running the beer from one fermenter into a second one just below it. This step also removes the beer from trub.

Jovial Monk
 

Ross

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I thought pumping pure oxygen through your wort was not a reccomended proceedure (from previous posts), or have I got this wrong?
 

Gulf Brewery

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QUOTE(Ross @ Feb 21 2005, 10:48 AM)
I thought pumping pure oxygen through your wort was not a reccomended proceedure
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Hi Ross

You can use pure oxygen with your wort when you are about to pitch your yeast. As POL has said earlier, too much oxygen can be toxic to yeast, but if you use air, you can never add too much oxygen (as air is about 20% oxygen). If you are going to use pure oxygen, then you need all the right tools to measure it, which is outside the cope of most homebrewers.

Some people say to re-aerate your wort at 14 to 18 hours, but there seems to be a lack of credible information about this. If someone could post some definite information on this (preferrably from commercial sources), it would help clear this up.

Cheers
Pedro
 

bradmcm

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The tip from Jovial isn't wrong but it isn't explained adequately.

Yeast will benefit from increased oxygenation during its
lag and log phases (aerobic fermentation).

Some yeasts are more oxygen greedy than others
and it depends on the strain whether it demands further
oxygenation.

Jovial is right in saying that higher gravity worts would
benefit with increased oxygenation, it comes with the
territory, as you should be pitching significantly more yeast
to begin with.

Of course, once the dissolved oxygen is used up, the
yeast switches to anaerobic fermentation.
Depending on initial O2 levels, pitching rate and yeast vitality
this can happen any time from a few hours
to 18 hours or more.

Just saying "12-18 hours" is silly without qualification.
Saying "during lag/log phases" would be MUCH better.
Perhaps Jovial Monk can try and explain what happens
when you add oxygen to to an anaerobically fermenting wort?
 

pint of lager

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Yes, all very valid points about oxygenating your brew at the start.

Adding oxygen within the first six hours via an aquarium air pump is a good starting point for most brewers and a good starting point for inclusion in a 10 pointer article such as harpie's.

As Brad and Pedro point out, the true answer as to how long to oxygenate for is "it depends" and can be a long essay, not just a paragraph. All of the 10 points, 11 actually, as sanitation is an extra point could occupy volumes. The need is to get the right balance between a short concise easy to read and easy to implement list and enough information to carry the brewer through. Harpie got very close to the right balance.

New brewers, please remember, oxygen at the very start of fermentation is important. Oxygenation later on is very very bad for your beer.
 

quincy

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When I first started out (about 6-7 months ago) I found this post. Pretty much everthing I did was based on these 10 points along with reading "how to brew".
I soon learnt that whilst everything here was based on pretty sound experience/knowledge, there are variations as is evidenced by the recent posts.

I'm not saying anyone is right or wrong here, just that the actual brewing process can be explained by perfectly sound scientific logic. Its the methods that the brewer uses that contains the variations.

As a newbie, I tried reading everthing I could get my hands on (including obviously this forum) and soon realised that actually trying things and developing my own methods was the best way to learn. If I had a problem, I would hit the forums, other webistes, books etc and search for answers. (Sometimes I would even post a dumb question :)

So, I would add one more point, just have a crack but make sure you learn from your mistakes.

My 2c
Cheers
 

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