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Little things I have learned along the road to making better beer.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 48,680
    I thought I would start putting down on “paper” some of the things I have learned over the course of better than 20-years of brewing. Perhaps someone will benefit from them, and maybe, just maybe, my methods will carry on after I am gone…. Some of the topics I will go over can be somewhat controversial, and may not jive with conventional accepted practices. I am not intending to start controversy…. Just convey what I have learned…. Much of it the hard way….. what works for me.
    This will be an on-going project…. And I will add to it frequently as I think of things. Feel free to comment, ask questions, or just tell me I’m crazy…..
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 48,680
    The most important thing of all:
    Don’t believe everything you read or hear about brewing, no matter how respected the author is….…. Question everything. Even if something makes sense… at least in theory…. Ask yourself why? Or why not?

    For just one example of “Blinder Theory”…. I read for years that a WitBier needed to be consumed young, age one and it turns to shucks…. So, I eventually tried brewing a Belgian WitBier, and went out of my way to drink it all as fast as I could…. Well I missed one. A bottle sat at room temp. for a year before I came across it….. of course I drank it…. It was phenomenal …. Absolutely stellar…. Way better than it was young. It may have been that little bit of Munich malt I put in it to give it a little depth (something I have always found missing in the style) the fact that I only used about 35% wheat, or any other number of things…. But I really wish I hadn’t had my blinders on, and aged the whole batch a bunch more….

    So basically what I am saying is to not put your blinders on….. most of the topics I will go over relate back to this simple concept.
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • JerryJerry
    Posts: 75,842
    Great thread! I look forward to reading more, and don't worry I won't believe everything you say ;)
    "Again?"
    CurlyFat's 60,000th post
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,417
    Longer fermentation time in primary has been one of the keys to better beer for me. I now leave mine in for a minimum of 3 weeks up to 4 or 5 for really big beers.
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,417
    Oh, and one more. Fermentation temperature control has been someting I am learning now that I have a decent set up and a nice ranco digital controler.
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 104,298
    Great idea for a thread. And i too has heard that about witbier. But i have a few bottles left from a batch of Snow Storm that were brewed probably a year and a half ago, and they are so good they bring a tear to my eye when i open them.
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 48,680
    Thanks guys.....
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 48,680
    For what it’s worth, here is my two cents on racking beer, and Secondary…..

    Don’t do it at all….. ever.
    At least for Ales….. a long term Lager is a different story…..

    Autolysis won’t have any effect unless it’s in there for well over3-months, and without oxygen I’m not a hundred percent sure it would kick in even then….

    Mead I will typically rack after 3-months, and bottle after an additional 3-months, but beer…. Never.

    I ferment in Primary only. My theory is that the young beer needs contact with suspended yeast. I didn’t coin the “so the yeast can clean up after itself” adage, (in fact didn’t even hear it for a long time after I started brewing this way) but that’s a good way to put it. I will typically allow my beer to stay in Primary for a minimum of 5-weeks, (4-weeks for very low gravity stuff), and up to 7-weeks, depending on style and gravity. I will gently rouse the yeast after the first week, and again after the second. After that I will rouse the yeast maybe twice or so for week 3, and every other day for the remainder. You want suspended yeast. Even yeast that is highly flocculant will suspend viable yeast when roused. The suspended yeast cleans house, and fewer off flavors from yeast occur. Because of this, temperature control during fermentation is not as critical.
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 48,680
    Racking/Secondary continued….

    Years ago… like in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s… I had an argument with another homebrewer (a neighbor of my Uncle’s in Springfield Virginia) about this topic…. Just to prove me wrong he did an experiment…

    He brewed ten gallons of Ordinary Bitter, and split it…
    5-gallons went in his fancy fermentation chamber under tight temperature control… and under the then current philosophy, 1-week in Primary, 2-weeks in Secondary…. then bottled. Lets call this sample “A”.
    The other 5-gallons went in an upstairs room with an average ambient temp of around 80-degrees…. (I call cheating on that, but wait…) Per my instructions it stayed in Primary for 5-weeks, with gentle yeast rousing every other day for the last 3-weeks…. then bottled. Lets call this one sample “B”.

    Both used the same wort, the same yeast, and the same amount of Priming sugar.
    A month after bottling “B”, he had several folks over…. All of them “confirmed Beer snobs”. All he told them was that there was a difference in the “process”, and did a blind taste test.
    Every single one of them said that sample “A” had minor off flavors from yeast, a touch of DMS, and perhaps needed to age longer….. but was otherwise good beer.
    Sample “B” on the other hand was clearer (!), and cleaner, with no DMS or other off flavors, and had better head retention (still trying to figure that one out), and all in all was a much better beer. He thought that perhaps he had mixed up the batches, so he grabbed a few more bottles (with the labels still on) and tried again…. Same result.

    He called me a whole lot of very nasty names…. Absolutely furious that my Primary only method, not only wasn’t crap, (when all conventional thought said it should have been) it was better…. He used the word “heretic” in there about three times….. that was the last time I ever spoke to him….. (I think I would still punch him in the nose if I ever see him again after the way he spoke to me) so I don’t know if he changed his brewing habits or not. There are a whole lot of other potential variables that could have affected the outcome, but……….

    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • FuzzyFuzzy
    Posts: 46,966
    that's hilarious.
    "Oh, you were serious? I was drunk."-C_B
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,417
    Funny story. I do a min 3 week primary and I still dry hop in secondary otherwise I only use secondary for very long age periods.

    Recently had the LHBS owner lecture me on leaving my beer in primary for more than a week and how I was going to ruin it. It's not worth the debate b/c it won;t change his mind so I nod yes and leave.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 48,680
    Just an observation…..

    Very early in my brewing career (read first batch) I realized that the little book that came with my first “Brewing Kit” was just about the worst thing ever… This was back in the 80’s. The procedures outlined in that evil document had nothing to do with crafting good beer, only to sell as much of their products as possible. I still think that the whole concept of racking an Ale to secondary was nothing but a marketing ploy, and had far more to do with them being able to sell another can of malt extract in a weeks time, instead of in a month or more….

    Long ago a buddy of mine purchased a kit just like the one I started out with…. I told him that was cool, but that he needed to “exorcise” it before use…. I told him to have someone else open the box, remove the booklet, take said document out in the backyard and light a match…. “Even a quick glance will corrupt you” I said….. “unless you really only want to make prohibition era bathtub swill”.

    That little book from Hell has done more harm to the reputation of Homebrewing than anything else, ever. I find it amusingly horrifying that many of the methods in that document have found their way into accepted practice, even with all grain brewers that should really know better (some of whom have written very influential books). I have dedicated my life to the cause of enlightenment, and fighting the shadow of that little book.

    End “conspiracy theory” rant.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against extract brewing…. You can make some excellent beer with extract, just not the way it was outlined in that book. I went to all grain for the versatility and the control…. (Extract brewing does have limitations). I will have to write up an “article” on extract brewing later…..
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,417
    I thought of another one...

    The instructions that I got orginally from the LHBS told me to cool my priming sugar all the way down to the same temp as the beer. Man this added time onto the bottling day. I was doing some reading about year ago when someone said they never do that. They let cool while preping bottles and getting set up but then they pour the sugar in at whatever temp it is currently at. One to two cups of hot liquid isn't going to change the temp of 5 gallons of beer. One of things I have done to lean out the bottling process. I think I can bottle 5 gallons in about 45 min now. That's start to finish and clean up.
  • FuzzyFuzzy
    Posts: 46,966
    my priming sugar goes right into the bucket/keg boiling hot. according to the decoction calculations:
    DecoctionVolume = (TargetMashTemperature – InitialMashTemperature) * (GrainWeight * (0.3125 + (WaterInMash / GrainWeight))) / (InfusionWaterTemperature – InitialMashTemperature)

    a .25 quarts of boiling water added into 5 gallons of beer (and 1# of grain for the calculations) will raise the temp a whopping 1.74 degrees.
    "Oh, you were serious? I was drunk."-C_B
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,417

    my priming sugar goes right into the bucket/keg boiling hot. according to the decoction calculations:
    DecoctionVolume = (TargetMashTemperature – InitialMashTemperature) * (GrainWeight * (0.3125 + (WaterInMash / GrainWeight))) / (InfusionWaterTemperature – InitialMashTemperature)

    a .25 quarts of boiling water added into 5 gallons of beer (and 1# of grain for the calculations) will raise the temp a whopping 1.74 degrees.



    Fine, come in with all your fancy #'s and rithmitic and show me up!
  • FuzzyFuzzy
    Posts: 46,966
    why is quarts plural when they're less than 1?

    stupid 'merca!

    **==
    "Oh, you were serious? I was drunk."-C_B
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 48,680
    Exactly….. this is the sort of thing I’m talking about…
    Next time you go in there jlw…. Say “Long live Big Brother” a few times……

    Just out of curiosity, I “did the math” too…… if you have 5-gallons of beer at 68-degrees. To raise the temperature of the beer by 1 degree…. It would take 0.54-cups of BOILING water…. At least if I converted everything correctly in my haste… … I use 0.75-cups (OK, I boil it a bit so it will be a little less due to evaporation), but it is most certainly NOT boiling by the time I’m ready to pour it in the bottling bucket….. Don’t know what the temp is…. But in the 10-15 minutes or so, I’m sure it has cooled off a good bit, no more volume than there is… and besides….. if a guy is that effing worried about 1-degree…. He has far bigger and more deep seated problems, and should seek help immediately……..
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 48,680
    I may be way off base here….. but I think that most of the Home Brew Brainwashing started back during Prohibition. Somebody figured out a way to get rich (without going to jail), and came up with a way for anybody to produce alcohol in their home. Didn’t have to be good…. Just had to be brain-dead easy, fast, cheap… and have alcohol in it….. lets face it, any idiot can make alcohol…. Creating good beer is a whole ‘nuther animal…. Besides, most folks out there really don’t care if it’s good even now…. Just look at the popularity of Bud-Light….. my god, a style that the Guidelines list “flavor” as a fault!!
    Most of the things I have rebelled against are either things that made it more profitable for someone back then (and now for that matter), or were just to add a level of “mysticism” to the process (it can’t really be that easy now can it… ?), without adding to the difficulty level…. (I’m about half surprised that it isn’t considered imperative to turn around three times and spit right before you pitch the yeast….) If you read literature on brewing that was published prior to prohibition you won’t find any of this BS in it. For some reason when Homebrewing made a resurgence, the Prohibition methodologies hung on…….. and the brainwashing came along for the ride with it….. and then multiplied like a virus……
    What amazes me the most is how fanatic a lot of Brewers, and LHBS owners can be about stuff that is sheer insanity. I find it crazy that people actually get angry and feel threatened when they find out that I’m doing something different……. It’s not like anything I do will affect their beer…. Maybe those guys are just insecure about their brewing, and find comfort in the “ritual” of these things…. But dang it, it’s like I was debating a theological or hot political topic or something…… Kind of funny, but a former co-worker once said that I was like a warrior monk fighting the powers of darkness….
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • FuzzyFuzzy
    Posts: 46,966
    preach on, brotha! fight the powa!

    give that little miss information a good kick in the crotch.
    "Oh, you were serious? I was drunk."-C_B
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,417
    Windmills and such
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,417
    Can we rename this thread and title it something like: "old man ramblings" or "you know what makes me mad sonny?"

    :-))
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 48,680
    hah!
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 48,680
    My theory about why the Primary only method is better….

    I can’t back this up with science…. And my explanation is about as scientific as a gut-shot groundhog, but based on my observation and experience here are my thoughts….

    During the first few days of active fermentation, when the airlock is bubbling like crazy, krausen forms, etc. there is a huge feeding frenzy going on….. basically a wild orgy in the fermenter…. There are a lot of “scraps” left behind…. Half eaten sugars, various gasses and other “by products”… like at any other wild ‘n crazy orgy the yeast trash the place…. And the warmer the temperature, the more they trash it.
    As things start to settle down, a large number of the “attendees” are sated, full and tired… and hit the floor to sleep. There is still a lot left in there for them to consume, but it’s more work for them to do so, and it’s a whole lot easier to just take a nap. If you rouse some yeast off the bottom at this point (wake them up so to speak) you have more yeast in solution to clean up the mess.
    If all of the yeast that flocculate to the bottom were dead…. Why is putting a new batch of wort on top of the trub to re-use yeast so dang effective????? Huh? Huh?....
    I read of guys who do this up to 3 or 4 times……. Wouldn’t you worry about autolysis????
    Also, having some dead yeast in there is actually a good thing. What is in that package of yeast nutrient? Uh, dead yeast cells….
    The yeast at this point need additional nutrients to continue consuming what is left in the young beer, and they get these nutrients from their buddies that didn’t make it. If you transfer to secondary, the yeast that are in suspension are too few in number, are under-nourished, and don’t have a chance to finish cleaning up after the orgy all by themselves….
    I often notice a little flurry of activity even after 3 or 4 weeks, usually after I rouse the yeast, this is a good sign that there is still “work to be done”. Even in a Primary only situation, it takes a little time for the “clean up”. Fermentation may appear to be over, but the yeast are still active, if lethargic. If you bottle or keg too soon it’s kind of like Mom and Dad getting home before you finish cleaning up after the big party, and that is never a good thing…….


    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 48,680
    Back to Priming Sugar:

    I bottle my beer. I do this for several reasons, one is that I can sample one or two, and let the remainder age. I can experience the development of the beer over an extended period of time this way. I also like to share with my buddies, and it’s easier with bottles. I’m also a cheap SOB…. And am somewhat reluctant to make the investment in kegging equipment………

    When I first started brewing everything I read or heard stated that the ONLY thing to use for priming was corn sugar….. period, the end. I used corn sugar for years, until I got to thinking that sugar is sugar…. Why the heck am I spending all the extra money? (and why the heck am I listening to what “they” say….) So I took off my blinders….. I have used plain old table sugar ever since, and there is no noticeable difference in flavor or in the head. Table sugar does have a higher potential gravity, so has the added benefit of requiring a little less.
    I will boil the water for a few minutes, say 5, and turn off the heat as soon as the sugar dissolves. I have found that if you don’t boil the heck out of the sugar it gives better results. (and no…. I don’t cool it off to the same temp. as the beer first, speaking of pin-headed blinder theory mentality….)
    Any fermentable sugar would potentially work, invert sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, “Karo”, honey, molasses, DME, just balance the potential gravity to the intended carbonation level. Some will perhaps give some flavor, some won’t. I like the table sugar because it doesn’t have any impact on flavor or color, and is more predictable.
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • JerryJerry
    Posts: 75,842
    One theory I head about the secondary ferment: yeast what crappy back in the early days of post prohibition home brewing. Now that we can get better strains of fresher yeast attolysis is very rare.
    Though it could have been one loud mouth brewer (and likely wine maker) who had an attolysis problem once and made up the secondary rule.

    I tend to bottle before I should and wash and reuse my yeast. I'm going on beer 5 or maybe it's 8 with the same WLP002. Still works great! The only problem is if it gets infected. It may evolve a little over time, but that could well be a good thing.

    I've always heard cane sugar give an apple like taste when used in brewing. Not a bad thing necessarily, and priming sugar may not be enough to make that flavor come out at all. I've used cane, but mostly use corn sugar, don't really know why, once I'm out I think I might just give it up.
    "Again?"
    CurlyFat's 60,000th post
  • frydogbrewsfrydogbrews
    Posts: 44,679
    jlw said:

    Can we rename this thread and title it something like: "old man ramblings" or "you know what makes me mad sonny?"

    :-))



    "you what really grinds my gears?!?"