Considering beer brewing. Few questions for you

Discussion in 'Beer Making' started by Zintrigue, Apr 2, 2017.

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  1. Apr 2, 2017 #1

    Zintrigue

    Zintrigue

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    I'm currently a winemaker, still a bit new to that craft to be honest.

    I was looking through beer brewing for my husband and realized that I have most of the ingredients needed from my winemaking supplies. I had a few questions that google and various product descriptions didn't readily answer for me, I was hoping you guys could help me out.

    1.) whats with coils for beer making? Are they heating coils? Are they only necessary for certain types of beer? I've seen them advertised, but they don't appear to be in the basic kits.
    2.) Is there a major flavor difference between extract beers and all grain beers? The all grain kits seem to be a bit more demanding.
    3.) The kits are either 5 gallon or 1 gallon yield, right? Not like wine where there's 1 gallon, 2.5 gallon, 3 gallon, 5, 6, X...

    All I can think of for now. Thanks, ladies and gents
     
  2. Apr 3, 2017 #2

    ceeaton

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    That's why I started wine making. Figured I had most of the equipment already from beer making.
    Called a wort chiller. There are two main types. One where you run cool water through the chiller and immerse it in the hot wort to cool it fast. Another where you run the beer through the coil and immerse that in cool/cold water. Faster you cool things down, the faster you can get the yeast pitched and under airlock. Sanitation is essential to good beer making. Infections are easy to come by (and we've all had them in a brew or two).
    Much like kits for wine making and all grapes, yes, there is a quality difference and more control with all grain, but also more headaches. I will also add that buying bulk grain brings the cost of a batch way down. But that being said I'd stick with kits to start, or at least use bulk extract to avoid mashes for your first few batches to get your sanitation and other techniques worked out. One of the best batches I remember was an Old Ale kit (I think from Muntons) that got made and stashed away for a year (not on purpose). Believe it or not I didn't have any infection issues storing it that long, and it was pure ambrosia.
    Pretty much. If you want to make a different size scale your batch using bulk extracts and loose hops (and other ingredients). You can also add extra malt extract to a kit and bump it up a gallon if necessary.

    Hope that helps.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2017
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  3. Apr 3, 2017 #3

    BernardSmith

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    Hi Zintrigue - some interesting questions. I occasionally brew beer but do not consider myself a "brewer" but I may be able to offer you some answers.
    Unlike wine must, wort (the sugars which are to be fermented to make beer) is produced at fairly high temperatures. The problem is that at temperatures above which you can pitch the yeast the wort is incredibly susceptible to bacterial infection so brewers try their best to cool the wort to yeast pitching temperatures as quickly as possible. One way to do this is to chill the boiling wort in an ice bath but another more efficient method is to insert a copper coil into the kettle as you boil the wort (to sanitize the coil) and then when you remove the kettle from the heat you pour cold water through the coils. The wort in contact with these coils then cools very rapidly. In short then the coil is for cooling.
    Some brewers will argue that using extract to make beer is like using cake mix to bake cake: you are not a real brewer if you brew your beer with extract and not whole grain. The problem is that whole grain brewing requires very powerful heat sources and typically these use propane and the brewing needs to be done outside and not indoors. On the hot side you are heating several gallons of a porridge (the mash) and vigorously boiling perhaps 5 gallons of liquid to make the wort. Extract (whether dry or liquid) has done all that work for you - You still may need to boil a gallon or so of liquid but a) the extract has been sterilized (to kill the lactic bacteria that are in the grain and which will cause the wort to "sour"). and b) any boiling will be to "isomerize" the hops (bring out the acidity and the flavor).
    Will extract provide you with the same complexity as whole grain? In my opinion, yes - because most of the complexity comes from the "adjuncts" you add and not so much the base "malts". These adjuncts are different grains that you use for the flavors they will impart and not for the sugars they might contain.
    As for whether you can buy kits for different volumes, in fact you can: Mr Beer, for example is designed for 2 gallon batches. Now, most brewers argue that it takes the same amount of effort to make 5 gallons as it does to make 1 but in my opinion that is not a very relevant idea if you have never made a pint of beer before: why risk all the effort and $$ to make 5 gallons before you know that you can make 1 gallon without thinking?

    Many folk get their feet wet with Mr Beer kits but there a number of excellent books that teach you how to make one gallon batches using extract or whole grain. For the record, one pound of dry extract will allow you to make enough beer to fill a six pack (you might add 3 qts of water to get the right starting gravity) and unlike 5 gallon batches made with whole grains (which can take you five or six hours) will take you less than 60 minutes from sanitization of your equipment to clean up.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2017
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  4. Apr 3, 2017 #4

    Zintrigue

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    Perfect, you have both been very informative. Exactly what I was looking for. Thank you so much.

    -Zintrigue
     
  5. Apr 3, 2017 #5

    BernardSmith

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    Good luck, Zintrigue. In my opinion, brewing takes far, far more effort on what is often referred to as "brew day" than wine making although almost all my wine making is confined to meads and country wines
     
  6. Apr 3, 2017 #6

    jswordy

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    Bernard is correct there! All the work is up front in home brewing, ahead of the ferment, and the required time to being drinkable is compressed versus winemaking. Though beer does generally benefit from at least a month set aside in coolness, if possible.

    On the wine side, most of the work is downstream of the ferment.

    Contrary to what lots of brewers will tell you, I do recommend a secondary rest in a carboy. If you want truly clear beers, that is the route to take.

    I've found that winemakers rarely have trouble with infections or failed brews, because good winemaking teaches a strict adherence to cleanliness and sanitation practices. Winemakers don't have a boil to help them out. They must be sanitary because their must is exposed a fairly long time at perfect infection temps before the yeast cover it with CO2 and then add alcohol to preserve it.

    In fact, I got into brewing beer because I always heard how hard it was, how batches are super-easy to ruin, how they get infected, etc. I've had no troubles, but I stick with my strict winemaking standard of sanitation. Ummmm, unlike many home brewers I have met along the way. Not saying all, but some of the equipment I have seen, I would not be using in that condition.

    About 10 years ago, we even had a local commercial craft brewer go out of biz because a big batch got infected, got into the marketplace, and then people would not buy it anymore. Sanitation!
     
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  7. Apr 3, 2017 #7

    Mismost

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    Zintrigue...Check out Muntons can kits, about 20 bucks...open a can, pour it in a bucket, stir in a kilo of sugar and make beer....it really can be that easy to make a decent beer. I've made the Pilsner, Bock, American Ale, and several others....decent beers that taste good, get drank, and no complaints.

    I started brewing during a terrible drought here in Texas....no way I was going pump well water to cool down wort and waste all that water! Research "no chill"...when I do a boil, I simple cut the heat, slap on the kettle lid, and clamp it down with those big spring type paper clips. The next day I transfer to a bucket, pitch yeast and away she goes. ALL my beer batches have been no chill and have not pitched out a batch yet.

    I often take a different road than others on this board and they still tolerate me! So....DON'T WASTE MONEY ON A MR. BEER KIT. If you are making wine, you have the needed gear except maybe the kettle and everybody needs a big pot for shrimp boils and canning anyway. I started with one gallon kits and wasted a bunch or time and money. One gallon nets about a six pack and isn't worth the effort nor the expense (not that you are going to save money by brewing your own because you are not). Just jump in with the five gallon kits, you will be glad you did. Much more choices with five gallon kits and nets much more beer. I have had several Mr. Beers brewed by others and did not any of them. All grain is for down the road...if you have the time, space, money, and get bit hard by the beer bug.

    Beer is a little more work on brew day but gets into the bottle a lot faster. Wine is less work up front (kit) but takes a long time to get in a bottle. Beer is a little more tender so sanitize like a freak! I started with beer, now do more wine than beer...but it takes a lot of beer to make good wine! The two go hand in hand in my book!
     
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  8. Apr 3, 2017 #8

    CGish

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    I will second most of what has been said here. Jim's notes on sanitation touch on the single most important aspect of brewing. Everything must be clean. Water and temperature control in the fermentation periods are also important. Look at a swamp cooler (tub and a t-shirt) if you live in a warm climate and don't have a fermentation chamber. Beer is far more susceptible to temperature while fermenting, so have a plan to keep your temperatures on the lower end of the range of the yeast you use. Use good water - reverse osmosis is fine if you are brewing kits. If you go all grain from the start, a read through AJ deLange's post here will be worth your time.

    Like Mismost stated (with apologies to BernardSmith): (1) don't waste money on a Mr. Beer kit and (2) small batches are for testing. You can spend 2 - 4 hours and have either a six pack or four twelve packs for your efforts. The work is (almost) the same.

    Have fun. Wine is made in terms of months and years. Beer's timetable is weeks and months, so your turn around - and enjoyment - is faster.

    Cody
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2017
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  9. Apr 3, 2017 #9

    richmke

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    Some of the 5 gallon kits can be easily split (have 2 jugs of extract, etc.). You may need to buy an extra bag and yeast for the 2nd batch.

    I brewed a few batch, but I don't drink beer fast enough.
     
  10. Apr 3, 2017 #10

    BernardSmith

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    No argument from me about whether Mr Beer is good enough or not. I make very small batches using all grain, for the most part but I am not sure that I agree with Mismost about the value of adding sugar. If you need to up the ante in a beer add more grain or extract not more sugar. The yeast will ferment the sugar down to the soles of its shoes and that results in a thinner beer albeit with more alcohol. The solution made from grains (the wort) has unfermentable sugars - not all of which you will perceive as "sweet" , but those unfermentables will add both flavor AND mouthfeel - neither of which sugar does in a beer
     
  11. Apr 4, 2017 #11

    Mismost

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    Agreed Bernard! But it's tough to beat the kit and kilo can kits for a decent first run at beer brewing. My favorite beer is the Cariboo Slobber extract brown ale with steeping grains for added flavor. And you are so right, the grains do add a real boost in flavor.

    I have stayed away from all grain brewing....I don't mind cooking chilli all day or making sausage or smoking meat...I just don't want to spend all day brewing beer....that is subject to change when I retire in a few years! And I have been eyeballing those Grainfather machines too.
     
  12. Apr 4, 2017 #12

    Merrywine

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    You can brew very drinkable beer from an extract kit, and that is how most people start. Steeping grains add to the end product and primes you to make the possible next step to BIAB (brew in a bag) the easiest way to brew all grain without purchasing a expensive equipment, unless you want to, of course. My brew kettle is my granite ware canning pot. It works because I do 2.5 gallon batches.
     
  13. Apr 4, 2017 #13

    Zintrigue

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    You guys have given me a lot to think about, thank you.

    I think extracts would be the way to go for me. I have large stock pots because I cook a lot, those should do the trick for the boiling, yes?
     
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  14. Apr 4, 2017 #14

    cmason1957

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    Yes, a LARGE stock pot works great for extract beers, I make about 3 or 4 a year in my 32 quart stock pot. The hardest part about extract brewing is keeping the temp low enough during the first part of the brew, when you are extracting the sugars from the grains. But, I don't make enough or want to make enough to invest in the all-grain method.
     
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  15. Apr 7, 2017 #15

    jswordy

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    I totally agree with this. I got my start with a Cooper's English Bitter all-in-one extract kit in a can. Nothing to add if you don't want to. Like falling off a log. I added Cascade to it and thought I had done something fabulous! LOL.

    Seriously, I started that way because I wanted to go through some process but not dive right into complex stuff. You can literally make the Cooper's kits using only warm water from the tap, and they taste good (though I boiled mine). The instructions are very reassuring to a beginner and complete.

    I basically learned that a whole lot of anxiety is pumped into beer making online for no real good reason, if one is methodical and sanitary. It prepped me to go onward.

    Great way to start!
     
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  16. Apr 7, 2017 #16

    jswordy

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    Right there with ya, Craig. Brew in a bag might be a step up sometime, but I love the beers I have been able to make with LME and DME and it saves me all the equipment investment. I am convinced hardcore brewers are really more all about the equipment than the brew a lot of the time. :h

    I made an extract dark that was my own recipe and served it to a gathering of local commercial craft brewers without explanation. They loved it.
     
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  17. Apr 8, 2017 #17

    Zintrigue

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    All great food for thought.

    Now the real question: is it more economical to brew one's own beer (factoring in price of bottles, extracts, etc), or simply continue to buy a 6-pack for $10 once a week?
     
  18. Apr 8, 2017 #18

    NorCal

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    Same could be said about making wine.

    I've made both. Beer is best for the instant gratification crowd :)
     
  19. Apr 8, 2017 #19

    Merrywine

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    The biggest expense for most is kettles and other equipment (not an issue for you) so unless you are going to brew an IPA with a large list of hops I think you'll find the ingredients can cost about half of commercial beer. Get something on sale even better.
     
  20. Apr 8, 2017 #20

    jswordy

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    Lots of way to economize.

    1,) Use your winemaking equipment to ferment, transfer, bulk rest and bottle.

    2.) Get your new 8 gallon Bayou Classic SS stock pot from Overstock.com, etc. I got mine at Overstock and it was a great deal at the time. People also find them DIRT CHEAP at Goodwill, etc.

    3.) If you want to go propane, get your burner on Craigslist or at a yard sale. Search "turkey fryer." I wouldn't use the aluminum pot, but the burner works fine. Usually $20-25 used. (I still use my stovetop.)

    4.) Get 48 of your tough bottles by drinking 4 12-packs of Sam Adams. The labels come off easily, and I pay $15.99 a twelve-pack. Empty bottles are $12.99!!! And I get to drink the beer!!!! Also check your recycler. Pick through for thicker glass bottles. Corona works, too. Many imports come in stout glass, though they are not a full 12 ounces. My recycler was glad to give me bottles, as glass was basically worthless. So worthless they now have quit taking it.

    4.) When you get to a recipe that calls for "flaked rice," go to Wal-Mart and buy Great Value "par-boiled rice." Works fine. When it calls for "flaked corn," first see if a store brand corn flakes is cheaper to buy. Same with "flaked oats."

    5.) Dry yeast is the cheapest way to go and there is a wide variety available. Liquid yeast gives you far greater nuance of flavor, but about double or triple the cost.

    This next 50+ bottles of beer I will produce will have cost me ~ $20 in supplies. Cost control is also a reason I do not go nuts buying equipment. My winemaking stuff works just fine. I transfer from primary and later bottle out of a secondary carboy using the wand and bottling tip I use for wine. I now have had TWO bottle cappers given to me free, as well as 36 Grolsch style bottles. A country boy can survive.
     

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