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About Foothiller

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    Brewmaster in Training
  1. I brewed a beer last year that was somewhat like Vakko's, and at first was disappointed that it didn't have quite the character that I expected. But then among all the beers that I gave to friends at Christmas, that got more specific compliments than any other. So, I will be making a couple of changes and brewing it again. One of the beauties of homebrewing is that with a bit of experience, you can make your beers what you want them to be.
  2. In addition to the success with beer clarity, I was sold on always using Irish Moss when I read it helps with beer stability. After brewing a certain number of batches, I have enough in my closet that I have a variety of styles to enjoy with several months of conditioning. The stability comes from the same source as the clarity: removal of particulates. I use 1/2 tsp in a 2 to 2.5 gallon batch.
  3. You can eliminate chlorine as Jim says, but chloramine is more common in water supplies and these techniques do not work for it. You can remove chloramine with potassium metabisulfite (Campden tablets) (use Google for details), use carbon filtration, or take the easy way of using spring water.
  4. We have great tap water where I live, but over time I have come to recognize off flavors that can come from residual chlorine in beers. So unless I have the time to make sure chlorine is gone from my tap water before brewing, the couple of bucks for spring water is worth knowing I can brew great beer if I do everything else right.
  5. RDWHAHB, guys. John Palmer's book is worth reading by brewers at any level. Adjusting one's water may be an advanced topic, but awareness of water content should be close to a basic skill, because it affects what beers will turn out the best. Using well water is a challenge for some, but not all, brewers because the mineral content varies a lot. Within my local area (Sierra Nevada foothills), some brewers have good clean mountain water, while others have so much iron it's not useful for brewing. Their water works for other purposes, just not brewing great beer. Using extract does not remove needs to know at least a little about water, because the maltster's local water content is in the extract, and then you add your own. For example, one big maltster has local water that is high in sulfates, and the balance between sulfate and chloride affects whether a beer seems bitter or malty. Don't worry, you can sort this out as you gain experience, but again, Palmer's book is good for all levels of brewer. If your beer tastes good as is, keep brewing, but later you might want to go for more. (BTW, I only mentioned chlorine earlier because someone before me had done so, and I know some folks who do not have well water will read this thread.)
  6. I recommend reading John Palmer's book How To Brew, which has a good discussion of water requirements for good beer, and water treatment. Water that works for coffee can still not produce the best beer. Chlorine can be removed by boiling, but not chloramine which is used in many water supplies and produces an objectionable medinal flavor in beer, but can be removed by a water treatment. High iron gives an objectionable metalic taste, and often is best solved by dilution with distilled or reverse osmosis water. If in doubt, you can use commercial spring water -- low cost, worth using for quality beer.
  7. I don't have experience with organic cane sugar but would guess it would be OK. I recommend staying away from brown sugar because that is often just table sugar with molasses for color. Molasses has a reputation for tasting like tar when it's fermented.
  8. Let me insert a step that helped me take a giant leap into all-grain brewing. As I tried to read and think about what to do, I had a number of questions that had me stumped: how could I control my mash temperature, what could I use as a lauter tun, etc. I came across an all-grain kit that had all the ingredients measured, the grains milled, and detailed instructions. After using it, I tried to replicate a version on my own, and didn't worry that I dumped that 2nd batch because I saw my mistakes. Many LHBS have these kits now. From that kit, I could add extract and turn the 1-gallon kit into a partial mash in the LBK, then double the recipe to a full LBK all-grain batch. I don't use the kit's methods now, but that's because it let me improve on them. Happy brewing!
  9. I don't mean to argue about this, but I have used wheat DME in a variety of ales with good results. The use of DME rather than LME was just a matter of how much I was using and availabilty, and should not change the result significantly. My experience is that wheat smoothes out the finish, which can be desirable since Winter Dark Ale is fairly bitter. In this case, it's a matter of learning the ingredients and whether the brewer likes the result. As a learning process, I have had things that in theory could have been mistakes, but from the outcome I ended up saying "I'll make that mistake again.
  10. Should work fine. You should enjoy the result, and it's part of learning how the ingredients go together.
  11. I use mostly glass, but with my few plastic bottles that get used, for trub bottles and test batches, I get at least a few uses from a cap. When a bottle is under-carbed, I just throw it out a grab one from a Coke bottle.
  12. As Zorak says, take your time, don't skip steps along the way while you learn, and there will be no limit on what you do. It's an easy step to steep specialty grain and boil hops. When you can do that, you can do partial-mash, then start all-grain for styles that need that. An advantage of the 2.25 gallon size is that you don't need fancy equipment. For brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) I have been able to use a picnic beverage cooler as a mash tun, 3-gallon spaghetti pot as a boil pot, a $1 paint strainer for lautering, the Mr Beer LBK for the fermenter, and only need inexpensive brewing tools. Those who sell equipment just don't want you to realize that.
  13. Note that the alcohol content affects the refractometer reading, but software like BrewCalc on my iPhone handles the conversion to gravity readings. The refractometer with this correction comes pretty close to the official hydrometer readings.
  14. Consider getting a refractometer. Mine was $28 on Amazon, and may be the best $28 I ever spent. I treat an OG reading as my brew goes into the LBK, and a FG reading before bottling as the official readings, but use the refractometer to monitor the fermentation. It only needs a very small sample, so it does not use a lot of wort or create risks of infection.
  15. While you're using Google, you can find articles about using one small drop of olive oil to provide chemicals that the yeast need oxygen to produce during their lag and growth phases. But even if trying that, I would still oxygenate your wort once it has cooled from a hop boil. And the chemical is specifically in olive oil, not butter. And 4 tbsp would be way way too much. If you need more, look up "diacetyl".
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