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Everything posted by Foothiller

  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".
  16. Great way to get to know other a bit, sdrake! 1. I usually brew one batch every 3 weeks, which is a healthy consumption of 2 12-oz bottles per day including commercial beers, dinners out, etc. But sometimes I have multiples brewing. I have 4 LBKs, and once had all 4 going with different variations after a homebrew club brew day. 2. I brew a wide variety of styles, with brews following the seasons to catch the yeast's preferred temperature: lagers in winter, Belgians in summer, and others in between. 3. I have a Belgian Dark Strong in an LBK now, just bottled a Dubbel that will be ready to try in a month, have a Belgian Blond still conditioning, and am entering a Belgian Pale in a competition that's next month. 4. I have brewed 55 LBK batches and 36 1-gallon test batches for various purposes, some using a foundation of Mr Beer HMEs and speciallty grains and hops, and others using various techniques up to a number of all-grain batches.
  17. If you are using W-34/70 yeast, make sure to keep changing the ice bottles regularly. The Fermentis web site says W-34/70's ideal temperature is 54-59 F. However, the Mr Beer Abbey Dubbel recipe uses T-58 yeast, which should be fine at least up to 75 F. Don't worry about having an aroma during fermentation, as long as it makes sense as a fermentation aroma (e.g., not rancid). When a beer is actively fermenting, I can enjoy that aroma when I walk into my work room even though I don't keep the keg enclosed. For a while I commuted to work past an Anheiser-Busch brewery, and sometimes you could notice the fermentation aroma a half-mile away.
  18. Others may offer varying opinions, but I'll go with your own answers to start. You're on the right track to take your time to learn about different grains, hops, and yeast, then decide for yourself what you prefer. Mr Beer allows you to make very good beer, and you can modify it as you choose as you learn the ingredients. For me, I have done a number of all-grain batches and am quite comfortable doing that, but I also do other things depending on what style I'm brewing. Some recipes are limited modifications of a Mr Beer HME, some use various extracts as a foundation, and add hops and specialty grains, while others require mashing the base grain. Some allow me to save time by using the HME, while others need the custom handling of all-grain, at the expense of time.
  19. Getting familiar with different yeasts is definitely encouraged, not crazy. The same recipe with different yeasts can taste like a totally different beer. I learned a lot by brewing small 1-gallon batches using the same pale ale recipe but varying the yeast, using a small amount of what I was using in other recipes or harvested from beers that I had brewed. The 6-8 bottles of each, after brewing at each yeast's preferred temperature, made enough for side-by-side taste tests. Now, I use 8 different yeasts depending on the style I'm brewing.
  20. The gravity, ABV, IBU, etc will vary with your wort volume. I usually assume 2.25 gallons, and the FG does match at 1.014, although your actual result will vary with various factors including yeast strain. QBrew assumes typical values for these factors. I then get ABV = 5.3%. Be aware that Mr Beer's descriptions are sometimes generous in stating what you will get, but note too that Mr Beer's numbers are often based on 2.0 gallon batches, which results in 5.9%. The big factor to fix is that the HMEs add IBU. Using Screwy Brewer's additions to the datBase (which you see to have), add the HME in the hops as well as the grain, using 1 ounce for 5 minutes as your input. Without the HME's IBUs, I do get 39 IBU from your additions. But NWPA adds 46. Tkogether, you would have. 85 IBU. At any rate, you're doing the right thing by using brewing software, and in asking questions. Keep it up!
  21. I suggest looking through the Recipes section on www.mrbeer.com. Although a couple of them are called "doppelbock", their strength is still in the traditional bock range, or just slightly beyond.
  22. You can go to bigger batches whenever you want, but nothing says you ever need to go bigger. LBK size has a lot of advantages: faster heating and cooling while brewing, easy to carry, good rate of production for a healthy 2 beers per day and 3-week fermentation cycle, less loss if something goes wrong, etc.
  23. I also considered commenting that this seems more like a Braggot (mead with malt included) than even a specialty beer, but first needed to refresh my memory about the role of hops in a Braggot. It turns out hops are optional, and can have a wide range of presence if used. I suggest using Google to study Braggots, and applying what seems like the best of the advice. (I put quite a bit of research into the melomel (fruit mead) that I made last year, which then won 1st place in a combined cider/ fruit beer/ spiced beer/ mead competition.). Also give it plenty of aging to reach its potential -- mine had 9 months, and mead judges have told me it will contonue to improve for years.
  24. Not advised: just adding sugar can produce a cidery flavor that may never condition out. A better choice is to add malt extract (either liquid or dry), available from your Local Home Brew Store (LHBS). But just doing that can make the Hopped Malt Extract's result too malty, so soon you need to also add hops too. If you don't use amber or dark malt extract, which contain crystal malt and may use other specialty malts too, you might want a more complex flavor, and using amber or dark extract still may not be as interesting as beers can be The best approach when starting is (1) first use the Mr Beer HME by itself to see what it's like as a foundation, then (2) use recipes from the Recipe section of the Mr Beer website to gain more experience, before (3) starting to experiment on your own.
  25. Being from an actual bourbon barrel should add a rich flavor, but I would still soak the chips in bourbon to sanitize them, soaking for long enough for the bourbon to soak into the pores. The muslin sack is optional, since the chips will float but the sack can keep them together. I would wait until the primary fermentation settles down, 3-5 days. For the amount, I would do some reading via Google, to see what would match your desired outcome (and to learn more in the process). (For your other question, I live in the Sierra Nevada foothills, near where gold was discovered in 1848.)
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