06-03-2015, 07:00 AM
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A few months ago I started a thread asking for advice on equipment for brewing beer at home.  I am now two batches into it so I thought I would open it up and make a more general discussion.  So far the two beers I've brewed have been an imperial IPA and a kolsch, and so far I've been very happy with the results and I thought I'd detail what I've done.

The imperial/double IPA was my first brew, inspired by the whole double IPA craze, with beers like Heady Topper, which I was lucky enough to get a can (and drank in celebration after the Super Bowl!), and Pliny the Elder, which I haven't tried.  Also a local craft brewery, Jack's Abbey, makes a great double IPL (they only brew lagers) called Mass Rising.  Anyway, since this was my first batch, of course it was "wet and wild" and I didn't approach it nearly as rigorously nor scientifically as I should have, not measuring either the OG or FG and just sort of playing it by ear.  I got an extract kit that the operators of a local home brew store, Home Brew Emporium in Cambridge, MA, had created called "My Cousin Vinny" (no idea why!).  There was a lot of trub because this is a very, very hoppy beer so I ended up "losing" about 5 beers due to the beer being too difficult to extract without all the sediment.

After a primary and secondary fermentation, I bottled them and conditioned them for two weeks, following the typical protocols, except for a deviation that one of the guys at the store had recommended.  The first bottle I opened was probably not conditioned enough, as it was fairly flat and tasted very boozy.  The protocol deviation I mentioned earlier got me nervous; the guy had said to secondary in a colder (our garage which in March was around 40 degrees as opposed to my my finished basement at 66-68) location to clarify the ale more due to the high trub content.  So when it came out fairly flat, I thought maybe I had killed the yeast.  However, the bottles I opened later that week turned out great and everyone who had one has been impressed.  So I'm happy.

The next batch was the kolsch.  This time I took the OG (1.061) and FG readings (1.018) and worked hard to strain the wort since clarity is a big deal with a lighter colored ale like kolsch.  I only used primary fermentation since there was no dry-hopping to be added.  I also used a liquid yeast pack, Wyeast 2565, instead of dry like with the imperial IPA.  I was getting serious fermenting within two hours of pitching!  It slowed down pretty considerably within 2-3 days, but I still waited about a week to take a sample.  When I did, there was still "scum" on the top that looked like krausen so I got nervous, but as soon as I dipped my thief in, it was pretty clear that it was just leftover byproduct of the fermentation.  I measured the FG (1.018 or around 5.6% ABV, right on target!), and tasted it, very clean and crispy with a touch of hoppiness.  I bottled it and tried one last weekend; nicely carbonated, very clear, and lovely.  I brewed these for a block party that my sister is throwing this weekend so hopefully everyone likes it!

I've also recently purchased a wort chiller a large mesh strainer.  In trying to strain the kolsch from the kettle to the fermenter, the only equipment I had big enough was actually one of those mesh grease splatter screens, which was big enough but wasn't concave so I had to be very careful and deliberate in straining.  Also, chilling has been an adventure, hence the wort chiller.  When I made the double IPA I figured that I could just plop the kettle into the tons of snow we had in our front yard.  What I didn't realize was that the melted snow would actually insulate the kettle from the cold and it took almost two hours to get it down to proper temp.  The second time I made an ice bath in the sink and it cooled to proper temp in about 45 minutes.

So I'm thinking my next batch might be a session IPA or similar, hopefully get it done with plenty of summer left. I tend to like IPAs and similar, beers more hoppy than malty, but I'm open to other ideas as well.

84 1,507
 06-06-2015, 02:48 PM
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   Actually I get about 72% efficiency. I make this alot, an amber ale that is malt forward but enough IBUS to keep it from being too sweet. Everyone seems to like it.  Maybe you could call it a session ale in the English style.

Charlies Pale Ale

Method: All Grain Style: American Pale Ale
Boil Time: 60 min Batch Size: 5.5 gallons (ending kettle volume)
Boil Size: 6.5 gallons Efficiency: 68% (ending kettle)
Boil Gravity: 1.044 (recipe based estimate)  
Original Gravity:1.052Final Gravity:1.015ABV (standard):4.95%IBU (tinseth):24.34SRM (morey):9.1
Amount Fermentable PPG °L Bill %
9.54 lb United Kingdom - Maris Otter Pale 38 3.75 84.8%
0.6 lb American - Caramel / Crystal 40L 34 40 5.3%
0.553 lb American - Victory 34 28 4.9%
0.557 lb American - White Wheat 40 2.8 5%
Amount Variety Time AA IBU Type Use
1 oz Fuggles Fresh 5 Boil 60 min 16.52
0.75 oz Willamette Fresh 8.7 Aroma 10 min 7.82
Mash Guidelines
Amount Description Type Temp Time
14.06 qt Infusion 154 F 60 min
Starting Mash Thickness: 1.25 qt/lb

Fermentis / Safale - English Ale Yeast S-04
Attenuation (avg): 72% Flocculation: Medium
Optimum Temp: 59 - 75 °F Starter: No
Fermentation Temp: 68 °F Pitch Rate: 0.75 (M cells / ml / ° P)
Method: corn sugar     Amount: 3.5 oz     CO2 Level: 2.3 Volumes

Generated by Brewer's Friend - http://www.brewersfriend.com/
Date: 2015-06-06 22:40 UTC
Recipe Last Updated: 2014-08-07 23:07 UTC

2 226
 10-02-2015, 07:54 AM
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Hi everyone - I haven't updated this in a while, but I'm four batches in and have been enjoying it more and more.  The first two batches were extract batches (an imperial IPA and a kolsch) that I thought were fine, but the last two batches have been all-grain (a grapefruity Sculpin style IPA and a red ale) and its gone to a whole new level.  I really noticed a new complexity in the body of the beer itself and a fresher tasting beer overall.  

I realized that we just don't drink that much beer in our house so when I went all-grain I decided to make half-batches (2.5 gallons each or about a case's worth).  I also do Brew In a Bag (BIAB) and not only has that helped me from buying too much stuff but it keeps brew day pretty compact.  I just brewed the red ale two weekends ago and from the time I started heating up the strike water until I closed up the carboy was just about 4 hours.  I inherited a mini-fridge and was able to outfit it with a temperature controller so I'm excited to try new beer profiles (prior to that I was at the whim of the my basement's temps).

Finally, I also started kegging in my last two batches and have really enjoyed that, although its taken a lot of tinkering to dial in the carbonation.  With half-batches there's not a lot to "waste" so I have really had to study up and learn good carbonation processes and also during brew day and fermentation.  This has been a blast so far and has really put in me in touch with beer history and culture.

84 1,507
 10-02-2015, 01:06 PM
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jpakstis, Good for you. All grain makes a very big difference in the end product. The more you brew, the better beer you will get. I also enjoy the history of beer. If you are so inclined there is a book, The Curiosities Of Ale and Beer by John Bickerdyke. I believe you can read it online. Ale and beer and everything related to it. Church ales, wedding ales, how ale was tied into the everyday lives of people from the 1500's up til the 1800's. The history predominantly deals with Britain and its Ales. Keep at it!

2 226
 10-03-2015, 10:11 AM
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Sounds good! If you're getting drinkable results you're doing it right.

Many years ago I brewed my own beers, all ales, with excellent results. Unfortunately I can't drink beer anymore, as one ages physiology does too. (Notice that I didn't say I can't drink alcohol. Whatever is going on is beer specific. ) It's a bummer. I LOVE beer! At one time I had 20 some odd cases bottled and in one stage or another, drinkable or aging, of English Amber, Porter, or Stout. I envy you being able to drink beer.

32 6,491
 10-03-2015, 01:19 PM
  • MattCB
  • Junior Member
  • Port Orchard, WA
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Another route to feed your new hobby is fruit wines.  I made friends with a local fruit stand and have gotten a lot of overly ripe (high sugar content) free for very cheap or free.  You don't have to be as fussy with cleanliness up front, but it has a much longer tail end.  I currently have a carbon of watermelon wine and one of plum wine that is ready to back sweeten and bottle.

0 18
 10-04-2015, 12:45 PM
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I've been thinking along those lines myself Matt. Wine I have absolutely no problem with. I think it's the hops in  beer that doesn't play well with me.

32 6,491
 10-04-2015, 03:57 PM
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There's always hard cider too!

2 226
 01-10-2016, 10:55 AM
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I get 75 efficiency with a mashout of 170 and sparge water of 180.  If i don't mashout i get 70 efficiency.

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