Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
Member Login

Site Notices
Posted: 4/17/2006 11:01:59 AM EDT
My homebrewing has thus far consisted of several batches of  Mr. Beer - with fairly positive results for the most part.

I think I'm ready to get a "real" kit.  WHere's a good place to shop online (pricing, quality, service)?

Any must-have items?

Do you recommend capping or getting the Grolsch bottles (I've only used PET bottles til now)?

Thanks in advance for any info!
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 11:16:41 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/17/2006 11:25:14 AM EDT by scrum]
Buy Palmer's "How to Brew".  It is the bible for homebrewing as far as I am concerned.

Go slow. Over sanitize everything.  You can make the best wort ever and if the fermentation gets messed up by some goo you didn't clean out, you're screwed.  Popping the cap on a skunky bottle and realizing the brew you anticipated for the last 8 weeks is contaminated is disappointment defined.

Start with a nice ale of a kind you know you enjoy.  Don't brew a stout or something else to be macho for your buddies if you don't enjoy stouts (I do, but not for everybody).  Enjoying a cold brew that you crafted yourself is truly satisfying.


ETA:  Forgot to answer your questions.

I bottle with caps right now, but eventually want to get into kegging.  

As far as indispensible:  
- PBW and Starsan make cleanup and sanitation simple and are worth the cost to me.  
- Glass carboys for fermenting are nice since you can see what's going on without risk of contamination.
- a copper wort chiller works great and is a good investment.
- for capping, it'd be nice to have a stand alone capper, but my handheld works fine for now.
- oh, mesh bags for your hops is really nice.  you can use throw away muslins or bags you wash and keep.  I brewed my first batch loose, and I lost a lot of liquid trying to strain out the gunk.  Since then I have bagged everything and it seems to work a lot better.
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 11:21:50 AM EDT
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 11:21:59 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/17/2006 11:23:13 AM EDT by callgood]
I retired from homebrewing when we moved- no place to set up. I put some up draft, bottled with long necks. My favorite way was the Grolsch method. I really enjoyed assembling the bottles needed.

I still have two bottles of Framboise in the fridge. 10-12 years old. Last one I tried was ok, flavor was a little faded. Always clean your yeast deposits out while it is still moist. Once it dries up you'll have to blast.
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 11:23:28 AM EDT
Clean, clean, clean.

Link Posted: 4/17/2006 11:23:51 AM EDT
I lucked out.  Austin had/has several good home brew shops.  I brewed several hundred gallons when I was into it - never had a batch that went bad.

+1, start simple with malt concentrates.  They cost far less time than all grain.  Not sure any must haves - if you are doning concentrates the book is probably even optional.

I guess my only true suggestion - do not use grolsch bottles.  Second suggestions is if you do, make sure they are in a rubber tub for a few weeks after bottling.  I never had any issues with refilliable bottles (got them from a local bar for the deposit), but one batch tried a few grolsch bottles - most blew up.

That said, if you are not kegging - get (buy, borrow, whatever) a decent capper.  I used my great grandfathers - it worked flawlessly (and only 100 or so years old).
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 11:25:34 AM EDT
yeah, don't bother

15 years ago when quality beer was tough to come by, homebrewing was a great hobby.

now, it's a huge PITA and you're unlikely to produce anything near as good as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, for example.
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 11:32:43 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/17/2006 11:34:03 AM EDT by TexasEd]

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:
yeah, don't bother

15 years ago when quality beer was tough to come by, homebrewing was a great hobby.

now, it's a huge PITA and you're unlikely to produce anything near as good as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, for example.

Just make a good ale and then thow in enough Cascade hops to hide any off flavors to get a good SNPA clone  Seriously, matching any off the shelf microbrew is easy these days with the availablity of ingredients and equipment.

I do agree that once you get good and can make a beer that's as good as anything off the shelf, the hobby loses a good deal of its appeal.  I tended to start making Belgian Ales and other styles that were either too expense or too hard to find before I finally got bored.
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 11:46:04 AM EDT
I've been purchasing most of my supplies from:
Midwest Homebrewing
Northern Brewer
They both have a fair number of kits available.  I've had good luck with kits from both companies and they have kits for everyone from the novice to the expert brewer.  
Happy brewing.
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 11:46:13 AM EDT
Tagged, the roommate that's moving in next month brews his own (5gal keg instead of bottles, it barely fits in the fridge with the 1/2barrel keg of Yuengling), so its good to get up to speed.

Link Posted: 4/17/2006 11:47:57 AM EDT
How I do it

When starting out there's some tips that will make you better beer using extract:

1) ferment in glass carboys, glass is easier to clean, doesnt scratch as easily as plastic, thus reduced chance of infection, plus fun to watch!
2) after fermenting, rack to a second carboy for beer to clear
3) use liquid yeast like Wyeast
4) make a starter
5) control your fermentation temps: 65-72F for ales, 54F or so for lagers, I use temp control on a merchandisser fridge to ferment.  Got 5 gallons of ale fermenting at 68F now
6) use some type of grain even with extracts: step a 1 lb or two of crystal malt
7) do full wort boils if possible, this means a 6 gallon pot at minimum for a 5 gallon batch, 12 gallon vessel for 10 gallon batches, 7 and 15 are better however.  This also means you'll probably have to brew outside, which is a plus

Eventually you'll want to move up to all gain brewing, kegging to eliminate bottling, temp controlled fermentations.    It's sort of like reloading: you'll have more $ invested in equipment but the cost of each batch of beer comes down.   Grain can be bought for 75 cents a lb, a 10 gallon batch uses 20-22 lbs of grain, or about $15 of grain, that's about 3 lb of liquid extract nowadays and for a 5 gallon batch you'll need 2 cans of liquid extract.

Link Posted: 4/17/2006 11:48:48 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Cixelsyd:
Clean, clean, clean.



Follow this and just about any recipe and you really can't go wrong.
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 12:10:17 PM EDT
When I started years ago, I got a kit and took their advice and started by working with syrup extracts.  It seemed easy and it is. It is also the best way that you can get good beer with the least amount of equipment. I bought a basic kit from my local supplier and followed the instruction exactly. I agree with the oversanitizing. Contamination is the quickest way to ruin a batch of beer. Also be very methodical. Don't rush to get things done, make sure everything that you are going to need is ready to go. Also be sure to have a good place to store your beer through all step of the brewing process. No direct sunlight, stable temperature 75-84 degrees and nothing to disturb your beer.
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 12:13:25 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/17/2006 12:15:45 PM EDT by elseed]
MouseHunter and AssaultRifler gave some good advice there.

I used to brew a lot and really got into equipment -- I got more SS fittings, kegs, pumps, filters, etc. than you can imagine.  Fun, but has little to do with good beer (a familiar theme on AR15 -- equip <> good shooting).

Quick answers: Capping or grolsch-type doesn't really matter.  Capping a bit cheaper/easier IMHO -- and making empties isn't that difficult homebrew
If I could summarize experience and knowledge, I would say: THE YEAST IS THE MAGIC -- BE THE YEAST!!  Everything else is secondary to how you treat, handle, respect, nurture, and generally worship the yeast.  Make a nice home for your yeast, an environment that it would like.  Not too hot, not too cold.  Plenty of nutrients.  No competition (nasty bacteria)!  No shocking environmental changes. Pitch a LOT of yeast -- I like the WhiteLab vials, and then I make a 1/3 to 1/2 gallon starter for 5 gallons.  Ferment should be fast and furious -- don't give the bad guys a chance.

Have fun!
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 12:59:51 PM EDT
Some great replies - thanks!

Would love to use the glass carbouys - but the kits with those are pretty expensive...  maybe I'll search around for some good deals.
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 1:18:25 PM EDT
Midwest has some pretty good starter kits for $99 or less.
Midwest starter kits
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 1:20:13 PM EDT

Get some grolsch style bottles with the flip of caps that makes bottleing soo much easier.  Then take a look at something called a wort chiller.
It looks something like this.

I made one with some flexible copper tubing from the hardware store.  I am very impatient and this cuts down on the time that you need to wait for your wort to cool down.

And remember, if your ever stressed out while brewing sit back relax and have a beer.
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 1:29:08 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Cixelsyd:
Clean, clean, clean.


and then clean some more.

Sanitation is the one thing that can totoly ruin every other step.

there is no such thing as over cleaning your equipmrnt before u brew.
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 2:49:24 PM EDT
I got a 5 or 6 gallon glass carboy at my local brew shop for $30-$40.
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 3:23:50 PM EDT
+1 on the home made wort chiller.  They're pretty easy to make with a little soft copper.
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 4:42:14 PM EDT

I've had a homebrew kit for a few years that I've never used.  Should get on that one of these days.

Link Posted: 4/17/2006 5:10:07 PM EDT
I'm in favor of the plastic buckets over the glass carboys for fermenting just for the safety aspect.  Too many people like to pick up full carboys by the neck.  Don't do it!  If you do use glass, get a couple milk crates to place them in.  It makes it a lot easier and safer to move them around.

Oh - and make sure you're airlock doesn't get plugged.  The effects of that are ... shall we say ... quite amazing!
Link Posted: 4/17/2006 5:46:07 PM EDT
I've only brewed with extracts but here is my experience.

(1) Cleanliness and sanitation are VERY important to keep from destroying a good batch of beer.

(2) Temperature control.  Maintain the proper fermentation temperature for the type of beer you are brewing.  I've destroyed more batches of beer by not maintaining proper temp control than I have by not being sanitary. (But I live in AZ, hard to keep 65 degrees in the open air...)

(3) Use GOOD yeast!  I've had problems with dead yeast - espescially when buying live liquid yeast.

I primary ferment in plastic and secondary ferment in a glass carboy.  The primay plastic fermenting bucket can be a hard thing to keep sanitary - make sure you never scratch the sides.

Brewing beer is GREAT fun and drinking it is even more fun!!!
Link Posted: 4/18/2006 3:13:08 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/18/2006 3:13:36 AM EDT by AssaultRifler]

Originally Posted By NotMrWizard:
I'm in favor of the plastic buckets over the glass carboys for fermenting just for the safety aspect.  Too many people like to pick up full carboys by the neck.  Don't do it!  If you do use glass, get a couple milk crates to place them in.  It makes it a lot easier and safer to move them around.

Oh - and make sure you're airlock doesn't get plugged.  The effects of that are ... shall we say ... quite amazing!

+1 I use milk crates and also have carboy handles on my carboy.  Use the milk crates for most of your moving around and when you have to lift it, use the handle to tilt the carboy some and get one hand underneath the carboy then use the other on the neck and lift.

Dried yeast usually ferments fast and furious, liquid yeast doesn't.  I use 6 or 6.5 gallon carboys for primary fermentation so even if the fermentation gets "excited" there's that additional air space for the foam to dance around in instead of blowing thru the airlock.
Link Posted: 4/18/2006 3:26:13 AM EDT

Originally Posted By st0newall:

just get a beer brewing 'sculpture'


I own one like the rightmost one.
I love it.
"Beer beer beer and more beer"  morebeer is a great place to step up from Mr. beer to the next level. They have many differnt systems from $100. They also have great customer service and knowlege.

Link Posted: 4/18/2006 4:33:34 AM EDT
Skip the carboys--the beer lava lamp is neat, but if your airlock gets plugged, you then have a giant glass bottle under pressures that it was NEVER meant to take. If your carboy goes boom and you're close, you WILL need stitches. If you drop your carboy, you WILL need stitches.

And skip the immersion chiller--get a counterflow instead--you can build them, or buy them. It'll reduce the time needed to chill the wort to a few minutes instead of an hour. Less time in the danger zone for infection.

Good yeast is a must, and make a starter. It's pretty freakin hard to overpitch, so don't sweat it.

Don't be afraid of Hops. They are your little green buddies.

Test your gravities--OG and FG. It'll save you from bottle bombs....
Top Top