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Monsters Partially Mash..or All Grain

25 Nov

The coolest thing about being a beginner at homebrew, are all the surprises. One of those for me, was the discovery of Partial Mash and All Grain brewing. For my first batch I got the kit and did my steep and boil liquid extract. It was quite a fairly simple process from boil to ferment.

Utilizing the kit, and my 6 pounds liquid extract, I have made quite a tasty brew. In fact, I’ve got some bottles carbonating as I type. I am extremely satisfied with my yield, and it tastes delicious. There is nothing wrong with using primarily Dry Malt Extract or Liquid Malt Extract.

This can lead one feeling a little like “that’s is!?” Don’t get me wrong, keep it simple stupid is my motto. I just couldn’t help but feel there must be “more”. Enter my surprise, PM and AG brewing.

Here I am going to highlight PM because I feel it still lies in novice/amateur domain. PM and AG brewing is different in that you are doing your own extraction process. This means you will spend less money on extract ingredients, as grains will cost less than DME or LME. 

The process of PM is considerably less intensive and holds less risk of complication than AG brewing. The key here, is that it adds a more intimate aspect to your brewing without making it too overwhelming for less seasoned participants. It normally doesn’t require you to obtain extra equipment (less maybe an extra container), and greatly adds to the involvement of the craft. I imagine once I take on PM, no longer will I fill my primary without a sweat band. Half the fun of homebrew is the act of brewing, do what you can to drag it out.

This hasn’t even mentioned the added control PM or AG brewing gives the brewer. Much tighter flavor profile, or custom gravity control is a definite bonus to the process. Starting with a PM compared with AG is probably the best way to go for the beginners and first time extractors. Also, PM brewing tends to be more convenient for the college brewer or brewers in apartments because stoves can greatly impact how a boil goes down.

There are many benefits to PM versus DME or LME brewing. And once again HomeBrewTalk.Com has a great forum read on the benefits here. Also, there is a great read on the process of Partial Mashing and how to at BeerSmith.Com. This article is relevant to the Partial Masher looking to mash without having to obtain a bunch of new fangled equipment. Good luck brewing, and remember RDWHAHB.

 

-Zach Attack

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Ido-phor Fun

5 Nov

Every homebrewer has the responsibility of sanitation. How we go about our sanitation can completely change the name of the game. There are many modes available for homebrew sanitation, some cheaper, some more accessible. The key here, is to remember the goal of thorough and proper sanitation. Despite the means, always have the health of  your brew as priority.

That being said, I am here to help you change the name of the game. Mentioned before, as long as you take necessary steps with your mode of sanitation, you can effectively sanitize many ways. Bleach, for instance, is accesible and works fine. Except all surfaces in contact of cool wort must be soaked for 15 minutes and quite thoroughly rinsed. In this case, rinsing is imperative to decrease risk of creating defective flavors. Just because you have some laying around, doesn’t mean you should avoid alternatives.

As a beginner brewer I’ve searched for some alternatives for you. In fact, here is a complete guide to any sort of alternative and the process required for successful sanitation. It has a guide for bleach, acetic acid, and even dishwashers. It even goes over my beloved choice sanitizer: Idophor.

Idophor is awesome. It’s used by most food industries and even for commercial applications. I got my bottle for super cheap, four ounces for five bucks. You only need to dilute a teaspoon for every 5 gallons of water, its effective at 12.5 ppm. Idophor completely obliterates microbes, bacterias, and viruses that would affect your elixer with only 60 seconds contact time. Take that bleach! The best part, it doesn’t need to be rinsed either. Just pour it out and let it air dry, better yet, put it in a sprayer, mist, and let sit.

So you can see why I’d never bleach when I picked up a bit of Idophor that will last me ages. Not quite sold, or heard confliction in reviews? The most informational and non-biased page I have read regarding the demystification of Idophor is located here through BayAreaMashers.Org. When I compare to others like Star-San, I always worry about keeping tabs (literally) on solution pH levels and if I still have viable sanitizer. The Idophor has switched so pH balance isn’t ever an issue. After reading that enlightening Idophor article, it seems if you tuck your solution away you can get it to keep around a week. According to the manufacturer, if the color and smell is in tact the solution should be quite active.

So change the name of your game to  cheap and convenient, reduce your hassle. Don’t waste your time and energy soaking and rinsing. Use it on helping pitch your yeast or brewing up your wort- let Idophor do the work. So get brewing and stop rinsing!

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Zach Attack

The Secondary Conundrum

31 Oct

Since I have been a brewer, this whole debate between performing a secondary fermentation or not has really boggled me. The idea is that when your brew is 75% the difference from your Original Gravity (ABV), then you rack, or siphon, into another container. This allows your beer to clear, and in cases where you must wait long periods of time, can prevent your yeast from becoming cannibalistic, know as autolysis. At this stage in the process, sanitation is imperative, and you risk oxidization, which can lead to flat/stale tasting brew.

So what do the “experts” say? Most of their answers look something like the one at Brew-Dudes. These guys say skip it when dealing with an ale (which is what most beginners end up brewing.) The article tries to make it clear that most “experts” are also kegging and cold crashing, not all beginners use these techniques to achieve clarity in their brew. The reason experienced brewers advise against racking an ale to secondary, is that it isn’t necessary. Ales are known for clearing themselves up with an extra couple weeks in the primary.

After researching a bit, the only main hangs on secondary fermentation were sanitation and oxidation. Many people argue it’s “extra work”, but what do you make of Brew-Dudes’ added 30 minute boil with hot and cold breaks, wort chillers, C02 pressurizers, and vessels big enough to cold crash an entire keg… If you were sanitation impaired, you would have already infected your brew long before a rack to secondary. The myth here is that an extra 15 minutes to sanitize your secondary container and tubing, is a bunch of “extra” work. While sanitization is about the only part of the brewing process that can go wrong, if you are aware of this, it is hard to mess up. Those 15 minutes will go a long way giving you experience with sanitation practices, which are still just as important when bottling or racking to a keg. Interesting enough, Brew-Dudes go as far to say the whole kegging process is a secondary in itself, debunking the fact that “experts” don’t secondary.

As far as oxidization, if you make sure your secondary will fill neatly to the brim, it need not be a concern. My first batch didn’t make it, but I was careful during the siphon, and was able to move my container very carefully, eliminating any splashing inside. Since I racked my brew slightly before fermentation was complete, the carbon dioxide produced will displace any oxygen left. This effectively nullifies any future oxidation concerns. As you can see, these arguments aren’t very major issues to begin with, and both are remedied with practice and experience. This is my whole argument, if you can sanitize, you can secondary, and to do so as a beginner puts you ahead of the rest. You will own a degree more experience when going to bottle your first batch.

There are echos of this in a BeerAdvocate thread on the issue. Most of the first posts are the usual “unnecessary unless” (insert reason here). Getting through that, you start to hear of how it was good practice, beer was still cleared, and how sanitation isn’t the real concern for conscious brewers of any status. Also mentioned here, is how having an extra container open allows you to start another batch.

So if you are a beginner, like me, go for the secondary. I challenge you. If the best warning against it is “too much work”, you are already a sanitation machine. If they try and scare you with words like “oxidization”, fill it to the brim, or transport it like it’s your baby. Your brew is much more resilient than you think, and only time will tell. Do what you can to grab those moments you doubt yourself, and build from them. Getting out there and doing it is the only way to get better. Saying it’s not necessary is a way for the experts to brag about their set-up, which is, as we learned, a fancy secondary fermentation/condition.

Remember folks:

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-ZachAttack

To Keg, or Not to Keg?

29 Oct

I suspect this was on every brewer’s mind at one point in time. The good thing is, there is no wrong answer to this question! Bottling and kegging is the same basic idea, to store your masterpiece for later consumption. With this in mind there are definitely a few differences in the process, and there lay a few objectives to consider. I suggest the enlightening discussion here at BrewingKB about Bottling vs. Kegging.

Basically, it all brews down to opinion and mostly, resources. Within the first few posts, you will be able to determine whether or not kegs are the way to go. Like I said, there is no wrong answer. Pros and cons are situational to the brewer; so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In fact, the beauty about brewing at home remains: you can always do both! Keep a few six packs conditioning for an extra week or two while you and your brew crew kill that keg off.

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R.D.W.H.A.H.B- ZachAttack

Oh Snap! It’s a Brew-Off!

24 Oct

Are you super competitive, or just a beer fanatic? Either way, I suggest you find yourself a hombrew competition to attend. At hombrew competitions, whether you are entering a beer or not, there lies a massive source of enlightenment. By simply attending, you will be surrounded by brewers of all ranks and disciplines. This isn’t to mention all the delectable craft brews people have brought from all over.

As it turns out then, you don’t need to be a 5-year homebrewer to attend a competition. The magical wonder behind this, especially if you are a newcomer, is that there will be a seasoned brewer at every turn. Take advantage of this, as most experienced brewers would love to chat you up about getting started, or tip you off for better execution next time.

Not only can the brews flavored inspire a recipe of your own, they can raise certain questions about achieving a specific taste/feel to a beer. This becomes essential in the quest to evolving yourself into a better brewer. Isn’t what this is all about? Everything rolls back to the community, the most precious resource for any homebrewer.

At homebrew competitions, you get it all. From beer tastings to tension, and inspiration to education, whether your a newb or the three time competition winner, find yourself a Brew-Off!

Where can you find one? A great place to start, not just for competitions, is the all-encompassing American Homebrewer’s Association. Here I have linked specifically to their page about the National Homebrew Competition they hold. AHA include links for Club-Only runs, sanctioned competitions, and even the Great American Beer Festival. Being a national event, this a great place to start your quest.

For closer to home, I suggest you visit Oh Snap! A Brew-Off! I’ve accumulated several links that will help Texans on their search for competitions held in many different areas. These gatherings area trove help and inspiration don’t be afraid to ask, homebrewers are itching to help!

My first batch made it to secondary, it’s on the low side so I moved very carefully. After just a week it smells and tastes extremely citrusy, with a dry, bitter hop finish. Can’t wait for it to mellow and clear even more!

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-ZachAttack

Why Homebrew Anyway?

15 Oct

Are you on the fence whether or not to take the leap and brew at home? Have you concerns of the cost for equipment and ingredients? Are you to impatient to wait and just run to the corner store for the cheapie six-pack?  Don’t be! There are many great reasons to brew at home. Try not to become discouraged when researching the process. Going around to many blogs and informative websites helped me begin to understand what is going on, but some of the information seemed overwhelming. At first, the process seemed very scientific with all these decimals and gravity readings. In reality, when I got down to the nitty gritty, I was making what seemed like a big batch of tea or soup! I urge you not to become discouraged; it is well worth the brew.

A great perk about brewing at home, is that once you buy the necessities for the process, that’s it. Everything is reusable; all you would need for your next batch are the ingredients. This is fantastic, because when you are brewing 5 gallons a batch, it almost immediately pays itself off. Although some states do put a cap on production, no matter who you are, you can easily make your years worth for fractions of store bought brew. Not to mention you are achieving a “top shelf” craft beer flavor and feel. Picking your own fresh ingredients, and skipping all the processes like pasteurization and shipment the commercial brewers must follow, will ultimately yield you a much crisper, tastier product. Brewing at home doesn’t just give you quality beer for much less cost, there that aspect of control, making it an art. Similar to how preparing food is a culinary art, the brew process demands certain attention and involvement. Choosing what malt to use, what hops to spice with, which yeast profiles will complement ingredients are all part of this control. Deciding what you want to taste or feel in a brew, and being part of the process to achieve a desired product that is important to you, is art. Brewers themselves as a community are definitely worth a shout out to. When getting into home brew, you can’t help but get sucked into this tight nit community. Everyone is willing to share success stories, and even stories ending not so well. Brewers are a wealth of information and laid back individuals to bat, so as the AHA would say “Relax, have a homebrew.”

-ZachAttack