Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Planning for my next homebrew batch

Planning a homebrew batchIt's been nearly two months since my last homebrewing day and I've got the itch to get another batch going. My first batch has been in the bottle for nearly 6 weeks and I think it as done as it's going to get. I got mixed reviews from my friends and myself on my first batch and I know that I have a lot of room for improvement.

One way to improve your homebrew is to keep a list of items that you'll want to do differently next time. Here's my list.

Things I need to fix

1. My wort chiller is too small for my brewpot. Need one that can do 10-15 gallon batches. I've seen some on eBay that look good. May trade in my PayPal bux for a bigger one. Hopefully this one won't leak like the other one did. I'll have to test it before brew day.
2. The plastic tube from my bottling bucket to my bottling wand was too big. It's 1/2" inside diameter but should have been 3/8". Again, it will pay to test before needing it.
3. Need to pick up a 2nd propane tank. I probably spent most of the 1st tank and need to keep that with my outdoor grill. A separate one just for homebrewing would be nice. A 40 lb tank might be even better than a 20 lb tank.
4. Invest in a bottle tree that can hold up to 40 bottles. Get one with a sanitizer pump at top. Didn't like sanitizing shortly before bottling as I felt there may have been too much sanitizer residue left in the bottles.
5. Need a better way to spot sanitize. Perhaps use a squirt bottle and fill it with Star San. I wasted way too much sanitizer last time.

I'm going to have to make a shopping list again. I'll probably shop online at my favorite homebrew store - High Gravity Homebrewing and pick up the rest at my local store in Fort Collins (Hops & Berries).

What I'd do differently this time

1. I need to remember that using Dry Malt Extract only needs to be 80% of what you need in Liquid Malt Extract. If the recipe calls for 5 pounds of LME then you only need 4 pounds of DME. I used way too much base malt in my last recipe. Beer was too sweet.
2. Steep my specialty grains longer. Only did 20 minutes at 160 degrees as per recipe. I think I should have done it for 30 minutes at least.
3. Sparge my steeped grains with 180 degree water before discarding them. I merely let them drain last time and should have given them a hot rinse. Would have yielded a bit more sugars out of those grains.
4. Add higher AA bittering hops to the boil. 1st recipe called for low 5% AA hops for bittering but wasn't nearly enough for my tastes.
5. Create my yeast starter only 1 day before brew day instead of 3. I think the yeast was too dormant by the 3rd day in my starter. It did ferment well after 12 hours and got done in 5 days though.
6. Aerate my wort a lot more BEFORE pitching my yeast. I pitched the yeast and then aerated but probably shouldn't have done that.
7. Try using water that has had a chance to settle out the chlorine before using. I used it fresh out of the tap last time and may have contributed to some off flavor.
8. After filling the first bottle, insert the bottling wand inside the 2nd bottle while I'm capping the 1st. Having to lay down the end of the wand on a questionable surface worried me. At least the insides of the bottles are sanitized.
9. Fill some 12 oz bottles this time instead of all 22 oz bottles. Would like to just have a single brew to try and not have to drink down a full bomber.
10. Need to stock up on more PBW and Star San. I seemed to go through a lot last time.
11. Try making a yeast starter outdoors. Small pot on the burner should work fine and keep me from filling the house up with beer smell.

What I'd like to brew next

There are many styles that I enjoy and have yet to brew myself. Styles like: stouts, ESB, APA/IPA, Kolsch, Pale Ale, Porter (real one this time), Ambers, Belgians, Old ale, or perhaps even a cider. I want my next brew to be more hoppy with a better balance with the malts.

My first batch was supposed to be a dark porter but ended up more of a light brown. A stout sounds good but at same time I'm tempted to make a nice lighter Springtime ale. Leaning towards an ESB or Pale Ale.

I want to create a beer with a much better head to it and with some lacing. And it has to be adequately carbonated. Someday I'll just keg my homebrew but for now, bottle conditioning will suffice.

That's a lot of items to consider for my next batch. I'd better start working on them as soon as possible. If I wait much longer it will soon be too hot outside and that will give me a whole other list of things to do differently.

Related articles:
- 1st batch of homebrew for the year.
- Creating a yeast starter for homebrewing.
- Putting together the home brewery.
- The trials and tribulations of bottling homebrew.
- Bottle washing day.

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