Novice Needs advice

Brewing processes and methods. How to brew using extract, partial or all-grain. Tips and tricks.

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Novice Needs advice

Postby Jazzer » Sun Apr 15, 2001 1:14 pm

I am brand new to brewing and just purchased a Mr. Beer Kit to break myself into the world of home brewing. Is anyone familiar with this product and can reply to whether I should stick with it for a while before upgrading? I look to you, oh brew masters, for guidance to reach the "perfect" batch!!

Thanks in Advance
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Mr Beer

Postby BillyBock » Mon Apr 16, 2001 3:45 am

I too started w/ Mr Beer. It performed it's function--it got me interested in the hobby. You can make good brew with the Mr Beer products if you don't follow their directions. Examine the brewing tutorial on this site to get a feel for the process and techniques involved to see what should be done versus what's in the instructions. If you plan on using it for any length of time, probably the best single thing you can do to enjoy your investment is to use two cans of their extract instead of 1 can and table sugar. There are many other improvements to be made procedurally, but give it a try and get interested--I'm sure others will agree with me here. Then when you feel ready, go on down to your local homebrew store and pick up one of their kits. I caution you now; you won't make the "perfect" batch w/ Mr Beer, but it'll get you started and wondering why your beer isn't "perfect" (like it did for me). Since then I've changed my equipment setup and procedures and I make !@#$ good beer if I do say so myself. It's been a quest. Oh, BTW, when you do graduate keep your Mr Beer fermenter handy, it's useful for making small batches as opposed to the standard 5 gallon batch with homebrew equipment. Good luck to you, and welcome to the fold.
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Mr. Beer Alternative

Postby Jazzer » Mon Apr 16, 2001 6:12 am

Thank you for the reply. I see how Mr. Beer gets you in the pocket book when you go to replace those cans of mix. Since you have used the product, were you able to find a place that you could get the cans besides from the company, where they get you in the shipping charges? As far as your reply, would you recommend using table sugar instead of the "booster" they try and sell ya? One last question, would I be able to mix my own hops and such using the Mr. Beer fermenter? Any good books on the subject you could recommend?

Thank you again...
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Welcome

Postby maltvault » Mon Apr 16, 2001 8:00 am

Welcome to the 10% of the population that brews. I never got caught up in the Mr. Beer thing, but keep the fermenter for mead, or a 'special' beer so you can give it aging time. Anyhoo, a quick note on what to get when you upgrade. When you buy your kit make sure it's glass. Do NOT let them sell you a plactic rig, they scratch and harbor nasties. Also, invest in the party pig setup, www.partypig.com, it is a 2.5 kegging system that I've found is bomb. You need no co2 tank, no deticated frige, and no more bottles.. :-) When you need a new pig, goto the liquor store and get some Tommy Knockers; they come in pigs in most bigger stores. The reason is if you buy a new one it's $25.00, or you can spend $23.00 and get one full of beer. :-) Also, start with parshal mashing right away, you'll save hundreds of dollars in extract and kits. I do all grain, and make beer for about $0.17 a 12oz bottle, including all hops/yeast/grain. Also a quick word on yeast harvesting; will save you a ton of cash. Try to be two or three batches ahead of yourself, that way your beer can age in the fermenter, the day you brew, bottle your beer, then clean/sanatize a glass and pour the swill at the bottom into it, cover with plastic and fridge. You now have harvested yeast for your next batch. Easy, and cheap. people have been doing this for thousands of years, do not let anyone lead you to think it's hard. :-)

Good Luck,
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Go to the Homebrew Store

Postby BillyBock » Wed Apr 18, 2001 2:33 am

The first and most informative book I read on the subject was "The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing", by Charlie Papazian. This book's considered to be the Bible of the hobby. It's a good read and written so that each section stands on its own. There's sections for begginers, intermediate, and advanced. As far as the Mr Beer product, I only used it for the 10 months that I did because I didn't know there was anything better. DO NOT use table sugar. You'd be better off using the Booster in place of it. You'd be even better off by using another can of extract. If you do use table sugar, you'll get a cidery twang to your brew, YUCK!. I made that mistake ONCE. If you haven't brewed with it yet, read through this site or the postings on how to do a single stage fermentation. Then go to your local homebrew store and get one of their fermenting kits. As Maltvault said, go with glass carboys for your fermenting vessels. As far as your hops question--yes. Just remember that the Mr Beer fermenter is nothing more than a 12 quart plastic ferementer with a spigot. It makes a great little fermenter for small brews. But in the end, you'll need to switch to better equipment and procedures if you want to make great, clean tasting, clear, all malt brews. I would never be able to make the great tasting beers that I do using Mr Beer products and procedures. As a starting point, so you can see what other equipment is out there for the hobby, check out www.brewsource.com Also, About.Com has a homebrew forum. Besides, you could always use the Mr Beer to teach you the things that you SHOULD NOT do :-) We'd love to hear the outcome of your first brew, good, bad, or indifferent. And if it doesn't come out quite right--keep on trying and learn from your mistakes. It's a great hobby.
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Almost Forgot

Postby BillyBock » Wed Apr 18, 2001 2:38 am

I primarily do partial-mashses, although I have tried a couple of all-grain batches. There's another technique that uses steeping grains and extract. LD Carlson sells some kits setup this way for $25-$30 that include everything you need: malt, grains, hops, yeast, bottle caps, priming sugar. See if your homebrew store carries these or something similar. I've made a Red Ale and a Porter this way--and were they ever good. Give it a whirl.
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Use better ingredients

Postby JohnNixon » Sat Apr 28, 2001 3:54 am

Instead of using 2 cans o Mr. Beer products try
using 1 3.3 lb can of liquid malt extract, either hopped or unhopped.It gives you more freedom and a much better end result. My first batch of GOOD beer was made with 1 can of Coopers hopped dark and 1 oz of Fuggles boiled for 15 minutes. I used the yeast included but have since discovered that liquid is the way to go. Good luck!

John
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Glass vs. Plastic

Postby BillW » Thu May 03, 2001 2:30 pm

Just wanted to pop in here and mention in response to maltvault's posting that this "glass vs. plastic" debate has been hashed out in every forum across the country for years. There Is nothing wrong with plastic! Some homebrew snobs insist on glass and shun plastic, because they think its "only for beginners". I've been brewing for 6 years now, and I still use a plastic primary. My beers have won first and second place awards in area competitions.
Glass and plastic both have their advantages and disadvantages. Glass is slippery, hard to hold, and fragile. Drop a 5 gallon glass carboy full of beer once, and you'll never want to use glass again. Glass is marginally easier to sanitize. Contrary to popular opinion, it does scratch, just like plastic.
Plastic is cheaper, and the containers are easier to pick up and move. Plastic will not shatter and cut you. It is slightly harder to sanitize and needs to be replaced a little more frequently.
Use a good sanitizer like Star San instead of bleach, and your sanitation won't be an issue.
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Space

Postby maltvault » Thu May 03, 2001 2:33 pm

I brew/drink in a one beadroom apt., no room for the kegging system I'd like, so I use the Party Pig. You do not pump air into the pouch, you pressureize the Pig and a vinigar/baking soda solution expands the pouch. Since the air you pumped in is bled out, no frets, also the inside of the pouch never touches the beer, and the outside is radiated for sanitation; like Band-Aids. Anyhoo, kegging is best, for limited space I can't beat my Pigs. Also, when you need a new Pig, or spout goto the liquor store and get some Tommy Knockers Pig in a Box. It's a Pig with the spout stamped on, you can remove the metal band; BE CAREFUL!!!, and buy just the retaining ring for $6.50. The Pig runs abour $20.00, and its full of beer, it's $30.00 at the beer store and it's empty. Can't do that with a cornie. :-) Cornies do rule, no room though. Also, the pouches are only $3.50.
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Party Pig, et al

Postby BillW » Thu May 03, 2001 2:37 pm

The Party Pig is made by a company called Quoin. It is a 2.5 gallon plastic keg, so you need 2 to keg a 5 gallon batch. Although it does not require a CO2 bottle, it does require an air pump, and expensive and hard to find replacement air bladders. The idea here is that you pump regular air into the bladder. The bladder is forced up against the beer, creating pressure, so the beer flows out..
There are several other such systems, like the Medicine Rock and the 1.5 L mini kegs.
None of these systems are very well received by most of those who have them. Read opinions on all these systems on the newsgroup rec.crafts.brewing.
When you go to kegging, you CANNOT beat a 5 gallon cornelius keg system with a 5 lb CO2 tank. Sure, it costs a bit more, but its well worth it. Corny kegs last forever with little care other than replacing the gaskets once in a while and keeping the kegs clean.
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Mr. Beer and other tips

Postby BillW » Thu May 03, 2001 2:55 pm

1) Do not use large amounts of table sugar. Use plain dry or liquid malt extract instead.

2) That stuff that Mr. Beer calls "Booster" is otherwise known as Malto Dextrin. You can buy it cheaper at homebrew stores. It is an unfermentable sugar, meaning the yeast cannot eat it. It's purpose is to build body and mouthfeel in an otherwise too light beer.

3) Hops are added at 3 basic points during the boil. Hops added at the beginning and boiled for the full 60 minutes are known as bittering hops. These produce bitterness that you detect on the back of your tongue. Hops added about midway are known as flavor hops. These produce some bitterness, but also produce hop flavor. Hops added near the end of the boil are called aroma hops. These make aroma only. Boiling extracts the hops' resins, bitterness, and aroma, through a process called isomerization. The longer they are boiled, the more bitterness and the less aroma and flavor are obtained.
I've never seen the Mr. Beer instructions. Do they tell you to dissolve the can and boil the resulting wort, or just add boiling water to the contents of the can in the fermenter? Making beer from extracts or all grain requires you to boil the beer, usually for an hour, and add hops at various times. If there is no boil, you cannot add additional kettle hops for more bitterness, though you can add hops to the secondary fermenter for aroma only, known as "dry hopping".
4) The "bible" for new brewers is Charile Papazian's "New Complete Joy of Homebrewing". When you get a little more advanced, check out "Designing Great Beers" by Ray Daniels.
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Pig Pouches

Postby BillW » Thu May 03, 2001 3:22 pm

How many uses do you get out of a pouch?
My understanding is that they have to be replaced every batch. 2 pouches per 5 gallon batch = $7.00 every batch. To me, that's expensive. I get at least 25 kegs out of a 5 lb CO2 bottle, which costs $7 to fill.
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