Best/Most Used and Worst/Least Used Tools

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Best/Most Used and Worst/Least Used Tools

Postby cozrulz » Tue Jan 30, 2007 4:47 pm

What does everybody think is their best tool, that they just couldn't do without. It could range from your brew pot to the spoon you use. Then the second question is what is the tool that you hardly ever use and could probably get rid of. I'm new to the whole brewing process, but I would like to know some other opinions on what works well and what doesn't equipment wise.
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There is no one answer to this question.

Postby billvelek » Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:16 pm

Is this a trick question? Everyone knows that you don't need no stinkin' equipment; just buy a bunch of 'no boil kits' and dump them into any old container, and then dip your glass in when fermentation is finished. VOILA! Uncarbonated beer! :D

Seriously, since you state that you are new to this, and you mention the broadest range even down to a brew spoon, I must assume that you are not referring to 'exotic' pieces of equipment like stir plates and refractometers. Even at it's VERY basic level, there are a number of essential tools to make and bottle good beer, and if you are lacking in ANY of them, it is either going to be impossible to make and bottle beer or you are going to have major problems. Now, if your question is more along the lines of 'what stuff, that most of us can find around the house, can I use to improvise so that I don't need to buy special equipment until I decide if I want to keep doing this?", then we can probably help you there. Of course, the answer also depends on what type of brewing you intend to try, but let's assume that you are going to make kits to start. You need a fermenter; it doesn't need to be a conical, or even a carboy, but you at least need a clean bucket. It doesn't NEED to have an airlock, although that is highly recommended; you can just set the lid on top. You need a way to get your beer out of your fermenter and into bottles; racking canes are normally used, but I guess you could use any siphon if you don't mind either a lot of trub in your beer or wasted beer in your fermenter from keeping the end of the siphon high enough above the trub. And you really need a bottling bucket, hose, and filling wand; I can't imagine siphoning into bottles. You don't need a capper; you can use plastic bottle with twist off caps. If you are going to use glass bottles, then you MUST have a capper unless you are going to try to recycle twist off bottles AND the old caps. You don't need a hydrometer; just make sure that your fermentation is absolutely finished. You don't need scales to weigh anything if you're using kits; you could use the empty extract can to measure your water addition. I could go on, but I think you get my point. There are a whole LOT of things that you should have to make any kind of drinkable beer. Here is a short list:
a pot (kettle), at least large enough as recommended by the kit; a full-sized pot large enough to do full boils (not concentrated) is best;
a fermenter -- at least a large bucket that you can get for free from many sources; I prefer carboys (or my plastic conical).
racking cane and plastic hose
bottling bucket (this is a bucket with a valve at the bottom -- you add your primer, siphon from fermenter into bucket, mix gently, and then use the valve to run your beer down a hose to the bottling wand to fill your bottles;
capper -- butterflys are okay, but tghey don't work with all bottles; my bench capper is easier and works with all bottles.
If mashing, you need a mash tun; I use an ice chest that I converted for about thirteen bucks; I do batch sparges, and it works GREAT. Since I batch sparge, I don't have any 'sparging' equipment.
You don't need a mill; you can purchase your grains already milled.
If mashing, you definitely need a way to measure your grain; if you know what your grain weighs per unit of volume, you can use measuring cups, but I have a digital scale that I use.
If mashing, you need to be able to at least roughly determine temperatures, so some form of decent thermometer is also needed; on the other hand, if you have water at room temp (and you know what that is), you can blend known volumes of that with known volumes of boiling water to determine water addition temperatures.
I'm getting tired of typing, and this is already pretty long, so I'll quit here. I hope you understand now that there really isn't just one piece that is more important than all the rest. There are any number of brewing websites that will be able to furnish you with much more info. Good luck with a GREAT hobby.

Cheers.

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Thanks-That Helped

Postby cozrulz » Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:39 pm

I actually kind of know what I will be getting. I was just trying to figure out if there was anything else useful that I should get or useless that I shouldn't. (carboy dryers, handles, etc.)

A couple other questions:
How many feet of siphon hose would be enough? Right now I'm thinking two 5 footers. One for bottling and the other to siphon to the secondary.

Curved or straight racking cane?
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Postby slothrob » Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:03 am

Just a few things off the top of my head:

I just use one hose for everything, but it doeasn't hurt to have some backup tubing.

Curved racking cane works for me, but I don't see anything that I do that requires it be curved.

If you use glass carboys, get a carboy brush to clean them, or you'll be doing a lot of soaking. The carboy caps are nice, too, I like them because they keep the mouth of the carboy clean during the fermentation, so I worry less about dust collecting and falling in. A bottle brush is a necessity if you bottle, as well.

Consider plastic buckets and carboys, or corny kegs even, for fermentation vessels. They're safer than the glass ones.

A bucket of Oxyclean Free is great for cleaning bottles and all your equipment at the end of a brewing day.
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Postby cozrulz » Wed Jan 31, 2007 3:31 pm

I should be good to go for this weekend.

I might have to pick up some oxiclean. Right now I only have one step which sanitizes, but does it clean.

Consider plastic buckets and carboys, or corny kegs even, for fermentation vessels. They're safer than the glass ones.


What do you mean? As for breaking?
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Postby slothrob » Wed Jan 31, 2007 4:42 pm

Don't know about the One Step.

The Oxyclean is a cheap and good cleaning solution, just rinse it well. If you find you have a real tough cleaning job, add a Tbs of Oxyclean and a Tbs of TSP-Substitute to a gallon of warm water.

I use glass carboys, but they are awkward, so easy to break, and they make big, sharp glass shards when they do. They'll send you to the emergency room for stiches.
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Postby cozrulz » Wed Jan 31, 2007 5:03 pm

I figured you meant when they broke. I'm going to get a brew hauler or something.

One Step will work for sanitizing. I'll have to pick some OxiClean Free up.

Thanks for the help.
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Postby cozrulz » Sun Feb 04, 2007 3:16 pm

slothrob wrote:Don't know about the One Step.

The Oxyclean is a cheap and good cleaning solution, just rinse it well. If you find you have a real tough cleaning job, add a Tbs of Oxyclean and a Tbs of TSP-Substitute to a gallon of warm water.

I use glass carboys, but they are awkward, so easy to break, and they make big, sharp glass shards when they do. They'll send you to the emergency room for stiches.


Where do you get your Oxiclean?

Looks like I will be brewing next Friday. Didn't get a chance to this week, but now I have a chance to get everything more organized.
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Oxiclean...

Postby jctull » Sun Feb 04, 2007 3:24 pm

You can get Oxiclean at Costco if you have one nearby and a membership. Not worth getting the membership for only the Oxiclean.

Personally, I prefer BLC that require a less extensive rinse. You can rinse with cold water. My 2
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Looking

Postby cozrulz » Sun Feb 04, 2007 3:44 pm

Actually, I don't think I need Oxiclean. I might get some PBW later on, if the One Step doesn't work out but I'm sure it will.
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Knock on wood ...

Postby billvelek » Sun Feb 04, 2007 4:45 pm

slothrob wrote:Snip ... I use glass carboys, but they are awkward, so easy to break, ... snip
I know I shouldn't jinx myself, but I've been using the same three glass carboys for 10+ years. I bought them brand new from a water bottle company for ten bucks each; I called them a couple of weeks ago because I thought I'd get a couple more because I've been thinking of stepping up my brewing a bit (I have a lot more kids of drinking age now who enjoy my beer), but they only bottle in plastic now. <sigh> Those at the LHBS are too pricey for a cheapskate like me. I'm toying with getting free buckets from Walmart (bakery shop) for my primaries and using my 3 carboys just for secondaries. I still have my plastic conical, but it's a pain in the !@# and I haven't used it in a few years. It's a pain because it's more difficult to work with, and the trub sticks in the bottom and prevents it from doing what they are supposed to be best at -- removing the trub easily. I've been meaning ... for years now ... to rig up something similar to the V-Vessel so that I can keep the valve open and let the trub accumulate in a lower compartment. I just never think about it.

Cheers.

Bill Velek
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Knock on wood ...

Postby billvelek » Sun Feb 04, 2007 11:10 pm

slothrob wrote:Snip ... I use glass carboys, but they are awkward, so easy to break, ... snip
I know I shouldn't jinx myself, but I've been using the same three glass carboys for 10+ years. I bought them brand new from a water bottle company for ten bucks each; I called them a couple of weeks ago because I thought I'd get a couple more because I've been thinking of stepping up my brewing a bit (I have a lot more kids of drinking age now who enjoy my beer), but they only bottle in plastic now. <sigh> Those at the LHBS are too pricey for a cheapskate like me. I'm toying with getting free buckets from Walmart (bakery shop) for my primaries and using my 3 carboys just for secondaries.

Cheers.

Bill Velek
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Re: Looking

Postby ColoradoBrewer » Mon Feb 05, 2007 9:22 am

cozrulz wrote:Actually, I don't think I need Oxiclean. I might get some PBW later on, if the One Step doesn't work out but I'm sure it will.
I'm not saying you should pass on the PBW. It's a good product, but there's something you need to know. The reason many homebrewers use OxyClean is because it's much cheaper than PBW, but nearly the same thing chemically. Both are percarbonate cleaners and that's what is important. You can buy OxyClean at the grocery store if you don't' have a Costco or other discount store near you. Neither PBW or OxyClean are sanitizers so you'll also need one of those. As for One Step, my understanding is that it's both a cleanser and sanitizer, hence the name. I haven't used it so I can't say now effective it is.
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Re: Knock on wood ...

Postby ColoradoBrewer » Mon Feb 05, 2007 9:35 am

billvelek wrote:...I'm toying with getting free buckets from Walmart (bakery shop) for my primaries and using my 3 carboys just for secondaries...
Bill, I assume (yeah I know) that you're talking about the buckets the bakery gets frosting in. If so, here's a tip based on my experience. I found that it was difficult to get the smell of the frosting out of the bucket. I tried baking soda, both dry and in solution, but it didn't work too well. What I found to work the best was sun bleaching by just letting the buckets sit the hot sun for three or four days. It was summer when I did this, and since we're in winter now and the sun isn't as intense it may take a few days longer.
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Bucket odor ...

Postby billvelek » Mon Feb 05, 2007 9:54 am

I don't know how my message was posted twice, but I can't find a way to delete the extra one. :roll:

I have noticed the strong persistent odor in pickle buckets, but I just never really noticed the odor in the frosting buckets, although I'm sure it's there if you detected it. I've used those free buckets for a number of things, and usually don't care about the odor. RE brewing, I mostly use them for soaking bottles to remove labels or for sanitizing; after that, they probably don't have much if any odor, but I'll check next time and use the sun if necessary. I'll also do that if I get any new buckets.

Thanks for the tip.

Cheers.

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