1st all-grain and 1st biab - stove top setup - newbie advice

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1st all-grain and 1st biab - stove top setup - newbie advice

Post by bullshift » 1 year ago

Hi everyone,
This is one of my first posts, but I've been checking out this forum ever since I discovered the BIAB method. I'm one of those home brewers that brewed a couple of beer kits (still managed to destroy a batch of a beer kit, don't know how!) but was not really happy with the outcome and not really feeling like a brewer. So, I decided to do all-grain and google brought me to the BIAB world. Since I'm going small and brewing in my kitchen, I think this is the perfect method.

Some details about my setup:
- Brewing in my Kitchen
- 10L pot from Ikea to get started
- 30L plastic fermentation bucket
- Plan to bottle in 0.5L bottles

After reading about it for a couple of months and also procrastinating quite a bit, I just decided to jump head first on it and made a semi-random purchase of malt, hops and yeast. I did 2 batches yesterday:
1) 6.5L Ale with admiral hops.
-wort tasted good and sweet;
-taste before fermentation was a bit more hoppy than I expected, I thought it was too bitter. Will have to see how it goes.
-Gravity was 1.054
Already bubbling like a champ! :champ:
2) 5.5L Lager with cascade hops
-Wort tasted good and sweet;
-taste before fermentation was quite nice, not so bitter as the ale.
-Gravity was 1.052
This is not bubbling yet, might be because of temperature. :think:

I checked a couple of recipes and saw some youtube videos. I'm just trying to say I didn't follow any particular recipe but was more interested in the technique itself. I had a couple of drawbacks, but my point is to learn from this experience so that my next try will turn out great. :peace:

You might think this was a bit of an impulsive approach and it doesn't sound like I was prepared. I can't agree more. That's exactly why I wanted to do this "test drive" brews, in order to test the limits of my setup, limits of my patience and see if I could pull this through. I wouldn't want to spend even more money in more equipment or expensive ingredients just to conclude I couldn't do it or, even worst, I wouldn't enjoy it. :peace:

In fact, I already learnt a few lessons: :champ:
- Had some challenges using BIABacus. Already figured out I was putting 1050 in gravity, instead of 1.050, which was giving me negative numbers for quantities. Lesson learnt!
- I realized my thermometer was broken right after I started, so ended up using a meat thermometer. Not sure how accurate those things are.
- I think my mill was crushing my grains too thin, until I eventually got it right.
- For next time, I might buy a refractometer, because I don't feel like my gravity readings were very accurate, especially with warm wort.
- Used the same brew bag for the mash and for hops. Not sure that was a good idea because the bag turned green. For next time I might buy small hop bags.
- Also realized in the middle of brewday that my oxiclean was expired.
- Had a small boilover, not very spectacular.

To learn a few more lessons, I have a couple of questions which you might be able to help with:
- Regarding the grains crushing, I read in some articles that it's not a good idea to crush them too much (or too thin), but also saw some posts of people claiming it increases the efficiency. Is there any consensus around this question?
- I did some sparge, hoping to increase efficiency, especially because I'm brewing small quantities. Would you advise against this?
- Is it a good idea to use a 30L fermentation bucket for a ~5L batch?
- Oxiclean expired - does it really lose effect? I guess I'll see in 10 days when I open my fermentation bucket
- When it comes to bottling, shall I add some sugar for priming? Since I'm not following any particular recipe, I'm not really sure about this step.

Thanks in advance, hope to have some constructive comments. :thumbs:
Cheers :drink:

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Post by ShorePoints » 1 year ago

Here's one try at answers to your questions:
- Regarding the grains crushing, I read in some articles that it's not a good idea to crush them too much (or too thin), but also saw some posts of people claiming it increases the efficiency. Is there any consensus around this question?
A regular crush, opening the husks and breaking kernels, is all you need. You do not want flour in the 90 minute mash. No double-crushing unless the first crush was too coarse and left many whole kernels intact. With a proper mesh bag your efficiencies will be good, if not great. Notice in those statements what else you have to do with the grains - put them in the right bag and mash for 90 minutes - that’s the consensus here.

- I did some sparge, hoping to increase efficiency, especially because I'm brewing small quantities. Would you advise against this?
The use of a sparge (BIABacus Section W) is up to you. Check the excellent post by Scott (http://biabrewer.info/viewtopic.php?f=5 ... 864#p56864) for great links to Volume Variations and for Dilutions and for what you really seek, “How much beer can I get from my kettle?” It becomes a balancing act for added effort relative to any added yield in bottles of beer packaged.

- Is it a good idea to use a 30L fermentation bucket for a ~5L batch?
There may be some discussion around this topic, but I see no harm in it. You will be aerating the wort at the time of pitching yeast so a large headspace of air is not a problem. After the yeast gets going, it generates CO2 which heavier than the air inside the fermenter, displacing the air upward and out through the bubbler.

- Oxiclean expired - does it really lose effect? I guess I'll see in 10 days when I open my fermentation bucket
As long as your old Oxyclean (just sodium percarbonate + sodium carbonate, not the perfumed detergent version, I hope!) was kept in its closed container, dry and unheated, it will probably be less potent but still good enough to sanitize your otherwise visually clean fermenter.

- When it comes to bottling, shall I add some sugar for priming? Since I'm not following any particular recipe, I'm not really sure about this step.
Yes, you will need some priming sugar (http://biabrewer.info/viewtopic.php?f=5 ... 290#p53290) once fermentation has leveled off to no more change in Specific Gravity - about 2 weeks after pitching date. Take a look at the BIABacus Section Q for a priming calculator. You will have to enter some approximations a few times. There are more calculators at various brewing web pages. Use no less than that shown by the BIABacus but do not use the highest number given by other sites. Carbonation via bottle conditioning takes at least two weeks - but longer is better even though waiting is difficult.

Keep reading stuff here and incorporate what you can into future brew days. You are doing fine thus far, and paying attention, too! :salute:
Last edited by ShorePoints on 21 Nov 2016, 23:25, edited 1 time in total.


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Post by bullshift » 1 year ago

Thanks ShorePoints, very nice and useful information!
Still going through those posts!

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Post by thughes » 1 year ago

Regarding the Oxiclean:

Oxiclean is a cleaner, NOT a sanitizer. In order to avoid infection we must both clean AND sanitize. Use the Oxi or PBW for cleaning and Starsan, Idophor, or iodine for sanitizing. You can use bleach for sanitizing but you must rinse REALLY well. Keep doing your research.

---Todd
WWBBD?

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Post by Lumpy5oh » 1 year ago

Don't waste your money on refractometers. Get yourself a good (or two) thermometers. Refractometers are too inaccurate to be useful.
I would suggest having a plan before brewing. Even with your current set up. If you don't have a plan and know what to expect you really can't get a feel for brewing. Start a new thread in the new brewers section and we can get you pointed in the right direction for your next brew.
Some people are like slinkies. Not good for much, but bring a smile to your face when pushed down the stairs.

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Post by ShorePoints » 1 year ago

Regarding the Oxiclean:
Depending on how much Oxiclean bullshift used, there was hydrogen peroxide (HOOH) present in his solution. It acts as what we call a non-chlorine bleach. It is a sanitizer due to the HOOH. Its effectiveness is dependent on concentration while the pH of the solution affects the rate of decomposition to water and oxygen (slower under the conditions created in bullshift's case). A low concentration (~1% HOOH) can still be effective for our purposes even though HOOH is not approved as a stand-alone treatment for microbial control in water systems.

I use a final sodium percarbonate treatment and rinse immediately prior to brew steps all the time, no problems.
Last edited by ShorePoints on 22 Nov 2016, 05:47, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Lumpy5oh » 1 year ago

We can discuss the effectiveness of oxiclean in the advanced brewer section. For now we need to get bullshift headed in the right direction with best practices advice.
A cleaner and sanitizer is ideal and really not all that expensive or time consuming to help ensure the best possible environment for our beer.
Some people are like slinkies. Not good for much, but bring a smile to your face when pushed down the stairs.

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Post by bullshift » 1 year ago

Hi gents,

Just want to thank your inputs so far.
I'll definitely have a look into the sanitizer I have and make sure I get the proper products for my next batch. Certainly it's not worth the risk to spend a few hours brewing and 2 weeks waiting just to find out I've been growing bacteria!

On the other news, the Lager is already bubbling away, even though a bit more shy than the Ale.

Cheers


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Re: 1st all-grain and 1st biab - stove top setup - newbie advice

Post by bullshift » 11 months ago

Just popped in real quickly to give a small update about my brew. I just finished bottling both batches. Was supposed to have done it last week, but unfortunately I was busy.

Anyway, I am quite surprised with the results so far. It looks like beer, smells like beer and even tastes like beer, so I suppose I got myself some beer  :thumbs:
No signs of any infection, so looks like my sanitizer was still good.

Since I didn't pay much attention to the recipe, I was not expecting much. Maybe because of those low expectations, the taste has surprised me. I might actually end up drinking the whole thing. Fingers crossed.
Now, I need to wait a couple of weeks before trying it out.

In the meantime, if this post is read by a newbie like me, I want to share an advice:
-It's a good idea to start small and do a couple of consecutive batches straight away. Even though I was a bit tired after day one, I actually improved my method from the first to the second batch. Same applies to bottling: I did such a mess on the first batch that I think my house will smell like beer for a week. On the second one, things went so smooth that I hardly dropped any liquid.
So, the message is: if I had waited a long time before brewing again, I would probably do the same mistakes twice. So, buying a couple of extra fermenter bins is not a bad idea. 

-i'll probably brew another batch tomorrow
Cheers

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Re: 1st all-grain and 1st biab - stove top setup - newbie advice

Post by ShorePoints » 11 months ago

Thanks, bullshift, for reporting the outcome and for giving some useful advice for noobs, too.  :salute:
Enjoy the beer you made.
I like your line, "I'll probably brew another batch tomorrow."

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