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How do you use up ingredients?

I have been brewing all grain a lot more lately and have just been buying specialty grains for specific recipes. I am starting to get a lot of random ingredients and can’t make certain recipes because I either don’t have or don’t have enough of the grain, hop, etc… So my question is, what is a good way to utilize/substitute ingredients without just making a “kitchen sink” beer. I have thrown stuff together before and had good results, but I don’t want to make something I don’t want to drink. I know this problem will get better with experience, but just wanted to see if there are any tips I could apply now.

You don’t have to always have a specific style in mind to approach a recipe. But is is good to keep in mind how various ingredients are used and in what quantities. Chances are using up all your bits and pieces at once could create a lot of chaos. Sometimes chaos can be good. Many time not so much.

Something I have actually seen a few times are brewers posting a list of all their ingredients they want to use up and getting suggestions from others on how they might use up as many as possible.

As long as you keep crystal under 20% (10% even safer) and keep specialty grains under 10% you aren’t likely to make a beer you won’t want to drink. I routinely make up recipes and will use up small amounts of stuff left over in them. A few ounces of some different crystal or something like biscuit won’t affect flavor much. 10% of a different base malt won’t completely change a beer either. Heck you might even like it more. So I’d say, relax and use those extra bits to customize your recipe. I try and change up my favorite styles all the time just for variety.

That said, I do keep quite an array of specialty grains and base malts on hand, and when I get low I order more. This way I have what I need whenever the urge strikes to brew.

[quote=“tom sawyer”]As long as you keep crystal under 20% (10% even safer) and keep specialty grains under 10% you aren’t likely to make a beer you won’t want to drink. I routinely make up recipes and will use up small amounts of stuff left over in them. A few ounces of some different crystal or something like biscuit won’t affect flavor much. 10% of a different base malt won’t completely change a beer either. Heck you might even like it more. So I’d say, relax and use those extra bits to customize your recipe. I try and change up my favorite styles all the time just for variety.

That said, I do keep quite an array of specialty grains and base malts on hand, and when I get low I order more. This way I have what I need whenever the urge strikes to brew.[/quote]
I’m confused…isn’t crystal a specialty grain? If so, are you saying specialty grain should mostly be under 20%?

I use a spreadsheet for each brew and the spreadsheet keeps track of all my ingredients both in inventory as well as what I am brewing. At home, I keep pretzel containers filled with adjunct grains and then keep a boatload of base malt and hops so I can make most anything on a whim.

[quote=“MullerBrau”]I use a spreadsheet for each brew and the spreadsheet keeps track of all my ingredients both in inventory as well as what I am brewing. At home, I keep pretzel containers filled with adjunct grains and then keep a boatload of base malt and hops so I can make most anything on a whim.[/quote]What do you keep for base grains normally? I just started buying bags and have 2 row and pilsner malt. It seems every recipe I read has another base malt I need to have. Where do I stop! LOL

I keep Canadian 2-Row and Pale. I usually buy 6 bags at a time. Base malt goes into plastic buckets and the larger Utz pretzel containers.

Last time I bought grain, I got one bag of Marris Otter for all my brittish styles / one bag of German Pilsner for my lagers / one bag of Canadian 2-Row as a cheep substitute for whichever ran out first.

Also got an 11kg bag of flaked barley for about 5 or 6 years worth of stout!

I substitute at least 2 or 3 ingredients on almost every batch. Otherwise I’ll have 30 different kinds of old specialty malts sitting in my basement for 10 years instead of just 3 or 4 years.

I am very lenient with my substitutions and the beer still always turns out just fine. Obviously you wouldn’t want to exchange biscuit malt for American 2-row, or roasted barley for Special B, or anything outrageous like that, but you can safely trade the Crystal 60 for Carared or Caramunich, or Amarillo or Centennial for Cascade hops, etc. Yeast can also be very flexible. I had always wanted to try a Kolsch yeast in an APA, and I had some reasonably fresh yeast on hand that I had harvested from earlier this year, so for my latest batch, I did exactly that. Tastes great.

You don’t have to follow every ingredient exactly on every batch. Just use something reasonably close, and you’re usually just fine.

I usually have some extra packets of Safale-05/Nottingham yeast and hops laying around. I just grab a bottle of apple cider out of the pantry when the wife/kids ain’t looking, and make hoppy ciders.

[quote=“chad041”][quote=“tom sawyer”]As long as you keep crystal under 20% (10% even safer) and keep specialty grains under 10% you aren’t likely to make a beer you won’t want to drink. I routinely make up recipes and will use up small amounts of stuff left over in them. A few ounces of some different crystal or something like biscuit won’t affect flavor much. 10% of a different base malt won’t completely change a beer either. Heck you might even like it more. So I’d say, relax and use those extra bits to customize your recipe. I try and change up my favorite styles all the time just for variety.

That said, I do keep quite an array of specialty grains and base malts on hand, and when I get low I order more. This way I have what I need whenever the urge strikes to brew.[/quote]
I’m confused…isn’t crystal a specialty grain? If so, are you saying specialty grain should mostly be under 20%?[/quote]
Yeah crystal is a specialty grain but I break crystal out in its own category since it does different stuff than the ones that are just specially kilned malts like Victory, Biscuit, etc. The black malts have a usage rate all their own as well. So it pays to have a sense of what is typical when you throw together a recipe. Not that you can’t go out on a limb and use 30% crystal or 25% Biscuit, I just figure theres no recipe that hasn’t been tried and the conventions are there for a reason. Same goes for beer styles, you can invent your own but chances are theres a balance issue that kept it from becoming a true style.

Good luck, having too many malts is never a bad thing.

Table beers are a great way to dispose of your orphaned grain and hops. First of all, you don’t need much of an ingredient when brewing at low gravities to have a tangible effect, so even the most negligible amounts will show up in the finished beer. As a corollary, that low threshold will allow you to learn a lot about your ingredients and how they work together. Beyond that, you’re always trying to get your low gravity beers to fight above their weight class, so a little extra nuance is seldom a bad thing. And that’s the best thing about low gravity beers, you can goof around in ways that you’d be shy to contemplate when fifteen bucks worth of hops are on the line–well, that, and you can have a couple pints on a work night.

The hobby seems to be getting ever more uptight and formalized. It’s okay to toss a couple ounces of Special B into your house stout or brew a pale ale with German hops. It isn’t wrong, it’s interesting and informative. It’s a great way to learn about the pallet of ingredients at your disposal.

Cutting to the chase, those odds and ends aren’t things that need to be disposed of in one fell swoop. Rather, use those orphans individually to spice up known recipes, they’re great learning tools.

Grain will keep forever if you keep it dry, so I don’t worry about inventory accumulating. It all gets used up eventually, and as I track it all in ProMash I always know what I have available when planning a brew. That said, I don’t sweat it if I’m an ounce short of something, and I will sometimes modify amounts to use up something if it was going to be a ridiculously small amount to put back away.
Hops are a different matter, and I have occasionally tossed hops that got too old. I try to avoid that by using hops I want to get rid of for bittering additions, but you need to be careful with that sometimes as well.

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