Road to great beer

On a different thread someone mentioned something like water is only 5 percent of making great beer. What are your opinions on the top things to get a good grasp on to make great beer?

After sanitation…yeast pitching rate and fermentation temperature control.

To torture the metaphor further, I’d say there are prerequisites for making beer (i.e. if you don’t do these, you will fail miserably). Sanitation fits there, as does the ability to follow directions.

To improve basic beer, in order from the most benefit to the least:

  1. Yeast management- understanding pitch rates, making starters, oxygenation, etc
  2. Temp control
  3. Water chemistry (I’d say maybe 5-10%… but a pretty important 5-10%)
  4. Serving (serving temperature, carbonation levels, glassware, etc)

It depends. If you’re an all grain brewer, your water is super hard and you don’t directly measure pH and adjust accordingly, you will run into trouble with anything other than the darkest of stouts. (And my water is so hard I wouldn’t even be able to make a decent stout!) Also, if your water is treated with chloramine and you brew without using Campden, you could do everything else correctly and still end up with truly horrible beer. That said, if you brew with distilled or RO water then the role of water, while still important, is at least equalized with everything else you do (proper yeast pitching rate, fermentation temperature control, the quality and freshness of your ingredients, sanitation practices and controlled and understood processes.)

Yeast management and temp control are probably top for me at least. Water chemistry is important but more so when you start looking at specific styles. With bad yeast management and out of whack temperatures your beer will be pretty nasty. I know my first one was…

There are a bunch of things that you can do wrong to make bad beer. But if your beer is good and you want it to be great, the most important thing to focus on is fermentation management. That means temperature control and pitching the right amount of healthy yeast.

I’m in the same boat as Ken, having very hard water and trying to do all grain lead to a lot of head scratching until I figured out water chemistry. Lots of people are lucky and have tap water that gets them close enough, I’m not one of those people. Like Ken, I have to acidify the mash for even the darkest of stouts to get pH to work out. I had pitch rate, temp control and lots of other factors down but water kept my beers from being very good.

Still proper yeast pitching rates and temp control of fermentation is a big deal to get under control.

I,m lucky enough not to have to much trouble when it comes to water…I sometime have to tweek it, but not to badly…As it,s been written ,I believe in Charlie Papaziens book sanitation is 80 to 85 % of home brewing… There is then yeast pitch rate temp control etc…Brewing good beer is an exercise in small details… All of them leading to great beer. So fret some of the small stuff but remember to relax, don’t worry and have a home brew. To quote Charlie…Tank :cheers:

After sanitation…yeast pitching rate and fermentation temperature control.[/quote]


Agree with the sanitation and ferm control.

I am also a winemaker, and there is a saying “you can’t make good wine out of bad grapes, but you can make bad wine out of good ones”. Translate that over to brewing, and I can tell you that a major factor in making “good” beer is your ability to not screw it up. With knowledge comes responsibility, brew it right and it will reward you!

Water is the all important part to me, once you get it harnessed and can manipulate it, then its on to the next step. Its all equally important, and I feel a life time experiment to find what will make YOU the best you can be at brewing. Sanitize, and sanitize, coddle the yeast, not to warm, not cold, then to aging some and not others. My, the list is long. Then once you get the system moving in your favor, then you can get to the science of it, again, one piece at a time. Indepth or good enough, Yes Charlie P. has the best idea, relax have a home brew!!! sneezles61

Patience and love. If you love what you are doing and have patience in doing it you will be successful. You can have the best water and all the right practices, but if you are not loving what you are doing, the person with the same conditions, and patience and love will make better beer. It’s all about love. Truth, patience, love, and honesty are the keys to doing anything well.

Make the best beer possible with the least effort possible while having the most fun possible

Best answer ever. Denny’s got it figured out. This is my mission on every brew.