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What was the 1 (or 2 or 3) things

So I’ve been brewing for about 1.5 years and have approximately 25 batches under my belt. I moved to doing smaller batch BIABs about one year ago, and love it. I feel like I have good sanitation practices, good handle on temperature control during fermentation, and am disciplined enough to leave my batches alone (i.e. Patience) during fermentation. The one thing I haven’t explored yet is yeast starters. Overall, I’m happy with my beers…but could the use of yeast starters dramatically improve them?

What one thing (or 2 or 3) took your beers to the ‘next level’?

Fox

  1. oxygenation
  2. big yeast starters
  3. water chemistry
  1. (not knowing your setup, but reflecting on my experience) Real temperature control, which for me meant a dorm fridge with a Johnson controller on it. Being able to ferment in the low 60s (beer temp, not ambient) was huge. I live in NC, and started brewing while in grad school in NJ; both places where humidity makes swamp coolers less effective and ambient temps are often pretty warm. That fridge made a huge, huge difference, and lets me do things like start cool and let it free rise to a certain temperature, then crash cool. Got it for free, too, which is nice.

  2. Water. Got a water report, realized that my paler beers sucked because my well water was crazy hard, learned to get my water profile where I needed it. Since then I’ve moved, and am on city water now, which is pretty soft and much easier to work with, but still, learning about water chemistry made a huge difference in my beers. My IPAs are crowd-pleasers.

  3. This one is subjective, but learning to love simple recipes. The temptation to use 3 base malts and 10 specialty malts was high when I started, but a complex flavor profile is more in the process than in the recipe. So my IPAs are now 11# 2-row an 1#Crystal (20 or 40), with whatever hops I feel like using. My ESB is 80% Maris Otter, 10% English Crystal, and 10% sugar. Dark beers are different, but I strive for simplicity there, too. For me, shifting my attention more toward the process rather than toward elaborate recipes helped me brew better.

  4. I love English beers. The only malts that should be in English beers are English malts. English Crystal was a revelation.

[quote=“apf87c”]I moved to doing smaller batch BIABs about one year ago…The one thing I haven’t explored yet is yeast starters. Overall, I’m happy with my beers…but could the use of yeast starters dramatically improve them? [/quote]You don’t say how small your batches are but if they’re only 2 or 3 gallons a starter probably isn’t necessary.

Something I think has really helped my brewing is pressurized fermentation. I’m using a Brewhemoth conical for this but you can do up to 3-4gal in a corny keg. Brew under some pressure, ramp it up towards the end for natural carbonation, then transfer to another keg using a pressure transfer and your be never sees air until it hits the glass.

Yes. Typically do 2-3 gallons.

Here’s what helped my beers the most, in this order:

  1. All-grain
  2. Bigger yeast starters
  3. All glass fermenters

Take all of that, mix together, and add 10+ years experience, and you’ll get some pretty dang awesome beers.

  1. All grain / full volume boils / outdoor propane burner (all happened at once)
  2. Reusing yeast / making starters
  3. Kegging

All of these helped me free up time in my brew day either by simply saving time or by making the process more simple. I feel some home brewers can tend to over complicate the process. I have a friend, who makes very good beer I’ll add, who’s brew day can run upwards of 8-10hrs. With work and family, I’m lucky if I can free up a few hours every 2-3 weeks to brew. I have my brewday down to about 4-5hrs max. All of the above made that possible.

My next step is to go against exactly what I just said… I want to get into water chemistry. I know the biggest hurdle is just getting an understanding and that’s the only reason I haven’t done it yet. I plan on getting a water report after the new year and then jump in… complicating my process :lol:

  1. All-grain / full boils
  2. Building Brewing Water (Bru’n Water)
  3. Kegging

These 3 things have made my beer much fresher, cleaner, and more satisfying. Enjoy the journey!

[quote=“dmtaylo2”]Here’s what helped my beers the most, in this order:

  1. All-grain
  2. Bigger yeast starters
  3. All glass fermenters

Take all of that, mix together, and add 10+ years experience, and you’ll get some pretty dang awesome beers.[/quote]

What about glass has helped your beers? Less chance of having a persistently contaminated brew vessel (i.e. Scratched plastic)?

Also, many of you indicated bigger yeast starters. Necessary for 2-3 gallon batches? My beers usually are in the 1.045-1.065 range.

I had an awful lot of contaminated batches due to buckets and finally gave up on them after replacing them many times. It just isn’t worth the risk anymore, and you might find that any mysterious off-flavors are caused by nothing more than a bad bucket. Eliminate this possibility from the equation by switching to glass, or stainless.

You don’t need huge starters for small batches. Just ensure your starter size is proportioned appropriately based on your batch size. You can safely use half a pack of dry yeast in a small batch for example.

A mistake on any brewing step can seriously degrade the quality of the finished product, and additional effort on any step can improve it. I guess you figured that out and you’re looking for the points in the serial (or it could be “cereal” process) that give the most improvement for the least effort. The more I thought about the question the harder it became to answer.

All of the suggestions given previously sound right and I don’t have the expertise to disagree with any of them. Instead, I’d like to start a summary of the steps so you and others can analyze your system to find the points where you can concentrate your efforts most effectively - for you. There are several threads on this forum and discussions in brewing texts discussing each step in the process, so once you’ve identified the steps you can research ways to improve each of them and focus on that step - or not. My first shot at summarizing the steps is:

Recipe formulation: grain/extract and hop selection
Grind: fine enough to maximize yield without a stuck mash/sparge.
Water analysis and modification
Mashing methods and mash temp control
Sparging methods and temps
Boiling methods and duration
Hopping schedules
Sanitation
Finished wort filtering and clearing
Sanitation
Wort chilling
Sanitation
Yeast preparation and pitching
Sanitation
Fermentation temperature(s), duration, and secondary (or not)
Sanitation
Racking off yeast
Sanitation
Carbonation and Packaging
Sanitation
Conditioning and aging
Serving temperature
Relax, Don’t Worry! Have A Home Brew!

I almost forgot Sanitation! Then I inserted it at the points where it must be considered.

What additional steps need to be considered?

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