Logical next steps for a new homebrewer

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Manbeerpig90, Dec 16, 2021.

  1. Manbeerpig90

    Manbeerpig90 Initiate (5) Nov 17, 2021

    Hey guys!

    So, I'm a newbie homebrewer at the point where I've brewed my first couple of 5 gallon extract kits, and I've fallen in love with the hobby/trade. I'm pretty early in the game, but I know I want to improve my brew as quickly as possible. My issue is that there are soooo many options that at this point my "shopping cart" is quickly overflowing with stuff. Obviously, I don't want to blow my life savings, but I don want to start investing in the hobby. So, what would you suggest is the next step? So far my research has me debating these options:

    Option 1: Temp Control system and oxygen "wand" to improve the quality of my current extract brews. Not that fun, but probably the correct option. My house is always 70-75 degrees in Texas, and I'm sure when summer start's this will be even more important :slight_frown:

    Option 2: Buy a 10G kettle and a Anvil burner to start doing the BIAB system or all grain.

    Option 3: Buy a keg system so I can start force carbonating and obviously build a kegerator.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
  2. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,437) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Of those three options I would 'vote' for option 1 since fermentation temperature control is very important.

    I will send you a PM for further reading.

    MrOH, PapaGoose03 and Applecrew135 like this.
  3. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Crusader (769) Aug 25, 2009 Oregon

    I'm going to agree with @JackHorzempa and say temp control is your BEST move. Yeast health and temperature control are the most important tools a brewer has when it comes to making outstanding beer. Off flavors, stalled fermentations, clarity, head retention, all hinge on yeast health and temperature control. I would recommend you get a used fridge large enough to fit your fermenter inside of with a couple feet top clearance, an Inkbird Dual Temp Controller, and a device for heating your fermenter directly*. Your next step is to look into best practices for yeast health**.

    * I used to have a heated blanket with an analog switch. This is important because the switch is always on. The Inkbird cuts the power and turns it back on to maintain the temps. If you have one of the digital, or even push button ones it resets to off when the Inkbird cuts the power, and it won't turn itself back on when the power is back. You can also use a heating bulb or a terrarium heating pad. Just don't put the heat under the fermenter, it needs to hit the side (you want to heat the beer not the yeast cake).

    ** You can use a glass growler or glass gallon apple juice / Carlos Rossi wine jug, sanitize well, make 1-2L starter wort (10g DME : 100ml water + yeast nutrient + defoamer). Chill the wort, add wort and yeast to the jug, put sanitized foil over the top. Shake it up every time you walk past it (while holding the foil tight on the top). ** you can also build a stir plate and step up to Erlenmeyer flasks. ** you can also skip all of this extra work - after you chill your wort for your beer run off 1 gallon into your 5 gallon fermenter, pitch your yeast, put a full rubber stopper (no hole) in the top, shake the daylights out of it for like 10 minutes, then run the other 4 gallons of wort into it and let it rip in your fermentation fridge.
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  4. MrOH

    MrOH Poo-Bah (1,923) Jul 5, 2010 Malta

    I would purchase the options in the order you listed them.

    #1 should definitely be first. Even in the mid-Atlantic I only have temperatures in the low-60s in my basement 4-5 months out of the year. Unless you only want to use kveik and certain saison strains, you need temperature control in Texas
    Merlyn and PapaGoose03 like this.
  5. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,478) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    Welcome to the BA site, the Homebrewing forum and to this great hobby. I love the sound of your enthusiasm in your post.

    It sounds like you have decided that your beers need to be improved, but you don't say what causes your assessment. If you are fermenting at the house temps that you mention, then your conditions are not ideal and you may be getting off-flavors as a result, which some form of a temp control system will help. And I agree that should be your first step when moving forward.

    But sometimes off-flavors can be cleaned up by allowing extra time after fermentation is complete so that the yeast can clean up after themselves before packaging. Or maybe you're using extract 'kits' which can be a source of beers that are not top notch because the kit may include old ingredients, or the recipe was created to make just a basic beer style and is not going to be a 'Pliny' regardless of your procedures, equipment, etc.

    My point is, don't overlook other factors that may be at work here too. Little things count when brewing beer and can be less costly to fix.

    John Palmer's book How To Brew has a good section on analyzing your beer if you experience off-flavors. Here's a link to the section of his free online edition (1st edition) that might help you pinpoint any specific issues if you are detecting off flavors. http://howtobrew.com/book/section-4/is-my-beer-ruined/probably-not Actually, as a new homebrewer, if you have not read this book in its entirety, it's highly recommended to help you along the way in your new hobby. The latest edition is the 4th, and is available for purchase online and in good bookstores. It's typically only around $15.
  6. jokelahoma

    jokelahoma Zealot (553) May 9, 2004 Missouri

    I’m going with the others. While kegging takes the tediousness of bottling out of the equation, and it’s fun to eventually branch out, take more control of your recipes, and start doing grain, BIAB, etc., you can make some very, very good beers with extract. Perhaps the biggest factor in that is temperature control. When you keep your beer at proper and stable temp as it ferments, you avoid a lot of the off flavors and higher alcohols that can spoil what would otherwise have been an excellent brew. Start there, get that set, and it’s one less thing to worry about when you start using grains.
    PapaGoose03 likes this.
  7. Beer_Life

    Beer_Life Initiate (24) Dec 5, 2020 New York

    I agree with what others have said, but I'll note that it should be feasible and quite cheap to start doing mini-mashes and then pretty quickly progress to BIAB. Maybe your current kettle isn't big enough to do 5 gallon BIAB batches but you should be able to make smaller all-grain batches.

    By the way there are some very good BIAB bag vendors, don't just buy whatever your local homebrew store is selling. You can get one that is custom-fit to your kettle for not that much money. I'm not going to name any vendors because I've only tried one and I ended up not using it much, but others may have recommendations.
  8. wasatchback

    wasatchback Devotee (410) Jan 12, 2014 Tajikistan

    Don’t bother with the oxygen wand. If you use dry yeast you don’t need to oxygenate the wort. Stick with dry yeast for the near future.

    Spend that money on something else.
    utahbeerdude, GormBrewhouse and MrOH like this.