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Does anyone brew their own beer?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by JDC1, Aug 18, 2011.

  1. pyper

    pyper New Member

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    I've done it, but you need a big starter.

    Regarding the aging -- if you look at brewery operations you'll see that no one ages beer, aside from barlyewine. It doesn't matter if it's AB, a microbrewery, or a brewpub. Once it's done, it's done. Like most homebrewers, I've had beers that improved with age. Sometimes dramatically. That's just not the goal. Kind of like burning wet wood. ;-)

    I made a cider press at our old house from scrap wood and a piece of laminate countertop. The press was a 20 ton jack and I used plastic cutting boards for the pressing layers. It worked really well for the cost.

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  2. SmokeyTheBear

    SmokeyTheBear Minister of Fire

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    You were lucky as some preservatives kill yeast with very low concentrations of the preservative being present.

    Brewery operations are in and out round and about operation there are a large number of beers that actually require aging.

    About the cider press I'm just about smack dab in the middle of 4 orchards with operating presses. I've seen dozens of plans for a press and am thinking of building a small one, I plan on using a hydraulic jack to do the pressing chores.
  3. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    SolarandWood - thanks, and yes - pressing in the kitchen sounds ... messy. I was thinking the back patio or garage if raining. On the patio would be best, perhaps with a small fire going in the outdoor fire pit. That way one could enjoy the fire while pressing (this is after all a forum for folks who like to burn wood!)

    Smokey - there is not much unique in the actual press design in the plans/book from Whizbang - the key differences between what Mr. Kimball uses and other home-based systems is his use of a garbage disposal instead of a grinder (makes a much finer pulp to press and he has demonstrated much higher yields) and his use of hard plastic plates in between layers of the pulp. It's a neat setup and I recommend his plans - the book is well laid out, diagrams are excellent, and overall it's easy to understand how to build one. I think that the plans detail the use of a bottle jack as well as scissor jack. I'm close to a couple of orchards as well and would like to try pressing my own. I also have access to free pears and might try a pear cider.
  4. SmokeyTheBear

    SmokeyTheBear Minister of Fire

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    I'm also in the middle of growing my own apple and pear trees. I am getting a few apples and pears, but I can wait for the trees we planted on the lot to do some more growing, so you want to do a Perry. I've though about that as well. Man am I going to gain weight.

    I saw a plan for making a grinder, we already have a grinder I have put a pile of things through while canning, it makes short work of apples and such. But a garbage disposal is interesting, I'll have to think on that.
  5. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    Smokey - a neighbor of mine has a couple of full-size pear trees and told me to pick as much as I wanted. I picked about 150lbs of pears and a co-worker took home about 100lbs of pears. He used a juicer on the pears and I sampled some of the resulting pear cider - a bit disappointing, not nearly as sweet as apple cider. Would still be interesting to ferment though ...

    What variety of trees do you have? We were thinking of planting some this spring - would like to plant varieties that my kids really like - Honeycrisp, PinkLady, Fuji. Plus a couple pear, peach, and cherry trees.

    In the cider press plans, he uses a (new) garbage disposal hooked up to a heavier-duty industrial motor - it makes a really fine pulp.

    Homebrewing is dangerous though - so many recipes and they all look tasty.
  6. pyper

    pyper New Member

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    If you can name any I'd be interested to read up on that. It's been a number of years since I've studied brewery operations, but I definitely can't remember any style of beer that requires aging as part of the brewing process except for barleywine.


    It's basically just a table.

    I used a garbage disposal as a grinder the first season. It functioned, but the thermal fuse kept tripping. I was definitely going to build a different grinder, but then the next season the crop failed and then we moved.

    About the store cider -- if it has an sulfites in it then it should be on the label. I wouldn't try them. Many of the store ciders have ascorbic acid in them, which will inhibit yeast, but only in small quantities. These are the type I've fermented successfully, many times.
  7. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    pyper - the plans I referenced a few posts back call for the use of a garbage disposal but the guy upgrades to a industrial motor for the very reason you referenced
  8. SmokeyTheBear

    SmokeyTheBear Minister of Fire

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    I have an Asian pear tree and a Bosch, the apples are Liberty and Fuji, I also have an Alberta Peach tree and need to plant another one.

    The grinder we have is a very old one that has a selection of plates etc ... It can juice a lot of things if you mismatch things in the plate and wheel department. We use it for a lot of canning and meat grinding.

    I can also get access to a grinder at an orchard that no longer makes cider.
  9. SmokeyTheBear

    SmokeyTheBear Minister of Fire

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    pyper,

    For starters a true porter requires an aged beer as an ingredient.

    A hard cider really isn't good until it is aged, likewise meads, cycsers, perrys, and mellomells.

    Most stuff done at a brewery goes from ingredients to bottle in about 4 days and then gets shipped to the stores. Usually with a marked shelf life of 6 months.

    Look up lagering sometime it is a fairly long process compared to the current brewery practice. Now the craft breweries are an entirely different kettle of fermentables.

    It actually takes time for all of the flavors in a beer to meld together. This is especially true of any spiced beers.

    I don't have enough time to try every thing I'd like to nor could my waist line take it.
  10. JDC1

    JDC1 Feeling the Heat

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    Perfect example of how aging effects a beer;

    I brewed a christmas ale in October, bottled early November and cracked the first one the week before Christmas. It was undrinkable as the recipe had too much ginger in it. Had another one last night and it is a good beer as the ginger has toned down and is not as pronounced.

    The bigger the beer the better it tastes with some age. I have an imperial red that was brewed fathers day of this year and it is one of my family's favorites that I have done to date. I like my IPAs and Wits fresh. I also prefer to eat my venison chili after it has been in the fridge a few days as the flavor seems to be better.
  11. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    smokey - did you go with semi-dwarf trees? That's what we're looking at.

    Last night my wife and I were watching a show on youtube called "River Cottage" - I think it's a BBC show, but people have uploaded the episodes in 15 minute clips onto youtube (as an aside, we have watched many excellent shows not available in this country via youtube including "Tales from the Green Valley", "Victorian Farm", and "Edwardian Farm" - all shows about people living as if there were on farms in various times throughout English/Welsh history - EXCELLENT SHOWS). Anyway, this particular episode was River Cottage Winter and they showed a small commerical operation making and bottling perry!!! I thought it was really neat to see given the recent perry discussion here. I encourage folks here to check it out.
  12. pyper

    pyper New Member

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    That seems to be the case -- thanks. The book I have at hand, Ray Daniels Designing Great Beers goes into the history of Porter with some detail, including a description of a very large aging tank back in the 18th c. It's not clear from his book how common it is for Porter to be aged today, but he does suggest experimenting with a particular bacteria.


    Sure, but they're not beer ;-) I have some cider in a carboy, and some sanitized bottles, and I want to bottle my cider, but I don't seem to have any lids. Dang.

    I've made lager beer a few times. I guess whether that counts as aging is a matter of perspective. To me, the lagering is part of the fermentation process.
  13. SmokeyTheBear

    SmokeyTheBear Minister of Fire

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    Actually the others are fruit beers and such.

    Likewise even the distilled hard stuff is made from a beer even though it is sometimes called a wine.

    Germany doesn't rule the world.
  14. SmokeyTheBear

    SmokeyTheBear Minister of Fire

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    I haven't asked some folks about today's commercial porters, but at one time I believe they used the stuff past its normal shelf life.

    I do not plan on touching my hard cider for testing until March. What was left of the batch after I filled all of my available bottles at the time was decent but there was no question it would get better.

    Maybe next season I'll do a couple of batches. I would love to do an apple jack but that is illegal so it is off the table.
  15. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    Smokey - how long does it normally take your cider to settle and clear once in secondary? Do you find it varies from year to year?
  16. SmokeyTheBear

    SmokeyTheBear Minister of Fire

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    Yes they are semi-dwarf. I wouldn't have enough room to put them where I want them and have a decent garden otherwise.

    I've planned for 2 or 3 of each kind of fruit tree. The plan is for cherries, peaches, pears, and apples.
  17. SmokeyTheBear

    SmokeyTheBear Minister of Fire

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    I just started doing hard cider this year, but most fruit based beverages will vary because of differences in the particular crop. Couple that with the best ciders contain a mixture of apple varieties and it gets interesting.
  18. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    Smokey - thanks. I'm only one season ahead of you. I did a 5 gallon batch last year that seemed to settle a bit faster than the 3 gallon batch I have going currently. Both are technically meads due to added honey - I used the same recipe in both. Once this batch is finished I'm going to try a second 3 gallon batch without any added fermentables to see how it comes out.

    Good luck with your first batch!
  19. Black Jaque Janaviac

    Black Jaque Janaviac Feeling the Heat

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    I guess it shouldn't surprise me that there's a lot of homebrewers on Hearth. Once you've secured your self-sufficient heat source the very next thing to work on would be self-sufficient drink.

    I'm not big into brewing every recipe I come across, rather I like a simple recipe and maybe make a few changes to it here and there. Self-sufficiency and economics seems to be what has me interested. My first batch was w/ DME thereafter I've been brewing all-grain. And now I've got some hops bines planted...
  20. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    When it comes to ecomomics, I can't say brewing beer seems any cheaper than buying beer. I've fixed my mind on a setup and figure to have $200 invested by the time I'm done. I know I could do it cheaper, but all those days in the chem labs makes me not want to mess with doing it a little at a time. I know what I need so I'm just going to tell my local purveor to provide. I've been trolling craigslist for weeks and can't even find a decent brew pot for less than he will sell one. I tried the Mr. Beer kit although it was cute I won't do it again. Too small and the spout on the barrel was almost useless. Most beers I like are in the $8-$10 per six-pack range, so $200 for my first 2 cases and then $50-$60 afterwards (kits I'm leaning towards, haven't investigated raw individual ingredients. Baby steps to get some confidence) doesn't really seem like I'd be saving money brewing my own beer.

    @ $9 for a rack of beer 2 cases is going to run me $72
    $55 for a box full of ingredients that will get me 2 cases of beer leaves me making $.35 per beer when I drink my own.
    So if I continue with the kits I will have to drink 571 beers to get my money back.

    Gee, when I put it that way I feel like I've got a worthwile goal. Part of me says "All I have to do is drink beer to get paid? I'm gonna be rich!" but can anyone say they're actually saving money by brewing their own beer? I suppose I could up my intake to change my cost structure..........
  21. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    FWIW, $200 is on the very low end in my area for a nice brew setup. I'm saving my nickles to someday get a Boilermaker brewpot. That pot alone (10 gallon) almost doubles your budget.

    http://www.austinhomebrew.com/product_info.php?cPath=178_33_463&products_id=11290

    And if you want the best of the best you need this too:

    http://www.austinhomebrew.com/product_info.php?cPath=178_53_146&products_id=1128

    And then you need to build your kegerator and start kegging because bottling is the pits for most homebrewers that brew regularly.
  22. homebrewz

    homebrewz Minister of Fire

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    I save money by brewing my own. I buy my grain wholesale from a distributor, and sometimes I get my hops from them too. I either buy the rest at the homebrew shop or I grow them. I use liquid yeast, but I get about 3 batches from each vial by pitching the dregs from the last batch into the new batch. So, for a 5 gallon batch of a basic beer like a pale ale, I'm brewing it for around $0.50/pint or about $10/case (including the propane used to run the burner).

    Granted, that's not including the equipment. I do need to occasionally buy things like hoses, fittings, o-rings for kegs, CO2, etc. I scrounged a lot of my pots and kettles. I have a couple of converted half-kegs which were cut and welded for a few bucks and some bottles of homebrew. Its harder to find scrap kegs now with the price of scrap metal, but they're still out there.
  23. Agent

    Agent Member

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    Somewhere you have to balance cost effectiveness vs. cost of a hobby.
    It can be really cheap if you have simple tastes too.
    Here's my cost breakdown for a basic wheat beer:
    10lbs Malt - $12.50
    2 oz hops - $2 (I buy by the pound)
    Yeast - $0.50 - I wash, reuse and divide to get about 4-8 batches per yeast pack.
    Electricity - <$2 - I have a poor-mans brewpot - Turkey Fryer with two water heater elements I stuck in there.
    Caps - $1.50
    Water - $5.00 (Tap water makes my beers excessively bitter)
    Total cost of $23.50 - And it tastes 10x better than the flavored water called beer by most.
  24. SmokeyTheBear

    SmokeyTheBear Minister of Fire

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    You can get into the game with about $108 including your first batch of beer if you are not sure that this is for you. True this will not be from raw ingredients or even mash and full boil brewing but it will get your feet wet.

    The only thing I don't like about brewing is all of the bottle handling and I don't use glass bottles.

    As Agent says it is far better than the skunk piddle in a bottle.

    About a lot of brew shops watch out for the mark up. It is almost as though they buy retail and then apply their mark up.
  25. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Good to hear that it gets cheaper as you get away from the kits. I was told yesterday by an experienced home brewer (20yr old kit who's been brewing since he was 15!) that he can brew a 5 gallon batch for between $19-$22. I'm going to go for a 10 gallon pot that will multi-task for lobster and maybe turkey frying. Is that realistic? I figure $150 for a lifetime multi-use unit is worth it. Heavy gauge stainless 3-ply stainless. Seems like everything under $300 has welded vs riveted handles. Don't think I want a temp gauge but wouldn't mind the additional tapping.

    Am I better off buying a pot with a spigot already installed or drill my own? False bottom? Wort strainer looks like a good idea. I've got a budget of $200 for a brew pot that will double as a big pot. Yeah, that's how I will rationalize it. Yeah.

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