Below is a post from one year ago today. It is sometimes fun to see how you thought a year ago and can be quite scary to see that some things aren't that different today. The original post is in black, and new comments are in red.I'm still on that hunt today, and feel I know quite a bit more as a result of a year of learning and practice.
I’ve learned a lot in this past month alone. I was like a lot of people, who have no clue about brewing beer…and now at least I feel like I know something. There is a lot more to learn, which is also part of the thrill of the hunt. There is still a lot to learn... and probably always will be.
So, what did I learn? Let’s see…
1. The Homebrew store isn’t the Home Depot retail environment I expected. Bottom line, know what you want and order it. The online ordering is actually great! Order and pay online, pick up in the store the next day. …and the big bag of white stuff that comes with the kit is corn sugar. Until the Sanford Brewshop opened, with friendly people who are happy to talk beer and brewing with me.
2. Over analyzing may not be the best approach, but the planning and preparation pays off. True.
3. a. There is a difference between cleaning and sanitizing. b. Our dishwasher has a sanitize feature…works great for the bottles. Cool, huh. The dishwasher is a great tool for bottles and bottling.
4. When the wort boils over (and it will foam very high at the beginning of the boil) it makes one hell of a smelly mess on the stove top…and a pain to clean off later. Yep, and there are ways to avoid this.
5. Siphoning scares me and I’m still not sure I understand how to get it to work. So, I limit the process to one siphon only (at the end from carboy to bucket for bottling). With practice you get better, and I don't mind it much anymore.
6. Don’t lower the hydrometer case into the carboy with a pair of tongs. It will fall in and get lost in the carboy. Instead, get a turkey baster. It works well and is easy.
7. Use the racking cane to transfer the brew from the carboy to the hydrometer tube by inserting and holding your thumb over the hole at the top end…like the game you used to play at McDonald’s as a kid. Not a good idea. It takes too long. Two words: Turkey Baster.
8. A. There is a website called Hopville. B. It is a great resource for building your recipe, as well as checking similar recipes. It will give estimate ABV, IBU, beginning and ending gravities. I still use Hopville, but since they "upgraded" their calculator, it has been buggy and I don't trust it to save my changes. It has become frustrating to me.
9. Waiting and patience are required. Bottle and wait two/three weeks…ugh. Time goes quickly though. Try lagers if you really want to test patience.
10. Bottling requires a team effort. I fill 6 bottles. 13yo caps them while I steady the bottle. 13yo rinses the overspill off the bottles and lets set to dry when I fill the next 6. I have a hard time recruiting him anymore. I've managed myself.
11. Don’t throw in 1/3 cup of honey and an extra 1/4 cup of corn sugar, just to add to the fermentable sugars on your first batch. While it may still turn out nice, it is stressful waiting and not knowing. Experimentation is cool, but it is important to know what you are doing and why you are doing it.
Much more to learn… Cheers! Yep, still learning.