Biggest influence on beer quality

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SilverShadow

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Hello once again, brew crew 😁

I have the following question around beer quality, and I'd love to hear feedback from you hop heroes 😉

As still a relative noob to 'small batch biab all grain brewing' I think it's fair to say my initial attempts so far have been a mixed bag. From delightfully quaffable 🍺 to downright queezy 🤢

Each time I brew, I make slight alterations to my steps - from temps, duration, through to doing things in a slightly different order/manner. This is all part of the learning process, although sometimes it's difficult to determine the telling factor why it turns out 🤓

You guys have decades on experience, so wanted to ask what (you think) are the biggest factors affecting your beer quality - from taste, colour, feel, clarity, any other aspects

Which (if any) of the following do you consider the most influential in your beer making:

A) Ingredients- where you buy from
Water - tap/mineral
B) Mashing - temps, water:grain ratios
C) Boiling - duration, water volume, hop introduction
D) Fermentation - duration, temp fluctuations , using a 2ndary fermentor
E) Conditioning - duration, temp fluctuations,, cold crashing, etc
F) Others

If you're feeling really adventurous, then please do add your reasoning why, and any specific tips for that area you may have.

Realise that 'in principle', all the above aspects are vital to the perfect pintage. But just whichever one(s) you have found to be the biggest influence on your brew

Many thanks in advance
 

Brewnaldo

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Im inclined to think fermentation temperature, if I had to pick out of all of those above, purely because a couple of time I have got that wrong, it has really ****** up the beer.

I dont think iv ever had anything I would class as badly brewed that I didnt put down to fermentation temp, except maybe one with wildly miscalculated bitterness....
 
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As still a relative noob to 'small batch biab all grain brewing'

Do you boil at full volume? I use a similar method to you but boil a smaller volume then top up in the FV, after a few years I had a light-bulb moment that reduced-volume boil extracts less IBUs from the hops, so you need more at the start of the boil to compensate (calculators are available). This vastly improved my beers.

And as others have said, temp control of the fermentation. And attention to mash temperature - I'm still amazed the difference a few degrees can make.
 
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I would say that water treatment, mash temperature, timing of hop additions, fermentation temperature, yeast choice and kegging are the things that are most important to me in making my best and repeatable beers. Of course none of that is important if you don't have good post boil sanitary practices...
 

Sadfield

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F) Knowing what good quality beer is. Being critical and cross referencing.

Also F) Good sanitary practice.

Another F'in F) Being patient. Leave the yeast do it's thing.
 

foxy

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It all comes down to really understanding each part of the brewing process, not just knowing what to do, but why you are doing it.
 

SilverShadow

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Thanks guys 😁

In response to the above.

Yes boil at full volume, precarious as it may be in the kettle 😉

I mash at around 68'c in the kettle, with a blanket around around, for 60 or 70 mins, stirring halfway and ending at 64ish 'c

After boiling, i usually pitch the yeast at around 22-24'c

Fermentation is usually 2+ weeks, with the FV kept in a cardboard box, with a reptile heat mat, which measures at 20-21'c in the box (so I'd guess maybe slightly lower in the FV), and aside from opening once to throw in a few hops halfway, remains sealed until ready to go into the conditioning keg

I try and be fairly cleanly with my approach, but maybe I should star San everything that goes near the liquor after boiling.

At the moment I'm not close enough to call the beer a close replica of the brew I'm intending. Though I'll still neck it, all the same 😉
 
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Thanks guys 😁

In response to the above.

Yes boil at full volume, precarious as it may be in the kettle 😉

I mash at around 68'c in the kettle, with a blanket around around, for 60 or 70 mins, stirring halfway and ending at 64ish 'c

After boiling, i usually pitch the yeast at around 22-24'c

Fermentation is usually 2+ weeks, with the FV kept in a cardboard box, with a reptile heat mat, which measures at 20-21'c in the box (so I'd guess maybe slightly lower in the FV), and aside from opening once to throw in a few hops halfway, remains sealed until ready to go into the conditioning keg

I try and be fairly cleanly with my approach, but maybe I should star San everything that goes near the liquor after boiling.

At the moment I'm not close enough to call the beer a close replica of the brew I'm intending. Though I'll still neck it, all the same 😉
Yes, you should.
 
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I agree with all of the above but would add that water has really been a game changer for me. The tap water here in south Lincolnshire is pretty hard and after a couple of brews I switched over to Tesco Ashbeck bottle water and my beer improved greatly ! After about 10 or so brews I took the advice of many on this forum and switched to RO water and then add salts to try to suit the style I don’t always get it right but when I do it makes for a better beer
 

allotment_fox

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Firstly what a Great post subject.
for me buying an inkbird thermal control to control fermentation has made a Big difference to my finished beers, together with preventing oxygen ingress during my bottling and kegging stages has a massive difference.

I try not to remove the fermenter lid during fermentation & now always leave my brews as long as possible normally two weeks in the fermenter before cold crashing.
No doubt although I haven't been in a position to do it under pressure fermentation would make further improvements.
 

SilverShadow

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Cheers Fox 😉

Presumably you don't dry hop if you leave the lid on? I did think about purging the FV with C02, but I'd need to drill hole(s) in the plastic lid to accommodate it. Usually gets briefly exposed at some point, when dry hopping

I was going to try and dry hop early, so the C02 produced would eject the 02, though I've heard hopping too early also taints the brew
 
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SilverShadow

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For those mentioning ingredients, I've started out purchasing my crushed malt from Maltmaster, as they seem a good price while experimenting. Not sure if anyone has good/bad experience of them?

Storage wise, they're just kept sealed in the dark, at room temps for up to 2 months, till I'm ready to use
 

foxy

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Fermentation is usually 2+ weeks, with the FV kept in a cardboard box, with a reptile heat mat, which measures at 20-21'c in the box (so I'd guess maybe slightly lower in the FV), and aside from opening once to throw in a few hops halfway, remains sealed until ready to go into the conditioning keg
'Assume nothing question everything'. The thermal energy produced by yeast will raise the temperature of the wort higher than the ambient environment it is in, not lower. If the temperature probe is stuck onto the side of the fermenter and insulated you can guess the temperature at the core of the ferment will be 1-2 C higher if it is just placed inside a fermenting fridge without contact then it could be as high as 8 C above ambient in the fermenter.
 

allotment_fox

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Cheers Fox 😉

Presumably you don't dry hop if you leave the lid on? I did think about purging the FV with C02, but I'd need to drill hole(s) in the plastic lid to accommodate it. Usually gets briefly exposed at some point, when dry hopping

I was going to try and dry hop early, so the C02 produced would eject the 02, though I've heard hopping too early also taints the brew
I do dry hop the O2 issues always on my mind sometimes I pressure transfer whilst dry hopping I saw Buffers Brewery vid what a great idea and clever bloke
 

Bandy

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My brews have improved greatly since I started treating the water. I got a water report from the Southern Water (I live in Southampton and our water is hard) and used Brewers friend to work out the additions, it has really helped.

Fermentation temperature is also key. I only brew in winter as it is easier to control. A longer, cooler fermentation is preferable to hitting over 24° as this causes off flavours in my experience.

Slightly more controversial, I have stopped dry hopping. I make sure I leave that Fermentation lid firmly shut throughout, to prevent any oxygen getting in. I was finding that the difference that dry hopping made was minimal, so instead I add extra hops in the whirlpool at the end of the boil. Obviously, the amount depends on the style but i have just had better results this way.

As everyone knows, cleanliness and sanitation have to be ultra important too 😉
 
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My 2p's worth.

The biggest thing you can do is good cleaning on the hot side and good sanitisation cold side. Prevention of any off flavours is crucial.

Biggest other quality improvements for me have been 1) controlling fermentation temperature. 2) kegging

Good ingredients should be a given. You wouldn't cook with off food so don't make beer with stale grains or off hops. I always taste my grains and smell hops before brewing to check they are fine.

Mash temps I vary depending on what I am making but I always mash for 90 minutes. I am sure I could mash for 60 but the 90 fits my brew routine better.

Boil is fixed at 60 mins - I found no difference to 90 mins. Hop additions vary according to recipe.

Water - I used to use bottled water but switched to tap (Southern) and haven't noticed an appreciable difference. I have always adjusted chemistry for style and throw in a campden though.

I ferment until it's reached FG (3 consecutive daily hydrometer readings the same). Then, if a recipe calls for it I will dry hop. 4 days later I cold crash for 48 hours and then keg.

Take your time and take good care of your process; understand why you are doing things and you will make good beer.
 

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