General Brewing Tips and Info
There are always other bits of info that do not fit into a specific section, such as converting all grain to extract or extract to grain. I will be building this section as things hit me and I hope to be able to add many interesting tidbits here to this section.
Here is a basic list of things TGMBA does that help make great beer. These are tips picked up over the years from pros and other homebrewers, or have figured out on my own
1) Use a secondary. This is necessary as it gets beer off of dead yeast, some of which sticks to the sides of the fermenter. Often, when brewing a higher gravity beer, fermenation could take weeks to complete, providing the formation of off flavors by sitting on yeast too long. This is especially needed if sitting at warmer temperatures. I have also found that yeast often remains suspended longer when left in the primary, and transferring to the secondary usually allows more of these floaties to settle out more quickly. I know people fret about contamination, but keeping the equipment clean I have never found to be an issue. In fact, nearly every contamination issue that I have encountered has been traced back to having an old bottling bucket and solved with aquiring a new one.
2) TGMBA highly recommends using glass carboys for fermentation. There are many advantages to this, which include ease of cleaning and the fact that nothing will permanently grow on glass. Filling a carboy with a very strong chlorine solution will remove leftover gunk and may be left until needed. Rinse thoroughly with hot water using a bottle washer, and chlorine is gone. The other advantage is that glass is clear and allows for the viewing of fermentation. When beer ferments, the yeast will swirl and move about the beer. When the beer is done, the bubbling of the air lock ends, and the yeast movement also ends, which is rather helpful when determining bottling time.
3) Bottling is a time consuming process, yet it is also worth the time and trouble. I like to use for my own consumption, bottles that are 16 or 16.9 oz in size. Larger the better, as the yeast component becomes reduced. 12 oz sizes are fine as samplers and give-aways, or rather high alcohol brews, but to really get a proper feel for a beer, a mostly yeast-free pint with a nice head out of a 16.9 oz bottle really hits the spot and provides a drinker with a great feel for what the beer is. Stepping up to 22 oz or greater will save time, but is also dependant on drinking habbits, and 1 liter bottles can really cut down time. The advantage of bottle conditioning (and using DME) is that smoother bubbles with a nice creamy head are more easily achieved when done correctly (1 1/4 cup per 5 gallons on average). With ales, and I am talking the average ESB, Pale Ale, Stout, Porter, IPA, etc, learn how quickly your beer carbonates by popping a sampler along the way (day 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc). For those who like real (cask) ale, drinking while the beer is carbonating is exactly what real ale is. A nice English ale may hit a personal sweet spot in 4 days, while fully carbonating in 8 (not to say that it won't taste good at 8 or longer). The lower carbonation and the complexities of the yeast fermenation can be quite tasty!