Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Imperial Cider - Two Ways

Well the fall, and with it cider season, is here once again. Last fall in addition to my annual batch of standard cider I did a batch of ice concentrated cider. Part of the ice cider was blended with a strong cider made by fellow homebrewer Steve Gale, which got its boost from the addition of a thick caramel syrup made by boiling down cider.

I've got a pretty bad flu at the moment (not sure if it is porcine or not), but I did this tasting over the weekend while it was just starting with a stuffy nose. As a results I may have missed some of the complexity. That said I though both ciders tasted excellent and I would highly recommend either method over adding sugar to your cider which adds alcohol, but does not enhance the apple flavor.

Collaboration Hard Cider

Appearance – Big initial head formation, but it drops to almost nothing in just a few seconds. The cider is a nice burnt orange, much richer than any other cider I have seen. It displays some legs in my snifter as well, a sign of both the high alcohol and sweetness.

Smell – Big caramelly apple nose with notes of ethanol. Much fruitier than a standard cider, which tend to be light on the apple character. Pretty clean overall (not much yeast character) or other aromas.

Taste – Very nice balance between sweet and tart. I can certainly taste some of those cooked notes from the apple syrup, it is similar to the sugary syrup that you end up with in an apple pie (minus any spices). A bit on the sweet side, but it isn't cloying. Still tastes very fresh, no oxidation (either positive or negative).

Mouthfeel – The carbonation does a lot to prevent this from being too sticky sweet. The body is much bigger than a standard cider, in beer terms this would certainly be an English barleywine (but it is more sugary than that).

Drinkability & Notes – A dangerous cider to be sure, the sweetness helps to tame the alcohol, and the carbonation tames the sweetness. I think these two blended together very well, thanks to Steve for coming up with the idea to match these two.

Ice Cider -Apple Champagne

Appearance – Almost no head formation despite streaming carbonation. This one is perfectly clear and a beautiful golden yellow (not much darker than a standard cider). Slight legs visible running down the side of the snifter on this one as well.

Smell – Moderate fresh apple aroma with some fresh bready/yeasty notes. There is also a slight sulfury character that may be from sitting on the yeast a bit too long. Not particularly complex (although that could just be the cold I am starting to develop).

Taste – Great balance, with just a touch of sweetness neither bone dry nor syrupy sweet. The apple flavor is not really that pronounced, more of a light fruitiness than a specific apple flavor. It isn't too far off of champagne, but it has a nice apple peel character in the finish that reminds you what you are drinking. Not much alcohol to speak of, but there is a nice warmth in the finish.

Mouthfeel – Pretty thin, but not as light as I would have expected for ~93% AA. Solid carbonation, a bit spritzy but not fizzy.

Drinkability & Notes
– A pretty solid effort, not exactly what I was aiming for, but a well balanced strong cider. I'll certainly be giving something similar a try this year, not sure if I will aim for a higher gravity or not.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Barrel Aged Single - Beatification Clone

With the DC Barrel Crew's Flanders Red almost ready to bottle after a year of aging in a red wine barrel the debate began over what the next beer into the barrel should be. There were plenty of suggestions, but most people wanted a sessionable sour beer. My mind instantly went to the best beer I have ever tried, Russian River's Beatification PH1 (aka their Belgian Single, Redemption, aged for 23 months in barrels New Belgium had used to sour La Folie before investing in larger oak tanks). That single bottle of Beatification I drank nearly three years ago was sour, but balanced; funky, but fruity; dry, but not thin; and just amazingly complex.

As a side note, after Batch 001/PH1 (001 was just aged in a different barrel) Beatification became a very different beer. It is now a spontaneously fermented American Lambic (Sonambic) aged in old oak wine barrels that have already had most of their flavor extracted by multiple batches of other more wood/wine forward Russian River sours. It is still a great beer, but neither batch 002 nor 003 were at the same level of complexity and balance that the original attained.

A few months back I saw a post on HomeBrewTalk that reported the recipe for Redemption straight from Vinnie, and having a now used Flanders Red barrel I knew what the plan should be (luckily I was able to talk the rest of the guys to go along with it). We tweaked the recipe slightly, dropping the late boil addition of Sterling hops since there won't be any hop aroma left after the time in the barrel. We also went with a hotter mash temp than I would have for a crisp dry beer like Redemption because the microbes in the barrel will appreciate a bit of extra fermentables.

It was also my first time using my new drill to run my Barley Crusher (no more sore forearms on brew days for me). It was easy to connect, just unscrew the manual handle and tighten the drill onto the shaft.

For my portion of the batch I switched the bittering hop from Styrian Goldings to US Fuggles, which are the same hop variety just grown in a different country. I also used some extra wheat malt because I was a short on pils. Finally I used White Lab's 500 instead of 530 because that is what I had on hand for another single I was planning on brewing. None of these substitutions should have much of an impact on a beer once it is soured.

The brew day for the beer went smoothly, and fermentation took off quickly. Now that fermentation has finished up I am giving it some cold conditioning until October 24th when we will be bottling the Flanders Red and then filling the barrel back up with this beer. It is on the
right, next to a batch of extract single (left), which only looks a half shade darker (more on that one later).

If you don't have enough friends willing/capable to brew 60 gallons of beer, or you don't have a used wine barrel with microbes in tow then you could try brewing the beer and tossing in an ounce or two of French oak cubes soaked in red wine, add them along with the dregs from a few of your favorite sour beers to the secondary.

Barrel Aged Single

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.50
Anticipated OG: 1.052
Anticipated SRM: 3.7
Anticipated IBU: 24.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 63 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

9.00 lbs. German Pilsener
1.75 lbs. Wheat Malt
0.38 lbs. Sauer(acid) Malt
0.38 lbs. Vienna Malt

1.50 oz. Fuggle (Pellet 4.30% AA) @ 60 min.

1.00 Whirlfloc @10 Min.
0.25 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @10 Min.

White Labs WLP500 Trappist Ale Yeast

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC (carbon filtered)

Mash Schedule
100 min @ 154

Brewed 9/13/09 By myself

3 qrt starter (wheat DME) made ~48 hours in advance.

Mash ran a bit longer than scheduled because the burner lost its flame while heating the sparge water, due to the wind. Moved into the garage (door open of course) and the problem was solved.

Collected 7.25 gallons of runnings with a fly sparge.

American Fuggles used from my SoFB winnings, AA% adjusted down from 4.8% as they are about a year old.

Hit gravity/volume well. Chilled to 78, then placed in the chest freezer overnight to drop the rest of the way.
Pitched half of the starter in the morning at around 64 degrees. Some fermentation evident after ~12 hours. Rocking fermentation 24 hours after pitching. It threatened to blow-off, but never did.

9/19/09 Boosted the temperature up to 68 to make sure fermentation finishes out.

9/24/09 Dropped the temperature down to 35 to help clean the beer up. 

10/02/09 Racked to secondary. Topped off with some of my extract single to ensure that I had a full 5 gallons of beer to contribute. Left at room temp until barrel day.

10/24/09 Racked into the second use red wine barrel that had held Flanders Red for 12 months.  Did not clean out the barrel, but pumped out most of the trub before adding the beer.  

1/15/09 First sample after 3.5 months in the barrel, starting to develop a light Bretty funk, basically no sourness.  Nathan's basement is ~50 so we probably won't get much bacterial action until the warmer months hit.   

8/7/11 Bottled with 5.9 oz of corn sugar per 5 gallons and rehydrated wine yeast. Assuming ~.4 volumes of residual carbonation we should get about 2.6 volumes of carbonation.  Racked 1 gallon of my share onto about 2 lbs of white nectarines.

10/19/11 The result of the long wait is rich in oak, acidity, and complexity. Not saying it is exactly the same, but it certainly shares many common traits with the original (of course that is based on a single bottle five years ago).

11/5/11 Bottled the resulting 3/4 gallon of the portion that had been on nectarines with ~1 g of rehydrated Premier Cuvee and .5 oz of table sugar.


Based on Beatification Batch 001/PH1

Commercial Description:
Blonde Ale aged in New Belgium La Folie barrels for 23 months. Batch 001 is softer on the palate than Batch 001 - PH1. The PH1 batch was aged in one of New Belgium's favorite barrels. Refermented in the bottle.

Notes from Vinnie on Redemption:
91 percent 2 row
3 percent acidulaed
3 percent wheat malt
3 prcent vienna malt

Bittered with Styrian Golding
Finished with Stering 

OG 1.052

TG 1.012

Friday, September 25, 2009

Book Review: The Everything Homebrewing Book

The Everything Homebrewing Book: All you need to brew the best beer at home! by Drew Beechum is one of the most recent homebrewing books to be published (2009), so it seemed like a good idea to pick up a copy to read and review. It is from a series of books along the same lines as "For Dummies" (books by different authors with common formatting/graphics) which might make you suspicious, but it was written by one of the most active/vocal members of the homebrewing community. This is his first book, but Drew writes a monthly homebrewing column for BeerAdvocate magazine.

: As the title implies this book tries to cover just about every aspect of the expansive topic of homebrewing. Trying to cover the plethora of topics related to brewing beer at home from the simplest extract recipes through high gravity beers, equipment, process, history, etc... is a tall order for any book, particularly when there are already so many great books that specialize in a single area.

The book starts out like many, with a few chapters of basic information about beer, extract brewing, hops, water, yeast, and malt. The author does a solid job giving an overview of all the major options and ingredients available these days. He also does a good job covering some basic questions that many books skip over (like how much will it cost).

The book then goes into equipment and technique. I wish the author had been a bit more opinionated about the daunting variety of options available to the modern American homebrewer. I read a book to hear what the author suggests rather than just a list of all the possibilities. For example I would have been interested to hear about which of the gear and product Drew actually uses and why, and how he put his system together (in addition to why he didn't go with the other options).

In some places Everything tends to be a bit too anecdotal for me. For example the section on autolysis says "Conventional wisdom set a week's deadline, but award winning brewers leave beer in primary for a month with no ill effects when using healthy yeast." If you want to talk autolysis I think you need to get into different styles, yeasts, temperatures, and techniques etc... Just saying some good brewers don't worry about it doesn't give enough information to make an educated decision about your own particular situation. Similar logic is used for keg priming as well as several other "controversial" topics.

The book goes into great depth in a couple areas that are not always covered well by other books. The kegging section is especially useful with lots of tips on cleaning and carbonating. In general though I felt like several of the sections didn't bring anything new to the table (probably because, lets face it, there is much that hasn't been said about something like malt extract).

My biggest complaint about the content is the complete lack of pictures, drawings, graphs, or beer related graphics of any sort (although there are plenty of dopey little drawings to alert the reader to boxes that contain information that is either "Essential" or a "Fact"). I like the written word as much as anyone, but for a new brewer in particular the pictures and drawings can be the difference between understanding a point and missing it completely. The book I am reading now, Randy Mosher's Tasting Beer, puts this one to shame with beautiful design/pictures/graphs on nearly every page (even the paper feels much higher quality). I realize the lack of flair was probably part of the deal with the publishing company to keep printing costs down, but it is still a shame.

: The book is packed with recipes of all sorts (more than 100 all told). Some of the recipes are internet classics like Denny Conn's Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter, Jamil's Evil Twin, fellow Maltose Falcons member Jonny Lieberman's Blackwine IV, and many of Drew's own recipes from his website. The rest, either from the author or a variety of other homebrewers, run the gamut from simple style based beers through beers that push into areas that are too crazy even for me to attempt (like the Maltose Falcons' Methode Champenoise series of beers). However as you can see a good chunk of these recipes are available for free online, where in many cases they contain additional information/pictures not found in the book.

Most of the recipes are all-grain with an extract substitution listed. It is unclear which beers are turned into partial-mash recipes by the extract and which become extract with steeping grain. In general it seems to leave some basemalt in for a partial-mash, but this could lead to confusion in my opinion. It would also be nice to have the efficiency listed for the recipes since it seems to vary dramatically.

I like the general layout of the recipes with the details all laid out for easy perusal. Most of them contain little asides and tips for the particular idiosyncrasies of the recipe, and overall they appear to be solidly designed and tested. I will register my standard complaint that the book doesn't do enough to describe the specific flavors of the recipes, not even giving a short description of what generally to expect (this is really a shame considering that most of the recipes have half an empty page below them).

: For the most part Everything was very well edited compared to many of the other brewing books out there. There are a few minor issues, things like wrong AA% listed for hops (5.25% AA Warriors in the Steve French recipe), which could throw someone off, but isn't a big deal. My biggest complaints has nothing to do with what is in the book and everything to do with what is not. Often the book gives a brief overview/mention of something without getting into enough detail to let someone get into it without doing additional research somewhere else.

Readability: Drew's writing may not have the same literary pop (inspirational power?) that some other homebrew books have, but it does crams a lot of concise info into its pages. I liked the way that some of the recipes were sprinkled in with each section to provide an example of the concepts being covered, with the rest tacked on at the end organized chapters by origin (Recipes from Belgium, Experiments: Recipes from the Laboratory etc...).

The use of abbreviations and symbols bothered me a little bit. For example the hops are labeled in the form "10.6 percent AA" and the malts all have "pounds" after them instead of lbs. It is a little thing, but it bothers me.

There are also some minor organizational issues. For example the last recipe in the book is for a Russian River Temptation clone which is alone in a section titled "Bacteria: The Friendly Germs", but several pages earlier there is a section on Belgian Sour Ales which does not say much about the microbes. It just seems like if you only have three recipes with non-sacch microbes you might as well lump them all together. In a similar way the sections can seem a bit out of order, I feel like the chapter on sanitation should come before the first extract brew chapter for example.

Overall: The Everything Homebrewing Book is a pretty solid first effort from one of the staples of the online homebrewing community. With its wide scope this might be the homebrewing book you would get if you had to pick just one, but if you own (or plan to own) more than a couple it becomes much less essential. While it does cover several topics very well, for the most part it just gives you a taste of topics that are covered in greater detail in other books. I don't think the introductory parts are comprehensive enough to recommend it over How to Brew for a beginner, but it might be a worthwhile addition to your brewing library if you are the sort of person who wants a hard copy of some bits from the ephemeral homebrewing internet.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Homegrown Hop Harvest 2009

My parents came down from Massachusetts to stay with me for a few days in DC. Along with a six-pack of my Wheat Triplebock (I had accidentally left the entire batch at their house without reserving any for my short term use) they brought along the yield from my 4th year Cascade hop plant (despite growing taller than it did last year the Willamette did not produce any cones again this year).

My parents put the wet hops on screens (no microwave drying this year) for a few days to dry and I used my FoodSaver to vaccupack them for storage in the freezer. It is always a bit disappointing to see that huge fluffy mass reduced to such a compact form, but the space savings and reduced oxygen exposure makes it well worth it (I also vaccupack extra specialty grains for long-term storage).

Not sure exactly what I will do with the hops, but it should be enough for an aroma addition to a batch of American pale ale or something. The plants simply don't get as much light as they probably should, so I think this is about as much as they will ever produce. Now that I have a backyard with plenty of light in DC I might dig up the rhizomes, divide them, and replant them down here in the spring.

Anyone else harvest their hops yet? Any great hop harvest tips?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Kegerator

I have long proclaimed myself a bottle guy, but it turns out the lure of the keg was too strong for me. So now that I have the room I decided to start kegging some of my beers. I am planning on just doing session beers and hoppy beers for the time being (since they need to be consumed the quickest). I like sour beer too much to have that sort of access to them (18 months in the fermenter... 18 days in the keg), and I still want to be able to squirrel big beers away for more sporadic tastings.

One of the things I am not is handy, but with a couple trips to Home Depot I was able to put together a new collar for my chest freezer (which I had been using for fermentation temp control). Nothing too fancy, just a sliced up 2x10, some L brackets, screws, and a can of black spray paint. Being a bit inexperienced with wood working (and not having all the right tools) it turned out a bit rough (the boards don't quite fit together like they should), so I won't go into the details of construction, but I am sure there are plenty of great sites out there on build a kegerator.

I got the actual guts of the kegging system from Keggle Brewing, their prices were pretty reasonable, but the big draw for me was that they assemble all of the gas/liquid lines for you (so I haven't had much of an opportunity to screw anything up... yet).

I went with a dual body regulator so I'll be able to serve my beers at two different carbonation levels at the same time. I also upgraded to Perlick forward seal faucets, since I may not be opening both taps every day I don't want them drying out and sticking.

I got my CO2 filled up at Bars By Bud Mepham (the only place in the greater DC area that seems to fill CO2 tanks on Saturdays). It will be another week or two before I am pouring beer (my hefeweizen is cold conditioning now), but I am really getting excited.

Anyone have any great kegging tips to share?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Extract Hefeweizen Recipe

After brewing pretty much nothing but all-grain beers for the last four years (with a few one gallon experimental extract and partial mash batches sprinkled in), I thought it was time for a full on extract batch. When I first started brewing in college I made two extract with steeping grains recipes before making the leap to all-grain. The first (a brown ale) was pretty tasty, and the second (a vanilla cream ale) was pretty blah. They followed the "classic" homebrew method (partial boil, low pitching rate, poor temp control, lackluster sanitation etc...) so I wanted to see how all the improvements to my general beer making technique/equipment might improve the results of an extract batch.

Another reason for brewing with malt extract was to test out my new 210k BTU Banjo Cooker. I wanted to see how it ran without having to worry about mashing/sparging. This was also my first batch at my new house, so I wanted to make sure all the connections worked for my chiller, and everything ran smoothly. This will also be my first kegged batch, so I wanted something that would be ready quickly to test it out.

There are a whole range of brewers out there, so if reading tips on extract brewing doesn't really interest you feel free to go back in the archives and read something a bit more Mad (like my Cuvee Tomme clone which I will be rebrewing later this fall), for the rest of you here are my thoughts on brewing with extract.

Dealing with water is very different for extract beers is very different than all-grain because when extract is condensed all of the minerals that were in the water used to make it get condensed along with the sugars/proteins. As a result when you add tap/spring water the beer is getting a double dose of minerals. This isn't a big deal, but it is something to think about if your water is hard already or if you are doing any water adjustments. For this batch I used distilled water from the supermarket to reconstitute the extract, this avoids getting the second dose of minerals. I gave the beer a healthy dose of yeast nutrient which is especially important for extract beers because they can be low in things yeast need like free amino nitrogen (due to the storage and processing of the extract).

A full boil is important because it reduces the formation of Maillard reaction byproducts (which darken the beer and add flavor). A full boil also improves hop utilization, not too important when brewing a 12 IBU hefeweizen, but critical for any beer that you want to have a good bitterness. iso-alpha acids saturate wort at around 100 IBUs, so if you have 2 gallons of wort at the end of the boil, even if it is saturated with bitterness after you dilute it to 5 gallons at most it will only have 40 IBUs.

The fermentation and yeast handling is just as important in extract beers as it is in all-grain. I made a starter with my vial of yeast and didn't pitch it until the temperature of the wort got down to my target fermentation temp of 60 degrees. Pitching warm (as many beginning brewers do) is a bad idea because fermentation will create heat, pushing the temperature even higher which creates excess esters and fusel alcohol.

I really enjoyed the batch of hefeweizen I brewed last fall and I had heard that wheat extract (which is a blend of wheat and barley) does a pretty good job without any steeping grains. Amazingly the 2009 Best of Show at the Spirit of Free Beer (my local homebrew club's annual contest) was an extract hefe brewed with an old kit, so it seemed worth a try (with a fresh kit).

The recipe for this one was pretty similar to the one I brewed last year. I kept the low starting gravity (1.042) and IBUs (12). The yeast strain I used this time was WLP300 instead of the Wyeast 3068 I used last year, but they are supposed to be from the same source. This grain bill is more wheat heavy due to the fact that the extract is 65/35 and I had gone 50/50 on the all-grain batch.

The beer pretty much fermented out at an ambient temp of 58 degrees. I then bumped up the temperature to 64 to ensure that the yeast finish their job, then I will drop the temperature near freezing for about 10 days to help get some of the yeast out of suspension. Finally I'll rack it over to a keg, skipping secondary. Not sure if I will do forced or natural carbonation, but either way I will be aiming for ~3 volumes of CO2.

Next up I will be brewing an extract Belgian Single as a warm up for the next beer going into our red wine barrel in a month or so.

Extract Weizen

Recipe Specifics (Extract)
Batch Size (Gal): 5.60
Total Extract (Lbs): 5.25
Anticipated OG: 1.042
Anticipated SRM: 5.9
Anticipated IBU: 11.4
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

5.25 lbs. Briess DME- Weizen

2.00 oz. Spalter Spalt (Pellet 1.65% AA) First Wort

0.40 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @15 Min.
0.50 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 15 Min.

White Labs WLP300 Hefeweizen Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Distilled Water

Brewed 9/02/09

Took 6 oz of the DME and made a starter with .25 tsp of nutrient and 1.5 qrts of water. Placed into the freezer set to 60 degrees once it cooled.

Heated the rest of the 6 gallons of distilled water to a boil on my new burner. Added the DME when the water was ~160, added the hops once all of the DME was dissolved. AA% adjusted down from 2%.

Overshot the volume and undershot the gravity slightly despite only using 6 gallons of water total between the starter and the beer.

Only able to chill to ~80, Put into the freezer at 60 overnight to chill the rest of the way. 8 hours later pitched the now active starter.

Good fermentation after 24 hours. Sometime over the long weekend the krausen pushed off the aluminum foil top, it was in my chest freezer so I am not too worried about infection.

9/8/09 Turned ambient temp up to 64 degrees to help fermentation finish out.

9/13/09 Down to 1.010, fermentation is just about complete.

9/15/09 Put into a fridge to cold condition for a week before I keg it.

9/25/09 Racked to the keg, set to 14 PSI at 45 degrees.

10/14/09 1st tasting, doing well, could use a bit more yeast character.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mega Gueuze Tasting

I don't usually post about commercial beers, but last week my friend Dyan picked up every gueuze he could find at State Line Liquors and brought them over to my place for a tasting. Nathan chipped in a few he had carried back from a trip to Belgium and Dan and Devin joined in.

The 3 Fonteinen Oude Gueuze stole the show for me (multi-layered funk, complexity, and balance), but the Oud Beersel (bright acidity), and Cantillon Lou Pepe (big oak character) were right up there. The biggest disappointment was the Cantillon Classic, it just didn't have the sour punch that I remembered from having drank it on its own. The Chapeau and the Timmermans were the only two I hadn't had before, both were better than I expected with the Chapeau being very cellar like and the Timmermans having not quite enough complexity to compete.

I was surprised at just how big the range of flavors was between these beers, it is something I didn't quite grasp having the beers on their own. After the first few beers our palates got used to the acidity so that may be why some of the beers (like the Cantillon) didn't taste as sour as I remembered them. The growler of Russian River Sanctification tasted mildly tart at first (not nearly as sour as as bottles from previous releases, apparently Vinnie backed down on the Pedio/Lacto this time because he thought he had too many sours on tap at the pub), but when we went to finish it off after the tasting it almost tasted like a pale ale (big citrus character and no sourness).

It is a shame I didn't have time to make up some starter wort to capture all the bugs from these beers, but as it is I don't have plans to brew another sour for a couple months anyway.

If you have a couple willing friends (and can get your hands on a few gueuzes) I would suggest doing something similar, it was probably the best $23 I have spent on an evening of drinking recently.

Has anyone else tried something similar? I'd be interested to hear how their results compared.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Which is the most important?

63% Technique
24% Ingredients
8% Recipe
3% Equipment

I was intentionally vague with this question. I think which factor is the most important depends on what you are making.

For example when making a simple salad the ingredients are probably the most important factor, great fresh produce will taste pretty good no matter how you chop them up or how you dress them. On the other hand I have found that making a sour beer is almost entirely technique (aging time, temp, blending etc...) with the quality of the ingredients being far less important.
over emphasize equipment. Sure a conical (or a $300 dollar knife) are cool, but how much do they really improve your results? Good equipment can save you time, effort, reduce costs in the long term, promote consistency etc... but it won't turn you from a bad brewer into a good brewer.

The value of a good recipe is also exaggerated in both cooking and beer. It has been amazing to taste how different the batches my friends have brewed for our barrel projects, the range is astonishing starting with the same ingredients (and considering we are all pretty good brewers). I think many people overlook how subtle changes in technique (pitching temperature or correct browning) can impact the final flavor of a beer or dish as much or more than major changes to a recipe.

Any simple techniques that people think have really improved their brewing (or cooking)?