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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: goudron on January 16, 2012, 11:05:23 PM

Title: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: goudron on January 16, 2012, 11:05:23 PM
I spent yesterday brewing my first kit, Brewer's Best Red Ale.  I boiled for longer than intended as I was waiting for the hot break, but never saw it after 20 minutes, so I just added hops.  Never looked like I was going to boil over (didn't use the lid so I guess that helps).

After getting it into the fermentor, and equilibrated, the temp showing on the themometer on the side of the pail is only about 57F.  I noticed a bubble on the airlock at lunch time - around 16 hours after pitching.  Now it's 21 hours after pitching, and there's a bubble about evry 15 seconds.  Seems slower than I expected.  Should I move it out of the basement to an upstairs closet, or just let it go slow like this?

Also, I used distilled water for this, and following instructions in John Palmer's "How to Brew" I preboiled the first 3 gallons.  I could not just let that 3 gallons sit in the fermentor, it needed cooling, and I actually just got it down to 70 F by the time I finished my boil.  I think next time I will preboil the night before.  Does everyone preboil the extra water not in the wort?
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: morticaixavier on January 16, 2012, 11:40:22 PM
Welcome to wonderful world of homebrewing! Don't worry about the hot break. it will happen, start your timer when the wort starts to boil. Good call on not using a lid, don't put a lid on the boil (you can use a lid to speed up getting to the boil but boil uncovered) the idea behind preboiling the top off water is to sanitize it, if you are using bottled Distilled water you don't have to worry to much but if you want to boil the night before that is fine to.

don't get too hung up on bubbles in the airlock. there is plenty going on in there regardless. 57 is a little cool to pitch but not bad. I imagine if you look at the thermo on the fermenter now you will see it's up a bit from that temp, maybe 62 or so. you are going to get a nice clean beer at that temp.

you have already avoided one of the biggest mistakes new brewers make which is pitching too warm. That being said you may want to move it to a warmer place to finish up in a day or two. just don't let it get much above 70.

patience and in a few weeks you will be enjoying your very own beer.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: euge on January 17, 2012, 01:10:28 AM
When I top up it's just RO water that's unboiled. I don't worry about it. Others do. Up to you how you want to look at it.

Congrats on the first batch! It'll warm up as the yeast start munching.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: goudron on January 17, 2012, 01:40:25 AM
Thanks, come to think of it it seems sort of silly boiling boiled water :)

I actually pitched when it was around 65, but the basement floor is colder than on the table I guess.  I'd measured ambient temp at 61 on the table, and beneath it the fermentor is now at 57 - the thermometer is thinking about showing 59, but it isn't all the way there.  If I move it up here, it will be in a closet of cupvoard, and those are likely going to be no warmer than 65.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: bigchicken on January 17, 2012, 02:41:57 AM
I've brewed that kit myself. I think you'll like the results. It finished a little low on the ABV if I recall correctly, but it went fast. As far as top off water, I never boil it. I should say that I do use a culligan filter setup for all my drinking and brewing water.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: anje on January 17, 2012, 05:01:50 AM
Thanks, come to think of it it seems sort of silly boiling boiled water :)
Not too silly.  Who knows how clean those jugs were when the cooled distilled water was put in them.  While it's unlikely that they were disgustingly germy, there isn't any reason that they'll be sterilized either.  I trust it more than I trust whatever's coming out of my pipes, though.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: goudron on January 25, 2012, 12:21:22 AM
Update: fermentor temperature remains between 57 and 59.  It did start bubbling faster, and it has mostly run its course I think.  I put a blanket over it last night, but temp didn't change.  I used Danstar Lallemand Nottingham yeast, and according to the PDS http://www.danstaryeast.com/sites/default/files/nottingham_datasheet.pdf it works down to 57F.  I was going to bottle after 20 or 21 days, but I may need to take a week or so business trip before then, so I guess I will bottle sooner.

My question is, is there benefit in checking SG at any time before my bottling date?  I'd prefer to keep the fermentor closed up until I need to bottle.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: tschmidlin on January 25, 2012, 12:26:58 AM
My question is, is there benefit in checking SG at any time before my bottling date?  I'd prefer to keep the fermentor closed up until I need to bottle.

Open it and measure...it's no big deal.  I've done it for years using a sanitized turkey baster.  As I've often said, if you can't take a gravity sample without screwing up your beer, maybe you should consider taking up knitting for a hobby!  ;)

What if you get to your bottling date and it's not done?  Open it up.  Check the gravity.  RDWHAHB.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: zorch on January 25, 2012, 01:04:52 AM
I was going to bottle after 20 or 21 days, but I may need to take a week or so business trip before then, so I guess I will bottle sooner.

My question is, is there benefit in checking SG at any time before my bottling date?  I'd prefer to keep the fermentor closed up until I need to bottle.

Never let some artificial date or deadline dictate when you bottle.  You run the risk of bottling before it's actually finished, which can lead to over-carbonation and bottle bombs.

The only way to tell whether it's done is by taking a succession of SG readings.   Don't trust what the kit instructions tell you it should finish at...  Chances are very good that you will not hit that number exactly.   If you take two reading 4 days apart, and it hasn't changed, then you know it's done.

Letting the beer sit on the yeast for a month or more is really not that big of a deal.  Especially at the cool temperatures you are working with.

If I were you, I'd take a reading before you leave on your trip, and take another after you get back.   And if they are the same, you are good to go.  But don't try and rush it...  Exploding bottles can seriously harm you.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: a10t2 on January 25, 2012, 01:23:44 AM
I'm assuming this is an extract kit, in which case the maltster would have precipitated the hot break during the boil and you shouldn't expect to see much, if any.

Nottingham does pretty well with cool temperatures, but I'd get it up into the 65-70°F range ASAP to make sure it finishes out. Realistically, though, the beer has probably already been at FG for a few days. Temperature control is really only critical for the first day or two, and it's common to warm the fermenter up after that to get the beer finished faster.

When I'm doing a concentrated boil, I like to boil and freeze the top-off water ahead of time. That way you can chill the wort at the same time and kill two birds with one stone.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: goudron on January 25, 2012, 03:58:12 AM
Ok, I won't get into the quest for the mythical turkey baster bulb (just know it involved getting a new turkey baster and some electrical tape).  OG was 1.048 at 70F(range was 1.048-1.052 for the kit)  After 9 days it is at 1.016 at 62F (kit says FG should be 11 to 15, but I will see where it goes).  I'd have let it warm back up to 70 but I drank it too quickly.

It does not taste bad, in fact I think I could drink up a couple of bottles worth right now, but maybe that's just pride.  I think it could use something else, something maybe besides carbonation and a little more AC.  I don't know enough about description of taste to describe it better.  I'm not going to dry hop or add fruit or anything, I will just let it sit and see how it turns out.

I have another week and a half before I leave for a week or so, so I can take another couple of SG's.  There are two schools of thought in this string: let it sit until after I return, possibly allowing for a full 31 days in the fermentor at 58-59F.  OR heat it up and bottle before I go.

Is 31 days in the fermentor going to be safe?  Is there much risk of exploding bottles given the current SG - I suppose this will be more obvious after a second or third reading.

Thanks again for all the help!
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: a10t2 on January 25, 2012, 04:01:21 AM
Take another reading in a few days and if it's still at 1.016 you can go ahead and bottle. That's a totally reasonable FG, especially if this is an extract beer.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: tschmidlin on January 25, 2012, 04:04:14 AM
Take another reading in a few days and if it's still at 1.016 you can go ahead and bottle. That's a totally reasonable FG, especially if this is an extract beer.
Exactly.

But if you decide to wait, 31 days in primary is totally harmless for a beer in the low 60's high 50's.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: goudron on January 25, 2012, 04:11:39 AM
It's good to have options!
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: morticaixavier on January 25, 2012, 06:45:14 AM
Is there much risk of exploding bottles given the current SG - I suppose this will be more obvious after a second or third reading.

Thanks again for all the help!

well look at it this way, enough corn sugar to carb 5 gallons of beer is ~4-5 ounces. this translates to a a gravity of 1.003 so if you add 4-5 oz corn sugar to carb and there is still 1.003 of attenuation to be completed just on the sugars already in the beer you have doubled your carbonation level from a sane and safe 2.4ish volumes to a worrisome 4.8ish. exploding bottles really suck. even if no injuries occur there is the mess to consider.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: a10t2 on January 25, 2012, 03:13:27 PM
you have doubled your carbonation level from a sane and safe 2.4ish volumes to a worrisome 4.8ish.

3.8ish - there's about 1.0 vol already in the beer based on his temperatures. Not that that makes a huge difference.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: goudron on January 27, 2012, 12:01:59 AM
Either I took a bad reading the other day or it's still going.  1.014 today @ 59F.  The last time I measured, I starsanned the measurement tube and it was quite frothy at the top and that made it hard to read.  I didn't do that this time since the tube is quite clean and the beer is just going into my dirty mouth.  Might well explain the change in taste  :-[.  More hoppy than before.  I will check again on the weekend.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: goudron on January 29, 2012, 10:08:36 PM
Still at 1.14 today, I'm guessing the 1.16 reading was wrong.  I was planning on bottling the batch later tonight, and I see the kit is supplied with 5 oz of "priming sugar".  I assume this is corn sugar.  5 oz seems like a lot, I was thinking of cutting down to 3.6 or 4 oz.  I will not be here for the 2nd week of conditioning.  Too bad I won't get to sample them along the way.  I was going to put one case of bottles in a cooler, and the other in my laundry sink with plastic over top of it just in case of disaster.

Anyway, is it a bad idea to reduce the amount of priming sugar so much?
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: garc_mall on January 29, 2012, 10:45:51 PM
Here is an Awesome carb calculator that I use for all of my calculations.

http://hbd.org/cgi-bin/recipator/recipator/carbonation.html?14356443#tag

Based on the numbers you gave in this thread, 5oz of corn sugar will provide about 2.9 volumes of CO2, which might be a bit high depending on what you like, but nowhere near bottle exploding range.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: goudron on January 29, 2012, 10:55:08 PM
Nice link thanks!

I was wanting to shoot a little lower since I've only had a couple of weeks in primary, and I'll be leaving for 10 days 5 days from now.  Although it appears finished, I'm still a bit paranoid.

What is bottle exploding range?
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: a10t2 on January 29, 2012, 11:30:56 PM
What is bottle exploding range?

>4 vol.

The amount of carbonation shouldn't be affected by how long the beer's been in the fermenter. Unless it hasn't reached FG - but at two weeks and 1.014 SG you can be sure that isn't the case.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: tubercle on January 29, 2012, 11:46:13 PM
Congrats on getting you first kit going.

 Reading the post about the FG and length of time...let me put this in you head.

 We don't make beer. Nature makes beer. We bring fermentable sugars together with yeast in the correct enviroment and then wait for fermentation to complete. There are things you can do to speed it up and things you can do to slow it down but none are good. Let it tell you when it is finished. If you try to break the rules then nature has a way of putting things back on track; bottle bombs, fusels, blown airlocks, etc....
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: euge on January 30, 2012, 06:51:47 PM
I carbonate past 4 volumes all the time for hefe-weizens. But please do be careful. YMMV. December 2010 I accidentally doubled the sugar for my hefe-weizen. The bottles didn't explode and neither were they gushers. Very fizzy though. Come bottling time I always pour my first beer after weighing out the sugar. ;)
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: morticaixavier on January 30, 2012, 07:27:07 PM
I carbonate past 4 volumes all the time for hefe-weizens. But please do be careful. YMMV. December 2010 I accidentally doubled the sugar for my hefe-weizen. The bottles didn't explode and neither were they gushers. Very fizzy though. Come bottling time I always pour my first beer after weighing out the sugar. ;)

I am sure that modern bottles are rated quite high. The only time I had bottle bombs was when I bottled a RIS to soon and even then the only bottles that blew, after closer examination, had flaws in the glass. I started sterilizing my bottles in the oven after that and I discovered that a weak bottle will shatter in the oven as well. so I call that two birds, sterile bottles (until you open the oven door, then just sanitary) and the culling of weaklings.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: goudron on January 30, 2012, 10:46:11 PM
Thanks for the guidelines!
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: goudron on February 17, 2012, 12:27:57 AM
So I bottled half the batch in dishwasher sanitized bottles and half in oven sanitized bottles.  The dishwasher must have had some residual rinse aid as there were no bubbles when bottling, but the oven bottles had some.  I've tried one of each after they conditioned for a little more than a couple of weeks, and they both seem to produce plenty of head.  Conditioning temperature was likely around 65F which is about as warm as I could do while keeping temperature from fluctuating.  Carbonation seems fine to me.

The beer tastes very hoppy compared to what the SG checks tasted like.  I altered the Brewer's Best instructions with advice from Palmer's How to Brew by adding half of the finishing hops at T-30 minutes instead of toward the end, so I suppose that's why it tastes especially hoppy.  The beer looks red (like a red ale ought to) and relatively clear, but I don't have a good baseline for homebrews yet.

Also, after cleaning, my PE fermenter still smells strongly of hops.  Is that normal or did I do a crappy wash job?  It definitely looks clean.
Title: Re: 1st Kit, fermenting kind of cold
Post by: euge on February 17, 2012, 07:40:56 PM
Soak it with PBW or even oxyclean. Use the proper amounts and the stains and smell will be gone. I do it every couple batches.