Author Topic: First brew, need advice.  (Read 1680 times)

Offline SeymoureButts

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First brew, need advice.
« on: June 10, 2015, 06:45:33 PM »
My first brew, a pale ale, has been in the fermenter for six days and all activity in the air lock ceased days ago. I initially tried to take a hydrometer reading by pouring some of the cooled wort into a jar and dropping the hydrometer in it. Not knowing how the hydrometer worked combined with not reading the instructions I failed to realize that if my hydrometer is 11 inches long and my jar is only 7 inches tall, a reading is not possible.

Being in the heat of moment and overly excited about my first brew, I decided to forego the specific gravity reading all together and transfer the wort to the fermenter. The instructions included with my homebrew kit also stating that the wort is extremely susceptible to airborne contamination at this time, so rather leave it uncovered and vulnerable to an airborne attack I wanted to get the air tight top on it right away.

That being said, I now want to take a specific gravity reading because I suspect all fermentation is complete. Is it OK to sanitize my hydrometer and place it directly into the fermenter with my beer, or is it better to scoop some out and put it in a tall enough container and take the reading there? I'm also concerned with the amount of beer I will have to pour out in order to take the reading. I don't want to waste it if I don't have to.

What do you guys use to take hydrometer readings in? The only thing I have in the house that is tall enough is a  vase, and I assume the container has to be filled near the top with beer.

I guess the bottom line is this: I failed to take an initial hydrometer reading, does that render a hydrometer reading now useless? My pale ale has been fermenting for approximately 6 days, all activity in the airlock ceased after approximately 48 hours, am I ready to move on to the bottling stage?

To answer my own question, based on what I have read here, a gravity reading now and one a couple days from now will tell me if fermentation is in fact finished. I believe, but am not sure, it will tell me this by the specific gravity reading being the same for both tests.

Any tips, insight, and advice will be greatly appreciated. It's my first batch. Please don't tear me up for not knowing much about homebrewing.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2015, 06:48:59 PM by SeymoureButts »
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Offline JT

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2015, 07:08:13 PM »
No worries.  You will have many more questions as you continue to brew, so post away.  My recommendation for your first beer is wait 2 weeks from your brew day.  Take a reading.  Wait three days.  Take a reading.  If the readings are the same, you're good to go. 
If you're using a bucket and there is no krausen floating on top of the beer, I'd just place the sanitized hydrometer into your bucket to get the reading.  This will save you from pulling samples.  You run the same risk of contamination by inserting a thief as you do inserting a hydrometer.  Avoid pouring at any point after fermentation begins.  This is going to make a mess and introduce unwanted oxygen to your beer.   
Not taking an initial gravity reading isn't a huge deal, but you'll want to take one in the future to give you an idea of how much sugar is in your wort.  This will also allow you to calculate an approximate alcohol %. 

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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2015, 07:47:31 PM »
I have a test tube-type cylinder that I take my readings in.

I use a turkey baster to remove beer from the fermenter and place it in the the tube.

If you're using a carboy or better bottle, this should work pretty well for you.
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Offline rgonzalez_me

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2015, 07:49:43 PM »
Hey man, welcome. No one is going to tear you up for being a noob. We all were. God knows I ask a lot of fundamental stuff and I've been brewing for 5 years.
“Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer”  -Henry Lawson

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Offline Slowbrew

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2015, 07:57:00 PM »
Welcome!  I've been brewing for 17 1/2 years and still have questions.  Ask anything about brewing at any level and you'll get a lot advice here (some of it will even be good  ;D ).

Good people here with lots of experience.

Paul
Where the heck are we going?  And what's with this hand basket?

Offline brew inspector

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2015, 08:30:24 PM »
Many hydrometers come in a plastic tube that can be used to hold your sample.  It may be difficult to read the scale when placing it in the fermenter.  A pilsner glass may work for you to test in.

Two weeks is a good measure for many reasons.  Fermentation is likely done but a little longer is better even if it is not the full two weeks.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2015, 08:32:33 PM by brew inspector »

Offline SeymoureButts

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2015, 09:24:31 PM »
Thanks for the advice, guys. I appreciate the tips. I hadn't even thought about using the plastic tubing the hydrometer came in, thats a great idea and doesn't require much to fill it up!

I am still in the starter kit phase for now. Fermenting in a white plastic bucket. No glass carboy or Better Bottle. I will pick up a turkey baster though, that seems to be the homebrewing standard for taking samples.

Also, I am assuming since no one has mentioned it, it is safe for the beer to be exposed to air now? The last thing I want to do is open up the fermenter and ruin the batch.

Lastly, I am hoping to have this batch ready to drink by June 25th. If I bottled tomorrow, I see this as a possibility. However, reading the comments it seems like this is wishful thinking. Any input on this?
« Last Edit: June 10, 2015, 09:40:07 PM by SeymoureButts »
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Offline narcout

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2015, 09:52:24 PM »
I ♥ glitter beer

Offline duboman

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2015, 10:18:57 PM »
Go ahead and sanitize the hydrometer and place it directly in the beer and get a reading, do the same in a few days. If the reading is the same its done and ready to package. In the meantime order or pick up a test tube for samples:)

A spray bottle of star San mix is a good thing to have just for these purposes.

I'll also assume this was an extract batch since its your first beer. If so, the recipe's stated starting(OG) gravity is what you can use. This assumes your actual volumes were correct in the primary fermenter.

Welcome! You've found a great forum, lots of knowledge and friendly folks here to help you along!
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Offline SeymoureButts

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2015, 11:31:06 PM »
Alright guys, so the consensus seemed to be to take a reading now. Since I don't have a test tube yet I took the advice above and used the plastic tubing the hydrometer came in. I am still unsure if the iodine solution I use for sanitation will affect the taste of the beer after a quick rinse, so I decided not to drop the hydrometer into the fermenter itself. I santized my recently purchased baster, inside and out, and sucked up enough beer to fill the tube. The hydrometer sunk in and floated around 1.01 after I spun it to get any air bubbles off. That seems like a pretty normal reading, but it seems like a very low ABV, 1.3% is what it comes out to. I predict after hitting it with the priming sugar and bottling it that percentage will rise, but what the hell, how can I make my beer stronger in the future?
« Last Edit: June 10, 2015, 11:36:18 PM by SeymoureButts »
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Offline JT

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2015, 12:03:15 AM »
You only know the final gravity.  You can't know the calculated abv unless you know the original gravity too.

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Offline duboman

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2015, 12:15:13 AM »
Google brewers friend abv calculator, punch in the starting gravity which is what the recipe stated as I mentioned above and your 1.010 reading, tada!
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Offline flbrewer

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2015, 12:18:56 AM »
Welcome! Never apologize for asking questions here, I've been known to ask a few. No one has an issue with this except one guy (you know who you are).

I think you'll find this forum is different than other because you get very good information here. You also get little to no trolls, excess noise, or other standard forum stuff.

Enjoy the journey and cheers!

Offline SeymoureButts

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2015, 12:26:55 AM »
You only know the final gravity.  You can't know the calculated abv unless you know the original gravity too.

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Thank you so much. I did not know I needed the original gravity to calculate the ABV. Thank you for teaching me something new.


Google brewers friend abv calculator, punch in the starting gravity which is what the recipe stated as I mentioned above and your 1.010 reading, tada!

Worked like a charm! The original gravity according to the box should be 1.045 and final gravity should be 1.01, which it was! My ABV is 4.59% according to Brewer's Friend alcohol calculator. Thanks for that helpful tool!

And thank you everyone for the positivity and encouragement.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2015, 12:28:50 AM by SeymoureButts »
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Offline JT

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Re: First brew, need advice.
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2015, 12:51:17 AM »
You only know the final gravity.  You can't know the calculated abv unless you know the original gravity too.

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Thank you so much. I did not know I needed the original gravity to calculate the ABV. Thank you for teaching me something new.


Google brewers friend abv calculator, punch in the starting gravity which is what the recipe stated as I mentioned above and your 1.010 reading, tada!

Worked like a charm! The original gravity according to the box should be 1.045 and final gravity should be 1.01, which it was! My ABV is 4.59% according to Brewer's Friend alcohol calculator. Thanks for that helpful tool!

And thank you everyone for the positivity and encouragement.
Perfect.  Check back on that beer in a few days.  If the gravity is stable you can bottle, which is a whole other adventure. 

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