I brewed this kit last night, like you I'm fairly used to waking up the morning after a brew day and being greeted by the "blub, blub, blub" of a happily fermenting job well done. This morning was different, my glass carboys all being full, I used a fermenting bucket for this batch and although the lid is noticeably convex (upwardly warped from the pressure of the CO2) there aren't any bubbles or sounds coming from my airlock. If I apply gentle pressure on the lid downwards, bubbles do spring up from the vodka filled bubbler. There's evidence of yeast cake and krausen so I'm not too worried but I did have some trouble while making this kit.
I decided that my pumpkin spice porter would include real pumpkin for fermentable sugars. (pumpkin is fruit, fruit has glucose, glucose is sugar, yeast like that.) I sliced a pumpkin in half and baked it, flat sides down on a cookie sheet at 350F for 90 minutes until darkened. Cleaned the seeds and mixed with olive oil, sea salt, and garlic powder to bake for 40 mins in the same oven to make the best pumpkin seeds I've ever had.
I followed the kit's directions and peeled the pumpkin halves of their skin, the fruit had become very soft and broke apart easily, probably should have put it in the oven for 45-60 mins. I added the pumpkin pieces at the same stage where I added the bittering hops (1 oz of US Golding) at the very beginning of the hop addition phase of the brew day schedule. After 40 mins I added 1 oz of Willamette aroma hops and after another 10 mins I added the whole packet of pumpkin spice (I have read that many people believe the provided packet of spice is overpowering at first but I also read that this subsides with time, so I simply planned on leaving this in the primary fermenting bucket for 2 weeks, secondary glass carboy for 8 weeks, bottle conditioning for 2-3 weeks+ or kegging it if it tastes good by then. So basically I won't know for sure how this came out until mid to late November or so.
My trouble began when I realized I was out of ice, I don't have a wort chiller/thermonator/etc. so I rely on an ice bath to terminate my boil. Without ice, I was stuck using cold water. Well, I had forgotten that I needed to pick my girlfriend up so I just left the brew pot in a sink full of cold water with the lid on for about 40 mins. When I got back, the temp was down from 214F (boiling temp here) but was still up at about 138F. Although it smelled incredible, the extra time in hot wort turned my pumpkin pieces into stringy pumpkin guts and had completely saturated my beer. I figured I would just spoon out what little I could and just strain out the rest, how naive of me..
Basically between a food grade strainer and a filter screened funnel, the pumpkin hairs clogged up the works. I had to abandon the funnel because the screen was simply too fine. The strainer took work and the process moved at a snail's pace, I think it took about an hour to strain the mushy pumpkin guts out of the 2.5 gallon wort. (note: I use the word "guts" but I had removed the actual guts and seeds before baking the pumpkin, the heat from the baking process and subsequent boil had basically turned a firm pumpkin into "guts".)
After I strained out what I could of the pumpkin guts and hop pellet refuse, I was left with what looked to be somewhere between 2 and 2.25 gallons of wort, down from about 2.5 gallons with the guts and stuff. I slowly added fresh, cool, well water while intermittently checking the OG to try to get into the specified range (1.057-1.061) I had gotten it to about 1.064 when I decided to add about 3 or 4 more cups of water (I wasn't being precise, basically just eyeballing it from the tap) when I went to check the OG again, it had fallen to about 1.048.
Annoyed with myself, I went to grab my yeast starter (oh yeah, I had made a starter with the kit's provided dry yeast packet about 6 hours earlier and it wasn't really doing anything, unlike other starters I have made) So, being further annoyed, I pitched the lazy starter and aerated the batch. I happened to have an extra packet of Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast so I sprinkled that on top just to be safe. After sealing the lid, I added vodka to the airlock, took a swig for myself and went to bed.
There seem to be a few people interested in this kit, and some of those seem to be interested in using real pumpkin as well, just thought I'd share my experience to help with their decision. I'll keep you guys posted on the progress of this batch in the coming weeks..
Just two questions for anyone with knowledge who has read this far lol: 1 - Was it a mistake to pitch the Safale S-04 strain with the Red Star Pasteur Champagne strain? 2 - if people use real pumpkin pieces and do not remove all of them during the primary fermentation process, will the organic material break down and decompose, imparting the favors of that process into the brew?