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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Fermentation & Yeast > Gravity Help, Please
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Old 01-21-2013, 05:40 PM   #1
eyebrau
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Default Gravity Help, Please

A couple weeks back (1/5) I brewed a 5gal batch of English Barleywine (first time using recipe):

17lb M.O.
1lb Munich
8oz Crystal 60L
8oz Special B
1lb cane sugar

2oz Kent Goldings 60min
1oz Kent Goldings 45min
1oz Kent Goldings 30min
1oz Kent Goldings 15min

Yeast - yeast cake of S-04 from a batch of ordinary bitter I brewed around a week and a half before (racked the bitter off the yeast, put the barleywine wort straight on top of the yeast cake without rinsing, about 15 mins later, tops).

mashed w/6gal at around 153F (was shooting for 149F but was having problems hitting)
sparged w/just under 3gal at 170F

Started boil with too much water (obviously) and boiled an extra hour before adding the first hop addition. As such, I didn't hit my calculated OG, which was 1.112, and instead hit 1.090. Planned FG was 1.025, and recalculated for the final 6 gallons instead of 5, should hit 1.020. It bubbled away, but not wildly, for about a week, maybe week and a half, then quieted.

On Saturday (1/19) I pulled a sample and got a gravity reading of 1.043. Since it wasn't active, and I was worried about the yeast, I pitched a packet of Nottingham I had lying around, since I've had pretty good luck with it in the past with big beers, and since it should have no affect on the flavor. I haven't seen any activity since. I tasted the sample and it seemed OK, though young (obviously) and a bit too sweet. That's way to high for an FG, I refuse to call it finished.

Can I assume I'm just not being patient enough with it? Or is the 153F mash temp killing me? Was my sparge water too hot? Or am I missing something? I anticipate waiting a year til it's drinkable, but I didn't think I'd have to wait any longer than usual to hit FG. Thoughts?

Thanks!

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Old 01-21-2013, 05:47 PM   #2
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I should add that this is only my second all-grain mash brew that wasn't BIAB - I received a converted 10gal cooler for Christmas, and have thus far only used it for the aforementioned ordinary bitter (which had minor gravity problems of its own... I'm still trying to get the hang of managing strike temp when moving water from a heat source into the cooler and not having it drop too far).

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Old 01-21-2013, 05:49 PM   #3
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If you were in the mid 1.020's I would think it was an issue with your mash temp. But, 1.043 makes me think you have a yeast health issue there. Even a big beer, if handled correctly will fully attenuate in a week or so, it might take a bit longer for the last few points; but, the overwhelming large part of fermentation will go pretty quick.

The problem you have now is an under attenuated beer, if you bottle it may very well decide at some point to start fermentation again in which case you have bottle bombs. If you can keg this I would recommend you do.

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Old 01-21-2013, 05:52 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eyebrau View Post
I should add that this is only my second all-grain mash brew that wasn't BIAB - I received a converted 10gal cooler for Christmas, and have thus far only used it for the aforementioned ordinary bitter (which had minor gravity problems of its own... I'm still trying to get the hang of managing strike temp when moving water from a heat source into the cooler and not having it drop too far).
The online strike water calculators are surprisingly accurate. Of course you need a good digital probe and accurate measurements for it to work. Once you have those mash temp will be pretty easy.
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Old 01-21-2013, 06:03 PM   #5
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So here's a different question then -I have an IR digital thermometer, so I'm arguably getting temp readings from the mash surface, or just under it... how off am I going to be? Should I be assuming most of the mash is a couple degrees higher than the surface? The cooler is shut tight, and so I have been assuming the temperature would be the same throughout...

As for your other note - I certainly don't plan on bottling yet... I intend to do a fairly long secondary on oak chips. Is there anything I can do to kick start the fermentation again? Unfortunately, I am not set up to keg... and honestly, I have no intention of bottling when the gravity is this high (both for the reason you mention, and because if it DOESN'T go any lower, it'll be too sweet).

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Old 01-21-2013, 06:11 PM   #6
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Just out of curiosity are you measuring with a hudrometer or refractometer?

Once alcohol is present refractometers, even with conversion are sketchy

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Old 01-21-2013, 06:14 PM   #7
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I don't have experience with IR thermometers so I don't know if they read off or not.

Probably your best bet to kick start things is to make a 1L starter with a yeast strain that has good alcohol tolerance and a healthy appetite and then pitch it at high krausen. There are not gurantees with a stuck ferment though, but that is about your best bet.

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Old 01-21-2013, 06:15 PM   #8
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You know, I feel a little dumb in that I hadn't considered that variable here.. I recently got a refractometer, and this measurement came from that. I didn't have the refractometer when I brewed, so the OG came from a hydrometer. I should have considered that. Good point, thank you.

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Old 01-21-2013, 06:21 PM   #9
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Yeah, go check that gravity with a hydrometer...never trust a refractometer for FG even with the conversion calculation.

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Old 01-22-2013, 02:11 AM   #10
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Yea so... False alarm, I guess. Refractometer showed 1.024... So that puts OG, FG, and ABV all in style, though towards the bottom of the range. Added a little yeast nutrient (maybe unnecessarily, maybe not) to help the S-04 or the Notty to bring it down a few more points. That's for my own brain.

Lesson learned - don't trust the refractometer once there's alcohol. Thanks, guys.

As a separate point, any thoughts on the recipe? It's fairly straight forward for an English barleywine, but do the ratios and such make sense?

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Bottle conditioning: melomel, English barleywine
On tap(a draft): citra SMaSH pale ale
Secondary:Collaboration RIS, "Odd Bruin" blended Brett concoction
Primary: Scottish 80/-
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