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Old 09-24-2011, 10:37 PM   #1
bennettsci
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Default Almost ready to start

Hi everyone-
I've been lurking the forum now for almost a month as I've slowly bought things to put my brewing kit together. I have a couple more last minute questions that I'd appreciate some help with.

1) I'm only planning on doing a primary fermenter this time 'round. I'm wondering how I should take my hydrometer readings to see if the fermenting is done. Is it okay to take the lid off the bucket during the process? I have an airlock (its one of those Lowe's gasket-sealed polypropylene buckets) for the bucket, but I won't bother drilling the hole for it if it's okay to open once or twice to take some measurements.

2) Before bottling, is it a good idea to let the beer sit for a short time to let any stowaway sediments settle to the bottom?

3) Because I'm not using a secondary, do you have any suggestions for a good first-time recipe that comes out well with a primary only?

Thanks for the thoughts!

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Old 09-24-2011, 10:46 PM   #2
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1) To take hydrometer readings you can use a wine thief or turkey baster. I have stuck my hydrometer right into the bucket but it is better if you took beer out.

When you say Lowe's bucket, what exactly do you mean? Is it food grade? I assume it doesn't have a hole for the air-lock because you said you would need to drill one. You definitely need an air lock. If not, you could have a huge mess on your hands (CO2 pressure will blow to top off along with beer). If the bucket isn't food grade, throw it out. You need a food grade bucket.

2) You will transfer to a bottling bucket with a racking cane or auto siphon. That should clean up most of the beer. You can let it sit in the bottling bucket just in case any of the trub made it over. That is fine.

3) Most beers you will not use a secondary for. The only time you should really need to secondary is if you are putting anything into the beer i.e. dry hopping, oak chips, chocolate, fruit. So pick any recipe you want and keep it in primary for at least 3 weeks.

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Old 09-24-2011, 10:51 PM   #3
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Welcome

1) Siphon some off into the plastic sleeve the hydrometer came in or a 100 mL graduated cylinder. Opening the fermenter lid is fine, just prevent any exposure to anything that isn't sanitized. If you have no pressure release mechanic on your bucket, you'll want to leave that lid just resting on top of the bucket for the active fermentation so that you don't get krausen all over your fermenting space. You may also want to ensure that is a Food-Grade plastic on your bucket. I believe the number 2 under your recycling symbol is food grade. It may not make a huge difference, but you risk plastic odors/flavors if the bucket isn't right.

2)Your beer should be sitting somewhere prior to bottling already, but yes, try not to disturb the yeast cake at all. This will help minimize the suspended yeast that makes it into your bottles.

3)Any ale will be fine in just a primary. A possible exception would be an IPA style where you rack to secondary for dry hopping. Also, for your first beer, a porter or stout might better hide any off flavors that develop. Remember to give stuff plenty of time: at least 2 weeks in primary (3 would be better for most ales) and give it time to carb up sufficiently if you can wait that long. The longer you wait, the better it will be, for the most part.

edit: 22 beat me to it . blast my sausage finger typing.

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Old 09-24-2011, 11:05 PM   #4
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Leaving the lid off a little is a possibility as some breweries and homebrewers do open fermentation. You just have to be really sanitary when leaving the lid off even if it is just a little. I would suggest drill a hole for an air lock of some kind but that is just me. I am really anal about sanitation.

And I would think you would definitely need a food grade bucket. I don't know what you are looking for though. Number 2 on the bottom does sound correct. I can look on mine to see what it says.

Edit: My buckets (got them from my LHBS) are HDPE 2 which is food grade. Used for water bottles, milk jugs and crap like that. So that is what you should be looking for on the bottom

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On my list to brew: Stone IPA and some kind of wit
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Old 09-24-2011, 11:10 PM   #5
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I guess I should have clarified more...

I double and triple checked the quality of the bucket before buying. The Lowe's tag actually says "food grade" right on it (I think because so many people were asking if it was or not) now.

The reason I ask about the lid is because the one it came with has a rubber gasket on the inside. When you put it on the first time, it locks into place. You need to pull a plastic tab off (similar to milk) and I didn't know if it was okay to open and then just put the lid back on top after sampling to check the FG.

I'll probably put an airlock in just to be safe so my wife doesn't kill me for making a complete mess.

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Old 09-24-2011, 11:37 PM   #6
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I would look up Blowoff tube. An airlock may not be enough in the face of more vigorous fermentation. I only asked about food grade cuz you said Lowe's. Lots of their general purpose stuff is not food grade, and I would hate to have you have to choke down your first batch just because the bucket was subpar.

The lid sounds fine. That looks like a food storage bucket. Pull that sealing ring, and you can use it as much as you want. I assume it still snaps into place?

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Old 09-24-2011, 11:38 PM   #7
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Just an FYI I called manufacturer about the grey Lowes buckets. They indicated that both the white and grey buckets are good-to-go with for housing liquids and would not leach chemicals or dyes into such.

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Old 09-24-2011, 11:42 PM   #8
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Yeah if the bucket is food grade you are good. Pull the tab on teh lid so you can take it on and off. No need for it to lock. You just want it to seal.

Blow off tubes are good to have but I haven't needed one for a bucket. My buckets are 7.5 gallons so there is plenty of head space.

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Old 09-25-2011, 12:34 AM   #9
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How big are your buckets? It's been my experience that you need a fermenter at least one gallon larger than the batch size, and preferably 1.5 gallons bigger when brewing 5 gallon batches. I have some Home Despot buckets that I use for storing specialty grains They have a capacity of 5 gallons, and I wouldn't like to use them as a fermenter for a batch greater than 4 gallons, and I suspect that I would need a blow off tube with a 4 gallon batch.

-a.

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