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Old 11-29-2012, 04:22 AM   #1
gelatin
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Default Beer notes on first brew

Here's what I wrote down for my first brew so far. Am I missing anything that would be good to document? I know there are a lot of procedural mistakes/misunderstandings, and my second batch is fermenting now with a lot of improvements. I'm looking for suggestions on what I should be writing.

11/10/2012 - First batch started. Imperial Nut Brown from Brewer's Best kit:

~3 gallons of water in 5 gal pot.

Stepped at 155-160 for 20 minutes, temp stayed within range checked every 5 minutes:
4oz Chocolate
4oz Caramel 80 Lovibond (term for darkness)
8oz victory

Boil start:
6.6lbs Amber LME
2lb Amber DME
8oz Maltodextrin
1oz Columbus hops

LME added first, pouring slowly and scraping with a spatula to get more out, then DME and maltodextrin added together and stirred in. Boil over risk was non-existent until the hops were added when it foamed up approximately a gallon; did not need to take any action to prevent boil over though.

Flavoring at 40 minutes and Aromatic at 55 minutes:
1oz each Willamette (will LAM it apparently)

No particular changes were noted when these later hops were added.

Cooled to ~85 degrees and siphoned into primary fermenter, assuming the siphoning would cool wort further. Siphoning seemed to "sputter" often, maybe adding air? [in retrospect, I was probably catching on particulate matter] Not much residue left in boil pot, maybe a couple of tablespoons. Added ~1 gallon boiled water and pitched Safale S-04 yeast dry into fermenter, did not take temp at pitch time.

Checked OG, was high and volume was low, so added ~1 gallon straight tap water to primary fermenter and stirred vigously. Some foam at surface prevented a good reading, but it looked like it was on spec at 1.071 OG (note: get sampling cylinder). Sealed lid and airlocked with vodka.

Did not use proper sanitation when cooling wort due to licking the thermometer after readings. Realized this was dumb after a bit and started sanitizing probe between readings. Wort cooled over approximately 45 minutes to an hour in a sink ice bath.

Fermentation visible the next morning, temperature at 72-73.

11/11/2012 - Noticed temps on fermentation vessel at 78 degrees. Put by open window, down to 72 degrees at bedtime. Swirled gently a couple of times, hoping to help equalize internal temperature.

11/12/2012 - In the morning, temp looked around 68-70 degrees. Left it by an open window during the day, temp was down to 63 degrees when I got home. Moved it up onto a table, hoping the temp shock is not too extreme. It still seems to be fermenting happily, though there is a strong apple smell from the airlock.

11/13/2012 - Temp still at 63 degrees in the morning. Bubbler going every 30 seconds, strong apple smell still evident. Moved fermenter away from window. Got home, fermenter around 65 degrees and slower bubbling. Before bed, bubbler continues to slow, calling it a night while fermenter at 67 degrees - moving it a bit closer to the window. Steady temperature control will clearly be a continuing issue without modifying my current setup - perhaps a water bath will help normalize temps.

11/14/2012 - Temp at 65 in the morning, leaving it be for now. The consideration will soon be whether or not to rack to a secondary. Possibly less green apple smell today, bubbler pretty quiet.

11/15/2012 - Temp 66-67, looking good. I've been agitating by turning quickly back and forth, I really don't like sweet notes in most beers and I want to make sure the fermentation process is as complete as possible.

11/17/2012 - Temps staying around 63-65, took a gravity reading at 1.025 which should be high but the beer did not taste especially sweet and in fact was awesome.

11/18/2012 - Gave a sample out to neighbor which wasn't the smartest idea. Hopefully it won't backfire.

11/20/2012 - Up to 68, not a problem at this stage but it highlights how I need to improve my temperature control.

11/25/2012 - Bottling day. Haven't been able to get at temp for a few days, but it was 64 last night.

Being quite dumb, I decided to put the bottling sugar directly at the bottom of the bottling bucket instead of dissolving it in boiled water first. Being more dumb, I only used the bottling cane to stir the wort. I took occasional samples, and the beer at the end was noticably sweeter and also there was some bottling sugar at the bottom of the bucket that hadn't dissolved into the mixture. I attempted to compensate by filling the last bottles up past the normal cane point to at least try to avoid exploding bottles. FG at 1.021... I should have taken more readings but 0.003 difference in a week seemed like it would be stable enough.

Bottled in 8 1L bottles, 4 16oz, and 13 12oz bottles.

11/26 - recapped some of the really topped off bottles to a more normal range. Noticed some slight carbonation in the headspace with a smoky look to it.

11/28 - couldn't wait, pulled bottle with a large amount of headspace, put in freezer for 30 minutes. Nice cream colored head with 2-3 fingers fairly large bubbles that fell to 1/2 finger within 5 minutes. Some yeast chunks settled down after pour and a little left in bottle. Nose is alright, a little sweet. Taste is fairly sweet, little bit of bannana, almost a little bit of soapiness or fusels. Some good beer is definitely somewhere in there, but it's just very "green" I'm hoping; I think it will get better with some age. Hops are present but in the background. Definitely good alcohol content.

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Old 11-29-2012, 05:13 AM   #2
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These look like some great notes. Very thorough. I like how you wrote down the mistakes you made. I've found that helps me improve my process.

One thing I usually try to record is more info on ingredients (what brand malts/extracts, pellet or whole hops, alpha acid of hops (since that can change from year to year), manufacture dates of yeast. That way if you make something that is really great it is easier to reproduce it.

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Old 11-29-2012, 05:43 AM   #3
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Thanks, I'll definitely do that. So far I've just been getting supplies from my LHBS, which seems to be more or less exclusively breiss for grains/extracts. I understand they're pretty darn good. I've been getting my hops as pellets in foil packs but I don't have any on hand right now - should it give that particular crop's alpha acid on there or do I need to look it up somewhere?

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Old 11-29-2012, 06:34 AM   #4
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Great note taking.
Couple things that I saw in there. You need to get the temperature down before you picture the yeast and as you discovered you need to figure out how to control fermentation temperature better.

There's a few other little things but I think you got a pretty good handle on picking out your mistakes.

A lot of people don't take notes like they should and yours are exceptional.
That's going to go a long ways towards making you a much better brewer.

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Old 11-29-2012, 07:19 AM   #5
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Great note taking. But you should have left it in the fermenter at least another week. 14 days to short and maybe that's why you FG was 21. I always go 3 weeks and never check until bottling day. Kit makers want you to move on faster so you can buy another kit sooner. Most of use go 3 weeks fermenting and 3 weeks in bottle.

Important to get your wort down to fermenting temp after pitching yeast. Your first day is perhaps most important on temp. Your 72-78 was two high. The rest of the days temps looked ok.

I'm sure you 'll have a good beer and the next will be even better.

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Old 11-29-2012, 10:54 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C-Rider View Post
Great note taking. But you should have left it in the fermenter at least another week. 14 days to short and maybe that's why you FG was 21. I always go 3 weeks and never check until bottling day. Kit makers want you to move on faster so you can buy another kit sooner. Most of use go 3 weeks fermenting and 3 weeks in bottle.

Important to get your wort down to fermenting temp after pitching yeast. Your first day is perhaps most important on temp. Your 72-78 was two high. The rest of the days temps looked ok.

I'm sure you 'll have a good beer and the next will be even better.
This isn't really true. Beers are different. You can taste the difference between a Blue Moon and and Imperial IPA and they should be treated differently in the fermenter too. A nice light colored wheat beer can be out of the fermenter in 10 days and be great but that barleywine needs months. The darker the color of the beer and the higher the OG, the longer they need in the fermenter to make them taste good. When you do your next brew take these into account. That Imperial Nut Brown probably should have spent 5 weeks in the fermenter and another 5 in the bottles because of its higher OG and somewhat darker color.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:55 PM   #7
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I appreciate the feedback. I pulled it because FG was in the range specified by the kit (it actually said one week might be enough, craziness) and I was impatient, but I'm definitely going for another week or two in the future, and I'll be sure to take my gravity readings properly.

On yeast pitching, I'm thinking that if I pitch at 75 ish and cool it down to 65 within a couple of hours that will be pretty good?

I worked out a cooling method that does aeration at the same time and works very quickly - I've label stripped a 2 liter bottle and thoroughly sanitized, filled with water 3/4 of the way up and froze it. Then I pull it out of the freezer, sanitize again for a couple of minutes, and use it to violently stir the wort while the boil kettle is in an ice bath. Cooled my second batch completely in about 6 minutes. Thoughts?

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Old 11-29-2012, 04:35 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gelatin View Post
I appreciate the feedback. I pulled it because FG was in the range specified by the kit (it actually said one week might be enough, craziness) and I was impatient, but I'm definitely going for another week or two in the future, and I'll be sure to take my gravity readings properly.

On yeast pitching, I'm thinking that if I pitch at 75 ish and cool it down to 65 within a couple of hours that will be pretty good?

I worked out a cooling method that does aeration at the same time and works very quickly - I've label stripped a 2 liter bottle and thoroughly sanitized, filled with water 3/4 of the way up and froze it. Then I pull it out of the freezer, sanitize again for a couple of minutes, and use it to violently stir the wort while the boil kettle is in an ice bath. Cooled my second batch completely in about 6 minutes. Thoughts?
That slightly warm wort will start the yeast pretty quickly and then cooling it should keep the off flavors out. You might find that cooling it a bit more will be beneficial, depending on the yeast.
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Old 11-29-2012, 04:50 PM   #9
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It's always better to start out cool & warm up a little than too warm & try to cool down. I found that makes the yeast settl out & go dormant or really slugish. On the bottom either way.
And even my pale ales need 3 weeks to finish,clean up,& settle out clear or slightly misty. Rarely is two weeks plenty to the average home brewer. I agree then that the temp should be chilled down to 70F or less. I even try to chill down to 65F or less if I can do it quickly. Ale yeast start better/cleaner cooler & warm up,unlike lager yeasts which can start out warm to get'em going,then cool down to ferment temp.
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Old 11-29-2012, 04:55 PM   #10
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those are really good notes

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