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Old 12-13-2008, 09:24 PM   #1
nasmeyer
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Default A couple of newbie questions here

Total newbie here, I have one batch under my belt and don’t have the time to list all the comical errors I enjoyed through the whole process. But not to be deterred I am looking forward to many more batches with much better success. I do have a few questions I hope to have answered first. Here they are.

During early primary fermentation carbon dioxide is produced in huge quantities, so opening the bucket to pull samples for a hydrometer reading doesn’t create much of a chance of allowing oxygen in, but later in the secondary fermenter when carbon dioxide production is about over don’t we stand a chance of contaminating with oxygen if we open it too often to get the “2 days in a row of the same hydrometer reading”?

Is it true that a secondary fermenter should be used that allows the least amount of head space to reduce the chance of oxygen contamination? Such as a 5 gal. carboy used with a 5 gal batch of brew? If this is true then I shouldn’t use a 6 gal. bucket with 5 gals of brew?

I think I read somewhere that using a small amount of new wort instead of priming sugar before bottling will create a better longer lasting head, is this true?

Can a clean hydrometer simply be left in the wort in the fermenting bucket, instead of wasting beer each time a sample is removed for a reading?

Is it better to use store bought bottled water to add to the wort in the fermenter or boil tap water from home? Or in the case that we don’t really know what is in bottled water should be boil store bought H2O too?

If the Krausen created during primary fermentation is somewhat of a by-product of yeast activity, would it be better to allow it to exit through a blow off tube, then to have it dissolve back into the wort?

Thanks!

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Old 12-13-2008, 10:46 PM   #2
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Hydrometer readings: No need to take readings when you are really bubbling. If you have rapid fermentation you know you are not at the racking gravity you want. When the bubbles stop, lift the lid and take a reading it is not as though a hit of o2 will really kill your beer. Most of the stuff we breath is not o2 anyway.

The "five gallon fermenter bucket" you use for your primary really holds about 6.5 gallons to create space for the krausen (stuff that accumulates during fermentation). With the actual 5 gallon secondary there is no need for the headspace because no krausen will be accumulating and as you said, less oxygen the better.

Not sure about the head question...I use corn sugar when I bottle with good results and I usually keg anywho, anyone else on that one?

Hydrometer: How would you get the hydrometer to float in your fermenter straight up so you could read it? Just steal a sample when you want a reading, your much better off. Even if you could devise a way to get the fermenter to float straight up where you want it you would inevitably get small co2 bubbles that stick to the sides of the glass which would cause the hydrometer to rise--bad reading.

Before I started doing 5 gallon boils I would use store bought gallons of water. Many people use their tap water with no problems. Look around for what "good water" for brewing consists of and you should be able to get a breakdown of what your tap water contains from your locality and compare it to what you find.

The krausen question is debatable. You should only have it exit through a blow off tube if you have a strong beer that is fermenting with enough krausen to necessitate a blowoff (scottish ales tend to do this). Are you using an actual 5 gallon primary with no headspace? The problem with letting the krausen leave through the blowoff is that good yeast leaves with it so we try and limit that. I rarely use a blowoff unless my OG is 1.07 or above.

On a side note, you may want to get a beginners brewing book that will be a good reference for questions like these. "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing" by Papazian was my choice and I still flip through it for pointers. Hope this helps!

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Old 12-13-2008, 11:53 PM   #3
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Some very good questions. I, too, would suggest you get a good book, but I'd recommend John Palmer's "How to Brew." If you can't shell out the cash, or can't wait, go to howtobrew.com.

For hydro readings, keep things reasonably clean and you won't have to worry about it. As long as you don't have the door open with a stiff breeze blowing through or Fido jumping on you while you're doing it, you'll be fine. Short-term oxygen exposure is not a problem now and then.

The less headspace the better in secondary. It's not so much the amount of oxygen that's in there as the surface area of beer exposed to air. A bucket or 6-gallon carboy will leave lots of surface area exposed.

On the priming sugar question, I've just used corn sugar so I don't know about the alternatives.

Yes, you can leave the hydro bobbing in the fermenter, but be aware that looking down on it you're not getting a very true reading. You're at an angle.

Most people say just use tap water if it doesn't taste offensive. I switched to bottled water the last few batches and would swear my beer is better for it.

There's nothing to fear in the krausen. It will dissipate and settle with the other non essentials before racking to secondary.

Happy brewing!

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Old 12-14-2008, 12:16 AM   #4
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You are correct about the CO2 offgassing, however there is no real reason to check the gravity much before 10 days or so so you're better off leaving it alone at least that long. I only check gravity when I plan to do something with the beer and want to be sure it's ready - like rack to secondary or bottle. Anymore and it's a waste.

Oxygen is really only a problem if it gets dissolved into your beer after fermentation - usually by splashing or sloppy siphoning, and even then it's only a problem for long term storage. A little surface exposure is not going to hurt anything.

Krausen - I let it fall back into the beer. Papazian's book advises letting it escape in the blowoff, but I don't think most folks worry that much about it.

Leaving the hydrometer in the fermenter doesn't strike me as a great idea. If krausen residue sticks to the side of the fermenter it will stick to the hydrometer as well, and you won't get an accurate reading. You really only need to use the hydrometer once or twice after you get an initial gravity on your wort. I wait 10 days after pitching yeast and check to be sure it's at or near final gravity before racking it to secondary. Usually I don't check it again, because once I rack it I already know it's finished...it's just going to spend a couple weeks in secondary and then get bottled.

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Old 12-14-2008, 03:16 AM   #5
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All well said Gent's, and I highly recomend John Palmers "How to Brew", you sound ready for his style of presentation on our hobby.

I'll enter in on the H20 question in hopes to help you gain claification. I live near St.Louis and my water is rated for brewing and her is why. A B uses the same water I drink for brewing, it comes from the Missisipi river and treated for brewing, {last year A B produced 18 million gal. o' brew } All major cities are built on a body of water, Take Detriot for instance: Lake Michigan provides 20 + billion gal. of water for the metropilos. Here at home A B and the Micro Breweries dont have to add the minerals it takes to have great brew water they just boil the dickens out of it! Distilled or spring water does not have the nessacary minerals for brewing a good beer so my advice is, BOIL before BREWING. This will enshure you remove any Taste not desireable and retain the goodies beer loves. In closing H2o is 90% of the recipe so boil enough for your brew and pre-cool what your recipe call for to be added to your wort for fermention.

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Old 12-14-2008, 06:39 PM   #6
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If you are brewing with extracts then you really don't need to worry about water too much because it will be boiled in the Wort. there are still some risks of flavor but water is really a major concern for all grain brewers. Malt extracts generally already have all th eminerals they need right in them.

Boiling your tab water is probably good enough. You can also filter it with a Brita system and that will take out any Chlorine (if city water) or other possible contaminants. I have a well so my only battle is that my water is a little harder than most but thats not a big problem.

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Old 12-14-2008, 11:58 PM   #7
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+1 on using the Brita Filter. I may take me a few hours to get all the water I need, but well worth it.

I take my hydrometer readings in the container the hydro came in so I can get a level reading. leaving it in the bucket is not a good idea, you can tell if you are close to a FG by the bubbling action.

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