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thummel1 01-03-2011 09:26 PM

First Batch Ever - Looking for suggestions and comments
Today was my first ever home brew. I bought an extract kit from Northern Brewer. It was the Chinook IPA and I am very anxious to give it a try. The process went better than I expected but I ran into a few road bumps along the way and I am looking for ways to improve my next batch in a couple weeks.

1) First off, we had used an aluminum turkey fryer as our boil pot and it seemed to work well for me, however, my stove top (which I chose instead of the included fryer because of frigid weather) had difficulty reaching boiling point. I plan on taking on the cold weather next batch. The boil was a smooth roll, but nothing rigorous. Easy fix to this problem.

2) Everything went good during the boil. No boil overs or any other issues other than the long waits to reach a boil. However, I did have a problem chilling the wort at the end of the boil. We had decided to take advantage of the cold weather and use one of the 4 foot snowbanks in the driveway (suggestion from Palmer's online home brew guide). The problem was that after 20 minutes of sitting in the snowbank the temperature had only dropped to 140-150 degrees. I immediately filled an ice bath and dropped the wort down to ~78 degress in about 15 minutes. I wish I would have done this immediately.

3) My target gravity was 1.050 and we reached about 1.048, slightly less due to adding a little more water than needed I believe. (It's sitting just over 5 gallons right now) I immediately sealed up the fermentor and walked away only to find that the airlock had popped off a couple minutes later? I replaced it, making sure it was secure, and it hasn't had a problem since. I used a sanitized solution for the water in the airlock and some of it did manage to drip into the bucket. I really hope this won't be an issue.

4) I had used dry yeast with this batch instead of Wyeast. I feel the urge to try Wyeast on my next batch but this seemed to work well for me. I did hydrate the yeast before pitching with a cup of cooled, boiled water and a tablespoon of sugar and the yeast started working within minutes. I am not sure how necessary this step was, but I figured it can't hurt.

5) Currently, the batch is in a wine fridge maintaining the temperature at ~67 degrees. I live in a run down college house with heating/insulation issues so its common for our house's temperature to fluctuate 5-6 degrees quite often. There really is little to no control.

Please feel free to comment or give suggestions. I'm hoping for a great tasting beer, but I'll be happy if it comes out fermented and drinkable (it would be a success for me).

Morkin 01-03-2011 09:46 PM

I'd Relax. As long as your kettle was covered, 20 minutes to cool the wort is pretty good!

The yeast certainly did not start working in a couple of minutes. This is not possible. What you probably saw was the yeast rehydrating, which is good.

Did you put this in a carboy or a bucket? Carboy stoppers commonly slip out if they are not the right size or if they are really wet. Just make sure it's reattached.

Everything sounds ok, and if you live in Fargo, the yeast bank is a good way to drop the wort, but I'd invest in a chiller or build one to get a lower temp, or go to partial boils and add cool water.

MeatyPortion 01-03-2011 09:53 PM

If your airlock popped off that soon it's probably because it hadn't been set so it could gain purchase. Try twisting the cork a bit when you set it in; that works for me anyways.

edit --- you're talking about the whole airlock and not just the top, right?

thummel1 01-03-2011 09:59 PM

The total cooling time was around 35 minutes and it was covered the entire time except for a couple times to get a temperature reading.

The batch is in a bucket now, but I will move it to a carboy when I dry hop. The airlock is fine now - no problems other than what I believe is a vacuum (low level in the airlock) being formed due to difference in the temperature of the beer and the room. I just refilled the airlock and am checking it periodically.

I did do a partial boil for this batch as well. My initial thought was to just add cold tap water, however, (maybe foolish of me) I had boiled the remaining 3 -ish gallons of water to ward of chlorine from the tap water. (Unnecessary?) And therefore, that water was at room temperature when it was added to the wort.

The wort chiller is on my wish list - maybe throw it on my next order.
The beer has been in the fermentor for maybe an hour and I'm already anxious. Perhaps I should just have a beer and chill out.

If its not possible for the yeast to be "working" within 20-30 minutes of rehydrating it with some table sugar, what was I seeing? There was a lot of what I would call "activity"... but maybe I was just excited to see it change. Basically, after 30 minutes there was a large head of foam on top of the solution.

thummel1 01-03-2011 10:00 PM

Yes, the whole airlock had popped off.

Morkin 01-04-2011 01:42 PM

The yeast could have been releasing some C02 from rehyrdrating, and the sugars could have been eaten, so there could have been some activity I suppose.... I had thought you had stated that you pitched the yeast and it began working immediately.

One word of advise though, don't use sugar when rehydrating. Putting the yeast in an all sucrose environment can limit the yeasts ability to digest maltose. Since you used a small amount I don't see it as a problem, but in the future, I would advise against it.

thummel1 01-04-2011 03:07 PM

I wanted to use some DME, but wasn't sure how much to use. I'll keep that in mind next time I brew.

Morkin 01-04-2011 03:09 PM

For dry yeast it is unnecessary, and I've read that it might not be helpfull for dry yeast.

According to Chris White, dry yeast just needs to rehyrdate, no starters or DME needed.

Let us know how the beer turns out.

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