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Old 06-01-2010, 07:51 PM   #1
ARittner
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Default First batch, and a question

Brand new to home brewing. I was about to buy the stuff I needed to get started, and my only local home brew shop owner went on vacation for a couple weeks. So, I had time to read through this forum, and also read the Complete Joy of Brewing.

Feeling prepared, and having a long list of stuff I wanted for my kit, I went in and found he was really pushing for me to just buy the True Brew kit with the two plastic buckets, and a Munton's hopped extract kit. He told me to run a few batches through that before I started getting into carboys, hops, and such. I left feeling kind of deflated, since I had this whole setup in my head, and now wasn't going to be doing it the way I imagined.

However, deciding to make the best of it, I started my first batch of Munton's American Light on Friday night (May 28th). Almost instantly, I realized the wisdom in my local shop owner's insistence on not over-complicating things. This first batch was an exercise in learning to sanitize, how to deal with big buckets of hot liquid, and generally getting the procedures down. So I'm not deflated anymore.

Anyway, per some instructions the owner gave me, I started with 5 gallons of bottled water. I did the boil with one gallon of water, and two cans (about 6.5 pounds) of extract. Boiled for 20 minutes. Put two gallons of water into the fermenter, tossed in the wort, and topped off. Stirred, and let it cool down. Around 80 degrees F, I took an OG (1.046) and pitched the dry yeast. Stirred for a minute or so, and covered. Using a 6.5 gallon bucket, so I just attached a fermentation lock. Woke up the next morning, about 6 hours later, to the lock bubbling away happily. The air above the lock smells like beer when it "burps", so I guess that's a good sign.

Going to secondary (this time, again it's an exercise in the process) in a little more than a week if the fermentation is done.

What have I learned? I immediately see the need for a wort chiller. I waited forever for the wort to come down to 80F. I was shooting more for 75, but I couldn't stay up any longer. I hadn't planned on the ice bath, so I didn't have any handy, since I had chilled the top-off water. I guess it wasn't chilled enough. Anyway, the yeast don't seem to have minded much.

My question: I noticed, as I was adding the water to the fermenter, that the gallon markings on the side of the bucket are off. I had only added two gallons, and it already said three on the side of the bucket. In the end, I put in 4.5 gallons of water, plus two cans of extract. The bucket said it was more than 5 gallons, which I can't imagine was right. So right now, I don't really know how much volume I'm working with, since I don't know the final volume of the wort. I'm inclined to think everything's going to be OK. But if I did end up a little short on volume, anything I need to watch out for as I go along?

Thanks!

Andy

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Old 06-01-2010, 08:41 PM   #2
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You should be fine. Keep at it! Hopefully you're going to be happy with your first beer, but if not, know that you can make the best damn beer in the world with enough practice. Your OG looks decent so I think you'll be just fine. Getting accurate volume readings is important, but I wouldn't be worried on your first brew. If you don't know the OG you were trying to hit, then it doesn't matter much now does it?

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Old 06-01-2010, 08:46 PM   #3
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Variance in water additions will only modify the flavor and ABV of the finished product, more water less ABV and a thinner flavor and vice versa. About the only other thing I can think of is a variance in bottling, if you have substantially less water you would want to scale back the priming sugar to prevent bottle bombs. Oh and if you have a lot less water, you get to worry about cleaning and sanitizing fewer bottles.

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Old 06-01-2010, 08:54 PM   #4
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Did you consider the volume of the extract you used? It will contribute to the overall batch size.

Congratulations on your first brew!

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Old 06-01-2010, 09:21 PM   #5
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Congrats on your first brew and welcome to the pit of obsession that is homebrewing!

Your beer should be fine, I agree with prOcess about making sure your priming sugar matches your finished volume!

I would like to add that your plan to go to secondary after a week may not be needed. Here at HBT there are a lot of brewers(myself included) that do not follow the "mandatory" secondary fermentor idea. It is not wrong by any means but it can provide more opportunity to contaminate your beer.

Most brewers use a secondary for dry hopping, adding fruit/flavorings, or for lagering/clearing beers.

My personal preference is to ferment for 3+ weeks then condition in the bottle for 3+ weeks and my beers have been pretty good so far! Keeping your beer in the primary gives the yeast a chance to "clean" up any unwanted "stuff" they may have left during initial fermentation.

This is of course my opinion and no matter what you do just keep on brewing!

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Old 06-01-2010, 09:26 PM   #6
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It is pretty widely accepte that bucket markings are usually off. Oddly, the ones I get from More Beer seem to be pretty much dead on, go figure.

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Old 06-01-2010, 10:33 PM   #7
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Target OG: I was pretty much working blind. The target OG and FG on the kit assume using their instructions, which were only 3.3 pounds, plus sugar, plus water. My LHBS owner wisely advised me to ignore those and use twice as much extract, and gave me his own instructions, but they didn't include a target OG.

I'm going to have to find some way to figure out how much volume I actually have. I hadn't thought about the bottling sugar problem. I certainly don't want these to explode on my friends, since then they'll never take any in the future. And I certainly don't want the bottles exploding in my closet, either. I guess I can compare against the second bucket, with an actual measured amount, rather than relying on the bucket markings.

And... this time I kind of have to secondary. I know it's usually not needed, especially with this simple kit. But, I used my bottling bucket as my fermenter, so I need to get it out of there. Heh. The LHBS owner's instructions were ferment in the bucket with the spigot, rack to the other bucket for secondary, rack back to the spigot bucket for bottling. I could go old school with the racking cane to bottle filler, but I'd rather set up something like Revvy's bottling system, which looks much easier.

Anyway, I'm not overly worried. But good advice on the bottling sugar thing. I wouldn't have considered that. Thanks!

-Andy

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Old 06-02-2010, 06:41 AM   #8
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Well, I just did some rough calculations in Beersmith and for you to get an OG of 1.046 using 6.6lbs of extract you would need about 5 gallons of water! (I am assuming you stirred the wort well and also adjusted for the temperature when you measured the OG.)

Now these are the numbers in Beersmith but the software is usually pretty accurate with this stuff so I am thinking you are really close to having 5 gallons of wort in your fermentor!
Looks like you should be just fine but you don't have to take my word for it!

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Old 06-02-2010, 01:54 PM   #9
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Congratulations on your first brew!

the next thing to pay attention to is Fermentation temperature. Since you pitched at 80F, that beer fermented fast and hot (truly, the yeast were happy, but will give you off-flavors, and hot-alcohol esters).

Wort Chillers, ice, get your temps to the mid 60s if you can, even low 60s. It will take longer for the yeast to take off, but you will be rewarded with much better beer.

Search for fermentation chillers, fermentation control and read up - there are many methods for controlling the temperature, many of them very inexpensive. For instance, a large bucket from Wally World that will hold your fermenter, filled with water, with frozen water bottles for temp control...

oh, and Welcome to HBT!

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Old 06-02-2010, 02:03 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hang Glider View Post
Congratulations on your first brew!
the next thing to pay attention to is Fermentation temperature. Since you pitched at 80F, that beer fermented fast and hot (truly, the yeast were happy, but will give you off-flavors, and hot-alcohol esters).
By 6 hours later, the wort was at 74. Then, it dropped to be consistent at 65/66 degrees in my basement, which pretty much maintains that temp year round. Still bubbling, just not as quickly. Will longer time in the bottle help even out any potential off-flavors from the hot beginnings?

-A
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